Page images
PDF
EPUB

and apostacy in her people that sects prevail in the exact proportion in which they are able to identify their own dogmas with the leading doctrines of the Gospel-and, therefore, that the best preventive of, and remedy for, dissent is the firm maintenance and zealous promulgation of the “ faith once delivered to the saints,”.. and embodied in our own formularies. It was said in the last session of parliament by a young orator of great promise, referring to the character of the clergy-that “ the safety of the shrine depends, under God, upon the brightness of the lamps which burn around it.” In this opinion we concur.

We believe that the clergy in all prostrate churches have assisted to overthrow their own altars. Let them fairly descend into the sacred arena; let them lead the van in the spiritual battle ; let them hoist the standard of moral reform; let them head every institution for the dissemination of religion ; let them deserve the disunctions they enjoy-and they have nothing to fear from the dislosalty of the people. Our countrymen are not addicted to change; and if they were, every cathedral and church, every: proud monument, or turf-grave of their ancestors, “ grapples” them by more than "hooks of steel” to the establishment. At the same time, the clergy must not rely merely on the prejudices of the people; nor must they pursue the mischievous, we had almost said profligate, policy of contending for the church, while they neglect the cause of general religion ; for, after all, the piety of the nation is the best rampart of the church. Let the clergy take care of that, and, we are disposed to think, the church will take care of herself.

Art. IX.-The Life of Nelson. By Robert Southey. 2 Vols.

12mo. London, 1813.

Many

ANY are the attempts which have been made to write the life of Lord Nelson; but the views, objects, and d. means of the several biographers have either been of so confined and partial a nature, or, as in the case of Mr. Clarke's voluminous work, the connection and arrangement liave been so overwhelmed by a redundancy of materials, that a correct and spirited memoir of this illustrious and remarkable person was still wanting to do posthumous jus

tice, and to satisfy the feelings of his countrymen. Mr. Southey • has attempted not only to supply this deficiency, but to give a

history, as he says, “clear and concise enough to become a manual for the young sailor, which he may carry about with him,

till he has treasured up the example in his memory and in his heart." “ In attempting such a work," continues Mr. Southey, “ I shall write the eulogy of our great naval hero: for the best eulogy of Nelson is the faithful history of his actions; the best history that which shall relate them most perspicuously.” (Preface, p., 1.).

We do not mean to deny that in prosecuting this design Mr. Southey has produced a very entertaining little work for the amusement of readers of settled principles and habits; but we must be permitted very seriously to doubt the adequacy of the work before us, as “a manual for the young sailor;" indeed, to express our decided conviction, that a more unsuitable work for such a purpose has scarcely ever been published; and that almost all the additional information which a young seaman can acquire from the passages before us, concerning the character of the great object of his professional imitation, will operate to the degradation either of his own character, or of that of the subject of the memoir. We do not believe that a single midshipman of the navy has any thing to learn concerning the enterprize, skill, bravery, and devoted patriotism of Lord Nelson-or the splendid achievements which will transmit the proof of those qualities to the latest posterity. But we do believe that the sad deficiences of his lordship's private life, as pourtrayed in these volumes, and the very insufficient and incorrect motives and sanctions of conduct which Mr. Southey' himself proffers as the stimulating principles of a young seaman's ambition, are calculated rather to pervert his taste than elevate. his views, either in his moral or bis professional career.

The irregularities of Lord Nelson's character, which, with respect to any other man, would have damped the courage of his most determined panegyrist, were enveloped by the splendor of his qualities in a blaze of glory. And, unhappily, there is a propensity in ordinary youths to arrogate to themselves, without much self-examination, the latent sparks at least of those splendid qualities which adorn the objects of their admiration. If this is a point upon which their vanity will not suffer them to doubt, their passions are ready enough to suggest that the perfection of the resemblance requires the introduction of the less regular features, which determine the expression and qualify the effulgence of the character.

The principles of our journal make it impossible for us not to notice a very dangerous tendency in many passages of this work. To be plain, we must venture, at the risk of being laughed at for our little minds, and want of taste for that noble negligence of rules which gives a sort of picturesque effect to

the seaman's character, to declare our opinion that the details of an irregular attachment are not likely to be of any practical use in" a young seaman's manual."

Mr. Southey commences the work with some anecdotes of the boyish days of the hero. They are like other anecdotes of infancy-questionable in the moral, dull in the story, and vague in the authority.

We are told, that one day in his mere childhood, when he had lost himself on an excursion to plunder birds-nests, he was, after a long search, discovered alone, sitting composedly by the side of a brook, which he could not get over. “ I wonder," said his grandmother, “ that hunger and fear did not drive you home.” "Fear! grandnamma,” said he, “I never saw fear, what is it?" The answer implied an ignorance of what was meant by the term, and not that the child was a stranger to the impression.

On another occasion, when he and his brother were sent by themselves to school through a deep snow, after the holidays, their father told them if the road was dangerous they might return; but, “ remember boys," added he, “ I leave it to your honour.The snow was deep enough to have afforded them a reasonable excuse for turning back; but Horatio was not to be prevailed upon—"We must go on," said he, “remember, brother, it was left to our honour!But surely it is obvious to one who is old enough to feel the principle of honour, that to use a permission where it seems right and reasonable to use it, and according to the intention of him who gave it, could not be inconsistent with honour. Again, some fine pears were growing in the schoolmaster's garden“ which the boys regarded as lawful booty, and in the highest degree tempting, but the boldest among them were afraid to venture for the prize.” Horatio volunteered upon the service, was lowered down at night by some sheets-plundered the tree, was drawn up with the pears, all of which he immediately distributed among his schoolfellows. “He only took them," he said, “ because every other boy was afraid.” (P. 7.)

