LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
‣ Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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The theatres were then in the height of their prosperity, and never did the scenic art sustain itself better, except when interrupted by the temporary rage for the boy Betty; an event that reversed my previous ideas of the excellence of the public judgment, in things attaching to art and literature, more and more confirmed since. I saw Betty first in the Earl of Warwick. It was a humiliating spectacle to those who loved the drama, and its display by the better actors of the time. Betty’s performance was well enough for a boy, but he had no adequate conception of the author. I went more than once, and came away in disgust. It was Betty the chambermaid in male habiliments.

My very first sight of Mrs. Siddons was in Queen Catherine. Never did I behold anything more striking than the acting of that wonderful woman; for, no heroine off the boards, she was the ideal of heroic majesty in her personations. I have seen real kings and queens, for the most part ordinary people, and some not very dignified, but in Siddons there was the poetry of royalty, all that hedges round the ideal of majesty, the ideal of those wonderful creations of genius, which rise far beyond the common images exhibited in the
world’s dim spot. It was difficult to credit that her acting was an illusion. She placed the spectator in the presence of the original—she identified herself with heroic life—she transferred every sense of the spectator into the scenic reality, and made him cast all extraneous things aside. At such times, the crowded and dense audience scarcely breathed; the painted scenery seemed to become one, and live with the character before it. Venice, Rome were there, not their representations. Another moment, and there was no object seen but that wonderful woman, because even the clever adjuncts vanished as if of too little moment to engross attention. If her acting were not genius, it was the nearest thing to it upon record. In Lady Macbeth, she made the beholders shiver—a thrill of horror seemed to run through the house, the audience, thousands in number, for every seat was filled, even the galleries—the audience was fear-stricken. A sorcerer seemed to have hushed the breathing of the spectators into the inactivity of fear, as if it were the real fact that all were on the verge of some terrible catastrophe.

Miss O’Neil has been called a fine actress. She did not appear to me as anything striking after Siddons. It is true her line of acting had not so much of the high heroic cast as that of Siddons, and the two performers could in no respect be compared, their styles were different. I saw George Frederick Cook several times in tragedy, but not in comedy, although his Pertinax M’Sycophant was so celebrated a stimulus to Scotch anger. His Richard III. was, as a whole, superior to that of Kean. It is true he looked the character well in every respect, which Kean’s insigni-
ficance of person forbade. He also took more liberties with his audience than any other actor. I remember seeing him stagger away drunk from under the curtain and still he was cheered. How he remembered his part is surprizing.
John Kemble was not so good a Hamlet as Young, but his Roman characters always deeply impressed me, Plutarch-reader as I was, with their great fidelity. I confess after all I was no great devotee to theatrical representations. The old genteel comedy pleased me. Holman, in Lord Townley, was a favourite performer, where the wit was as “keen and polished as his sword.” I enjoyed Bannister’s never-flagging humour, the most buoyant of comedians, and Lewis, one of the most pleasing and gentlemanly; he was, in a certain line, the best comedian our stage ever possessed. But the great charm of comedy of another kind was Mrs. Jordan, though at this time her appearances were rare. Her hilarity was like champagne, brisk, refreshing, gleesome; she was boisterous enough, too, when she pleased. She laughed as no one else ever laughed before, and made oftentimes the tender and soft run into the romping, jovial, don’t-caring, rattling vein. She threw a spirit into everything, and made her incongruity of character forgotten in the second youth she assumed, as if in defiance of nature and time.

Grimaldi appeared at Covent Garden the first year I was in town, and about the same time Miss de Camp became a favourite in the “Forty Thieves.” Young and Kemble in Brutus and Cassius were much followed. I have stood on the back seats in the uppermost boxes to get a sight of the stage, when they have played, and
the house became as still as midnight. Young was both a first-rate actor and a gentleman.

I hold myself, after all, no reliable authority on stage-going matters, judging, perhaps, too much by my own impressions of excellence, in place of histrionic rules. Here, therefore, I must conclude my remarks upon a topic which, since Shakspeare has been abandoned in his native land, and the tendencies of the age in dramatic literature are so decidedly downwards, can excite small interest.

This same year, I lost my father, and paying a visit to my home for the first time after my departure, I passed through the town of Chudleigh, which had just been consumed. A town in ashes is a forlorn object of human helplessness.

A newspaper at Plymouth was projected, by the proprietors of the ‘Pilot,’ stimulated by a gentleman of that town intimate with Samuel. Towards the end of the year all was ready to start such a speculation. An active and experienced editor alone was wanting. This delayed the progress of the publication until the end of February, 1808. I took a share.

The seizure of the Danish fleet, or as our sailors called it, the pirate robbery, had just taken place, and the vessels were brought to England. Some came to Chatham, and an old friend being on board the Haf Fruen, who could not quit her, I went down with his brother on a Friday. We made merry among the spoils of the poor Danes for two or three days, lying close alongside the Victory, which had brought home the body of Lord Nelson about a year before. It was necessary we should be in town before Monday morning,
we posted up on a Sunday night. When we came to change horses at Gravesend, then a miserable little place, the post-boy stopped at the small inn by the high road side, now called the Lord Nelson. This road was the most noted in the kingdom for the extortion and plunder of the traveller all the way up from Dover. While the horses were changing, we had a biscuit and a glass of spirits and water, for which we were charged five shillings. “It’s the customary charge on our road to gentlemen going to town, Sir,” said the waiter.

