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Frank Mildmay by Captain Frederick Marryat

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Or, The Naval Officer







Prefatory Note

We do not intend to review our own work; if we did it justice we
might be accused of partiality, and we are not such fools as to abuse
it. We leave that to our literary friends who may have so little taste
as not to appreciate its merits. Not that there would be anything
novel in reviewing our own performances--that we have discovered since
we have assumed the office of editor; but still it is always done _sub
rosa_, whereas in our position we could not deny our situation as
editor and author. Of _Peter Simple_, therefore, we say nothing, but
we take this opportunity of saying a few words to the public.... _The
Naval Officer_ was our first attempt, and its having been our first
attempt must be offered in extenuation of its many imperfections; it
was written hastily, and before it was complete we were appointed to
a ship. We cared much about our ship and little about our book. The
first was diligently taken care of by ourselves, the second was left
in the hands of others to get on how it could. Like most bantlings put
out to nurse, it did not get on very well. As we happen to be in a
communicative vein, it may be as well to remark that, being written in
the autobiographical style, it was asserted by friends, and believed
in general, that it was a history of the author's life. Now, without
pretending to have been better than we should have been in our earlier
days, we do most solemnly assure the public that had we run the career
of vice of the hero of the _Naval Officer_, at all events we should
have had sufficient sense of shame not to have avowed it. Except the
hero and heroine, and those parts of the work which supply the
slight plot of it as a novel, the work in itself is materially true,
especially in the narrative of sea adventure, most of which did (to
the best of our recollection) occur to the author. We say to the best
of our recollection, as it behoves us to be careful. We have not
forgotten the snare in which Chamier found himself by asserting in his
preface that his narrative was fact. In _The Naval Officer_ much good
material was thrown away; but we intend to write it over again some
day of these days, and _The Naval Officer_, when corrected, will be
so improved that he may be permitted to stand on the same shelf with
_Pride and Prejudice_ and _Sense and Sensibility_.[A]

[Footnote A: The improvement was never made.--ED.]

"The confounded licking we received for our first attempts in the
critical notices is probably well known to the reader--at all events
we have not forgotten it. Now, with some, this severe castigation of
their first offence would have had the effect of their never offending
again; but we felt that our punishment was rather too severe; it
produced indignation instead of contrition, and we determined to write
again in spite of all the critics in the universe; and in the due
course of nine months we produced _The King's Own_. In _The Naval
Officer_ we had sowed all our wild oats; we had _paid off_ those who
had ill-treated us, and we had no further personality to indulge in.
_The King's Own_, therefore, was wholly fictitious in characters, in
plot, and in events, as have been its successors. _The King's Own_ was
followed by _Newton Forster, Newton Forster_ by _Peter Simple_. These
are _all_ our productions. Reader, we have told our tale."

This significant document was published by Captain Marryat in the
_Metropolitan Magazine_ 1833, of which he was at that time the editor,
on the first appearance of _Peter Simple_, in order, among other
things, to disclaim the authorship of a work entitled the _Port
Admiral_, which contained "an infamous libel upon one of our most
distinguished officers deceased, and upon the service in general." It
repudiates, without explaining away, certain unpleasant impressions
that even the careful reader of to-day cannot entirely avoid. Marryat
made Frank Mildmay a scamp, I am afraid, in order to prove that
he himself had not stood for the portrait; but he clearly did not
recognise the full enormities of his hero, to which he was partially
blinded by a certain share thereof. The adventures were admittedly his
own, they were easily recognised, and he had no right to complain
of being confounded with the insolent young devil to whom they were
attributed. It would, however, be at once ungracious and unprofitable
to attempt any analysis of the points of difference and resemblance;
any reader will detect the author's failings by his work; other
coincidences may be noticed here.

It has been said, in the general introduction, that Marryat's cruises
in the _Imperieuse_ are almost literally described in _Frank Mildmay_.
We have also independent accounts of certain personal adventures there

The episode, chap, iv., of being bitten by a skate--supposed to be
dead--which is used again in _Peter Simple_, came from Marryat's own
experience; and he declared that he ran away from school on account
of the very indignity--that of being compelled to wear his elder
brother's old clothes--which Frank Mildmay pleads as an excuse for
sharing at least the sentiments of Cain. Marryat, again, was trampled
upon and left for dead when boarding an enemy (see chap, v.); he
saved the midshipman who had bullied him, from drowning, though his
reflections on the occasion are more edifying than those recounted in
chap. v. "From that moment," he says, "I have loved the fellow as I
never loved friend before. All my hate is forgotten. I have saved
his life." The defence of the castle of Rosas, chap, vii., is taken
straight from his private log-book; while Marshall's Naval Biography
contains an account of his volunteering during a gale to cut away the
main-yard of the _Aeolus_, which scarcely pales before the vigorous
passage in chap. xiv.:--

"On the 30th of September, 1811, in lat. 40 deg. 50' N., long. 65
deg. W. (off the coast of New England), a gale of wind commenced at
S.E., and soon blew with tremendous fury; the _Aeolus_ was laid on
her beam ends, her top-masts and mizen-masts were literally blown
away, and she continued in this extremely perilous situation for
at least half-an-hour. Directions were given to cut away the
main-yard, in order to save the main-mast and right the ship, but
so great was the danger attending such an operation considered,
that not a man could be induced to attempt it until Mr Marryat led
the way. His courageous conduct on this occasion excited general
admiration, and was highly approved of by Lord James Townsend, one
of whose company he also saved by jumping overboard at sea."

The edition of 1873 contained a brief memoir of the author, by
"Florence Marryat," frequently reprinted.

_Frank Mildmay_, originally called _The Naval Officer; or, Scenes and
Adventures in the Life of Frank Mildmay_, is here printed from the
first edition published in 1829 by Henry Colborn, with the following
motto on the title-page:--

My muse by no means deals in fiction;
She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
But mostly traits of human things and acts.
Love, war, a tempest--surely there's variety;
Also a seasoning slight of lubrication;
A bird's-eye view, too, of that wild society;
A slight glance thrown on men of every station

_Don Juan_.


Chapter I

These are the errors, and these are the fruits of misspending our
prime youth at the schools and universities, as we do, either
in learning mere words, or such things chiefly as were better

My father was a gentleman, and a man of considerable property. In my
infancy and childhood I was weak and sickly, but the favourite of my
parents beyond all my brothers and sisters, because they saw that my
mind was far superior to my sickly frame, and feared they should never
raise me to manhood; contrary, however, to their expectations, I
surmounted all these untoward appearances, and attracted much notice
from my liveliness, quickness of repartee, and impudence: qualities
which have been of much use to me through life.

I can remember that I was both a coward and a boaster; but I have
frequently remarked that the quality which we call cowardice in
a child, is no more than implying a greater sense of danger, and
consequently a superior intellect. We are all naturally cowards:
education and observation teach us to discriminate between real and
apparent danger; pride teaches the concealment of fear, and habit
renders us indifferent to that from which we have often escaped with
impunity. It is related of the Great Frederick that he misbehaved the
first time he went into action; and it is certain that a novice in
such a situation can no more command all his resources than a boy when
first bound apprentice to a shoemaker can make a pair of shoes. We
must learn our trade, whether it be to stand steady before the enemy,
or to stitch a boot; practice alone can make a Hoby or a Wellington.

I pass on to my school-days, when the most lasting impressions are
made. The foundation of my moral and religious instruction had been
laid with care by my excellent parents; but, alas! from the time I
quitted the paternal roof not one stone was added to the building, and
even the traces of what existed were nearly obliterated by the deluge
of vice which threatened soon to overwhelm me. Sometimes, indeed, I
feebly, but ineffectually endeavoured to stem the torrent; at others,
I suffered myself to be borne along with all its fatal rapidity. I was
frank, generous, quick, and mischievous; and I must admit that a large
portion of what sailors call "devil" was openly displayed, and a much
larger portion latently deposited in my brain and bosom. My ruling
passion, even in this early stage of life, was pride. Lucifer himself,
if he ever was seven years old, had not more. If I have gained a fair
name in the service, if I have led instead of followed, it must be
ascribed to this my ruling passion. The world has often given me
credit for better feelings, as the source of action, but I am not
writing to conceal, and the truth must be told.

I was sent to school to learn Latin and Greek, which there are various
ways of teaching. Some tutors attempt the _suaviter in modo_, my
schoolmaster preferred the _fortiter in re_; and, as the boatswain
said, by the "instigation" of a large knotted stick, he drove
knowledge into our skulls as a caulker drives oakum into the seams of
a ship. Under such tuition, we made astonishing progress; and whatever
my less desirable acquirements may have been, my father had no cause
to complain of my deficiency in classic lore. Superior in capacity to
most of my schoolfellows, I seldom took the pains to learn my lesson
previous to going up with my class: "the master's blessing," as we
called it, did occasionally descend on my devoted head, but that was
a bagatelle; I was too proud not to keep pace with my equals, and too
idle to do more.

Had my schoolmaster being a single man, my stay under his care might
have been prolonged to my advantage; but unfortunately, both for
him and for me, he had a helpmate, and her peculiarly unfortunate
disposition was the means of corrupting those morals over which it was
her duty to have watched with the most assiduous care. _Her_ ruling
passions were suspicion and avarice, written in legible characters
in her piercing eyes and sharp-pointed nose. She never supposed
us capable of telling the truth, so we very naturally never gave
ourselves the trouble to cultivate a useless virtue, and seldom
resorted to it unless it answered our purpose better than a lie. This
propensity of Mrs Higginbottom converted our candour and honesty into
deceit and fraud. Never believed, we cared little about the accuracy
of our assertions; half-starved, through her meanness and parsimony,
we were little scrupulous as to the ways and means, provided we could
satisfy our hunger; and thus we soon became as great adepts in the
elegant accomplishments of lying and thieving, under her tuition, as
we did in Greek and Latin under that of her husband.

A large orchard, fields, garden, and poultry-yard, attached to
the establishment, were under the care and superintendence of the
mistress, who usually selected one of the boys as her prime minister
and confidential adviser. This boy, for whose education his parents
were paying some sixty or eighty pounds per annum, was permitted to
pass his time in gathering up the windfalls; in watching the hens,
and bringing in their eggs, when their cackling throats had announced
their safe accouchement; looking after the broods of young ducks and
chickens, _et hoc genus omne_; in short, doing the duty of what is
usually termed the odd man in the farmyard. How far the parents would
have been satisfied with this arrangement, I leave my readers to
guess; but to us who preferred the manual to mental exertion,
exercise to restraint, and any description of cultivation to that of
cultivating the mind, it suited extremely well; and accordingly no
place in the gift of government was ever the object of such solicitude
and intrigue, as was to us schoolboys the situation of collector and
trustee of the eggs and apples.

I had the good fortune to be early selected for this important post,
and the misfortune to lose it soon after, owing to the cunning and
envy of my schoolfellows and the suspicion of my employers. On my
first coming into office, I had formed the most sincere resolutions of
honesty and vigilance; but what are good resolutions, when discouraged
on the one hand by the revilings of suspicion, and assailed on the
other by the cravings of appetite? My morning's collection was exacted
from me to the very last nut, and the greedy eyes of my mistress
seemed to inquire for more. Suspected when innocent, I became guilty
out of revenge; was detected and dismissed. A successor was appointed,
to whom I surrendered all my offices of trust, and having perfect
leisure, I made it my sole business to supplant him.

