Page images

witless of all these new sea-novels, we should not have thought of wasting any time on another book from the same hand; but our eye chancing to light on the motto to the first chapter of this · Port Admiral,' purporting to be a quotation from a letter of Sir Edward Codrington, we were curious to see what use a writer of this stamp had made of such a text from so great an authority. It is also possible that curiosity may have been whetted by our recollection of the author having, in his first work, given a new edition of the battle of Navarino;-of that unfortunate attack of the combined fleets of the three great maritime powers of Europe on a handful of miserable Turks-of that battle which, we are morally certain, will once more at least be fought over again, when, in, imitation of the god-like hero' of old, (pardon the profanation,) we may probably hear that

i Thrice he routed all the Turks,

And thrice he slew the slain.' The motto is as follows:

*I am an enemyto slavery in any shape, under whatever name it may be disguised; and my blood boils when I contemplate the oppressions which are passed by under another designation. Is not a pressed man a slave to the will of a despot ?'-LETTER OP VICE-ADMIRAL SIR EDWARD CODRINGTON,

The patrimonial and professional position of the gallant sugargrower gives this passage not only weight but pathos. Who must not pity the enemy of slavery in any shape, who has been pocketing, for thirty or forty years, the proceeds of the Codrington plantation'? Who but sympathize with the author of the triumphant question—Is not a pressed man a slave to the will of a despot?' —when it is certain that he, the said author, acted throughout the great war of our time in the various capacities of midshipman, lieutenant, and captain, in the royal navy—and therefore must, it is but too certain, have often, per se aut per alium, enslaved his fellow whites, and acted the despot over them in their unjustly degraded condition !

Our novelist's commentary on the text we have quoted occupies the greater part of his first volume-which indeed has hardly a thread of coni

onnexion with the story of the other two. The chief despots' whom he attacks are the late Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, and his captain, Austen Bissell, both of whom unfortunately perished in the Blenheim, off the Isle of France,-a calamity that alone might have restrained any man of proper feeling from raking up the ashes of the dead, to say nothing of heaping the most cruel, calumnious, and utterly unfounded aspersions on their memories. That this is the ship, and these the men, whom he means to describe, he, however, is at no pains to conceal. Sir Thomas, as is well known, was the bosom friend of Lord


Nelson and of Lord St. Vincent. In the battle off St. Vincent, when Nelson exclaimed for victory or Westminster Abbey, he was nobly supported by Troubridge in the Culloden. At Teneriffe, when Nelson lost his arm, and all who had landed were in imminent peril of falling into the hands of the enemy, Troubridge kindled a fire in the great square, assembled his people to the number of about two hundred and forty, and sent a flag of truce to the Spanish governor, who was at the head of eight thousand troops, to announce that if he did not immediately halt, and give a free and unmolested passage for his men to their ships, he would instantly set fire to the town. The governor at once acceded to the terms. At the battle of the Nile, Troubridge, in the Colloden, had the mortification of grounding, which prevented him from getting into action ; on which occasion Lord Nelson said, 'Let us, my dear Troubridge, rather rejoice that the ship which got on shore was commanded by an officer whose character is so thoroughly established in the service as your own. Nelson, after this battle, when undera depression of spirits, writes to Lord St. Vincent, 'I feel that I must soon leave my situation to Troubridge, than whom we both know no person is more equal to the task.' He afterwards says,' I trust you will not take him from me. I well know he is my superior; and I so often want his advice and assistance. On the capture of St. Elmo, Lord Nelson says, although the abilities and resources of my brave friend Troubridge are well known to all the world, yet even he had difficulties to struggle with in every way that have raised his great character even higher than it was before.' He was subsequently appointed captain of the Channel fleet, under the Earl St. Vincent, with whom he afterwards sat as one of the Lords of the Admiralty. On the late Lord Melville's succeeding to the administration, he appointed him to the command of the Indian seas eastward of Point de Galle. He had not long been there before he was appointed commander-in-chief at the Cape of Good Hope, for which place he sailed from Bombay in the Blenheim, in company of the Java, and the Harrier sloop, by the last of which the two former vessels were seen off the Mauritius, in a perfect hurricane and a tremendous sea, and were never beard of more. Sir T. Troubridge was a man of an anxious and ardent mind; full of devotion for the service, in which he raised himself solely by his own merit and exertions; he was kind to those who served under him, and was greatly beloved both by bis officers and men.

