Page images
PDF
EPUB

particular court to herself. Those that conquer her adversaries, will find that they need not go to her, for she will come unto them. None bid so high for her as kings ; few are more willing, none more able, to purchase her alliance at the fullest price. But she has no more respect for kings than for their subjects; she mocks them, indeed, with the empty show of a visit, by sending to their palaces all her equipage, her pomp, and her train, but she comes not herself. What detains her? She is travelling incognita to keep a private assignation with contentment, and to partake of a tête-à-tête and a dinner of herbs in a cottage. Hear, then, mighty queen! what sovereigns seldom hear, the words of soberness and truth. I neither despise thee too little, nor desire thee too much; for thou wieldest an earthly sceptre, and thy gifts cannot exceed thy dominion. Like other potentates, thou also art a creature of circumstances, and an Ephemeris of time. Like other potentates, thou also, when stripped of thy auxiliaries, art no longer competent to thine own subsistence; nay, thou canst not even stand by thyself. Unsupported by content on the one hand, and by health on the other, thou fallest an unwieldly and bloated fragment to the ground. 87,-THE OLD ENGLISH ADMIRAL.

E. H. LOCKER. [The following graphic picture of “ a true old English officer" was published in 1823, in “The Plain Englishman, a little periodical work which was amongst the first to recognise the necessity of meeting the growing ability of the people to read, by improving and innoxious reading. The editor and publisher of Half-Hours' was associated in this endeavour with one of the worthiest of men, Mr. Edward Hawke Locker, who was then resident at Windsor, but subsequently filled the responsible and honourable posts, first of Secretary of Greenwich Hospital, and afterwards of Commissioner. Mr. Locker some few years ago retired from his official duties, under the pressure of severe illness, through which calamity his fine faculties and his energetic benevolence ceased to be useful to his fellow-creatures; and he died in 1849.]

Hamlet. My father-methinks I see my father!
Horatio. O where, my Lord ?
Hamlet. In my mind's eye, Horatio ....

He was a man, take him all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.

Act l, Scene 2. Two-and-twenty years have this day expired since the decease of my muchhonoured father. The retrospect presents to me the lively image of this excellent man, and carries me back to a distant period, when I was a daily witness of his benevolence. It is natural that I should dwell with affection upon this portrait, and I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of thinking that it may interest my readers also. The earliest of my impressions represents him as coming to see my little sister and me, when we were but five or six years old, residing in an obscure village under the care of a maiden aunt. Nor should I, perhaps, have remembered the occasion, but for my taking a violent fancy to a rude sketch of a stag which he drew to amuse us on the fragment of one of our playthings. So whimsical are the records of our childish days! Only a few years before, he had the grievous misfortune to lose my mother in child-birth in the flower of her age, leaving him, with an infant family, almost heart-broken under this severe privation. I have often heard him say, that, but for our sakes, he would gladly have been then released; and, indeed, he had every prospect of soon following her. He had recently returned in ill health from Jamaica, and the violence of his grief so much augmented his malady, that the physicians at one time despaired of his recovery. A firm reliance upon the goodness of Providence, and the strength of a powerful constitution, carried him through all his sufferings. He was by nature of a cheerful disposition; but though his spirits recovered with his health, the remembrance of his beloved wife, however mellowed

by time, was indelibly expressed by the fondest affection. He never mentioned her name without a sigh, or handled any trifle which had once been hers, without betraying the yearnings of a wounded heart. He attached a sanctity to every thing allied to her memory. Her ornaments, her portrait, her letters, her sentiments, were objects of his constant regard. When he spoke of her, his tremulous voice proved the unabated interest with which he remembered their happy union. When alone, her image was continually present to his thoughts. In his walks he delighted to hum the airs she was accustomed to play; and I remember the vibration of an old guitar, which had been preserved as one of her reliques, immediately drew tears from his eyes, while he described to us the skill with which she accompanied her own melody

From all I have heard of her, she must have been a woman of very superior merit. With many personal charms, she was accomplished in a degree which rendered her society highly attractive. She had accompanied her father to the West Indies, where he held the chief command, and, during that period, she had abundant occasions of showing the sweetness of her disposition, and the steadiness of her resolution. Her father was an admiral of the old régime; and I believe it sometimes required all her discretion to steer her light bark amidst the stormy seas she had to navigate.