It was an axiom in mathematics with me at that time, though not found
in Euclid, that wherever I could enter my head, my whole body might
follow. As a practical illustration of this proposition, I applied my
head to the arched hole of the hen-house door, and by scraping away
a little dirt, contrived to gain admittance, and very speedily
transferred all the eggs to my own chest. When the new purveyor
arrived, he found nothing but "a beggarly account of empty boxes;" and
his perambulations in the orchard and garden, for the same reason
were equally _fruitless_. The pilferings of the orchard and garden I
confiscated as droits; but when I had collected a sufficient number of
eggs to furnish a nest, I gave information of my pretended discovery
to my mistress, who, thinking she had not changed for the better,
dismissed my successor, and received me into favour again. I was,
like many greater men, immediately reinstated in office when it was
discovered that they could not do without me. I once more became
chancellor of the hen-roost and ranger of the orchard, with greater
power than I had possessed before my disgrace. Had my mistress looked
half as much in my face as she did into my hatful of eggs, she would
have read my guilt; for at that unsophisticated age I could blush, a
habit long since discarded in the course of my professional duties.

In order to preserve my credit and my situation, I no longer contented
myself with windfalls, but assisted nature in her labours, and greatly
lightened the burthen of many a loaded fruit-tree; by these means, I
not only gratified the avarice of my mistress at her own expense, but
also laid by a store for my own use. On my restoration to office, I
had an ample fund in my exchequer to answer all present demands; and
by a provident and industrious anticipation, was enabled to lull the
suspicions of my employers, and to bid defiance to the opposition. It
will readily be supposed that a lad of my acuteness did not omit any
technical management for the purpose of disguise; the fruits which I
presented were generally soiled with dirt at the ends of the stalks,
in such a manner as to give them all the appearance of "_felo de se_,"
i.e. fell of itself. Thus, in the course of a few months, did I become
an adept of vice, from the mismanagement of those into whose hands I
was intrusted to be strengthened in religion and virtue.

Fortunately for me, as far as my education was concerned, I did not
long continue to hold this honourable and lucrative employment. One of
those unhappy beings called an usher peeped into my chest, and by way
of acquiring popularity with the mistress and scholars, forthwith
denounced me to the higher powers. The proofs of my peculation were
too glaring, and the amount too serious to be passed over; I was
tried, convicted, condemned, sentenced, flogged, and dismissed in the
course of half-an-hour; and such was the degree of turpitude attached
to me on this occasion, that I was rendered for ever incapable of
serving in that or any other employment connected with the garden or
farm; I was placed at the bottom of the list, and declared to be the
worst boy in the school.

This in many points of view was too true; but there was one boy who
bade fair to rival me on the score of delinquency; this was Tom
Crauford, who from that day became my most intimate friend. Tom was
a fine spirited fellow, up to everything; loved mischief, though not
vicious; and was ready to support me in everything through thick and
thin; and truly I found him sufficient employment. I threw off all
disguise, laughed at any suggestion of reform, which I considered
as not only useless, but certain of subjecting me to ridicule and
contempt among my associates. I therefore adopted the motto of some
great man "to be rather than seem to be." I led in every danger;
declared war against all drivellers and half-measures; stole
everything that was eatable from garden, orchard, or hen-house,
knowing full well that whether I did so or not, I should be equally
suspected. Thenceforward all fruit missed, all arrows shot into pigs,
all stones thrown into windows, and all mud spattered over clean linen
hung out to dry, were traced to Tom and myself; and with the usual
alacrity of an arbitrary police, the space between apprehension and
punishment was very short--we were constantly brought before the
master, and as regularly dismissed with "his blessing," till we became
hardened to blows and to shame.

Thus, by the covetousness of this woman, who was the grey mare, and
the folly of the master, who, in anything but Greek and Latin, was an
ass, my good principles were nearly eradicated from my bosom, and in
their place were sown seeds which very shortly produced an abundant

There was a boy at our school lately imported from the East Indies.
We nick-named him Johnny Pagoda. He was remarkable for nothing but
ignorance, impudence, great personal strength, and, as we thought,
determined resolution. He was about nineteen years of age. One day he
incurred the displeasure of the master, who, enraged at his want of
comprehension and attention, struck him over the head with a knotted
cane. This appeal, although made to the least sensitive part of his
frame, roused the indolent Asiatic from his usual torpid state. The
weapon, in the twinkling of an eye, was snatched out of the hand, and
suspended over the head of the astonished pedagogue, who, seeing the
tables so suddenly turned against him, made the signal for assistance.
I clapped my hands, shouted "Bravo! lay on, Johnny--go it--you have
done it now--you may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb;" but
the ushers began to muster round, the boy hung aloof, and Pagoda,
uncertain which side the neutrals would take, laid down his arms, and
surrendered at discretion.

Had the East-Indian followed up his act by the application of a little
discipline at the fountain-head, it is more than probable that a
popular commotion, not unlike that of Mas' Aniello would have ensued;
but the time was not come: the Indian showed a white feather, was
laughed at, flogged, and sent home to his friends, who had intended
him for the bar; but foreseeing that he might, in the course of
events, chance to cut a figure on the wrong side of it, sent him to
sea, where his valour, if he had any, would find more profitable

This unsuccessful attempt of the young Oriental, was the primary cause
of all my fame and celebrity in after-life. I had always hated
school; and this, of all others, seemed to me the most hateful. The
emancipation of Johnny Pagoda convinced me that my deliverance might
be effected in a similar manner. The train was laid, and a spark set
it on fire. This spark was supplied by the folly and vanity of a fat
French dancing-master. These Frenchmen are ever at the bottom of
mischief. Mrs Higginbottom, the master's wife, had denounced me to
Monsieur Aristide Maugrebleu as a _mauvais sujet_; and as he was a
creature of hers, he frequently annoyed me to gratify his patroness.
This fellow was at that time about forty-five years of age, and had
much more experience than agility, having greatly increased his bulk
by the roast beef and ale of England. While he taught us the rigadoons
of his own country, his vanity induced him to attempt feats much above
the cumbrous weight of his frame. I entered the lists with him, beat
him at his own trade, and he beat me with his fiddle-stick, which
broke in two over my head; then, making one more glorious effort to
show that he would not be outdone, snapped the tendon Achilles, and
down he fell, _hors de combat_ as a dancing-master. He was taken away
in his gig to be cured, and I was taken into the school-room to be

This I thought so unjust that I ran away. Tom Crauford helped me to
scale the wall; and when he supposed I had got far enough to be out of
danger from pursuit, went and gave information, to avoid the suspicion
of having aided and abetted. After running a mile, to use a sea
phrase, I hove to, and began to compose, in my mind, an oration which
I intended to pronounce before my father, by way of apology for
my sudden and unexpected appearance; but I was interrupted by the
detested usher and half a dozen of the senior boys, among whom was
Tom Crauford. Coming behind me as I sat on a stile, they cut short my
meditations by a tap on the shoulder, collared and marched me to the
right about in double quick time. Tom Crauford was one of those
who held me, and outdid himself in zealous invective at my base
ingratitude in absconding from the best of masters, and the most
affectionate, tender, and motherly of all school-dames.

The usher swallowed all this, and I soon made him swallow a great deal
more. We passed near the side of a pond, the shoals and depths of
which were well known to me. I looked at Tom out of the corner of my
eye, and motioned him to let me go; and, like a mackerel out of a
fisherman's hand, I darted into the water, got up to my middle, and
then very coolly, for it was November, turned round to gaze at my
escort, who stood at bay, and looked very much like fools. The usher,
like a low bred cur, when he could no longer bully, began to fawn;
he entreated and he implored me to think on "my papa and mamma; how
miserable they would be, if they could but see me; what an increase of
punishment I was bringing on myself by such obstinacy." He held out
by turns coaxes and threats; in short, everything but an amnesty, to
which I considered myself entitled, having been driven to rebellion by
the most cruel persecution.

Argument having failed, and there being no volunteers to come in
and fetch me out of the water, the poor usher, much against his
inclination, was compelled to undertake it. With shoes and stockings
off, and trousers tucked up, he ventured one foot into the water, then
the other; a cold shiver reached his teeth, and made them chatter;
but, at length, with cautious tread he advanced towards me. Being once
in the water, a step or two farther was no object to me, particularly
as I knew I could but be well flogged after all, and I was quite
sure of that, at all events, so I determined to have my revenge and
amusement. Stepping back, he followed, and suddenly fell over head and
ears into a hole, as he made a reach at me. I was already out of
my depth, and could swim like a duck, and as soon as he came up, I
perched my knees on his shoulders and my hands on his head, and sent
him souse under a second time, keeping him there until he had drunk
more water than any horse that ever came to the pond. I then allowed
him to wallow out the best way he could; and as it was very cold, I
listened to the entreaties of Tom and the boys who stood by, cracking
their sides with laughter at the poor usher's helpless misery.

Having had my frolic, I came out, and voluntarily surrendered myself
to my enemies, from whom I received the same mercy, in proportion,
that a Russian does from a Turk. Dripping wet, cold, and covered with
mud, I was first shown to the boys as an aggregate of all that was bad
in nature; a lecture was read to them on the enormity of my offence,
and solemn denunciations of my future destiny closed the discourse.
The shivering fit produced by the cold bath was relieved by as sound
a flogging as could be inflicted, while two ushers held me; but no
effort of theirs could elicit one groan or sob from me, my teeth were
clenched in firm determination of revenge: with this passion my bosom
glowed, and my brain was on fire. The punishment, though dreadfully
severe, had one good effect--it restored my almost suspended
animation; and I strongly recommend the same remedy being applied to
all young ladies and gentlemen who, from disappointed love or other
such trifling causes, throw themselves into the water. Had the
miserable usher been treated after this prescription, he might have
escaped a cold and rheumatic fever which had nearly consigned him to
a country churchyard, in all probability to reappear at the
dissecting-room of St Bartholomew's Hospital.

About this time Johnny Pagoda, who had been two years at sea, came
to the school to visit his brother and schoolfellows. I pumped this
fellow to tell me all he knew: he never tried to deceive me, or to
make a convert. He had seen enough of a midshipman's life, to know
that a cockpit was not paradise; but he gave me clear and ready
answers to all my questions. I discovered that there was no
schoolmaster in the ship, and that the midshipmen were allowed a
pint of wine a day. A man-of-war, and the gallows, they say,
refuse nothing; and as I had some strong presentiment from recent
occurrences, that if I did not volunteer for the one, I should, in all
probability, be pressed for the other, I chose the lesser evil of the
two; and having made up my mind to enter the glorious profession, I
shortly after communicated my intention to my parents.

From the moment I had come to this determination, I cared not what
crime I committed, in hopes of being expelled from the school. I wrote
scurrilous letters, headed a mutiny, entered into a league with the
other boys to sink, burn and destroy, and do all the mischief we
could. Tom Crauford had the master's child to dry nurse: he was only
two years old: Tom let him fall, not intentionally, but the poor child
was a cripple in consequence of it for life. This was an accident
which under any other circumstances we should have deplored, but to us
it was almost a joke.

