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[Transcriber's note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have
been retained in this etext. In some cases, they have been denoted by
THE THREE CUTTERS
J.M. DENT AND CO
BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN AND CO.
LIST OF MARRYAT'S WORKS, ETC ix
BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION xi
PREFATORY NOTE TO PETER SIMPLE AND THE THREE CUTTERS xxxiv
CHAPTER I 1
CHAPTER II 7
CHAPTER III 12
CHAPTER IV 18
CHAPTER V 24
CHAPTER VI 30
CHAPTER VII 37
CHAPTER VIII 43
CHAPTER IX 52
CHAPTER X 60
CHAPTER XI 67
CHAPTER XII 74
CHAPTER XIII 87
CHAPTER XIV 98
CHAPTER XV 111
CHAPTER XVI 124
CHAPTER XVII 139
CHAPTER XVIII 148
CHAPTER XIX 157
CHAPTER XX 164
CHAPTER XXI 172
CHAPTER XXII 181
CHAPTER XXIII 191
CHAPTER XXIV 197
CHAPTER XXV 203
CHAPTER XXVI 212
CHAPTER XXVII 219
CHAPTER XXVIII 228
CHAPTER XXIX 239
CHAPTER XXX 247
LIST OF MARRYAT'S WORKS.
IN THE ORDER OF PUBLICATION.
By FREDERICK MARRYAT. _Born_, July 1792. _Died_, Aug. 1848.
*SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM
OF IMPRESSMENT IN THE NAVAL SERVICE 1822
ADVENTURES OF A NAVAL OFFICER, OR FRANK MILDMAY 1829
THE KING'S OWN 1830
NEWTON FORSTER 1832
PETER SIMPLE 1834
JACOB FAITHFUL 1834
PACHA OF MANY TALES 1835
MR MIDSHIPMAN EASY 1836
JAPHET IN SEARCH OF A FATHER 1836
THE PIRATE AND THE THREE CUTTERS 1836
*A CODE OF SIGNALS FOR THE USE OF VESSELS EMPLOYED
IN THE MERCHANT SERVICE 1837
SNARLEY-YOW, OR THE DOG FIEND 1837
THE PHANTOM SHIP 1839
*DIARY IN AMERICA 1839
OLLA PODRIDA 1840
POOR JACK 1840
MASTERMAN READY 1841
JOSEPH RUSHBROOK, OR THE POACHER 1841
PERCIVAL KEENE 1842
NARRATIVE OF THE TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF MONSIEUR
SETTLERS IN CANADA 1844
THE MISSION, OR SCENES IN AFRICA 1845
THE PRIVATEER'S MAN 1846
THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST 1847
THE LITTLE SAVAGE 1848-49
This edition will include all the novels and tales, only omitting the
three items marked in the above list with an asterisk. The text will be,
for the most part, that of the first editions, except for the correction
of a few obvious errors and some modernisation of spelling. _Rattlin the
Reefer,_ so frequently attributed to Marryat, will not be reprinted
here. It was written by Edward Howard, subeditor, under Marryat, of the
_The Metropolitan Magazine,_ and author of _Outward Bound,_ etc. On the
title-page it is described simply as _edited_ by Marryat and, according
to his daughter, the Captain did no more than stand literary sponsor to
the production. In 1850, Saunders and Otley published:--_The Floral
Telegraph, or, Affections Signals_ by the late Captain Marryat, R.N.,
but Mrs Lean knows nothing of the book, and it is probably not Marryat's
_The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat: by Florence Marryat (Mrs
Lean), in 2 vols.: Richard Bentley_ 1872, are the only biographical
record of the novelist extant. In some matters they are very detailed
and personal, in others reticent. The story has been spiritedly retold,
with reflections and criticisms, by Mr David Hannay in the "Great
Writers" Series, 1889.
The frontispiece is from a print, published by Henry Colburn in 1836,
after the portrait by Simpson, the favourite pupil of Sir Thomas
Lawrence, which was "considered more like him than any other." Count
D'Orsay took a portrait of Marryat, in coloured crayons, about 1840, but
it was not a success. A portrait, in water colours, by Behnes, was
engraved as a frontispiece to _The Pirate and The Three Cutters._ His
bust was taken by Carew.
Without yielding implicit credence to the handsome pedigree of the
Marryats supplied by Mrs Lean, the novelist's daughter, we may give a
glance in passing to the first-fruits of this family tree. They--
naturally--came over with the Conqueror, and emerged from obscurity
under Stephen as the proud "possessors of much lands at the village of
Meryat, Ashton Meryat, and elsewhere in Somersetshire ... One Nicotas de
Maryet is deputed to collect the ransom of Richard Coeur de Leon through
the county of Somerset ... In the reign of Edward I., Sir John de
Maryet is called to attend the Great Parliament; in that of Edward II.,
his son is excommunicated for embowelling his deceased wife; 'a fancy,'
says the county historian, 'peculiar to the knightly family of Meryat.'"
Mrs Lean quotes records of other Meryat "hearts" to which an honourable
burial has been accorded. The house of Meryat finally lost its property
on the fall of Lady Jane Grey, to whom it had descended through the
Captain Marryat belonged to the Suffolk branch of the family, of whom
"one John de Maryat had the honour of dancing in a masque before the
Virgin Queen at Trinity College, Cambridge ... was sent to aid the
Huguenots in their wars in France ... escaped the massacre of St
Bartholemew and, in 1610, returned to England." Here he married "Mary,
the daughter and heiress of Daniel Luke, of the Covent Garden (a rank
Puritan family in _Hudibras_), and again settled in his paternal county
of Suffolk." Less partial biographers neglect to trace the Marryats
beyond this Huguenot officer, who is described by them as a refugee.
Whatever may be the truth of these matters, it is certain that during
the 17th and 18th centuries the Maryats were a respectable, middle-class
Puritan family--ministers, doctors, and business men. In the days of the
merry monarch a John Marryat became distinguished as a "painful
preacher," and was twice expelled from his livings for non-conformity.
Captain Marryat's grandfather was a good doctor, and his father, Joseph
Marryat of Wimbledon House, was an M.P., chairman for the committee of
Lloyd's, and colonial agent for the island of Grenada--a substantial
man, who refused a baronetcy, and was honoured by an elegy from
Campbell. He married Charlotte Geyer, or Von Geyer, a Hessian of good
Frederick, born July 10, 1792, was one of fifteen sons and daughters,
"of whom ten attained maturity, and several have entered the lists of
literature." His eldest brother, Joseph, was a famous collector of
china, and author of _Pottery and Porcelain_; the youngest, Horace,
wrote _One Year in Sweden, Jutland and the Danish Isles_; and his
sister, Mrs Bury Palliser, was the author of _Nature and Art_ (not to be
confounded with Mrs Inchbald's novel of that name), _The History of
Lace_, and _Historic Devices, Badges and War Cries_. His father and
grandfather published political and medical works, respectively, while
the generation below was equally prolific. Marryat's youngest son,
Frank, described his travels in _Borneo and the Eastern Archipelago_ and
_Mountains and Molehills_, or _Recollections of a Burnt Journal_; and
his daughter Florence, Mrs Lean, the author of his _Life and Letters_,
has written a great many popular novels.
We can record little of Marryat's boyhood beyond a general impression of
his discontent with school-masters and parents. Mr Hannay is probably
right in regarding his hard pictures of home and school life as
reflections of his own experience.
It is said that on one occasion he was found to be engaged in the
pursuit of knowledge while standing on his head; and that he accounted
for the circumstance with a humorous philosophy almost worthy of Jack
Easy--"Well! I've been trying for three hours to learn it on my feet,
but I couldn't, so I thought I would try whether it would be easier to
learn it on my head." Another anecdote, of a contest with his
school-fellow Babbage, is interesting and characteristic. It appears
that the inventor of the calculating machine, unlike Marryat, was a very
diligent lad; and that he accordingly arranged, with some kindred
spirits, to begin work at three in the morning. The restless Marryat
wished to join the party, but his motives were suspected and the
conspirators adopted the simple expedient of not waking him. Marryat
rolled his bed across the door, and Babbage pushed it away. Marryat tied
a string from his wrist to the door handle, and Babbage unfastened it. A
thicker string was cut, a chain was unlinked by pliers, but at last the
future captain forged a chain that was too stout for the future
mathematician. Babbage, however, secured his revenge; as soon as his
comrade was safely asleep he slipped a piece of pack thread through the
chain and, carrying the other end to his own bed, was enabled by a few
rapid jerks to waken Marryat whenever he chose. Apparently satisfied
with his victory in the gentle art of tormenting, Babbage yielded
voluntarily upon the original point of dispute. Marryat and others
joined the reading party, transformed it to a scene of carnival, and
were discovered by the authorities.
Meanwhile Marryat was constantly running away--to sea; according to his
own account because he was obliged to wear his elder brother's old
clothes. On one occasion his father injudiciously sent him back in a
carriage with some money in his pocket. The wise youth slipped out, and
finding his way home by some quiet approach, carried off his younger
brothers to the theatre. He finally ran away from a private tutor, and
Mr Marryat recognised the wisdom of compliance. Being then fourteen,
that is of age to hold a commission, Frederick was allowed to enter the
navy, and on the 23rd of September 1806, he started on his first voyage
on board H.M.S. _Imperieuse_, Captain Lord Cochrane, for the
He could scarcely have entered upon his career under better auspices. In
a line-of-battle ship he would have had no chance of service at this
stage of the war, when the most daring of the French could not be
decoyed out of port; but the frigates had always more exciting work on
hand than mere patrolling. There were cruisers to be captured,
privateers to be cut off, convoys to be taken, and work to be done on
the coast among the forts. And Lord Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, was not
the man to neglect his opportunities. His daring gallantry and cool
judgment are accredited to most of Marryat's captains, particularly in
_Frank Mildmay_, where the cruise of the _Imperieuse_ along the Spanish
coast is most graphically and literally described. Cochrane's
_Autobiography_ betrays the strong, stern individuality of the man,
invaluable in action, somewhat disturbing in civil life. As a reformer
in season and out of season, at the Admiralty or in the House of
Commons, his zeal became a bye-word, but Marryat knew him only on board
his frigate, as an inspiring leader of men. He never passed an
opportunity of serving his country and winning renown, but his daring
was not reckless.
"I must here remark," says Marryat in his private log, "that I never
knew any one so careful of the lives of his ship's company as Lord
Cochrane, or any one who calculated so closely the risks attending any
expedition. Many of the most brilliant achievements were performed
without loss of a single life, so well did he calculate the chances; and
one half the merit which he deserves for what he did accomplish has
never been awarded him, merely because, in the official despatches,
there has not been a long list of killed and wounded to please the
appetite of the English public."
