Life And Adventures Of Peter Wilkins, Vol. I. (of II.)
by Robert Paltock
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



WITH A PREFACE BY A. H. BULLEN, Editor Of "The Works Of John Day," "A Collection Of Old English Plays," Etc.



In one of those bright racy essays at which modern dulness delights to sneer, Hazlitt discussed the question whether the desire of posthumous fame is a legitimate aspiration; and the conclusion at which he arrived was that there is "something of egotism and even of pedantry in this sentiment." It is a true saying in literature as in morality that "he that seeketh his life shall lose it." The world cares most for those who have cared least for the world's applause. A nameless minstrel of the North Country sings a ballad that shall stir men's hearts from age to age with haunting melody; Southey, toiling at his epics, is excluded from Parnassus. Some there are who have knocked at the door of the Temple of Fame, and have been admitted at once and for ever. When Thucydides announced that he intended his history to be a "possession for all time," there was no mistaking the tone of authority. But to be enthroned in state, to receive the homage of the admiring multitude, and then to be rejected as a pretender,—that is indeed a sorry fate, and one that may well make us pause before envying literary despots their titles. The more closely a writer shrouds himself from view, the more eager are his readers to get a sight of him. The loss of an arm or a leg would be a slight price for a genuine student to pay if only he could discover one new fact about Shakespeare's history. I will not attempt to impose on the reader's credulity by professing myself eager to acquire information about the author of "Peter Wilkins" at such a sacrifice; but it would have been a sincere pleasure to me if I could have brought to light some particulars about one whose personality must have possessed a more than ordinary charm. The delightful voyage imaginaire here presented to the reader was first published in 1751.*

* Some copies are said to be dated 1750. It appears on the list of new books announced in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for November 1750.

An edition appeared immediately afterwards at Dublin; so the book must have had some sale. The introduction and the dedication to the Countess of Northumberland (to whom it will be remembered Percy dedicated his "Reliques" and Goldsmith the first printed copy of his "Edwin and Angelina") are signed with the initials "R. P.;" and for many years the author's full name was unknown. In 1835, Nicol, the printer, sold by auction a number of books and manuscripts in his possession, which had once belonged to Dodsley, the publisher; and when these were being catalogued, the original agreement * for the sale of the MS. of "Peter Wilkins" was brought to light.

* It is now in the collection, shortly to be dispersed, of the late Mr. James Crossley of Manchester, a gentleman who was esteemed throughout his long life not less for unfailing courtesy than for rare scholarship. Mr. Crossley promised to search for the document and send me a transcript of it; but his kind intention was frustrated by his death. Paltock's name is sometimes written Pultock or Poltock. There is no ground for identifying the author of "Peter Wilkins" with the "R. P., Gent.," who published in 1751 "Memoirs of the Life of Parnese, a Spanish Lady, Translated from the Spanish MS."

From this document it appeared that the author was Robert Paltock of Clement's Inn, and that he received for the copyright 20L., twelve copies of the book, and "the cuts of the first impression"(proof impressions of the illustrations). The writer's name shows him to have been, like his hero, of Cornish origin; but the authors of the admirable and exhaustive "Bibliotheca Cornubiensis" could discover nothing about him beyond the fact that he was not a bencher of Clement's Inn. That Paltock should have chosen Clement's Inn as a place of residence is not surprising. It still keeps something of its pristine repose. The sun-dial is still supported by the negro; the grass has not lost its verdure, and on August evenings the plane-trees' leaves glint golden in the sun. One may still hear the chimes at midnight as Falstaff and Justice Shallow heard them of old. Here, where only a muffled murmur comes from the work-a-day world, a man in the last century might have dreamed away his life, lonely as Peter Wilkins on the island. One can imagine the amiable recluse composing his homely romance amid such surroundings. Perhaps it was the one labour of his life. He may have come to the Inn originally with the aspiration of making fame and money; and then the spirit of cloistered calm turned him from such vulgar paths, and instead of losing his fine feelings and swelling the ranks of the plutocrats, he gave us a charming romance for our fireside. With the literary men of his day he seems to have had no intercourse. Not a single mention of him is to be found among his contemporaries, and we may be sure that he cut no brilliant figure at the club-houses. No chorus of reviewers chimed the praises of "Peter Wilkins." So far as I can discover, the "Monthly Review" was the only journal in which the book was noticed, and such criticism as the following can hardly be termed laudatory:—"Here is a very strange performance indeed. It seems to be the illegitimate offspring of no very natural conjunction, like 'Gulliver's Travels' and 'Robinson Crusoe;' but much inferior to the manner of these two performances as to entertainment or utility. It has all that is impossible in the one or impossible in the other, without the wit and spirit of the first, or the just strokes of nature and useful lessons of morality in the second. However, if the invention of wings for mankind to fly with is sufficient amends for all the dulness and unmeaning extravagance of the author, we are willing to allow that his book has some merit, and that he deserves some encouragement at least as an able mechanic, if not as a good author." But the book was not forgotten. A new edition appeared in 1783, and again in the following year. It was included in Weber's "Popular Romances," 1812, and published separately, with some charming plates by Stothard, in 1816. Within the last fifty years it has been frequently issued, entire or mutilated, in a popular form. A drama founded on the romance was acted at Covent Garden on April 16, 1827; and more than once of late years "Peter Wilkins" has afforded material for pantomimes. In 1763 a French translation (by Philippe Florent de Puisieux) appeared under the title of "Les Hommes Volants, ou les Aventures de Pierre Wilkins," which was included in vols. xxii.-xxiii. of DePerthe's "Voyages Imaginaires" ( 1788-89). A German translation was published in 1767, having for title "Die fliegenden Menschen, oder wunderbare Begebenheiten Peter Wilkins." Whether the author lived to see the translations of this work cannot be ascertained. A Robert Paltock was buried at Ryme Intrinseca Church, Dorset, in 1767, aged seventy (Hutchin's "Dorset," iv. 493-494, third edition), but it is very doubtful whether he was the author of the romance.