Now here it is to be observed, that the young gentleman uuderstood what fear meant much better than he understood the true principles of honour. The achievement was like an infant's toy~glittering and worthless--fitter to be the prognostic of the future exploits of a buccanier than of a British admiral. But do we complain of the child in all this ?-certainly not. We complain of the silly admiration which prompted the selection. Mr. Southey may, perhaps, reply, that he writes not to give examples to schoolboys, but to young seamen. seamen so far removed from the habits and feelings of schoolboys, as to suffer no risk from being told that it is a promising

But are young

[ocr errors]

symptom of. Nelsonian-spirit to plunder other men's goods, pror vided the theft be attended with dauger, and the booty liberally distributed ? In this æra of improved education it is to be hoped that these instances of spirit have greatly sunk in credit. The chivalry of robbing orchards is gone we hope for ever.

Young Nelson was fortunate in possessing an uncle in the havy of high character as an officer.--Through the mterest of Captain Maurice Suckling, his mother's brother, afterwards comptroller of the navy, added to the satisfaction afforded by his spirit and intelligence to every officer under whom he served, he was rapidly promoted to the raok of post-captain, which he attained at the age of twenty-one. Short, however, as his progress was to this honourable station, it was eventful and characteristic. There is something touching, and as we conceive, really useful to young officers in the difficulties attending the hero's very first step into the profession (if we may be allowed the term), and Mr. Southey has detailed them with feeling and judgment in the following passage,

* Early on a cold and dark spring morning Mr. Nelson's servant arrived at this school at North Walsham with the expected summons for Horatio to join his ship. The parting from his brother William, who had been for so many years his playmate and bed-fel. low, was a painful effort, and was the beginning of those privations which are the sailor's lot through life. He accompanied his father to London. The Raisonable was lying in the Medway. He was put into the Chatham stage, and on its arrival was set down with the rest of the passengers, and left to find his way on board as he could. After wandering about in the cold, without being able to xeach the ship, an officer observed the forlorn appearance of the boy, questioned him, and happening to be acquainted with his uncle, took him home, and gave him some refreshments. When he got on board, Captain Şuckling was not in the ship, nor had any person been apprized of the boy's coming. He paced the deck the whole remainder of the day, without being noticed by any one ; and it was inot till the second day that somebody, as he expressed it, took compassion on him.' The pain which is felt when we are first transplanted from our native soil,—when the living branch is cut from the parent tree--is one of the most poignant which we have to endure through life. There are after-griefs which wound more deeply, which leave behind them scars never to be effaced, which bruise the spirit, and sometimes break the heart: but never never do we feel so keenly the want of love, the necessity of being loved, and the sense of utter desertion, as when we first leave the haven of honie, and are, as it were, pushed off upon the stream of life. Added to these feel ings, the sea-boy has to endure physical hardships, and the privation of every comfort, even of sleep. Nelson had a feeble body and an affectionate heart, and he remembered through life his first days of -wretchedness in the service."

We wish, however, to qualify the sentimental and rather too commiserating tone of the concluding observations by the following spirited stanzas, sent by an elegant poet to his grandson previously to his first cruise.

« The needy youth, compell'd to roam,
When first he quits his native home,
Gives rising sorrow to the wind;-
He leaves no precious pledge behind :

Why, like the dastard, should he grieve?
No load hangs heavy at his heart,
His well-brac'd sinews play their part,

What may not he atchieve?
“ From care and anxious foresight free,
In the first bark he trusts the sea :-
'Tis well if prosp'rous breezes play:
Should fate arrest her on her way,

No partner in the freight she bore;
Amid the wreck a plank he gains,
And while the hurricano reigns
I see him make the shore *."

&c. &c. One of Nelson's earliest cruises was in the little fleet conducted by the Honourable Captain Phipps, in the year 1772, on the enterprizing and hazardous voyage of discovery towards the North pole. Of this expedition Mr. Southey gives a concise and interesting account. It was marked with many hair-breadth escapes from perdition. But Nelson, never satisfied with the ordinary allotment of danger, how great soever it might be, thought proper, though then a weak and sickly youth, to appropriate to himself an additional portion by a personal contest on the ice with a huge bear. For which piece of rashness, when he was severely reprimanded by his captain, “Sir," said he, pouting his lip, as he was wont to do when agitated, “ I wished to kill the bear, that I might carry the skin to my father.”

Upon the return of this expedition he was sent to India in the Sea-horse, of twenty guns, and remained about eighteen months in those seas. In which period the climate made such terrible inroads, upon his constitution, that he was under the necessity of returning home, and was even indebted for his life to the careful and attentive kindness of Captain Pigot, who brought him home.

“ He had formed an acquaintance,” adds Mr. Southey, “ with Sir Charles Pole, Sir Thomas Trowbridge, and other distinguished officers, then, like himself, beginning their career: 'he had left them pursuing that career in full enjoyment of health and hope, and was returning from a country in which all things were to him new and

** Mercer's Lyric Poems, edited by Lord Glenbervie.

« PreviousContinue »