The cruel treatment I had received from these people, had so
demoralized me, that those passions,--which under more skilful or
kinder treatment, had either not been known, or would have lain
dormant, were roused into full and malignant activity: I went to
school a good-hearted boy, I left it a savage. The accident with the
child occurred two days before the commencement of the vacation, and
we were all dismissed on the following day in consequence. On my
return home I stated verbally to my father and mother, as I had done
before by letter, that I was resolved to go to sea. My mother wept, my
father expostulated. I gazed with apathy on the one, and listened
with cold indifference to the reasoning and arguments of the other;
a choice of schools was offered to me, where I might be a parlour
boarder, and I was to finish at the University, if I would but give up
my fatal infatuation. Nothing, however, would do; the die was cast,
and for the sea I was to prepare.

What fool was it who said that the happiest times of our lives is
passed at school? There may, indeed, be exceptions, but the remark
cannot be generalized. Stormy as has been my life, the most miserable
part of it (with very little exception) was passed at school; and my
mind never received so much injury from any scenes of vice and excess
in after-life, as it did from the shameful treatment and bad example
I met with there. If my bosom burned with fiend-like passions, whose
fault was it? How had the sacred pledge, given by the master, been
redeemed? Was I not sacrificed to the most sordid avarice, in the
first instance, and almost flayed alive in the second, to gratify
revenge? Of the filthy manner in which our food was prepared, I can
only say that the bare recollection of it excites nausea; and to this
hour, bread and milk, suet pudding, and shoulders of mutton, are
objects of my deep-rooted aversion. The conduct of the ushers, who
were either tyrannical extortioners, or partakers in our crimes--the
constant loss of our clothes by the dishonesty or carelessness of the
servants--the purloining our silver spoons, sheets, and towels, when
we went away, upon the plea of "custom"--the charges in the account
for windows which I had never broken, and books which I had never
received--the shameful difference between the annual cost promised by
the master, and the sum actually charged, ought to have opened the
eyes of my father.

I am aware how excellent many of these institutions are, and that
there are few so bad as the one I was sent to. The history of my life
will prove of what vital importance it is to ascertain the character
of the master and mistress as to other points besides teaching Greek
and Latin, before a child is intrusted to their care. I ought to
have observed, that during my stay at this school, I had made some
proficiency in mathematics and algebra.

My father had procured for me a berth on board a fine frigate at
Plymouth, and the interval between my nomination and joining was spent
by my parents in giving advice to me, and directions to the several
tradesmen respecting my equipment. The large chest, the sword, the
cocked-hat, the half-boots, were all ordered in succession; and the
arrival of each article either of use or ornament was anticipated by
me with a degree of impatience which can only be compared to that of
a ship's company arrived off Dennose from a three years' station in
India, and who hope to be at anchor at Spithead before sunset. The
circumstance of my going to sea affected my father in no other way
than it interfered with his domestic comforts by the immoderate grief
of my poor mother. In any other point of view my choice of profession
was a source of no regret to him. I had an elder brother, who was
intended to have the family estates, and who was then at Oxford,
receiving an education suitable to his rank in life, and also learning
how to spend his money like a gentleman. Younger brothers are, in such
cases, just as well out of the way, particularly one of my turbulent
disposition: a man-of-war, therefore, like _another piece of timber_,
has its uses. My father paid all the bills with great philosophy, and
made me a liberal allowance for my age.

The hour of departure drew near; my chest had been sent off by the
Plymouth waggon, and a hackney-coach drew up to the door, to convey
me to the White Horse Cellar. The letting down of the rattling steps
completely overthrew the small remains of fortitude which my dearest
mother had reserved for our separation, and she threw her arms around
my neck in a frenzy of grief. I beheld her emotions with a countenance
as unmoved as the figure-head of a ship; while she covered my stoic
face with kisses, and washed it with her tears. I almost wondered what
it all meant, and wished the scene was over.

My father helped me out of this dilemma; taking me firmly by the arm,
he led me out of the room: my mother sank upon the sofa, and hid her
face in her pocket-handkerchief. I walked as slowly to the coach as
common decency would permit. My father looked at me, as if he would
inquire of my very inward soul whether I really did possess human
feelings? I felt the meaning of this, even in my then tender years;
and such was my sense of propriety, that I mustered up a tear for each
eye, which, I hope, answered the intended purpose. We say at sea,
"When you have no decency, sham a little;" and I verily believe I
should have beheld my poor mother in her coffin with less regret than
I could have foregone the gay and lovely scenes which I anticipated.

How amply has this want of feeling towards a tender parent been
recalled to my mind, and severely punished, in the events of my
vagrant life!

Chapter II

Injuries may be atoned for and forgiven; but insults admit of no
compensation. They degrade the mind in its own esteem, and force
it to recover its level by revenge.--JUNIUS.

There are certain events in our lives poetically and beautifully
described by Moore, as "green spots in memory's waste." Such are the
emotions arising from the attainment, after a long pursuit, of any
darling object of love or ambition; and although possession and
subsequent events may have proved to us that we had overrated our
enjoyment, and experience have shown us "that all is vanity," still,
recollection dwells with pleasure upon the beating heart, when the
present only was enjoyed, and the picture painted by youthful and
sanguine anticipation in glowing and delightful colours. Youth only
can feel this; age has been often deceived--too often has the fruit
turned to ashes in the mouth. The old look forward with a distrust and
doubt, and backward with sorrow and regret.

One of the red-letter days of my life, was that on which I first
mounted the uniform of a midshipman. My pride and ecstacy were beyond
description. I had discarded the school and school-boy dress, and,
with them, my almost stagnant existence. Like the chrysalis changed
into a butterfly, I fluttered about as if to try my powers; and felt
myself a gay and beautiful creature, free to range over the wide
domains of nature, clear of the trammels of parents or schoolmasters;
and my heart bounded within me at the thoughts of being left to enjoy
at my own discretion, the very acme of all the pleasure that human
existence could afford; and I observe that in this, as in most other
cases, I met with that disappointment which usually attends us. True
it is, that in the days of my youth, I did enjoy myself. I was happy
for a time, if happiness it could be called; but dearly have I
paid for it. I contracted a debt, which I have been liquidating by
instalments ever since; nor am I yet emancipated. Even the small
portion of felicity that fell to my lot on this memorable morning was
brief in duration, and speedily followed by chagrin.

But to return to my uniform. I had arrayed myself in it; my dirk was
belted round my waist; a cocked-hat, of an enormous size, stuck on my
head; and, being perfectly satisfied with my own appearance, at the
last survey which I had made in the glass, I first rang for the
chambermaid, under pretence of telling her to make my room tidy, but,
in reality, that she might admire and compliment me, which she very
wisely did; and I was fool enough to give her half a crown and a kiss,
for I felt myself quite a man. The waiter, to whom the chambermaid had
in all probability communicated the circumstance, presented himself,
and having made a low bow, offered the same compliments, and received
the same reward, save the kiss. Boots would, in all probability, have
come in for his share, had he been in the way, for I was fool enough
to receive all their fine speeches as if they were my due, and to pay
for them at the same time in ready money. I was a gudgeon and they
were sharks; and more sharks would soon have been about me, for I
heard them, as they left the room, call "boots" and "ostler," of
course to assist in lightening my purse.

But I was too impatient to wait on my captain and see my ship--so I
bounced down the stairs, and in the twinkling of an eye, was on my
way to Stonehouse, where my vanity received another tribute, by a raw
recruit of marine raising his hand to his head, as he passed by me. I
took it as it was meant, raised my hat off my head, and shuffled
by with much self-importance. One consideration, I own, mortified
me--this was that the _natives_ did not appear to admire me half so
much as I admired myself. It never occurred to me then, that middies
were as plentiful at Plymouth Dock, as black boys at Port Royal,
though, perhaps, not of so much value to their masters. I will not
shock the delicacy of my fair readers by repeating all the vulgar
alliterations with which my noviciate was greeted, as I passed in
review before the ladies of North Corner, who met me in Fore Street.
Unsophisticated as I then was, in many points, and certainly in this,
I thought them extremely ill-bred. Fortunately for me, the prayers of
a certain description of people never prevail, otherwise I should have
been immediately consigned to a place, from which, I fear, all the
masses of France and Italy would not have extricated me.

I escaped from these syrens without being bound to the mast, like
Ulysses; but, like him, I had nearly fallen a victim to a modern
Polyphemus; for though he had not one eye in the middle of his
forehead, after the manner of his prototype, yet the rays from both
his eyes meeting together at the tip of his long nose, gave him very
much that appearance. Ignorance, sheer ignorance, in this, as in many
other cases, was the cause of my disaster. A party of officers, in
full uniform, were coming from a court-martial. "Oh ho!" said I, "here
come some of us." I seized my dirk in my left hand, as I saw they held
their swords, and I stuck my right hand into my bosom as some of them
had done. I tried to imitate their erect and officer-like bearing;
I put my cocked-hat on fore and aft, with the gold rosette dangling
between my two eyes, so that in looking at it, which I could not help
doing, I must have squinted. And I held my nose high in the air, like
a pig in a hurricane, fancying myself as much an object of admiration
to them as I was to myself. We passed on opposite tacks, and our
respective velocities had separated us to the distance of twenty or
thirty yards, when one of them called out to me in a voice evidently
cracked in His Majesty's service--"Hollo, young gentleman, come back

I concluded I was going to be complimented on the cut of my coat, to
be asked the address of my tailor, and to hear the rakish sit of my
hat admired. I now began to think I should hear a contention between
the lords of the ocean, as to who should have me as a sample middy on
their quarter-decks; and I was even framing an excuse to my father's
friend for not joining his ship. Judge then of my surprise and
mortification, when I was thus accosted in an angry and menacing tone
by the oldest of the officers--

"Pray, sir, what ship do you belong to?"

"Sir," said I, proud to be thus interrogated, "I belong to His
Majesty's ship, the _Le----_" (having a French name, I clapped on both
the French and English articles, as being more impressive).

"Oh, you do, do you?" said the veteran with an air of conscious
superiority; "then you will be so good as to turn round, go down to
Mutton Cove, take a boat, and have your person conveyed with all
possible speed on board of His Majesty's ship the _Lee_" (imitating
me); "and tell the first lieutenant it is my order that you be not
allowed any more leave while the ship is in port; and I shall tell
your captain he must teach his officers better manners than to pass
the port-admiral without touching their hats."

While this harangue was going on, I stood in a circle, of which I was
the centre, and the admiral and the captains formed the circumference;
what little air there was their bodies intercepted, so that I was not
only in a stew, but stupefied into the bargain.

"There, sir, you hear me--you may go."

"Yes, I do hear you," thinks I; "but how the devil am I to get away
from you?" for the cruel captains, like school-boys round a rat-trap,
stood so close that I could not start. Fortunately, this my blockade,
which they no doubt intended for their amusement, saved me for that
time. I recollected myself, and said, with affected simplicity of
manner, that I had that morning put on my uniform for the first time;
that I had never seen my captain, and never was on board a ship in all
my life. At this explanation, the countenance of the admiral relaxed
into something that was meant for a smile, and the captains all burst
into a loud laugh.

"Well, young man," said the admiral--who was really a good-tempered
fellow, though an odd one--"well, young man, since you have never been
at sea, it is some excuse for not knowing good manners; there is no
necessity now for delivering my message to the first lieutenant, but
you may go on board your ship."

Having seen me well-roasted, the captains opened right and left, and
let me pass. As I left them I heard one say, "Just caught--marks of
the dogs' teeth in his heels, I warrant you." I did not stop to make
any reply, but sneaked away, mortified and crest-fallen, and certainly
obeyed this the first order which I had ever received in the service,
with more exactness than I ever did any subsequent one.

