Part 3 out of 7
though not, of course, when human life can be saved.
So away we sailed, and left her; drifting, drifting on; a garden spot
for barnacles, and a playhouse for the sharks.
"Look there," said Jackson, hanging over the rail and coughing-"look
there; that's a sailor's coffin. Ha! ha! Buttons," turning round to
me--"how do you like that, Buttons? Wouldn't you like to take a sail with
them 'ere dead men? Wouldn't it be nice?" And then he tried to laugh,
but only coughed again. "Don't laugh at dem poor fellows," said Max,
looking grave; "do' you see dar bodies, dar souls are farder off dan de
Cape of Dood Hope."
"Dood Hope, Dood Hope," shrieked Jackson, with a horrid grin, mimicking
the Dutchman, "dare is no dood hope for dem, old boy; dey are drowned
and d .... d, as you and I will be, Red Max, one of dese dark nights."
"No, no," said Blunt, "all sailors are saved; they have plenty of
squalls here below, but fair weather aloft."
"And did you get that out of your silly Dream Book, you Greek?" howled
Jackson through a cough. "Don't talk of heaven to me--it's a lie--I know
it--and they are all fools that believe in it. Do you think, you Greek,
that there's any heaven for you? Will they let you in there, with that
tarry hand, and that oily head of hair? Avast! when some shark gulps you
down his hatchway one of these days, you'll find, that by dying, you'll
only go from one gale of wind to another; mind that, you Irish cockney!
Yes, you'll be bolted down like one of your own pills: and I should like
to see the whole ship swallowed down in the Norway maelstrom, like a box
on 'em. That would be a dose of salts for ye!" And so saying, he went
off, holding his hands to his chest, and coughing, as if his last hour
Every day this Jackson seemed to grow worse and worse, both in body and
mind. He seldom spoke, but to contradict, deride, or curse; and all the
time, though his face grew thinner and thinner, his eyes seemed to
kindle more and more, as if he were going to die out at last, and leave
them burning like tapers before a corpse.
Though he had never attended churches, and knew nothing about
Christianity; no more than a Malay pirate; and though he could not read
a word, yet he was spontaneously an atheist and an infidel; and during
the long night watches, would enter into arguments, to prove that there
was nothing to be believed; nothing to be loved, and nothing worth
living for; but every thing to be hated, in the wide world. He was a
horrid desperado; and like a wild Indian, whom he resembled in his tawny
skin and high cheek bones, he seemed to run amuck at heaven and earth.
He was a Cain afloat; branded on his yellow brow with some inscrutable
curse; and going about corrupting and searing every heart that beat near
But there seemed even more woe than wickedness about the man; and his
wickedness seemed to spring from his woe; and for all his hideousness,
there was that in his eye at times, that was ineffably pitiable and
touching; and though there were moments when I almost hated this
Jackson, yet I have pitied no man as I have pitied him.
XXIII. AN UNACCOUNTABLE CABIN-PASSENGER, AND A MYSTERIOUS YOUNG LADY
As yet, I have said nothing special about the passengers we carried out.
But before making what little mention I shall of them, you must know
that the Highlander was not a Liverpool liner, or packet-ship, plying in
connection with a sisterhood of packets, at stated intervals, between
the two ports. No: she was only what is called a regular trader to
Liverpool; sailing upon no fixed days, and acting very much as she
pleased, being bound by no obligations of any kind: though in all her
voyages, ever having New York or Liverpool for her destination. Merchant
vessels which are neither liners nor regular traders, among sailors come
under the general head of transient ships; which implies that they are
here to-day, and somewhere else to-morrow, like Mullins's dog.
But I had no reason to regret that the Highlander was not a liner; for
aboard of those liners, from all I could gather from those who had
sailed in them, the crew have terrible hard work, owing to their
carrying such a press of sail, in order to make as rapid passages as
possible, and sustain the ship's reputation for speed. Hence it is, that
although they are the very best of sea-going craft, and built in the
best possible manner, and with the very best materials, yet, a few years
of scudding before the wind, as they do, seriously impairs their
constitutions--like robust young men, who live too fast in their teens
--and they are soon sold out for a song; generally to the people of
Nantucket, New Bedford, and Sag Harbor, who repair and fit them out for
the whaling business.
Thus, the ship that once carried over gay parties of ladies and
gentlemen, as tourists, to Liverpool or London, now carries a crew of
harpooners round Cape Horn into the Pacific. And the mahogany and
bird's-eye maple cabin, which once held rosewood card-tables and
brilliant coffee-urns, and in which many a bottle of champagne, and many
a bright eye sparkled, now accommodates a bluff Quaker captain from
Martha's Vineyard; who, perhaps, while lying with his ship in the Bay of
Islands, in New Zealand, entertains a party of naked chiefs and savages
at dinner, in place of the packet-captain doing the honors to the
literati, theatrical stars, foreign princes, and gentlemen of leisure
and fortune, who generally talked gossip, politics, and nonsense across
the table, in transatlantic trips. The broad quarter-deck, too, where
these gentry promenaded, is now often choked up by the enormous head of
the sperm-whale, and vast masses of unctuous blubber; and every where
reeks with oil during the prosecution of the fishery. Sic transit gloria
mundi! Thus departs the pride and glory of packet-ships! It is like a
broken down importer of French silks embarking in the soap-boning
So, not being a liner, the Highlander of course did not have very ample
accommodations for cabin passengers. I believe there were not more than
five or six state-rooms, with two or three berths in each. At any rate,
on this particular voyage she only carried out one regular
cabin-passenger; that is, a person previously unacquainted with the
captain, who paid his fare down, and came on board soberly, and in a
business-like manner with his baggage.
He was an extremely little man, that solitary cabin-passenger--the
passenger who came on board in a business-like manner with his baggage;
never spoke to any one, and the captain seldom spoke to him.
Perhaps he was a deputy from the Deaf and Dumb Institution in New York,
going over to London to address the public in pantomime at Exeter Hall
concerning the signs of the times.
He was always in a brown study; sometimes sitting on the quarter-deck
with arms folded, and head hanging upon his chest. Then he would rise,
and gaze out to windward, as if he had suddenly discovered a friend. But
looking disappointed, would retire slowly into his state-room, where you
could see him through the little window, in an irregular sitting
position, with the back part of him inserted into his berth, and his
head, arms, and legs hanging out, buried in profound meditation, with
his fore-finger aside of his nose. He never was seen reading; never took
a hand at cards; never smoked; never drank wine; never conversed; and
never staid to the dessert at dinner-time.
He seemed the true microcosm, or little world to himself: standing in no
need of levying contributions upon the surrounding universe. Conjecture
was lost in speculating as to who he was, and what was his business. The
sailors, who are always curious with regard to such matters, and
criticise cabin-passengers more than cabin-passengers are perhaps aware
at the time, completely exhausted themselves in suppositions, some of
which are characteristically curious.
One of the crew said he was a mysterious bearer of secret dispatches to
the English court; others opined that he was a traveling surgeon and
bonesetter, but for what reason they thought so, I never could learn;
and others declared that he must either be an unprincipled bigamist,
flying from his last wife and several small children; or a scoundrelly
forger, bank-robber, or general burglar, who was returning to his
beloved country with his ill-gotten booty. One observing sailor was of
opinion that he was an English murderer, overwhelmed with speechless
remorse, and returning home to make a full confession and be hanged.
But it was a little singular, that among all their sage and sometimes
confident opinings, not one charitable one was made; no! they were all
sadly to the prejudice of his moral and religious character. But this is
the way all the world over. Miserable man! could you have had an inkling
of what they thought of you, I know not what you would have done.
However, not knowing any thing about these surmisings and suspicions,
this mysterious cabin-passenger went on his way, calm, cool, and
collected; never troubled any body, and nobody troubled him. Sometimes,
of a moonlight night he glided about the deck, like the ghost of a
hospital attendant; flitting from mast to mast; now hovering round the
skylight, now vibrating in the vicinity of the binnacle. Blunt, the
Dream Book tar, swore he was a magician; and took an extra dose of
salts, by way of precaution against his spells.
When we were but a few days from port, a comical adventure befell this
cabin-passenger. There is an old custom, still in vogue among some
merchant sailors, of tying fast in the rigging any lubberly landsman of
a passenger who may be detected taking excursions aloft, however
moderate the flight of the awkward fowl. This is called "making a spread
eagle" of the man; and before he is liberated, a promise is exacted,
that before arriving in port, he shall furnish the ship's company with
money enough for a treat all round.
Now this being one of the perquisites of sailors, they are always on the
keen look-out for an opportunity of levying such contributions upon
incautious strangers; though they never attempt it in presence of the
captain; as for the mates, they purposely avert their eyes, and are
earnestly engaged about something else, whenever they get an inkling of
this proceeding going on. But, with only one poor fellow of a
cabin-passenger on board of the Highlander, and he such a quiet,
unobtrusive, unadventurous wight, there seemed little chance for levying
One remarkably pleasant morning, however, what should be seen, half way
up the mizzen rigging, but the figure of our cabin-passenger, holding on
with might and main by all four limbs, and with his head fearfully
turned round, gazing off to the horizon. He looked as if he had the
nightmare; and in some sudden and unaccountable fit of insanity, he must
have been impelled to the taking up of that perilous position.
"Good heavens!" said the mate, who was a bit of a wag, "you will surely
fall, sir! Steward, spread a mattress on deck, under the gentleman!"
But no sooner was our Greenland sailor's attention called to the sight,
than snatching up some rope-yarn, he ran softly up behind the passenger,
and without speaking a word, began binding him hand and foot. The
stranger was more dumb than ever with amazement; at last violently
remonstrated; but in vain; for as his tearfulness of falling made him
keep his hands glued to the ropes, and so prevented him from any
effectual resistance, he was soon made a handsome spread-eagle of, to
the great satisfaction of the crew.
It was now discovered for the first, that this singular passenger
stammered and stuttered very badly, which, perhaps, was the cause of his
"Wha-wha-what i-i-is this f-f-for?"
"Spread-eagle, sir," said the Greenlander, thinking that those few words
would at once make the matter plain.
"Wha-wha-what that me-me-mean?"
"Treats all round, sir," said the Greenlander, wondering at the other's
obtusity, who, however, had never so much as heard of the thing before.
At last, upon his reluctant acquiescence in the demands of the sailor,
and handing him two half-crown pieces, the unfortunate passenger was
suffered to descend.
The last I ever saw of this man was his getting into a cab at Prince's
Dock Gates in Liverpool, and driving off alone to parts unknown. He had
nothing but a valise with him, and an umbrella; but his pockets looked
stuffed out; perhaps he used them for carpet-bags.
I must now give some account of another and still more mysterious,
though very different, sort of an occupant of the cabin, of whom I have
previously hinted. What say you to a charming young girl?--just the girl
to sing the Dashing White Sergeant; a martial, military-looking girl;
her father must have been a general. Her hair was auburn; her eyes were
blue; her cheeks were white and red; and Captain Riga was her most
To the curious questions of the sailors concerning who she was, the
steward used to answer, that she was the daughter of one of the
Liverpool dock-masters, who, for the benefit of her health and the
improvement of her mind, had sent her out to America in the Highlander,
under the captain's charge, who was his particular friend; and that now
the young lady was returning home from her tour.