My companion, a wild youth, was in a rage. While I was paying, he went back into the room and managed to smash half a dozen glasses on the side-board. When we arrived at the next stage, he quietly called the Gravesend post-boy aside, and bade him tell the waiter at home, that he would find gentlemen going to town that road could observe old customs as well as his master, as he would see if he examined the side-board. “The custom of the Dover road,” became a saying among naval youngsters.

We found an editor in a Scotch clergyman. The printer, his men and material were sent off. I went down with the embryo editor to set the machinery going. The first number appeared. Seeing all in order, and things likely to go on smoothly, I returned, having no idea of living out of London. No one can imagine the watchfulness necessary in those days to succeed with a country paper, where only a false and fictitious freedom of pen was to be maintained, under a ticklish dependence upon every opposing political interest. The difficulty was enhanced in a great naval and military arsenal, where every sentiment
broached was in accordance with the views of the Treasury for the time being. It was necessary to avoid any decided expression of political opinion, for it was requisite to be in keeping with all. Nobody was to be displeased in local or general politics. The Tory attorney or auctioneer would not send an advertisement to a paper that had a sentence displeasing to his party, and the Whig side acted in the same manner. Radicals were then all either in the shell, or held themselves in a politic silence “praying a plague on both houses.”

I cannot refrain from giving an extract of a part of the prospectus, because it paints faithfully the feeling and the style of address adopted on such occasions, in that eventful period.

“Threatened as we are by such a people directed by a head of unrivalled sagacity, assisted by the acquisition of an immeasurable force, it is not to be concealed that the danger of our country is imminent. To conceive that we risk only a few points of naval etiquette, or that we are only likely to concede on our failure a few privileges of trade, would be to flatter a prejudice most injurious to the public safety, and to destroy that patriotic sensibility which ought to be at every post alive and watchful. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon every mind, that it is nothing less than our all against which our enemy combines his efforts, and that the variety and extent of means which his combination embraces are the most formidable that were ever arrayed against any nation of the world. ‘Proud Islanders’ as we are termed in reproach, and Proud Islanders as we may be, and in a proper scene we ought to be, let us not suffer either the privileges we enjoy from one political consti-
tution, nor the safety we derive from our local situation, to inflate us with a proud contempt of any danger which menaces the island of our glory. How correctly soever we may think or feel concerning our real and relative condition, some future historian, who shall state it with fidelity, will recount with astonishment the number and the force of the foes that are marshalled around us, wonder why so vast a multitude should have been found necessary to overcome so small a population, and exhibit in its brightest pages, the struggles which we support, and the triumphs we obtain. But while it is left to transmit to posterity the memorials of this eventful crisis, it is for the defenders of our country to furnish the exploits which he will emblazon, and it is for the journalist to record and to animate the exertions which our country demands.”

I returned to town and resumed my customary duties. The ministry had determined, by the irresistable argument of an obedient majority, that all done in India, right or wrong, was to be sanctioned. Samuel became less anxious about the paper he had set up to advocate a worthy cause. He left the editorship to Compton, or as he was called at Madras “lotta Compton,” from the frequent use and odd pronunciation of a word, he often adopted in his addresses to the bench.

After Compton’s departure for India, when Fitzgerald became editor, the “Pilot” rose into favour at the Horse Guards. The Duke of York subsequently supported it so far as to impart to it the exclusive intelligence in his department. I had then quitted town, Perceval having betrayed his client, the unfortunate Queen Caroline, and “the Book” he compiled in her vindication, had become
minister. One day the dispatches having been posted off to Windsor, a summary of their contents was sent so quickly afterwards to the “Pilot,” that before they could have been opened at the former place, they must have been set up for that day’s paper. When the news appeared in that paper exclusively, and it reached the ears of Perceval, he told the Duke that the “
Courier,” which had some time before apostatized from the Whig to the Tory side, was that which he and the administration supplied. In those days, there was a preference shown for an apostate at head-quarters before an honest man. Jew Goldsmith, the traitor to France and England alike, was a pet of Perceval. Pitt had years before established the “Sun,” through old George Rose; and that paper would most consistently have been the ministerial organ; but the minister had a liking for a Magdalen repentance, and preferred addressing to consistent papers, the Magdalen recommendation to the institution, “Go thou and do likewise.”

The Duke of York replied to Perceval, that if he could not have his own way in similar matters, relating solely to his own department, their substance should not go to any paper at all, save the Gazette. The general heads only were all the Duke had permitted to be communicated.

The “Courier” had, by its apostacy, attained an enormous circulation. Messrs. Street and Dan Stuart were the proprietors. There was a brother of Dan, if I recollect rightly, who once edited the “Post,” and then possessed the “Oracle.” The latter was a morning paper, published on the south-side of Fleet Street. Dan Stuart was a Whig, and stated upon the change of the politics
of the paper, that he had nothing more to do with the Editorship.

