Peter Simple and The Three Cutters, Vol 1 by Captain Frederick Marryat

Produced by Ted Garvin, Carol David and PG Distributed Proofreaders [Transcriber’s note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have been retained in this etext. In some cases, they have been denoted by PETER SIMPLE AND THE THREE CUTTERS BY CAPTAIN MARRYAT VOL I LONDON J.M. DENT AND CO BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN AND CO. MDCCCXCV Contents
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  • 1834
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Produced by Ted Garvin, Carol David and PG Distributed Proofreaders

[Transcriber’s note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have been retained in this etext. In some cases, they have been denoted by [sic].]












































By FREDERICK MARRYAT. _Born_, July 1792. _Died_, Aug. 1848.



























This edition will include all the novels and tales, only omitting the three items marked in the above list with an asterisk. The text will be, for the most part, that of the first editions, except for the correction of a few obvious errors and some modernisation of spelling. _Rattlin the Reefer,_ so frequently attributed to Marryat, will not be reprinted here. It was written by Edward Howard, subeditor, under Marryat, of the _The Metropolitan Magazine,_ and author of _Outward Bound,_ etc. On the title-page it is described simply as _edited_ by Marryat and, according to his daughter, the Captain did no more than stand literary sponsor to the production. In 1850, Saunders and Otley published:–_The Floral Telegraph, or, Affections Signals_ by the late Captain Marryat, R.N., but Mrs Lean knows nothing of the book, and it is probably not Marryat’s work.

_The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat: by Florence Marryat (Mrs Lean), in 2 vols.: Richard Bentley_ 1872, are the only biographical record of the novelist extant. In some matters they are very detailed and personal, in others reticent. The story has been spiritedly retold, with reflections and criticisms, by Mr David Hannay in the “Great Writers” Series, 1889.

The frontispiece is from a print, published by Henry Colburn in 1836, after the portrait by Simpson, the favourite pupil of Sir Thomas Lawrence, which was “considered more like him than any other.” Count D’Orsay took a portrait of Marryat, in coloured crayons, about 1840, but it was not a success. A portrait, in water colours, by Behnes, was engraved as a frontispiece to _The Pirate and The Three Cutters._ His bust was taken by Carew.


Frederick Marryat

Without yielding implicit credence to the handsome pedigree of the Marryats supplied by Mrs Lean, the novelist’s daughter, we may give a glance in passing to the first-fruits of this family tree. They– naturally–came over with the Conqueror, and emerged from obscurity under Stephen as the proud “possessors of much lands at the village of Meryat, Ashton Meryat, and elsewhere in Somersetshire … One Nicotas de Maryet is deputed to collect the ransom of Richard Coeur de Leon through the county of Somerset … In the reign of Edward I., Sir John de Maryet is called to attend the Great Parliament; in that of Edward II., his son is excommunicated for embowelling his deceased wife; ‘a fancy,’ says the county historian, ‘peculiar to the knightly family of Meryat.'” Mrs Lean quotes records of other Meryat “hearts” to which an honourable burial has been accorded. The house of Meryat finally lost its property on the fall of Lady Jane Grey, to whom it had descended through the female line.

Captain Marryat belonged to the Suffolk branch of the family, of whom “one John de Maryat had the honour of dancing in a masque before the Virgin Queen at Trinity College, Cambridge … was sent to aid the Huguenots in their wars in France … escaped the massacre of St Bartholemew and, in 1610, returned to England.” Here he married “Mary, the daughter and heiress of Daniel Luke, of the Covent Garden (a rank Puritan family in _Hudibras_), and again settled in his paternal county of Suffolk.” Less partial biographers neglect to trace the Marryats beyond this Huguenot officer, who is described by them as a refugee.

Whatever may be the truth of these matters, it is certain that during the 17th and 18th centuries the Maryats were a respectable, middle-class Puritan family–ministers, doctors, and business men. In the days of the merry monarch a John Marryat became distinguished as a “painful preacher,” and was twice expelled from his livings for non-conformity. Captain Marryat’s grandfather was a good doctor, and his father, Joseph Marryat of Wimbledon House, was an M.P., chairman for the committee of Lloyd’s, and colonial agent for the island of Grenada–a substantial man, who refused a baronetcy, and was honoured by an elegy from Campbell. He married Charlotte Geyer, or Von Geyer, a Hessian of good descent.

Frederick, born July 10, 1792, was one of fifteen sons and daughters, “of whom ten attained maturity, and several have entered the lists of literature.” His eldest brother, Joseph, was a famous collector of china, and author of _Pottery and Porcelain_; the youngest, Horace, wrote _One Year in Sweden, Jutland and the Danish Isles_; and his sister, Mrs Bury Palliser, was the author of _Nature and Art_ (not to be confounded with Mrs Inchbald’s novel of that name), _The History of Lace_, and _Historic Devices, Badges and War Cries_. His father and grandfather published political and medical works, respectively, while the generation below was equally prolific. Marryat’s youngest son, Frank, described his travels in _Borneo and the Eastern Archipelago_ and _Mountains and Molehills_, or _Recollections of a Burnt Journal_; and his daughter Florence, Mrs Lean, the author of his _Life and Letters_, has written a great many popular novels.

We can record little of Marryat’s boyhood beyond a general impression of his discontent with school-masters and parents. Mr Hannay is probably right in regarding his hard pictures of home and school life as reflections of his own experience.

It is said that on one occasion he was found to be engaged in the pursuit of knowledge while standing on his head; and that he accounted for the circumstance with a humorous philosophy almost worthy of Jack Easy–“Well! I’ve been trying for three hours to learn it on my feet, but I couldn’t, so I thought I would try whether it would be easier to learn it on my head.” Another anecdote, of a contest with his school-fellow Babbage, is interesting and characteristic. It appears that the inventor of the calculating machine, unlike Marryat, was a very diligent lad; and that he accordingly arranged, with some kindred spirits, to begin work at three in the morning. The restless Marryat wished to join the party, but his motives were suspected and the conspirators adopted the simple expedient of not waking him. Marryat rolled his bed across the door, and Babbage pushed it away. Marryat tied a string from his wrist to the door handle, and Babbage unfastened it. A thicker string was cut, a chain was unlinked by pliers, but at last the future captain forged a chain that was too stout for the future mathematician. Babbage, however, secured his revenge; as soon as his comrade was safely asleep he slipped a piece of pack thread through the chain and, carrying the other end to his own bed, was enabled by a few rapid jerks to waken Marryat whenever he chose. Apparently satisfied with his victory in the gentle art of tormenting, Babbage yielded voluntarily upon the original point of dispute. Marryat and others joined the reading party, transformed it to a scene of carnival, and were discovered by the authorities.

Meanwhile Marryat was constantly running away–to sea; according to his own account because he was obliged to wear his elder brother’s old clothes. On one occasion his father injudiciously sent him back in a carriage with some money in his pocket. The wise youth slipped out, and finding his way home by some quiet approach, carried off his younger brothers to the theatre. He finally ran away from a private tutor, and Mr Marryat recognised the wisdom of compliance. Being then fourteen, that is of age to hold a commission, Frederick was allowed to enter the navy, and on the 23rd of September 1806, he started on his first voyage on board H.M.S. _Imperieuse_, Captain Lord Cochrane, for the Mediterranean.

He could scarcely have entered upon his career under better auspices. In a line-of-battle ship he would have had no chance of service at this stage of the war, when the most daring of the French could not be decoyed out of port; but the frigates had always more exciting work on hand than mere patrolling. There were cruisers to be captured, privateers to be cut off, convoys to be taken, and work to be done on the coast among the forts. And Lord Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, was not the man to neglect his opportunities. His daring gallantry and cool judgment are accredited to most of Marryat’s captains, particularly in _Frank Mildmay_, where the cruise of the _Imperieuse_ along the Spanish coast is most graphically and literally described. Cochrane’s _Autobiography_ betrays the strong, stern individuality of the man, invaluable in action, somewhat disturbing in civil life. As a reformer in season and out of season, at the Admiralty or in the House of Commons, his zeal became a bye-word, but Marryat knew him only on board his frigate, as an inspiring leader of men. He never passed an opportunity of serving his country and winning renown, but his daring was not reckless.

“I must here remark,” says Marryat in his private log, “that I never knew any one so careful of the lives of his ship’s company as Lord Cochrane, or any one who calculated so closely the risks attending any expedition. Many of the most brilliant achievements were performed without loss of a single life, so well did he calculate the chances; and one half the merit which he deserves for what he did accomplish has never been awarded him, merely because, in the official despatches, there has not been a long list of killed and wounded to please the appetite of the English public.”

Marryat has left us a graphic account of his first day at sea:–

“The _Imperieuse_ sailed; the Admiral of the port was one who _would_ be obeyed, but _would not_ listen always to reason or common sense. The signal for sailing was enforced by gun after gun; the anchor was hove up, and, with all her stores on deck, her guns not even mounted, in a state of confusion unparalleled from her being obliged to hoist in faster than it was possible she could stow away, she was driven out of harbour to encounter a heavy gale. A few hours more would have enabled her to proceed to sea with security, but they were denied; the consequences were appalling, they might have been fatal. In the general confusion some iron too near the binnacles had attracted the needle of the compasses; the ship was steered out of her course. At midnight, in a heavy gale at the close of November, so dark that you could not distinguish any object, however close, the _Imperieuse_ dashed upon the rocks between Ushant and the Main. The cry of terror which ran through the lower decks; the grating of the keel as she was forced in; the violence of the shocks which convulsed the frame of the vessel; the hurrying up of the ship’s company without their clothes; and then the enormous wave which again bore her up, and carried her clean over the reef, will never be effaced from my memory.”

This, after all, was not an inappropriate introduction to the stormy three years which followed it. The story is written in the novels, particularly _Frank Mildmay[1]_ where every item of his varied and exciting experience is reproduced with dramatic effect. It would be impossible to rival Marryat’s narrative of episodes, and we shall gain no sense of reality by adjusting the materials of fiction to an exact accordance with fact. He says that these books, except _Frank Mildmay,_ are “wholly fictitious in characters, in plot, and in events,” but they are none the less truthful pictures of his life at sea. Cochrane’s _Autobiography_ contains a history of the _Imperieuse_; it is from _Peter Simple_ and his companions that we must learn what Marryat thought and suffered while on board.