The memory of such a man, it would be supposed, was not a fit subject for ridicule and defamation ;-yet this brave and distinguished officer, now that a quarter of a century has passed by since his death, is here described as a monster in hunian shape

into whose bosom 'compassion never entered ;-who had no sympathy with the common feelings of his fellow-creatures, but took a pleasure in heaping insult and mockery on the victims of misery; -venting his rage in the most coarse and blasphemous epithets, such as never could escape the lips of any one having the slightest pretensions to the character of a gentleman. Nor does this author contine himself to the defamation of the late Sir Thomas Troubridge-his captain, and lieutenants :- the whole naval service is grossly and scandalously libelled in these volumes.

It would not be worth our while to say anything of the novel as a novel. Its story, if such it may be called, is puerile and absurd, the language mean, vulgar, and offensive, and the sentiments base and detestable; the characters low, consisting of spies, traitors, and smugglers; and his females !--we suspect the creature was never admitted into the society of decent females. And yet he is not without some share of talent neither; some of his descriptions are vivid and highly coloured, but these are so many little oases scattered over a vast waste, withered and blighted by the breath of scandal. In fact, the main object, both in this and his former work, seems to be that which, we are sorry to observe, is but a too common one with the feeders of even the novel-press in the present day-namely, to degrade men in eminent situations, and to hold up all in office or command as plunderers of the public purse, and cold, selfish tyrants, destitute of any regard for those placed under their authority or influence. An instance taken at random will suffice to show the spirit in which he writes.

The hero of his story (a sneaking sycophant of Buonaparte, and a spy!) listens to a conversation between Sir Richard Salisbury, the Port-Admiral of Plynouth, and one of the Lords of the Admiralty, on a visit of inspection there.

• You may call it “ moonshine,” if you like, Sir Richard,' said the latter, but I fear if these facts come to the knowledge of his majesty's ministers, it will be denominated smuggling--a breach of our laws—and treated as such; particularly in one whose rank would war. rant us in expecting him to prove a good example to his inferiors. I should really be very sorry to be instrumental in bringing about any inquiry that might hurt one I value so much as Sir Richard Salisbury. If you could point out any path by which I could escape laying this serious information before Lord : but you see by suppressing it I might inculpate myself.'-vol. iii. pp. 73, 74.

Sir Richard justifies the practice-hates the excise—was so used to do a little ever since he was a boy, that it would break his heart to leave it off.

However," says the old smuggling Port-Admiral, “what you say is very true I can only repeat at present, that you shall never be a loser through Richard Salisbury." The Lord of the Admiralty



slept at the house that night, and on retiring to his chamber found on his dressing table a sealed letter superscribed for himself. He opened it. Within was a bill, drawn on a certain house in London, for five hundred pounds, “ the amount of his share for moonshine' received." The bill only required his signature to be available, while the envelope contained these words—" The endorser, by using a similar form, is at liberty to draw on Messrs. * *

every quarter." Suffice it to say here, that it was tendered, accepted, and paid. The Lord of the Adm-r-lty gained an additional increase of two thousand a-year by the visit of inspection, during which he learnt of Sir Richard's smuggling. Nor did the hearty old officer ever hear one word more about his moonshine being laid before his majesty's ministers: so far from that, it continued “ moonshine" to the last.'--pp. 74,75.