Paltock's fame may be said to be firmly established. An American writer, it is true, in a recent "History of Fiction," says not a word about "Peter Wilkins;" but, we must remember, another American wrote a "History of Caricature" without mentioning Rowlandson. Coleridge admired the book, and is reported to have said: "Peter Wilkins is, to my mind, a work of uncommon beauty.... I believe that 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Peter Wilkins' could only have been written by islanders. No continentalist could have conceived either tale.... It would require a very peculiar genius to add another tale ejusdem generis to 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Peter Wilkins.' I once projected such a thing, but the difficulty of the preoccupied ground stopped me. Perhaps La Motte Fouque might effect something; but I should fear that neither he nor any other German could entirely understand what may be called the desert island feeling. I would try the marvellous line of 'Peter Wilkins' if I attempted it rather than the real fiction of 'Robinson Crusoe'" ("Table-Talk," 1851, pp. 331-332). Southey, in a note on a passage of the "Curse of Kehama," went so far as to say that Paltock's winged people "are the most beautiful creatures of imagination that ever were devised," and added that Sir Walter Scott was a warm admirer of the book. With Charles Lamb at Christ's Hospital the story was a favourite. "We had classics of our own," he says, "without being beholden to 'insolent Greece or haughty Rome,' that passed current among us—'Peter Wilkins,' the 'Adventures of the Hon. Captain Robert Boyle,' the 'Fortunate Blue-Coat Boy,' and the like." But nobody loved the old romance with such devotion as Leigh Hunt. He was never tired of discoursing about its beauties, and he wrote with such thorough appreciation of his subject that he left little or nothing for another to add. "It is interesting," he writes in one place, "to fancy R. P., or 'Mr. Robert Paltock of Clement's Inn,' a gentle lover of books, not successful enough, perhaps, as a barrister to lead a public or profitable life, but eking out a little employment or a bit of a patrimony with literature congenial to him, and looking oftener to 'Purchase Pilgrims' on his shelves than to 'Coke on Littleton.' We picture him to ourselves with 'Robinson Crusoe' on one side of him and 'Gaudentio di Lucca' on the other, hearing the pen go over his paper in one of those quiet rooms in Clement's Inn that look out of its old-fashioned buildings into the little garden with the dial in it held by the negro: one of the prettiest corners in London, and extremely fit for a sequestered fancy that cannot get any further. There he sits, the unknown, ingenious, and amiable Mr. Robert Paltock, thinking of an imaginary beauty for want of a better, and creating her for the delight of posterity, though his contemporaries were to know little or nothing of her. We shall never go through the place again without regarding him as its crowning interest.... Now a sweeter creature [than Youwarkee] is not to be found in books; and she does him immortal honour. She is all tenderness and vivacity; all born good taste and blessed companionship. Her pleasure consists but in his; she prevents all his wishes; has neither prudery nor immodesty; sheds not a tear but from right feeling; is the good of his home and the grace of his fancy. It has been well observed that the author has not made his flying women in general light and airy enough... And it may be said, on the other hand, that the kind of wing, the graundee, or elastic drapery which opens and shuts at pleasure, however ingeniously and even beautifully contrived, would necessitate creatures whose modifications of humanity, bodily and mental, though never so good after their kind, might have startled the inventor had he been more of a naturalist; might have developed a being very different from the feminine, sympathising, and lovely Youwarkee. Muscles and nerves not human must have been associated with inhuman wants and feelings; probably have necessitated talons and a beak! At best the woman would have been wilder, more elvish, capricious, and unaccountable. She would have ruffled her whalebones when angry; been horribly intimate, perhaps, with birds' nests and fights with eagles; and frightened Wilkins out of his wits with dashing betwixt rocks and pulling the noses of seals and gulls. ("Book for a Corner," 1868, i. 68, &c.) Could criticism be more delightful? But in the "London Journal," November 5, 1834, the genial essayist's fancy dallied even more daintily with the theme: "A peacock with his plumage displayed, full of 'rainbows and starry eyes,' is a fine object, but think of a lovely woman set in front of an ethereal shell and wafted about like a Venus.... We are to picture to ourselves a nymph in a vest of the finest texture and most delicate carnation. On a sudden this drapery parts in two and flies back, stretched from head to foot like an oval fan or an umbrella; and the lady is in front of it, preparing to sweep blushing away from us and 'winnow the buxom air.'"