During the remainder of my walk, I touched my hat to every one I met.
I conferred the honour of a salute on midshipmen, master's mates,
sergeants of marines, and two corporals. Nor was I aware of my over
complaisance, until a young woman, dressed like a lady, who knew more
of the navy than I did, asked me if I had come down to stand for the
borough? Without knowing what she meant, I replied, "No."

"I thought you might," said she, "seeing you are so d----d civil to

Had it not been for this friendly hint, I really believe I should have
touched my hat to a drummer.

Having gone through this ordeal, I reached the inn at Plymouth, where
I found my captain, and presented my father's letter. He surveyed me
from top to toe, and desired the pleasure of my company to dinner at
six o'clock. "In the mean time," he said, "as it is now only eleven,
you may go aboard, and show yourself to Mr Handstone, the first
lieutenant, who will cause your name to be entered on the books, and
allow you to come back here to dine." I bowed and retired. And on my
way to Mutton Cove was saluted by the females, with the appellation
of Royal Reefer (midshipman), and a Biscuit Nibbler; but all this I
neither understood nor cared for. I arrived safely at Mutton Cove,
where two women, seeing my inquiring eye and span-new dress, asked
what ship they should take "my honour" to, I told them the ship I
wished to go on board of.

"She _lays_ under the _Obelisk_," said the elder woman, who appeared
to be about forty years of age; "and we will take your honour off for
a shilling."

I agreed to this, both for the novelty of the thing, as well as on
account of my natural gallantry and love of female society. The elder
woman was mistress of her profession, handling her scull (oar) with
great dexterity; but Sally, the younger one, who was her daughter, was
still in her noviciate. She was pretty, cleanly dressed, had on white
stockings, and sported a neat foot and ankle.

"Take care, Sally," said the mother; "keep stroke, or you will catch a

"Never fear, mother," said the confident Sally; and at the same
moment, as if the very caution against the accident was the cause of
it, the blade of her scull did not dip into the water. The oar meeting
no resistance, its loom, or handle, came back upon the bosom of the
unfortunate Sally, tipped her backwards--up went her heels in the air,
and down fell her head into the bottom of the boat. As she was pulling
the stroke oar, her feet almost came in contact with the rosette of my
cocked hat.

"There now, Sally," said the wary mother; "I told you how it would
be--I knew you would catch a crab!"

Sally quickly recovered herself, blushed a little, and resumed her

"That's what we calls catching a crab in our country," said the woman.
I replied that I thought it was a very pretty amusement; and I asked
Sally to try and catch another; but she declined; and, by this time,
we had reached the side of the ship.

Having paid my naiads, I took hold of the man-rope, as I was
instructed by them, and mounted the side. Reaching the gangway, I was
accosted by a midshipman in a round jacket and trousers, a shirt none
of the cleanest, and a black silk handkerchief tied loosely round his

"Who did you want, sir?" said he.

"I wish to speak with Mr Handstone, the first lieutenant," said I. He
informed me that the first lieutenant was then gone down to frank the
letters, and, when he came on deck, he would acquaint him with my
being there.

After this dialogue, I was left on the larboard side of the
quarter-deck to my own meditations. The ship was at this time
refitting, and was what is usually called in the hands of the
dockyard, and a sweet mess she was in. The quarter-deck carronades
were run fore and aft; the slides unbolted from the side, the decks
were covered with pitch fresh poured into the seams, and the caulkers
were sitting on their boxes, ready to renew their noisy labours as
soon as the dinner-hour had expired. The middies, meanwhile, on the
starboard side of the quarter-deck, were taking my altitude, and
speculating as to whether I was to be a messmate of theirs, and what
sort of a chap I might chance to be--both these points were solved
very speedily.

The first lieutenant came on deck; the midshipman of the watch
presented me, and I presented my name and the captain's message.

"It is all right, sir," said Mr Handstone. "Here, Mr Flyblock, do you
take this young gentleman into your mess; you may show him below as
soon as you please, and tell him where to hang his hammock up."

I followed my new friend down the ladder, under the half deck, where
sat a woman, selling bread and butter and red herrings to the sailors;
she had also cherries and clotted cream, and a cask of strong beer,
which seemed to be in great demand. We passed her, and descended
another ladder, which brought us to the 'tween-decks, and into the
steerage, in the forepart of which, on the larboard side, abreast of
the mainmast, was my future residence--a small hole, which they called
a berth; it was ten feet long by six, and about five feet four inches
high; a small aperture, about nine inches square, admitted a very
scanty portion of that which we most needed, namely, fresh air and
daylight. A deal table occupied a very considerable extent of this
small apartment, and on it stood a brass candle-stick, with a dip
candle, and a wick like a fullblown carnation. The table-cloth was
spread, and the stains of port wine and gravy too visibly indicated,
like the midshipman's dirty shirt, the near approach of Sunday. The
black servant was preparing for dinner, and I was shown the seat I was
to occupy. "Good Heaven!" thought I, as I squeezed myself between
the ship's side and the mess-table; "and is this to be my future
residence?--better go back to school; there, at least, there is fresh
air and clean linen."

I would have written that moment to my dear, broken-hearted mother, to
tell her how gladly her prodigal son would fly back to her arms; but
I was prevented doing this, first by pride, and secondly by want
of writing materials. Taking my place, therefore, at the table, I
mustered up all my philosophy; and, to amuse myself, called to mind
the reflections of Gil Blas, when he found himself in the den of the
robbers, "Behold, then, the worthy nephew of my uncle, Gil Perez,
caught like a rat in a trap."

Most of my new associates were absent on duty; the 'tween-decks was
crammed with casks and cases, and chests, and bags, and hammocks; the
noise of the caulkers was resumed over my head and all around me;
the stench of bilge-water, combining with the smoke of tobacco, the
effluvia of gin and beer, the frying of beef-steaks and onions, and
red herrings--the pressure of a dark atmosphere and a heavy shower
of rain, all conspired to oppress my spirits, and render me the
most miserable dog that ever lived. I had almost resigned myself to
despair, when I recollected the captain's invitation, and mentioned
it to Flyblock. "That's well thought of," said he; "Murphy also dines
with him; you can both go together, and I dare say he will be very
glad of your company."

A captain seldom waits for a midshipman, and we took good care he
should not wait for us. The dinner was in all respects one "on
service." The captain said a great deal, the lieutenants very little,
and the midshipmen nothing at all; but the performance of the knife
and fork, and wine-glass (as far as it could be got at), were exactly
in the inverse ratio. The company consisted of my own captain, and two
others, our first lieutenant, Murphy, and myself.

As soon as the cloth was removed, the captain filled me out a glass of
wine, desired I would drink it, and then go and see how the wind was.
I took this my first admonitory hint in its literal sense and meaning;
but having a very imperfect idea of the points of the compass, I own I
felt a little puzzled how I should obtain the necessary information.
Fortunately for me, there was a weathercock on the old church-steeple;
it had four letters, which I certainly did know were meant to
represent the cardinal points. One of these seemed so exactly to
correspond with the dial above it, that I made up my mind the wind
must be West, and instantly returned to give my captain the desired
information, not a little proud with my success in having obtained it
so soon. But what was my surprise to find that I was not thanked for
my trouble; the company even smiled and winked at each other; the
first lieutenant nodded his head and said, "Rather green yet." The
captain, however, settled the point according to the manners and
customs, in such cases, used at sea. "Here, youngster," said he, "here
is another glass for you; drink that, and then Murphy will show you
what I mean." Murphy was my chaperon; he swallowed his wine--rather _a
gorge deployee_; put down his glass very energetically, and, bowing,
left the room.

When we had got fairly into the hall, we had the following
duet:--"What the h---- brought you back again, you d----d young
greenhorn? Could not you take a hint, and be off, as the captain
intended? So I must lose my wine for such a d----d young whelp as you.
I'll pay you off for this, my tight fellow, before we have been many
weeks together."

I listened to this elegant harangue, with some impatience, and much
more indignation. "I came back," said I, "to tell the captain how the
wind was."

"You be d----d," replied Murphy: "do you think the captain did not
know how the wind was? and if he had wanted to know, don't you think
he would have sent a sailor like me, instead of such a d----d lubberly
whelp as you?"

"As to what the captain meant," said I, "I do not know. I did as I was
bid--but what do you mean by calling me a whelp? I am no more a whelp
than yourself!"

"Oh, you are not, a'n't you?" said Murphy, seizing me by one of my
ears, which he pulled so unmercifully that he altered the shape of it
very considerably, making it something like the leeboard of a Dutch

This was not to be borne; though, as I was but thirteen, he seventeen,
and a very stout fellow, I should rather not have sought an action
with him. But he had begun it: my honour was at stake, and I only
wonder I had not drawn my dirk, and laid him dead at my feet.
Fortunately for him, the rage I was in, made me forget I had it by my
side: though I remembered my uniform, the disgrace brought upon it,
and the admiration of the chambermaid, as well as the salute of the
sentinel, all which formed a combustible in my brain. I went off like
a flash, and darted my fist (the weapon I had been most accustomed to
wield) into the left eye of my adversary, with a force and precision
which Crib would have applauded. Murphy staggered back with the blow,
and for a moment I flattered myself he had had enough of it.

But no--alas, this was a day of disappointments! he had only retreated
to take a spring; he then came on me like the lifeguards at Waterloo,
and his charge was irresistible. I was upset, pummelled, thumped,
kicked, and should probably have been the subject of a coroner's
inquest had not the waiter and chambermaid run in to my rescue. The
tongue of the latter was particularly active in my favour: unluckily
for me, she had no other weapon near her, or it would have gone hard
with Murphy. "Shame!" said she, "for such a great lubberly creature to
beat such a poor, little, innocent, defenceless fellow as that. What
would his mamma say to see him treated so?"

"D----n his mamma, and you too," said Pat, "look at my eye."

"D----n your eye," said the waiter: "it's a pity he had not served the
other one the same way; no more than you deserve for striking a child;
the boy is game, and that's more than you are; he is worth as many of
you, as will stand between this and the iron chair at Barbican."

"I'd like to see him duck'd in it," said the maid.

While this was going on, I had resumed my defensive attitude. I
had never once complained, and had gained the good-will of all the
bystanders, among whom now appeared my captain and his friends. The
blood was streaming from my mouth, and I bore the marks of discipline
from the superior prowess of my enemy, who was a noted pugilist for
his age, and would not have received the hit from me, if he had
supposed my presumption would have led me to attack him. The captain
demanded an explanation. Murphy told the story in his own way, and
gave anything but the true version. I could have beaten him at that,
but truth answered my purpose better than falsehood on this occasion;
so, as soon as he had done, I gave my round unvarnished tale, and,
although defeated in the field, I plainly saw that I had the advantage
of him in the cabinet. Murphy was dismissed in disgrace, and ordered
to rusticate on board till his eye was bright.

"I should have confined you to the ship myself," said the captain,
"but the boy has done it for me; you cannot appear on shore with that
black eye."