And truly the captain proved an attentive father to her, and often
promenaded with her hanging on his arm, past the forlorn bearer of
secret dispatches, who would look up now and then out of his reveries,
and cast a furtive glance of wonder, as if he thought the captain was
Considering his beautiful ward, I thought the captain behaved
ungallantly, to say the least, in availing himself of the opportunity of
her charming society, to wear out his remaining old clothes; for no
gentleman ever pretends to save his best coat when a lady is in the
case; indeed, he generally thirsts for a chance to abase it, by
converting it into a pontoon over a puddle, like Sir Walter Raleigh,
that the ladies may not soil the soles of their dainty slippers. But
this Captain Riga was no Raleigh, and hardly any sort of a true
gentleman whatever, as I have formerly declared. Yet, perhaps, he might
have worn his old clothes in this instance, for the express purpose of
proving, by his disdain for the toilet, that he was nothing but the
young lady's guardian; for many guardians do not care one fig how shabby
But for all this, the passage out was one long paternal sort of a shabby
flirtation between this hoydenish nymph and the ill-dressed captain. And
surely, if her good mother, were she living, could have seen this young
lady, she would have given her an endless lecture for her conduct, and a
copy of Mrs. Ellis's Daughters of England to read and digest. I shall
say no more of this anonymous nymph; only, that when we arrived at
Liverpool, she issued from her cabin in a richly embroidered silk dress,
and lace hat and veil, and a sort of Chinese umbrella or parasol, which
one of the sailors declared "spandangalous;" and the captain followed
after in his best broadcloth and beaver, with a gold-headed cane; and
away they went in a carriage, and that was the last of her; I hope she
is well and happy now; but I have some misgivings.
It now remains to speak of the steerage passengers. There were not more
than twenty or thirty of them, mostly mechanics, returning home, after a
prosperous stay in America, to escort their wives and families back.
These were the only occupants of the steerage that I ever knew of; till
early one morning, in the gray dawn, when we made Cape Clear, the south
point of Ireland, the apparition of a tall Irishman, in a shabby shirt
of bed-ticking, emerged from the fore hatchway, and stood leaning on the
rail, looking landward with a fixed, reminiscent expression, and
diligently scratching its back with both hands. We all started at the
sight, for no one had ever seen the apparition before; and when we
remembered that it must have been burrowing all the passage down in its
bunk, the only probable reason of its so manipulating its back became
I had almost forgotten another passenger of ours, a little boy not four
feet high, an English lad, who, when we were about forty-eight hours
from New York, suddenly appeared on deck, asking for something to eat.
It seems he was the son of a carpenter, a widower, with this only child,
who had gone out to America in the Highlander some six months previous,
where he fell to drinking, and soon died, leaving the boy a friendless
orphan in a foreign land.
For several weeks the boy wandered about the wharves, picking up a
precarious livelihood by sucking molasses out of the casks discharged
from West India ships, and occasionally regaling himself upon stray
oranges and lemons found floating in the docks. He passed his nights
sometimes in a stall in the markets, sometimes in an empty hogshead on
the piers, sometimes in a doorway, and once in the watchhouse, from
which he escaped the next morning, running as he told me, right between
the doorkeeper's legs, when he was taking another vagrant to task for
repeatedly throwing himself upon the public charities.
At last, while straying along the docks, he chanced to catch sight of
the Highlander, and immediately recognized her as the very ship which
brought him and his father out from England. He at once resolved to
return in her; and, accosting the captain, stated his case, and begged a
passage. The captain refused to give it; but, nothing daunted, the
heroic little fellow resolved to conceal himself on board previous to
the ship's sailing; which he did, stowing himself away in the
between-decks; and moreover, as he told us, in a narrow space between
two large casks of water, from which he now and then thrust out his head
for air. And once a steerage passenger rose in the night and poked in
and rattled about a stick where he was, thinking him an uncommon large
rat, who was after stealing a passage across the Atlantic. There are
plenty of passengers of that kind continually plying between Liverpool
and New York.
As soon as he divulged the fact of his being on board, which he took
care should not happen till he thought the ship must be out of sight of
land; the captain had him called aft, and after giving him a thorough
shaking, and threatening to toss her overboard as a tit-bit for John
Shark, he told the mate to send him forward among the sailors, and let
him live there. The sailors received him with open arms; but before
caressing him much, they gave him a thorough washing in the
lee-scuppers, when he turned out to be quite a handsome lad, though thin
and pale with the hardships he had suffered. However, by good nursing
and plenty to eat, he soon improved and grew fat; and before many days
was as fine a looking little fellow, as you might pick out of Queen
Victoria's nursery. The sailors took the warmest interest in him. One
made him a little hat with a long ribbon; another a little jacket; a
third a comical little pair of man-of-war's-man's trowsers; so that in
the end, he looked like a juvenile boatswain's mate. Then the cook
furnished him with a little tin pot and pan; and the steward made him a
present of a pewter tea-spoon; and a steerage passenger gave him a jack
knife. And thus provided, he used to sit at meal times half way up on
the forecastle ladder, making a great racket with his pot and pan, and
merry as a cricket. He was an uncommonly fine, cheerful, clever, arch
little fellow, only six years old, and it was a thousand pities that he
should be abandoned, as he was. Who can say, whether he is fated to be a
convict in New South Wales, or a member of Parliament for Liverpool?
When we got to that port, by the way, a purse was made up for him; the
captain, officers, and the mysterious cabin passenger contributing their
best wishes, and the sailors and poor steerage passengers something like
fifteen dollars in cash and tobacco. But I had almost forgot to add that
the daughter of the dock-master gave him a fine lace pocket-handkerchief
and a card-case to remember her by; very valuable, but somewhat
inappropriate presents. Thus supplied, the little hero went ashore by
himself; and I lost sight of him in the vast crowds thronging the docks
I must here mention, as some relief to the impression which Jackson's
character must have made upon the reader, that in several ways he at
first befriended this boy; but the boy always shrunk from him; till, at
last, stung by his conduct, Jackson spoke to him no more; and seemed to
hate him, harmless as he was, along with all the rest of the world.
As for the Lancashire lad, he was a stupid sort of fellow, as I have
before hinted. So, little interest was taken in him, that he was
permitted to go ashore at last, without a good-by from any person but
XXIV. HE BEGINS TO HOP ABOUT IN THE RIGGING LIKE A SAINT JAGO's MONKEY
But we have not got to Liverpool yet; though, as there is little more to
be said concerning the passage out, the Highlander may as well make sail
and get there as soon as possible. The brief interval will perhaps be
profitably employed in relating what progress I made in learning the
duties of a sailor.
After my heroic feat in loosing the main-skysail, the mate entertained
good hopes of my becoming a rare mariner. In the fullness of his heart,
he ordered me to turn over the superintendence of the chicken-coop to
the Lancashire boy; which I did, very willingly. After that, I took care
to show the utmost alacrity in running aloft, which by this time became
mere fun for me; and nothing delighted me more than to sit on one of the
topsail-yards, for hours together, helping Max or the Green-lander as
they worked at the rigging.
At sea, the sailors are continually engaged in "parcelling," "serving,"
and in a thousand ways ornamenting and repairing the numberless shrouds
and stays; mending sails, or turning one side of the deck into a
rope-walk, where they manufacture a clumsy sort of twine, called
spun-yarn. This is spun with a winch; and many an hour the Lancashire
boy had to play the part of an engine, and contribute the motive power.
For material, they use odds and ends of old rigging called "junk," the
yarns of which are picked to pieces, and then twisted into new
combinations, something as most books are manufactured. This "junk" is
bought at the junk shops along the wharves; outlandish looking dens,
generally subterranean, full of old iron, old shrouds, spars, rusty
blocks, and superannuated tackles; and kept by villainous looking old
men, in tarred trowsers, and with yellow beards like oakum. They look
like wreckers; and the scattered goods they expose for sale,
involuntarily remind one of the sea-beach, covered with keels and
cordage, swept ashore in a gale.
Yes, I was now as nimble as a monkey in the rigging, and at the cry of
"tumble up there, my hearties, and take in sail," I was among the first
ground-and-lofty tumblers, that sprang aloft at the word.
But the first time we reefed top-sails of a dark night, and I found
myself hanging over the yard with eleven others, the ship plunging and
rearing like a mad horse, till I felt like being jerked off the spar;
then, indeed, I thought of a feather-bed at home, and hung on with tooth
and nail; with no chance for snoring. But a few repetitions, soon made
me used to it; and before long, I tied my reef-point as quickly and
expertly as the best of them; never making what they call a "granny-
knot," and slipt down on deck by the bare stays, instead of the shrouds.
It is surprising, how soon a boy overcomes his timidity about going
aloft. For my own part, my nerves became as steady as the earth's
diameter, and I felt as fearless on the royal yard, as Sam Patch on the
cliff of Niagara. To my amazement, also, I found, that running up the
rigging at sea, especially during a squall, was much easier than while
lying in port. For as you always go up on the windward side, and the
ship leans over, it makes more of a stairs of the rigging; whereas, in
harbor, it is almost straight up and down.
Besides, the pitching and rolling only imparts a pleasant sort of
vitality to the vessel; so that the difference in being aloft in a ship
at sea, and a ship in harbor, is pretty much the same, as riding a real
live horse and a wooden one. And even if the live charger should pitch
you over his head, that would be much more satisfactory, than an
inglorious fall from the other.
I took great delight in furling the top-gallant sails and royals in a
hard blow; which duty required two hands on the yard.
There was a wild delirium about it; a fine rushing of the blood about
the heart; and a glad, thrilling, and throbbing of the whole system, to
find yourself tossed up at every pitch into the clouds of a stormy sky,
and hovering like a judgment angel between heaven and earth; both hands
free, with one foot in the rigging, and one somewhere behind you in the
air. The sail would fill out Eke a balloon, with a report like a small
cannon, and then collapse and sink away into a handful. And the feeling
of mastering the rebellious canvas, and tying it down like a slave to
the spar, and binding it over and over with the gasket, had a touch of
pride and power in it, such as young King Richard must have felt, when
he trampled down the insurgents of Wat Tyler.
As for steering, they never would let me go to the helm, except during a
calm, when I and the figure-head on the bow were about equally employed.
By the way, that figure-head was a passenger I forgot to make mention of
He was a gallant six-footer of a Highlander "in full fig," with bright
tartans, bare knees, barred leggings, and blue bonnet and the most
vermilion of cheeks. He was game to his wooden marrow, and stood up to
it through thick and thin; one foot a little advanced, and his right arm
stretched forward, daring on the waves. In a gale of wind it was
glorious to watch him standing at his post like a hero, and plunging up
and down the watery Highlands and Lowlands, as the ship went roaming on
her way. He was a veteran with many wounds of many sea-fights; and when
he got to Liverpool a figure-head-builder there, amputated his left leg,
and gave him another wooden one, which I am sorry to say, did not fit
him very well, for ever after he looked as if he limped. Then this
figure-head-surgeon gave him another nose, and touched up one eye, and
repaired a rent in his tartans. After that the painter came and made his
toilet all over again; giving him a new suit throughout, with a plaid of
a beautiful pattern.
I do not know what has become of Donald now, but I hope he is safe and
snug with a handsome pension in the "Sailors'-Snug-Harbor" on Staten
The reason why they gave me such a slender chance of learning to steer
was this. I was quite young and raw, and steering a ship is a great art,
upon which much depends; especially the making a short passage; for if
the helmsman be a clumsy, careless fellow, or ignorant of his duty, he
keeps the ship going about in a melancholy state of indecision as to its
precise destination; so that on a voyage to Liverpool, it may be
pointing one while for Gibraltar, then for Rotterdam, and now for John
o' Groat's; all of which is worse than wasted time. Whereas, a true
steersman keeps her to her work night and day; and tries to make a
bee-line from port to port.
