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Biographical Anecdotes relating to the late Lieutenant Colonel John Mordaunt, of the Honourable East India Company's Madras Establishment.

THIS very singular and well known personage has been so much ad. mired, so much reprobated, so much upheld, and so much decried, that some account of him may probably be acceptable to the publick.

He was a natural son of the late earl of Peterborough; and, together with an elder brother, by the same mother, was, at an early age, put out to nurse. Harry, the eldest, was a pining, spiritless starvling; while John, the subject of this memoir, was active, lively, and of an uncommonly fine form. He was more of the Apollo Belvidere, though more rigid in muscle, than any other person I ever saw.

Harry took a sedentary turn, and being tender in constitution, could not partake of those gymnastick exercises which John delighted in, and in which he, on all occasions, took the lead. In fact, Harry was more calculated for scholastick researches, in which he made the ordinary progress of a schoolboy; and would, probably, have shone under Alma Mater, had not his father, with the view of providing for him handsomely, and at a distance from the family in general, shipped him off as a cadet to Bengal.

John was too wild to learn much. His whole time was devoted to truancy; and, as he often said, "one half of his days were spent in being flogged for the other half." Hence he was in no danger of a professorship, if we except those arts in which the celebrated Breslaw, Jones, &c. took their degrees. In such, John was completely at home, and they were certainly of some use to him, as will be hereafter seen.

When John was taken from school, he was about as learned as when he first was sent there. However, when this was ascertained, and a quarrel was commenced on the occasion, he very handsomely stepped forth to excul pate his master, whose attention he declared to be unparalleled; and, slipping off his clothes, exhibited the earnestness of the good man's endeavours; humorously observing, that "as nothing could be got into his brain, his master had done his best to impress his instructions on the opposite seat of learning."

At the time that John was to pass muster before the India directors, he was out of the way, and it was nearly too late when he was found at marbles in Dean's yard. No time was lost in coaching him up to Leadenhallstreet, where, being bent more on his pastime than on the grave questions put by his examiners, he was near being rejected as an ideot; when one of the quorum, who knew the youth's trim well, and who probably wished to see John appointed, asked him if he understood cribbage? John's soul was instantly roused; his eyes glistened; and, regardless of every matter relative to his appointment, he pulled out a pack of cards, so greasy as scarcely to be distinguished, and offered " to play the gentleman for any sum he chose."

The youth now felt himself at home, and speedily convinced them that, however ignorant he might be of the classicks, he was a match for any of them at cards. He was passed, and despatched to Portsmouth, where he was to embark in an India ship ready to sail with the first fair wind; but as that was not to be had for some days, the person who had charge of him, put him on board, and returned to town.

John's gayety of disposition soon made him the fiddle of the crew. All on board loved him. He was elegant in his make; graceful in his movements (though he never could be made to walk a minuet by his dancing master) of a very animated countenance, strongly marked with good nature, spirit, and dignity; his features were regular and handsome; his eyes keen and commanding; and, on the whole, we may say he was such as is rarely seen.

Notwithstanding the rigid restrictions laid down by the person who had shipped him, such were the qualities of our young adventurer, that none could resist his wishes. The kindness he experienced, added to the novelty of the scene, made him completely happy, and attached him more to his new companions, than to his native soil. He could not bear to mope about the ship, whilst waiting for a wind, and frequently lent a pull in the boats, which occasionally were sent for provisions, &c.

One day, however, John strayed into the town, and got into company with some girls, who soon eased him, not only of his money, but of his buckles, handkerchief, and every thing that could possibly be dispensed with. At this unlucky moment, the wind being fair, the signal was made for sailing, and the boat's crew were compelled, after a short, but active search, to put off, with heavy hearts, thinking they had seen the last of their favourite.

John came down to the beach too late. The boat was just arriving at the ship, which was lying to for her, and sailed immediately from the mother bank. What was to be done? He had no money, and not a soul would put off on such a trip without being previously well paid. The matter was to all appearance come to the worst, when seeing two watermen at cards in the stern sheets of a boat, he was led, by an irresistible, impulse to see how matters went on.

The owner of the boat was losing his money at all fours, when John requested that he might play a hand or two for him; offering to abide himself by any loss during his own play. The man agreed, and John not only won back the losings, but eased his opponent of all his money. The waterman was asked to take him on board; but no promise ofmoney could tempt him: "It was too far," and "mayhap might never get a penny by it ;" ;"❝ had been sarved so before ;" and all the host of objections, common among interested persons, were raised. At length the waterman, taking hold of John's button, drew him aside from the many who were there laughing at his misfortune, and said he had observed, that in dealing, there seemed to be something uncommon; besides that," he had turned up Jack plaguy often." "Now, young'ne, I've a notion that didn't come by nature; and if so be you'll show me how to do it, I will take you aboard at all risks."


