“The Sea Hawk” is Raphael Sabatini’s classic tale of nautical adventure set in the late 16th century. It is the story of Sir Oliver Tressilian who is villainously betrayed by a jealous half-brother. Being forced into slavery aboard a Spanish galley, Sir Oliver is subsequently freed by Barbary pirates whom he joins and gains the name “Sakr-el-Bahr”, or the hawk of the sea. A gripping tale of action and adventure set aboard the high seas, “The Sea Hawk” is one of Sabatini’s most loved and classic works.
Sir Oliver Tressilian sat at his ease in the lofty dining–room of the handsome house of Penarrow, which he owed to the enterprise of his father of lamented and lamentable memory and to the skill and invention of an Italian engineer named Bagnolo who had come to England half a century ago as one of the assistants of the famous Torrigiani.
This house of such a startlingly singular and Italianate grace for so remote a corner of Cornwall deserves, together with the story of its construction, a word in passing.
The Italian Bagnolo who combined with his salient artistic talents a quarrelsome, volcanic humour had the mischance to kill a man in a brawl in a Southwark tavern. As a result he fled the town, nor paused in his headlong flight from the consequences of that murderous deed until he had all but reached the very ends of England. Under what circumstances he became acquainted with Tressilian the elder I do not know. But certain it is that the meeting was a very timely one for both of them. To the fugitive, Ralph Tressilian—who appears to have been inveterately partial to the company of rascals of all denominations—afforded shelter; and Bagnolo repaid the service by offering to rebuild the decaying half–timbered house of Penarrow. Having taken the task in hand he went about it with all the enthusiasm of your true artist, and achieved for his protector a residence that was a marvel of grace in that crude age and outlandish district. There arose under the supervision of the gifted engineer, worthy associate of Messer Torrigiani, a noble two–storied mansion of mellow red brick, flooded with light and sunshine by the enormously tall mullioned windows that rose almost from base to summit of each pilastered facade. The main doorway was set in a projecting wing and was overhung by a massive balcony, the whole surmounted by a pillared pediment of extraordinary grace, now partly clad in a green mantle of creepers. Above the burnt red tiles of the roof soared massive twisted chimneys in lofty majesty.