Marryat has left us a graphic account of his first day at sea:--
"The _Imperieuse_ sailed; the Admiral of the port was one who _would_
be obeyed, but _would not_ listen always to reason or common sense.
The signal for sailing was enforced by gun after gun; the anchor was
hove up, and, with all her stores on deck, her guns not even mounted,
in a state of confusion unparalleled from her being obliged to hoist
in faster than it was possible she could stow away, she was driven out
of harbour to encounter a heavy gale. A few hours more would have
enabled her to proceed to sea with security, but they were denied; the
consequences were appalling, they might have been fatal. In the
general confusion some iron too near the binnacles had attracted the
needle of the compasses; the ship was steered out of her course. At
midnight, in a heavy gale at the close of November, so dark that you
could not distinguish any object, however close, the _Imperieuse_
dashed upon the rocks between Ushant and the Main. The cry of terror
which ran through the lower decks; the grating of the keel as she was
forced in; the violence of the shocks which convulsed the frame of the
vessel; the hurrying up of the ship's company without their clothes;
and then the enormous wave which again bore her up, and carried her
clean over the reef, will never be effaced from my memory."
This, after all, was not an inappropriate introduction to the stormy
three years which followed it. The story is written in the novels,
particularly _Frank Mildmay_ where every item of his varied and
exciting experience is reproduced with dramatic effect. It would be
impossible to rival Marryat's narrative of episodes, and we shall gain
no sense of reality by adjusting the materials of fiction to an exact
accordance with fact. He says that these books, except _Frank Mildmay,_
are "wholly fictitious in characters, in plot, and in events," but they
are none the less truthful pictures of his life at sea. Cochrane's
_Autobiography_ contains a history of the _Imperieuse_; it is from
_Peter Simple_ and his companions that we must learn what Marryat
thought and suffered while on board.
Under Cochrane he cruised along the coast of France from Ushant to the
mouth of the Gironde, saw some active service in the Mediterranean, and,
after a return to the ocean, was finally engaged in the Basque Roads. A
page of his private log contains a lively _resume_ of the whole
"The cruises of the _Imperieuse_ were periods of continual excitement,
from the hour in which she hove up her anchor till she dropped it
again in port; the day that passed without a shot being fired in
anger, was to us a blank day: the boats were hardly secured on the
booms than they were cast loose and out again; the yard and stay
tackles were forever hoisting up and lowering down. The expedition
with which parties were formed for service; the rapidity of the
frigate's movements night and day; the hasty sleep snatched at all
hours; the waking up at the report of the guns, which seemed the only
keynote to the hearts of those on board, the beautiful precision of
our fire, obtained by constant practice; the coolness and courage of
our captain, inoculating the whole of the ship's company; the
suddenness of our attacks, the gathering after the combat, the killed
lamented, the wounded almost envied; the powder so burnt into our face
that years could not remove it; the proved character of every man and
officer on board, the implicit trust and adoration we felt for our
commander; the ludicrous situations which would occur in the extremest
danger and create mirth when death was staring you in the face, the
hair-breadth escapes, and the indifference to life shown by all--when
memory sweeps along these years of excitement even now, my pulse beats
more quickly with the reminiscence."
After some comparatively colourless service in other frigates, during
which he gained the personal familiarity with West Indian life of which
his novels show many traces, he completed his time as a midshipman, and
in 1812, returned home to pass. As a lieutenant his cruises were
uneventful and, after being several times invalided, he was promoted
Commander in 1815, just as the Great War was closing. He was now only
twenty-three, and had certainly received an admirable training for the
work with which he was soon to enchant the public. Though never present
at a great battle, and many good officers were in the same position, he
had seen much smart service and knew from others what lay beyond his own
experience. He evidently took copious notes of all he saw and heard. He
had sailed in the North Sea, in the Channel, in the Mediterranean, and
along the Eastern coast of America from Nova Scotia to Surinam. He had
been rapidly promoted.
It is tolerably obvious that, both as midshipman and lieutenant, he
evinced the cool daring and manly independence that characterises his
heroes, with a dash perhaps of Jack Easy's philosophy. It was a rough
life and he was not naturally amenable to discipline, but probably his
superiors made a favourite of the dashing handsome lad. The habit, which
helps to redeem Frank Mildmay and even graces Peter Simple, of saving
others from drowning, was always his own. His daughter records, with
pardonable pride, that he was presented while in the navy with
twenty-seven certificates, recommendations, and votes of thanks for
having saved the lives of others at the risk of his own, besides
receiving a gold medal from the Humane Society.
During the peace of 1815 he "occupied himself in acquiring a perfect
knowledge of such branches of science as might prove useful should the
Lords of the Admiralty think fit to employ him in a voyage of discovery
or survey." A vaguely projected expedition to Africa was, however,
relinquished on account of his marriage with "Catherine, second daughter
of Sir Stephen Shairp, Knt., of Houston, Co. Linlithgow (for many years
Her Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, and twice _charge d'affaires_ at
the court of Russia);" which took place in January 1819. In this same
year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, according to
tradition on account of his skill in drawing caricatures.
He was at sea again soon after his marriage as commander of the _Beaver_
sloop, in which commission he was sent to mount guard over Napoleon at
St Helena until his death. He took a sketch of the dead emperor in full
profile, which was engraved in England and France, and considered a
striking likeness. He was meanwhile no doubt perfecting the code of
signals for the use of merchant vessels of all nations, including the
cipher for secret correspondence, which was immediately adopted, and
secured to its inventor the Cross of the Legion of Honour from Louis
Philippe. It was not actually published in book form till 1837, from
which date its sale produced an appreciable income.
After returning in the _Rosario_ with the despatches concerning
Napoleon's death, he was sent to escort the body of Queen Caroline to
Cuxhaven. He was then told off for revenue duty in the Channel, and had
some smart cruising for smugglers until the _Rosario_ was pronounced
unseaworthy and paid off on the 22nd of February 1822. As a result of
this experience he wrote a long despatch to the Admiralty, in which he
freely criticised the working of the preventive service, and made some
practical suggestions for its improvement. In 1822 he also published
_Suggestions for the abolition of the present system of impressment in
the Naval Service_, a pamphlet which is said to have made him unpopular
with Royalty. He frequently in his novels urges the same reform, which
he very earnestly desired.
He was appointed to the _Larne_ in March 1823, and saw some hard service
against the Burmese, for which he received the thanks of the general and
the Indian Government, the Companionship of the Bath, and the command of
the _Ariadne_. Two years later, in November 1830, he resigned his ship,
and quitted active service, according to Mrs Lean, because of his
appointment as equerry to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.
He was probably influenced, however, by a distaste for routine duties in
time of peace, the claims of a growing family, and literary ambitions.
He had already published _Frank Mildmay_, and received for it the
handsome sum of L400, and negotiations were very possibly on foot
concerning _The King's Own_, of which the composition had been
There is considerable difficulty in following the remainder of Marryat's
life, owing to the silence of our only authority, Mrs Lean. No reasons
can be assigned for the sudden flittings in which he constantly
indulged, or for his hasty journeys to America and to the Continent. He
was clearly impulsive in all things, and, though occasionally shrewd,
betrayed a mania for speculation. Moreover, he was naturally addicted to
the Bohemian pleasures of life, being somewhat promiscuous in
hospitality, and absolutely prodigal in the art of making presents. To
satisfy these various demands on his pocket, he was often driven to
spells of desperate work, in spite of the really handsome sums he
received from the publishers and editors with whom he was always at
His first regular establishment was Sussex House, Hampstead, which he
soon "swapped," after dinner and champagne, for a small estate of 1000
acres at Langham, Norfolk; though he did not finally settle in the
country till 1843. His original occupation of Langham, which realised
him a steady annual deficit, was followed by a return to London, a visit
to Brighton and, in 1835, a journey on the Continent to Brussels and
He had, meanwhile, been contributing to _The Metropolitan Magazine,_
which he edited from 1832 to 1835, finally selling his proprietary
rights to Saunders and Otley for L1050. His editorial work was arduous,
and many of his own compositions were first published in _The
Metropolitan._ Here appeared _Newton Forster,_ 1832, _Peter Simple,_
1833, _Jacob Faithful, Midshipman Easy,_ and _Japhet in search of a
Father_(!) 1834, besides a comedy in three acts, entitled _The Gipsy,_ a
tragedy called _The Cavalier of Seville,_ and the miscellaneous papers
afterwards collected under the title, _Olla Podrida._
In 1833 he stood, as a reformer, for Tower Hamlets, but his methods of
canvassing were imprudent. He dwelt upon his own hobbies, and
disregarded those of the electors. He apparently expected to carry the
day by opposing the pressgang in a time of peace, and even permitted
himself to repudiate philanthropy towards the African negro. The
gallantry with which, on one occasion, he saved the lives of his
audience when the floor of the room had fallen in, was not permitted to
cover the rash energy of his reply to a persistent questioner:--"If ever
you, or one of your sons, should come under my command at sea and
deserve punishment, if there be no other effectual mode of conferring
it, _I shall flog you."_ It is hardly necessary to add that he lost the
He afterwards failed in a plan for the establishment of brevet rank in
the army, but gave some valuable assistance in the preparation of the
Merchant Shipping Bill of 1834.
It was about this time that Marryat is currently reported to have
challenged F.D. Maurice to a duel. The latter had published an
anonymous novel, called _Eustace Conway,_ in which "a prominent
character, represented in no amiable colours, bore the name of Captain
Marryat." The truth of the story seems to be that the Captain went in
hot wrath to Bentley, and demanded an apology or a statement that the
coincidence was unintentional. Maurice replied, through his publisher,
that he had never heard of Captain Marryat. It may be questioned whether
the apology was not more galling than the original offence.
In 1834 some legal difficulties arose in connection with his father's
memory, which Marryat accepted with admirable philosophy:--
"As for the Chancellor's judgment," he told his mother, "I cannot say
that I thought anything about it, on the contrary, it appears to me
that he might have been much more severe if he had thought proper. It
is easy to impute motives, and difficult to disprove them. I thought,
considering his enmity, that he let us off cheap; as there is no
_punishing a chancellor,_ and he might say what he pleased with
impunity. I did not therefore _roar_, I only _smiled_. The effect will
be nugatory. Not one in a thousand will read it; those who do, know it
refers to a person not in this world; and of those, those who knew my
father will not believe it, those who did not will care little about
it, and forget the name in a week. Had he given the decision in our
favour, I should have been better pleased, _but it's no use crying;
what's done can't be helped."_
This letter was written from Brighton, and the following year found
Marryat on the Continent, at home in a circle of gay spirits who might
almost be called the outcasts of English society. They were
pleasure-seekers, by no means necessarily depraved but, by narrow
incomes or other causes, driven into a cheerful exile. The captain was
always ready to give and take in the matter of entertainment, and he was
invited everywhere though, on one occasion at least, it is recorded that
he proved an uncongenial guest. Having dined, as a recognised lion among
lions, he "didn't make a single joke during the whole evening." His host
remarked on his silence the next morning, and Marryat replied:--
"Oh, if that's what you wanted you should have asked me when you were
alone. Why, did you imagine I was going to let out any of my jokes for
those fellows to put in their next books? No, that is not _my_ plan.