The bargain was struck; the man, being instructed how to turn up Jack, with the aid of three of his friends, sailed and rowed with such effect to get within notice of the vessel before dark. The sails were backed, John facetiously observed, as he quitted the boat: "Now, my honest friend, you have turned up Jack in earnest;" meaning the waterman had fairly fulfilled his promise, by putting him, John Mordaunt, on board,

On his arrival at Madras, John was received with open arms by all his countrymen, according to the practice of those days, when unbounded hospitality was prevalent. His letters of introduction, which had been prudently given in charge to the captain of the ship, were delivered; and there appears no doubt but he might have speedily obtained some important situation; but general sir John Clavering, who was then commander in chief in India, and who was, accordingly, second in council at Calcutta having promised to provide for him, John went on to Bengal, where he was appointed an honorary aid de camp to that officer, still retaining his rank on the Madras establishment, where he was afterwards subjected to much ill will and obloquy.

The general had, no doubt, been preinformed of the gross ignorance under which our hero laboured, and was determined to put his abilities to an early test. Accordingly, after a few days entrance on his appointment, John was desired to write a letter, conformably to leading points furnished by the general, to one of the colonels, commanding at an upper station. John very readily undertook the office, and in a short time returned to the general's apartment with the letter, written according to the data.

Sir John did all he could to unravel the various pothook combinations, and to arrange them into any thing like penmanship; but in vain. The orthography was not a whit better. The general was amazed; but, being willing to know how John might have expressed what was intrusted to him to communicate, as the only means of obtaining that knowledge, desired him to read what he had written. In this reasonable expectation, the general was, however, completely foiled; his protegé very deliberately saying, "that was no part of his duty he had obeyed the general's orders by writing the letter. It was the business of the colonel to whom it was addressed, to read it!"

It is truly wonderful, that, under the consciousness of being so very deficient in this branch, and in a circle which is so eminent for superiour education, such as the society in India may fairly claim to be. Mordaunt should have taken so little, if any, pains to improve himself. He surpassed in almost every thing he undertook; yet, seemingly, more by intuition, than by any study or effort to excel This ignorance in regard to writing, was the more remarkable, as he generally conversed with perfect propriety; often, indeed, with elegance of diction, and with a precise appropriation of his words to the particular occasion. He spoke the Hindoo language fluently, and was a tolerable Persian scholar; yet he could not write two lines of English correctly.' I once had occasion to borrow a horse from him for a day or two. He sent the animal to me with the following note. "You may kip the hos as long as you lick."

His excellence of temper, under all the jokes to which this unhappy deficiency subjected him, was wonderful. He knew his failing, and allowed it to stand as a butt for the amusement of his friends; but was highly offended at the attempt of any one, whom he did not feel a partiality for, to excite a laugh at his expense; and more than once, in my hearing, has astonished persons of that description into the most complete humility. Once in particular, a very worthy young man of the name of James Prather of the more silly order of beings, thinking he could take the liberty of playing with, or rather upon him, in a large company called to Mordaunt,

who was


ring him to say what was the Latin for a goose? The answer was dy: "I don't know the Latin for it; but the English for it is James P It should have been premised, that the foregoing question was put to Mordaunt, in consequence of his having, in a note, sent to a person who had

offended him, required " an immediate anser by the bearer." The gentleman addressed, wishing to terminate the matter amicably, construed the word literally and sent a goose by the bearer; stating also, that he would partake of it the next day. This, to a man of Mordaunt's kidney, was the high road to reconciliation; though to nine persons in ten, and especially to those labouring under such a desperate deficiency in point of orthography, it would have appeared highly insulting.

It may readily be supposed, that Mordaunt was more ornamental than useful in general Clavering's office. However, the latter could not help esteeming him, and had he lived, would probably have effected Mordaunt's removal from the Madras to the Bengal army. But the general dying, no other person felt so bold, or so interested for him, as to labour at that which, though not unprecedented, was so hostile to the sentiments of the latter establishment. The Madras officers never failed to notice, sometimes, indeed, in rather harsh terms, the injustice of an officer being on their rolls, who never joined his regiment for nearly twenty years, and whose whole time was passed in the lap of dissipation.

Being on a party of pleasure to the northward, and near to Lucknow, the capital of Oude, and the residence of the late nabob vizier, Asoph ul Doulah, Mordaunt, of course, had the curiosity to see both the prince and his court. The free, open temper of Asoph pleased Mordaunt, whose figure and manner made a great impression on his illustrious host. The latter was fond of hunting and shooting. To cockfighting, indeed, he was so partial, that he has even neglected due attendance to business of importance with the several residents, while engaged in a main with " his dear friend Mordaunt," who was completely skilled in that branch of barbarity.

