Billeder på siden

bourhood, six years afterwards, and is thus recorded in the Craftsmun of January the 5th, 1788:


[ocr errors]

"Saturday evening, about nine o'clock, a most uncommon scene presented itself near Charing Cross, viz., a young man about eighteen, in his shirt, with a hot poker in his hand, running full speed, and two crimps pursuing him, crying out Murder!' and Stop thief!' It seems the lad being obstreperous, had been put to bed about eight o'clock for security, but that after forcing open the chamber door, he rushed into the tap-room, and seizing the poker that was then in the fire, defended himself against upwards of a dozen crimps and others, some of whom were much bruised. The lad was stopped in Saint Martin's-lane, but soon rescued by the populace, who had the additional satisfaction of seeing one of the kidnappers severely drubbed by a butcher, who, it seems, had been in a similar situation with the young lad but a short time ago. The former had been met with coming out of a register office, and trepanned under the pretence of carrying a letter to the house where he had been detained."


After this, we may almost reconcile ourselves to the milder atrocities of

press-gangs, which picked up merchant-seamen (whose wages-from

45s. to 55s. per month in 1776-from the scarcity of them, were high in comparison with the rates in the royal navy), and, even, if the press were very "hot," landsmen were seized and carried off, if in London, to the tender off the Tower, for the naval service. Such paragraphs as the one we here copy from the "Historical Chronicle" of the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1754, were at that time common:

"Impress warrants being issued out, the press was very brisk at Cowes, and in the harbour, and a great many useful hands were picked up."

Another extract from Lloyd's Evening Post and English Chronicle of January the 29th, 1777, will show that there existed some competition between the press-gangs and the kidnappers :

"Yesterday a terrible affray happened at a public-house near Ratcliffe Highway between a party of kidnappers and a press-gang. The quarrel arose about enlisting a man that had been at sea, who, upon his discovering to a sailor, then drinking in the house, the artifices made use of to trepan him, and declaring his preferring the sea to the land service, the honest tar went for a press-gang, who soon decided the quarrel by giving the kidnappers a hearty drubbing."

These press-gangs were sometimes of still greater service; the following is no isolated case:

"On Friday night, a press-gang, having received intelligence of a house near Poplar, where the thieves skulk till the evening, when they commence their depredations, went very unexpectedly, and surrounded the house, from which they took seventeen, and carried them away to the tender at the Tower."-Old British Spy, September the 21st, 1782. The pathetic scenes attendant upon this necessary but arbitrary method of manning the navy were very frequent the sailor who had just returned from a long voyage was subject to be torn from his family and shipped off to a longer cruise or a foreign station; homeward-bound ships, coming up the Channel, were boarded and their crews carried away, only


a sufficient number of hands being left to navigate the vessel; families were left to bewail the sudden abstraction of a husband, a father, a son, or a brother; women, with large families left unprovided for, to be received in the streets, the workhouse, or the gaol.

In the neighbourhood of the seaports, contests might frequently be seen going on between a press-gang, headed by a petty officer, and a merchant-seaman, or perhaps a landsman; loud altercations in the streets between the press-gang and some sailor who claimed to be a master, mate, or apprentice, but who had not got the papers with him which exempted him; and, in some obscure garret in a sailor's lodging-house, Jack Tar might be seen, in expectation of the visit of a press-gang, heating a poker in the fire to give them a warm reception.

But, even when overpowered by numbers, and carried off, disarmed and pinioned, to the depôt, Jack did not always give up hope or resistance. Here are two instances, the first from the Annual Register for 1759:

"May 14th.-Thirty impressed men on board at ender at Sunderland forcibly made their escape. The bravery of the leader is remarkable, who, being hoisted upon deck by his followers, wrested the halbert from the sentinel on duty, and, with one hand defended himself, while, with the other, he let down a ladder into the hold, for the rest to come up, which they did, and overpowered the crew."

"June 22nd.—Was the hottest press for seamen on the Thames that has been known since the war began—no regard being paid to protections -and upwards of two hundred swept away. The crew of the Prince of Wales, a letter of marque ship, stood to their arms, and saved themselves by their resolution."-Annual Register for 1758.