My father was no ordinary character. One of the most remarkable features of his mind was simplicity. He was the most natural person I ever knew, and this gave a very agreeable tone to all he said and did. I verily believe he hated nothing but hypocrisy. He was blessed moreover with a sound understanding, an intrepid spirit, a benevolent heart. From his father, who was a man of distinguished learning, and from his mother, who (as a Stillingfleet) inherited much of the same spirit, he derived a taste for literature, which, though thwarted by the rough duties of a sea life, was never quenched, and afterwards broke forth amidst the leisure of more gentle associations on shore. He had been taken from a public school too early to secure a classical education ; but such was the diligence with which he repaired this defect, that few men of his profession could be found so well acquainted with books and their authors. In the retirement of his later years, he was enabled to cultivate this taste with every advantage, and numbered among his familiar friends some of the most eminent persons of his own time. Saturday was devoted to receiving men of literature and science at his table. On these occasions we were always permitted to be present, and looked forward with delight to this weekly festival, which contributed essentially to our improvement as well as to our amusement. He lost no opportunity of affording us instruction. All departments of literature had attractions for him; and, without the science of a proficient, he had a genuine love of knowledge wherever it was to be found. He was a great reader. I think Shakspeare was his favourite amusement; and he read his plays with a native eloquence and feeling, which sometimes drew tears from our eyes, and still oftener from his own.

He always considered himself a fortunate man in his naval career, although he persevered through a long and arduous course of service before he attained the honours of his profession. Having greatly distinguished himself in boarding a French manof-war, his conduct at length attracted the notice of Sir Edward Hawke, to whom he ascribed all his subsequent success. My father often said that it was that great officer who first weaned him from the vulgar habits of a cockpit ; and he considered him as the founder of the more gentlemanly spirit which has gradually been gaining ground in the navy. At the period when he first went to sea, a man-of-war was characterized by the coarseness so graphically described in the novels of Smollett. Tobacco and a checked shirt were associated with lace and a cockade ; and the manners of a British Admiral partook of the language and demeanour of a boatswain's mate. My father accompanied his distinguished patron to the Mediterranean in the year 1757, when he was despatched to relieve the unfortunate Admiral Byng in the command, with orders to send him a close prisoner to England. I stop to relate a curious anecdote regarding that affair, which I have often heard from my father's lips.

When Sir Edward reached Gibraltar, he found Byng, with his fleet lying at anchor in the bay. On communicating the nature of his instructions, he forbore to place the Admiral in arrest, and conducted the affair with so much delicacy, that none else suspected the serious nature of his orders. The two Admirals met at the table of Lord Tyrawley, then Governor of Gibraltar, who, after dinner, withdrew with Byng to another apartment, where he assured him, that, by private letters just then received, he was convinced the ministry meant to sacrifice him to the popular fury, advising him to take this opportunity of escaping to Spain, as the only chance of saving his life. Byng, in reply, confided to his lordship the generous conduct of Hawke, declaring that no personal consideration could induce him to betray that honourable man; adding, that he was determined to meet his fate, whatever might be the consequence of his return to England. This transaction, which does equal honour to both Admirals, shows the generous nature of Hawke, who found in my father a kindred spirit, worthy of his future friendship and protection. Under the auspices of this patron, he shared in the glory of the fight with the French fleet, under Marshal Conflans, off Quiberon, in 1759, and, being preferred after the action to the post of first lieutenant of the Royal George, bearing Sir Edward's flag, he advanced him through the successive stages of his subsequent promotion—their mutual attachment only ceasing with the life of that illustrious commander.