Then, in a sudden squall, inattention, or want of quickness at the helm,
might make the ship "lurch to"--or "bring her by the lee." And what those
things are, the cabin passengers would never find out, when they found
themselves going down, down, down, and bidding good-by forever to the
moon and stars.
And they little think, many of them, fine gentlemen and ladies that they
are, what an important personage, and how much to be had in reverence,
is the rough fellow in the pea-jacket, whom they see standing at the
wheel, now cocking his eye aloft, and then peeping at the compass, or
looking out to windward.
Why, that fellow has all your lives and eternities in his hand; and with
one small and almost imperceptible motion of a spoke, in a gale of wind,
might give a vast deal of work to surrogates and lawyers, in proving
last wills and testaments.
Ay, you may well stare at him now. He does not look much like a man who
might play into the hands of an heir-at-law, does he? Yet such is the
case. Watch him close, therefore; take him down into your state-room
occasionally after a stormy watch, and make a friend of him. A glass of
cordial will do it. And if you or your heirs are interested with the
underwriters, then also have an eye on him. And if you remark, that of
the crew, all the men who come to the helm are careless, or inefficient;
and if you observe the captain scolding them often, and crying out:
"Luff, you rascal; she's falling off!" or, "Keep her steady, you
scoundrel, you're boxing the compass!" then hurry down to your state-
room, and if you have not yet made a will, get out your stationery and
go at it; and when it is done, seal it up in a bottle, like Columbus'
log, and it may possibly drift ashore, when you are drowned in the next
gale of wind.
XXV. QUARTER-DECK FURNITURE
Though, for reasons hinted at above, they would not let me steer, I
contented myself with learning the compass, a graphic facsimile of which
I drew on a blank leaf of the "Wealth of Nations," and studied it every
morning, like the multiplication table.
I liked to peep in at the binnacle, and watch the needle; arid I
wondered how it was that it pointed north, rather than south or west;
for I do not know that any reason can be given why it points in the
precise direction it does. One would think, too, that, as since the
beginning of the world almost, the tide of emigration has been setting
west, the needle would point that way; whereas, it is forever pointing
its fixed fore-finger toward the Pole, where there are few inducements
to attract a sailor, unless it be plenty of ice for mint-juleps.
Our binnacle, by the way, the place that holds a ship's compasses,
deserves a word of mention. It was a little house, about the bigness of
a common bird-cage, with sliding panel doors, and two drawing-rooms
within, and constantly perched upon a stand, right in front of the helm.
It had two chimney stacks to carry off the smoke of the lamp that burned
in it by night.
It was painted green, and on two sides had Venetian blinds; and on one
side two glazed sashes; so that it looked like a cool little summer
retreat, a snug bit of an arbor at the end of a shady garden lane. Had I
been the captain, I would have planted vines in boxes, and placed them
so as to overrun this binnacle; or I would have put canary-birds within;
and so made an aviary of it. It is surprising what a different air may
be imparted to the meanest thing by the dainty hand of taste. Nor must I
omit the helm itself, which was one of a new construction, and a
particular favorite of the captain. It was a complex system of cogs and
wheels and spindles, all of polished brass, and looked something like a
printing-press, or power-loom. The sailors, however, did not like it
much, owing to the casualties that happened to their imprudent fingers,
by catching in among the cogs and other intricate contrivances. Then,
sometimes in a calm, when the sudden swells would lift the ship, the
helm would fetch a lurch, and send the helmsman revolving round like
Ixion, often seriously hurting him; a sort of breaking on the wheel.
The harness-cask, also, a sort of sea side-board, or rather meat-safe,
in which a week's allowance of salt pork and beef is kept, deserves
being chronicled. It formed part of the standing furniture of the
quarter-deck. Of an oval shape, it was banded round with hoops all
silver-gilt, with gilded bands secured with gilded screws, and a gilded
padlock, richly chased. This formed the captain's smoking-seat, where he
would perch himself of an afternoon, a tasseled Chinese cap upon his
head, and a fragrant Havanna between his white and canine-looking teeth.
He took much solid comfort, Captain Riga.
Then the magnificent capstan! The pride and glory of the whole ship's
company, the constant care and dandled darling of the cook, whose duty
it was to keep it polished like a teapot; and it was an object of
distant admiration to the steerage passengers. Like a parlor center-
table, it stood full in the middle of the quarter-deck, radiant with
brazen stars, and variegated with diamond-shaped veneerings of
mahogany and satin wood. This was the captain's lounge, and the chief
mate's secretary, in the bar-holes keeping paper and pencil for
I might proceed and speak of the booby-hatch, used as a sort of settee
by the officers, and the fife-rail round the mainmast, inclosing a
little ark of canvas, painted green, where a small white dog with a blue
ribbon round his neck, belonging to the dock-master's daughter, used to
take his morning walks, and air himself in this small edition of the New
XXVI. A SAILOR A JACK OF ALL TRADES
As I began to learn my sailor duties, and show activity in running
aloft, the men, I observed, treated me with a little more consideration,
though not at all relaxing in a certain air of professional superiority.
For the mere knowing of the names of the ropes, and familiarizing
yourself with their places, so that you can lay hold of them in the
darkest night; and the loosing and furling of the canvas, and reefing
topsails, and hauling braces; all this, though of course forming an
indispensable part of a seaman's vocation, and the business in which he
is principally engaged; yet these are things which a beginner of
ordinary capacity soon masters, and which are far inferior to many other
matters familiar to an "able seaman."
What did I know, for instance, about striking a top-gallant-mast, and
sending it down on deck in a gale of wind? Could I have turned in a
dead-eye, or in the approved nautical style have clapt a seizing on the
main-stay? What did I know of "passing a gammoning," "reiving a Burton,"
"strapping a shoe-block," "clearing a foul hawse," and innumerable other
The business of a thorough-bred sailor is a special calling, as much of
a regular trade as a carpenter's or locksmith's. Indeed, it requires
considerably more adroitness, and far more versatility of talent.
In the English merchant service boys serve a long apprenticeship to the
sea, of seven years. Most of them first enter the Newcastle colliers,
where they see a great deal of severe coasting service. In an old copy
of the Letters of Junius, belonging to my father, I remember reading,
that coal to supply the city of London could be dug at Blackheath, and
sold for one half the price that the people of London then paid for it;
but the Government would not suffer the mines to be opened, as it would
destroy the great nursery for British seamen.
A thorough sailor must understand much of other avocations. He must be a
bit of an embroiderer, to work fanciful collars of hempen lace about the
shrouds; he must be something of a weaver, to weave mats of rope-yarns
for lashings to the boats; he must have a touch of millinery, so as to
tie graceful bows and knots, such as Matthew Walker's roses, and Turk's
heads; he must be a bit of a musician, in order to sing out at the
halyards; he must be a sort of jeweler, to set dead-eyes in the standing
rigging; he must be a carpenter, to enable him to make a jurymast out of
a yard in case of emergency; he must be a sempstress, to darn and mend
the sails; a ropemaker, to twist marline and Spanish foxes; a
blacksmith, to make hooks and thimbles for the blocks: in short, he must
be a sort of Jack of all trades, in order to master his own. And this,
perhaps, in a greater or less degree, is pretty much the case with all
things else; for you know nothing till you know all; which is the reason
we never know anything.
A sailor, also, in working at the rigging, uses special tools peculiar
to his calling--fids, serving-mallets, toggles, prickers, marlingspikes,
palms, heavers, and many more. The smaller sort he generally carries
with him from ship to ship in a sort of canvas reticule.
The estimation in which a ship's crew hold the knowledge of such
accomplishments as these, is expressed in the phrase they apply to one
who is a clever practitioner. To distinguish such a mariner from those
who merely "hand, reef, and steer," that is, run aloft, furl sails, haul
ropes, and stand at the wheel, they say he is "a sailor-man" which means
that he not only knows how to reef a topsail, but is an artist in the
Now, alas! I had no chance given me to become initiated in this art and
mystery; no further, at least, than by looking on, and watching how that
these things might be done as well as others, the reason was, that I had
only shipped for this one voyage in the Highlander, a short voyage too;
and it was not worth while to teach me any thing, the fruit of which
instructions could be only reaped by the next ship I might belong to.
All they wanted of me was the good-will of my muscles, and the use of my
backbone--comparatively small though it was at that time--by way of a
lever, for the above-mentioned artists to employ when wanted.
Accordingly, when any embroidery was going on in the rigging, I was set
to the most inglorious avocations; as in the merchant service it is a
religious maxim to keep the hands always employed at something or other,
never mind what, during their watch on deck.
Often furnished with a club-hammer, they swung me over the bows in a
bowline, to pound the rust off the anchor: a most monotonous, and to me
a most uncongenial and irksome business. There was a remarkable fatality
attending the various hammers I carried over with me. Somehow they would
drop out of my hands into the sea. But the supply of reserved hammers
seemed unlimited: also the blessings and benedictions I received from
the chief mate for my clumsiness.
At other times, they set me to picking oakum, like a convict, which
hempen business disagreeably obtruded thoughts of halters and the
gallows; or whittling belaying-pins, like a Down-Easter.
However, I endeavored to bear it all like a young philosopher, and
whiled away the tedious hours by gazing through a port-hole while my
hands were plying, and repeating Lord Byron's Address to the Ocean,
which I had often spouted on the stage at the High School at home.
Yes, I got used to all these matters, and took most things coolly, in
the spirit of Seneca and the stoics.
All but the "turning out" or rising from your berth when the watch was
called at night--that I never fancied. It was a sort of acquaintance,
which the more I cultivated, the more I shrunk from; a thankless,
miserable business, truly.
Consider that after walking the deck for four full hours, you go below
to sleep: and while thus innocently employed in reposing your wearied
limbs, you are started up--it seems but the next instant after closing
your lids--and hurried on deck again, into the same disagreeably dark
and, perhaps, stormy night, from which you descended into the
The previous interval of slumber was almost wholly lost to me; at least
the golden opportunity could not be appreciated: for though it is
usually deemed a comfortable thing to be asleep, yet at the time no one
is conscious that he is so enjoying himself. Therefore I made a little
private arrangement with the Lancashire lad, who was in the other watch,
just to step below occasionally, and shake me, and whisper in my ear--
"Watch below, Buttons; watch below"--which pleasantly reminded me of
the delightful fact. Then I would turn over on my side, and take another
nap; and in this manner I enjoyed several complete watches in my bunk to
the other sailor's one. I recommend the plan to all landsmen
contemplating a voyage to sea.
But notwithstanding all these contrivances, the dreadful sequel could
not be avoided. Eight bells would at last be struck, and the men on
deck, exhilarated by the prospect of changing places with us, would call
the watch in a most provoking but mirthful and facetious style.
"Starboard watch, ahoy! eight bells there, below! Tumble up, my lively
hearties; steamboat alongside waiting for your trunks: bear a hand, bear
a hand with your knee-buckles, my sweet and pleasant fellows! fine
shower-bath here on deck. Hurrah, hurrah! your ice-cream is getting
Whereupon some of the old croakers who were getting into their trowsers
would reply with--"Oh, stop your gabble, will you? don't be in such a
hurry, now. You feel sweet, don't you?" with other exclamations, some of
which were full of fury.
And it was not a little curious to remark, that at the expiration of the
ensuing watch, the tables would be turned; and we on deck became the
wits and jokers, and those below the grizzly bears and growlers.