When I find myself in such company _as that_ I open my ears and hold
my tongue, glean all I can, and give them nothing in return."
He did not always, however, play the professional author so offensively,
and we hear of his taking part in private theatricals and dances,
preparing a Christmas tree for the children, and cleverly packing his
Meanwhile, he was writing _The Pirate and Three Cutters,_ for which he
received L750, as well as _Snarley-yow_ and the _Pacha of many Tales._
He had been contributing to the _Metropolitan_ at 15 guineas a sheet,
until he paid a flying visit to England in 1836 in order to transfer his
allegiance to the _New Monthly Magazine,_ from which he secured 20
guineas. Mrs Lean states that her father received L1100 each for _Peter
Simple, Jacob Faithful, Japhet,_ and _The Pacha of many Tales;_ L1200
for _Midshipman Easy,_ L1300 for _Snarley-yow,_ and L1600 for the _Diary
in America._ Yet "although Captain Marryat and his publishers mutually
benefited by their transactions with each other, one would have
imagined, from the letters exchanged between them, that they had been
natural enemies." She relates how one of the fraternity told Marryat he
was "somewhat eccentric--an odd creature," and added, "I am somewhat
warm-tempered myself, and therefore make allowance for yours, which is
certainly warm enough."
Marryat justified the charge by replying:--
"There was no occasion for you to make the admission that you are
somewhat warm-tempered; your letter establishes that fact. Considering
your age, you are a little volcano, and if the insurance were aware of
your frequent visits at the Royal Exchange, they would demand double
premium for the building. Indeed, I have my surmises _now_ as to the
* * * * *
Your remark as to the money I have received may sound well, mentioned
as an isolated fact; but how does it sound when it is put in
juxtaposition with the sums you have received? I, who have found
everything, receiving a pittance, while you, who have found nothing
but the shop to sell in, receiving such a lion's share. I assert again
that it is slavery. I am Sinbad the sailor, and you are the old man of
the mountain, clinging on my back, and you must not be surprised at my
wishing to throw you off the first convenient opportunity.
The fact is, you have the vice of old age very strong upon you, and
you are blinded by it; but put the question to your sons, and ask them
whether they consider the present agreement fair. Let them arrange
with me, and do you go and read your Bible. We all have our ideas of
Paradise, and if other authors think like me, the most pleasurable
portion of anticipated bliss is that there will be no publishers
there. That idea often supports me after an interview with one of your
Marryat only returned to England a few months before hurrying off to
America in April 1837. The reasons for this move it is impossible to
conjecture, as we can scarcely accept the apparent significance of his
comments on Switzerland in the _Diary on the Continent:--_
"Do the faults of these people arise from the peculiarity of their
constitutions, or from the nature of their government? To ascertain
this, one must compare them with those who live under similar
institutions. _I must go to America--that is decided_."
He was received by the Americans with a curious mixture of suspicion and
enthusiasm. English men and women of letters in late years had been
visiting the Republic and criticising its institutions to the mother
country--with a certain forgetfulness of hospitalities received that was
not, to say the least of it, in good taste. Marryat was also an author,
and it seemed only too probable that he had come to spy out the land. On
the other hand, his books were immensely popular over the water and, but
for dread of possible consequences, Jonathan was delighted to see him.
His arrival at Saratoga Springs produced an outburst in the local papers
of the most pronounced journalese:--
"This distinguished writer is at present a sojourner in our city.
Before we knew the gallant Captain was respiring our balmy air, we
really did wonder what laughing gas had imbued our atmosphere--every
one we met in the streets appeared to be in such a state of
jollification; but when we heard that the author of _Peter Simple_ was
actually puffing a cigar amongst us we no longer marvelled at the
pleasant countenances of our citizens. He has often made them laugh
when he was thousands of miles away. Surely now it is but natural that
they ought to be tickled to death at the idea of having him present."
The Bostonians were proud to claim him as a compatriot through his
mother, and a nautical drama from his pen--_The Ocean Wolf, or the
Channel Outlaw_--was performed at New York with acclamation. He had some
squabbles with American publishers concerning copyright, and was clever
enough to secure two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars from Messrs
Carey & Hart for his forthcoming _Diary in America_ and _The Phantom
Ship,_ which latter first appeared in the _New Monthly,_ 1837 and 1838.
He evidently pleased the Americans on the whole, and was not
unfavourably impressed by what he saw, but the six volumes which he
produced on his return are only respectable specimens of bookmaking, and
do not repay perusal. It was, indeed, his own opinion that he had
already written enough. "If I were not rather in want of money," he says
in a letter to his mother, "I certainly would not write any more, for I
am rather tired of it. I should like to disengage myself from the
fraternity of authors, and be known in future only in my profession as a
good officer and seaman." He had hoped to see some service in Canada,
but the opportunity never came.
In England, to which he returned in 1839, the want of money soon came to
be felt more seriously. His father's fortune had been invested in the
West Indies, and began to show diminishing returns. For this and other
reasons he led a very wandering existence, for another four or five
years, until 1843. A year at 8 Duke Street, St James, was followed by a
short stay with his mother at Wimbledon House, from which he took
chambers at 120 Piccadilly, and then again moved to Spanish Place,
Manchester Square. Apparently at this time he made an unsuccessful
attempt to return to active service. He was meanwhile working hard at
_Poor Jack, Masterman Ready, The Poacher, Percival Keene,_ etc., and
living hard in the merry circle of a literary Bohemia, with Clarkson
Stanfield, Rogers, Dickens, and Forster; to whom were sometimes added
Lady Blessington, Ainsworth, Cruickshank, and Lytton. The rival
interests served to sour his spirits and weaken his constitution.
The publication of _The Poacher_ in the _Era_ newspaper involved its
author in a very pretty controversy. A foolish contributor to _Fraser's
Magazine_ got into a rage with Harrison Ainsworth for _condescending_ to
write in the weekly papers, and expressed himself as follows:--
"If writing monthly fragments threatened to deteriorate Mr Ainsworth's
productions, what must be the result of this _hebdomadal_ habit?
Captain Marryat, we are sorry to say, has taken to the same line. Both
these popular authors may rely upon our warning, that they will live
to see their laurels fade unless they more carefully cultivate a
spirit of _self-respect._ That which was venial in a miserable
starveling of Grub Street is _perfectly disgusting_ in the
extravagantly paid novelists of these days--the _caressed_, of
generous booksellers. Mr Ainsworth and Captain Marryat ought to
disdain such _pitiful peddling._ Let them eschew it without delay."
Marryat's reply was, spirited and manly. After ridiculing _Fraser's_
attempt "to set up a standard of _precedency_ and _rank_ in literature,"
and humorously proving that an author's works were not to be esteemed in
proportion to the length of time elapsing between their production, he
turned to the more serious and entirely honest defence that, like
Dickens, he was supplying the lower classes with wholesome recreation:--
"I would rather write for the instruction, or even the amusement of
the poor than for the amusement of the rich; and I would sooner raise
a smile or create an interest in the honest mechanic or agricultural
labourer who requires relaxation, than I would contribute to dispel
the _ennui_ of those who loll on their couches and wonder in their
idleness what they shall do next. Is the rich man only to be amused?
are mirth and laughter to be made a luxury, confined to the upper
classes, and denied to the honest and hard-working artisan?...
In a moral point of view, I hold that I am right. We are educating the
lower classes; generations have sprung up who can read and write; and
may I enquire what it is that they have to read, in the way of
amusement?--for I speak not of the Bible, which is for private
examination. They have scarcely anything but the weekly newspapers,
and, as they cannot command amusement, they prefer those which create
the most excitement; and this I believe to be the cause of the great
circulation of the _Weekly Dispatch,_ which has but too well succeeded
in demoralising the public, in creating disaffection and ill-will
towards the government, and assisting the nefarious views of
demagogues and chartists. It is certain that men would rather laugh
than cry--would rather be amused than rendered gloomy and
discontented--would sooner dwell upon the joys or sorrows of others in
a tale of fiction than brood over their own supposed wrongs. If I put
good and wholesome food (and, as I trust, sound moral) before the
lower classes, they will eventually eschew that which is coarse and
disgusting, which is only resorted to because no better is supplied.
Our weekly newspapers are at present little better than records of
immorality and crime, and the effect which arises from having no other
matter to read and comment upon, is of serious injury to the morality
of the country ... I consider, therefore, that in writing for the
amusement and instruction of the poor man, I am doing that which has
but been too much neglected--that I am serving my country, and you
surely will agree with me that to do so in not _infra. dig. _in the
proudest Englishman; and, as a Conservative, you should commend rather
than stigmatise my endeavours in the manner which you have so hastily
It has been said that Marryat's wandering ceased in 1843, and it was in
that year that he settled down at Langham to look after his own estate.
Langham is in the northern division of Norfolk, half way between
Wells-next-the-Sea and Holt. The Manor House, says Mrs Lean, "without
having any great architectural pretensions, had a certain unconventional
prettiness of its own. It was a cottage in the Elizabethan style, built
after the model of one at Virginia Water belonging to his late majesty,
George IV., with latticed windows opening on to flights of stone steps
ornamented with vases of flowers, and leading down from the long narrow
dining-room, where (surrounded by Clarkson Stanfield's illustrations of
_Poor Jack_, with which the walls were clothed) Marryat composed his
later works, to the lawn behind. The house was thatched and gabled, and
its pinkish white walls and round porch were covered with roses and ivy,
which in some parts climbed as high as the roof itself."
In the unpublished fragment of his _Life of Lord Napier_ Marryat had
declared that retired sailors naturally turned to agriculture, and
frequently made good farmers. A sailor on land, he rather quaintly
remarks, is "but a sort of Adam--a new creature, starting into existence
as it were in his prime;" and "the greatest pleasures of man consist in
imitating the Deity in his _creative_ power." The anticipated _pleasure_
in farming he did to a great extent realise, but the _profits_ were
still to seek. It can only be said that his losses were rather smaller
that they had been in his absence.
1842. Total receipts, L154 2 9
" Expenditure, 1637 0 6
1846. Total receipts, 898 12 6
" Expenditure, 2023 10 8
His former tenant had indeed shown but little respect for the property.