[ocr errors]

The royal navy, with all its impressed forces, was not considered sufficient to secure the safety of the British merchantmen, and, though whole fleets of vessels were compelled to wait at the outports till a frigate came to protect or convoy" them on their voyage, and had to lie again for a convoy to conduct them back, French or Spanish men-ofwar would often carry off some richly-freighted Indiaman, and the commanders of the convoy would find one occasionally missing from their flock, which had sailed too wide away in the night, and been carried into port by the foe. To retaliate in the same coin, the government permitted private individuals to fit out vessels for the purpose of making reprisals, and, as they would now and then capture a valuable ship and cargo, it was not an unprofitable speculation, and was eagerly entered into, either by individuals or "Reprisal Societies." These privateers, and "letters of marque," as they were called from the licenses furnished to them, seem to have been slightly given to piratical practices, as in the following instance, reported in the Annual Register for 1759:

"April 3rd.-Two gentlemen, passengers from Holland, landed at Margate. They affirm they were in the evening boarded in sight of the North Foreland, by an English privateer cutter, whose crew, in disguise, confined the captain and crew of their vessel in the cabin, and then plundered it of goods to the value of two thousand pounds, demanded the captain's money, and took what the passengers had."

In 1758, the number of privateers was so great that scarcely a French ship dare leave the harbours, and in the absence of legitimate prizes, they attacked and plundered the vessels of neutral countries. Thus, "a

Dutch vessel," says Smollett," having on board the baggage and domestics of the Marquis de Pignatelli, ambassador from the court of Spain to the King of Denmark, was boarded three times successively by the crews of three different privateers, who forced the hatches, rummaged the hold, broke open and rifled the trunks of the ambassador, insulted and even cruelly bruised his officers, stripped his domestics, and carried off his effects, together with letters of credit and a bill of exchange."

These repeated aggressions upon neutral vessels calling forth a perfect tempest of remonstrance and complaint, a bill was passed, declaring any vessel of less burden than one hundred tons, carrying less than ten threepounders, and having a smaller complement than forty men, ineligible as a privateer, except by special permission, and also regulating the registry and control of this large and ill-conditioned force.

Apropos of privateers, as a mere trifling matter, but yet peculiar to the time, we find in a long list of them the favourite names appear to have been such as The Charming Polly, Lovely Sukey, Pretty Peggy, Sweet Sally, Lovely Nancy, Miss Betty, &c., &c.; and both in the lists of shipping and of marriages in the magazines of the time, we find these now vulgar contractions or corruptions of female names. This by the way, as a specimen of defunct tastes.

The newspapers of the last century teem with evidences of foreign war. The arrival of "the Convoy from the West Indies" is as regularly chronicled (and with much more of significant congratulation) as is now the arrival of the West India mail; the Gazette is crammed with despatches announcing a "splendid victory," or " glorious action," lists of killed and wounded, divisions of prize-money, and sailings of fleets, journals of sieges, embarkations of troops, battles, skirmishes, engagements, and captures. Now and then a mutiny breaks out among the French prisoners who are lying at some of the ports waiting for an exchange by cartel; or we read of French officers breaking their paroles of honour and escaping home.

These French prisoners, of whom the Universal Magazine of October, 1747, says, "there are not less than twelve thousand in England," deluged the market with fancy articles-thread papers, made of Indian straw, pincushions, work-boxes, hair chains, toys, and a hundred different articles of bijouterie, by which they contrived to earn a trifle to carry home when the cartel was arranged between the two nations, and they were exchanged for an equal number of English prisoners. These articles, which used to crowd the sideboards of our grandsires, were a part of the curiosities incidental to the continued wars of the last century, and we must find them a corner in our museum accordingly.



Who says we must?

Our own hard fates.

We make those fates ourselves.-DRYDEN.



"IT is a subject," said Mrs. Pigott, "upon which I am anxious that we should agree. My aunt Sefton, you know, always predicted that Henry would be a great man; and he should commence life accordingly." Then, perhaps, my dear, you intend sending him forth, at once, as a secretary of state-or, probably, a bishop ?"

[ocr errors]

"You know, Mr. Pigott, that I intend nothing of the kind; but I do think we might educate him for the Bar."

