LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
‣ Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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I must record an incident here in which I was concerned. An individual, who laid claim to a peerage, rendered himself remarkable by acts exceeding the limit of those excesses which arise from the exuberance of youthful spirits. His conduct became the topic of general conversation. Acts, attracting public reprobation, cannot claim shelter in the sanctity of the domestic circle. Though then comparatively inexperienced, I was particular in ascertaining the truth of facts before I animadverted upon them. The barrack-master to the Board of Ordnance, a Major in the army, and an old soldier, told me that he had been greatly surprised at a scene he had witnessed on the Sunday morning preceding, during divine service. It was a dog fight at the door of a public-house, about three miles from the town, the most cruel he ever beheld. He was accidentally passing on horseback. He then described it, adding, that not content with his dog’s victory over that of a butcher, the victorious dog was made to tear the beaten animal to pieces.

On the following Sunday I had gone into the country to remain with a family I occasionally visited. I found that during the time of divine service, a party had landed from a boat, and been shooting round the
church, which stood upon the estate. The gardener had challenged the intruders, and got abused for his pains. Other things still more out of the way came to my knowledge. I thought it right to comment upon such conduct, particularly as regarded the example, and the outrage produced on the feelings of others. I never had an idea, nor would I ever admit that the accident of birth or station should prevent that being done in one case, that it would not be proper to do in another, where the question was one of morality. I was surprised soon afterwards by receiving the following letter from a nobleman in the vicinity, to whom I had sent a copy of my
letter on libel, but whom I did not personally know.

“Saltram, Sept. 4.

“I have enquired of my servants at this place, relative to the copy of the printed letters which you had the goodness to send me, and cannot obtain any tidings of their being received. I should therefore feel much obliged by your transmitting me, at your leisure, another copy; if by chance the number which you have retained may enable you to do so with convenience.

“I read with regret, and I may say surprise, your article in your paper of yesterday, relative to ——. With regard to the dog-fight, I learned from several persons present that the latter part of the fight, which was the only part that partook of cruelty, was in no way attributable to ——, as though his dog was thought likely to beat his antagonist, he repeatedly offered to give up all the money he had depending, if
the persons with whom the money was engaged, would consent to the immediate cessation of the fight.

“With regard to his shooting over the manor of W—— on Sunday se’enight, I learn that the real fact was that being at sea, in consequence of a gentleman with him being indisposed, he landed with a gun for an hour or two, shot two or three rabbits, and returned to the vessel.

“I certainly think that when a gentleman of fortune comes upon the public service, and at some considerable sacrifice of his own personal ease and convenience into this distant country, it is a little ungracious in any local journalist so to misrepresent his actions, and I must think it still more so, when I find it is the question of an individual whose singular case has attracted so much of the general sympathy, and likewise when I find the ground, on which part of this attack is made, is so little tenable, as the anxiety for an equal operation of the laws on the higher and lower orders of society, it being notorious with respect to the matter in question, in the second part of the paragraph; that those of an inferior condition are, particularly in winter time, in the constant habit of carrying guns on Sundays, and that the higher orders scarcely ever do so.

“As to the more serious part of your paragraph, that which by insinuation charges this gentleman with the odious offence of cruelty to animals, I can only say that I never heard of such practices, and do not credit them. I am willing to believe that before you permitted yourself to circulate such imputations, you minutely satisfied yourself with the evidence on which, in your view, such serious charges could be substan-
tiated. Having from the first establishment of your paper regularly subscribed to it, and feeling very strongly the unfitness of your publication of yesterday, I have taken the liberty of stating my sentiments to you.

“I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient humble servant,

His lordship had clearly heard the explanations of the party whose conduct had been assailed, and that in the most favourable manner. A nobleman more adverse, in his own conduct, to such acts as those on which I had commented, did not exist. I determined to justify myself. I never wrote a line in my life in the way of attack on character that gives me pain, or would give any man pain, who reflected (despite the lawyers) that the chartered libertine had its duties. I communicated the name of my informant’s eye-witnesses. I referred to the evidence of the family at W——. I stated that I perfectly well knew such conduct was not in general that of men of the station of the party to whom I alluded, and declared that I would not willingly misrepresent any man, but that it became those who wished to be objects of public sympathy to abstain from acts calling for animadversion. That allowances made for young men of fortune and rank, were different things from conduct such as I had commented upon. That if few of the higher orders went out shooting on Sundays, the few did not shoot around a place of worship, while the service was proceeding, even if there were exceptions. That I had no idea of bringing men of
rank into disrepute, but that where they brought themselves into it, I could hardly be censured for the act. I expressed my regret at his lordship’s opinion of my conduct, and thanked him for the friendly mode which he had taken to express it, and hoped, while he would not misinterpret my motives, he would think the evidence I then offered fully sufficient to bear me out in what I had said. I received the following letter a few days afterwards.

