The journal of Captain's Clerk and Purser, John Tapson, is an outstanding record of a junior officer's service in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic War. Probably a copy made in later years, the journal is a highly literate, occasionally witty journey through the Napoleonic naval war, providing a view of life aboard a Royal Navy ship that may be slightly sanitized, but nevertheless very revealing. There are particularly important descriptions of the near mutiny of the frigate Africaine , the operations along the Spanish coast during the late summer, 1808, and the Neapolitan coast in the late spring, 1809, and of the capture and rescue of the crew of the Africaine in Mauritius, in the fall, 1810.
Though they are less dramatic, Tapson's journal entries from August, 1811, through December, 1814, are no less valuable. Cruising the waters of Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia, with a side journey to Iraq, Tapson includes some excellent descriptions of English and Dutch colonial outposts in South Asia and the East Indies. A calm air of British superiority and authority over native and rival colonial powers, alike, exudes from Tapson's descriptions of Ceylon and Madras, and particularly in his depictions of interactions with the Portuguese, Dutch and natives in the eastern Indonesian islands.