Under Cochrane he cruised along the coast of France from Ushant to the mouth of the Gironde, saw some active service in the Mediterranean, and, after a return to the ocean, was finally engaged in the Basque Roads. A page of his private log contains a lively _resume_ of the whole experience:–

“The cruises of the _Imperieuse_ were periods of continual excitement, from the hour in which she hove up her anchor till she dropped it again in port; the day that passed without a shot being fired in anger, was to us a blank day: the boats were hardly secured on the booms than they were cast loose and out again; the yard and stay tackles were forever hoisting up and lowering down. The expedition with which parties were formed for service; the rapidity of the frigate’s movements night and day; the hasty sleep snatched at all hours; the waking up at the report of the guns, which seemed the only keynote to the hearts of those on board, the beautiful precision of our fire, obtained by constant practice; the coolness and courage of our captain, inoculating the whole of the ship’s company; the suddenness of our attacks, the gathering after the combat, the killed lamented, the wounded almost envied; the powder so burnt into our face that years could not remove it; the proved character of every man and officer on board, the implicit trust and adoration we felt for our commander; the ludicrous situations which would occur in the extremest danger and create mirth when death was staring you in the face, the hair-breadth escapes, and the indifference to life shown by all–when memory sweeps along these years of excitement even now, my pulse beats more quickly with the reminiscence.”

After some comparatively colourless service in other frigates, during which he gained the personal familiarity with West Indian life of which his novels show many traces, he completed his time as a midshipman, and in 1812, returned home to pass. As a lieutenant his cruises were uneventful and, after being several times invalided, he was promoted Commander in 1815, just as the Great War was closing. He was now only twenty-three, and had certainly received an admirable training for the work with which he was soon to enchant the public. Though never present at a great battle, and many good officers were in the same position, he had seen much smart service and knew from others what lay beyond his own experience. He evidently took copious notes of all he saw and heard. He had sailed in the North Sea, in the Channel, in the Mediterranean, and along the Eastern coast of America from Nova Scotia to Surinam. He had been rapidly promoted.

It is tolerably obvious that, both as midshipman and lieutenant, he evinced the cool daring and manly independence that characterises his heroes, with a dash perhaps of Jack Easy’s philosophy. It was a rough life and he was not naturally amenable to discipline, but probably his superiors made a favourite of the dashing handsome lad. The habit, which helps to redeem Frank Mildmay and even graces Peter Simple, of saving others from drowning, was always his own. His daughter records, with pardonable pride, that he was presented while in the navy with twenty-seven certificates, recommendations, and votes of thanks for having saved the lives of others at the risk of his own, besides receiving a gold medal from the Humane Society.

During the peace of 1815 he “occupied himself in acquiring a perfect knowledge of such branches of science as might prove useful should the Lords of the Admiralty think fit to employ him in a voyage of discovery or survey.” A vaguely projected expedition to Africa was, however, relinquished on account of his marriage with “Catherine, second daughter of Sir Stephen Shairp, Knt., of Houston, Co. Linlithgow (for many years Her Britannic Majesty’s Consul-General, and twice _charge d’affaires_ at the court of Russia);” which took place in January 1819. In this same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, according to tradition on account of his skill in drawing caricatures.

He was at sea again soon after his marriage as commander of the _Beaver_ sloop, in which commission he was sent to mount guard over Napoleon at St Helena until his death. He took a sketch of the dead emperor in full profile, which was engraved in England and France, and considered a striking likeness. He was meanwhile no doubt perfecting the code of signals for the use of merchant vessels of all nations, including the cipher for secret correspondence, which was immediately adopted, and secured to its inventor the Cross of the Legion of Honour from Louis Philippe. It was not actually published in book form till 1837, from which date its sale produced an appreciable income.

After returning in the _Rosario_ with the despatches concerning Napoleon’s death, he was sent to escort the body of Queen Caroline to Cuxhaven. He was then told off for revenue duty in the Channel, and had some smart cruising for smugglers until the _Rosario_ was pronounced unseaworthy and paid off on the 22nd of February 1822. As a result of this experience he wrote a long despatch to the Admiralty, in which he freely criticised the working of the preventive service, and made some practical suggestions for its improvement. In 1822 he also published _Suggestions for the abolition of the present system of impressment in the Naval Service_, a pamphlet which is said to have made him unpopular with Royalty. He frequently in his novels urges the same reform, which he very earnestly desired.

He was appointed to the _Larne_ in March 1823, and saw some hard service against the Burmese, for which he received the thanks of the general and the Indian Government, the Companionship of the Bath, and the command of the _Ariadne_. Two years later, in November 1830, he resigned his ship, and quitted active service, according to Mrs Lean, because of his appointment as equerry to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.

He was probably influenced, however, by a distaste for routine duties in time of peace, the claims of a growing family, and literary ambitions. He had already published _Frank Mildmay_, and received for it the handsome sum of L400, and negotiations were very possibly on foot concerning _The King’s Own_, of which the composition had been completed.

There is considerable difficulty in following the remainder of Marryat’s life, owing to the silence of our only authority, Mrs Lean. No reasons can be assigned for the sudden flittings in which he constantly indulged, or for his hasty journeys to America and to the Continent. He was clearly impulsive in all things, and, though occasionally shrewd, betrayed a mania for speculation. Moreover, he was naturally addicted to the Bohemian pleasures of life, being somewhat promiscuous in hospitality, and absolutely prodigal in the art of making presents. To satisfy these various demands on his pocket, he was often driven to spells of desperate work, in spite of the really handsome sums he received from the publishers and editors with whom he was always at variance.

His first regular establishment was Sussex House, Hampstead, which he soon “swapped,” after dinner and champagne, for a small estate of 1000 acres at Langham, Norfolk; though he did not finally settle in the country till 1843. His original occupation of Langham, which realised him a steady annual deficit, was followed by a return to London, a visit to Brighton and, in 1835, a journey on the Continent to Brussels and Lausanne.

He had, meanwhile, been contributing to _The Metropolitan Magazine,_ which he edited from 1832 to 1835, finally selling his proprietary rights to Saunders and Otley for L1050. His editorial work was arduous, and many of his own compositions were first published in _The Metropolitan._ Here appeared _Newton Forster,_ 1832, _Peter Simple,_ 1833, _Jacob Faithful, Midshipman Easy,_ and _Japhet in search of a Father_(!) 1834, besides a comedy in three acts, entitled _The Gipsy,_ a tragedy called _The Cavalier of Seville,_ and the miscellaneous papers afterwards collected under the title, _Olla Podrida._

In 1833 he stood, as a reformer, for Tower Hamlets, but his methods of canvassing were imprudent. He dwelt upon his own hobbies, and disregarded those of the electors. He apparently expected to carry the day by opposing the pressgang in a time of peace, and even permitted himself to repudiate philanthropy towards the African negro. The gallantry with which, on one occasion, he saved the lives of his audience when the floor of the room had fallen in, was not permitted to cover the rash energy of his reply to a persistent questioner:–“If ever you, or one of your sons, should come under my command at sea and deserve punishment, if there be no other effectual mode of conferring it, _I shall flog you.”_ It is hardly necessary to add that he lost the election.

He afterwards failed in a plan for the establishment of brevet rank in the army, but gave some valuable assistance in the preparation of the Merchant Shipping Bill of 1834.

It was about this time that Marryat is currently reported to have challenged F.D. Maurice to a duel. The latter had published an anonymous novel, called _Eustace Conway,_ in which “a prominent character, represented in no amiable colours, bore the name of Captain Marryat.” The truth of the story seems to be that the Captain went in hot wrath to Bentley, and demanded an apology or a statement that the coincidence was unintentional. Maurice replied, through his publisher, that he had never heard of Captain Marryat. It may be questioned whether the apology was not more galling than the original offence.

In 1834 some legal difficulties arose in connection with his father’s memory, which Marryat accepted with admirable philosophy:–

“As for the Chancellor’s judgment,” he told his mother, “I cannot say that I thought anything about it, on the contrary, it appears to me that he might have been much more severe if he had thought proper. It is easy to impute motives, and difficult to disprove them. I thought, considering his enmity, that he let us off cheap; as there is no _punishing a chancellor,_ and he might say what he pleased with impunity. I did not therefore _roar_, I only _smiled_. The effect will be nugatory. Not one in a thousand will read it; those who do, know it refers to a person not in this world; and of those, those who knew my father will not believe it, those who did not will care little about it, and forget the name in a week. Had he given the decision in our favour, I should have been better pleased, _but it’s no use crying; what’s done can’t be helped.”_

This letter was written from Brighton, and the following year found Marryat on the Continent, at home in a circle of gay spirits who might almost be called the outcasts of English society. They were pleasure-seekers, by no means necessarily depraved but, by narrow incomes or other causes, driven into a cheerful exile. The captain was always ready to give and take in the matter of entertainment, and he was invited everywhere though, on one occasion at least, it is recorded that he proved an uncongenial guest. Having dined, as a recognised lion among lions, he “didn’t make a single joke during the whole evening.” His host remarked on his silence the next morning, and Marryat replied:–

“Oh, if that’s what you wanted you should have asked me when you were alone. Why, did you imagine I was going to let out any of my jokes for those fellows to put in their next books? No, that is not _my_ plan. When I find myself in such company _as that_ I open my ears and hold my tongue, glean all I can, and give them nothing in return.”

He did not always, however, play the professional author so offensively, and we hear of his taking part in private theatricals and dances, preparing a Christmas tree for the children, and cleverly packing his friends’ portmanteaux.

Meanwhile, he was writing _The Pirate and Three Cutters,_ for which he received L750, as well as _Snarley-yow_ and the _Pacha of many Tales._ He had been contributing to the _Metropolitan_ at 15 guineas a sheet, until he paid a flying visit to England in 1836 in order to transfer his allegiance to the _New Monthly Magazine,_ from which he secured 20 guineas. Mrs Lean states that her father received L1100 each for _Peter Simple, Jacob Faithful, Japhet,_ and _The Pacha of many Tales;_ L1200 for _Midshipman Easy,_ L1300 for _Snarley-yow,_ and L1600 for the _Diary in America._ Yet “although Captain Marryat and his publishers mutually benefited by their transactions with each other, one would have imagined, from the letters exchanged between them, that they had been natural enemies.” She relates how one of the fraternity told Marryat he was “somewhat eccentric–an odd creature,” and added, “I am somewhat warm-tempered myself, and therefore make allowance for yours, which is certainly warm enough.”

