Page images

has passed, with all the force of his energetic language a general sentence upon the mariner's character; i sentence which will be a lasting monument of his pre judice. Smollet, the splenetic Smallet, has overcharged his portraits of a British sailor. Cumberland, anxious to do them justice, has drawn, in his novel of Henry, a fine portrait of a naval officer. But, at length, Mr. Clarke, in his sermons on the character and professional duties of seamen, has given us a more correct delineas tion than has hitherto appeared, of the manners of this interesting and most honourable class of men.

This writer, who had sufficient opportunity of knowing the truth, informs us, contrary to the prevailing opinion, that a high sense of religion is a very conspicuous feature in the character of British seamen: that they hence derive a resolution which no peril can affect; and a perseverance in difficulty which no fatigue can overcome; that their generosity, instead of proceeding from a too profuse, or careless mind, derives its principles from Christianity; that the general humanity of their character arises from that virtue which suffereth long and is kind; and that the general amenity and open candour of their manners flows from a heart, which being thus well regulated by religion, and also by discipline, is always at peace within itself. “They," such are the words of that eloquent writer, “they who live amidst the vicissitudes of contending elements, whose representation alone, by the pencil of genius, fills the common beholder, though in safety, with dismay, pass their lives in continual survey of the most sublime object of nature, which is the ocean, and in conducting the most wonderful work of art, which is

the ship that bears them through it. Unto them is given to trace the Creator of the world, in the sublimest of its features; they see him in the ocean, they hear him in the tempest, and look for his protection amidst the winds and waves." ...... It is a curious remark that, from this class of men, the first preachers of Christianity should have been taken.....“ From what class of men,” exclaims the same author, “ did our Saviour select his early followers? Was it from among the great, the rich, or the learned that he chose his disciples? did he go in search of them to the stately palace, or the crowded Sanhedrim? It was from the sea-shore of Judea that he called men from their maratime occupations, to become the first preachers of his gospel: one of the many instances in which he displayed a mind that regarded not the persons of men; and was itself a mark of distinction, which, amidst the prejudices of that age, was more particularly flattering to the character of mariners."

-... Indeed the professional conduct of our seamen, the events which now are daily taking place, are sufficient to raise our ideas of those men to whom this country has repeatedly owed its religion and its liberty. Heroism, such as blazes forth in the conduct of our seamen, cannot proceed from any common source: and it must be inspired to them by the sublime truths of Christianity.

As mannerists, we must lament the number of naval coxcombs, whose enormous gold-laced hats and drawcansir scymitars make such a conspicuous figure on the parade at Portsmouth, or the long room hill at Plymouth. These are the harmless slaves of the fair sex, who lead them about like lions with their claws drawn, is the silzen chain of dalliance. They should be red regarded as foils to set off the real character of a seaman. It is not from them we should take our portraits of a British sailor. But did not the devout character of ADMIRAL Doscas shine forth with great lustre, when, after the tremendous scene of battle had closed off Camperdown, this commander with his gallant crew raised the grateful tear of thanksgiving unto the Being who had covered their heads in the day of battle!

.... It has often been remarked, as a reproach, that the officers of the British navy display on shipboard a character entirely different from that which appears so amiable on shore; the last is all courtesy and frankness, the first all sternness and reserve. Certainly, nothing unfolds the real character of a man more than his being intrusted with power. No individual possesses a more illimited authority than that which is given to the admiral of a fleet, or to the captain of a man of war. It requires, therefore, a very strong head, and a mind well disciplined by sorrow or by reflection, to withstand, in such a situation, the suggestions of pride or the ebullitions of vanity; emptiness will soon be puffed up, and folly will strut like a turkey-cock at the waving of a piece of red bunting. Alas! these defects are natural infirmities of mankind; they will appear only in proportion to the incapacity of him who displays them. Many, great many, however, exist in the British navy, whose heads and hearts, whether at sea or on shore, have always preserved a uniformity of disposition. - .... The epithet of tremulous is, with justice, given to the seaman: his life is one continued scene of anxi

ety and peril. What can be more deceitful and uncertain than the element on which he lives? That night, which, to all the rest of the world is a season of repose, is to the captain of a ship often a horrid interval of suspense. How many lives are intrusted to his diligence? How often is he called from broken and unquiet slumbers, emaciated with fatigue, and relaxed from want of air, to decide in an instant on the only measure by which the raging tempest may be baffled? Is it then surprising, that the naval character should be generally highly irritable?

.... Let us conclude these remarks on the manners and characters of our seamen, by the following candid and unprejudiced sketch. Their friendship is lasting and sincere; to the simplicity of a child they unite the most daring and determined courage; they are charitable without ostentation, affectionate without any protestation of being so, and, when they do good, their right hand never knows what their left hand doeth. These are the men to whom their country may, with confidence, look up for protection; these are the men for whom France may envy us, but will never possess; whom Buonaparté may threaten, but will never overcome.


" Servants like these are seldom seen."


....ONE word or two of this Bieder. He is by birth a German, but has forgotten his mother-tongue. He lives at the same hotel with me, in a garret room, and


is as poor as Irus, and as honest as Socrates; every thing he buys for me is as cheap as possible, and he always frowns when I pay for any thing too dear. One day I dropped, on the staircase, a paper with five lonis d'ors in it; Bieder, who followed me, picked it up, and honestly brought it to me. “Thou art honesty itself, Bieder," said I to him.--" Il faut bien, Monsieur, que je le sois, pour ne pas dementir mon noin,” answered be.

Once, I do not remember on what occasion, I spoke to him somewhat harshly. “Monsieur," said he “ des choses pareilles ne se disent point en bon Frarçois. Je suis trop sensible pour le soufrir."—I laughed.-"Ricz, Monsieur,” continued he,je rirai avec cous; mais point de grossieretès, je vous prie." On another occasion, he entered with tears in his eyes, and handed me a newspaper; I took it, and read as follows: “To day, 28th of May, at five o'clock in the morning, the ser. vant of Mr. N. in the street of St. Mary, shot himself. On hearing the report of a pistol, the door was broken open, and the unfortunate man was found weltering in his blood; beside him lay the pistol, and on the wall were written these words:

“ Quand on n'est rien, et qu'on est sans espoir,

La vie est un opprobre, et la mort un devoir.”

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

On the table lay verses, philosophical thoughts, and his testament. By the former it appeared, that this youth had almost learned by heart the dangerous writings of the new philosophers. Instead of comfort,

« PreviousContinue »