Saltram, Sept. 7.

“I have to thank you for your very handsome letter in answer to that with which I troubled you. I hope and believe that the accounts which you have heard relative to —— are exaggerated; though I have no difficulty in saying that should they be founded in fact, and redress denied, they are perfectly fair subjects of animadversion and reprehension.

“I also beg you to accept my thanks for the copy of your letter to Lord Holland, which I received with great pleasure.

“I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient servant,

The individual to which the above correspondence alluded, became an Earl. As with the heyday of youth over, the pictures of the past are seen dimly, and the follies of youth become self-censurable in age, so he now, perhaps, wonders that the warm blood of his early years could have exposed him to such remarks.
As it was, he soon left the vicinity, and returned no more.

Lord Boringdon called at my lodgings afterwards, and told me that he had just come from town, where he had seen Lord Holland, who had spoken to him of my letter on libel in the handsomest way; and during two years and a half, before I left, I was a repeated guest at Saltram. I had thus the pleasing reflection that I had now the good opinion of those noble lords, by no sacrifice of principle, but by a vindication of the cause of freedom in one case, and in the other of humanity.

The possessor of Saltram was than a tall well-proportioned man, with regular and handsome features, pallid complexion, and sedate physiognomy, about forty years of age. In manners, polished, rather a gentleman of the old than the new school. He possessed a fund of matter for general conversation, knew the world well; but his acquired stock of information was not extensive. He spoke the French and Italian languages fluently, and possessed considerable taste in the fine arts. He greatly improved his property, and was very far the superior in social qualifications to all others of the higher class in that part of Devonshire. The nearest resident man of rank to him was the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe; but his lordship was a mere fribble, exhibiting little above the calibre of an opera connoisseur, with something of the mimic. Saltram is the largest house in Devonshire. Lord Boringdon told me that when George III. and Queen Charlotte made his house their residence, during their visit to the west, a hundred beds were made up there
nightly. There is a noble collection of paintings, principally of the Italian school. The park affords some fine views of sea and land, though here it yields to Mount Edgcumbe.

The most genuine hospitality was exercised at Saltram. Officers of the garrison, foreigners, artists, and scientific strangers were its sure partakers, when visiting the neighbourhood. It would ill become me, though long years have passed since, to omit the mention of an individual whose urbanity and kindness I can never forget.

He became, afterwards, Earl of Morley. His Countess, on a second marriage, was one of the most accomplished ladies of the day, and lived to lament the loss of her partner. I met, at Saltram, Miss Keith Elphinstone, afterwards Countess Flahault, now too Baroness Keith. Her mother was the daughter of Mr. Thrale, and was well known to Doctor Johnson. She died recently, aged ninety-six. Miss Keith Elphinstone was a lady of a fine discriminating mind. Most of the gentry in the vicinity, the naval Commander-in-chief, the gallant old Sir Robert Calder and his lady, used to come over there from Plymouth. Sir Robert was a specimen of a bluff seaman in manner, stout, of the middle height, and good-humoured. He was a hardy man in constitution. I remember his telling me he had dived under a fifty-gun ship, when nearly sixty years of age. Plymouth was his first command, after the court-martial which reprimanded him, because, with fifteen sail of the line, he had attacked twenty-seven, and captured two, while one of his own became disabled. He did not follow up the victory, because twelve or thirteen sail of the line
more were momentarily expected to join the enemy out of Corunna. He thought, with Scotch caution, that he had a right to look to an imminent contingency.