Marryat justified the charge by replying:–

“There was no occasion for you to make the admission that you are somewhat warm-tempered; your letter establishes that fact. Considering your age, you are a little volcano, and if the insurance were aware of your frequent visits at the Royal Exchange, they would demand double premium for the building. Indeed, I have my surmises _now_ as to the last conflagration.

* * * * *

Your remark as to the money I have received may sound well, mentioned as an isolated fact; but how does it sound when it is put in juxtaposition with the sums you have received? I, who have found everything, receiving a pittance, while you, who have found nothing but the shop to sell in, receiving such a lion’s share. I assert again that it is slavery. I am Sinbad the sailor, and you are the old man of the mountain, clinging on my back, and you must not be surprised at my wishing to throw you off the first convenient opportunity.

The fact is, you have the vice of old age very strong upon you, and you are blinded by it; but put the question to your sons, and ask them whether they consider the present agreement fair. Let them arrange with me, and do you go and read your Bible. We all have our ideas of Paradise, and if other authors think like me, the most pleasurable portion of anticipated bliss is that there will be no publishers there. That idea often supports me after an interview with one of your fraternity.”

Marryat only returned to England a few months before hurrying off to America in April 1837. The reasons for this move it is impossible to conjecture, as we can scarcely accept the apparent significance of his comments on Switzerland in the _Diary on the Continent:–_

“Do the faults of these people arise from the peculiarity of their constitutions, or from the nature of their government? To ascertain this, one must compare them with those who live under similar institutions. _I must go to America–that is decided_.”

He was received by the Americans with a curious mixture of suspicion and enthusiasm. English men and women of letters in late years had been visiting the Republic and criticising its institutions to the mother country–with a certain forgetfulness of hospitalities received that was not, to say the least of it, in good taste. Marryat was also an author, and it seemed only too probable that he had come to spy out the land. On the other hand, his books were immensely popular over the water and, but for dread of possible consequences, Jonathan was delighted to see him. His arrival at Saratoga Springs produced an outburst in the local papers of the most pronounced journalese:–

“This distinguished writer is at present a sojourner in our city. Before we knew the gallant Captain was respiring our balmy air, we really did wonder what laughing gas had imbued our atmosphere–every one we met in the streets appeared to be in such a state of jollification; but when we heard that the author of _Peter Simple_ was actually puffing a cigar amongst us we no longer marvelled at the pleasant countenances of our citizens. He has often made them laugh when he was thousands of miles away. Surely now it is but natural that they ought to be tickled to death at the idea of having him present.”

The Bostonians were proud to claim him as a compatriot through his mother, and a nautical drama from his pen–_The Ocean Wolf, or the Channel Outlaw_–was performed at New York with acclamation. He had some squabbles with American publishers concerning copyright, and was clever enough to secure two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars from Messrs Carey & Hart for his forthcoming _Diary in America_ and _The Phantom Ship,_ which latter first appeared in the _New Monthly,_ 1837 and 1838. He evidently pleased the Americans on the whole, and was not unfavourably impressed by what he saw, but the six volumes which he produced on his return are only respectable specimens of bookmaking, and do not repay perusal. It was, indeed, his own opinion that he had already written enough. “If I were not rather in want of money,” he says in a letter to his mother, “I certainly would not write any more, for I am rather tired of it. I should like to disengage myself from the fraternity of authors, and be known in future only in my profession as a good officer and seaman.” He had hoped to see some service in Canada, but the opportunity never came.

In England, to which he returned in 1839, the want of money soon came to be felt more seriously. His father’s fortune had been invested in the West Indies, and began to show diminishing returns. For this and other reasons he led a very wandering existence, for another four or five years, until 1843. A year at 8 Duke Street, St James, was followed by a short stay with his mother at Wimbledon House, from which he took chambers at 120 Piccadilly, and then again moved to Spanish Place, Manchester Square. Apparently at this time he made an unsuccessful attempt to return to active service. He was meanwhile working hard at _Poor Jack, Masterman Ready, The Poacher, Percival Keene,_ etc., and living hard in the merry circle of a literary Bohemia, with Clarkson Stanfield, Rogers, Dickens, and Forster; to whom were sometimes added Lady Blessington, Ainsworth, Cruickshank, and Lytton. The rival interests served to sour his spirits and weaken his constitution.

The publication of _The Poacher_ in the _Era_ newspaper involved its author in a very pretty controversy. A foolish contributor to _Fraser’s Magazine_ got into a rage with Harrison Ainsworth for _condescending_ to write in the weekly papers, and expressed himself as follows:–

“If writing monthly fragments threatened to deteriorate Mr Ainsworth’s productions, what must be the result of this _hebdomadal_ habit? Captain Marryat, we are sorry to say, has taken to the same line. Both these popular authors may rely upon our warning, that they will live to see their laurels fade unless they more carefully cultivate a spirit of _self-respect._ That which was venial in a miserable starveling of Grub Street is _perfectly disgusting_ in the extravagantly paid novelists of these days–the _caressed_, of generous booksellers. Mr Ainsworth and Captain Marryat ought to disdain such _pitiful peddling._ Let them eschew it without delay.”

Marryat’s reply was, spirited and manly. After ridiculing _Fraser’s_ attempt “to set up a standard of _precedency_ and _rank_ in literature,” and humorously proving that an author’s works were not to be esteemed in proportion to the length of time elapsing between their production, he turned to the more serious and entirely honest defence that, like Dickens, he was supplying the lower classes with wholesome recreation:–

“I would rather write for the instruction, or even the amusement of the poor than for the amusement of the rich; and I would sooner raise a smile or create an interest in the honest mechanic or agricultural labourer who requires relaxation, than I would contribute to dispel the _ennui_ of those who loll on their couches and wonder in their idleness what they shall do next. Is the rich man only to be amused? are mirth and laughter to be made a luxury, confined to the upper classes, and denied to the honest and hard-working artisan?…

In a moral point of view, I hold that I am right. We are educating the lower classes; generations have sprung up who can read and write; and may I enquire what it is that they have to read, in the way of amusement?–for I speak not of the Bible, which is for private examination. They have scarcely anything but the weekly newspapers, and, as they cannot command amusement, they prefer those which create the most excitement; and this I believe to be the cause of the great circulation of the _Weekly Dispatch,_ which has but too well succeeded in demoralising the public, in creating disaffection and ill-will towards the government, and assisting the nefarious views of demagogues and chartists. It is certain that men would rather laugh than cry–would rather be amused than rendered gloomy and discontented–would sooner dwell upon the joys or sorrows of others in a tale of fiction than brood over their own supposed wrongs. If I put good and wholesome food (and, as I trust, sound moral) before the lower classes, they will eventually eschew that which is coarse and disgusting, which is only resorted to because no better is supplied. Our weekly newspapers are at present little better than records of immorality and crime, and the effect which arises from having no other matter to read and comment upon, is of serious injury to the morality of the country … I consider, therefore, that in writing for the amusement and instruction of the poor man, I am doing that which has but been too much neglected–that I am serving my country, and you surely will agree with me that to do so in not _infra. dig. _in the proudest Englishman; and, as a Conservative, you should commend rather than stigmatise my endeavours in the manner which you have so hastily done.”

It has been said that Marryat’s wandering ceased in 1843, and it was in that year that he settled down at Langham to look after his own estate. Langham is in the northern division of Norfolk, half way between Wells-next-the-Sea and Holt. The Manor House, says Mrs Lean, “without having any great architectural pretensions, had a certain unconventional prettiness of its own. It was a cottage in the Elizabethan style, built after the model of one at Virginia Water belonging to his late majesty, George IV., with latticed windows opening on to flights of stone steps ornamented with vases of flowers, and leading down from the long narrow dining-room, where (surrounded by Clarkson Stanfield’s illustrations of _Poor Jack_, with which the walls were clothed) Marryat composed his later works, to the lawn behind. The house was thatched and gabled, and its pinkish white walls and round porch were covered with roses and ivy, which in some parts climbed as high as the roof itself.”

In the unpublished fragment of his _Life of Lord Napier_ Marryat had declared that retired sailors naturally turned to agriculture, and frequently made good farmers. A sailor on land, he rather quaintly remarks, is “but a sort of Adam–a new creature, starting into existence as it were in his prime;” and “the greatest pleasures of man consist in imitating the Deity in his _creative_ power.” The anticipated _pleasure_ in farming he did to a great extent realise, but the _profits_ were still to seek. It can only be said that his losses were rather smaller that they had been in his absence.


1842. Total receipts, L154 2 9 ” Expenditure, 1637 0 6
1846. Total receipts, 898 12 6 ” Expenditure, 2023 10 8

His former tenant had indeed shown but little respect for the property. Besides taking all he could out of the land without putting anything into it, he fitted up the drawing-room of the manor (which in its brightest days had been known in the village as the “Room of Thousand Columns,” from an effect produced by mirrors set in the panels of folding doors, reflecting trellised pillars,) with rows of beds, which he let out to tramps at twopence a night!

Of these latter years on the farm we can gather some distinctly pleasant impressions. Marryat was evidently a good master at all times. He delighted to arrange for festivities in the servants’ hall, but he was also very tolerant to poachers, and considered it his first duty to find work for his men when times were bad. His model pigsties and cottages were unpopular, but he loved his animals and understood them. The chief merit of his lazy and somewhat asinine pony Dumpling consisted in his talent for standing still. Upon this patient beast the captain would occasionally sally forth to shoot, assisting his natural short-sightedness by a curious “invention of his own;”–a plain piece of crystal surrounded by a strip of whalebone, hanging in front of his right eye from the brim of his “shocking bad hat.” He was a careless dresser, but scrupulously clean; no smoker, but very fond of snuff. He had a fancy for pure white china which had to be procured from the Continent.