He still took his share of the profits, and ultimately retired into Oxfordshire with a large fortune, afterwards serving the office of Sheriff for the county. Street, who was an anythingarian in politics, conducted the paper, lived liberally, and I believe died poor. Neither of them were men of any literary talent. Street had written a poem, not poetic, and Stuart had been delivered of a mediocre pamphlet. It is curious that many years afterwards, another Stuart should have become proprietor of the “Courier” about 1831. He was said to be a city coal merchant, and in the mercantile spirit of the present, rather than the past time in such concerns, he went down to Lord Grey soon after the accession of the noble lord to office, and offered him the support of the Tory “Courier” in exchange for the Treasury patronage. Lord Grey looked at him with indignation, rang the bell, and when the attendant entered, bade him “show that gentleman the door.” The Editorship of this paper was once offered to myself, but I declined it at a moment its acceptance would have been of great service to me. I adhered to the old principle, not to write when I could not write with the whole will bearing upon the expressed opinion.

The paper most respected for principle at that time was the “Morning Chronicle,” the organ of the old Whig party, patronized by Charles Fox and his friends after him. The Whigs were notorious for neglecting those who supported them, and for rewarding their political opponents, in this respect contrasting ill with the straightforward gratitude of the Tories. Perry, the
editor, was a personal friend of Fox. The
Duke of Norfolk, in private friendship, so I was told, gave him the house in the Strand, where he published his paper, the back of which extended to the Thames. Macintosh, Campbell, Moore, Sheridan, and others contributed to his columns. I became personally acquainted with him about 1813.

The “Statesman” was an opposition paper, edited by a Mr. Lovel in Fleet Street. It affected to be an ultra-Liberal of those times.

The “Sun” was edited by John Taylor, a kind-hearted man of great play-going renown. His paper, Peter Pindar used to tell him, was a Sun without a ray of light when old George Rose had it, and he hoped Taylor would light it up. I believe it made little way under a play-goer and punster of the best intentions, the author of the farce of ‘Monsieur Tonson.’

The “Traveller” and “Globe” were edited by Edward Quin, a noted member of the Common Council of London, where he was renowned for his orations. He was an agreeable man, and a good speaker. I was introduced to him by Major Kavanagh. He had a son at the bar, who went the Warwick Circuit, and died in the prime of life, just as he was getting into extensive practice. I must break the chain of time here, as I shall often do, to mention that, some years after I had long parted from the sight both of father and son, I met the latter in the assize court at Warwick. Our meeting was rendered memorable by a specimen Judge Best gave of his bland temper. We were seated at the barristers’ table. A man named Edmonds was on trial for a blasphemous libel, as it was styled under the
rule of
Lord Castlereagh, who made war against the press so unrelentingly. Edmonds, in his defence, impugned some of the doctrines of the Church, stating the view he took of religion. I had my attention called off, at the moment, by a question from a person who had brought me a note.

“There, Redding, did your hear that?” said Quin, the bar tittering, and Reader, once so well known, who went that Circuit, laughing audibly.

I replied, I had heard nothing.

“You observe that gentleman who is taking his seat by the judge—a friend, I suppose. You see Best is in a towering passion with the defendant. When the gentleman introduced himself, Best said to him, loud enough for everybody to hear, ‘I’ll be d—d if I will sit and hear the Christian religion reviled in this way!’ This notion of religion recalled to my memory that of the boatswain, who was sent after a youngster missing at divine service-time on board, and found him asleep in a cask; hitting him with a rope’s end, he bade him, with an oath, get out and save his young sinful soul.”

“Very becoming in Best as a judge,” I observed to Quin. I never saw him afterwards. This gentleman must not be confounded with Quin of Gray’s Inn, who wrote ‘Travels by the Danube.’

A morning paper, called the “Aurora,” was started about 1807, in Fleet Street. Of the editors, or proprietors, I know nothing. I only remember that its career was short, and that it exhibited no talent of any attractive kind.

If I remember correctly, Captain Macdonnell, a pale, sickly-looking man, of very gentlemanly manners,
edited the “
Morning Herald,” which had been the property of the “bruising parson,” as he was then called, Sir H. B. Dudley, who had once edited the “Morning Post.” He fought with his fist as well as his pen and pistols, just as it happened. He was a hero, I found, among the theatrical ladies, and somewhat too loose for a divine, even in those days.

The “Times” was more noticed by its past unmerited persecutions than by its talents, even at this time. Walter, the proprietor, had, some years before, been tried and imprisoned for stating that the Duke of Clarence had returned home without leave. It was true enough. The priority of news of this paper was then noted by the public.

There was a paper called the “Scourge” or “Satirist”—I forget which, edited by an individual named Manners, a barrister, whom I several times met in society. It attacked age and sex alike, provided they were anti-ministerial, in the most scandalous manner; and, for this dirty work, Manners obtained the consulship at Boston, United States, which he held up to the time of his decease a few years ago. He was a tall, stout, clumsy man in person.