XXVII. HE GETS A PEEP AT IRELAND, AND AT LAST ARRIVES AT LIVERPOOL
The Highlander was not a grayhound, not a very fast sailer; and so, the
passage, which some of the packet ships make in fifteen or sixteen days,
employed us about thirty.
At last, one morning I came on deck, and they told me that Ireland was
Ireland in sight! A foreign country actually visible! I peered hard, but
could see nothing but a bluish, cloud-like spot to the northeast. Was
that Ireland? Why, there was nothing remarkable about that; nothing
startling. If that's the way a foreign country looks, I might as well
have staid at home.
Now what, exactly, I had fancied the shore would look like, I can not
say; but I had a vague idea that it would be something strange and
wonderful. However, there it was; and as the light increased and the
ship sailed nearer and nearer, the land began to magnify, and I gazed at
it with increasing interest.
Ireland! I thought of Robert Emmet, and that last speech of his before
Lord Norbury; I thought of Tommy Moore, and his amatory verses: I
thought of Curran, Grattan, Plunket, and O'Connell; I thought of my
uncle's ostler, Patrick Flinnigan; and I thought of the shipwreck of the
gallant Albion, tost to pieces on the very shore now in sight; and I
thought I should very much like to leave the ship and visit Dublin and
the Giant's Causeway.
Presently a fishing-boat drew near, and I rushed to get a view of it;
but it was a very ordinary looking boat, bobbing up and down, as any
other boat would have done; yet, when I considered that the solitary man
in it was actually a born native of the land in sight; that in all
probability he had never been in America, and knew nothing about my
friends at home, I began to think that he looked somewhat strange.
He was a very fluent fellow, and as soon as we were within hailing
distance, cried out--"Ah, my fine sailors, from Ameriky, ain't ye, my
beautiful sailors?" And concluded by calling upon; us to stop and heave
a rope. Thinking he might have something important to communicate, the
mate accordingly backed I the main yard, and a rope being thrown, the
stranger kept hauling in upon it, and coiling it down, crying, "pay out!
pay out, my honeys; ah! but you're noble fellows!" Till at last the mate
asked him why he did not come alongside, adding, "Haven't you enough
"Sure and I have," replied the fisherman, "and it's time for Pat to cut
and run!" and so saying, his knife severed the rope, and with a Kilkenny
grin, he sprang to his tiller, put his little craft before the wind, and
bowled away from us, with some fifteen fathoms of our tow-line.
"And may the Old Boy hurry after you, and hang you in your stolen hemp,
you Irish blackguard!" cried the mate, shaking his fist at the receding
boat, after recovering from his first fit of amazement.
Here, then, was a beautiful introduction to the eastern hemisphere;
fairly robbed before striking soundings. This trick upon experienced
travelers certainly beat all I had ever heard about the wooden nutmegs
and bass-wood pumpkin seeds of Connecticut. And I thought if there were
any more Hibernians like our friend Pat, the Yankee peddlers might as
well give it up.
The next land we saw was Wales. It was high noon, and a long line of
purple mountains lay like banks of clouds against the east.
Could this be really Wales?-Wales?--and I thought of the Prince of Wales.
And did a real queen with a diadem reign over that very land I was
looking at, with the identical eyes in my own head?--And then I thought
of a grandfather of mine, who had fought against the ancestor of this
queen at Bunker's Hill.
But, after all, the general effect of these mountains was mortifyingly
like the general effect of the Kaatskill Mountains on the Hudson River.
With a light breeze, we sailed on till next day, when we made Holyhead
and Anglesea. Then it fell almost calm, and what little wind we had, was
ahead; so we kept tacking to and fro, just gliding through the water,
and always hovering in sight of a snow-white tower in the distance,
which might have been a fort, or a light-house. I lost myself in
conjectures as to what sort of people might be tenanting that lonely
edifice, and whether they knew any thing about us.
The third day, with a good wind over the taffrail, we arrived so near
our destination, that we took a pilot at dusk.
He, and every thing connected with him were very different from our New
York pilot. In the first place, the pilot boat that brought him was a
plethoric looking sloop-rigged boat, with flat bows, that went wheezing
through the water; quite in contrast to the little gull of a schooner,
that bade us adieu off Sandy Hook. Aboard of her were ten or twelve
other pilots, fellows with shaggy brows, and muffled in shaggy coats,
who sat grouped together on deck like a fire-side of bears, wintering in
Aroostook. They must have had fine sociable times, though, together;
cruising about the Irish Sea in quest of Liverpool-bound vessels;
smoking cigars, drinking brandy-and-water, and spinning yarns; till at
last, one by one, they are all scattered on board of different ships,
and meet again by the side of a blazing sea-coal fire in some Liverpool
taproom, and prepare for another yachting.
Now, when this English pilot boarded us, I stared at him as if he had
been some wild animal just escaped from the Zoological Gardens; for here
was a real live Englishman, just from England. Nevertheless, as he soon
fell to ordering us here and there, and swearing vociferously in a
language quite familiar to me; I began to think him very common-place,
and considerable of a bore after all.
After running till about midnight, we "hove-to" near the mouth of the
Mersey; and next morning, before day-break, took the first of the flood;
and with a fair wind, stood into the river; which, at its mouth, is
quite an arm of the sea. Presently, in the misty twilight, we passed
immense buoys, and caught sight of distant objects on shore, vague and
shadowy shapes, like Ossian's ghosts.
As I stood leaning over the side, and trying to summon up some image of
Liverpool, to see how the reality would answer to my conceit; and while
the fog, and mist, and gray dawn were investing every thing with a
mysterious interest, I was startled by the doleful, dismal sound of a
great bell, whose slow intermitting tolling seemed in unison with the
solemn roll of the billows. I thought I had never heard so boding a
sound; a sound that seemed to speak of judgment and the resurrection,
like belfry-mouthed Paul of Tarsus.
It was not in the direction of the shore; but seemed to come out of the
vaults of the sea, and out of the mist and fog.
Who was dead, and what could it be?
I soon learned from my shipmates, that this was the famous Bett-Buoy,
which is precisely what its name implies; and tolls fast or slow,
according to the agitation of the waves. In a calm, it is dumb; in a
moderate breeze, it tolls gently; but in a gale, it is an alarum like
the tocsin, warning all mariners to flee. But it seemed fuller of dirges
for the past, than of monitions for the future; and no one can give ear
to it, without thinking of the sailors who sleep far beneath it at the
bottom of the deep.
As we sailed ahead the river contracted. The day came, and soon, passing
two lofty land-marks on the Lancashire shore, we rapidly drew near the
town, and at last, came to anchor in the stream.
Looking shoreward, I beheld lofty ranges of dingy warehouses, which
seemed very deficient in the elements of the marvelous; and bore a most
unexpected resemblance to the ware-houses along South-street in New
York. There was nothing strange; nothing extraordinary about them. There
they stood; a row of calm and collected ware-houses; very good and
substantial edifices, doubtless, and admirably adapted to the ends had
in view by the builders; but plain, matter-of-fact ware-houses,
nevertheless, and that was all that could be said of them.
To be sure, I did not expect that every house in Liverpool must be a
Leaning Tower of Pisa, or a Strasbourg Cathedral; but yet, these
edifices I must confess, were a sad and bitter disappointment to me.
But it was different with Larry the whaleman; who to my surprise,
looking about him delighted, exclaimed, "Why, this 'ere is a
considerable place--I'm dummed if it ain't quite a place.--Why, them 'ere
houses is considerable houses. It beats the coast of Afrilcy, all
hollow; nothing like this in Madagasky, I tell you;--I'm dummed, boys if
Liverpool ain't a city!"
Upon this occasion, indeed, Larry altogether forgot his hostility to
civilization. Having been so long accustomed to associate foreign lands
with the savage places of the Indian Ocean, he had been under the
impression, that Liverpool must be a town of bamboos, situated in some
swamp, and whose inhabitants turned their attention principally to the
cultivation of log-wood and curing of flying-fish. For that any great
commercial city existed three thousand miles from home, was a thing, of
which Larry had never before had a "realizing sense." He was accordingly
astonished and delighted; and began to feel a sort of consideration for
the country which could boast so extensive a town. Instead of holding
Queen Victoria on a par with the Queen of Madagascar, as he had been
accustomed to do; he ever after alluded to that lady with feeling and
As for the other seamen, the sight of a foreign country seemed to kindle
no enthusiasm in them at all: no emotion in the least. They looked
around them with great presence of mind, and acted precisely as you or I
would, if, after a morning's absence round the corner, we found
ourselves returning home. Nearly all of them had made frequent voyages
Not long after anchoring, several boats came off; and from one of them
stept a neatly-dressed and very respectable-looking woman, some thirty
years of age, I should think, carrying a bundle. Coming forward among
the sailors, she inquired for Max the Dutchman, who immediately was
forthcoming, and saluted her by the mellifluous appellation of Sally.
Now during the passage, Max in discoursing to me of Liverpool, had often
assured me, that that city had the honor of containing a spouse of his;
and that in all probability, I would have the pleasure of seeing her.
But having heard a good many stories about the bigamies of seamen, and
their having wives and sweethearts in every port, the round world over;
and having been an eye-witness to a nuptial parting between this very
Max and a lady in New York; I put down this relation of his, for what I
thought it might reasonably be worth. What was my astonishment,
therefore, to see this really decent, civil woman coming with a neat
parcel of Max's shore clothes, all washed, plaited, and ironed, and
ready to put on at a moment's warning.
They stood apart a few moments giving loose to those transports of
pleasure, which always take place, I suppose, between man and wife after
At last, after many earnest inquiries as to how he had behaved himself
in New York; and concerning the state of his wardrobe; and going down
into the forecastle, and inspecting it in person, Sally departed; having
exchanged her bundle of clean clothes for a bundle of soiled ones, and
this was precisely what the New York wife had done for Max, not thirty I
So long as we laid in port, Sally visited the Highlander daily; and
approved herself a neat and expeditious getter-up of duck frocks and
trowsers, a capital tailoress, and as far as I could see, a very
well-behaved, discreet, and reputable woman.
But from all I had seen of her, I should suppose Meg, the New York wife,
to have been equally well-behaved, discreet, and reputable; and equally
devoted to the keeping in good order Max's wardrobe.
And when we left England at last, Sally bade Max good-by, just as Meg
had done; and when we arrived at New York, Meg greeted Max precisely as
Sally had greeted him in Liverpool. Indeed, a pair of more amiable wives
never belonged to one man; they never quarreled, or had so much as a
difference of any kind; the whole broad Atlantic being between them; and
Max was equally polite and civil to both. For many years, he had been
going Liverpool and New York voyages, plying between wife and wife with
great regularity, and sure of receiving a hearty domestic welcome on
either side of the ocean.
Thinking this conduct of his, however, altogether wrong and every way
immoral, I once ventured to express to him my opinion on the subject.
But I never did so again. He turned round on me, very savagely; and
after rating me soundly for meddling in concerns not my own, concluded
by asking me triumphantly, whether old King Sol, as he called the son of
David, did not have a whole frigate-full of wives; and that being the
case, whether he, a poor sailor, did not have just as good a right to
have two? "What was not wrong then, is right now," said Max; "so, mind
your eye, Buttons, or I'll crack your pepper-box for you!"