Lord Bradford, of the Bridgman family, was then at Plymouth, commanding the Shropshire militia. He was not a well-informed man; and died many years ago. Among others, at Saltram, I met, for the first time, Canning, then in the prime of life, just before his departure for the election at Liverpool. In private society, he fully sustained that superiority which he showed in the House of Commons, but was inclined to be more taciturn than I expected. Neat in dress, and not like Fox, of whom an opposition paper, I remember, once said, “Mr. Fox came into the House last night with a clean waistcoat on.” Canning had nothing of the stiffness, arrogance, or ordinary person of Pitt. He exhibited no extremes. His evening dress was in the plainer fashion of the time. There seemed to me about him, too, something of the character of his eloquence, classical, tasteful, candid, and conscious of innate power. A handsome man in feature, compact in person, moulded between activity and strength, although I fancied, even then, he exhibited marks of what care and ambition had done for him. His countenance indicated firmness of character, with a good-natured cast over all. He was bald as “the first Cæsar,” his forehead lofty, his eyes not remarkably lively, his features expressing genius with vigour. In the dining-room, or drawing-room, little of that theatrical manner was visible, which was perceptible in the delivery of his parliamentary speeches. His gait, as he paced the room, I even now see, his well-fitted, blue-ribbed silk stockings, and breeches with knee-
buckles, the fashion of the day, closely fitting well-turned limbs. His action easy and unconstrained, and not like that of the late
Sir Robert Peel, who seemed sometimes not to know what to do with his arms. He spoke with a full, clear intonation, and absence of affectation. Eight or nine years after, when I returned from the continent, this eminent statesman had changed much in appearance. What marvel under the wear and tear of political hopes and fears, and that atrophy of ambition, which so surely destroys.

Breakfast at Saltram used to be found prepared for the guests in the order they chanced to descend from their bed-rooms. I found, one morning, that Mr. Canning had just preceded me, together with Mr. Henry Canning, a merchant at Plymouth, the minister’s cousin, who died a few years ago, British Consul at Hamburgh. He was a member of our Beefsteak-club. The conversation turned upon those beings of human fears, the doctors. Some jokes passed about their remedies, which neither killed nor cured. I mentioned the joke in Espriella’s letters, about curing a surfeit from eating hare by giving the patient greyhound broth. Mr. Canning seemed not to have read the letters, which was singular, and was much tickled at the joke.

A Canning, of the Irish branch, was on a visit at the same time, a pleasant, gentlemanly man, who afterwards become Lord Garvagh, of Garvagh, in Londonderry. Mr. Whidby, who was the resident contractor of the Breakwater, I also remember meeting there, and Mr. Treeby, of Godamoor, with many of the landowners in the vicinity of all political parties, most of whom I had met elsewhere. About the same period, Catalani
came to Plymouth. She sang in a private room more charmingly than in the theatre. I had known her previously. Of all the females attached to the opera, before or since, that I have seen, she pleased me most. She was a kind, generous creature, without a particle of pretension, an excellent mother and exemplary wife, wedded to a narrow-minded man, who sometimes got her an ill name from his avarice. He managed all her money transactions, and used to call her “ma poule d’or.” I hear her now singing “God save the King,” with her heavenly voice, and pretty foreign accent, set off by a person, one of the sweetest on the stage I ever saw. For mind she was not remarkable; I never met with a singer, of either sex, that was so. There was an openness and candour about her quite charming.

“Monsieur Redaing, I speak no language propre. I speak one Babylonish tongue. I speak not my own tongue, nor French, nor your tongue propre.”

Her husband, before Junot entered Lisbon, used to blaze away in the pit of the opera, in a dashing French uniform, speculating upon his future “poule d’or,” which, to him, she afterwards most fully proved. He was not invited with his wife to the houses of people of consideration. A person I knew, half a Roman, said, one day, to Catalani:—

“My dear half-countrywoman, how did you come to marry Valabreque?”

“I will tell you. I was at Lisbon—the Portuguese are fond of music—great men, princes, and counts talk to me of love and a number of fine things, but none of them talk of marrying. M. Valabreque talked of marriage—I marry M. Valabreque.”


In relation to the Portuguese, I must break the order of dates a little to mention that, on my first arrival in the West from London, I found many families there waiting for a passage to Rio de Janeiro, to which the court had fled upon the entrance of the French into Lisbon. Young, and susceptible of female attraction, it was not wonderful that I found much pleasure in the family of De Pinto, which consisted of an uncle, a brother, and three sisters. Donna Maria, the youngest, had all the charms of a Southern beauty, in the prime of that womanhood which decays so rapidly in attraction, before thirty years of age.

I became acquainted too with several of the best seamen of Portugal, who commanded Brazilmen of large tonnage. One of them dining with me, insisted on my visiting him in return. I found the standing rigging carefully sewn up in hides for its preservation, a common practice in vessels of South America, where cattle abound. We had a dinner in the Rio fashion, which I thought would never terminate. Dish followed dish without end. The Portuguese eat enormously; they seem only to live for that purpose, as if their brains were in their stomachs, for their heads were ever sparing of them. I remember, too, that the wine circulated so freely on one occasion, that it was proposed we should finish by a bottle in the tops, to which I mounted through lubber’s hole, for which I got jeered. The Portuguese had no conversation of an evening. The older men of the party played loto, which with eating and music, comprised the whole round of their mental and bodily amusement. The vivacity and personal attractions of the women drew me to their circle.
The brother of the ladies pinched the guitar like a master, to the voices of two of his sisters, whose modinhas, for which the Portuguese are so famed, were the most delightful airs I ever heard, full of feeling, and an expression never found among those who touch the piano in the North, and make music without a soul, covetous only of difficult execution.