A considerable portion of the Port-Admiral' is dedicated to the display of the sentiments of hatred felt and expressed by Napoleon Buonaparte towards this country, and wherever they occur, they are accompanied by an abundant sprinkling of the felicitous ejaculation bah! This great personage, then first consul, visits England in disguise, and, under the guidance of the traitorous hero of the tale—and the liberal patriot Mr. Fox!-sees everything, is made acquainted with all the dessous des cartes, goes to the House of Commons to hear Mr. Pilt, treads on the Prince of Wales's toe under the Gallery, in order to get into conversation with him; and enjoys some gay larks in company with our present gracious monarch—who is represented as having been, in the days of the Boulogne flotilla, a romping youth of a midshipman-and of two gallant officers, who must at that period have been children. When at length the implacable enemy of England is safely lodged on board the Bellerophon, the tale finishes with a flowery lament over the lofty virtues, mistaken views, and fallen fortunes of the man of the age,' and with rude and impertinent abuse of the British government.

• The foe, prostrated by his fate, their magnanimity led them to insult; and the confiding enemy who threw himself upon the generosity of the nation, they betrayed with the most perfidious treachery, and aggravated with the most deliberate contumely and oppression. Croiser,—[this is the scoundrel hero of the book,]— however, never ceased to take the liveliest interest in his fortunes; and, on learning his cruel sentence, he applied to be appointed governor of the rock on which he languished through his dreadful captivity. This, however, the ministry refused; and, bent on adding to their victim's torture by the vilest means, they sent out one whose name will continue to be abhorred among mankind, as long as their admiration is capable of being excited by that which is great, or their detestation and scorn by that which is Low.'-pp. 367, 368. This last miserable pun on the name of a brave officer, more sinned against than sinning, is worthy the quarter it comes from. We all know with what shame and confusion every responsible liberal, that has ever dared to impeach the character of Sir Hudson Lowe, has been fain to retreat from his charge. It is our belief that no man was ever placed in a more difficult position, or con. ducted himself therein with greater fortitude and humanity, or has been more wantonly and malignantly subjected to the tyranny of safe slander !

We think it right to note a few of this author's drafts on the credulity of his readers; and in the very first sentence of the grand episode, i.e. the first volume of the book, our attention is called to the situation of a young officer placed in irons, in a miserable hutch on the poop of Sir T. Troubridge's ship, then lying in the harbour of Bombay,—and to a seaman crossing secretly to his prison with a little mess o' beef and a drop of grog,' because,


"I couldn't abide to see your honour starving up here sivin banyan days in the week.' An officer, or even the lowest swabber, starving on board a king's ship !- Either the writer knows, and if so he is a knave,—or he does not know, and then he is a fool,--that neither admiral nor captain dares to withhold any portion of the established allowance of provisions from any one on board.

In the next page we have summoned before the ferocious admiral, on a most absurd and ridiculous charge, one of the principal characters in the piece, namely, the carpenter of the ship, whom, we are told, in an evil hour, it had pleased certain of bis majesty's officers to attack, overpower, and impress into his majesty's service. This happened, the story proceeds, at Cork, where there was a regulating officer, who of course examined, and passed, or discharged, all the men pressed at that post, and as this carpenter, being a landsman settled there, was not liable to be impressed, he must, of course, have been discharged,—but no matter; have him they (who?) were determined. They knew he was settled in life--that he would leave behind him a young wife and two infant children,- but what of that? His conquerors' hearts were steeled more adamantine than their gyves; and within twenty-four hours after his capture, the ship was bearing him away to cross the vast Atlantic.'

"Græme had often begged permission to go home; but unhappily “he was too good a hand, he could not be spared.” “ Almighty God! responded the maddened man to himself; “must I be led, by the conduct of my fellow-creatures, to curse the very bounties which Thy hand hath bestowed ! Make me a complete fool,—an idiot; strike me with pestilence, disease—wither my frame-let me become an outcast, of no use to these tyrants ; but conduct me to support the un


« PreviousContinue »