XXVIII. HE GOES TO SUPPER AT THE SIGN OF THE BALTIMORE CLIPPER
In the afternoon our pilot was all alive with his orders; we hove up the
anchor, and after a deal of pulling, and hauling, and jamming against
other ships, we wedged our way through a lock at high tide; and about
dark, succeeded in working up to a berth in Prince's Dock. The hawsers
and tow-lines being then coiled away, the crew were told to go ashore,
select their boarding-house, and sit down to supper.
Here it must be mentioned, that owing to the strict but necessary
regulations of the Liverpool docks, no fires of any kind are allowed on
board the vessels within them; and hence, though the sailors are
supposed to sleep in the forecastle, yet they must get their meals
ashore, or live upon cold potatoes. To a ship, the American merchantmen
adopt the former plan; the owners, of course, paying the landlord's
bill; which, in a large crew remaining at Liverpool more than six weeks,
as we of the Highlander did, forms no inconsiderable item in the
expenses of the voyage. Other ships, however--the economical Dutch and
Danish, for instance, and sometimes the prudent Scotch--feed their
luckless tars in dock, with precisely the same fare which they give them
at sea; taking their salt junk ashore to be cooked, which, indeed, is
but scurvy sort of treatment, since it is very apt to induce the scurvy.
A parsimonious proceeding like this is regarded with immeasurable
disdain by the crews of the New York vessels, who, if their captains
treated them after that fashion, would soon bolt and run.
It was quite dark, when we all sprang ashore; and, for the first time, I
felt dusty particles of the renowned British soil penetrating into my
eyes and lungs. As for stepping on it, that was out of the question, in
the well-paved and flagged condition of the streets; and I did not have
an opportunity to do so till some time afterward, when I got out into
the country; and then, indeed, I saw England, and snuffed its immortal
loam-but not till then.
Jackson led the van; and after stopping at a tavern, took us up this
street, and down that, till at last he brought us to a narrow lane,
filled with boarding-houses, spirit-vaults, and sailors. Here we stopped
before the sign of a Baltimore Clipper, flanked on one side by a gilded
bunch of grapes and a bottle, and on the other by the British Unicorn
and American Eagle, lying down by each other, like the lion and lamb in
the millennium.--A very judicious and tasty device, showing a delicate
apprehension of the propriety of conciliating American sailors in an
English boarding-house; and yet in no way derogating from the honor and
dignity of England, but placing the two nations, indeed, upon a footing
of perfect equality.
Near the unicorn was a very small animal, which at first I took for a
young unicorn; but it looked more like a yearling lion. It was holding
up one paw, as if it had a splinter in it; and on its head was a sort of
basket-hilted, low-crowned hat, without a rim. I asked a sailor standing
by, what this animal meant, when, looking at me with a grin, he
answered, "Why, youngster, don't you know what that means? It's a young
jackass, limping off with a kedgeree pot of rice out of the cuddy."
Though it was an English boarding-house, it was kept by a broken-down
American mariner, one Danby, a dissolute, idle fellow, who had married a
buxom English wife, and now lived upon her industry; for the lady, and
not the sailor, proved to be the head of the establishment.
She was a hale, good-looking woman, about forty years old, and among the
seamen went by the name of "Handsome Mary." But though, from the
dissipated character of her spouse, Mary had become the business
personage of the house, bought the marketing, overlooked the tables, and
conducted all the more important arrangements, yet she was by no means
an Amazon to her husband, if she did play a masculine part in other
matters. No; and the more is the pity, poor Mary seemed too much
attached to Danby, to seek to rule him as a termagant. Often she went
about her household concerns with the tears in her eyes, when, after a
fit of intoxication, this brutal husband of hers had been beating her.
The sailors took her part, and many a time volunteered to give him a
thorough thrashing before her eyes; but Mary would beg them not to do
so, as Danby would, no doubt, be a better boy next time.
But there seemed no likelihood of this, so long as that abominable bar
of his stood upon the premises. As you entered the passage, it stared
upon you on one side, ready to entrap all guests.
It was a grotesque, old-fashioned, castellated sort of a sentry-box,
made of a smoky-colored wood, and with a grating in front, that lifted
up like a portcullis. And here would this Danby sit all the day long;
and when customers grew thin, would patronize his own ale himself,
pouring down mug after mug, as if he took himself for one of his own
Sometimes an old crony of his, one Bob Still, would come in; and then
they would occupy the sentry-box together, and swill their beer in
concert. This pot-friend of Danby was portly as a dray-horse, and had a
round, sleek, oily head, twinkling eyes, and moist red cheeks. He was a
lusty troller of ale-songs; and, with his mug in his hand, would lean
his waddling bulk partly out of the sentry-box, singing:
"No frost, no snow, no wind, I trow,
Can hurt me if I wold, I am so wrapt, and thoroughly lapt
In jolly good ale and old,--
I stuff my skin so full within,
Of jolly good ale and old."
"Four wines and brandies I detest,
Here's richer juice from barley press'd.
It is the quintessence of malt,
And they that drink it want no salt.
Come, then, quick come, and take this beer,
And water henceforth you'll forswear."
Alas! Handsome Mary. What avail all thy private tears and remonstrances
with the incorrigible Danby, so long as that brewery of a toper, Bob
Still, daily eclipses thy threshold with the vast diameter of his
paunch, and enthrones himself in the sentry-box, holding divided rule
with thy spouse?
The more he drinks, the fatter and rounder waxes Bob; and the songs pour
out as the ale pours in, on the well-known principle, that the air in a
vessel is displaced and expelled, as the liquid rises higher and higher
But as for Danby, the miserable Yankee grows sour on good cheer, and
dries up the thinner for every drop of fat ale he imbibes. It is plain
and demonstrable, that much ale is not good for Yankees, and operates
differently upon them from what it does upon a Briton: ale must be drank
in a fog and a drizzle.
Entering the sign of the Clipper, Jackson ushered us into a small room
on one side, and shortly after, Handsome Mary waited upon us with a
courtesy, and received the compliments of several old guests among our
crew. She then disappeared to provide our supper. While my shipmates
were now engaged in tippling, and talking with numerous old
acquaintances of theirs in the neighborhood, who thronged about the
door, I remained alone in the little room, meditating profoundly upon
the fact, that I was now seated upon an English bench, under an English
roof, in an English tavern, forming an integral part of the English
empire. It was a staggering fact, but none the less true.
I examined the place attentively; it was a long, narrow, little room,
with one small arched window with red curtains, looking out upon a
smoky, untidy yard, bounded by a dingy brick-wall, the top of which was
horrible with pieces of broken old bottles, stuck into mortar.
A dull lamp swung overhead, placed in a wooden ship suspended from the
ceiling. The walls were covered with a paper, representing an endless
succession of vessels of all nations continually circumnavigating the
apartment. By way of a pictorial mainsail to one of these ships, a map
was hung against it, representing in faded colors the flags of all
nations. From the street came a confused uproar of ballad-singers,
bawling women, babies, and drunken sailors.
And this is England?
But where are the old abbeys, and the York Minsters, and the lord
mayors, and coronations, and the May-poles, and fox-hunters, and Derby
races, and the dukes and duchesses, and the Count d'Orsays, which, from
all my reading, I had been in the habit of associating with England? Not
the most distant glimpse of them was to be seen.
Alas! Wellingborough, thought I, I fear you stand but a poor chance to
see the sights. You are nothing but a poor sailor boy; and the Queen is
not going to send a deputation of noblemen to invite you to St. James's.
It was then, I began to see, that my prospects of seeing the world as a
sailor were, after all, but very doubtful; for sailors only go round the
world, without going into it; and their reminiscences of travel are only
a dim recollection of a chain of tap-rooms surrounding the globe,
parallel with the Equator. They but touch the perimeter of the circle;
hover about the edges of terra-firma; and only land upon wharves and
pier-heads. They would dream as little of traveling inland to see
Kenilworth, or Blenheim Castle, as they would of sending a car overland
to the Pope, when they touched at Naples.
From these reveries I was soon roused, by a servant girl hurrying from
room to room, in shrill tones exclaiming, "Supper, supper ready."
Mounting a rickety staircase, we entered a room on the second floor.
Three tall brass candlesticks shed a smoky light upon smoky walls, of
what had once been sea-blue, covered with sailor-scrawls of foul
anchors, lovers' sonnets, and ocean ditties. On one side, nailed against
the wainscot in a row, were the four knaves of cards, each Jack putting
his best foot foremost as usual. What these signified I never heard.
But such ample cheer! Such a groaning table! Such a superabundance of
solids and substantial! Was it possible that sailors fared thus?--the
sailors, who at sea live upon salt beef and biscuit?
First and foremost, was a mighty pewter dish, big as Achilles' shield,
sustaining a pyramid of smoking sausages. This stood at one end; midway
was a similar dish, heavily laden with farmers' slices of head-cheese;
and at the opposite end, a congregation of beef-steaks, piled tier over
tier. Scattered at intervals between, were side dishes of boiled
potatoes, eggs by the score, bread, and pickles; and on a stand
adjoining, was an ample reserve of every thing on the supper table.
We fell to with all our hearts; wrapt ourselves in hot jackets of
beef-steaks; curtailed the sausages with great celerity; and sitting
down before the head-cheese, soon razed it to its foundations.
Toward the close of the entertainment, I suggested to Peggy, one of the
girls who had waited upon us, that a cup of tea would be a nice thing to
take; and I would thank her for one. She replied that it was too late
for tea; but she would get me a cup of "swipes" if I wanted it.
Not knowing what "swipes" might be, I thought I would run the risk and
try it; but it proved a miserable beverage, with a musty, sour flavor,
as if it had been a decoction of spoiled pickles. I never patronized
swipes again; but gave it a wide berth; though, at dinner afterward, it
was furnished to an unlimited extent, and drunk by most of my shipmates,
who pronounced it good.
But Bob Still would not have pronounced it so; for this stripes, as I
learned, was a sort of cheap substitute for beer; or a bastard kind of
beer; or the washings and rinsings of old beer-barrels. But I do not
remember now what they said it was, precisely. I only know, that swipes
was my abomination. As for the taste of it, I can only describe it as
answering to the name itself; which is certainly significant of
something vile. But it is drunk in large quantities by the poor people
about Liverpool, which, perhaps, in some degree, accounts for their
XXIX. REDBURN DEFERENTIALLY DISCOURSES CONCERNING THE PROSPECTS OF
The ship remained in Prince's Dock over six weeks; but as I do not mean
to present a diary of my stay there, I shall here simply record the
general tenor of the life led by our crew during that interval; and will
then proceed to note down, at random, my own wanderings about town, and
impressions of things as they are recalled to me now, after the lapse of
so many years.
But first, I must mention that we saw little of the captain during our
stay in the dock. Sometimes, cane in hand, he sauntered down of a
pleasant morning from the Arms Hotel, I believe it was, where he
boarded; and after lounging about the ship, giving orders to his Prime
Minister and Grand Vizier, the chief mate, he would saunter back to his
From the glimpse of a play-bill, which I detected peeping out of his
pocket, I inferred that he patronized the theaters; and from the flush
of his cheeks, that he patronized the fine old Port wine, for which
Liverpool is famous.
Occasionally, however, he spent his nights on board; and mad, roystering
nights they were, such as rare Ben Jonson would have delighted in. For
company over the cabin-table, he would have four or five whiskered
sea-captains, who kept the steward drawing corks and filling glasses all
the time. And once, the whole company were found under the table at four
o'clock in the morning, and were put to bed and tucked in by the two
mates. Upon this occasion, I agreed with our woolly Doctor of Divinity,
the black cook, that they should have been ashamed of themselves; but
there is no shame in some sea-captains, who only blush after the third
During the many visits of Captain Riga to the ship, he always said
something courteous to a gentlemanly, friendless custom-house officer,
who staid on board of us nearly all the time we lay in the dock.