A reputation so well earned was rewarded, not only with preferment, but by the esteem and affection both of officers and men. The sailors respected him for his gallantry, and loved him for his humanity-virtues in which he emulated the brilliant example of his patron. In the selection of his earliest naval friends, he had shown great discernment ; for they subsequently became the most distinguished officers in the service. When, in his turn, he became a patron, his example as a commander, aided by the high integrity of his character, and the native benevolence of his disposition, drew around him a number of young officers, whose brilliant career richly repaid the obligations they received from him. Several of them, who rose to distinction, afterwards presented him with their portraits. These were hung round his room, and he took an honest pride in showing to his visitors these memorials of his "younkers," relating some honourable trait of each of them in succession. Among these was Horatio Nelson, who, to the last hour of his life, regarded him with the affection of a son, and with the respect of a pupil. The following extract from a letter written many years after, amidst the anxieties of his exalted station, shows the upabated attachment with which he regarded the 'guide of his youth.

Palermo, Feb. 9, 1799. My dear Friend, I well know your own goodness of heart will make all due allowance for my present situation, and that truly I have not the time or power to answer all the letters I receive at the moment. But you, my old friend, after twenty-seven years' acquaintance, know that nothing can alter my attachment and gratitude to you. I have been your scholar. It is you who taught me to board a French man-of-war by your conduct when in the Experiment. It is you who always said, “ Lay a Frenchman close, and you will beat him ;" and my only merit in my profession is being a good scholar. Our friendship will never end but with my life ; but you have always been too partial to me. The Vesuvian republic being fixed, I have now to look out for Sicily ; but revolutionary principles are so prevalent in the world, that no monarchical government is safe, or sure of lasting ten years. Believe me ever your faithful and affectionate friend,

NELSON. While Nelson was yet a private captain, and his merits unknown beyond the limits of his own immediate friends, my father always spoke of him with a prophetic anticipation of his future greatness, such was the sagacity with which he penetrated the character of that extraordinary man. When at length Nelson returned to England his old friend was rapidly sinking into the grave ; yet the desire to behold once more the hero whom he still regarded with the affection of a parent, occupied his thoughts during the last days of his life. But this wish was not gratified-he never saw him again. Nelson, when informed of his death, hastened to pay the last tribute of respect to his remains; and though on that occasion I was deeply engaged with my own sorrows, I could not be insensible to the unequivocal proofs of grateful attachment which he then showed to his early patrou.

The principles of my father's character are, perhaps, better understood by viewing nim in the retirement of domestic life, than in his professional relations ; for it is only in private that the more delicate traits of disposition are to be observed. There is a certain exterior worn by most men in their intercourse with the worid, which produces a general resemblance; but this is thrown aside upon their return home, and the nicer peculiarities of character, hidden from the public eye, are disclosed without reserve in the bosom of their own families. Thus it was with my father. The playfulness of his disposition never appeared to such advantage as at his own fireside ;-and though the warmth of his benevolence, which beamed on his venerable countenance, diffused itself wherever he came, it glowed with peculiar ardour towards those more closely connected with him. He was no party man, Though cordially attached to his church and king, he was neither a bigot in religion nor in politics. He had great reluctance to controversy, and enjoyed the friendship of men of worth of all parties. His father, indeed, was a staunch Jacobite, and he thus inherited Tory principles. He used to relate that, when a boy, he was often sent with presents to relieve the poor Highlanders confined in the Tower, after the rebellion of 1745. One of these poor fellows (who deserved a better fate) gave him his leathern belt as a keepsake a few days before his execution ; and in treasuring up this simple relic, he fostered the political opinions with which it was associated. With all this partiality, he reprobated the heartless ingratitude of Prince Charles ; and among the honourable distinctions of his late sovereign's character, he most of all admired his tenderness to the last of the Stuarts.