The “cold in clime are cold in blood,” and never affect the heart in their tones, like the children of the South, with melancholy tenderness in relation to love, or with aspirations after the holier feelings of devotion. The modinha is passionate, or touching, as if the notes came warm from the soul. Donna Maria, in broken English and French, in which mode alone we could converse, agreed to teach me Portuguese if I would teach her English. I assented—“I love you,” repeat after me. “No, no, Senhor—En nam pos existir sin vos, Senhor!” I know not if I quote correctly in spelling. She told me to recollect that I was too concise in my love-making expressions for a southern. Her pronunciation was charming, it was soft latin upon an angel’s tongue. While thus trifling away time, this pleasant family was hurried off to the Brazils, where the brother told me his sisters would most probably enter a nunnery, as almost all their property was in Portugal, and was cut off. I knew a nephew, too, of the Archbishop of Rio, named Antonio da Silva Torres, and some of the Leite family. What has been their fate in the course of the years that have revolved since? The separation of acquaintance that interest us is saddening, more particularly where it has been short-lived, and we have seen only its bright side.


In conducting the paper, I had carefully avoided the expression of any decided political opinions. The bitterness of party, at that time, and there were then only two parties, it is difficult to describe. The subject of Catholic Emancipation was discussing, and bigotry was on the alert. The Cabinet Ministers were divided on the question. The Marquis Wellesley had retired from the Cabinet, Canning and Castlereagh remained, and were both in favour of the measure. The paper had become wholly mine. I very tenderly advocated the liberal side of the question. I do not repent of what I did, but even that was too much for the Perceval party to forgive. Politics have their lower rate actors as well as the drama. Perceval would have made an excellent Inquisitor-General. More than this, I ventured to aid a petition in favour of Emancipation. Lord Boringdon was going to make a motion in the House of Lords upon the subject, and I proposed a petition. It was “feared a greater degree of publicity,” to use his Lordship’s words in a letter to myself, “might call forth the latent disposition in some quarters to petition parliament against the Catholic claims.” I was doomed, in consequence of the part I took, to lose too large a proportion of the little I possessed. The agent-victualler, there is no doubt by instructions, abstracted the advertisements of his office, and none of the public departments sent them again. I thus lost not less than a column, often more of safe-paying advertisements weekly, the receipts being with those from other government quarters, sufficient to turn over a little above the outlay. I had never opposed the government. I had not touched upon any public question in the way of
censure. I had only advocated a measure on which the Cabinet was divided. Lord Boringdon told Mr. Canning how I had been served, he replied, “that upon any other question but that of religion he would willingly interfere, but that Mr. Perceval’s irritability was so great upon that particular topic, on which they differed widely, that he did not like to speak to him on the subject, for that branch of the service was directly within the Minister’s own department. He was certain, besides, it would do little good, while it would be most distasteful to himself to be refused. Mr. Perceval was scrupulous about what he called religion. A magistrate in the county, in the secrets of the leading men, hinted to me that an ex-officio information would be filed, if I gave only a fair opportunity for the purpose. He also told me that the stamp distributor of the town corresponded secretly with the Treasury, reporting people’s political opinions to a minister who only knew politics by the catechism. I was, therefore, careful not to get further into the list of the objects of the vengeance of the minister’s tools. I had said that the
Prince Regent had forgotten, as I feared, his previous expressions in favour of Emancipation, that the charm of power too often cancelled the obligations of principle. This was considered, as to whether it was within reach of the law or not, for I had notice of all that went on at head-quarters.

I determined ever after to call no one knave or fool, but to prove an opponent, to be both one and the other in a quiet way, by inference, through the good sense of the public, despite the lawyers. The preceding circumstances gave me the conviction, that if peace came, I
should do little to my advantage where I was, and it determined me to quit the town the moment I could dispose of the paper. It was a year before I succeeded.