As soon as he was gone, I was admonished to be more careful in future.
"You are," said the captain, "like a young bear; all your sorrows are
before you; if you give a blow for every hard name you receive, your
fate in the service may be foreseen: if weak you will be pounded to a
mummy--if strong, you will be hated. A quarrelsome disposition will
make you enemies in every rank you may attain; you will be watched
with a jealous eye, well knowing, as we all do, that the same spirit
of insolence and overbearing which you show in the cockpit, will
follow you to the quarter-deck, and rise with you in the service. This
advice is for your own good; not that I interfere in these things, as
everybody and everything finds its level in a man-of-war; I only wish
you to draw a line between resistance against oppression, which I
admire and respect, and a litigious, uncompromising disposition, which
I despise. Now wash your face and go on board. Try by all means to
conciliate the rest of your messmates, for first impressions are
everything, and rely on it, Murphy's report will not be in your

This advice was very good, but had the disadvantage of coming too late
for that occasion by at least half an hour. The fracas was owing to
the captain's mismanagement, and the manners and customs of the navy
at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The conversation at the
tables of the higher ranks of the service in those days, unless ladies
were present, was generally such as a boy could not listen to without
injury to his better feelings. I was therefore "hinted off;" but with
due respect to my captain, who is still living, I should have been
sent on board of my ship and cautioned against the bad habits of the
natives of North Corner and Barbican; and if I could not be admitted
to the mysterious conversation of a captain's table, I should have
been told in a clear and decided manner to depart, without the
needless puzzle of an innuendo, which I did not and could not

I returned on board about eight o'clock, where Murphy had gone before
me, and prepared a reception far from agreeable. Instead of being
welcomed to my berth, I was received with coldness, and I returned to
the quarter-deck, where I walked till I was weary, and then leaned
against a gun. From this temporary alleviation, I was roused by a
voice of thunder, "Lean off that gun." I started up, touched my hat,
and continued my solitary walk, looking now and then at the second
lieutenant, who had thus gruffly addressed me. I felt a dejection of
spirits, a sense of destitution and misery, which I cannot describe. I
had done no wrong, yet I was suffering as if I had committed a crime.
I had been aggrieved, and had vindicated myself as well as I could. I
thought I was among devils, and not men; my thoughts turned homeward.
I remembered my poor mother in her agony of grief, on the sofa; and my
unfeeling heart then found that it needed the soothings of affection.
I could have wept, but I knew not where to go; for I could not be seen
to cry on board of ship. My pride began to be humbled. I felt the
misery of dependence, although not wanting pecuniary resources; and
would have given up all my prospects to have been once more seated
quietly at home.

The first lieutenant came on board soon after, and I heard him
relating my adventure to the second lieutenant. The tide now evidently
turned in my favour. I was invited down to the gun-room, and having
given satisfactory answers to all the questions put to me, Flyblock
was sent for, and I was once more placed under his protection. The
patronage of the first lieutenant, I flattered myself would have
ensured me at least common civility for a short time.

I had now more leisure to contemplate my new residence and new
associates, who, having returned from the duty of the dock-yard, were
all assembled in the berth, seated round the table on the lockers,
which paid "the double debt" of seats and receptacles; but in order to
obtain a sitting, it was requisite either to climb over the backs of
the company, or submit to "high pressure" from the last comer. Such
close contact, even with our best friends, is never desirable; but in
warm weather, in a close, confined air, with a manifest scarcity of
clean linen, it became particularly inconvenient. The population here
very far exceeded the limits usually allotted to human beings in any
situation of life, except in a slave ship. The midshipmen, of whom
there were eight full-grown, and four youngsters, were without either
jackets or waistcoats; some of them had their shirt-sleeves rolled up,
either to prevent the reception or to conceal the absorption of dirt
in the region of the wristbands. The repast on the table consisted of
a can or large black-jack of small beer, and a japan bread-basket full
of sea-biscuit. To compensate for this simple fare, and at the same
time to cool the close atmosphere of the berth, the table was covered
with a large green cloth with a yellow border, and many yellow spots
withal, where the colour had been discharged by slops of vinegar, hot
tea, &c, &c.; a sack of potatoes stood in one corner, and the shelves
all round, and close over our heads, were stuffed with plates,
glasses, quadrants, knives and forks, loaves of sugar, dirty stockings
and shirts, and still fouler table-cloths, small tooth-combs, and
ditto large, clothes brushes and shoe brushes, cocked-hats, dirks,
German flutes, mahogany writing-desks, a plate of salt butter, and
some two or three pairs of naval half-boots. A single candle served to
make darkness visible, and the stench had nearly overpowered me.

The reception I met with tended in no way to relieve these horrible
impressions. A black man, with no other dress than a dirty check shirt
and trousers, not smelling of amber, stood within the door, ready to
obey all and any one of the commands with which he was loaded. The
smell of the towel he held in his hand, to wipe the plates and glasses
with, completed my discomfiture; and I fell sick upon the seat nearest
at me. Recovering from this, without the aid of any "ministering
angel," I contracted the pupils of my eyes, and ventured to look
around me. The first who met my gaze, was my recent foe; he bore the
marks of contention by having his eye bound up with brown paper and a
dirty silk pocket-handkerchief; the other was quickly turned on me;
and, with a savage and brutal countenance, he swore and denounced the
severest vengeance on me for what I had done. In this, he was joined
by another ill-looking fellow, with large whiskers.

I shall not repeat the elegant philippics with which I was greeted.
Suffice it to say that I found all the big ones against me, and the
little ones neuter; the caterer supposing I had received suitable
admonition for my future guidance, and that I was completely bound
over to keep the peace--turned all the youngsters out of the berth.
"As for you, Mr Fistycuff," said he, addressing himself to me, "you
may walk off with the rest of the gang, so make yourself scarce, like
the Highlander's breeches."

The boys all obeyed the command in silence, and I was not sorry to
follow them. As I went out he added, "So, Mr Rumbusticus, you can obey
orders, I see, and it is well for you; for I had a biscuit ready to
shy at your head." This affront, after all I had suffered, I was
forced to pocket; but I could not understand what the admiral could
mean, when he said that people went to sea "to learn manners."

I soon made acquaintance with the younger set of my messmates, and we
retreated to the forecastle as the only part of the ship suitable to
the nature of the conversation we intended to hold. After one hour's
deliberation, and notwithstanding it was the first night I had ever
been on board a ship, I was unanimously elected leader of this little
band. I became the William Tell of the party, as having been the first
to resist the tyranny of the oldsters, and especially of the tyrant
Murphy. I was let into all the secrets of the mess in which the
youngsters were placed by the captain to be instructed and kept in
order. Alas! what instruction did we get but blasphemy? What order
were we kept in, except that of paying our mess, and being forbidden
to partake of those articles which our money had purchased? My blood
boiled when they related all they had suffered, and I vowed I would
sooner die than submit to such treatment.

The hour of bed-time arrived. I was instructed how to get into my
hammock, and laughed at for tumbling out on the opposite side. I was
forced to submit to this pride of conscious superiority of these
urchins who could only boast of a few months' more practical
experience than myself, and who, therefore, called me a greenhorn. But
all this was done in good nature; and after a few hearty laughs from
my companions, I gained the centre of my suspended bed, and was very
soon in a sound sleep. This was only allowed to last till about four
o'clock in the morning, when down came the head of my hammock, and I
fell to the deck, with my feet still hanging in the air, like poor
Sally, when she caught the crab. Stunned and stupefied by the fall,
bewildered by the violent concussion and the novelty of all around me,
I continued in a state of somnambulism, and it was some minutes before
I could recollect myself.

The marine sentinel at the gun-room door seeing what had happened, and
also espying the person to whom I was indebted for this favour, very
kindly came to my assistance. He knotted my lanyard, and restored my
hammock to its place; but he could not persuade me to confide myself
again to such treacherous bedposts, for I thought the rope had broken;
and so strongly did the fear of another tumble possess my mind, that
I took a blanket, and lay down on a chest at some little distance,
keeping a sleepless eye directed to the scene of my late disaster.

This was fortunate; for not many minutes had elapsed, when Murphy, who
had been relieved from the middle watch, came below, and seeing my
hammock again hanging up, and supposing me in it, took out his knife
and cut it down. "So then," said I to myself, "it was you who invaded
my slumbers, and nearly dashed my brains out, and have now made the
second attempt." I vowed to Heaven that I would have revenge; and
I acquitted myself of that vow. Like the North American savage,
crouching lest he should see me, I waited patiently till he had got
into his hammock, and was in a sound sleep. I then gently pushed a
shot-case under the head of his hammock, and placed the corner of it
so as to receive his head; for had it split his skull I should not
have cared, so exasperated was I, and so bent on revenge. Subtle
and silent, I then cut his lanyard: he fell, and his head coming in
contact with the edge of the shot-case, he gave a deep groan, and
there he lay. I instantly retreated to my chest and blanket, where I
pretended to snore, while the sentinel, who, fortunately for me, had
seen Murphy cut me down the first time, came with his lanthorn, and
seeing him apparently dead, removed the shot-case out of the way,
and then ran to the sergeant of marines, desiring him to bring the
surgeon's assistant.

While the sergeant was gone, he whispered softly to me, "Lie still;
I saw the whole of it, and if you are found out, it may go hard with

Murphy, it appeared, had few friends in the ship; all rejoiced at
his accident. I laid very quietly in my blanket while the surgeon's
assistant dressed the wound; and, after a considerable time, succeeded
in restoring the patient to his senses: he was, however, confined a
fortnight to his bed. I was either not suspected, or, if I was, it was
known that I was not the aggressor. The secret was well kept. I gave
the marine a guinea, and took him into my service as _valet de place_.

And now, reader, in justice to myself, allow me to make a few remarks.
They may serve as a palliative, to a certain degree, for that
unprincipled career which the following pages will expose. The
passions of pride and revenge, implanted in our fallen natures, and
which, if not eradicated in the course of my education, ought, at
least, to have lain dormant as long as possible, were, through the
injudicious conduct of those to whom I had been entrusted, called into
action and full activity at a very early age. The moral seeds sown by
my parents, which might have germinated and produced fruit, were
not watered or attended to; weeds had usurped their place, and were
occupying the ground which should have supported them; and at this
period, when the most assiduous cultivation was necessary to procure
a return, into what a situation was I thrown? In a ship crowded with
three hundred men, each of them, or nearly so, cohabiting with an
unfortunate female, in the lowest state of degradation; where oaths
and blasphemy interlarded every sentence; where religion was wholly
neglected, and the only honour paid to the Almighty was a clean shirt
on a Sunday; where implicit obedience to the will of an officer, was
considered of more importance than the observance of the Decalogue;
and the Commandments of God were in a manner abrogated by the Articles
of War--for the first might be broken with impunity, and even with
applause, while the most severe punishment awaited any infraction of
the latter.

So much for the ship in the aggregate; let us now survey the
midshipmen's berth. Here we found the same language and the same
manners, with scarcely one shade more of refinement. Their only
pursuits when on shore were intoxication and worse debauchery, to be
gloried in and boasted of when they returned on board. My captain
said that everything found its level in a man-of-war. True; but in
a midshipman's berth it was the level of a savage, where corporal
strength was the _sine qua non_, and decided whether you were to act
the part of a tyrant or a slave. The discipline of public schools, bad
and demoralizing as it is, was light, compared to the tyranny of a
midshipman's berth in 1802.