"Well, Mary, I should be sorry to oppose your wishes in anything, and particularly in promoting the happiness of our boy; and least of all when you express yourself with such commendable precision. Educate is the proper word. He has passed the age of tuition, and must now be educated. But to educate him for the Bar, according to the usual routine, would be a more expensive process than our limited means will permit. It might be more prudent (if they would receive him with a moderate premium) to place him in the office of my friends Messrs. Dangerfield and Pounce. Their extensive county business would give him an excellent knowledge of the law; and, if he fell into our views, and showed talents for the profession, we could enter him at the Temple somewhat later, and in sufficient time he would be called to the Bar. I wish to consult them also as to an insurance upon my life, and to-morrow I will take Henry's pony and ride over to see them."

Mrs. Pigott looked at her husband with grateful kindness, and by a gentle pressure of his hand acknowledged his participation in her wishes. They were then residing at Abbey Grange, not far from the borough of Stoke Dotterell-a place so well known in the annals of electioneering, that it is unnecessary to say in what county it is situate.

The house, which they had occupied for some years, was built upon the site, and partly from the ruins, of a conventual establishment of which all other traces had long since disappeared. Though not large, it comprised a centre and two gabled wings, and was lighted chiefly by oriel windows. A small terrace, surrounded by a balustrade, separated it from the road, and behind it there was a convenient extent of garden; but, with all this, it was more picturesque than commodious, and was let at a very easy rent.

Mr. Pigott had suffered reverses in his worldly affairs-some of them attended with very painful circumstances,-and at present his principal means of subsistence were derived from a moderate income which depended upon his own life.

His family was fortunately not very large. It consisted only of his

wife, a son, and daughter-the good and evil spirits of his Eden of domestic happiness.

Henry, who was a year older than his sister, was sparingly endowed with the qualities which usually engage affection, and yet, with an inconsistency that often seems to sway the feelings of mankind, there were persons who were much attached to him. This, perhaps, was owing to a certain superficial appearance of amiability-to that great charm, in man or woman, a pleasant voice-and to an outward aspect, which, as long as it was in a state of repose, was not unfascinating. His figure was graceful and active; his complexion clear and pale; his eyes dark blue, usually quiet, but capable of a strong expression both of anger and of hate.

His sister Helen was one of those lovable specimens of humanity who have so often been described as angels. What is distinctly meant by an angel on such occasions we do not very clearly conceive; we prefer saying that she was the promise of a sensible and kind-hearted woman; a being that we can more readily comprehend, and may often equally regard as the embodiment of a guardian spirit.

In the evening of the day with which we have commenced our story, Mrs. Pigott and her husband held a second council.

"You must certainly have seen," said Mrs. Pigott, as she composed herself to rest, "that Henry is clever."

"Ay, my dear Mary," replied her husband, "but you forget that there are many clever men at the Bar who never share its prizes, and rarely even its briefs. However, we will do all we can for him, and must hope that his career may be happier than his father's."

"You have not been very unhappy, Edmund ?"

"I have had cares, Mary, of which you have never known."

"But ought I not to have known them ?"


Perhaps you ought. But we will not talk of it now. I must be up betimes, and shall require all the sleep I can get."

The following morning, after an early breakfast, he rode over to Ilbury, and was soon closeted with Mr. Pounce, to whom the miscellaneous business of a very extensive concern was usually confided.

Mr. Pounce ran through a long course of common-places on the disadvantages of an overcrowded profession, and the necessity of a good legal connexion, or of commanding talent, or even of both, and he was met by Mr. Pigott with the equally common-place assurance of his perfect confidence in the talents of his son, and in his ultimate success.

The premium to be paid upon his admission into the office having been agreed upon, Mr. Pounce (who was agent for "The Lawyers' Indisputable Assurance Company") next informed Mr. Pigott as to the annual cost of the insurance upon his life, and he determined to provide for it, on his return home, by making such alterations in his expenditure as might be necessary.

As he rode towards the Grange the weather appeared threatening, and he took a shorter way across the common, which led past a solitary inn called the Hunter's Lodge.

It was a bare-looking, square house, standing on the highest ground of an extensive heath, and was flanked and enclosed at the back by a small quadrangle of stables and sheds, of which the thatch was blackened

« ForrigeFortsæt »