I used to carry a telescope in my pocket, having a book with a list of the ships’ numbers, kept, of course, sub rosa, and walked often to the citadel flag-staff, or to the Hoe, where a fine sea-view was attainable, to see what was passing up and down Channel, or making the port. I one day saw the main top-mast of a large ship go over as she was passing up Channel to Portsmouth, and in a day or two afterwards found from the papers it belonged to the ‘Dragon.’ Several men had gone overboard with the mast. In this way, I saw the ‘Northumberland,’ make her number, and taking a boat, went to meet her. I knew the officers. She was commanded by the most finished gentleman at that time in the navy, Sir Henry Hotham. He was exact in etiquette. If he had company to dinner, he would introduce his officers to his guests one and one, when the strangers came on board, and it was remarkable that he made them all gentlemen like himself in conduct and manners.

I was scarcely on the quarter-deck, when I perceived that the ship had been roughly handled. Shot had gone through the masts, and the starboard bulwark had been shattered. The main deck had been furrowed by the graze of shot. The ship had had a brush with the batteries off the French coast, having driven on shore two frigates and a brig. These vessels had done the ‘Northumberland’ no great damage, but a one-gun battery on shore, just in the right place, had caused considerable mischief. Six or eight men were killed
and twenty-six wounded. The hat and coat of one of the lieutenants looked as if white of egg had been splashed over them.

“What a mess your hat and coat are in?” I observed.

“You remember,” said he, “the red-haired man who used to pull the bow-oar in our excursions from the bay.”


“These are the poor fellow’s brains. He and others were pointing the gun by which you are standing, when the ball struck the bulwark, tore away splinters, and one or the other smashed the head of the poor fellow, wounded another, and covered me as you see, for I was close to him. I have put a brush over my coat, having had no time to change. A second man was killed outright by the same shot, which had nearly gone through the opposite side of the ship, the carpenter was at that moment trying to cut it out.”

The black greasy thing was afterwards hung up in a bit of netting in the ward-room, as a shot that had done its duty. There were two officers on board whom I well remember. One is now a retired post-captain, the other, the master. The last I believe is no more: his name was Stewart. He had been master of the ‘Anson’ frigate, wrecked on the Loe Bar in Mount’s Bay, when Captain Lydiard and most of the crew perished. There remained only the chance of going on the rocks or the sand, the ship being embayed. Stewart laid the frigate broadside to the sand, on a steep shore. The waves broke over them, so that it was with difficulty they cut away the masts. These, falling towards the land,
offered a faint chance of escape, but many who attempted to scramble over them were washed off and drowned. Stewart watched the recession of the waves, and then leaped upon the beach, throwing himself on his face, and digging his hands into the sand with all his force, while the sea passed over him. When it retired, he sprang on his legs and ran, repeated the same thing when the next sea came over him, digging in his hands once more, then rising and running again, he was caught hold of by the people on the shore. A methodist minister rode into the sea, and saved two men; but on the third attempt, both horse and rider were swept off and perished. In twenty or thirty minutes afterwards, there was no part of the ship that held together, her planks and wreck strewing the shore for miles. When visiting this spot, some years afterwards, I thought of Stewart’s escape. The day was fine, tiny waves struck and broke on that same sand in a gentle murmur. A cloudless sun shone; it was difficult to dream of a storm there, of death and drowning men. All was deceitful—the sea a flood of beauty, cerulean, calm, heavenly.

Stewart’s masterly seamanship was evinced in the action to which I have alluded. He carried the ‘Northumberland’ close to the rocks on the French coast, when a cloud of smoke a-head, in the heat of the engagement, prevented his seeing anything.

I witnessed a naval execution here, four men hung in the ‘l’Aigle’ frigate, for piracy and murder. They were of four nations, a Spaniard, Portuguese, Englishman, and Irishman. It was a more solemn sight than an Old Bailey execution, A brave naval
officer in my company, when the guns were fired and the criminals were run up to the yard-arm, cried like a child. They behaved with great firmness, though suffering for monstrous crimes.

There had been several meetings held in the town, for considering the best mode of extending useful knowledge, at length a body called the “Plymouth Institute,” was formed. Laws and regulations were agreed upon. There were two presidents and twenty-eight ordinary members. When the Institute commenced, there were, among the members, Dr. Leach, the naturalist, who left so high a reputation behind him, Mr. John Murray of Edinburgh, and Mr. N. W. Fox of Falmouth. Lectures were given weekly. I gave a lecture or two there on the Origin and Early Development of Poetry, not long before I left the town. I was preceded by Dr. Cookworthy, a name long connected with science at Plymouth. I have heard that the Institute afterwards grew into a useful and opulent society, and that it has now a building of the most tasteful character attached. On leaving the town, I gave one of the presidents the nucleus of a collection of Cornish ores and minerals, which I possessed, with the request that when the society had a fitting place, they might be presented to it. The intelligence that similar institutions, so begun, have flourished, is most grateful. There were many in the town who were readers and thinkers, but they were insulated. The exchange of ideas, the great source of mental profit as well as conversation upon literary topics, was almost unknown there. A few new works were read and laid by: no opinions were given upon them. I did not attempt to characterize
them in the columns of the paper, because I was convinced my efforts would not be valued.