A mistaken notion has long prevailed, that boys derive advantages from
suffering under the tyranny of their oppressors at schools; and we
constantly hear the praises of public schools and midshipmen's berths
on this very account--namely, "that boys are taught to find their
level." I do not mean to deny but that the higher orders improve by
collision with their inferiors, and that a young aristocrat is often
brought to his senses by receiving a sound thrashing from the son of a
tradesman. But he that is brought up a slave, will be a tyrant when he
has the power; the worst of our passions are nourished to inflict the
same evil on others which we boast of having suffered ourselves. The
courage and daring spirit of a noble-minded boy is rather broken down
by ill-usage, which he has not the power to resist, or, surmounting
all this, he proudly imbibes a dogged spirit of sullen resistance and
implacable revenge, which become the bane of his future life.

The latter was my fate; and let not my readers be surprised or
shocked, if, in the course of these adventures, I should display some
of the fruits of that fatal seed, so early and so profusely sown in my
bosom. If, on my first coming into the ship, I shrank back with horror
at the sound of blasphemy and obscenity--if I shut my eyes to
the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, it was not so long. By
insensible degrees, I became familiarised with vice, and callous
to its approach. In a few months I had become nearly as corrupt as
others. I might indeed have resisted longer; but though the fortress
of virtue could have held out against open violence, it could not
withstand the undermining of ridicule. My young companions, who, as I
have observed, had only preceded me six months in the service, were
already grown old in depravity; they laughed at my squeamishness,
called me "milksop" and "boarding-school miss," and soon made me as
bad as themselves. We had not quite attained the age of perpetration,
but we were fully prepared to meet it when it came.

I had not been two days on board, when the youngsters proposed a walk
into the main top. I mounted the rigging with perfect confidence, for
I was always a good climber; but I had not proceeded far, when I was
overtaken by the captain of the top and another man, who, without any
ceremony or preface, seized me by each arm, and very deliberately
lashed me fast in the rigging. They laughed at my remonstrance. I
asked what they meant, and the captain of the top said very civilly
taking off his hat at the same time, "that it was the way all gemmen
were sarved when they first went aloft; and I must pay my footing as a
bit of a parkazite." I looked down to the quarter-deck for assistance,
but every one there was laughing at me; and even the very little
rogues of midshipmen who had enticed me up were enjoying the joke.
Seeing this was the case, I only asked what was to pay. The captain of
the top said a seven shilling bit would be thought handsome. This I
promised to give, and was released on my own recognizances. When I
reached the quarter-deck I paid the money.

Having experienced nothing but cruelty and oppression since I had
been on board, I sorely repented of coming to sea; my only solace was
seeing Murphy, as he lay in his hammock, with his head bound up. This
was a balm to me. "I bide my time," said I; "I will yet be revenged on
all of you;" and so I was. I let none escape: I had them all in their
turns, and glutted my thirst for revenge.

I had been three weeks on board, when the ship was reported ready for
sea. I had acquired the favour of the first lieutenant by a constant
attention to the little duties he gave me to perform. I had been put
into a watch, and stationed in the fore-top, and quartered at the
foremast guns on the main deck. I was told by the youngsters that the
first lieutenant was a harsh officer, and implacable when once he
took a dislike; his manners, however, even when under the greatest
excitement, were always those of a perfect gentleman, and I continued
living on good terms with him. But with the second lieutenant I was
not so fortunate. He had ordered me to take the jolly-boat and bring
off a woman whom he kept; I remonstrated and refused, and from that
moment we never were friends.

Murphy had also recovered from his fall, and returned to his duty;
his malice towards me increased, and I had no peace or comfort in his
presence. One day he threw a biscuit at my head, calling me at the
same time a name which reflected on the legitimacy of my birth, in
language the most coarse and vulgar. In a moment all the admonitions
which I had received, and all my sufferings for impetuosity of temper,
were forgotten; the blood boiled in my veins, and trickled from my
wounded forehead. Dizzy, and almost sightless with rage, I seized a
brass candlestick, the bottom of which (to keep it steady at sea) was
loaded with lead, and threw it at him with all my might; had it taken
effect as I intended, that offence would have been his last. It missed
his head, and struck the black servant on the shoulder; the poor man
went howling to the surgeon, in whose care he remained for many days.

Murphy started up to take instant vengeance, but was held by the other
seniors of the mess, who unanimously declared that such an offence as
mine should be punished in a more solemn manner. A mock trial (without
adverting to the provocation I had received) found me guilty of
insubordination "to the oldsters," and setting a bad example to the
youngsters. I was sentenced to be _cobbed_ with a worsted stocking,
filled with wet sand. I was held down on my face on the mess-table
by four stout midshipmen; the surgeon's assistant held my wrist, to
ascertain if my pulse indicated exhaustion; while Murphy, at his own
particular request, became the executioner. Had it been any other but
him, I should have given vent to my agonizing pain by screams, but
like a sullen Ebo, I was resolved to endure even to death, rather than
gratify him by any expression of pain. After a most severe punishment,
a cold sweat and faintness alarmed the surgeon's assistant. I was then
released, but ordered to mess on my chest for a fortnight by myself.
As soon as I was able to stand, and had recovered my breath, I
declared in the most solemn manner, that a repetition of the offence
should produce the action for which I had suffered, and I would then
appeal to the captain for justice; "and," said I, turning to Murphy,
"it was I who cut down your hammock, and had very nearly knocked out
your brains. I did it in return for your cowardly attack on me; and
I will do it again, if I surfer martyrdom for it; for every act of
tyranny you commit I will have revenge. Try me now, and see if I am
not as good as my word." He grinned, and turned pale, but dared do no
more, for he was a coward.

I was ordered to quit the berth, which I did, and as I went out,
one of the mates observed, that I was "a proper malignant devil, by

This violent scene produced a sort of cessation from hostilities.
Murphy knew that he might expect a decanter at his head or a knife in
his side, if I was provoked; and that peace which I could not gain
from his compassion, I obtained from his fears. The affair made a
noise in the ship. With the officers in the gun-room I lost ground,
because it was misrepresented. With the men I gained favour, because
they hated Murphy. They saw the truth, and admired me for my
determined resistance.

Sent to Coventry by the officers, I sought the society of the men. I
learned rapidly the practical part of my duty, and profited by the
uncouth criticism of these rough warriors on the defective seamanship
of their superiors. A sort of compact was made between us: they
promised that whenever they deserted, it should not be from my boat
when on duty, and I promised to let them go and drink at public-houses
as long as I could spare them. In spite, however, of this mutual
understanding, two of them violated their faith the night before we
went to sea, and left the boat of which I had charge; and as I had
disobeyed orders in letting them go to a public-house, I was, on my
return to the ship, dismissed from the quarter-deck, and ordered to do
my duty in the fore-top.

Chapter III

The might of England flush'd
To anticipate the same;
And her van the fleeter rush'd
O'er the deadly space between.
"Hearts of oak!" our captains cried; when each gun
From its adamantine lips
Spread a death-shade round the ships,
Like the hurricane eclipse
Of the sun.


Considering my youth and inexperience, and the trifling neglect
of which I was accused, there are few, even of the most rigid
disciplinarians, who will not admit that I was both unjustly and
unkindly treated by the first lieutenant, who certainly, with all my
respect for him, had lent himself to my enemies. The second lieutenant
and Mr Murphy did not even conceal their feelings on the occasion, but
exulted over my disgrace.

The ship was suddenly ordered to Portsmouth, where the captain, who
had been on leave, was expected to join us, which he did soon after
our arrival, when the first lieutenant made his reports of good and
bad conduct during his absence. I had been about ten days doing duty
in the fore-top, and it was the intention of Mr Handstone, to which
the captain seemed not disinclined, to have given me a flogging at
the gun, as a gratuity for losing the men. This part of the sentence,
however, was not executed. I continued a member of the midshipmen's
mess, but was not allowed to enter the berth: my meals were sent to
me, and I took them _solus_ on my chest. The youngsters spoke to me,
but only by stealth, being afraid of the oldsters, who had sent me to
the most rigid Coventry.

My situation in the fore-top was nearly nominal. I went aloft when the
hands were called, or in my watch, and amused myself with a book until
we went below, unless there was any little duty for me to do, which
did not appear above my strength. The men doated on me as a martyr in
their cause, and delighted in giving me every instruction in the art
of knotting and splicing, rigging, reefing, furling, &c, &c.; and I
honestly own that the happiest hours I had passed in that ship were
during my seclusion among these honest tars.

Whether my enemies discovered this or not, I cannot say; but shortly
after our arrival I was sent for by the captain into his own cabin,
where I received a lecture on my misconduct, both as to my supposed
irritable and quarrelsome disposition, and also for losing the men out
of the boat. "In other respects," he added, "your punishment would
have been much more severe but for your general good conduct; and I
have no doubt, from this little well-timed severity, that you will in
future conduct yourself with more propriety. I therefore release you
from the disgraceful situation in which you are placed, and allow you
to return to your duty on the quarter-deck."

The tears which no brutality or ill-treatment could wring from me, now
flowed in abundance, and it was some minutes before I could recover
myself sufficiently to thank him for his kindness, and to explain the
cause of my disgrace. I told him, that since I had joined the ship I
had been treated like a dog; that he alone had been ignorant of it,
and that he alone had behaved to me with humanity. I then related all
my sufferings, from the moment of that fatal glass of wine up to
the time I was speaking. I did not conceal the act of cutting down
Murphy's hammock, nor of throwing the candlestick at his head. I
assured him I never gave any provocation; that I never struck without
being first stricken. I said, moreover, that I would never receive a
blow or be called an improper name without resenting it, as far as
I was able. It was my nature, and if killed, I could not help it.
"Several men have run away," said I, "since I came into the ship and
before, and the officers under whose charge they were only received a
reprimand, while I, who have just come to sea, have been treated with
the greatest and most degrading severity."

The captain listened to my defence with attention, and I thought
seemed very much struck with it. I afterwards learnt that Mr Handstone
had received a reprimand for his harsh treatment of me; he observed,
that I should one day turn out a shining character, or go to the

It appeared pretty evident to me, that however I might have roused
the pride and resentment of the senior members of the mess by my
resistance to arbitrary power, that I had gained some powerful
friends, among whom was the captain. Many of the officers admired that
dogged, "don't care" spirit of resistance which I so perseveringly
displayed, and were forced to admit that I had right on my side. I
soon perceived the change of mind by the frequency of invitations to
the cabin and gun-room tables. The youngsters were proud to receive me
again openly as their associate; but the oldsters regarded me with
a jealousy and suspicion like that of an unpopular government to a
favourite radical leader.

I soon arranged with the boys of my own age a plan of resistance, or
rather of self-defence, which proved of great importance in our future
warfare. One or two of them had nerve enough to follow it up: the
others made fair promises, but fell off in the hour of trial. My code
consisted of only two maxims: the first was always to throw a bottle,
decanter, candlestick, knife, or fork, at the head of any person who
should strike one of us, if the assailant should appear too strong to
encounter in fair fight. The second was, never to allow ourselves to
be unjustly defrauded of our rights; to have an equal share of what we
paid equally for; and to gain by artifice that which was withheld by

I explained to them that by the first plan we should ensure civility,
at least; for as tyrants are generally cowards, they would be afraid
to provoke that anger which in some unlucky moment might be fatal to
them, or maim them for life. By the second, I promised to procure them
an equal share in the good things of this life, the greater part of
which the oldsters engrossed to themselves: in this latter we were
much more unanimous than the former, as it incurred less personal
risk. I was the projector of all the schemes for forage, and was
generally successful.

At length we sailed to join the fleet off Cadiz, under the command of
Lord Nelson. I shall not pretend to describe the passage down Channel
and across the Bay of Biscay. I was sea-sick as a lady in a Dover
packet, until inured to the motion of the ship by the merciless calls
to my duties aloft, or to relieve the deck in my watch.