Another dishonour of the press, at this time, was the notorious Jew Goldsmith, already named. He advocated republican principles here, and then became editor of the “Argus” in Paris, writing against England. He left France, and, coming home, libelled the French in their turn. He trumped up extravagant falsehoods regarding the public men in France. Napoleon, he declared, was the son of a shoemaker named Nicholas. His libels and falsehoods were read with great zest during the
extraordinary and blind hatred which prevailed against all Frenchmen, except the Bourbons and emigrants. In pursuance of the system of that day, in supporting an apostate rather than an honest advocate, Goldsmith touched the public money, there is no doubt; and never was more villanous trash rewarded. There was his “
Revolutionary Plutarch,” published under the name of Stewarton, the larger portion a malicious fiction. “A Secret History of Bonaparte,” a “Female Revolutionary Plutarch,” charging all ladies, related to persons holding power in France, with every kind of vice. He is said to have forged “Memoirs of Talleyrand.” He made way here by falsely declaring that Napoleon had offered him licences for twelve ships, worth £100,000, if he would cease writing against him, and stranger than the tale of the offer, was this man’s refusal of it. His end, in the assertion, was to enhance his value to our ministry. His anti-Gallican paper produced no effect. Scarcely anybody read it, because his character was too well known. To terminate what I recollect of him, by passing onward a few years—I was standing in Galignani’s shop, in the Rue Vivienne, in 1817, when, to the astonishment of old Galignani, with whom I happened to be conversing, Goldsmith entered the shop. Galignani was surprised. “How dare you venture here? You are not come over in your own name?”

It must be observed that Goldsmith’s libel upon France and Frenchmen had not been concealed after he had left the “Argus;” and his diatribes had naturally caused him to be regarded, in France, in the light he merited. He replied:

“No, I am not here in my own name; but if I
were, I should be safe under the protection of a strong power,” pointing to the westward, in allusion to the
Duke of Wellington’s residence, meaning that he should claim shelter there. In reality, he had come over to intrigue with the new French government—a manœuvre said to be successful. He found his reception rather cool. Galignani observed to me, “that man’s impudence beats anything I ever knew. He is a liar about France and Frenchmen. He has libelled and abused everybody, good or bad alike; and he is no doubt come over now upon some nefarious scheme.” It was singular enough that, in two or three weeks afterwards, I encountered this man’s wife in company with a daughter, in the same place that I had met the father. It appeared he had left England suddenly, and they had come over in search of him. Mrs. Goldsmith appeared a respectable and personable woman. Galignani spoke of her in the highest terms, as being, in every way, a thousand times too good for her unworthy consort.

To go back to 1808—Beresford’s silly book, “The Miseries of Human Life,” made its appearance, and passed through four editions. Beresford, an Oxford clergyman, soothed the severity of his theological studies by recording the petty annoyances of social life.

At this time, I met Thomas Hardy, once the Secretary of the Corresponding Society, and the keeper of a bootmaker’s shop on the north side of Fleet Street, where I bought such goods. Boots and leather brogues were then the fashion. He was a plain man, with much simplicity of manner, the last to be expected to plan evil against a monarchy. I met this quiet man in Waterloo Place just after the Reform Bill had
passed, nearly eighty years of age. He had a small income of his own, to which
Sir Francis Burdett added fifty pounds more during his life. “Who would ever have thought that a Reform Bill would be the law of the land in my time! I was to have been hanged, drawn and quartered, for advocating parliamentary reform. Thank God! such bloody persecutions can never happen again.”

To an officer of militia, I met sometimes in Hardy’s shop, named Porter, an Irishman, London was ever an inextricable labyrinth. A story told of him was a counterpart of his dullness in this way. The subalterns were ordered sometimes to put the regiment through the manual exercise, and the customary manœuvres of the parade. He was performing his duty, and got the regiment into a square; but he could not recollect the words of command to get the men out of it again. Time passed—his memory was still treacherous. The brilliant idea struck him that, if he called out “Ugh! ugh!” the men would move out of the square of their own accord. “Men, attention! ugh! ugh!” The regiment remained stock still. “Ugh! ugh!” he repeated. There was no movement. At length, fairly at his wit’s end, he bawled out “Ugh! ugh!” adding “get out of that there, I say.”

Life is ruled by trivial events. It is vain to repine. We are the slaves of circumstance, not of our talents nor will, as our self-conceit generally makes us suppose. A straw across life’s pathway will bar our fortunes, quench our proudest aspirations, and convince us how little we do against accident.