The remembrance of any considerable act of kindness became a part of my father's constitution. It cost him no effort to retain it in his memory. He never seemed to feel the burden of an obligation, and it arose to his mind whenever he had an opportunity to requite it. The child, the friend, nay, even the dog of any one to whom he was obliged, was sure to receive some acknowledgment. I shall never forget a visit to the tomb of his naval patron, in the little village of Swatheling, which called up all his gratitude at the distance of twenty years. A rough old admiral who accompanied us struggled hard to hide his emotion, but my father gave free course to his feelings, while the tears stole down their rugged cheeks in sympathy.

Good breeding is said to be the daughter of good nature. There was an unaffected cordiality in my father's hospitality, a frank familiarity towards an old friend, a respect and tenderness to women of all ranks and ages, and complexions, which marked the generous spirit of an English gentleman of the old school. Towards young persons he had vone of the chilliness and austerity of age. He treated them on equal terms ; and they learned many a valuable lesson from his conversation, while they fancied themselves only amused. He had an excellent library, which before his death was nearly exhausted in presents to his youthful friends. Of this I had some years ago a very gratifying proof, on visiting a Spanish gentleman, in the island of Majorca, who unexpectedly to me opened a little cabinet filled with the best English authors, which my father had given him when a student in London.

The fireside, on a winter evening, was a scene highly picturesque, and worthy of the pencil of Wilkie. The veteran sat in his easy chair, surrounded by his children. A few grey hairs peeped from bepeath his hat, worn somewhat awry, which gave an arch turn to the head, which it seldom quitted. The anchor button, and scarlet waistcoat trimmed with gold, marked the fashion of former times. Before him lay his book, and at his side a glass prepared by the careful hand of a daughter, who devoted herself to him with a tenderness peculiarly delightful to the infirmities of age. The benevolent features of the old man were slightly obscured by the incense of a “cigárre " (the last remnant of a cock-pit education) which spread its fragrance in long wreaths of smoke around himself and the whole apartment. A footstool supported his wounded leg, beneath which lay the old and faithful Newfoundland dog stretched on the hearth. Portraits of King Charles the First and Van Tromp (indicating the characteristic turn of his mind) appeared above the chimney-piece ; and a multitude of prints of British heroes covered the rest of the wainscot. A knot of antique swords and Indian weapons garnished the old-fashioned pediment of the door ; a green curtain was extended across the room, to fence off the cold air, to which an old sailor's constitution is particularly sensitive. Such was the picture.

The servants, who reverenced his peculiarities, served him with earnest affection. Even his horse confided in his benevolence as much as the rest of the household ; for when he was of opinion that the morning ride was sufficiently extended, he commonly faced about, and as my father generally rode in gambadoes, (not the most convenient armour for a conflict with a self-willed steed,) he generally yielded to the caprice of his horse. The chief personage in his confidence was old Boswell

, the self-invested minister of the extraordinaries of the family, who looked upon the footman as a jackanapes, and on the female servants as incapable of “ understanding his honour.” Boswell had been in his time a smart young seaman, and formerly rowed the stroke-oar in the captain's barge. After many a hard gale and long separation, the association was renewed in old age, and to a bystander had more of the familiarity of ancient friendship, than of the relation of master and servant. “ Has your honour any further commands ?” said Boswell, as he used to enter the parlour in the evening, while, throwing his body into an angle, he made his reverence, and shut the door with his opposite extremity at the same time.

No, Boswell, I think not, unless indeed you are disposed for a glass of grog before you go." " As your honour pleases,” was the established reply. A word from my father soon produced the beverage, at the approach of which the old sailor was seen to slide a quid into his cuff, and prepare for action. “Does your honour remember when we were up the Mississippi, in the Nautilus sloop of war ?” “Ay, my old friend, I shall never forget it, 'twas a happy trip, the poor Indians won all our hearts." “Ah, but your honour, there was worse company than they in the woods there. Mayhap you recollect the great black spake that clung about the serjeant of marines, and had well nigh throttled him ?” “I do, I do, and the poor fellow was obliged to beat its head to pieces against his own thigh. I remember it as though it was but yesterday.” “And the rattle-snake too, that your honour killed with your cane, five and forty feet." "Avast, Boswell !" cried my father, “mind your reckoning

« EelmineJätka »