We reached our station, and joined the immortal Nelson but a few hours
before that battle in which he lost his life and saved his country.
The history of that important day has been so often and so
circumstantially related, that I cannot add much more to the stock
on hand. I am only astonished, seeing the confusion and _invariable
variableness_ of a sea-light, how so much could be known. One
observation occurred to me then, and I have thought of it ever since
with redoubled conviction; this was, that the admiral, after the
battle began, was no admiral at all: he could neither see nor be seen;
he could take no advantage of the enemy's weak points or defend his
own; his ship, the _Victory_, one of our finest three-deckers, was, in
a manner, tied up alongside a French eighty-gun ship.

These observations I have read in some naval work, and in my mind
they receive ample confirmation. I could not help feeling an agony of
anxiety (young as I was) for my country's glory, when I saw the noble
leaders of our two lines exposed to the united fire of so many ships.
I thought Nelson was too much exposed, and think so now. Experience
has confirmed what youthful fancy suggested; the enemy's centre should
have been _macadamized_ by our seven three-deckers, some of which, by
being placed in the rear, had little share in the action; and but for
the intimidation which their presence afforded, might as well have
been at Spithead. I mean no reflection on the officers who had charge
of them: accidental concurrence of light wind and station in the line,
threw them at such a distance from the enemy as kept them in the back
ground the greater part of the day.

Others, again, were in enviable situations, but did not, as far as I
could learn from the officers, do quite so much as they might have
done. This defect on our part being met by equal disadvantages,
arising from nearly similar causes, on that of the enemy, a clear
victory remained to us. The aggregate of the British navy is brave and
good; and we must admit that in this day "when England expected
every man to do his duty," there were but few who disappointed their
country's hopes.

When the immortal signal was communicated, I shall never, no, never,
forget the electric effect it produced through the fleet. I can
compare it to nothing so justly as to a match laid to a long train of
gunpowder; and as Englishmen are the same, the same feeling, the same
enthusiasm, was displayed in every ship; tears ran down the cheeks of
many a noble fellow when the affecting sentence was made known.
It recalled every past enjoyment, and filled the mind with fond
anticipations which, with many, were never, alas! to be realised. They
went down to their guns without confusion; and a cool, deliberate
courage from that moment seemed to rest on the countenance of every
man I saw.

My captain, though not in the line, was no niggard in the matter of
shot, and though he had no real business to come within range until
called by signal, still he thought it his duty to be as near to our
ships engaged as possible, in order to afford them assistance when
required. I was stationed at the foremost guns on the main deck, and
the ship cleared for action; and though on a comparatively small
scale, I cannot imagine a more solemn, grand, or impressive sight,
than a ship prepared as ours was on that occasion. Her noble tier of
guns, in a line gently curving out towards the centre; the tackle laid
across the deck; the shot and wads prepared in ample store (round,
grape, and canister); the powder-boys, each with his box full, seated
on it, with perfect apparent indifference as to the approaching
conflict. The captains of guns, with their priming boxes buckled round
their waists; the locks fixed upon the guns; the lanyards laid around
them; the officers, with their swords drawn, standing by their
respective divisions.

The quarter-deck was commanded by the captain in person, assisted by
the first lieutenant, the lieutenant of marines, a party of small-arm
men, with the mate and midshipmen, and a portion of seamen to attend
the braces and fight the quarter-deck guns. The boatswain was on the
forecastle; the gunner in the magazine, to send up a supply of powder
to the guns; the carpenter watched and reported, from time to time,
the depth of water in the well; he also walked round the wings or
vacant spaces between the ship's side and the cables, and other
stores. He was attended by his mates, who were provided with
shot-plugs, oakum, and tallow, to stop any shot-holes which might be

The surgeon was in the cockpit with his assistants. The knives, saws,
tourniquets, sponges, basins, wine and water, were all displayed and
ready for the first unlucky patient that might be presented. This was
more awful to me than anything I had seen. "How soon," thought I, "may
I be stretched, mangled and bleeding, on this table, and have occasion
for all the skill and all the instruments I now see before me!" I
turned away, and endeavoured to forget it all.

As soon as the fleet bore up to engage the enemy, we did the same,
keeping as near as we could to the admiral, whose signals we were
ordered to repeat. I was particularly astonished with the skilful
manner in which this was done. It was wonderful to see how
instantaneously the same flags were displayed at our mast-heads as had
been hoisted by the admiral; and the more wonderful this appeared to
me, since his flags were rolled up in round balls, which were not
broken loose until they had reached the mast-head, so that the signal
officers of a repeater had to make out the number of the flag during
its passage aloft in disguise. This was done by the power of good
telescopes, and from habit, and sometimes by anticipation of the
signal that would be next made.

The reader may perhaps not be aware that among civilised nations, in
naval warfare, ships of the line never fire at frigates, unless they
provoke hostility by interposing between belligerent ships, or firing
into them, as was the case in the Nile, when Sir James Saumarez, in
the _Orion_, was under the necessity of sinking the _Artemise_, which
he did with one broadside, as a reward for her temerity. Under this
_pax in bellum_ sort of compact we might have come off scot-free, had
we not partaken very liberally of the shot intended for larger ships,
which did serious damage among our people.

The two British lines running down parallel to each other, and nearly
perpendicular to the crescent line of the combined fleets, was the
grandest sight that was ever witnessed. As soon as our van was within
gun-shot of the enemy, they opened their fire on the _Royal Sovereign_
and the _Victory_; but when the first-named of these noble ships
rounded to, under the stern of the _Santa Anna_, and the _Victory_ had
very soon after laid herself on board the _Redoubtable_, the clouds
of smoke enveloped both fleets, and little was to be seen except the
falling of masts, and here and there, as the smoke blew away, a ship
totally dismasted.

One of these proved to be English, and our captain, seeing her between
two of the enemy, bore up to take her in tow: at the same time, one
of our ships of the line opened a heavy fire on one of the French
line-of-battle ships, unluckily situated in a right line between us,
so that the shot which missed the enemy sometimes came on board of us.
I was looking out of the bow port at the moment that a shot struck our
ship on the stern between wind and water. It was the first time I had
ever seen the effect of a heavy shot; it made a great splash, and to
me as I then thought, a very unusual noise, throwing a great deal of
water in my face. I very naturally started back, as I believe many a
brave fellow has done. Two of the seamen quartered at my guns laughed
at me. I felt ashamed, and resolved to show no more such weakness.

This shot was very soon succeeded by some others not quite so
harmless: one came into the bow port, and killed the two men who had
witnessed my trepidation. My pride having been hurt that these men
should have seen me flinch, I will own that I was secretly pleased
when I saw them removed beyond the reach of human interrogation. It
would be difficult to describe my feelings on this occasion. Not six
weeks before, I was the robber of hen-roosts and gardens--the hero of
a horse-pond, ducking an usher--now suddenly, and almost without any
previous warning or reflection, placed in the midst of carnage, and an
actor of one of those grand events by which the fate of the civilised
world was to be decided.

A quickened circulation of blood, a fear of immediate death, and a
still greater fear of shame, forced me to an involuntary and frequent
change of position; and it required some time, and the best powers of
intellect, to reason myself into that frame of mind in which I could
feel as safe and as unconcerned as if we had been in harbour. To this
state I at last did attain, and soon felt ashamed of the perturbation
under which I had laboured before the firing began. I prayed, it is
true: but my prayer was not that of faith, of trust, or of hope--I
prayed only for safety from imminent personal danger; and my orisons
consisted of one or two short, pious ejaculations, without a thought
of repentance for the past or amendment for the future.

But when we had once got fairly into action, I felt no more of
this, and beheld a poor creature cut in two by a shot with the same
indifference that at any other time I should have seen a butcher kill
an ox. Whether my heart was bad or not, I cannot say; but I certainly
felt my curiosity was gratified more than my feelings were shocked
when a raking shot killed seven and wounded three more. I was sorry
for the men, and, for the world, would not have injured them; but
I had a philosophic turn of mind; I liked to judge of causes and
effects; and I was secretly pleased at seeing the effect of a raking

Towards four P.M. the firing began to abate, the smoke cleared away,
and the calm sea became ruffled with an increasing breeze. The two
hostile fleets were quiet spectators of each other's disasters. We
retained possession of nineteen or twenty sail of the line. Some of
the enemy's ships were seen running away into Cadiz; while four others
passed to windward of our fleet, and made their escape. A boat going
from our ship to one near us, I jumped into her, and learned the death
of Lord Nelson, which I communicated to the captain, who, after paying
a tribute to the memory of that great man, looked at me with much
complacency. I was the only youngster that had been particularly
active, and he immediately despatched me with a message to a ship at
a short distance. The first lieutenant asked if he should not send an
officer of more experience. "No," said the captain, "he shall go; the
boy knows very well what he is about!" and away I went, not a little
proud of the confidence placed in me.

Further details of this eventful day are to be found recorded in our
national histories; it will, therefore, be needless to repeat them
here. When I met my messmates at supper in the berth, I was sorry to
see Murphy among them. I had flattered myself that some fortunate shot
would have for ever divested me of any further care on his account;
but his time was not come.

"The devil has had a fine haul to-day!" said an old master's mate, as
he took up his glass of grog.

"Pity you, and some others I could name, had not been in the net!"
thinks I to myself.

"I hope plenty of the lieutenants are bowled out!" said another; "we
shall stand some chance then of a little promotion!"

When the hands were turned up to muster, the number of killed amounted
to nine, and wounded to thirteen. When this was made known, there
seemed to be a general smile of congratulation at the number fallen,
rather than of their regret for their loss. The vanity of the officers
seemed tickled at the disproportionate slaughter in a frigate of our
size, as compared to what they had heard the ships of the line had

I attended the surgeon in the steerage, to which place the wounded
were removed, and saw all the amputations performed, without
flinching; while men who had behaved well in the action fainted at
the sight. I am afraid I almost took a pleasure in observing the
operations of the surgeon, without once reflecting on the pain
suffered by the patient. Habit had now begun to corrupt my mind. I was
not cruel by nature; I loved the deep investigation of hidden things;
and this day's action gave me a very clear insight into the anatomy
of the human frame, which I had seen cut in two by shot, lacerated by
splinters, carved out with knives, and separated with saws.

Soon after the action, we were ordered to Spithead, with duplicate
despatches. One morning I heard a midshipman say, "he would do his old
father out of a new kit." I inquired what that meant, was first called
a greenhorn for not knowing, and then had it explained to me. "Don't
you know," said my instructor, "that after every action there is more
canvas, rope, and paint, expended in the warrant-officer's accounts
than were destroyed by the enemy?"

I assented to this on the credit of the informer, without knowing
whether it was true or false, and he proceeded. "How are we to have
white hammock-clothes, sky-sail masts, and all other finery, besides a
coat of paint for the ship's sides every six weeks, if we don't expend
all these things in action, and pretend they were lost overboard, or
destroyed? The list of defects are given in to the admiral, he signs
the demand, and the old commissioner must come down with the stores,
whether he will or not. I was once in a sloop of war, when a large
forty-four-gun frigate ran on board of us, carried away her jib-boom,
and left her large fine-weather jib hanging on our foreyard. It was
made of beautiful Russia duck, and to be sure, didn't we make a gang
of white hammock-cloths, fore and aft, besides white trousers for the
men? Well now, you must know, that as we make _Uncle George_ suffer
for the stores, so I mean to make dad suffer for my traps. I mean to
lose my chest overboard with all my 'kit,' and return home to him and
the old woman just fit for the fashion."