The individual whom we had sent to Plymouth, was
not equal to his editorial duties. He set as formally about the composition of a leading article as he would about the composition of a book. If an Editor cannot use the pen of the ready-writer at the eleventh hour, upon a topic which unexpectedly arises, he is not duly qualified. Many well-educated men have failed here. Becoming confused, and unable to marshal their ideas, they are brought to a stand-still. Complaints reached us, too, that our reverend Scotchman had the incurable propensity of many of his countrymen, for swallowing whiskey-toddy. Prompt measures were required. Would I go down, if only for a time? No one else could be spared—was the concern to be sacrificed? I started per mail, displaced the Scotchman, and did not see London again until the autumn of the following year.* When I had organised the establishment, my duties were light. I had generally completed them before noon, the mail coming in at 8 a.m. I read or wrote diligently until four o’clock, then the customary dinner hour. I contributed, at this time, to “
Gould’s Naval Chronicle,” sending up my contributions. Born in a bustling sea-port, and now resident in one of our more important naval stations, I had great facilities of acquiring information. Here, too, I saw the ‘Caledonia’ launched at Plymouth dock-

* In Mr. Jerdan’s Autobiography, in a passage which mentions my connexion with the ‘Pilot’, he states that he held a department in, or was a contributor to it, during Compton’s editorship. This must have taken place after I quitted London on the above occasion. I did not know Mr. Jerdan until my return from the continent, ten years after I left the ‘Pilot.’ As I was connected with the paper at its commencement, I must in any other case, have had a personal knowledge of that gentleman.

yard, and was nearly swamped. I was in a four-oared gig, rather too near her bow, as she plunged into the element in which, I believe, she has floated to the present hour.

I unexpectedly met my old friend Hambly, then first lieutenant of the ‘Defence,’ a seventy-four, commanded by the late Sir Charles Ekins. One day I went off to the ship, and was surprised to see at the mess several foreign officers, dressed in blue with red facings. They were Spaniards from the ‘Algeziras,’ the first vessel of war that entered an English port after the peace with Spain. The ‘Algeziras’ was a French ship, taken at Trafalgar. In the gale that followed the battle, she escaped into Cadiz. The Spaniards had now seized and appropriated her. The officers were gentlemanly young men; and we made merry enough. The compliment of breaking the glasses after national toasts, by throwing them over our heads, smashing them against the guns, I saw for the first time. The intention being, that they should never be drunk out of again after the sentiment given. We drank the King of England with that honour, and then (Heaven “forgive me!) Ferdinand VII.; but the peculiar virtues of Ferdinand were not then known, nor had he embroidered petticoats for the Virgin Mary and other lady idols. Before we separated, the Dons were rather heady; but they reached their vessel in the Sound safely. In the return invitation, they did me the honour to insist on my presence. The celebrated Breakwater was not then begun. A tumbling sea rolled in from the south-west. The boatmen who took me out were “two sheets in the wind;” and we had some trouble to get alongside. The ‘Algeziras’
lost a hundred and fifty killed, and a hundred and eighty wounded, at Trafalgar—a prodigious massacre. She had borne the French
Admiral Magon’s flag, who fell on that renowned day. We renewed our toasts and glass-breaking, until the deck was covered with fragments. Compliments and wine were pushed to an extent that sober Spaniards had rarely seen before. I slept in the ‘Defence,’ returning in her boats, and little thinking that, with the exception of her gallant Captain and my friend Hambly, who quitted the ship prior to her sailing for the Baltic, all the fine fellows with whom I had been so merry, as well as the entire crew, were destined to perish on the Haak Sand, in the ‘Texel,’ with the ‘St. George,’ and other vessels, a year or two afterwards, most of them being frozen to death, together with my fellow-townsman, Admiral Reynolds. It is grateful to record the virtues of the dead. At that time, desertions from the navy were continual. The crews of the ships of war were made up of men of all characters and countries. The discipline in some was unnecessarily severe. It was difficult for any, except long-tried men, to get leave to go on shore. Running alongside the ‘Defence’ one morning, I observed a solitary marine, from a shore-boat, mount the ship’s side, and remarking upon it to one of the officers, he said:

“That man has been on shore. He has had twenty-four hours’ leave—no refusal is ever given in our ship to a request to go on shore, if the duty will admit of it.”

“Then you have desertions?”

“No, we have no reason to complain. We make a man who asks for leave, find two sureties on board, that he will be back to his duty at the time his leave expires.
I have known a man give the last half-guinea he possessed to a boatman to come off with him, and save his honour. The system works well. When men are debarred from going on shore, as in some cases has happened for years together, they will desert.”

Captain Hillyar of the ‘Phœbe,’ was another officer, who used his crew so well that he did not suffer from desertions. He used to land his men and march them to Stonehouse Church on Sunday mornings, leaving none but the cooks on board. Some of his brother officers, on that account, called him the psalm-singer. One day, I saw him marching at the head of his men, when he met a brother officer in commission, and pointing to his crew, said, “Do it, my boy—you daren’t!” It was too true. Few in those days dared to follow his example.

This desertion was not wonderful in men who had been pressed, I was told of a man who had not set his foot on shore for five years, yet the anchorage to which he came, when his ship ran in from the Channel Fleet, was in sight of his own home!

Ships having officers of a character that stood high with the seamen, were often filled with volunteers in those days, while others could not get a man. Lord Cochrane in the ‘Impérieuse,’ was one of the sailors’ favourites. I have heard a captain say, he had not a good man in his ship that was not a Yankee, the rest were made up of all he could kidnap, and he was not nice how he got them. He could flog them into duty. What a system! Captain M’Culloch, of the Engineers, a brother of the well-known Dr. M’Culloch, and an old boy companion, I fell in with here. He had as many per-
sonal eccentricities as the doctor. He was wounded at the siege of Badajoz, and returning home, died at Cork. How the memory of the perished friends of youth darkens the latter years of existence. We are accustomed to speak of the “cherished” memory of departed friends, but it is difficult to reconcile the pain thus inflicted with anything enjoyable. Is not this feeling’ rather a cherished sense of regard, in which we would not willingly be found wanting—a duty rather than a pleasure.