Though I cannot say it ever appeared to me as a very faithful resemblance, yet there is sufficient of character, and some other good points, in the portrait intended to represent Mordaunt, in the celebrated picture of the cockpit, executed by Zoffani, while at the nabob's court, to give some idea of the manly, dignified, and elegant person of the subject of this memoir. He is there represented as in the act of handing a cock, on which he bets highly, in opposition to a bird of his highness, the nabob, who is pourtrayed, in a loose undress, on the opposite side of the pit.

The figures in question, however, possess some merit, from the insight they give into the open, independent, yet unassuming air of Mordaunt, and the familiar manner in which the nabob stooped to join in diversions with him, and, indeed, with every European gentleman who wished to partake of such amusements as characterized that weak, idle, and contemptible prince.

Mordaunt became such a favourite, that he was retained by the vizier at his court, in capacity of aid de camp; though he never attended but according to his own fancy, and then, generally, either to shoot, or to gamble with him. The various applications and sarcasms directed against Mordaunt, as an absentee from his corps, for so many years, and at the distance of full two thousand miles, were alike disregarded by himself, and by the supreme government, of which all the individuals were personally attached to him. Some persons did not hesitate to assert, that he was kept by Mr. Hastings as a spy over the vizier, in consequence of the high favour and confidence the latter reposed in him; but those who could entertain such an opinion, must be in extreme errour; for neither the conduct nor the disposition of Mordaunt, ever gave the smallest opening for such an infe rence. He was candid, free, and generous; and, I think, he would have abruptly revolted at any commission which might impose it, either direct

ly, or circuitously, as a duty on him, to betray the secrets of the man who treated him with kindness and with respect.

Mordaunt was in the receipt of a handsome salary, and possessed many distinguished privileges under the patronage of the vizier, who often used to refer Europeans to him on occasions requiring his advice; though now and then he used to have recourse to the same excuse, when he did not wish to comply. On every such occasion Mordaunt was friendly, and on some rendered great service. Of this I shall quote instances.

Mr. Zoffani, in a humorous moment, had painted the nabob at full length, but in high caricature. The picture being at colonel Martine's, where old Zoffani resided, and the colonel's house being frequented by immense numbers of the natives, especially of those who, when the nabob wanted money, took his jewels to the colonel's to be pledged, it was not long before the prince was informed of the joke. In the first moments of irritation, he was disposed to make the painter a head shorter, and to dismiss the colonel, who was his chief engineer, and had the charge of his arsenal; but, as nothing could be done without his "dear friend Mordaunt," a message was despatched requiring his immediate attendance, "L on matters of the utmost importance." This being a very stale mode of summoning Mordaunt, who would attend, or rather visit, only when it pleased himelf, would have probably been disregarded, had not the messenger stated, that the nabob was incensed against Martine and Zoffani.

Mordaunt found the nabob foaming with rage, and about to proceed with a host of rabble attendants to the colonel's. However, he got the story out of the nabob as well as he could, and argued him into a state of calmness, sufficient to let his purpose be suspended until the next day. So soon as could be done with safety, Mordaunt retired; and, as privately as possible, sent a note to Zoffani, with intelligence of the intended visit.

No time was lost, and the laughable caricature was in a few hours changed, by the magick pencil of Zoffani, into a superb portrait, highly ornamented, and so inimitably resemblant of the vizier, that it has been preferred to all which have been taken at sittings. The vizier did not fail to come, his mind full of anxiety for the honour of his dignified person, attended by Mordaunt, whose feelings for his friend's fate were speedily dissipated, when, on entering the portrait chamber, the picture in question shone forth so superbly, as to astonish the vizier, and to sully even the splendour which his whole equipage displayed on the occasion.

Asoph was delighted; hurried the picture home; gave Zoffani ten thousand rupees for it; and ordered the person who had informed him of the supposed caricature, to have his nose and ears cut off. Mordaunt, however, was equally successful in obtaining the poor fellow's pardon; and as the nabob would not detain him as a servant, very generously made him one of his own pensioners.

At another time, the Hajam, or barber, who cut his excellency's hair, happened to draw blood, by going a little into the quick. This is considered as an offence of the highest atrocity; because crowned heads, throughout India, become degraded, if one drop of their blood be spilt by a barber; over whom a drawn sword is always held, while performing his duty, to remind him of his fate in case of the slightest incision.

The nabob, actuated by the common prejudice above described, had ordered the barber to be baked to death in an oven; when Mordaunt applied for his pardon. He could only obtain it conditionally; and, to be sure, the condition was both ludicrous and whimsical. "Balloons were just invented when this happened, and colonel Martine, being very ingenious,

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