Besides taking all he could out of the land without putting anything
into it, he fitted up the drawing-room of the manor (which in its
brightest days had been known in the village as the "Room of Thousand
Columns," from an effect produced by mirrors set in the panels of
folding doors, reflecting trellised pillars,) with rows of beds, which
he let out to tramps at twopence a night!
Of these latter years on the farm we can gather some distinctly pleasant
impressions. Marryat was evidently a good master at all times. He
delighted to arrange for festivities in the servants' hall, but he was
also very tolerant to poachers, and considered it his first duty to find
work for his men when times were bad. His model pigsties and cottages
were unpopular, but he loved his animals and understood them. The chief
merit of his lazy and somewhat asinine pony Dumpling consisted in his
talent for standing still. Upon this patient beast the captain would
occasionally sally forth to shoot, assisting his natural
short-sightedness by a curious "invention of his own;"--a plain piece of
crystal surrounded by a strip of whalebone, hanging in front of his
right eye from the brim of his "shocking bad hat." He was a careless
dresser, but scrupulously clean; no smoker, but very fond of snuff. He
had a fancy for pure white china which had to be procured from the
Cordial invitations from friends seldom drew him from his self-imposed
labours, and it appears that, in spite of his son's debts and other
domestic troubles, he led a fairly contented existence among his dogs
and his children. To the latter, though occasionally passionate, he was
"a most indulgent father and friend." He never locked anything away from
them, or shut them out of any room in the house. Though severe on
falsehood and cowardice, he was indifferent to mischief, and one is
certainly driven to pity for the governess who was summoned to look
after them. His methods in this connection were original. "He kept a
quantity of small articles for presents in his secretary; and at the
termination of each week the children and governess, armed with a report
of their general behaviour, were ushered with much solemnity into the
library to render up an account. Those who had behaved well during the
preceding seven days received a prize, because they had been so good;
and those who had behaved ill also received one, in hopes that they
would never be naughty again: the governess was also presented with a
gift, that her criticism on the justice of the transaction might be
disarmed." The father was not a strict disciplinarian, and it is related
that when a little one had made "a large rent in a new frock," for which
she expected punishment from her governess, and ran to him for advice,
he "took hold of the rent and tore off the whole lower part of the
skirt," saying, "Tell her I did it."
The sons were seldom at home, but in spite of a certain constitutional
wildness and lack of prudence, they were evidently a gallant couple,
delighting their father's heart. Frederick, the eldest, became a
distinguished officer, after conquering a strong propensity to practical
joking, and was much regretted in the service when wrecked at the age of
twenty-seven. He was last seen "upbraiding, in his jocular manner, some
people who were frightened, when a sea swept over the ship and took him
with it." Frank was entered upon the roll of the navy at the tender age
of three, and presented to the Port Admiral of Plymouth in full costume.
The officer patted him on the head, saying "Well, you're a fine little
fellow," to which the youngster replied, "and you're a fine old cock,
He became a cultivated and bold traveller, beloved by his friends, and
not unknown to fame. He only survived his father a few years, and died
at the age of twenty-eight.
Marryat now began his charming series of stories for children, a work to
which he turned for a practical reason that sounds strangely from his
"I have lately taken to a different style of writing, that is, for
young people. My former productions, like all novels, have had their
day, and for the present, at least, will sell no more; but it is not
so with the _juveniles_; they have an annual demand, and become _a
little income _to me; which I infinitely prefer to receiving any sum
in a mass, which very soon disappears somehow or other." Save for a
little tendency to preachment, these volumes, particularly _Masterman
Ready_, and _The Children of the New Forest_, are admirably suited to
their purpose from the genuine childlikeness of their conception and
Meanwhile Marryat's health was rapidly giving way, and almost his last
appearance before the public was in 1847, when he addressed a pathetic,
but fairly dignified letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty, as a
protest against some affront, which he suspected, to his professional
career. The exact circumstances of the case cannot be now discovered,
but it may be readily conjectured that the formalism of official
courtesy did not match with the Captain's taste, and that the necessity
for self-control on his own part had irritated his resentment. The First
Lord expressed his regret at having wounded a distinguished officer, and
bestowed on him a good service pension.
It may be said that the pension came too late, if indeed it would at any
time have been particularly serviceable. Marryat was now engaged in that
melancholy chase for health which generally augurs the beginning of the
end. He had ruptured two blood vessels, and was in great danger from the
constitutional weakness which had first attacked him as a young
lieutenant in the West Indies. He moved to his mother's house in order
to consult the London doctors. A mild climate was recommended, and he
went down to Hastings, where the news of his son's death destroyed his
own chances of recovery. After about a month's trial of Brighton, he
came back to the London doctors who told him that "in six months he
would be numbered with his forefathers."
He went home to Langham to die. Through the summer of 1848 he lingered
on, "in the 'room of a thousand columns,' with the mimic sky, and birds,
and flowers, above and around him, where he chose to lie upon a
mattress, placed on the ground, and there, almost in darkness, often in
pain, and without occupation, he lay--cheerful and uncomplaining, and at
times even humorous." His daughters frequently read aloud to him, and he
always asked for fresh flowers. At the last he became delirious, though
continuing to dictate pages of talk and reflection. On the morning of
August 9th, 1848, he expired in perfect quiet.
"Although not handsome," says Mrs Lean, "Captain Marryat's personal
appearance was very prepossessing. In figure he was upright and
broad-shouldered for his height, which measured 5ft. 10in. His hands,
without being undersized, were remarkably perfect in form, and modelled
by a sculptor at Rome on account of their symmetry. The character of his
mind was borne out by his features, the most salient expression of which
was the frankness of an open heart. The firm decisive mouth, and massive
thoughtful forehead were redeemed from heaviness by the humorous light
that twinkled in his deep-set grey eyes, which, bright as diamonds,
positively flashed out their fun, or their reciprocation of the fun of
others. As a young man, dark crisp curls covered his head; but later in
life, when, having exchanged the sword for the pen and the
plougshare [sic], he affected a soberer and more patriarchal style of
dress and manner, he wore his grey hair long, and almost down to his
shoulder. His eyebrows were not alike, one being higher up and more
arched than the other, which peculiarity gave his face a look of
enquiry, even in repose. In the upper lip was a deep cleft, and in the
chin as deep a dimple."
Christopher North describes Captain Marryat as "a captain in the navy,
and an honour to it--an admirable sailor, and an admirable writer--and
would that he were with us on the leads, my lads, for a pleasanter
fellow, _to those who know him,_ never enlivened the social board." It
is evident, indeed, that an intimate knowledge of his character was
necessary to its appreciation, for his daughter declares that "like most
warm-hearted people he was quick to take offence, and no one could have
decided, after an absence of six months, with whom he was friends, and
with whom he was not." One of the said friends wrote truly:--
"His faults proceeded from an _over-active_ mind, which could never be
quiet--morning, noon, or night. If he had no one to love, he
quarrelled for want of something better to do; he planned for himself
and for everybody, and changed his mind ten times a-day."
"Many people have asked," says Mrs Lean "whether Captain Marryat, when
at home, was not 'very funny.' No, decidedly not. In society, with new
topics to discuss, and other wits about him on which to sharpen his own
--or, like flint and steel, to emit sparks by friction--he was as gay
and humorous as the best of them; but at home he was always a
thoughtful, and, at times, a very grave man; for he was not exempt from
those ills that all flesh is heir to, and had his sorrows and his
difficulties and moments of depression, like the rest of us. At such
times it was dangerous to thwart and disturb him, for he was a man of
strong passions and indomitable determination."
It is not difficult to conceive the character in outline--"wise
English-hearted Captain Marryat," Kingsley calls him. He was incapable
of any mean low vices, but his zest for pleasure was keen, and never
restrained by motives of prudence or consideration for others. His
strong passions at times made him disagreeably selfish and overbearing,
qualities forgiven by acquaintances for his social brilliancy, and by
friends for his frank affection. With some business talents and
practical shrewdness, he was quite incapable of wisely conducting his
affairs, by reason of a mania for speculation and originality. There was
considerable waste of good material in his fiery composition.
His books reveal the higher standard of his true nature. Their merits
and faults are alike on the surface. Lockhart declared that "he stood
second in merit to no living novelist but Miss Edgeworth. His happy
delineations and contrasts of character, and easy play of native fun,
redeem a thousand faults of verbosity, clumsiness, and coarseness. His
strong sense, and utter superiority to affectation of all sorts, command
respect, and in his quiet effectiveness of circumstantial narrative he
sometimes approaches old Defoe."
It is easy to criticise Marryat, for his grammar is reckless, he could
not construct a plot, he wrote too much and too rapidly in order to earn
money. But then he was an altogether admirable _raconteur_, and for the
purposes of narration his style was peculiarly appropriate--simple,
rapid, lucid, and vigorous. He does not tax our powers of belief beyond
endurance, or weary us with wonder. His crises are the more effective
from the absence of any studied introduction or thunderous comment; and
he carries his readers through stirring adventures of storm and battle
with a business-like precision that silences doubt. He breathes the
spirit of the sea, himself a genuine sailor, almost as childlike and
simple as one of his own creations. His books are real voyages, in which
a day of bustle and danger is followed by peace and quiet, yarns on the
quarter-deck, and some practical joking among the middies.
He delights in the exhibition of oddities, and the telling of tall
stories outside the regular course of the narrative, which bubbles over
with somewhat boisterous fun. And his humour is genuine and spontaneous;
it is farcical without descending to buffoonery. His comic types are
built up on character, and, if not subtle, are undeniably human and
living. They are drawn, moreover, with sympathy.
The whole tone of Marryat's work is singularly fresh, wholesome, and
manly. His heroes endure rough handling, but they fight their way, for
the most part, to the essential qualities of gentlemen. They are no
saints; but excellent comrades, honest lovers, and brave tars.
R. BRIMLEY JOHNSON.
 In dwelling upon the autobiographical nature of the _incident_, in
_Frank Mildmay,_ it is necessary to guard against the supposition that
Marryat's _character_ in any way resembled his hero's. See further
Preface to _F M._
PETER SIMPLE AND THE THREE CUTTERS
From _Nodes Ambrosianae_:--
_Shepherd_ [HOGG]. Did Marry yacht write _Peter Simple_? Peter Simple
in his ain way's as gude's Parson Adams ... He that invented Peter
Simple's a Sea-Fieldin'.
* * * * *
_Peter Simple_ is printed from the first edition, in three volumes.
Saunders and Otley, 1834.
_The Three Cutters_ is printed from the first edition. Longman, Rees,
Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1836.
_The Three Cutters_ was first published in one volume with _The
Pirate_, containing a portrait of Marryat--Drawn by W. Behnes, engraved
by H. Cook; and "illustrated with twenty splendid engravings from
drawings by Clarkson Stanfield, Esq., R.A."