Cordial invitations from friends seldom drew him from his self-imposed labours, and it appears that, in spite of his son’s debts and other domestic troubles, he led a fairly contented existence among his dogs and his children. To the latter, though occasionally passionate, he was “a most indulgent father and friend.” He never locked anything away from them, or shut them out of any room in the house. Though severe on falsehood and cowardice, he was indifferent to mischief, and one is certainly driven to pity for the governess who was summoned to look after them. His methods in this connection were original. “He kept a quantity of small articles for presents in his secretary; and at the termination of each week the children and governess, armed with a report of their general behaviour, were ushered with much solemnity into the library to render up an account. Those who had behaved well during the preceding seven days received a prize, because they had been so good; and those who had behaved ill also received one, in hopes that they would never be naughty again: the governess was also presented with a gift, that her criticism on the justice of the transaction might be disarmed.” The father was not a strict disciplinarian, and it is related that when a little one had made “a large rent in a new frock,” for which she expected punishment from her governess, and ran to him for advice, he “took hold of the rent and tore off the whole lower part of the skirt,” saying, “Tell her I did it.”

The sons were seldom at home, but in spite of a certain constitutional wildness and lack of prudence, they were evidently a gallant couple, delighting their father’s heart. Frederick, the eldest, became a distinguished officer, after conquering a strong propensity to practical joking, and was much regretted in the service when wrecked at the age of twenty-seven. He was last seen “upbraiding, in his jocular manner, some people who were frightened, when a sea swept over the ship and took him with it.” Frank was entered upon the roll of the navy at the tender age of three, and presented to the Port Admiral of Plymouth in full costume. The officer patted him on the head, saying “Well, you’re a fine little fellow,” to which the youngster replied, “and you’re a fine old cock, too.”

He became a cultivated and bold traveller, beloved by his friends, and not unknown to fame. He only survived his father a few years, and died at the age of twenty-eight.

Marryat now began his charming series of stories for children, a work to which he turned for a practical reason that sounds strangely from his impulsive lips:–

“I have lately taken to a different style of writing, that is, for young people. My former productions, like all novels, have had their day, and for the present, at least, will sell no more; but it is not so with the _juveniles_; they have an annual demand, and become _a little income _to me; which I infinitely prefer to receiving any sum in a mass, which very soon disappears somehow or other.” Save for a little tendency to preachment, these volumes, particularly _Masterman Ready_, and _The Children of the New Forest_, are admirably suited to their purpose from the genuine childlikeness of their conception and treatment.

Meanwhile Marryat’s health was rapidly giving way, and almost his last appearance before the public was in 1847, when he addressed a pathetic, but fairly dignified letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty, as a protest against some affront, which he suspected, to his professional career. The exact circumstances of the case cannot be now discovered, but it may be readily conjectured that the formalism of official courtesy did not match with the Captain’s taste, and that the necessity for self-control on his own part had irritated his resentment. The First Lord expressed his regret at having wounded a distinguished officer, and bestowed on him a good service pension.

It may be said that the pension came too late, if indeed it would at any time have been particularly serviceable. Marryat was now engaged in that melancholy chase for health which generally augurs the beginning of the end. He had ruptured two blood vessels, and was in great danger from the constitutional weakness which had first attacked him as a young lieutenant in the West Indies. He moved to his mother’s house in order to consult the London doctors. A mild climate was recommended, and he went down to Hastings, where the news of his son’s death destroyed his own chances of recovery. After about a month’s trial of Brighton, he came back to the London doctors who told him that “in six months he would be numbered with his forefathers.”

He went home to Langham to die. Through the summer of 1848 he lingered on, “in the ‘room of a thousand columns,’ with the mimic sky, and birds, and flowers, above and around him, where he chose to lie upon a mattress, placed on the ground, and there, almost in darkness, often in pain, and without occupation, he lay–cheerful and uncomplaining, and at times even humorous.” His daughters frequently read aloud to him, and he always asked for fresh flowers. At the last he became delirious, though continuing to dictate pages of talk and reflection. On the morning of August 9th, 1848, he expired in perfect quiet.

“Although not handsome,” says Mrs Lean, “Captain Marryat’s personal appearance was very prepossessing. In figure he was upright and broad-shouldered for his height, which measured 5ft. 10in. His hands, without being undersized, were remarkably perfect in form, and modelled by a sculptor at Rome on account of their symmetry. The character of his mind was borne out by his features, the most salient expression of which was the frankness of an open heart. The firm decisive mouth, and massive thoughtful forehead were redeemed from heaviness by the humorous light that twinkled in his deep-set grey eyes, which, bright as diamonds, positively flashed out their fun, or their reciprocation of the fun of others. As a young man, dark crisp curls covered his head; but later in life, when, having exchanged the sword for the pen and the plougshare [sic], he affected a soberer and more patriarchal style of dress and manner, he wore his grey hair long, and almost down to his shoulder. His eyebrows were not alike, one being higher up and more arched than the other, which peculiarity gave his face a look of enquiry, even in repose. In the upper lip was a deep cleft, and in the chin as deep a dimple.”

Christopher North describes Captain Marryat as “a captain in the navy, and an honour to it–an admirable sailor, and an admirable writer–and would that he were with us on the leads, my lads, for a pleasanter fellow, _to those who know him,_ never enlivened the social board.” It is evident, indeed, that an intimate knowledge of his character was necessary to its appreciation, for his daughter declares that “like most warm-hearted people he was quick to take offence, and no one could have decided, after an absence of six months, with whom he was friends, and with whom he was not.” One of the said friends wrote truly:–

“His faults proceeded from an _over-active_ mind, which could never be quiet–morning, noon, or night. If he had no one to love, he quarrelled for want of something better to do; he planned for himself and for everybody, and changed his mind ten times a-day.”

“Many people have asked,” says Mrs Lean “whether Captain Marryat, when at home, was not ‘very funny.’ No, decidedly not. In society, with new topics to discuss, and other wits about him on which to sharpen his own –or, like flint and steel, to emit sparks by friction–he was as gay and humorous as the best of them; but at home he was always a thoughtful, and, at times, a very grave man; for he was not exempt from those ills that all flesh is heir to, and had his sorrows and his difficulties and moments of depression, like the rest of us. At such times it was dangerous to thwart and disturb him, for he was a man of strong passions and indomitable determination.”

It is not difficult to conceive the character in outline–“wise English-hearted Captain Marryat,” Kingsley calls him. He was incapable of any mean low vices, but his zest for pleasure was keen, and never restrained by motives of prudence or consideration for others. His strong passions at times made him disagreeably selfish and overbearing, qualities forgiven by acquaintances for his social brilliancy, and by friends for his frank affection. With some business talents and practical shrewdness, he was quite incapable of wisely conducting his affairs, by reason of a mania for speculation and originality. There was considerable waste of good material in his fiery composition.

His books reveal the higher standard of his true nature. Their merits and faults are alike on the surface. Lockhart declared that “he stood second in merit to no living novelist but Miss Edgeworth. His happy delineations and contrasts of character, and easy play of native fun, redeem a thousand faults of verbosity, clumsiness, and coarseness. His strong sense, and utter superiority to affectation of all sorts, command respect, and in his quiet effectiveness of circumstantial narrative he sometimes approaches old Defoe.”

It is easy to criticise Marryat, for his grammar is reckless, he could not construct a plot, he wrote too much and too rapidly in order to earn money. But then he was an altogether admirable _raconteur_, and for the purposes of narration his style was peculiarly appropriate–simple, rapid, lucid, and vigorous. He does not tax our powers of belief beyond endurance, or weary us with wonder. His crises are the more effective from the absence of any studied introduction or thunderous comment; and he carries his readers through stirring adventures of storm and battle with a business-like precision that silences doubt. He breathes the spirit of the sea, himself a genuine sailor, almost as childlike and simple as one of his own creations. His books are real voyages, in which a day of bustle and danger is followed by peace and quiet, yarns on the quarter-deck, and some practical joking among the middies.

He delights in the exhibition of oddities, and the telling of tall stories outside the regular course of the narrative, which bubbles over with somewhat boisterous fun. And his humour is genuine and spontaneous; it is farcical without descending to buffoonery. His comic types are built up on character, and, if not subtle, are undeniably human and living. They are drawn, moreover, with sympathy.

The whole tone of Marryat’s work is singularly fresh, wholesome, and manly. His heroes endure rough handling, but they fight their way, for the most part, to the essential qualities of gentlemen. They are no saints; but excellent comrades, honest lovers, and brave tars.


[1] In dwelling upon the autobiographical nature of the _incident_, in _Frank Mildmay,_ it is necessary to guard against the supposition that Marryat’s _character_ in any way resembled his hero’s. See further Preface to _F M._




From _Nodes Ambrosianae_:–

_Shepherd_ [HOGG]. Did Marry yacht write _Peter Simple_? Peter Simple in his ain way’s as gude’s Parson Adams … He that invented Peter Simple’s a Sea-Fieldin’.

* * * * *

_Peter Simple_ is printed from the first edition, in three volumes. Saunders and Otley, 1834.

_The Three Cutters_ is printed from the first edition. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1836.

_The Three Cutters_ was first published in one volume with _The Pirate_, containing a portrait of Marryat–Drawn by W. Behnes, engraved by H. Cook; and “illustrated with twenty splendid engravings from drawings by Clarkson Stanfield, Esq., R.A.”

Peter Simple

Chapter I

The great advantage of being the fool of the family–My destiny is decided, and I am consigned to a stockbroker as part of His Majesty’s sea stock–Unfortunately for me Mr Handycock is a bear, and I get very little dinner.

If I cannot narrate a life of adventurous and daring exploits, fortunately I have no heavy crimes to confess; and, if I do not rise in the estimation of the reader for acts of gallantry and devotion in my country’s cause, at least I may claim the merit of zealous and persevering continuance in my vocation. We are all of us variously gifted from Above, and he who is content to walk, instead of to run, on his allotted path through life, although he may not so rapidly attain the goal, has the advantage of not being out of breath upon his arrival. Not that I mean to infer that my life has not been one of adventure. I only mean to say that, in all which has occurred, I have been a passive, rather than an active, personage; and, if events of interest are to be recorded, they certainly have not been sought by me.

As well as I can recollect and analyze my early propensities, I think that, had I been permitted to select my own profession, I should in all probability have bound myself apprentice to a tailor; for I always envied the comfortable seat which they appeared to enjoy upon the shopboard, and their elevated position, which enabled them to look down upon the constant succession of the idle or the busy, who passed in review before them in the main street of the country town, near to which I passed the first fourteen years of my existence.