There was a tall, stout, brawny lieutenant whom I sometimes used to meet, the best tempered fellow in the world. Dining in his company with a party of blue and red coats, a marine officer got angry at some joke the lieutenant passed, being a little fiery fellow. He rose from the table, evidently, for the purpose of going out to send a challenge. There could be no other interpretation put upon his conduct.

“Don’t go—don’t go. I am your commanding officer. I’ll put you under arrest if you do. I won’t consent to be murdered,” said the blue-coat coolly.

“I am not in a jesting mood, Sir,” replied the marine.

“Nor I,” said the Lieutenant, “I have more at stake than you can have. I’ll be chalked, if you must have satisfaction.”

“Chalked! What does that mean?” I asked.

“Why, C—— shall be chalked out full size upon my body, and if he hits outside the mark, it shall be murder.”

The laugh went round. The Lieutenant asked the marine to take a glass of wine, and in a few minutes
his angry mood was over. Duelling was then but too common, where the ground of offence was equally trivial. I thought the lieutenant’s condition fair. He would have made full two of his opponent in bulk, and therefore the odds would have been double against him.

Just after I went to the West the second time, I attended the first naval court-martial of which I had been witness. A master’s mate of the ‘Parthian’ had shot his captain for threatening to disrate him. His name was John Smith, son of a planter at Vera Cruz, a fine young man, aged only twenty. Such a trial was a rare occurrence. Captain Quilliam, a Manx man, Lord Nelson’s first lieutenant at Trafalgar, whom I knew, was one of the court. It was a painful scene. There were not more than twenty spectators besides myself. The public knew nothing of the proceedings, but I had always private information whenever anything of moment was about to occur. The prisoner in custody of the sergeant-at-arms was introduced, unshackled, into the ward-room of that noble first-rate, the ‘Salvador del Mundo.’ It was a soul-harrowing scene to the spectator. I stood close to the culprit, and was astonished at his imperturbability. He had mentally assented to his doom. When the evidence closed, and he was asked what he had to say in his defence, he replied with firmness, “nothing.” He spoke in a mild tone, not without deep feeling. He had no defence to offer for such an outrageous act. He was not master of himself, through intoxication, when he committed the crime, and as he knew that was no excuse, he made up his mind to a sentence of
death. It was the most striking condemnation I ever witnessed.

A remarkable incident occurred during the proceedings, showing how intently my senses were fixed upon what was going forward. As I ascended the gangway to leave, I smelt powder and remarked it.

“To be sure you do,” said one of the lieutenants, “we have just fired a salute of twenty-one guns.”

“I declare solemnly, I never heard a gun,” I replied.

“It is true,” he answered, with a smile of incredulity, “a great deal of the sound does go outside the ports.”

The weather was cold, and the ports were shut close where the court sat. I recollected that I had once or twice shifted my footing, I knew not why, but I now attributed it to the vibration or tremour of the timbers under my feet; but I heard nothing. My absorption in the proceedings may thus be guessed, while had it not happened personally, I should scarcely have believed such a thing possible. Quilliam and myself were engaged to spend the Saturday and Sunday following at Wembury House, five miles from Plymouth. The order of the Admiralty had come down for Smith’s execution. On the Monday he was to die. Admiral Young ordered that the officers, who composed the court-martial, should attend the execution, a very unusual order. Saturday and Sunday we passed pleasantly in the hospitable mansion where we were entertained.

“The execution will be at eight o’clock,” said Quilliam, “we must rise early, and be in town by half-past seven, then I shall have time to go off to the ‘Parthian,’ where the execution takes place.”


We rose early—it was a dark frosty morning—breakfast delayed us. Some rain, too, had fallen, and frozen upon the surface of a hilly road. We calculated minutes hurrying on at a rapid rate, both able to take long strides, for Quilliam, as well as myself, was above six feet high.

“We shall do it,” said Quilliam.

“But if we don’t find the passage-boat to cross the Lara?” I remarked.

“O, I had forgot that, we must double our speed.”

In a state of exhaustion we reached the water, and the boat was on the opposite side. The Captain was in a fit of great impatience. Minutes seemed hours, for Admiral Young was a strict disciplinarian. We crossed the ferry, proceeded at a running pace, and had got within a quarter of a mile of the spot, and I had just said “good morning,” having had enough exercise, without any desire to see the death of the criminal, when the echo of the gun reverberated from the rocky heights. “He’s at the yard arm,” said Quilliam, posting on still more rapidly. He reached the vessel twenty minutes after the sufferer had been suspended. The Admiral passed over the breach of order. We neither of us recovered the effects of that day’s effort for some time afterwards. Quilliam went to his native island at the general peace, amused himself on his estate, and died in the prime of existence.