And weary days they must have been to this friendless custom-house
officer; trying to kill time in the cabin with a newspaper; and rapping
on the transom with his knuckles. He was kept on board to prevent
smuggling; but he used to smuggle himself ashore very often, when,
according to law, he should have been at his post on board ship. But no
wonder; he seemed to be a man of fine feelings, altogether above his
situation; a most inglorious one, indeed; worse than driving geese to
And now, to proceed with the crew.
At daylight, all hands were called, and the decks were washed down; then
we had an hour to go ashore to breakfast; after which we worked at the
rigging, or picked oakum, or were set to some employment or other, never
mind how trivial, till twelve o'clock, when we went to dinner. At
half-past nine we resumed work; and finally knocked of at four o'clock
in the afternoon, unless something particular was in hand. And after
four o'clock, we could go where we pleased, and were not required to be
on board again till next morning at daylight.
As we had nothing to do with the cargo, of course, our duties were light
enough; and the chief mate was often put to it to devise some employment
We had no watches to stand, a ship-keeper, hired from shore, relieving
us from that; and all the while the men's wages ran on, as at sea.
Sundays we had to ourselves.
Thus, it will be seen, that the life led by sailors of American ships in
Liverpool, is an exceedingly easy one, and abounding in leisure. They
live ashore on the fat of the land; and after a little wholesome
exercise in the morning, have the rest of the day to themselves.
Nevertheless, these Liverpool voyages, likewise those to London and
Havre, are the least profitable that an improvident seaman can take.
Because, in New York he receives his month's advance; in Liverpool,
another; both of which, in most cases, quickly disappear; so that by the
time his voyage terminates, he generally has but little coming to him;
sometimes not a cent. Whereas, upon a long voyage, say to India or
China, his wages accumulate; he has more inducements to economize, and
far fewer motives to extravagance; and when he is paid off at last, he
goes away jingling a quart measure of dollars.
Besides, of all sea-ports in the world, Liverpool, perhaps, most abounds
in all the variety of land-sharks, land-rats, and other vermin, which
make the hapless mariner their prey. In the shape of landlords,
bar-keepers, clothiers, crimps, and boarding-house loungers, the
land-sharks devour him, limb by limb; while the land-rats and mice
constantly nibble at his purse.
Other perils he runs, also, far worse; from the denizens of notorious
Corinthian haunts in the vicinity of the docks, which in depravity are
not to be matched by any thing this side of the pit that is bottomless.
And yet, sailors love this Liverpool; and upon long voyages to distant
parts of the globe, will be continually dilating upon its charms and
attractions, and extolling it above all other seaports in the world. For
in Liverpool they find their Paradise--not the well known street of that
name--and one of them told me he would be content to lie in Prince's Dock
till he hove up anchor for the world to come.
Much is said of ameliorating the condition of sailors; but it must ever
prove a most difficult endeavor, so long as the antidote is given before
the bane is removed.
Consider, that, with the majority of them, the very fact of their being
sailors, argues a certain recklessness and sensualism of character,
ignorance, and depravity; consider that they are generally friendless
and alone in the world; or if they have friends and relatives, they are
almost constantly beyond the reach of their good influences; consider
that after the rigorous discipline, hardships, dangers, and privations
of a voyage, they are set adrift in a foreign port, and exposed to a
thousand enticements, which, under the circumstances, would be hard even
for virtue itself to withstand, unless virtue went about on crutches;
consider that by their very vocation they are shunned by the better
classes of people, and cut off from all access to respectable and
improving society; consider all this, and the reflecting mind must very
soon perceive that the case of sailors, as a class, is not a very
Indeed, the bad things of their condition come under the head of those
chronic evils which can only be ameliorated, it would seem, by
ameliorating the moral organization of all civilization.
Though old seventy-fours and old frigates are converted into chapels,
and launched into the docks; though the "Boatswain's Mate" and other
clever religious tracts in the nautical dialect are distributed among
them; though clergymen harangue them from the pier-heads: and chaplains
in the navy read sermons to them on the gun-deck; though evangelical
boarding-houses are provided for them; though the parsimony of
ship-owners has seconded the really sincere and pious efforts of
Temperance Societies, to take away from seamen their old rations of grog
while at sea:--notwithstanding all these things, and many more, the
relative condition of the great bulk of sailors to the rest of mankind,
seems to remain pretty much where it was, a century ago.
It is too much the custom, perhaps, to regard as a special advance, that
unavoidable, and merely participative progress, which any one class
makes in sharing the general movement of the race. Thus, because the
sailor, who to-day steers the Hibernia or Unicorn steam-ship across the
Atlantic, is a somewhat different man from the exaggerated sailors of
Smollett, and the men who fought with Nelson at Copenhagen, and survived
to riot themselves away at North Corner in Plymouth;--because the modern
tar is not quite so gross as heretofore, and has shaken off some of his
shaggy jackets, and docked his Lord Rodney queue:--therefore, in the
estimation of some observers, he has begun to see the evils of his
condition, and has voluntarily improved. But upon a closer scrutiny, it
will be seen that he has but drifted along with that great tide, which,
perhaps, has two flows for one ebb; he has made no individual advance of
There are classes of men in the world, who bear the same relation to
society at large, that the wheels do to a coach: and are just as
indispensable. But however easy and delectable the springs upon which
the insiders pleasantly vibrate: however sumptuous the hammer-cloth, and
glossy the door-panels; yet, for all this, the wheels must still revolve
in dusty, or muddy revolutions. No contrivance, no sagacity can lift
them out of the mire; for upon something the coach must be bottomed; on
something the insiders must roll.
Now, sailors form one of these wheels: they go and come round the globe;
they are the true importers, and exporters of spices and silks; of
fruits and wines and marbles; they carry missionaries, embassadors,
opera-singers, armies, merchants, tourists, and scholars to their
destination: they are a bridge of boats across the Atlantic; they are
the primum mobile of all commerce; and, in short, were they to emigrate
in a body to man the navies of the moon, almost every thing would stop
here on earth except its revolution on its axis, and the orators in the
And yet, what are sailors? What in your heart do you think of that
fellow staggering along the dock? Do you not give him a wide berth, shun
him, and account him but little above the brutes that perish? Will you
throw open your parlors to him; invite him to dinner? or give him a
season ticket to your pew in church?--No. You will do no such thing; but
at a distance, you will perhaps subscribe a dollar or two for the
building of a hospital, to accommodate sailors already broken down; or
for the distribution of excellent books among tars who can not read. And
the very mode and manner in which such charities are made, bespeak, more
than words, the low estimation in which sailors are held. It is useless
to gainsay it; they are deemed almost the refuse and offscourings of the
earth; and the romantic view of them is principally had through
But can sailors, one of the wheels of this world, be wholly lifted up
from the mire? There seems not much chance for it, in the old systems
and programmes of the future, however well-intentioned and sincere; for
with such systems, the thought of lifting them up seems almost as
hopeless as that of growing the grape in Nova Zembla.
But we must not altogether despair for the sailor; nor need those who
toil for his good be at bottom disheartened, or Time must prove his
friend in the end; and though sometimes he would almost seem as a
neglected step-son of heaven, permitted to run on and riot out his days
with no hand to restrain him, while others are watched over and tenderly
cared for; yet we feel and we know that God is the true Father of all,
and that none of his children are without the pale of his care.
XXX. REDBURN GROWS INTOLERABLY FLAT AND STUPID OVER SOME OUTLANDISH OLD
Among the odd volumes in my father's library, was a collection of old
European and English guide-books, which he had bought on his travels, a
great many years ago. In my childhood, I went through many courses of
studying them, and never tired of gazing at the numerous quaint
embellishments and plates, and staring at the strange title-pages, some
of which I thought resembled the mustached faces of foreigners. Among
others was a Parisian-looking, faded, pink-covered pamphlet, the rouge
here and there effaced upon its now thin and attenuated cheeks,
entitled, "Voyage Descriptif et Philosophique de L'Ancien et du Nouveau
Paris: Miroir Fidele" also a time-darkened, mossy old book, in
marbleized binding, much resembling verd-antique, entitled, "Itineraire
Instructif de Rome, ou Description Generale des Monumens Antiques et
Modernes et des Ouvrages les plus Remarquables de Peinteur, de
Sculpture, et de Architecture de cette Celebre Ville;" on the russet
title-page is a vignette representing a barren rock, partly shaded by a
scrub-oak (a forlorn bit of landscape), and under the lee of the rock
and the shade of the tree, maternally reclines the houseless
foster-mother of Romulus and Remus, giving suck to the illustrious
twins; a pair of naked little cherubs sprawling on the ground, with
locked arms, eagerly engaged at their absorbing occupation; a large
cactus-leaf or diaper hangs from a bough, and the wolf looks a good deal
like one of the no-horn breed of barn-yard cows; the work is published
"Avec privilege du Souverain Pontife." There was also a velvet-bound old
volume, in brass clasps, entitled, "The Conductor through Holland" with
a plate of the Stadt House; also a venerable "Picture of London"
abounding in representations of St. Paul's, the Monument, Temple-Bar,
Hyde-Park-Corner, the Horse Guards, the Admiralty, Charing-Cross, and
Vauxhall Bridge. Also, a bulky book, in a dusty-looking yellow cover,
reminding one of the paneled doors of a mail-coach, and bearing an
elaborate title-page, full of printer's flourishes, in emulation of the
cracks of a four-in-hand whip, entitled, in part, "The Great Roads, both
direct and cross, throughout England and Wales, from an actual
Admeasurement by order of His Majesty's Postmaster-General: This work
describes the Cities, Market and Borough and Corporate Towns, and those
at which the Assizes are held, and gives the time of the Mails' arrival
and departure from each: Describes the Inns in the Metropolis from which
the stages go, and the Inns in the country which supply post-horses and
carriages: Describes the Noblemen and Gentlemen's Seats situated near
the Road, with Maps of the Environs of London, Bath, Brighton, and
Margate." It is dedicated "To the Right Honorable the Earls of
Chesterfield and Leicester, by their Lordships' Most Obliged, Obedient,
and Obsequious Servant, John Gary, 1798." Also a green pamphlet, with a
motto from Virgil, and an intricate coat of arms on the cover, looking
like a diagram of the Labyrinth of Crete, entitled, "A Description of
York, its Antiquities and Public Buildings, particularly the Cathedral;
compiled with great pains from the most authentic records." Also a small
scholastic-looking volume, in a classic vellum binding, and with a
frontispiece bringing together at one view the towers and turrets of
King's College and the magnificent Cathedral of Ely, though
geographically sixteen miles apart, entitled, "The Cambridge Guide: its
Colleges, Halls, Libraries, and Museums, with the Ceremonies of the Town
and University, and some account of Ely Cathedral." Also a pamphlet,
with a japanned sort of cover, stamped with a disorderly
higgledy-piggledy group of pagoda-looking structures, claiming to be an
accurate representation of the "North or Grand Front of Blenheim," and
entitled, "A Description of Blenheim, the Seat of His Grace the Duke of
Marlborough; containing a full account of the Paintings, Tapestry, and
Furniture: a Picturesque Tour of the Gardens and Parks, and a General
Description of the famous China Gallery, 6-c.; with an Essay on
Landscape Gardening: and embellished with a View of the Palace, and a
New and Elegant Plan of the Great Park." And lastly, and to the purpose,
there was a volume called "THE PICTURE OF LIVERPOOL."