The great advantage of being the fool of the family--My destiny is
decided, and I am consigned to a stockbroker as part of His Majesty's
sea stock--Unfortunately for me Mr Handycock is a bear, and I get
very little dinner.
If I cannot narrate a life of adventurous and daring exploits,
fortunately I have no heavy crimes to confess; and, if I do not rise in
the estimation of the reader for acts of gallantry and devotion in my
country's cause, at least I may claim the merit of zealous and
persevering continuance in my vocation. We are all of us variously
gifted from Above, and he who is content to walk, instead of to run, on
his allotted path through life, although he may not so rapidly attain
the goal, has the advantage of not being out of breath upon his arrival.
Not that I mean to infer that my life has not been one of adventure. I
only mean to say that, in all which has occurred, I have been a passive,
rather than an active, personage; and, if events of interest are to be
recorded, they certainly have not been sought by me.
As well as I can recollect and analyze my early propensities, I think
that, had I been permitted to select my own profession, I should in all
probability have bound myself apprentice to a tailor; for I always
envied the comfortable seat which they appeared to enjoy upon the
shopboard, and their elevated position, which enabled them to look down
upon the constant succession of the idle or the busy, who passed in
review before them in the main street of the country town, near to which
I passed the first fourteen years of my existence.
But my father, who was a clergyman of the Church of England, and the
youngest brother of a noble family, had a lucrative living, and a "soul
above buttons," if his son had not. It has been from time immemorial the
heathenish custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the
prosperity and naval superiority of the country, and, at the age of
fourteen, I was selected as the victim. If the custom be judicious, I
had no reason to complain. There was not one dissentient voice, when it
was proposed before all the varieties of my aunts and cousins, invited
to partake of our new-year's festival. I was selected by general
acclamation. Flattered by such an unanimous acknowledgment of my
qualification, and a stroke of my father's hand down my head which
accompanied it, I felt as proud, and, alas! as unconscious as the calf
with gilded horns, who plays and mumbles with the flowers of the garland
which designates his fate to every one but himself. I even felt, or
thought I felt, a slight degree of military ardour, and a sort of vision
of future grandeur passed before me, in the distant vista of which I
perceived a coach with four horses and a service of plate. It was,
however, driven away before I could decipher it, by positive bodily
pain, occasioned by my elder brother Tom, who, having been directed by
my father to snuff the candles, took the opportunity of my abstraction
to insert a piece of the still ignited cotton into my left ear. But as
my story is not a very short one, I must not dwell too long on its
commencement. I shall therefore inform the reader, that my father, who
lived in the north of England, did not think it right to fit me out at
the country town, near to which we resided; but about a fortnight after
the decision which I have referred to, he forwarded me to London, on the
outside of the coach, with my best suit of bottle-green and six shirts.
To prevent mistakes, I was booked in the way-bill "to be delivered to Mr
Thomas Handycock, No. 14, Saint Clement's Lane--carriage paid." My
parting with the family was very affecting; my mother cried bitterly,
for, like all mothers, she liked the greatest fool which she had
presented to my father, better than all the rest; my sisters cried
because my mother cried; Tom roared for a short time more loudly than
all the rest, having been chastised by my father for breaking his fourth
window in that week;--during all which my father walked up and down the
room with impatience, because he was kept from his dinner, and, like all
orthodox divines, he was tenacious of the only sensual enjoyment
permitted to his cloth.
At last I tore myself away. I had blubbered till my eyes were so red and
swollen, that the pupils were scarcely to be distinguished, and tears
and dirt had veined my cheeks like the marble of the chimney-piece. My
handkerchief was soaked through with wiping my eyes and blowing my nose,
before the scene was over. My brother Tom, with a kindness which did
honour to his heart, exchanged his for mine, saying, with fraternal
regard, "Here, Peter, take mine, it's as dry as a bone." But my father
would not wait for a second handkerchief to perform its duty. He led me
away through the hall, when, having shaken hands with all the men and
kissed all the maids, who stood in a row with their aprons to their
eyes, I quitted my paternal roof.
The coachman accompanied me to the place from whence the stage was to
start. Having seen me securely wedged between two fat old women, and
having put my parcel inside, he took his leave, and in a few minutes I
was on my road to London.
I was too much depressed to take notice of anything during my journey.
When we arrived in London, they drove to the Blue Boar (in a street, the
name of which I have forgotten). I had never seen or heard of such an
animal, and certainly it did appear very formidable; its mouth was open
and teeth very large. What surprised me still more was to observe that
its teeth and hoofs were of pure gold. Who knows, thought I, that in
some of the strange countries which I am doomed to visit, but that I may
fall in with, and shoot one of these terrific monsters? with what haste
shall I select those precious parts, and with what joy should I, on my
return, pour them as an offering of filial affection into my mother's
lap!--and then, as I thought of my mother, the tears again gushed into
The coachman threw his whip to the ostler, and the reins upon the
horses' backs; he then dismounted, and calling to me, "Now, young
gentleman, I'se a-waiting," he put a ladder up for me to get down by;
then turning to a porter, he said to him, "Bill, you must take this here
young gem'man and that ere parcel to this here direction.--Please to
remember the coachman, sir." I replied that I certainly would, if he
wished it, and walked off with the porter; the coachman observing, as I
went away, "Well, he is a fool--that's sartain." I arrived quite safe at
St Clement's-lane, when the porter received a shilling for his trouble
from the maid who let me in, and I was shown up into a parlour, where I
found myself in company with Mrs Handycock.
Mrs Handycock was a little meagre woman, who did not speak very good
English, and who appeared to me to employ the major part of her time in
bawling out from the top of the stairs to the servants below. I never
saw her either read a book or occupy herself with needlework, during the
whole time I was in the house. She had a large grey parrot, and I really
cannot tell which screamed the worse of the two--but she was very civil
and kind to me, and asked me ten times a day when I had last heard of my
grandfather, Lord Privilege. I observed that she always did so if any
company happened to call in during my stay at her house. Before I had
been there ten minutes, she told me that she "hadored sailors--they were
the defendiours and preserviours of their kings and countries," and that
"Mr Handycock would be home by four o'clock, and then we should go to
dinner." Then she jumped off her chair to bawl to the cook from the head
of the stairs--"Jemima, Jemima!--ve'll ha'e the viting biled instead of
fried." "Can't, marm," replied Jemima, "they be all begged and crumbed,
with their tails in their mouths." "Vell, then, never mind, Jemima,"
replied the lady.--"Don't put your finger into the parrot's cage, my
love--he's apt to be cross with strangers. Mr Handycock will be home at
four o'clock, and then we shall have our dinner. Are you fond of
As I was very anxious to see Mr Handycock, and very anxious to have my
dinner, I was not sorry to hear the clock on the stairs strike four,
when Mrs Handycock again jumped up, and put her head over the banisters,
"Jemima, Jemima, it's four o'clock!" "I hear it, marm," replied the
cook; and she gave the frying-pan a twist, which made the hissing and
the smell come flying up into the parlour, and made me more hungry than
Rap, tap, tap! "There's your master, Jemima," screamed the lady. "I hear
him, marm," replied the cook. "Run down, my dear, and let Mr Handycock
in," said his wife. "He'll be so surprised at seeing you open the door."
I ran down, as Mrs Handycock desired me, and opened the street-door.
"Who the devil are you?" in a gruff voice, cried Mr Handycock; a man
about six feet high, dressed in blue cotton-net pantaloons and Hessian
boots, with a black coat and waistcoat. I was a little rebuffed, I must
own, but I replied that I was Mr Simple. "And pray, Mr Simple, what
would your grandfather say if he saw you now? I have servants in plenty
to open my door, and the parlour is the proper place for young
"Law, Mr Handycock," said his wife, from the top of the stairs, "how can
you be so cross? I told him to open the door to surprise you."
"And you have surprised me," replied he, "with your cursed folly."
While Mr Handycock was rubbing his boots on the mat, I went upstairs
rather mortified, I must own, as my father had told me that Mr Handycock
was his stockbroker, and would do all he could to make me comfortable:
indeed, he had written to that effect in a letter, which my father
showed to me before I left home. When I returned to the parlour, Mrs
Handycock whispered to me, "Never mind, my dear, it's only because
there's something wrong on 'Change. Mr Handycock is a _bear_ just now."
I thought so too, but I made no answer, for Mr Handycock came upstairs,
and walking with two strides from the door of the parlour to the
fire-place, turned his back to it, and lifting up his coat-tails, began
"Are you ready for your dinner, my dear?" said the lady, almost
"If the dinner is ready for me. I believe we usually dine at four,"
answered her husband, gruffly.
"Jemima, Jemima, dish up! do you hear, Jemima?" "Yes, marm," replied the
cook, "directly I've thickened the butter;" and Mrs Handycock resumed
her seat, with, "Well, Mr Simple, and how is your grandfather, Lord
Privilege?" "He is quite well, ma'am," answered I, for the fifteenth
time at least. But dinner put an end to the silence which followed this
remark. Mr Handycock lowered his coat-tails and walked downstairs,
leaving his wife and me to follow at our leisure.
"Pray, ma'am," inquired I, as soon as he was out of hearing, "what is
the matter with Mr Handycock, that he is so cross to you?"
"Vy, my dear, it is one of the misfortunes of mater-mony, that ven the
husband's put out, the vife is sure to have her share of it. Mr
Handycock must have lost money on 'Change, and then he always comes home
cross. Ven he vins, then he is as merry as a cricket."
"Are you people coming down to dinner?" roared Mr Handycock from below.
"Yes, my dear," replied the lady, "I thought that you were washing your
hands." We descended into the dining-room, where we found that Mr
Handycock had already devoured two of the whitings, leaving only one on
the dish for his wife and me. "Vould you like a little bit of viting, my
dear?" said the lady to me. "It's not worth halving," observed the
gentleman, in a surly tone, taking up the fish with his own knife and
fork, and putting it on his plate.
"Well, I'm so glad you like them, my dear," replied the lady meekly;
then turning to me, "there's some nice roast _weal_ coming, my dear."
The veal made its appearance, and fortunately for us, Mr Handycock could
not devour it all. He took the lion's share, nevertheless, cutting off
all the brown, and then shoving the dish over to his wife to help
herself and me. I had not put two pieces in my mouth before Mr Handycock
desired me to get up and hand him the porter-pot, which stood on the
sideboard. I thought that if it was not right for me to open a door,
neither was it for me to wait at table--but I obeyed him without making
After dinner, Mr Handycock went down to the cellar for a bottle of wine.
"O deary me!" exclaimed his wife, "he must have lost a mint of money--we
had better go up stairs and leave him alone; he'll be better after a
bottle of port, perhaps." I was very glad to go away, and being very
tired, I went to bed without any tea, for Mrs Handycock dared not
venture to make it before her husband came up stairs.