Sir William Beatty, Lord Nelson’s medical officer, was resident as physician to the Channel Fleet on my arrival in the port. We used often to meet during the five years of my residence there. Thirty years afterwards in Baker Street, we casually met again.
“I think,” said Beatty, “you and I ought to be old acquaintance?”

Beatty’s frame promised a longer existence. Another acquaintance in Plymouth was the Hon. Willoughby Bertie, of the ‘Satellite,’ in which vessel he perished, going down with all his crew in the Channel. In fact, my nautical acquaintances were numerous.

There were a few literary and scientific individuals, too, in the town whom I knew, and who, occasionally, made up a small circle for conversation. One of these was Samuel Northcote, a brother of the painter of that name, and a superior man in mind to the artist. He was of a shy unobtrusive disposition, and his confidence was necessary to be acquired before he could be brought out. He had nothing of the cynical ill-nature, close disposition in pecuniary affairs, or small views of his brother. Meek in manner, and a profound thinker, he was one of those who attracted little public notice, either through his unobtrusiveness, or from that sterling love of independence which often rules superior minds, and keeps them retired. He possessed no wealth. He was above all the trickery of trading accumulation. Getting infirm, his brother wished him to come to town and reside in his house. He consented, but the cramped mind and narrow spirit of the painter, did not suit his more enlarged views and generous aspirations. He returned to his old home again, where he died. The Rev. Dr. Bidlake, Master of the Grammar School at Plymouth, was another of this small party. An excellent scholar, in person small and deformed, but with a well-stored mind. He had a brother, a colonel
of marines, almost as insignificant in person as himself, whom he delighted in saluting as his “ugly brother.” He loved to bring out talent wherever he could find it. He was the patron of
Nathaniel Howard, whose translation of Dante’s “Inferno” long years afterwards, I shewed to Foscolo, who pronounced it the most literal we possessed, and as I recollect mentioned it in his “Essay on Petrarch.” It was published by Murray, but I believe did not pass through a second edition. It was the scholar’s Dante. Dr. Bidlake was an amateur artist, and brought forward Rogers, a landscape painter of considerable promise. He educated Haydon, and gave him a love for his art, which did not please the artist’s father. Fond of simple pursuits and of the country, Dr. Bidlake had a cottage some distance from Plymouth, which I used to visit, situated in a retired spot, where a clear brook ran brawling by, through a sweet flower garden, of which I cannot now think without regret and that our meetings there should have passed away for ever. Tea, fruit, clouted cream, and conversation, the latter of the most agreeable and instructive kind, formed our summer afternoon entertainments.

One who occasionally joined our symposia in the town was Mr. William Eastlake, the elder brother of the present Royal Academician. He possessed much information, and was somewhat of a metaphysician. He was afflicted with asthma. I met him for the last time in Paris, in 1817. One brother, I remember, took it into his head to become a traveller in Africa, and prepared himself for that object. I could not help remarking to his relatives that his stout, full make and
habit of body were against him in such a design. He went, and, as I foresaw, died, I believe, in a few days, after landing on that shore of pestilence. The Landers, whose father I remember keeping a small public-house in the West, succeeded better. The elder Eastlake was solicitor to the Admiralty at Plymouth. I used to dine with him sometimes, and was indebted to him for one of the best-worst of mortuary inscriptions, which I have never forgotten.*

There was also a gentleman, an old inhabitant, named Cookworthy, somewhat eccentric, of reflective habits, whose family established the first porcelain manufactory in England, about 1760, principally of Cornish materials. Some specimens of this manufacture are still unrivalled in this country. He used, when walking on the flag pavement, always to put his feet on particular stones. There was a medical practitioner of the same respectable family whom I met here, newly entered upon his professional duties.

Obliged to pay a hurried visit to London, I found the O. P. riot in full exercise, and went twice. The theatre was crowded to suffocation. When the actors came on, people stood up, and the whole beat time with their feet, turning their backs to the stage. Clouds of dust rendered dim the pantomimical actors. Whistles, catcalls and small bugles contributed to the dissonance, at such a scene as never before took place in a theatre. Bow Street officers were present; but they could do
* Here lies the body of Betsy Bauden,
She would live longer, but she cou’den,
Old age and death did she decay,
’Twas she’s bad leg carr’d she away.
nothing in a crowd so dense, purposely impeding their operations. Ears were superfluities, sight was almost useless. The mass of living heads in the pit undulated like ocean waves. The shouts of the gods were deafening. The heat and dust produced extreme thirst. The actors, more like les ombres Chinoises than anything else, strutting in dumb show, presented a scene strangely novel and exciting. I pitied
Kemble, although in a pecuniary sense he could not have suffered.

While on this short visit to town, the proprietors of the ‘Pilot’ gave a dinner to some of the officers of the Horse Guards at the British Coffee House. After a sumptuous repast, in the fashion of the time, we sat down to wine. There was present a bustling little man, a Scotch colonel, named Macleod, with his son, a fine young man, about twenty years old, who sat by me. He was an only son, with a number of sisters. The bottle was pushed hard. The youth partook too freely for one of his years. He was seized with fever and died. The estate entailed went by his death to distant relatives; and his mother and sisters, who would have had to depend on him, were left pennyless on the father’s demise.