It was a curious and remarkable book; and from the many fond
associations connected with it, I should like to immortalize it, if I
But let me get it down from its shrine, and paint it, if I may, from the
As I now linger over the volume, to and fro turning the pages so dear to
my boyhood,--the very pages which, years and years ago, my father turned
over amid the very scenes that are here described; what a soft, pleasing
sadness steals over me, and how I melt into the past and forgotten!
Dear book! I will sell my Shakespeare, and even sacrifice my old quarto
Hogarth, before I will part with you. Yes, I will go to the hammer
myself, ere I send you to be knocked down in the auctioneer's shambles.
I will, my beloved,--old family relic that you are;--till you drop leaf
from leaf, and letter from letter, you shall have a snug shelf
somewhere, though I have no bench for myself.
In size, it is what the booksellers call an 18mo; it is bound in green
morocco, which from my earliest recollection has been spotted and
tarnished with time; the corners are marked with triangular patches of
red, like little cocked hats; and some unknown Goth has inflicted an
incurable wound upon the back. There is no lettering outside; so that he
who lounges past my humble shelves, seldom dreams of opening the
anonymous little book in green. There it stands; day after day, week
after week, year after year; and no one but myself regards it. But I
make up for all neglects, with my own abounding love for it.
But let us open the volume.
What are these scrawls in the fly-leaves? what incorrigible pupil of a
writing-master has been here? what crayon sketcher of wild animals and
falling air-castles? Ah, no!--these are all part and parcel of the
precious book, which go to make up the sum of its treasure to me.
Some of the scrawls are my own; and as poets do with their juvenile
sonnets, I might write under this horse, "Drawn at the age of three
years," and under this autograph, "Executed at the age of eight."
Others are the handiwork of my brothers, and sisters, and cousins; and
the hands that sketched some of them are now moldered away.
But what does this anchor here? this ship? and this sea-ditty of
Dibdin's? The book must have fallen into the hands of some tarry captain
of a forecastle. No: that anchor, ship, and Dibdin's ditty are mine;
this hand drew them; and on this very voyage to Liverpool. But not so
fast; I did not mean to tell that yet.
Full in the midst of these pencil scrawlings, completely surrounded
indeed, stands in indelible, though faded ink, and in my father's
hand-writing, the following:--
"Riddough's Royal Hotel, Liverpool, March 20th, 1808."
Turning over that leaf, I come upon some half-effaced miscellaneous
memoranda in pencil, characteristic of a methodical mind, and therefore
indubitably my father's, which he must have made at various times during
his stay in Liverpool. These are full of a strange, subdued, old,
midsummer interest to me: and though, from the numerous effacements, it
is much like cross-reading to make them out; yet, I must here copy a few
L s. d
Guide-Book 3 6
Dinner at the Star and Garter 10
Trip to Preston (distance 31 m.) 2 6 3
Hack 4 6
Thompson's Seasons 5
Boat on the river 6
Port wine and cigar 4
And on the opposite page, I can just decipher the following:
Dine with Mr. Roscoe on Monday.
Call upon Mr. Morille same day.
Leave card at Colonel Digby's on Tuesday.
Theatre Friday night--Richard III. and new farce.
Present letter at Miss L----'s on Tuesday.
Call on Sampson & Wilt, Friday.
Get my draft on London cashed.
Write home by the Princess.
Letter bag at Sampson and Wilt's.
Turning over the next leaf, I unfold a map, which in the midst of the
British Arms, in one corner displays in sturdy text, that this is "A
Plan of the Town of Liverpool." But there seems little plan in the
confined and crooked looking marks for the streets, and the docks
irregularly scattered along the bank of the Mersey, which flows along, a
peaceful stream of shaded line engraving.
On the northeast corner of the map, lies a level Sahara of yellowish
white: a desert, which still bears marks of my zeal in endeavoring to
populate it with all manner of uncouth monsters in crayons. The space
designated by that spot is now, doubtless, completely built up in
Traced with a pen, I discover a number of dotted lines, radiating in all
directions from the foot of Lord-street, where stands marked "Riddough's
Hotel," the house my father stopped at.
These marks delineate his various excursions in the town; and I follow
the lines on, through street and lane; and across broad squares; and
penetrate with them into the narrowest courts.
By these marks, I perceive that my father forgot not his religion in a
foreign land; but attended St. John's Church near the Hay-market, and
other places of public worship: I see that he visited the News Room in
Duke-street, the Lyceum in Bold-street, and the Theater Royal; and that
he called to pay his respects to the eminent Mr. Roscoe, the historian,
poet, and banker.
Reverentially folding this map, I pass a plate of the Town Hall, and
come upon the Title Page, which, in the middle, is ornamented with a
piece of landscape, representing a loosely clad lady in sandals,
pensively seated upon a bleak rock on the sea shore, supporting her head
with one hand, and with the other, exhibiting to the stranger an oval
sort of salver, bearing the figure of a strange bird, with this motto
elastically stretched for a border--"Deus nobis haec otia fecit."
The bird forms part of the city arms, and is an imaginary representation
of a now extinct fowl, called the "Liver," said to have inhabited a
"pool," which antiquarians assert once covered a good part of the ground
where Liverpool now stands; and from that bird, and this pool, Liverpool
derives its name.
At a distance from the pensive lady in sandals, is a ship under full
sail; and on the beach is the figure of a small man, vainly essaying to
roll over a huge bale of goods.
Equally divided at the top and bottom of this design, is the following
title complete; but I fear the printer will not be able to give a
or, Stranger's Guide
and Gentleman's Pocket Companion
FOR THE TOWN.
By the Most Accomplished and Eminent Artists.
Printed in Swift's Court,
And sold by Woodward and Alderson, 56 Castle St. 1803.
A brief and reverential preface, as if the writer were all the time
bowing, informs the reader of the flattering reception accorded to
previous editions of the work; and quotes "testimonies of respect which
had lately appeared in various quarters--the British Critic, Review, and
the seventh volume of the Beauties of England and Wales"--and concludes
by expressing the hope, that this new, revised, and illustrated edition
might "render it less unworthy of the public notice, and less unworthy
also of the subject it is intended to illustrate."
A very nice, dapper, and respectful little preface, the time and place
of writing which is solemnly recorded at the end-Hope Place, 1st Sept.
But how much fuller my satisfaction, as I fondly linger over this
circumstantial paragraph, if the writer had recorded the precise hour of
the day, and by what timepiece; and if he had but mentioned his age,
occupation, and name.
But all is now lost; I know not who he was; and this estimable author
must needs share the oblivious fate of all literary incognitos.
He must have possessed the grandest and most elevated ideas of true
fame, since he scorned to be perpetuated by a solitary initial. Could I
find him out now, sleeping neglected in some churchyard, I would buy him
a headstone, and record upon it naught but his title-page, deeming that
his noblest epitaph.
After the preface, the book opens with an extract from a prologue
written by the excellent Dr. Aiken, the brother of Mrs. Barbauld, upon
the opening of the Theater Royal, Liverpool, in 1772:--
"Where Mersey's stream, long winding o'er the plain, Pours his full
tribute to the circling main, A band of fishers chose their humble seat;
Contented labor blessed the fair retreat, Inured to hardship, patient,
bold, and rude, They braved the billows for precarious food: Their
straggling huts were ranged along the shore, Their nets and little boats
their only store."
Indeed, throughout, the work abounds with quaint poetical quotations,
and old-fashioned classical allusions to the Aeneid and Falconer's
And the anonymous author must have been not only a scholar and a
gentleman, but a man of gentle disinterestedness, combined with true
city patriotism; for in his "Survey of the Town" are nine thickly
printed pages of a neglected poem by a neglected Liverpool poet.
By way of apologizing for what might seem an obtrusion upon the public
of so long an episode, he courteously and feelingly introduces it by
saying, that "the poem has now for several years been scarce, and is at
present but little known; and hence a very small portion of it will no
doubt be highly acceptable to the cultivated reader; especially as this
noble epic is written with great felicity of expression and the sweetest
delicacy of feeling."
Once, but once only, an uncharitable thought crossed my mind, that the
author of the Guide-Book might have been the author of the epic. But
that was years ago; and I have never since permitted so uncharitable a
reflection to insinuate itself into my mind.
This epic, from the specimen before me, is composed in the old stately
style, and rolls along commanding as a coach and four. It sings of
Liverpool and the Mersey; its docks, and ships, and warehouses, and
bales, and anchors; and after descanting upon the abject times, when
"his noble waves, inglorious, Mersey rolled," the poet breaks forth like
all Parnassus with:--
"Now o'er the wondering world her name resounds, From northern climes to
India's distant bounds--Where'er his shores the broad Atlantic waves;
Where'er the Baltic rolls his wintry waves; Where'er the honored flood
extends his tide, That clasps Sicilia like a favored bride. Greenland
for her its bulky whale resigns, And temperate Gallia rears her generous
vines: 'Midst warm Iberia citron orchards blow, And the ripe fruitage
bends the laboring bough; In every clime her prosperous fleets are
known, She makes the wealth of every clime her own."
It also contains a delicately-curtained allusion to Mr. Roscoe:--
"And here R*s*o*, with genius all his own, New tracks explores,
and all before unknown?"
Indeed, both the anonymous author of the Guide-Book, and the gifted
bard of the Mersey, seem to have nourished the wannest appreciation
of the fact, that to their beloved town Roscoe imparted a reputation
which gracefully embellished its notoriety as a mere place of commerce.
He is called the modern Guicciardini of the modern Florence, and his
histories, translations, and Italian Lives, are spoken of with classical
The first chapter begins in a methodical, business-like way, by
informing the impatient reader of the precise latitude and longitude of
Liverpool; so that, at the outset, there may be no misunderstanding on
that head. It then goes on to give an account of the history and
antiquities of the town, beginning with a record in the Doomsday-Book of
William the Conqueror.
Here, it must be sincerely confessed, however, that notwithstanding his
numerous other merits, my favorite author betrays a want of the
uttermost antiquarian and penetrating spirit, which would have scorned
to stop in its researches at the reign of the Norman monarch, but would
have pushed on resolutely through the dark ages, up to Moses, the man of
Uz, and Adam; and finally established the fact beyond a doubt, that the
soil of Liverpool was created with the creation.