Fitting out on the shortest notice--Fortunately for me, this day Mr
Handycock is a bear, and I fare very well--I set off for Portsmouth--
Behind the coach I meet a man before the mast--He is disguised with
liquor, but is not the only disguise I fall in with in my journey.
The next morning Mr Handycock appeared to be in somewhat better humour.
One of the linendrapers who fitted out cadets, &c, "on the shortest
notice," was sent for, and orders given for my equipment, which Mr
Handycock insisted should be ready on the day afterwards, or the
articles would be left on his hands; adding, that my place was already
taken in the Portsmouth coach.
"Really, sir," observed the man, "I'm afraid--on such very short
"Your card says, 'the shortest notice,'" rejoined Mr Handycock, with the
confidence and authority of a man who is enabled to correct another by
his own assertions. "If you do not choose to undertake the work, another
This silenced the man, who made his promise, took my measure, and
departed; and soon afterwards Mr Handycock also quitted the house.
What with my grandfather and the parrot, and Mrs Handycock wondering how
much money her husband had lost, running to the head of the stairs and
talking to the cook, the day passed away pretty well till four o'clock;
when, as before, Mrs Handycock screamed, the cook screamed, the parrot
screamed, and Mr Handycock rapped at the door, and was let in--but not
by me. He ascended the stair swith [sic] three bounds, and coming into
the parlour, cried, "Well, Nancy, my love, how are you?" Then stooping
over her, "Give me a kiss, old girl. I'm as hungry as a hunter. Mr
Simple, how do you do? I hope you have passed the morning agreeably. I
must wash my hands and change my boots, my love; I am not fit to sit
down to table with you in this pickle. Well, Polly, how are you?"
"I'm glad you're hungry, my dear, I've such a nice dinner for you,"
replied the wife, all smiles. "Jemima, be quick and dish up--Mr
Handycock is so hungry."
"Yes, marm," replied the cook; and Mrs Handycock followed her husband
into his bedroom on the same floor, to assist him at his toilet.
"By Jove, Nancy, the _bulls_ have been nicely taken in," said Mr
Handycock, as we sat down to dinner.
"O, I am so glad!" replied his wife, giggling; and so I believe she was,
but why I did not understand.
"Mr Simple," said he, "will you allow me to offer you a little fish?"
"If you do not want it all yourself, sir," replied I politely.
Mrs Handycock frowned and shook her head at me, while her husband helped
me. "My dove, a bit of fish?"
We both had our share to-day, and I never saw a man more polite than Mr
Handycock. He joked with his wife, asked me to drink wine with him two
or three times, talked about my grandfather; and, in short, we had a
very pleasant evening.
The next morning all my clothes came home, but Mr Handycock, who still
continued in good humour, said that he would not allow me to travel by
night, that I should sleep there and set off the next morning; which I
did at six o'clock, and before eight I had arrived at the Elephant and
Castle, where we stopped for a quarter of an hour. I was looking at the
painting representing this animal with a castle on its back; and
assuming that of Alnwick, which I had seen, as a fair estimate of the
size and weight of that which he carried, was attempting to enlarge my
ideas so as to comprehend the stupendous bulk of the elephant, when I
observed a crowd assembled at the corner; and asking a gentleman who sat
by me in a plaid cloak, whether there was not something very uncommon to
attract so many people, he replied, "Not very, for it is only a drunken
I rose from my seat, which was on the hinder part of the coach, that I
might see him, for it was a new sight to me, and excited my curiosity,
when to my astonishment, he staggered from the crowd, and swore that
he'd go to Portsmouth. He climbed up by the wheel of the coach, and sat
down by me. I believe that I stared at him very much, for he said to me,
"What are you gaping at, you young sculping? Do you want to catch flies?
or did you never see a chap half-seas-over before?"
I replied, "That I had never been at sea in my life, but that I was
"Well, then, you're like a young bear, all your sorrows to come--that's
all, my hearty," replied he. "When you get on board, you'll find
monkey's allowance--more kicks than half-pence. I say, you
pewter-carrier, bring us another pint of ale."
The waiter of the inn, who was attending the coach, brought out the ale,
half of which the sailor drank, and the other half threw into the
waiter's face, telling him that was his "allowance: and now," said he,
"what's to pay?" The waiter, who looked very angry, but appeared too
much afraid of the sailor to say anything, answered fourpence; and the
sailor pulled out a handful of banknotes, mixed up with gold, silver,
and coppers, and was picking out the money to pay for his beer, when the
coachman, who was impatient, drove off.
"There's cut and run," cried the sailor, thrusting all the money into
his breeches pocket. "That's what you'll learn to do, my joker, before
you've been two cruises to sea."
In the meantime the gentleman in the plaid cloak, who was seated by me,
smoked his cigar without saying a word. I commenced a conversation with
him relative to my profession, and asked him whether it was not very
difficult to learn. "Larn," cried the sailor, interrupting us, "no; it
may be difficult for such chaps as me before the mast to larn; but you,
I presume, is a reefer, and they an't got much to larn, 'cause why, they
pipe-clays their weekly accounts, and walks up and down with their hands
in their pockets. You must larn to chaw baccy, drink grog, and call the
cat a beggar, and then you knows all a midshipman's expected to know
nowadays. Ar'n't I right, sir?" said the sailor, appealing to the
gentleman in a plaid cloak. "I axes you, because I see you're a sailor
by the cut of your jib. Beg pardon, sir," continued he, touching his
hat, "hope no offence."
"I am afraid that you have nearly hit the mark, my good fellow," replied
The drunken fellow then entered into conversation with him, stating that
he had been paid off from the _Audacious_ at Portsmouth, and had come up
to London to spend his money with his messmates, but that yesterday he
had discovered that a Jew at Portsmouth had sold him a seal as gold, for
fifteen shillings, which proved to be copper, and that he was going
back to Portsmouth to give the Jew a couple of black eyes for his
rascality, and that when he had done that he was to return to his
messmates, who had promised to drink success to the expedition at the
Cock and Bottle, St Martin's Lane, until he should return.
The gentleman in the plaid cloak commended him very much for his
resolution; for he said, "that although the journey to and from
Portsmouth would cost twice the value of a gold seal, yet, that in the
end it might be worth a _Jew's Eye_." What he meant I did not
Whenever the coach stopped, the sailor called for more ale, and always
threw the remainder which he could not drink into the face of the man
who brought it out for him, just as the coach was starting off, and then
tossed the pewter pot on the ground for him to pick up. He became more
tipsy every stage, and the last from Portsmouth, when he pulled out his
money, he could find no silver, so he handed down a note, and desired
the waiter to change it. The waiter crumpled it up and put it into his
pocket, and then returned the sailor the change for a one-pound note;
but the gentleman in the plaid had observed that it was a five-pound
note which the sailor had given, and insisted upon the waiter producing
it, and giving the proper change. The sailor took his money, which the
waiter handed to him, begging pardon for the mistake, although he
coloured up very much at being detected. "I really beg your pardon,"
said he again, "it was quite a mistake;" whereupon the sailor threw the
pewter pot at the waiter, saying, "I really beg your pardon, too,"--and
with such force, that it flattened upon the man's head, who fell
senseless on the road. The coachman drove off, and I never heard whether
the man was killed or not.
After the coach had driven off, the sailor eyed the gentleman in the
plaid cloak for a minute or two, and then said, "When I first looked at
you I took you for some officer in mufti; but now that I see you look so
sharp after the rhino, it's my idea that you're some poor devil of a
Scotchman, mayhap second mate of a marchant vessel--there's half a crown
for your services--I'd give you more if I thought you would spend it."
The gentleman laughed, and took the half-crown, which I afterwards
observed that he gave to a grey-headed beggar at the bottom of Portsdown
Hill. I inquired of him how soon we should be at Portsmouth; he answered
that we were passing the lines; but I saw no lines, and I was ashamed to
show my ignorance. He asked me what ship I was going to join. I could
not recollect her name, but I told him it was painted on the outside of
my chest, which was coming down by the waggon; all that I could
recollect was that it was a French name.
"Have you no letter of introduction to the captain?" said he.
"Yes I have," replied I; and I pulled out my pocket-book in which the
letter was. "Captain Savage, H.M. ship _Diomede_," continued I, reading
To my surprise he very coolly proceeded to open the letter, which, when
I perceived what he was doing, occasioned me immediately to snatch the
letter from him, stating my opinion at the same time that it was a
breach of honour, and that in my opinion he was no gentleman.
"Just as you please, youngster," replied he. "Recollect, you have told
me I am no gentleman."
He wrapped his plaid around him, and said no more; and I was not a
little pleased at having silenced him by my resolute behaviour.
I am made to look very blue at the Blue Posts--Find wild spirits around,
and, soon after, hot spirits within me; at length my spirits overcome me
Call to pay my respects to the Captain, and find that I had had the
pleasure of meeting him before--No sooner out of one scrape than into
When we stopped, I inquired of the coachman which was the best inn. He
answered "that it was the Blue Postesses, where the midshipmen leave
their chestesses, call for tea and toastesses, and sometimes forget to
pay for their breakfastesses." He laughed when he said it, and I thought
that he was joking with me; but he pointed out two large blue posts at
the door next the coach-office, and told me that all the midshipmen
resorted to that hotel. He then asked me to remember the coachman,
which, by this time I had found out implied that I was not to forget to
give him a shilling, which I did, and then went into the inn. The
coffee-room was full of midshipmen, and, as I was anxious about my
chest, I inquired of one of them if he knew when the waggon would come
"Do you expect your mother by it?" replied he.
"Oh no! but I expect my uniforms--I only wear these bottle-greens until
"And pray what ship are you going to join?"
"The _Die-a-maid_--Captain Thomas Kirkwall Savage."
"The _Diomede_--I say, Robinson, a'n't that the frigate in which the
midshipmen had four dozen apiece for not having pipe-clayed their weekly
accounts on the Saturday?"
"To be sure it is," replied the other; "why the captain gave a youngster
five dozen the other day for wearing a scarlet watch-riband."
"He's the greatest Tartar in the service," continued the other; "he
flogged the whole starboard watch the last time that he was on a cruise,
because the ship would only sail nine knots upon a bowline."
"Oh dear," said I, "then I'm very sorry that I am going to join him."
"'Pon my soul I pity you: you'll be fagged to death: for there's only
three midshipmen in the ship now--all the rest ran away. Didn't they,
"There's only two left now; for poor Matthews died of fatigue. He was
worked all day, and kept watch all night for six weeks, and one morning
he was found dead upon his chest."
"God bless my soul!" cried I; "and yet, on shore, they say he is such a
kind man to his midshipmen."