But my father, who was a clergyman of the Church of England, and the youngest brother of a noble family, had a lucrative living, and a “soul above buttons,” if his son had not. It has been from time immemorial the heathenish custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the prosperity and naval superiority of the country, and, at the age of fourteen, I was selected as the victim. If the custom be judicious, I had no reason to complain. There was not one dissentient voice, when it was proposed before all the varieties of my aunts and cousins, invited to partake of our new-year’s festival. I was selected by general acclamation. Flattered by such an unanimous acknowledgment of my qualification, and a stroke of my father’s hand down my head which accompanied it, I felt as proud, and, alas! as unconscious as the calf with gilded horns, who plays and mumbles with the flowers of the garland which designates his fate to every one but himself. I even felt, or thought I felt, a slight degree of military ardour, and a sort of vision of future grandeur passed before me, in the distant vista of which I perceived a coach with four horses and a service of plate. It was, however, driven away before I could decipher it, by positive bodily pain, occasioned by my elder brother Tom, who, having been directed by my father to snuff the candles, took the opportunity of my abstraction to insert a piece of the still ignited cotton into my left ear. But as my story is not a very short one, I must not dwell too long on its commencement. I shall therefore inform the reader, that my father, who lived in the north of England, did not think it right to fit me out at the country town, near to which we resided; but about a fortnight after the decision which I have referred to, he forwarded me to London, on the outside of the coach, with my best suit of bottle-green and six shirts. To prevent mistakes, I was booked in the way-bill “to be delivered to Mr Thomas Handycock, No. 14, Saint Clement’s Lane–carriage paid.” My parting with the family was very affecting; my mother cried bitterly, for, like all mothers, she liked the greatest fool which she had presented to my father, better than all the rest; my sisters cried because my mother cried; Tom roared for a short time more loudly than all the rest, having been chastised by my father for breaking his fourth window in that week;–during all which my father walked up and down the room with impatience, because he was kept from his dinner, and, like all orthodox divines, he was tenacious of the only sensual enjoyment permitted to his cloth.

At last I tore myself away. I had blubbered till my eyes were so red and swollen, that the pupils were scarcely to be distinguished, and tears and dirt had veined my cheeks like the marble of the chimney-piece. My handkerchief was soaked through with wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, before the scene was over. My brother Tom, with a kindness which did honour to his heart, exchanged his for mine, saying, with fraternal regard, “Here, Peter, take mine, it’s as dry as a bone.” But my father would not wait for a second handkerchief to perform its duty. He led me away through the hall, when, having shaken hands with all the men and kissed all the maids, who stood in a row with their aprons to their eyes, I quitted my paternal roof.

The coachman accompanied me to the place from whence the stage was to start. Having seen me securely wedged between two fat old women, and having put my parcel inside, he took his leave, and in a few minutes I was on my road to London.

I was too much depressed to take notice of anything during my journey. When we arrived in London, they drove to the Blue Boar (in a street, the name of which I have forgotten). I had never seen or heard of such an animal, and certainly it did appear very formidable; its mouth was open and teeth very large. What surprised me still more was to observe that its teeth and hoofs were of pure gold. Who knows, thought I, that in some of the strange countries which I am doomed to visit, but that I may fall in with, and shoot one of these terrific monsters? with what haste shall I select those precious parts, and with what joy should I, on my return, pour them as an offering of filial affection into my mother’s lap!–and then, as I thought of my mother, the tears again gushed into my eyes.

The coachman threw his whip to the ostler, and the reins upon the horses’ backs; he then dismounted, and calling to me, “Now, young gentleman, I’se a-waiting,” he put a ladder up for me to get down by; then turning to a porter, he said to him, “Bill, you must take this here young gem’man and that ere parcel to this here direction.–Please to remember the coachman, sir.” I replied that I certainly would, if he wished it, and walked off with the porter; the coachman observing, as I went away, “Well, he is a fool–that’s sartain.” I arrived quite safe at St Clement’s-lane, when the porter received a shilling for his trouble from the maid who let me in, and I was shown up into a parlour, where I found myself in company with Mrs Handycock.

Mrs Handycock was a little meagre woman, who did not speak very good English, and who appeared to me to employ the major part of her time in bawling out from the top of the stairs to the servants below. I never saw her either read a book or occupy herself with needlework, during the whole time I was in the house. She had a large grey parrot, and I really cannot tell which screamed the worse of the two–but she was very civil and kind to me, and asked me ten times a day when I had last heard of my grandfather, Lord Privilege. I observed that she always did so if any company happened to call in during my stay at her house. Before I had been there ten minutes, she told me that she “hadored sailors–they were the defendiours and preserviours of their kings and countries,” and that “Mr Handycock would be home by four o’clock, and then we should go to dinner.” Then she jumped off her chair to bawl to the cook from the head of the stairs–“Jemima, Jemima!–ve’ll ha’e the viting biled instead of fried.” “Can’t, marm,” replied Jemima, “they be all begged and crumbed, with their tails in their mouths.” “Vell, then, never mind, Jemima,” replied the lady.–“Don’t put your finger into the parrot’s cage, my love–he’s apt to be cross with strangers. Mr Handycock will be home at four o’clock, and then we shall have our dinner. Are you fond of viting?”

As I was very anxious to see Mr Handycock, and very anxious to have my dinner, I was not sorry to hear the clock on the stairs strike four, when Mrs Handycock again jumped up, and put her head over the banisters, “Jemima, Jemima, it’s four o’clock!” “I hear it, marm,” replied the cook; and she gave the frying-pan a twist, which made the hissing and the smell come flying up into the parlour, and made me more hungry than ever.

Rap, tap, tap! “There’s your master, Jemima,” screamed the lady. “I hear him, marm,” replied the cook. “Run down, my dear, and let Mr Handycock in,” said his wife. “He’ll be so surprised at seeing you open the door.”

I ran down, as Mrs Handycock desired me, and opened the street-door. “Who the devil are you?” in a gruff voice, cried Mr Handycock; a man about six feet high, dressed in blue cotton-net pantaloons and Hessian boots, with a black coat and waistcoat. I was a little rebuffed, I must own, but I replied that I was Mr Simple. “And pray, Mr Simple, what would your grandfather say if he saw you now? I have servants in plenty to open my door, and the parlour is the proper place for young gentlemen.”

“Law, Mr Handycock,” said his wife, from the top of the stairs, “how can you be so cross? I told him to open the door to surprise you.”

“And you have surprised me,” replied he, “with your cursed folly.”

While Mr Handycock was rubbing his boots on the mat, I went upstairs rather mortified, I must own, as my father had told me that Mr Handycock was his stockbroker, and would do all he could to make me comfortable: indeed, he had written to that effect in a letter, which my father showed to me before I left home. When I returned to the parlour, Mrs Handycock whispered to me, “Never mind, my dear, it’s only because there’s something wrong on ‘Change. Mr Handycock is a _bear_ just now.” I thought so too, but I made no answer, for Mr Handycock came upstairs, and walking with two strides from the door of the parlour to the fire-place, turned his back to it, and lifting up his coat-tails, began to whistle.

“Are you ready for your dinner, my dear?” said the lady, almost trembling.

“If the dinner is ready for me. I believe we usually dine at four,” answered her husband, gruffly.

“Jemima, Jemima, dish up! do you hear, Jemima?” “Yes, marm,” replied the cook, “directly I’ve thickened the butter;” and Mrs Handycock resumed her seat, with, “Well, Mr Simple, and how is your grandfather, Lord Privilege?” “He is quite well, ma’am,” answered I, for the fifteenth time at least. But dinner put an end to the silence which followed this remark. Mr Handycock lowered his coat-tails and walked downstairs, leaving his wife and me to follow at our leisure.

“Pray, ma’am,” inquired I, as soon as he was out of hearing, “what is the matter with Mr Handycock, that he is so cross to you?”

“Vy, my dear, it is one of the misfortunes of mater-mony, that ven the husband’s put out, the vife is sure to have her share of it. Mr Handycock must have lost money on ‘Change, and then he always comes home cross. Ven he vins, then he is as merry as a cricket.”

“Are you people coming down to dinner?” roared Mr Handycock from below. “Yes, my dear,” replied the lady, “I thought that you were washing your hands.” We descended into the dining-room, where we found that Mr Handycock had already devoured two of the whitings, leaving only one on the dish for his wife and me. “Vould you like a little bit of viting, my dear?” said the lady to me. “It’s not worth halving,” observed the gentleman, in a surly tone, taking up the fish with his own knife and fork, and putting it on his plate.

“Well, I’m so glad you like them, my dear,” replied the lady meekly; then turning to me, “there’s some nice roast _weal_ coming, my dear.”

The veal made its appearance, and fortunately for us, Mr Handycock could not devour it all. He took the lion’s share, nevertheless, cutting off all the brown, and then shoving the dish over to his wife to help herself and me. I had not put two pieces in my mouth before Mr Handycock desired me to get up and hand him the porter-pot, which stood on the sideboard. I thought that if it was not right for me to open a door, neither was it for me to wait at table–but I obeyed him without making a remark.

After dinner, Mr Handycock went down to the cellar for a bottle of wine. “O deary me!” exclaimed his wife, “he must have lost a mint of money–we had better go up stairs and leave him alone; he’ll be better after a bottle of port, perhaps.” I was very glad to go away, and being very tired, I went to bed without any tea, for Mrs Handycock dared not venture to make it before her husband came up stairs.

Chapter II

Fitting out on the shortest notice–Fortunately for me, this day Mr Handycock is a bear, and I fare very well–I set off for Portsmouth– Behind the coach I meet a man before the mast–He is disguised with liquor, but is not the only disguise I fall in with in my journey.

The next morning Mr Handycock appeared to be in somewhat better humour. One of the linendrapers who fitted out cadets, &c, “on the shortest notice,” was sent for, and orders given for my equipment, which Mr Handycock insisted should be ready on the day afterwards, or the articles would be left on his hands; adding, that my place was already taken in the Portsmouth coach.

“Really, sir,” observed the man, “I’m afraid–on such very short notice–”

“Your card says, ‘the shortest notice,'” rejoined Mr Handycock, with the confidence and authority of a man who is enabled to correct another by his own assertions. “If you do not choose to undertake the work, another will.”

This silenced the man, who made his promise, took my measure, and departed; and soon afterwards Mr Handycock also quitted the house.