But, perhaps, one of the most curious passages in the chapter of
antiquarian research, is the pious author's moralizing reflections upon
an interesting fact he records: to wit, that in a.d. 1571, the
inhabitants sent a memorial to Queen Elizabeth, praying relief under a
subsidy, wherein they style themselves "her majesty's poor decayed town
As I now fix my gaze upon this faded and dilapidated old guide-book,
bearing every token of the ravages of near half a century, and read how
this piece of antiquity enlarges like a modern upon previous
antiquities, I am forcibly reminded that the world is indeed growing
old. And when I turn to the second chapter, "On the increase of the
town, and number of inhabitants," and then skim over page after page
throughout the volume, all filled with allusions to the immense grandeur
of a place, which, since then, has more than quadrupled in population,
opulence, and splendor, and whose present inhabitants must look back
upon the period here spoken of with a swelling feeling of immeasurable
superiority and pride, I am filled with a comical sadness at the vanity
of all human exaltation. For the cope-stone of to-day is the corner-
stone of tomorrow; and as St. Peter's church was built in great part
of the ruins of old Rome, so in all our erections, however imposing,
we but form quarries and supply ignoble materials for the grander domes
And even as this old guide-book boasts of the, to us, insignificant
Liverpool of fifty years ago, the New York guidebooks are now vaunting
of the magnitude of a town, whose future inhabitants, multitudinous as
the pebbles on the beach, and girdled in with high walls and towers,
flanking endless avenues of opulence and taste, will regard all our
Broadways and Bowerys as but the paltry nucleus to their Nineveh. From
far up the Hudson, beyond Harlem River, where the young saplings are now
growing, that will overarch their lordly mansions with broad boughs,
centuries old; they may send forth explorers to penetrate into the then
obscure and smoky alleys of the Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth-street; and
going still farther south, may exhume the present Doric Custom-house,
and quote it as a proof that their high and mighty metropolis enjoyed a
As I am extremely loth to omit giving a specimen of the dignified style
of this "Picture of Liverpool," so different from the brief, pert, and
unclerkly hand-books to Niagara and Buffalo of the present day, I shall
now insert the chapter of antiquarian researches; especially as it is
entertaining in itself, and affords much valuable, and perhaps rare
information, which the reader may need, concerning the famous town, to
which I made my first voyage. And I think that with regard to a matter,
concerning which I myself am wholly ignorant, it is far better to quote
my old friend verbatim, than to mince his substantial baron-of-beef of
information into a flimsy ragout of my own; and so, pass it off as
original. Yes, I will render unto my honored guide-book its due.
But how can the printer's art so dim and mellow down the pages into a
soft sunset yellow; and to the reader's eye, shed over the type all the
pleasant associations which the original carries to me!
No! by my father's sacred memory, and all sacred privacies of fond
family reminiscences, I will not! I will not quote thee, old Morocco,
before the cold face of the marble-hearted world; for your antiquities
would only be skipped and dishonored by shallow-minded readers; and for
me, I should be charged with swelling out my volume by plagiarizing from
a guide-book-the most vulgar and ignominious of thefts!
XXXI. WITH HIS PROSY OLD GUIDE-BOOK, HE TAKES A PROSY STROLL THROUGH THE
When I left home, I took the green morocco guide-book along, supposing
that from the great number of ships going to Liverpool, I would most
probably ship on board of one of them, as the event itself proved.
Great was my boyish delight at the prospect of visiting a place, the
infallible clew to all whose intricacies I held in my hand.
On the passage out I studied its pages a good deal. In the first place,
I grounded myself thoroughly in the history and antiquities of the town,
as set forth in the chapter I intended to quote. Then I mastered the
columns of statistics, touching the advance of population; and pored
over them, as I used to do over my multiplication-table. For I was
determined to make the whole subject my own; and not be content with a
mere smattering of the thing, as is too much the custom with most
students of guide-books. Then I perused one by one the elaborate
descriptions of public edifices, and scrupulously compared the text with
the corresponding engraving, to see whether they corroborated each
other. For be it known that, including the map, there were no less than
seventeen plates in the work. And by often examining them, I had so
impressed every column and cornice in my mind, that I had no doubt of
recognizing the originals in a moment.
In short, when I considered that my own father had used this very
guide-book, and that thereby it had been thoroughly tested, and its
fidelity proved beyond a peradventure; I could not but think that I was
building myself up in an unerring knowledge of Liverpool; especially as
I had familiarized myself with the map, and could turn sharp corners on
it, with marvelous confidence and celerity.
In imagination, as I lay in my berth on ship-board, I used to take
pleasant afternoon rambles through the town; down St. James-street and
up Great George's, stopping at various places of interest and
attraction. I began to think I had been born in Liverpool, so familiar
seemed all the features of the map. And though some of the streets there
depicted were thickly involved, endlessly angular and crooked, like the
map of Boston, in Massachusetts, yet, I made no doubt, that I could
march through them in the darkest night, and even run for the most
distant dock upon a pressing emergency.
It never occurred to my boyish thoughts, that though a guide-book, fifty
years old, might have done good service in its day, yet it would prove
but a miserable cicerone to a modern. I little imagined that the
Liverpool my father saw, was another Liverpool from that to which I, his
son Wellingborough was sailing. No; these things never obtruded; so
accustomed had I been to associate my old morocco guide-book with the
town it described, that the bare thought of there being any discrepancy,
never entered my mind.
While we lay in the Mersey, before entering the dock, I got out my
guide-book to see how the map would compare with the identical place
itself. But they bore not the slightest resemblance. However, thinks I,
this is owing to my taking a horizontal view, instead of a bird's-eye
survey. So, never mind old guide-book, you, at least, are all right.
But my faith received a severe shock that same evening, when the crew
went ashore to supper, as I have previously related.
The men stopped at a curious old tavern, near the Prince's Dock's walls;
and having my guide-book in my pocket, I drew it forth to compare notes,
when I found, that precisely upon the spot where I and my shipmates were
standing, and a cherry-cheeked bar-maid was filling their glasses, my
infallible old Morocco, in that very place, located a fort; adding, that
it was well worth the intelligent stranger's while to visit it for the
purpose of beholding the guard relieved in the evening.
This was a staggerer; for how could a tavern be mistaken for a castle?
and this was about the hour mentioned for the guard to turn out; yet not
a red coat was to be seen. But for all this, I could not, for one small
discrepancy, condemn the old family servant who had so faithfully served
my own father before me; and when I learned that this tavern went by the
name of "The Old Fort Tavern;" and when I was told that many of the old
stones were yet in the walls, I almost completely exonerated my
guide-book from the half-insinuated charge of misleading me.
The next day was Sunday, and I had it all to myself; and now, thought I,
my guide-book and I shall have a famous ramble up street and down lane,
even unto the furthest limits of this Liverpool.
I rose bright and early; from head to foot performed my ablutions "with
Eastern scrupulosity," and I arrayed myself in my red shirt and
shooting-jacket, and the sportsman's pantaloons; and crowned my entire
man with the tarpaulin; so that from this curious combination of
clothing, and particularly from my red shirt, I must have looked like a
very strange compound indeed: three parts sportsman, and two soldier, to
one of the sailor.
My shipmates, of course, made merry at my appearance; but I heeded them
not; and after breakfast, jumped ashore, full of brilliant
My gait was erect, and I was rather tall for my age; and that may have
been the reason why, as I was rapidly walking along the dock, a drunken
sailor passing, exclaimed, "Eyes right! quick step there!"
Another fellow stopped me to know whether I was going fox-hunting; and
one of the dock-police, stationed at the gates, after peeping out upon
me from his sentry box, a snug little den, furnished with benches and
newspapers, and hung round with storm jackets and oiled capes, issued
forth in a great hurry, crossed my path as I was emerging into the
street, and commanded me to halt! I obeyed; when scanning my appearance
pertinaciously, he desired to know where I got that tarpaulin hat, not
being able to account for the phenomenon of its roofing the head of a
broken-down fox-hunter. But I pointed to my ship, which lay at no great
distance; when remarking from my voice that I was a Yankee, this
faithful functionary permitted me to pass.
It must be known that the police stationed at the gates of the docks are
extremely observant of strangers going out; as many thefts are
perpetrated on board the ships; and if they chance to see any thing
suspicious, they probe into it without mercy. Thus, the old men who buy
"shakings," and rubbish from vessels, must turn their bags wrong side
out before the police, ere they are allowed to go outside the walls. And
often they will search a suspicious looking fellow's clothes, even if he
be a very thin man, with attenuated and almost imperceptible pockets.
But where was I going?
I will tell. My intention was in the first place, to visit Riddough's
Hotel, where my father had stopped, more than thirty years before: and
then, with the map in my hand, follow him through all the town,
according to the dotted lines in the diagram. For thus would I be
performing a filial pilgrimage to spots which would be hallowed in my
At last, when I found myself going down Old Hall-street toward
Lord-street, where the hotel was situated, according to my authority;
and when, taking out my map, I found that Old Hall-street was marked
there, through its whole extent with my father's pen; a thousand fond,
affectionate emotions rushed around my heart.
Yes, in this very street, thought I, nay, on this very flagging my
father walked. Then I almost wept, when I looked down on my sorry
apparel, and marked how the people regarded me; the men staring at so
grotesque a young stranger, and the old ladies, in beaver hats and
ruffles, crossing the walk a little to shun me.
How differently my father must have appeared; perhaps in a blue coat,
buff vest, and Hessian boots. And little did he think, that a son of his
would ever visit Liverpool as a poor friendless sailor-boy. But I was
not born then: no, when he walked this flagging, I was not so much as
thought of; I was not included in the census of the universe. My own
father did not know me then; and had never seen, or heard, or so much as
dreamed of me. And that thought had a touch of sadness to me; for if it
had certainly been, that my own parent, at one time, never cast a
thought upon me, how might it be with me hereafter? Poor, poor
Wellingborough! thought I, miserable boy! you are indeed friendless and
forlorn. Here you wander a stranger in a strange town, and the very
thought of your father's having been here before you, but carries with
it the reflection that, he then knew you not, nor cared for you one
But dispelling these dismal reflections as well as I could, I pushed on
my way, till I got to Chapel-street, which I crossed; and then, going
under a cloister-like arch of stone, whose gloom and narrowness
delighted me, and filled my Yankee soul with romantic thoughts of old
Abbeys and Minsters, I emerged into the fine quadrangle of the
There, leaning against the colonnade, I took out my map, and traced my
father right across Chapel-street, and actually through the very arch at
my back, into the paved square where I stood.
So vivid was now the impression of his having been here, and so narrow
the passage from which he had emerged, that I felt like running on, and
overtaking him around the Town Hall adjoining, at the head of
Castle-street. But I soon checked myself, when remembering that he had
gone whither no son's search could find him in this world. And then I
thought of all that must have happened to him since he paced through
that arch. What trials and troubles he had encountered; how he had been
shaken by many storms of adversity, and at last died a bankrupt. I
looked at my own sorry garb, and had much ado to keep from tears.
But I rallied, and gazed round at the sculptured stonework, and turned
to my guide-book, and looked at the print of the spot. It was correct to
a pillar; but wanted the central ornament of the quadrangle. This,
however, was but a slight subsequent erection, which ought not to
militate against the general character of my friend for
The ornament in question is a group of statuary in bronze, elevated upon
a marble pedestal and basement, representing Lord Nelson expiring in the
arms of Victory. One foot rests on a rolling foe, and the other on a
cannon. Victory is dropping a wreath on the dying admiral's brow; while
Death, under the similitude of a hideous skeleton, is insinuating his
bony hand under the hero's robe, and groping after his heart. A very
striking design, and true to the imagination; I never could look at
Death without a shudder.
At uniform intervals round the base of the pedestal, four naked figures
in chains, somewhat larger than life, are seated in various attitudes of
humiliation and despair. One has his leg recklessly thrown over his
knee, and his head bowed over, as if he had given up all hope of ever
feeling better. Another has his head buried in despondency, and no doubt
looks mournfully out of his eyes, but as his face was averted at the
time, I could not catch the expression. These woe-begone figures of
captives are emblematic of Nelson's principal victories; but I never
could look at their swarthy limbs and manacles, without being
involuntarily reminded of four African slaves in the market-place.
And my thoughts would revert to Virginia and Carolina; and also to the
historical fact, that the African slave-trade once constituted the
principal commerce of Liverpool; and that the prosperity of the town was
once supposed to have been indissolubly linked to its prosecution. And I
remembered that my father had often spoken to gentlemen visiting our
house in New York, of the unhappiness that the discussion of the