"Yes," replied Robinson, "he spreads that report every where. Now,
observe, when you first call upon him, and report your having come to
join his ship, he'll tell you that he is very happy to see you, and that
he hopes your family are well--then he'll recommend you to go on board
and learn your duty. After that, stand clear. Now, recollect what I have
said, and see if it does not prove true. Come, sit down with us and take
a glass of grog; it will keep your spirits up."
These midshipmen told me so much about my captain, and the horrid
cruelties which he had practised, that I had some doubts whether I had
not better set off home again. When I asked their opinion, they said,
that if I did, I should be taken up as a deserter and hanged; that my
best plan was to beg his acceptance of a few gallons of rum, for he was
very fond of grog, and that then I might perhaps be in his good graces,
as long as the rum might last.
I am sorry to state that the midshipmen made me very tipsy that evening.
I don't recollect being put to bed, but I found myself there the next
morning, with a dreadful headache, and a very confused recollection of
what had passed. I was very much shocked at my having so soon forgotten
the injunctions of my parents, and was making vows never to be so
foolish again, when in came the midshipman who had been so kind to me
the night before. "Come, Mr Bottlegreen," he bawled out, alluding, I
suppose, to the colour of my clothes, "rouse and bitt. There's the
captain's coxswain waiting for you below. By the powers, you're in a
pretty scrape for what you did last night!"
"Did last night!" replied I, astonished. "Why, does the captain know
that I was tipsy?"
"I think you took devilish good care to let him know it when you were at
"At the theatre! was I at the theatre?"
"To be sure you were. You would go, do all we could to prevent you,
though you were as drunk as David's sow. Your captain was there with the
admiral's daughters. You called him a tyrant and snapped your fingers at
him. Why, don't you recollect? You told him that you did not care a fig
"Oh dear! oh dear! what shall I do? what shall I do?" cried I: "My
mother cautioned me so about drinking and bad company."
"Bad company, you whelp--what do you mean by that?"
"O, I did not particularly refer to you."
"I should hope not! However, I recommend you, as a friend, to go to the
George Inn as fast as you can, and see your captain, for the longer you
stay away, the worse it will be for you. At all events, it will be
decided whether he receives you or not. It is fortunate for you that you
are not on the ship's books. Come, be quick, the coxswain is gone back."
"Not on the ship's books," replied I sorrowfully. "Now I recollect there
was a letter from the captain to my father, stating that he had put me
on the books."
"Upon my honour, I'm sorry--very sorry indeed," replied the midshipman;
--and he quitted the room, looking as grave as if the misfortune had
happened to himself. I got up with a heavy head, and heavier heart, and
as soon as I was dressed, I asked the way to the George Inn. I took my
letter of introduction with me, although I was afraid it would be of
little service. When I arrived, I asked, with a trembling voice, whether
Captain Thomas Kirkwall Savage, of H.M. ship _Diomede_, was staying
there. The waiter replied, that he was at breakfast with Captain
Courtney, but that he would take up my name. I gave it him, and in a
minute the waiter returned, and desired that I would walk up. O how my
heart beat!--I never was so frightened--I thought I should have dropped
on the stairs. Twice I attempted to walk into the room, and each time my
legs failed me; at last I wiped the perspiration from my forehead, and
with a desperate effort I went into the room.
"Mr Simple, I am glad to see you," said a voice. I had held my head
down, for I was afraid to look at him, but the voice was so kind that I
mustered up courage; and, when I did look up, there sat with his uniform
and epaulets, and his sword by his side, the passenger in the plaid
cloak, who wanted to open my letter, and whom I had told to his face,
that he was _no gentleman_.
I thought I should have died as the other midshipman did upon his chest.
I was just sinking down upon my knees to beg for mercy, when the captain
perceiving my confusion, burst out into a laugh, and said, "So you know
me again, Mr Simple? Well, don't be alarmed, you did your duty in not
permitting me to open the letter, supposing me, as you did, to be some
other person, and you were perfectly right, under that supposition, to
tell me that I was not a gentleman. I give you credit for your conduct.
Now sit down and take some breakfast."
"Captain Courtney," said he to the other captain, who was at the table,
"this is one of my youngsters just entering the service. We were
passengers yesterday by the same coach." He then told him the
circumstance which occurred, at which they laughed heartily.
I now recovered my spirits a little--but still there was the affair at
the theatre, and I thought that perhaps he did not recognize me. I was,
however, soon relieved from my anxiety by the other captain inquiring,
"Were you at the theatre last night, Savage?"
"No; I dined at the admiral's; there's no getting away from those girls,
they are so pleasant."
"I rather think you are a little--_taken_ in that quarter."
"No, on my word! I might be if I had time to discover which I liked
best; but my ship is at present my wife, and the only wife I intend to
have until I am laid on the shelf."
Well, thought I, if he was not at the theatre, it could not have been
him that I insulted. Now if I can only give him the rum, and make
friends with him.
"Pray, Mr Simple, how are your father and mother?" said the captain.
"Very well, I thank you, sir, and desire me to present their
"I am obliged to them. Now I think the sooner you go on board and learn
your duty the better." (Just what the midshipman told me--the very
words, thought I--then it's all true--and I began to tremble again.)
"I have a little advice to offer you," continued the captain. "In the
first place, obey your superior officers without hesitation; it is for
me, not you, to decide whether an order is unjust or not. In the next
place, never swear or drink spirits. The first is immoral and
ungentleman-like, the second is a vile habit which will grow upon you. I
never touch spirit myself, and I expect that my young gentlemen will
refrain from it also. Now you may go, and as soon as your uniforms
arrive, you will repair on board. In the meantime, as I had some little
insight into your character when we travelled together, let me recommend
you not to be too intimate at first sight with those you meet, or you
may be led into indiscretions. Good morning."
I quitted the room with a low bow, glad to have surmounted so easily
what appeared to be a chaos of difficulty; but my mind was confused with
the testimony of the midshipman, so much at variance with the language
and behaviour of the captain. When I arrived at the Blue Posts, I found
all the midshipmen in the coffee-room, and I repeated to them all that
had passed. When I had finished, they burst out laughing, and said that
they had only been joking with me. "Well," said I to the one who had
called me up in the morning, "you may call it joking, but I call it
"Pray, Mr Bottlegreen, do you refer to me?"
"Yes, I do," replied I.
"Then, sir, as a gentleman, I demand satisfaction. Slugs in a saw-pit.
Death before dishonour, d----e!"
"I shall not refuse you," replied I, "although I had rather not fight a
duel; my father cautioned me on the subject, desiring me, if possible,
to avoid it, as it was flying in the face of my Creator; but aware that
I must uphold my character as an officer, he left me to my own
discretion, should I ever be so unfortunate as to be in such a dilemma."
"Well, we don't want one of your father's sermons at second-hand,"
replied the midshipman, (for I had told them that my father was a
clergyman); "the plain question is, will you fight, or will you not?"
"Could not the affair be arranged otherwise?" interrupted another. "Will
not Mr Bottlegreen retract?"
"My name is Simple, sir, and not Bottlegreen," replied I; "and as he did
tell a falsehood, I will not retract."
"Then the affair must go on," said the midshipman. "Robinson, will you
oblige me by acting as my second?"
"It's an unpleasant business," replied the other; "you are so good a
shot; but as you request it, I shall not refuse. Mr Simple is not, I
believe, provided with a friend."
"Yes, he is," replied another of the midshipmen. "He is a spunky fellow,
and I'll be his second."
It was then arranged that we should meet the next morning, with pistols.
I considered that as an officer and a gentleman, I could not well
refuse; but I was very unhappy. Not three days left to my own guidance,
and I had become intoxicated, and was now to fight a duel. I went up
into my room and wrote a long letter to my mother, enclosing a lock of
my hair; and having shed a few tears at the idea of how sorry she would
be if I were killed, I borrowed a bible from the waiter, and read it
during the remainder of the day.
I am taught on a cold morning, before breakfast, how to stand fire, and
thus prove my courage--After breakfast I also prove my gallantry--My
proof meets reproof--Woman at the bottom of all mischief--By one I lose
my liberty, and, by another, my money.
When I began to wake the next morning I could not think what it was that
felt like a weight upon my chest, but as I roused and recalled my
scattered thoughts, I remembered that in an hour or two it would be
decided whether I were to exist another day. I prayed fervently, and
made a resolution in my own mind that I would not have the blood of
another upon my conscience, and would fire my pistol up in the air. And
after I had made that resolution, I no longer felt the alarm which I did
before. Before I was dressed, the midshipman who had volunteered to be
my second, came into my room, and informed me that the affair was to be
decided in the garden behind the inn; that my adversary was a very good
shot, and that I must expect to be winged if not drilled.
"And what is winged and drilled?" inquired I. "I have not only never
fought a duel, but I have not even fired a pistol in my life."
He explained what he meant, which was, that being winged implied being
shot through the arm or leg, whereas being drilled was to be shot
through the body. "But," continued he, "is it possible that you have
never fought a duel?"
"No," replied I; "I am not yet fifteen years old."
"Not fifteen! why I thought you were eighteen at the least." (But I was
very tall and stout for my age, and people generally thought me older
than I actually was.)
I dressed myself and followed my second into the garden, where I found
all the midshipmen and some of the waiters of the inn. They all seemed
very merry, as if the life of a fellow-creature was of no consequence.
The seconds talked apart for a little while, and then measured the
ground, which was twelve paces; we then took our stations. I believe
that I turned pale, for my second came to my side and whispered that I
must not be frightened. I replied, that I was not frightened, but that I
considered that it was an awful moment. The second to my adversary then
came up and asked me whether I would make an apology, which I refused to
do as before: they handed a pistol to each of us, and my second showed
me how I was to pull the trigger. It was arranged that at the word
given, we were to fire at the same time. I made sure that I should be
wounded, if not killed, and I shut my eyes as I fired my pistol in the
air. I felt my head swim, and thought I was hurt, but fortunately I was
not. The pistols were loaded again, and we fired a second time. The
seconds then interfered, and it was proposed that we should shake hands,
which I was very glad to do, for I considered my life to have been saved
by a miracle. We all went back to the coffee-room, and sat down to
breakfast. They then told me that they all belonged to the same ship
that I did, and that they were glad to see that I could stand fire, for
the captain was a terrible fellow for cutting-out and running under the
The next day my chest arrived by the waggon, and I threw off my
"bottle-greens" and put on my uniform. I had no cocked hat, or dirk, as
the warehouse people employed by Mr Handycock did not supply those
articles, and it was arranged that I should procure them at Portsmouth.
When I inquired the price, I found that they cost more money than I had
in my pocket, so I tore up the letter I had written to my mother before
the duel, and wrote another asking for a remittance, to purchase my dirk
and cocked hat. I then walked out in my uniform, not a little proud, I
must confess. I was now an officer in his Majesty's service, not very
high in rank, certainly, but still an officer and a gentleman, and I
made a vow that I would support the character, although I was considered
the greatest fool of the family.