What with my grandfather and the parrot, and Mrs Handycock wondering how much money her husband had lost, running to the head of the stairs and talking to the cook, the day passed away pretty well till four o’clock; when, as before, Mrs Handycock screamed, the cook screamed, the parrot screamed, and Mr Handycock rapped at the door, and was let in–but not by me. He ascended the stair swith [sic] three bounds, and coming into the parlour, cried, “Well, Nancy, my love, how are you?” Then stooping over her, “Give me a kiss, old girl. I’m as hungry as a hunter. Mr Simple, how do you do? I hope you have passed the morning agreeably. I must wash my hands and change my boots, my love; I am not fit to sit down to table with you in this pickle. Well, Polly, how are you?”

“I’m glad you’re hungry, my dear, I’ve such a nice dinner for you,” replied the wife, all smiles. “Jemima, be quick and dish up–Mr Handycock is so hungry.”

“Yes, marm,” replied the cook; and Mrs Handycock followed her husband into his bedroom on the same floor, to assist him at his toilet.

“By Jove, Nancy, the _bulls_ have been nicely taken in,” said Mr Handycock, as we sat down to dinner.

“O, I am so glad!” replied his wife, giggling; and so I believe she was, but why I did not understand.

“Mr Simple,” said he, “will you allow me to offer you a little fish?”

“If you do not want it all yourself, sir,” replied I politely.

Mrs Handycock frowned and shook her head at me, while her husband helped me. “My dove, a bit of fish?”

We both had our share to-day, and I never saw a man more polite than Mr Handycock. He joked with his wife, asked me to drink wine with him two or three times, talked about my grandfather; and, in short, we had a very pleasant evening.

The next morning all my clothes came home, but Mr Handycock, who still continued in good humour, said that he would not allow me to travel by night, that I should sleep there and set off the next morning; which I did at six o’clock, and before eight I had arrived at the Elephant and Castle, where we stopped for a quarter of an hour. I was looking at the painting representing this animal with a castle on its back; and assuming that of Alnwick, which I had seen, as a fair estimate of the size and weight of that which he carried, was attempting to enlarge my ideas so as to comprehend the stupendous bulk of the elephant, when I observed a crowd assembled at the corner; and asking a gentleman who sat by me in a plaid cloak, whether there was not something very uncommon to attract so many people, he replied, “Not very, for it is only a drunken sailor.”

I rose from my seat, which was on the hinder part of the coach, that I might see him, for it was a new sight to me, and excited my curiosity, when to my astonishment, he staggered from the crowd, and swore that he’d go to Portsmouth. He climbed up by the wheel of the coach, and sat down by me. I believe that I stared at him very much, for he said to me, “What are you gaping at, you young sculping? Do you want to catch flies? or did you never see a chap half-seas-over before?”

I replied, “That I had never been at sea in my life, but that I was going.”

“Well, then, you’re like a young bear, all your sorrows to come–that’s all, my hearty,” replied he. “When you get on board, you’ll find monkey’s allowance–more kicks than half-pence. I say, you pewter-carrier, bring us another pint of ale.”

The waiter of the inn, who was attending the coach, brought out the ale, half of which the sailor drank, and the other half threw into the waiter’s face, telling him that was his “allowance: and now,” said he, “what’s to pay?” The waiter, who looked very angry, but appeared too much afraid of the sailor to say anything, answered fourpence; and the sailor pulled out a handful of banknotes, mixed up with gold, silver, and coppers, and was picking out the money to pay for his beer, when the coachman, who was impatient, drove off.

“There’s cut and run,” cried the sailor, thrusting all the money into his breeches pocket. “That’s what you’ll learn to do, my joker, before you’ve been two cruises to sea.”

In the meantime the gentleman in the plaid cloak, who was seated by me, smoked his cigar without saying a word. I commenced a conversation with him relative to my profession, and asked him whether it was not very difficult to learn. “Larn,” cried the sailor, interrupting us, “no; it may be difficult for such chaps as me before the mast to larn; but you, I presume, is a reefer, and they an’t got much to larn, ’cause why, they pipe-clays their weekly accounts, and walks up and down with their hands in their pockets. You must larn to chaw baccy, drink grog, and call the cat a beggar, and then you knows all a midshipman’s expected to know nowadays. Ar’n’t I right, sir?” said the sailor, appealing to the gentleman in a plaid cloak. “I axes you, because I see you’re a sailor by the cut of your jib. Beg pardon, sir,” continued he, touching his hat, “hope no offence.”

“I am afraid that you have nearly hit the mark, my good fellow,” replied the gentleman.

The drunken fellow then entered into conversation with him, stating that he had been paid off from the _Audacious_ at Portsmouth, and had come up to London to spend his money with his messmates, but that yesterday he had discovered that a Jew at Portsmouth had sold him a seal as gold, for fifteen shillings, which proved to be copper, and that he was going back to Portsmouth to give the Jew a couple of black eyes for his rascality, and that when he had done that he was to return to his messmates, who had promised to drink success to the expedition at the Cock and Bottle, St Martin’s Lane, until he should return.

The gentleman in the plaid cloak commended him very much for his resolution; for he said, “that although the journey to and from Portsmouth would cost twice the value of a gold seal, yet, that in the end it might be worth a _Jew’s Eye_.” What he meant I did not comprehend.

Whenever the coach stopped, the sailor called for more ale, and always threw the remainder which he could not drink into the face of the man who brought it out for him, just as the coach was starting off, and then tossed the pewter pot on the ground for him to pick up. He became more tipsy every stage, and the last from Portsmouth, when he pulled out his money, he could find no silver, so he handed down a note, and desired the waiter to change it. The waiter crumpled it up and put it into his pocket, and then returned the sailor the change for a one-pound note; but the gentleman in the plaid had observed that it was a five-pound note which the sailor had given, and insisted upon the waiter producing it, and giving the proper change. The sailor took his money, which the waiter handed to him, begging pardon for the mistake, although he coloured up very much at being detected. “I really beg your pardon,” said he again, “it was quite a mistake;” whereupon the sailor threw the pewter pot at the waiter, saying, “I really beg your pardon, too,”–and with such force, that it flattened upon the man’s head, who fell senseless on the road. The coachman drove off, and I never heard whether the man was killed or not.

After the coach had driven off, the sailor eyed the gentleman in the plaid cloak for a minute or two, and then said, “When I first looked at you I took you for some officer in mufti; but now that I see you look so sharp after the rhino, it’s my idea that you’re some poor devil of a Scotchman, mayhap second mate of a marchant vessel–there’s half a crown for your services–I’d give you more if I thought you would spend it.”

The gentleman laughed, and took the half-crown, which I afterwards observed that he gave to a grey-headed beggar at the bottom of Portsdown Hill. I inquired of him how soon we should be at Portsmouth; he answered that we were passing the lines; but I saw no lines, and I was ashamed to show my ignorance. He asked me what ship I was going to join. I could not recollect her name, but I told him it was painted on the outside of my chest, which was coming down by the waggon; all that I could recollect was that it was a French name.

“Have you no letter of introduction to the captain?” said he.

“Yes I have,” replied I; and I pulled out my pocket-book in which the letter was. “Captain Savage, H.M. ship _Diomede_,” continued I, reading to him.

To my surprise he very coolly proceeded to open the letter, which, when I perceived what he was doing, occasioned me immediately to snatch the letter from him, stating my opinion at the same time that it was a breach of honour, and that in my opinion he was no gentleman.

“Just as you please, youngster,” replied he. “Recollect, you have told me I am no gentleman.”

He wrapped his plaid around him, and said no more; and I was not a little pleased at having silenced him by my resolute behaviour.

Chapter III

I am made to look very blue at the Blue Posts–Find wild spirits around, and, soon after, hot spirits within me; at length my spirits overcome me Call to pay my respects to the Captain, and find that I had had the pleasure of meeting him before–No sooner out of one scrape than into another.

When we stopped, I inquired of the coachman which was the best inn. He answered “that it was the Blue Postesses, where the midshipmen leave their chestesses, call for tea and toastesses, and sometimes forget to pay for their breakfastesses.” He laughed when he said it, and I thought that he was joking with me; but he pointed out two large blue posts at the door next the coach-office, and told me that all the midshipmen resorted to that hotel. He then asked me to remember the coachman, which, by this time I had found out implied that I was not to forget to give him a shilling, which I did, and then went into the inn. The coffee-room was full of midshipmen, and, as I was anxious about my chest, I inquired of one of them if he knew when the waggon would come in.

“Do you expect your mother by it?” replied he.

“Oh no! but I expect my uniforms–I only wear these bottle-greens until they come.”

“And pray what ship are you going to join?”

“The _Die-a-maid_–Captain Thomas Kirkwall Savage.”

“The _Diomede_–I say, Robinson, a’n’t that the frigate in which the midshipmen had four dozen apiece for not having pipe-clayed their weekly accounts on the Saturday?”

“To be sure it is,” replied the other; “why the captain gave a youngster five dozen the other day for wearing a scarlet watch-riband.”

“He’s the greatest Tartar in the service,” continued the other; “he flogged the whole starboard watch the last time that he was on a cruise, because the ship would only sail nine knots upon a bowline.”

“Oh dear,” said I, “then I’m very sorry that I am going to join him.”

“‘Pon my soul I pity you: you’ll be fagged to death: for there’s only three midshipmen in the ship now–all the rest ran away. Didn’t they, Robinson?”

“There’s only two left now; for poor Matthews died of fatigue. He was worked all day, and kept watch all night for six weeks, and one morning he was found dead upon his chest.”

“God bless my soul!” cried I; “and yet, on shore, they say he is such a kind man to his midshipmen.”

“Yes,” replied Robinson, “he spreads that report every where. Now, observe, when you first call upon him, and report your having come to join his ship, he’ll tell you that he is very happy to see you, and that he hopes your family are well–then he’ll recommend you to go on board and learn your duty. After that, stand clear. Now, recollect what I have said, and see if it does not prove true. Come, sit down with us and take a glass of grog; it will keep your spirits up.”

These midshipmen told me so much about my captain, and the horrid cruelties which he had practised, that I had some doubts whether I had not better set off home again. When I asked their opinion, they said, that if I did, I should be taken up as a deserter and hanged; that my best plan was to beg his acceptance of a few gallons of rum, for he was very fond of grog, and that then I might perhaps be in his good graces, as long as the rum might last.