"And do you really mean to deceive your father and mother in that
way?" replied I, with much apparent innocence.

"Do I? to be sure I do, you flat. How am I to keep up my stock, if I
don't make the proper use of an action like this that we have been

I took the hint: it never once occurred to me, that if I had fairly
and candidly stated to my parents that my stock of clothes were
insufficient for my appearance as a gentleman on the quarter-deck,
that they would cheerfully have increased it to any reasonable extent.
But I had been taught artifice and cunning; I could tell the truth
where I thought it served my purpose, as well as a lie; but here I
thought deception was a proof at once of spirit and of merit; and I
resolved to practise it, if only to raise myself a trifling degree
in the estimation of my unworthy associates. I had become partial to
deception from habit, and preferred exercising my own ingenuity
in outwitting my father, to obtaining what I needed by more
straightforward and honourable measures.

The ship needed some repairs, and by the indulgence of the captain,
who was pleased with my conduct, I, who required so much instruction
in the nature and cause of her defects, was allowed to be absent while
they were made good. By this oversight, I lost all that improvement
which I should have gained by close attention to the unrigging or
shipping of the ship; the manner of returning her stores; taking out
her masts and ballast, and seeing her taken into dock; the shape of
her bottom, and the good or bad qualities which might be supposed to
accelerate or retard her movements. All this was sacrificed to the
impatience of seeing my parents; to the vainglory of boasting of the
action in which I had been present; and, perhaps, of being encouraged
to tell lies of things which I never saw, and to talk of feats which I
never performed. I loved effect; and I timed the moment of my return
to my father's house (through a correspondence with my sister) to be
just as a large party had sat down to a sumptuous dinner. I had only
been absent three months, it is true; but it was my first cruise,
and then "I had seen so much, and been in such very interesting

Chapter IV

'Twill be time to go home. What shall I say I have done? It must
be a very plausive invention that carries it. I find my tongue is
too foolhardy.--SHAKESPEARE.

Reaching the well known mansion of my father, I knocked softly at the
front door, was admitted, and, without saying a word to the servant,
rushed to the head of the dining-room table, and threw my arms round
my mother's neck, who only screamed, "Good heavens, my child!" and
fell into hysterics. My father, who was in the very midst of helping
his soup, jumped up to embrace me and assist my mother. The company
all rose, like a covey of partridges: one lady spoiled a new pink
satin gown by a tip of the elbow from her next neighbour, just as a
spoonful of soup had reached "the rosy portals of her mouth;" the
little spaniel, Carlo, set up a loud and incessant bark; and in one
minute the whole comely arrangement of the feast was converted into
anarchy and confusion.

Order was, however, soon restored: my mother recovered her
composure--my father shook me by the hand--the company all agreed that
I was a very fine, interesting boy--the ladies resumed their seats,
and I had the satisfaction to observe that my sudden appearance had
not deprived them of their appetites. I soon convinced them that
in this particular, at least, I also was in high training. My
midshipman's life had neither disqualified nor disgusted me with the
luxuries of the table; nor did I manifest the slightest backwardness
or diffidence when invited by the gentlemen to take wine. I answered
every question with such fluency of speech, and such compound interest
of words, as sometimes caused the propounder to regret that he had put
me to the trouble of speaking.

I gave a very florid description of the fight; praised some admirals
and captains for their bravery, sneered at others, and accused a few
of right down misconduct. Now and then, by way of carrying conviction
into my auditors' very souls, I rammed home my charges with an oath,
at which my father looked grave, my mother held up her finger, the
gentlemen laughed, and the ladies all said with a smile, "Sweet
boy!--what animation!--what sense!--what discernment!" Thinks I to
myself, "You are as complete a set of gulls as ever picked up a bit of

Next morning, while my recent arrival was still warm, I broke the
subject of my chest to my father and mother at breakfast; indeed, my
father, very fortunately for me, began by inquiring how my stock of
clothes held out.

"Bad enough," said I, as I demolished the third egg, for I still had a
good appetite at breakfast.

"Bad enough!" repeated my father, "why you were extremely well fitted
with everything."

"Very true, sir," said I; "but then you don't know what a man-of-war
is in clearing for action; everything not too hot or too heavy is
chucked overboard with as little ceremony as I swallow this muffin.
'Whose hat-box is this?' 'Mr Spratt's, sir.' 'D----n Mr Spratt, I'll
teach him to keep his hat-box safe another time; over with it'--and
away it went over the lee gangway. Spratt's father was a hatter in
Bond Street, so we all laughed."

"And pray, Frank," said my mother, "did your box go in the same way?"

"It kept company, I assure you. I watched them go astern, with tears
in my eyes, thinking how angry you would be."

"Well, but the chest, Frank, what became of the chest? You said that
the Vandals had some respect for heavy objects, and yours, I am sure,
to my cost, had very considerable specific gravity."

"That's very true, sir; but you have no notion how much it was
lightened the first day the ship got to sea. I was lying on it as sick
as a whale--the first lieutenant and mate of the lower deck came down
to see if the men's berths were clean; I, and my Noah's ark, lay slap
in the way--'Who have we here?' said Mr Handstone. 'Only Mr Mildmay,
and his chest, sir,' said the sergeant of marines, into whose
territory I acknowledged I had made very considerable incroachments.
'Only!' repeated the lieutenant, 'I thought it had been one of the
big stones for the new bridge, and the owner of it a drunken Irish
hodman.' I was too sick to care much about what they said."

"You forget your breakfast," said my sister.

"I'll thank you for another muffin, and another cup of coffee," said

"Poor fellow!" said my mother, "what he must have suffered!"

"Oh! I have not told you half yet, my dear mother; I only wonder I am

"Alive, indeed!" said my Aunt Julia; "here, my dear, here is a small
trifle to help you to replenish the stock you have lost in the service
of your country. Noble little fellow! what should we do without

I pocketed the little donation--it was a ten-pounder; finished my
breakfast, by adding a slice of ham and half a French roll to the
articles already shipped, and then continued my story. "The first
thing Mr Handstone said, was, that my chest was too big; and the next
thing he said, was, 'tell the carpenter I want him. Here, Mr Adze,
take this chest; reduce it one foot in length, and one in height.'
'Ay, ay, sir,' said Adze; 'come, young gentleman, move off, and give
me your key.' Sick as I was, I knew remonstrance or prayer were alike
useless, so I crawled off and presented my key to the carpenter, who
very deliberately unlocked, and as expeditiously unloaded all my
treasure. The midshipmen all gathered round. The jars of preserves and
the cakes of gingerbread which you, my dearest mother, had so nicely
packed up for me, were seized with greediness, and devoured before my
face. One of them thrust his filthy paw into a pot of black currant
jelly, which you gave me for a sore throat, and held a handful of it
to my mouth, knowing at the same time that I was ready to be sea-sick
in his hand."

"I shall never bear the sight of jelly again," said my sister.

"The nasty brutes!" said my aunt.

"Well," I resumed, "all my nice things went; and, sick as I was, I
wished them gone; but when they laughed and spoke disrespectfully of
you, my dear mother, I was ready to fly up and tear their eyes out."

"Never mind, my dear boy," said my mother, "we will make all right

"So I suppose we must," said my father; "but no more jelly and
ginger-bread, if you please, my dear. Proceed with your story, Frank."

"Well, sir, in half-an-hour my chest was ready for me again; but while
they were about it, they might have taken off another foot, for I
found ample space to stow what the plunderers had left. The preserve
jars, being all empty, were given of course to the marines; and some
other heavy articles being handed away, I was no longer puzzled how
to stow them. After this, you know, sir, we had the action, and then
chest and bedding and all went to the ----."

"Do they throw all the chests and bedding overboard on these
occasions?" said my father, with a cool and steady gaze in my face,
which I had some trouble in facing back again.

"Yes; always everything that is in the way, and my chest was in the
way, and away it went. You know, sir, I could not knock down the first
lieutenant: they would have hanged me at the yard-arm."

"Thank Heaven, you did not, my love," said my mother; "what _has_
happened can be repaired, but _that_ could never have been got over.
And your books, what is become of them?"

"All went in the lump. They are somewhere near the entrance of the Gut
of Gibraltar--all lost except my Bible: I saved that, as I happened to
be reading it in my berth the night before the action!"

"Excellent boy!" exclaimed my mother and aunt both together; "I am
sure he speaks the truth."

"I hope he does," said my father, drily; "though it must be owned that
these sea-fights, however glorious for Old England, are very expensive
amusements to the parents of young midshipmen, unless the boys happen
to be knocked on the head."

Whether my father began to smell a rat, or whether he was afraid of
putting more questions, for fear of hearing more fibs, I know not, but
I was not sorry when the narrative was concluded, and I dismissed with
flying colours.

To my shame be it spoken, the Bible that assisted me so much in my
mother's opinion, had never but once been opened since I had left
home, and that was to examine if there were any bank-notes between the
leaves, having heard of such things being done, merely to try whether
young gentlemen did "search the Scriptures."

My demands were all made good. I believe with the greater celerity, as
I began to grow very tiresome; my _sea_ manners were not congenial to
the drawing-room. My mother, aunt, and sister, were very different
from the females I had been in the habit of seeing on board the
frigate. My oaths and treatment of the servants, male and female, all
conspired to reconcile the family to my departure. They therefore
heard with pleasure that my leave was expired; and, having obtained
all I wanted, I did not care one pin how soon I got clear of them;
so when the coach came to the door, I jumped in, drove to the Golden
Cross, and the next morning rejoined my ship.

I was received with cheerfulness and cordiality by most of my
shipmates, except Murphy and some of his cronies; nor did one feeling
of regret or compunction enter my mind for the lies and hypocrisy with
which I had deceived and cheated my parents. The reader will probably
be aware that except the circumstance of reducing the size of my
chest, and the seizure and confiscation of my jars and gingerbread,
there was scarcely a vestige of truth in my story. That I had lost
most of my things was most true; but they were lost by my own
carelessness, and not by being thrown overboard. After losing the key
of my chest, which happened the day I joined, a rapid decrease of my
stock convinced the first lieutenant that a much smaller package might
be made of the remainder, and this was the sole cause of my chest
being converted into a razee.

My fresh stock of clothes I brought down in a trunk, which I found
very handy, and contrived to keep in better order than I had formerly
done. The money given me to procure more bedding, I pocketed: indeed
I began to grow cunning. I perceived that the best-dressed midshipmen
had always the most pleasant duties to perform. I was sent to bring
off parties of ladies who came to visit the ship, and to dine with the
captain and officers. I had a tolerably good address, and was reckoned
a very handsome boy; and though stout of my age, the ladies admitted
me to great freedom under pretence of my being still a dear little
darling of a middy, and so perfectly innocent in my mind and manners.
The fact is, I was kept in much better order on board my ship than I
was in my father's house--so much for the habit of discipline; but
this was all outside show. My father was a man of talent, and knew the
world, but he knew nothing of the navy; and when I had got him out of
his depth, I served him as I did the usher: that is, I soused him and
his company head over heels in the horse-pond of their own ignorance.
Such is the power of local knowledge and cunning over abstruse science
and experience.

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