|Selected Extracts from the "Naval Sketch Book" Vol I|
A Distinction without a Difference
THE parsimonious habits of a late distinguished admiral have frequently afforded subject for merriment afloat. The story of 'poor piggy must die,' is well known in the navy, and may here serve to identify the name of the departed chief.
In 'taking care of number one,' Sir John was
unique; and in the practice of domestic economy Lady E herself might not have despised the veteran's tuition.
Wherever he was employed as port-admiral, a portion of the flag-ship's crew was daily despatched with the dawn to milk the cows, ‘start the pigs1,' and stuff the turkeys. The bravest on board were converted into cow-herds; and there was hardly a boy on the books' who had not undertaken the duty of a dog ; or who had not, at some period of the day, ‘looked sheepish' in watching the admiral's flock. Sentinels selected from the after-guard and waist had to keep the cows in clover, and a ‘bright look-out' that bipeds did not trample on the grass, or in any way permit the cattle to be disturbed at their meals.
1 The late surgeon Wadd observes, in his Comments on Corpulency and Leanness, that "among the most singular propositions for fattening the person that our inquiries have furnished us with, that of flagellation is the most whimsical." In the Artificial Changeling we read, that the Magones were wont to adopt this practice, to make their bodies more fat for sale.
It once happened that an Irish waister had been personally directed by the admiral to enforce his commands, ‘that no person whatever should walk upon the grass, and that nothing but cows should be seen upon the lawn.’
A lady in full feather approached the sentinel on the sward.
"Keep off there !" cried Pat- "keep off !"
"Pray, Sir," exclaimed the mortified dame, "Pray do you know who 1 am?"
"Saurra-know," rejoined Pat.
"Not know me, Sir ?"
"The divil a-know."
"Not the admiral's wife, Sir ?"
"Not 1 - all I know is, you're not one of the admiral's cows!"
Nothing is more amusing than the alacrity of Irishmen in getting into scrapes, and the happy naivete and blunders by means of which they endeavour to extricate themselves.
A captain of a man-of-war, newly appointed to a ship on the Irish station, took the precaution in ‘beating out' of harbour, to apprize the pilot that he was totally unacquainted with the coast, and therefore he must rely entirely on the pilot's local knowledge for the safety of the ship.
"You are perfectly sure, pilot," said the captain, "you are well acquainted with the coast ?"
"Do I know my own name, Sir?"
"Well, mind, I warn you not to approach too near the shore."
"Now, make yoursel' asy, Sir: in troth you may go to bed if you plase."
"Then shall we stand on?"
"Why,-what else wou'd we do?"
"Yes, but there may be hidden dangers which you know nothing about."
"Dangers ? - I like to see dangers dar hide themselves from Mick. Sure, don't I tell you I know every rock on the coast?" here the ship strikes) – "and that's one of 'em !"
Jack a Punster.
Anxious to avoid a recurrence of the many riotous scenes, and, too often, distressing disasters which, upon a former occasion, took place at our several sea-port towns, government took the praiseworthy precaution, upon paying-off ships at the commencement of the present peace, to provide vessels for the purpose of conveying our seamen, free of expense, to the sea-ports nearest their respective homes. However considerate this arrangement might be, it was by no means relished by Jack, inasmuch as it was felt to be a controul (sic) over. his purse and person, which in peace time, he was not prepared to expect.
At most ports, the measure was unpopular; but in the ‘river' it was received with increased dissatisfaction. The seamen paid off from the ships at Deptford and Woolwich, were taught to believe by the publicans, slop-sellers, and other disinterested supporters of the ‘constitution,' that
the act, to say the least of it, was an infringement upon the liberty of the subject. The ship's company of the L-----e were advised by the ‘liberals' of Woolwich ‘to enter their protest against so illegal a proceeding;' and a fore-top-man of the name of Toms, who upon all occasions was ready to ‘argufy the topic' was deputed to appeal to the first lieutenant in their favour. In the usual roundabout way, Toms thus opened the proceedings:
"I axes your pardon, Sir, but the ship's company desires me to say, they doesn't like this here business at all."
"What business?" asked the lieutenant.
"Why this here cramming us in craft, for all the world like new-prest men in a tender."
"Well, my man, it's the admiral's order."
"Yes, Sir; but when the admiral strikes his flag, he's never refused liberty to land; and now the pennant's down, he's never no right to stop our leave, and prevent us spending our money like men !"
"It's too late now," returned the lieutenant, "nor can the order be now recalled even by Sir Home Popham himself."
"I tells you what it is, Sir, - I don't know what the admiral can call or recall, but I knows this, instead of calling him Sir Home Popham, they ought to call him Sir Pop 'em Home !"
Too Much of One Thing.