I had arrived opposite a place called Sally Port, when a young lady,
very nicely dressed, looked at me very hard and said, "Well, Reefer, how
are you off for soap?" I was astonished at the question, and more so at
the interest which she seemed to take in my affairs. I answered, "Thank
you, I am very well off; I have four cakes of Windsor, and two bars of
yellow for washing." She laughed at my reply, and asked me whether I
would walk home and take a bit of dinner with her. I was astonished at
this polite offer, which my modesty induced me to ascribe more to my
uniform than to my own merits, and, as I felt no inclination to refuse
the compliment, I said that I should be most happy. I thought I might
venture to offer my arm, which she accepted, and we proceeded up High
Street on our way to her home.
Just as we passed the admiral's house, I perceived my captain walking
with two of the admiral's daughters. I was not a little proud to let him
see that I had female acquaintances as well as he had, and, as I passed
him with the young lady under my protection, I took off my hat, and made
him a low bow. To my surprise, not only did he not return the salute,
but he looked at me with a very stern countenance. I concluded that he
was a very proud man, and did not wish the admiral's daughters to
suppose that he knew midshipmen by sight; but I had not exactly made up
my mind on the subject, when the captain, having seen the ladies into
the admiral's house, sent one of the messengers after me to desire that
I would immediately come to him at the George Inn, which was nearly
I apologised to the young lady, and promised to return immediately if
she would wait for me; but she replied, if that was my captain, it was
her idea that I should have a confounded wigging and be sent on board.
So, wishing me good-bye, she left me and continued her way home. I could
as little comprehend all this as why the captain looked so black when I
passed him; but it was soon explained when I went up to him in the
parlour at the George Inn. "I am sorry, Mr Simple," said the captain,
when I entered, "that a lad like you should show such early symptoms of
depravity; still more so, that he should not have the grace which even
the most hardened are not wholly destitute of--I mean to practise
immorality in secret, and not degrade themselves and insult their
captain by unblushingly avowing (I may say glorying in) their iniquity,
by exposing it in broad day, and in the most frequented street of the
"Sir," replied I with astonishment, "O dear! O dear! what have I done?"
The captain fixed his keen eyes upon me, so that they appeared to pierce
me through, and nail me to the wall. "Do you pretend to say, sir, that
you were not aware of the character of the person with whom you were
walking just now?"
"No, sir," replied I; "except that she was very kind and good-natured;"
and then I told him how she had addressed me, and what subsequently took
"And is it possible, Mr Simple, that you are so great a fool?" I replied
that I certainly was considered the greatest fool of our family. "I
should think you were," replied he, drily. He then explained to me who
the person was with whom I was in company, and how any association with
her would inevitably lead to my ruin and disgrace.
I cried very much, for I was shocked at the narrow escape which I had
had, and mortified at having fallen in his good opinion. He asked me how
I had employed my time since I had been at Portsmouth, and I made an
acknowledgment of having been made tipsy, related all that the
midshipmen had told me, and how I had that morning fought a duel.
He listened to my whole story very attentively, and I thought that
occasionally there was a smile upon his face, although he bit his lips
to prevent it. When I had finished, he said, "Mr Simple, I can no longer
trust you on shore until you are more experienced in the world. I shall
desire my coxswain not to lose sight of you until you are safe on board
of the frigate. When you have sailed a few months with me, you will then
be able to decide whether I deserve the character which the young
gentlemen have painted, with, I must say, I believe, the sole intention
of practising upon your inexperience."
Altogether I did not feel sorry when it was over. I saw that the captain
believed what I had stated, and that he was disposed to be kind to me,
although he thought me very silly. The coxswain, in obedience to his
orders, accompanied me to the Blue Posts. I packed up my clothes, paid
my bill, and the porter wheeled my chest down to the Sally Port, where
the boat was waiting.
"Come, heave a-head, my lads, be smart. The captain says we are to take
the young gentleman on board directly. His liberty's stopped for getting
drunk and running after the Dolly Mops!"
"I should thank you to be more respectful in your remarks, Mr Coxswain,"
said I with displeasure.
"Mister Coxswain! thanky, sir, for giving me a handle to my name,"
replied he. "Come, be smart with your oars, my lads!"
"La, Bill Freeman," said a young woman on the beach, "what a nice young
gentleman you have there! He looks like a sucking Nelson. I say, my
pretty young officer, could you lend me a shilling?"
I was so pleased at the woman calling me a young Nelson, that I
immediately complied with her request. "I have not a shilling in my
pocket," said I, "but here is half-a-crown, and you can change it and
bring me back the eighteen pence."
"Well, you are a nice young man," replied she, taking the half-crown;
"I'll be back directly, my dear."
The men in the boat laughed, and the coxswain desired them to shove off.
"No," observed I, "you must wait for my eighteen pence."
"We shall wait a devilish long while then, I suspect. I know that girl,
and she has a very bad memory."
"She cannot be so dishonest or ungrateful," replied I. "Coxswain, I
order you to stay--I am an officer."
"I know you are, sir, about six hours old: well, then, I must go up and
tell the captain that you have another girl in tow, and that you won't
go on board."
"Oh no, Mr Coxswain, pray don't; shove off as soon as you please, and
never mind the eighteen pence."
The boat then shoved off, and pulled towards the ship, which lay at
I am introduced to the quarter-deck and first lieutenant, who pronounces
me very clever--Trotted below to Mrs Trotter--Connubial bliss in a
cock-pit--Mr Trotter takes me in as a mess-mate--Feel very much
surprised that so many people know that I am the son of--my father.
On our arrival on board, the coxswain gave a note from the captain to
the first lieutenant, who happened to be on deck. He read the note,
looked at me earnestly, and then I overheard him say to another
lieutenant, "The service is going to the devil. As long as it was not
popular, if we had not much education, we at least had the chance that
natural abilities gave us; but now that great people send their sons for
a provision into the navy, we have all the refuse of their families, as
if anything was good enough to make a captain of a man-of-war, who has
occasionally more responsibility on his shoulders, and is placed in
situations requiring more judgment, than any other people in existence.
Here's another of the fools of a family made a present of to the
country--another cub for me to lick into shape. Well, I never saw the
one yet I did not make something of. Where's Mr Simple?"
"I am Mr Simple, sir," replied I, very much frightened at what I had
"Now, Mr Simple," said the first lieutenant, "observe, and pay
particular attention to what I say. The captain tells me in this note
that you have been shamming stupid. Now, sir, I am not to be taken in
that way. You're something like the monkeys, who won't speak because
they are afraid they will be made to work. I have looked attentively at
your face, and I see at once that you are _very clever_, and if you do
not prove so in a very short time, why--you had better jump overboard,
that's all. Perfectly understand me. I know that you are a very clever
fellow, and having told you so, don't you pretend to impose upon me, for
it won't do."
I was very much terrified at this speech, but at the same time I was
pleased to hear that he thought me clever, and I determined to do all in
my power to keep up such an unexpected reputation.
"Quarter-master," said the first lieutenant, "tell Mr Trotter to come on
The quarter-master brought up Mr Trotter, who apologized for being so
dirty, as he was breaking casks out of the hold. He was a short,
thick-set man, about thirty years of age, with a nose which had a red
club to it, very dirty teeth, and large black whiskers.
"Mr Trotter," said the first lieutenant, "here is a young gentleman who
has joined the ship. Introduce him into the berth, and see his hammock
slung. You must look after him a little."
"I really have very little time to look after any of them, sir," replied
Mr Trotter; "but I will do what I can. Follow me, youngster."
Accordingly, I descended the ladder after him; then I went down another,
and then to my surprise I was desired by him to go down a third, which
when I had done, he informed me that I was in the cock-pit.
"Now, youngster," said Mr Trotter, seating himself upon a large chest,
"you may do as you please. The midshipmen's mess is on the deck above
this, and if you like to join, why you can; but this I will tell you as
a friend, that you will be thrashed all day long, and fare very badly;
the weakest always goes to the wall there, but perhaps you do not mind
that. Now that we are in harbour, I mess here, because Mrs Trotter is on
board. She is a very charming woman, I can assure you, and will be here
directly; she has just gone up into the galley to look after a net of
potatoes in the copper. If you like it better, I will ask her permission
for you to mess with us. You will then be away from the midshipmen, who
are a sad set, and will teach you nothing but what is immoral and
improper, and you will have the advantage of being in good society, for
Mrs Trotter has kept the very best in England. I make you this offer
because I want to oblige the first lieutenant, who appears to take an
interest about you, otherwise I am not very fond of having any intrusion
upon my domestic happiness."
I replied that I was much obliged to him for his kindness, and that if
it would not put Mrs Trotter to an inconvenience, I should be happy to
accept of his offer; indeed, I thought myself very fortunate in having
met with such a friend. I had scarcely time to reply, when I perceived a
pair of legs, cased in black cotton stockings, on the ladder above us,
and it proved that they belonged to Mrs Trotter, who came down the
ladder with a net full of smoking potatoes.
"Upon my word, Mrs Trotter, you must be conscious of having a very
pretty ankle, or you would not venture to display it, as you have to Mr
Simple, a young gentleman whom I beg to introduce to you, and who, with
your permission, will join our mess."
"My dear Trotter, how cruel of you not to give me warning; I thought
that nobody was below. I declare I'm so ashamed," continued the lady,
simpering, and covering her face with the hand which was unemployed.
"It can't be helped now, my love, neither was there anything to be
ashamed of. I trust Mr Simple and you will be very good friends. I
believe I mentioned his desire to join our mess."
"I am sure I shall be very happy in his company. This is a strange place
for me to live in, Mr Simple, after the society to which I have been
accustomed; but affection can make any sacrifice; and rather than lose
the company of my dear Trotter, who has been unfortunate in pecuniary
"Say no more about it, my love. Domestic happiness is everything, and
will enliven even the gloom of a cock-pit."
"And yet," continued Mrs Trotter, "when I think of the time when we used
to live in London, and keep our carriage. Have you ever been in London,
Mr Simple?" I answered that I had.
"Then, probably, you may have been acquainted with, or have heard of,
I replied that the only people that I knew there were a Mr and Mrs
"Well, if I had known that you were in London, I should have been very
glad to have given you a letter of introduction to the Smiths. They are
quite the topping people of the place."
"But, my dear," interrupted Mr Trotter, "is it not time to look after
"Yes; I am going forward for it now. We have skewer pieces to-day. Mr
Simple, will you excuse me?" and then, with a great deal of flirtation
and laughing about her ankles, and requesting me, as a favour, to turn
my face away, Mrs Trotter ascended the ladder.