I am sorry to state that the midshipmen made me very tipsy that evening. I don’t recollect being put to bed, but I found myself there the next morning, with a dreadful headache, and a very confused recollection of what had passed. I was very much shocked at my having so soon forgotten the injunctions of my parents, and was making vows never to be so foolish again, when in came the midshipman who had been so kind to me the night before. “Come, Mr Bottlegreen,” he bawled out, alluding, I suppose, to the colour of my clothes, “rouse and bitt. There’s the captain’s coxswain waiting for you below. By the powers, you’re in a pretty scrape for what you did last night!”

“Did last night!” replied I, astonished. “Why, does the captain know that I was tipsy?”

“I think you took devilish good care to let him know it when you were at the theatre.”

“At the theatre! was I at the theatre?”

“To be sure you were. You would go, do all we could to prevent you, though you were as drunk as David’s sow. Your captain was there with the admiral’s daughters. You called him a tyrant and snapped your fingers at him. Why, don’t you recollect? You told him that you did not care a fig for him.”

“Oh dear! oh dear! what shall I do? what shall I do?” cried I: “My mother cautioned me so about drinking and bad company.”

“Bad company, you whelp–what do you mean by that?”

“O, I did not particularly refer to you.”

“I should hope not! However, I recommend you, as a friend, to go to the George Inn as fast as you can, and see your captain, for the longer you stay away, the worse it will be for you. At all events, it will be decided whether he receives you or not. It is fortunate for you that you are not on the ship’s books. Come, be quick, the coxswain is gone back.”

“Not on the ship’s books,” replied I sorrowfully. “Now I recollect there was a letter from the captain to my father, stating that he had put me on the books.”

“Upon my honour, I’m sorry–very sorry indeed,” replied the midshipman; –and he quitted the room, looking as grave as if the misfortune had happened to himself. I got up with a heavy head, and heavier heart, and as soon as I was dressed, I asked the way to the George Inn. I took my letter of introduction with me, although I was afraid it would be of little service. When I arrived, I asked, with a trembling voice, whether Captain Thomas Kirkwall Savage, of H.M. ship _Diomede_, was staying there. The waiter replied, that he was at breakfast with Captain Courtney, but that he would take up my name. I gave it him, and in a minute the waiter returned, and desired that I would walk up. O how my heart beat!–I never was so frightened–I thought I should have dropped on the stairs. Twice I attempted to walk into the room, and each time my legs failed me; at last I wiped the perspiration from my forehead, and with a desperate effort I went into the room.

“Mr Simple, I am glad to see you,” said a voice. I had held my head down, for I was afraid to look at him, but the voice was so kind that I mustered up courage; and, when I did look up, there sat with his uniform and epaulets, and his sword by his side, the passenger in the plaid cloak, who wanted to open my letter, and whom I had told to his face, that he was _no gentleman_.

I thought I should have died as the other midshipman did upon his chest. I was just sinking down upon my knees to beg for mercy, when the captain perceiving my confusion, burst out into a laugh, and said, “So you know me again, Mr Simple? Well, don’t be alarmed, you did your duty in not permitting me to open the letter, supposing me, as you did, to be some other person, and you were perfectly right, under that supposition, to tell me that I was not a gentleman. I give you credit for your conduct. Now sit down and take some breakfast.”

“Captain Courtney,” said he to the other captain, who was at the table, “this is one of my youngsters just entering the service. We were passengers yesterday by the same coach.” He then told him the circumstance which occurred, at which they laughed heartily.

I now recovered my spirits a little–but still there was the affair at the theatre, and I thought that perhaps he did not recognize me. I was, however, soon relieved from my anxiety by the other captain inquiring, “Were you at the theatre last night, Savage?”

“No; I dined at the admiral’s; there’s no getting away from those girls, they are so pleasant.”

“I rather think you are a little–_taken_ in that quarter.”

“No, on my word! I might be if I had time to discover which I liked best; but my ship is at present my wife, and the only wife I intend to have until I am laid on the shelf.”

Well, thought I, if he was not at the theatre, it could not have been him that I insulted. Now if I can only give him the rum, and make friends with him.

“Pray, Mr Simple, how are your father and mother?” said the captain.

“Very well, I thank you, sir, and desire me to present their compliments.”

“I am obliged to them. Now I think the sooner you go on board and learn your duty the better.” (Just what the midshipman told me–the very words, thought I–then it’s all true–and I began to tremble again.)

“I have a little advice to offer you,” continued the captain. “In the first place, obey your superior officers without hesitation; it is for me, not you, to decide whether an order is unjust or not. In the next place, never swear or drink spirits. The first is immoral and ungentleman-like, the second is a vile habit which will grow upon you. I never touch spirit myself, and I expect that my young gentlemen will refrain from it also. Now you may go, and as soon as your uniforms arrive, you will repair on board. In the meantime, as I had some little insight into your character when we travelled together, let me recommend you not to be too intimate at first sight with those you meet, or you may be led into indiscretions. Good morning.”

I quitted the room with a low bow, glad to have surmounted so easily what appeared to be a chaos of difficulty; but my mind was confused with the testimony of the midshipman, so much at variance with the language and behaviour of the captain. When I arrived at the Blue Posts, I found all the midshipmen in the coffee-room, and I repeated to them all that had passed. When I had finished, they burst out laughing, and said that they had only been joking with me. “Well,” said I to the one who had called me up in the morning, “you may call it joking, but I call it lying.”

“Pray, Mr Bottlegreen, do you refer to me?”

“Yes, I do,” replied I.

“Then, sir, as a gentleman, I demand satisfaction. Slugs in a saw-pit. Death before dishonour, d—-e!”

“I shall not refuse you,” replied I, “although I had rather not fight a duel; my father cautioned me on the subject, desiring me, if possible, to avoid it, as it was flying in the face of my Creator; but aware that I must uphold my character as an officer, he left me to my own discretion, should I ever be so unfortunate as to be in such a dilemma.”

“Well, we don’t want one of your father’s sermons at second-hand,” replied the midshipman, (for I had told them that my father was a clergyman); “the plain question is, will you fight, or will you not?”

“Could not the affair be arranged otherwise?” interrupted another. “Will not Mr Bottlegreen retract?”

“My name is Simple, sir, and not Bottlegreen,” replied I; “and as he did tell a falsehood, I will not retract.”

“Then the affair must go on,” said the midshipman. “Robinson, will you oblige me by acting as my second?”

“It’s an unpleasant business,” replied the other; “you are so good a shot; but as you request it, I shall not refuse. Mr Simple is not, I believe, provided with a friend.”

“Yes, he is,” replied another of the midshipmen. “He is a spunky fellow, and I’ll be his second.”

It was then arranged that we should meet the next morning, with pistols. I considered that as an officer and a gentleman, I could not well refuse; but I was very unhappy. Not three days left to my own guidance, and I had become intoxicated, and was now to fight a duel. I went up into my room and wrote a long letter to my mother, enclosing a lock of my hair; and having shed a few tears at the idea of how sorry she would be if I were killed, I borrowed a bible from the waiter, and read it during the remainder of the day.

Chapter IV

I am taught on a cold morning, before breakfast, how to stand fire, and thus prove my courage–After breakfast I also prove my gallantry–My proof meets reproof–Woman at the bottom of all mischief–By one I lose my liberty, and, by another, my money.

When I began to wake the next morning I could not think what it was that felt like a weight upon my chest, but as I roused and recalled my scattered thoughts, I remembered that in an hour or two it would be decided whether I were to exist another day. I prayed fervently, and made a resolution in my own mind that I would not have the blood of another upon my conscience, and would fire my pistol up in the air. And after I had made that resolution, I no longer felt the alarm which I did before. Before I was dressed, the midshipman who had volunteered to be my second, came into my room, and informed me that the affair was to be decided in the garden behind the inn; that my adversary was a very good shot, and that I must expect to be winged if not drilled.

“And what is winged and drilled?” inquired I. “I have not only never fought a duel, but I have not even fired a pistol in my life.”

He explained what he meant, which was, that being winged implied being shot through the arm or leg, whereas being drilled was to be shot through the body. “But,” continued he, “is it possible that you have never fought a duel?”

“No,” replied I; “I am not yet fifteen years old.”

“Not fifteen! why I thought you were eighteen at the least.” (But I was very tall and stout for my age, and people generally thought me older than I actually was.)

I dressed myself and followed my second into the garden, where I found all the midshipmen and some of the waiters of the inn. They all seemed very merry, as if the life of a fellow-creature was of no consequence. The seconds talked apart for a little while, and then measured the ground, which was twelve paces; we then took our stations. I believe that I turned pale, for my second came to my side and whispered that I must not be frightened. I replied, that I was not frightened, but that I considered that it was an awful moment. The second to my adversary then came up and asked me whether I would make an apology, which I refused to do as before: they handed a pistol to each of us, and my second showed me how I was to pull the trigger. It was arranged that at the word given, we were to fire at the same time. I made sure that I should be wounded, if not killed, and I shut my eyes as I fired my pistol in the air. I felt my head swim, and thought I was hurt, but fortunately I was not. The pistols were loaded again, and we fired a second time. The seconds then interfered, and it was proposed that we should shake hands, which I was very glad to do, for I considered my life to have been saved by a miracle. We all went back to the coffee-room, and sat down to breakfast. They then told me that they all belonged to the same ship that I did, and that they were glad to see that I could stand fire, for the captain was a terrible fellow for cutting-out and running under the enemy’s batteries.

The next day my chest arrived by the waggon, and I threw off my “bottle-greens” and put on my uniform. I had no cocked hat, or dirk, as the warehouse people employed by Mr Handycock did not supply those articles, and it was arranged that I should procure them at Portsmouth. When I inquired the price, I found that they cost more money than I had in my pocket, so I tore up the letter I had written to my mother before the duel, and wrote another asking for a remittance, to purchase my dirk and cocked hat. I then walked out in my uniform, not a little proud, I must confess. I was now an officer in his Majesty’s service, not very high in rank, certainly, but still an officer and a gentleman, and I made a vow that I would support the character, although I was considered the greatest fool of the family.