The Corporation, in which the principal mover of the town improvements was Mr. Edmund Lockyer, offered two prizes for the plan of an edifice to combine a ballroom, theatre and hotel. As I knew what was wanted, and had studied a little of architecture for my amusement, I was anxious my notions, on the subject, should appear in more than a verbal recommendation. The building was first designed to be placed in a different spot from that it afterwards occupied. I said nothing of my intention, but set about drawing an elevation and front view of such an edifice as seemed to me most suitable for the purpose. I sealed it up, and sent it anonymously to the Corporation. I gave no details and no sections, because I could not presume to vie with professional men. I was awarded the second prize, seven or eight professional men being candidates. My amateurship had never aspired so high. Mr. Foulston, to whom Plymouth and the West of England were indebted for many edifices in the purest taste, obtained the first prize, and commenced a new era in the adornment of the town. He was no admirer of that monkish style now so cherished in architecture, as well as faith, by those who would fain pander to degrading superstitions, by making man retrogade to the darker ages of the human intellect, in creed as well as art. Time can never impart to spurious and servile imitations that veneration connected with historical vicissitudes in the genuine edifices, which is the secret of the impression they produce.

Finally I quitted that hospitable, and now handsome town. The ancient part, it must be observed, lies
in another direction from that where the improvements commenced, and is close, narrow and awkward. Most of the improvements that occurred were first discussed at
Mr. Lockyer’s table. That gentleman was one day lamenting, that of the two roads to Dock (now Devonport) one was narrowed by a row of houses of ill-repute, the other too circuitous by Mill Bay.

“I have thought of it too,” I observed, “what is to prevent a road through the Marsh fields, which lie between the towns?”

“It is a dead level shorter than either of the old roads,” he replied. “We cannot make a road through the wet ground,”

I said, “a few faggots and a little rubbish would make all firm.” Thus originated that middle road, now a handsome street.

I was sitting alone expecting a summons to dinner one day, when the door of the room opened, and with little ceremony a hard pallid faced gentleman in black entered, and began:

“I have heard of you, sir; wished much to be acquainted; came from Tiverton; called to ask if you had seen one of my pamphlets,” handing over one, “singular thing, sir.”

“Pray, sir, whom have I the honour of addressing?”

“My name, sir, is the Reverend Caleb Colton, Cambridge Fellow, Curate of Tiverton,”

“Pray, sir, take a seat.” Here commenced my acquaintance with that singular personage, the author of “Lacon.” A first-rate scholar and shrewd thinker; most superstitious about spiritual appearances. His pamphlet related to the Sampford Ghost, and most
extraordinary things he stated as facts, and verbally re-affirmed. He talked of the church, of
Horace, of his own poetry, of which he had a lofty idea, and of Dr. Johnson’s opinion of spirits. In vain was dinner announced—he took no hint—and being pleased with his conversation, I thought the best way was to ask him to take a share of what awaited myself. He jumped at the offer, and said it would prolong conversation. I remember there were ducks on the table, and that he dined off a very small portion of one of them, of wine, no dean, “orthodox in port,” could seem fonder in moderation. It was midnight before he departed. His conversation was scholastic and clever, mingled with the wonders of the ghost at Sampford. He had sat up two nights, had found the bells of the house rung, had undone the wires, and still the mysterious sounds were heard. He had rushed with a light into the apartment, and counted five or six vibrations of a clapper while he looked on. He had listened to footsteps on the stairs, where nothing could be seen, and had been so convinced of supernatural agency, that he had made himself responsible for two hundred pounds to be paid to the poor of the parish if the thing should be proved an imposture. This was a great proof of his sincerity, as no man loved money more. It may be observed, that he was so credulous about ghosts, he would not walk home of an evening across his own churchyard, unless he was lighted by some one, and a little girl of ten years of age used to accompany him on such occasions, carrying a lantern. He gave me a pressing invitation to Tiverton, and quoted many lines from a poem he was composing, called “Hypocrisy.”


“Now,” said he, “do you think any lines of Pope are more euphonical than these?” His conceit at first surprised me, but seeing his weak side I flattered him.