I returned by the mail to the West. The sea breezes and a little cruising off the headlands during the leisure time at my command, strengthened my healthful feelings. Off the Eddystone, I fell into the midst of the fleet and transports returning with the wreck of Sir John Moore’s army from Corunna. Some of the vessels went on to Portsmouth. I learned the particulars of the battle. No troops could be in a more wretched plight. Those who have only seen soldiers on a parade ground can
have no conception of an army demoralized by hunger, combat, and disease. Even the well looked ill enough; the ill seemed at the gates of death. Some of the officers were scarcely recognizable from the men. The latter were many of them toil-worn skeletons. A tall grenadier might be seen supported to the hospital by a couple of hardy tars, making the contrast more striking, his cheekbones sticking out, his eyes brightly clear, his voice faltering.

“Wounded, my good man?”

“No, no, weak—only weak.”

The fine military hospital at Plymouth, and the noble naval one, before nearly empty, were both filled with sick and wounded men. The officers were accommodated in private houses. The cavalry had been on board ship before the battle, having shot their horses, and were far better off than the infantry, the latter having embarked in confusion. A naval officer who assisted in the embarkation told me he thought he had a man in one of his boats from every regiment in the service. Most of the badly wounded were left behind. The French moved down field pieces, and fired at some of the transports, which cut their cables, their commanders being frightened. “We got our broadside to bear upon them, and our heavy shot sent them off scampering, pop-guns and all,” said my friend. The seamen had difficulty in avoiding the pressure of the troops into the boats. “Come, my men, a little patience; we’ll be quickly back for you all. See, our ship’s broadside will protect you; the shot will hit high and dry, passing above your heads.” Most vigorously did the seamen labour, and cheerfully did they divide their allowance
with the toilworn soldiery. It was a noble picture of kindness in the tars. I shared my room with the late
Colonel Sir Edward Kerrison, one of Lord Anglesey’s lieutenant-colonels in the 7th Light Dragoons. He had a broken arm. Death soon laid many gallant hearts low among the returned wreck of that army.

The same year, I saw the military suffering under the Walcheren fever. I called upon a medical officer I knew in the cavalry, on my way down from London.

“We landed,” the surgeon said, “on our return, with not twenty men ill in the country, having been little on the Dutch shore. Now we are in a worse state than any other regiment. We have not men left in health to look after the horses, and have retained ostlers and grooms for that purpose. Major Orde is lying dead over the mess-room, and others are ill, some dying; meet us at the mess to-day—it will be a charity, for there is no overcoming the gloom—there is no excitement.”

“Thank God, then, you are well.”

“I shall have my turn, I dare say. Come with me. I will show you such a sight as you never saw before.”

“But I shall get the fever.”

“No, you are not acclimated—you must be acclimated to take it.”

I passed from room to room, and bed to bed, and confess I was never before or since so painfully affected. The want of a visible cause for the suffering I encountered, seemed to enhance the impression it made. I have been through civil hospitals, but never saw anything like it in them. The wounded and sick of Sir John Moore’s army, were no parallel. There was an obvious
cause there. Here, fever and death seemed to operate so stealthily, that the destroying angel of Sennacherib in black midnight, could not have more silently cut off his prey. Gaunt spectres of men, some half-dressed, tottered along between rows of beds. Others, still weaker, lounged on their beds, attenuated, pale, acute of feature, balanced between relapse and recovery. Some lay motionless from debility, others were contending with the King of Terrors near their exit. Here was encountered in the mass, what we meet with only now and then in solitary instances among our neighbours. It was a harvest of death, not the gleaning of a solitary stem.

In this expedition, which exhausted the provident genius of Lord Castlereagh, and the martial prowess of General the Earl of Chatham, our real loss was never known. The pretensions of a coup de main, in a commander who embarked with twelve pair of silver candlesticks, and sat down to a siege as a beginning, was odd enough. Walcheren was taken by as fine an army of 30,000 men as ever left the English shore. By the time the siege was over, the coup de main, which the French say must have succeeded, had become impracticable. When this was admitted, why did the army not return? There was no reply. Five weeks’ idle encampment on the pestilential ground, for no possible end, made the work of death surer. The poison lurked in the human frame sometimes months before its effects appeared, and killed at last. Change of place was no security. A most pompous medical staff was sent out, which just knew as much of the existence of the malady as of the earth’s interior. Every smuggler and
trader, from Johnny Groat’s to the Land’s End, knew of the fever. Many of the regimental medical men had heard and read of it, but the medical staff knew nothing about it. When the regimental medical officer applied for bark and wine, the only remedies known, not any were to be had—there were none with the Expedition.

In the first two or three weeks only 23,000 out of 30,000 men were fit for duty. In a little time, some 11,000 were down. How many got the fever after their return is still a secret. I knew officers who went to the West Indies to avoid a return of the complaint, and died there.

I did not dine at the mess on the above occasion, but drank a glass or two more of wine at dinner that day, than I should have done, but for the scene in the morning. My friend was nine or ten months before he got the fever, and escaped with life.