I had arrived opposite a place called Sally Port, when a young lady, very nicely dressed, looked at me very hard and said, “Well, Reefer, how are you off for soap?” I was astonished at the question, and more so at the interest which she seemed to take in my affairs. I answered, “Thank you, I am very well off; I have four cakes of Windsor, and two bars of yellow for washing.” She laughed at my reply, and asked me whether I would walk home and take a bit of dinner with her. I was astonished at this polite offer, which my modesty induced me to ascribe more to my uniform than to my own merits, and, as I felt no inclination to refuse the compliment, I said that I should be most happy. I thought I might venture to offer my arm, which she accepted, and we proceeded up High Street on our way to her home.

Just as we passed the admiral’s house, I perceived my captain walking with two of the admiral’s daughters. I was not a little proud to let him see that I had female acquaintances as well as he had, and, as I passed him with the young lady under my protection, I took off my hat, and made him a low bow. To my surprise, not only did he not return the salute, but he looked at me with a very stern countenance. I concluded that he was a very proud man, and did not wish the admiral’s daughters to suppose that he knew midshipmen by sight; but I had not exactly made up my mind on the subject, when the captain, having seen the ladies into the admiral’s house, sent one of the messengers after me to desire that I would immediately come to him at the George Inn, which was nearly opposite.

I apologised to the young lady, and promised to return immediately if she would wait for me; but she replied, if that was my captain, it was her idea that I should have a confounded wigging and be sent on board. So, wishing me good-bye, she left me and continued her way home. I could as little comprehend all this as why the captain looked so black when I passed him; but it was soon explained when I went up to him in the parlour at the George Inn. “I am sorry, Mr Simple,” said the captain, when I entered, “that a lad like you should show such early symptoms of depravity; still more so, that he should not have the grace which even the most hardened are not wholly destitute of–I mean to practise immorality in secret, and not degrade themselves and insult their captain by unblushingly avowing (I may say glorying in) their iniquity, by exposing it in broad day, and in the most frequented street of the town.”

“Sir,” replied I with astonishment, “O dear! O dear! what have I done?”

The captain fixed his keen eyes upon me, so that they appeared to pierce me through, and nail me to the wall. “Do you pretend to say, sir, that you were not aware of the character of the person with whom you were walking just now?”

“No, sir,” replied I; “except that she was very kind and good-natured;” and then I told him how she had addressed me, and what subsequently took place.

“And is it possible, Mr Simple, that you are so great a fool?” I replied that I certainly was considered the greatest fool of our family. “I should think you were,” replied he, drily. He then explained to me who the person was with whom I was in company, and how any association with her would inevitably lead to my ruin and disgrace.

I cried very much, for I was shocked at the narrow escape which I had had, and mortified at having fallen in his good opinion. He asked me how I had employed my time since I had been at Portsmouth, and I made an acknowledgment of having been made tipsy, related all that the midshipmen had told me, and how I had that morning fought a duel.

He listened to my whole story very attentively, and I thought that occasionally there was a smile upon his face, although he bit his lips to prevent it. When I had finished, he said, “Mr Simple, I can no longer trust you on shore until you are more experienced in the world. I shall desire my coxswain not to lose sight of you until you are safe on board of the frigate. When you have sailed a few months with me, you will then be able to decide whether I deserve the character which the young gentlemen have painted, with, I must say, I believe, the sole intention of practising upon your inexperience.”

Altogether I did not feel sorry when it was over. I saw that the captain believed what I had stated, and that he was disposed to be kind to me, although he thought me very silly. The coxswain, in obedience to his orders, accompanied me to the Blue Posts. I packed up my clothes, paid my bill, and the porter wheeled my chest down to the Sally Port, where the boat was waiting.

“Come, heave a-head, my lads, be smart. The captain says we are to take the young gentleman on board directly. His liberty’s stopped for getting drunk and running after the Dolly Mops!”

“I should thank you to be more respectful in your remarks, Mr Coxswain,” said I with displeasure.

“Mister Coxswain! thanky, sir, for giving me a handle to my name,” replied he. “Come, be smart with your oars, my lads!”

“La, Bill Freeman,” said a young woman on the beach, “what a nice young gentleman you have there! He looks like a sucking Nelson. I say, my pretty young officer, could you lend me a shilling?”

I was so pleased at the woman calling me a young Nelson, that I immediately complied with her request. “I have not a shilling in my pocket,” said I, “but here is half-a-crown, and you can change it and bring me back the eighteen pence.”

“Well, you are a nice young man,” replied she, taking the half-crown; “I’ll be back directly, my dear.”

The men in the boat laughed, and the coxswain desired them to shove off.

“No,” observed I, “you must wait for my eighteen pence.”

“We shall wait a devilish long while then, I suspect. I know that girl, and she has a very bad memory.”

“She cannot be so dishonest or ungrateful,” replied I. “Coxswain, I order you to stay–I am an officer.”

“I know you are, sir, about six hours old: well, then, I must go up and tell the captain that you have another girl in tow, and that you won’t go on board.”

“Oh no, Mr Coxswain, pray don’t; shove off as soon as you please, and never mind the eighteen pence.”

The boat then shoved off, and pulled towards the ship, which lay at Spithead.

Chapter V

I am introduced to the quarter-deck and first lieutenant, who pronounces me very clever–Trotted below to Mrs Trotter–Connubial bliss in a cock-pit–Mr Trotter takes me in as a mess-mate–Feel very much surprised that so many people know that I am the son of–my father.

On our arrival on board, the coxswain gave a note from the captain to the first lieutenant, who happened to be on deck. He read the note, looked at me earnestly, and then I overheard him say to another lieutenant, “The service is going to the devil. As long as it was not popular, if we had not much education, we at least had the chance that natural abilities gave us; but now that great people send their sons for a provision into the navy, we have all the refuse of their families, as if anything was good enough to make a captain of a man-of-war, who has occasionally more responsibility on his shoulders, and is placed in situations requiring more judgment, than any other people in existence. Here’s another of the fools of a family made a present of to the country–another cub for me to lick into shape. Well, I never saw the one yet I did not make something of. Where’s Mr Simple?”

“I am Mr Simple, sir,” replied I, very much frightened at what I had overheard.

“Now, Mr Simple,” said the first lieutenant, “observe, and pay particular attention to what I say. The captain tells me in this note that you have been shamming stupid. Now, sir, I am not to be taken in that way. You’re something like the monkeys, who won’t speak because they are afraid they will be made to work. I have looked attentively at your face, and I see at once that you are _very clever_, and if you do not prove so in a very short time, why–you had better jump overboard, that’s all. Perfectly understand me. I know that you are a very clever fellow, and having told you so, don’t you pretend to impose upon me, for it won’t do.”

I was very much terrified at this speech, but at the same time I was pleased to hear that he thought me clever, and I determined to do all in my power to keep up such an unexpected reputation.

“Quarter-master,” said the first lieutenant, “tell Mr Trotter to come on deck.”

The quarter-master brought up Mr Trotter, who apologized for being so dirty, as he was breaking casks out of the hold. He was a short, thick-set man, about thirty years of age, with a nose which had a red club to it, very dirty teeth, and large black whiskers.

“Mr Trotter,” said the first lieutenant, “here is a young gentleman who has joined the ship. Introduce him into the berth, and see his hammock slung. You must look after him a little.”

“I really have very little time to look after any of them, sir,” replied Mr Trotter; “but I will do what I can. Follow me, youngster.” Accordingly, I descended the ladder after him; then I went down another, and then to my surprise I was desired by him to go down a third, which when I had done, he informed me that I was in the cock-pit.

“Now, youngster,” said Mr Trotter, seating himself upon a large chest, “you may do as you please. The midshipmen’s mess is on the deck above this, and if you like to join, why you can; but this I will tell you as a friend, that you will be thrashed all day long, and fare very badly; the weakest always goes to the wall there, but perhaps you do not mind that. Now that we are in harbour, I mess here, because Mrs Trotter is on board. She is a very charming woman, I can assure you, and will be here directly; she has just gone up into the galley to look after a net of potatoes in the copper. If you like it better, I will ask her permission for you to mess with us. You will then be away from the midshipmen, who are a sad set, and will teach you nothing but what is immoral and improper, and you will have the advantage of being in good society, for Mrs Trotter has kept the very best in England. I make you this offer because I want to oblige the first lieutenant, who appears to take an interest about you, otherwise I am not very fond of having any intrusion upon my domestic happiness.”

I replied that I was much obliged to him for his kindness, and that if it would not put Mrs Trotter to an inconvenience, I should be happy to accept of his offer; indeed, I thought myself very fortunate in having met with such a friend. I had scarcely time to reply, when I perceived a pair of legs, cased in black cotton stockings, on the ladder above us, and it proved that they belonged to Mrs Trotter, who came down the ladder with a net full of smoking potatoes.

“Upon my word, Mrs Trotter, you must be conscious of having a very pretty ankle, or you would not venture to display it, as you have to Mr Simple, a young gentleman whom I beg to introduce to you, and who, with your permission, will join our mess.”

“My dear Trotter, how cruel of you not to give me warning; I thought that nobody was below. I declare I’m so ashamed,” continued the lady, simpering, and covering her face with the hand which was unemployed.

“It can’t be helped now, my love, neither was there anything to be ashamed of. I trust Mr Simple and you will be very good friends. I believe I mentioned his desire to join our mess.”

“I am sure I shall be very happy in his company. This is a strange place for me to live in, Mr Simple, after the society to which I have been accustomed; but affection can make any sacrifice; and rather than lose the company of my dear Trotter, who has been unfortunate in pecuniary matters–”

“Say no more about it, my love. Domestic happiness is everything, and will enliven even the gloom of a cock-pit.”

“And yet,” continued Mrs Trotter, “when I think of the time when we used to live in London, and keep our carriage. Have you ever been in London, Mr Simple?” I answered that I had.

“Then, probably, you may have been acquainted with, or have heard of, the Smiths?”

I replied that the only people that I knew there were a Mr and Mrs Handycock.

“Well, if I had known that you were in London, I should have been very glad to have given you a letter of introduction to the Smiths. They are quite the topping people of the place.”

“But, my dear,” interrupted Mr Trotter, “is it not time to look after our dinner?”

“Yes; I am going forward for it now. We have skewer pieces to-day. Mr Simple, will you excuse me?” and then, with a great deal of flirtation and laughing about her ankles, and requesting me, as a favour, to turn my face away, Mrs Trotter ascended the ladder.