“Really they are good and very like—”

“There, sir, I think these will convince you I can write verses of some merit.” His repetition was like a boy declaiming at a grammar school; upon all other topics he was shrewd, informing and agreeable. He laid bare a sophistry admirably, and when he felt he had succeeded, he indicated it by a peculiar twinkle from the corners of his cunning grey eyes, bespeaking his satisfaction. His cheek bones were high, and his features denoted none of that intellectual power which he undoubtedly possessed, rather the offspring of labour than genius. He seemed in conversation as though his whole life had been devoted to controversial debate, and that he had employed all his time in detecting fallacies. His learning was great, his reading extensive, his memory retentive. He quoted from English, Greek, and Latin writers with great facility, when he wanted to illustrate any subject. His knowledge of the Scripture was apt and profound, yet he was careless in morals, selfish, reckless in his conduct, and sceptical in his faith.

The strongest minded individual, without any pretention to more that the usual habits of a mercantile profession, was Mr. John Collier, afterwards member for the borough. He was the resident at Mount Tamar, about four miles distant, and in Old Town Street, Plymouth. He kept an open table on Fridays and Sundays, the former not being a post day to town.
Men of all countries might be met there. I dined at his table with masters of vessels, not more than a week or two out of Dantzick, when Davoust and Rapp were governors, and
Bonaparte thought he had excluded English produce from the continent. The douceur to the ruler, only doubled the price of the goods to consumers. The officers trusted by the French Emperor, cheated their master, and filled their own pockets. Commerce has its stratagems. False papers were the passports, about which governors of towns were not over nice, when their own profit was implicated. Many a hearty laugh I have had at hearing how the French went to work with forms which they knew were fallacious. The purchaser had to pay extra for all. The original counterfeiting was in London, where, in the customs, I well remember there was a man called “the damned soul,” who swore to the papers at two and sixpence an oath, perhaps with the mental reservation, that he did know them to be true or false, taking care not to trouble himself about any inquiry on the subject. Some of the old retired custom-house officers must recollect the adjudicator under Perceval’s administration, and the nickname he bore. Mr. Collier was of a quaker family, and would never buy goods taken by a privateer, because he disapproved of merchants plundering, instead of protecting each other. He took no part in the corporation squabbles.

There was a captain in the navy I remember too, whom we called Tom Codd, a singular dare-devil man, in the prime of life. He cared for nothing, and he was continually put to the trial of his enduring qualities. He had been in most appalling situations. He had the
yellow-fever on board a store-ship, he commanded in the West Indies, so badly that the crew dropping off one and one, and being ordered to Halifax, he had not long gone on his voyage, before he had not hands left to navigate the vessel. Day by day, the morning light saw his men, with the hammock loosely lashed round their lifeless bodies, plunged into the deep. As he made a higher latitude, the fever did not seem to spare its victims. His surgeon died among others.

“What did you do then, Codd?”

“Gave the sick calomel, but I did not know the dose. I fear I killed some of them myself.”

“Were you not depressed in mind?”

“No. If I had, I should have caught the fever, all who were, died—besides, ’twas no use to be glum, you know, when I had all my work to do. I was worn out with fatigue.”

“It was a melancholy affair indeed?”

“It was no use considering that, when there was no back-door to run out at. It was no use to be dumpy.”

“You got safe to Halifax?”

“Yes, but could scarcely get in our sails.”

A more horrible situation can hardly be conceived. He never made a shilling of prize money, and was put on half pay, after years of ill luck and hardship. He would then shrug his shoulders, and say he owed the devil so much the less, for too much money would have led him into mischief. One day a brother officer, commanding a frigate on the station, lost his mother, and having obtained leave of absence for a few weeks, Tom Codd was permitted to be his locum tenens. Running
out for a cruise accordingly, he brought in a prize, worth twenty thousand pounds.

“Lucky at last, Codd?”

“Yes, my dear fellow, at last.”

“What will you do with money?”

“Buy a horse and ride like hell!”

The last words I ever heard from him. There was another eccentric of a different cast, named Sir John Dinely, who inherited the title from Sir John Dinely Goodyere, Bt., murdered at Bristol, by a relative, in the last century. The immediate successor of the murdered man was an odd character, succeeded by the Sir John of whom I am writing. The last had been an officer in the army, and when he had taken a sufficiency of wine, he would refer to his services and wounds, opening his waistcoat to exhibit a cicatrised bullet wound in his breast. He had evidently moved in the better society of the olden time, for his conversation was in the way of the old school, much interlarded with oaths and interjections not very decorous. He kept several sail of trawl boats, which he found profitable, the superior fish always travelling to London. I could never learn his history in a connected way, but his title was admitted in the Assize Court at Exeter. He lived in an obscure part of the town under the citadel.