Upon the return of the Temeraire into Hamoaze after the ever-memorable battle of Trafalgar, (in which brilliant affair, be it observed, no ship took a more conspicuous part,) two of the seamen obtained (as it is technically termed) ‘leave to go ashore on liberty.' - The day happened to be Sunday, and as the ‘liberty-men' were landed during the performance of divine service, when all the public-houses, not excepting the ‘Two Jolly Tars,' were closed to their best customers, - the Jacks, to their great discomfiture, found there was more of a ‘stopper
clapt upon their liberty than they had bargained for on leaving the barkey.' Their object, however, was to kill time, and, as they had nothing else for it, one of the tars, who was in every sense of the word a more curious fellow than his companion, proposed ‘bearing-up for the nearest church,' in order to ascertain the difference 'twixt the rigging and palaver of a methody †parson, and the togs and talk of a reg'lar-built battle-ship preacher.'
With this view the Jacks ‘put into a methody chapel' in the vicinity of the little village of Stoke. The parson had commenced his sermon, and mentioned, as he proceeded in his discourse, the Words ‘glorious victory,' on which the projector of this reconnoitring trip, whose head was full of the Temeraire and the battle of Trafalgar, observed to his shipmate, "Hark, Jem ! there's the Victory."
The preacher, like many of his ranting brethren, was often at a stand for ideas, and was compelled to iterate one word many times
to fill up the interval during which he was waiting for fresh supplies of thought. - The word ‘victory' was therefore pronounced a second time.- "Hollo, Jem ! tally there again," said the tar in a somewhat more audible tone. Not long after, the extemporaneous ‘expounder of the Gospel,' still hard-up for language, ejaculated the word ‘victory' a third time, when the irritated tar, again addressing his equally mortified messmate, audibly exclaimed,
" ----- my eyes, Jem, if I can stand it any longer! There's three times, because, you see, she happened to be the flag-ship, that that there black-looking, blarneying beggar has lugged in the Victory, and never, no, not as much as once, touched on the saucy Temeraire - We, as was in the hottest part o' the business, and took two ships to our own cheek ! - Come along out o' this - cut and run. - I always told you these here straight-haired chaps was a parcel o' lying lubbers."
Taking it Easy.
On the morning after the mutiny broke out on board the T-------e, in Beerhaven, upon the peace of Amiens, but which, by the intrepidity and firmness of Rear-Admiral Campbell and his officers, was quickly suppressed, the ship's company of the Vengeance (74), who had for some, days been in secret and seditious intercourse with the crew of the former, were seen before the time usually allowed for breakfast had expired ‘coming aft in a body.' The lieutenant and two midshipmen of the watch were the only officers at the time upon deck; the rest were at breakfast below; but when the captain, who was reading in his cabin, perceived the men crowding en masse on the quarter-deck, he quietly arose from his seat, and, with book in hand and head uncovered, came out upon deck, and coolly in quired their ‘business.'
"Why, Sir," said the captain of the forecastle, who acted on the occasion as spokesman,
"we hears as how the ship's ordered abroadthe West Ingees, they say - and the ship's company wishes to know whether it's true, or no more nor a galley-packet; for you see, Sir, in time o' peace, they doesn't altogether look upon it as a fair matter 'twit man and man, to be sent out o' the land."
"Pon my word," replied the captain, "this is the first intimation I've had of the matter - but all I know is this, whether East or West Indies, wherever I'm ordered, I go; and where ever Igo, you go! - Come, come - down below - down, my lads, your cocoa's cooling," good humouredly added the undaunted Duff, returning into his cabin, without once looking behind to see if the ship's company had dispersed and followed his advice.
Pleased with the manly candour of their captain, the tars retired with a murmur.
The conduct of both captain and crew was duly appreciated by the Lords of the Admiralty, for, though subsequently sent to the West Indies,
the ship was not disgraced, as others of the squadron were, by having a ringleader hung at her fore-yard-arm, on the day when, by the sentence of a court martial, six out of sixteen of the T-----e's misguided and mutinous crew at Spithead forfeited their lives in the face of the fleet.
The well-known anecdote 1 told of the late Admiral Cornwallis, when in command , of the Canada (74), might, in addition to the foregoing, be adduced to prove that in cases of premeditated mutiny, a good-humoured coolness, an
1 The Canada's ship's company addressed a 'round-robin' to their commander, wherein they declared, to a man, that they would not fire a gun till they were paid. - Captain Cornwallis, on the receipt of the letter, ‘turned the hands up,' and thus laconically harangued them.- "My lads, the ship will be paid when we return to port; and, as to your not fighting, I only hope we may fall-in with the largest first-rate out of France - for I'm positive the devil himself could not keep you from tearing her to pieces!"-The Jacks were so tickled with this tar-like compliment, that they one and all returned to their duty, perfectly satisfied with themselves and their captain.
apparent sang-froid of manner, will sometimes do more with Jack than all the marines under arms with ball and bayonet: - the one, naturally acting on and humouring the buoyant spirit of the tar, stifles sedition; his fancy being tickled, he forgets his grievances, whether imaginary or real, and his better feelings imperceptibly predominate; whilst the other method only tends to confirm mutinous thoughts, and leads, if not at once to open rupture, to a continuance of sour and dissatisfied feelings not easily allayed; for, though an officer should be always prepared to meet any disaster, mutiny should be the last thing he should show his ship's company he expected.
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