There is a fine stone military hospital at Plymouth, besides the great naval establishment. While I was there, it was filled with wounded men from Wellington’s army, sent via Lisbon. Among them was the first man whose thigh bone had been successfully taken out of the socket. The poor fellow going about on crutches, seemed to have been born with only one leg, looking
like a crane at rest on a house roof. There was then attached to the medical department of the army, an inspector of hospitals, with whom I made an acquaintance, his name was Rocket. I had dined in his company but a few days before, he became ill from monomania, under the notion that he should starve. His razors were taken away, and he was narrowly watched. The woman of the house, with whom he seemed pleased to converse, took a place at a table in his sitting-room with her work, while the man, who was generally with him, went out for a short time. Rocket did not seem to notice his absence, nor that he was himself under surveillance. This was the cunning of insanity, for he knew well all about it. Wanting something to complete her work, the woman went for it into the next room. She was not a minute absent. Unfortunately she had left her sharp-pointed scissors on the table. Rocket seized them, and drove them into the jugular vein. When she came in again, he was working them round convulsively to enlarge the orifice, the blood gushing in torrents, and he fell dead at once. He left nearly twenty thousand pounds behind him.

I made a short-lived acquaintance here, too, with Governor M’Carthy, who had landed from Honduras, where he had been commander, and was going to London to receive his appointment as Governor of Sierra Leone. He was one of the few survivors of the army sacrificed in the St. Domingo expedition, which cost England twenty thousand men, few of whom fell by the sword.

Of eight hundred men embarked from Jamaica for Port-au-Prince, the seeds of the fever among them,
four hundred perished in the passage of ten days’ duration.
M’Carthy told me he had no fear of the African fever; he was case-hardened. Unfortunately in a battle with the Ashantees in 1824, his black troops ran away, he was killed and decapitated. He was a very large, stout, tall man.

Admiral Vincent, a post-captain of 1747, between eighty and ninety years old, introduced himself to me by a book published about two years before his decease, entitled: “A new Argument for the Existence of a God,” a series of enquiries in support of what he thought evidence not very different from Berkeley’s theory of the non-existence of matter. He believed that the Deity, all energy, all action, operated every thing, even to the fulfilment of the wills of all beings. He did not believe that man possessed for a moment an independent volition. We had a short correspondence on the subject.

We were at this time on the verge of hostilities with America. A vessel had entered Padstow bound to Bordeaux, and was detained. On board was a young American named Graham, who at once set off for Liverpool, thinking to obtain a passage home again. All intercourse was cut off, and he returned to Plymouth in a forlorn situation. A good-hearted young man took pity upon the stranger, who was well read in English literature, and had studied the law for two years before he left home. His father was a merchant in the Broadway in New York. He ventured upon the Plymouth stage as an amateur, but had no histrionic talent. His friend asked if I could give him employment, but besides his utter ignorance of European politics, I could myself have edited two such papers as my own. I
inserted once or twice some lines from his pen—no more. There was a danger of his being recognized as an American. The authorities pitied him, and would not see him. We thought it best he should start for London, where he would be safer. I supplied him with a little money, and he reached the metropolis unknowing and unknown. A stranger without a single acquaintance, he was soon reduced to such distress that he waited upon
Mr. Lovel, the editor of the ‘Statesman’ evening paper, and told him his tale. Mr. Lovel, moved at his position, published an advertisement in his behalf addressed to Americans. Two only called upon him, and neither offered him aid. Owning American citizenship was somewhat hazardous to individual freedom at that moment. In this distressed state, Mr. Burdon of Welbeck Street, London, and Hartford House, Morpeth; author of ‘Materials for Thinking,’ called upon the editor of the ‘Statesman,’ and then recommended Graham to Mr. Britton, the antiquary. This gentleman employed him at a small salary, but he had every thing to acquire in that line of study, and could be of little service. He was soon after attacked by typhus, and here I must make a break in his singular history. There was then a respectable family in Plymouth, named Fuge. They were three brothers, one a surgeon, another a distiller, and the third a merchant. A wag in the town characterized them almost unconsciously by their names, one was a febrifuge, another a subterfuge, and the third a refuge, this last being given to tender his advice to complainants when that of other people was exhausted. Spoken off hand, I thought the observation savoured of true wit.