For many of us the conduct of life is becoming evermore a thing of greater perplexity. It is wearisome to be rudely jostling one another for the world's prizes, while myriads are toiling round us in an Egyptian bondage unlit by one ray of sunshine from the cradle to the grave. Some have attained to Lucretian heights of philosophy, whence they look with indifference over the tossing world-wide sea of human misery; but others are fain to avert their eyes, to clean forget for a season the actual world and lose themselves in the mazes of romance. In moments of despondency there is no greater relief to a fretted spirit than to turn to the "Odyssey" or Mr. Payne's exquisite translation of the "Arabian Nights." Great should be our gratitude to Mr. Morris for teaching us in golden verse that "Love is Enough," and for spreading wide the gates of his "Earthly Paradise." Lucian's "True History," that carries us over unknown seas beyond the Atlantic bounds to enchanted islands in the west, is one of those books which we do not half appreciate. And among the world's benefactors Robert Paltock deserves a place. An idle hour could not be spent in a much pleasanter way than in watching Peter Wilkins go a-field with his gun or haul up the beast-fish at the lonely creek. What can be more delightful than the description how, wakened from dreams of home by the noise of strange voices overhead, he sees fallen at his door the lovely winged woman Youwarkee! Prudish people may be scandalised at the unreserved frankness shown in the account of the consummation of Wilkins' marriage with this fair creature; but the editor was unwilling to mutilate the book in the interests of such refined readers. A man or a woman who can find anything to shock his or her feelings in the description of Youwarkee's bridal night deserves the commiseration of sensible people. Very charming is the picture of the children sitting round the fire on the long winter evenings listening wide-eyed to the ever-fresh story of their father's marvellous adventures. The wholesome morality, the charitableness and homely piety apparent throughout, give the narrative a charm denied to many works of greater literary pretension. When Peter Wilkins leaves his solitary home to live among the winged people, the interest of the story, it must be confessed, is somewhat diminished. The author's obligations to Swift in the latter part of the book are considerable; and of course in describing how Peter Wilkins ordered his life on the lonely island, he was largely indebted to Defoe. But the creation of the winged beings is Paltock's own. It has been suggested that he named his hero after John Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, who, among other curious theories, had seriously discussed the question whether men could acquire the art of flying. In the second part of his "Mathematical Magick," the Bishop writes: "Those things that seem very difficult and fearfull at the first may grow very facil after frequent trial and exercise: And therefore he that would effect any thing in this kind must be brought up to the constant practice of it from his Youth; trying first only to use his wings in running on the ground, as an Estrich or tame geese will do, touching the earth with his toes; and so by degrees learn to rise higher till he shall attain unto skill and confidence. I have heard it from credible testimony that one of our nation hath proceeded so far in this experiment that he was able by the help of wings to skip constantly ten yards at a time." Youwarkee spread wide her graundee, and in an instant was lost in the clouds. Had the author given her the motion of a goose, or even of an ostrich—bah! the thought is too dreadful.

Judicious reader, the long winter evenings have come round, and you have now abundance of leisure. Let the poets stand idle on the shelves till the return of spring, unless perchance you would fain resume acquaintance with the "Seasons," which you have not read since a boy, or would divert yourself with Prior or be grave with Crabbe. Now is the time to feel once more the charm of Lamb's peerless and unique essays; now is the time to listen to the honied voice of Leigh Hunt discoursing daintily of men and books. So you will pass from Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt to the books they loved to praise. Exult in the full-blooded, bracing life which pulses in the pages of Fielding; and if Smollett's mirth is occasionally too riotous and his taste too coarse, yet confess that all faults must be pardoned to the author of "Humphry Clinker." Many a long evening you will spend pleasantly with Defoe; and then, perchance, after a fresh reading of the thrice and four times wonderful adventures of Robinson Crusoe, you will turn to the romance of "Peter Wilkins." So may rheums and catarrhs be far from you, and may your hearth be crowned with content!

A. H. B.

5 Willow Road, Hampstead, November 1883.




A Cornish Man:

Relating particularly,

His Shipwreck near the South Pole; his wonderful Passage thro' a subterraneous Cavern into a kind of new World; his there meeting with a Gawry or flying woman, whose Life he preserv'd, and afterwards married her; his extraordinary Conveyance to the Country of Glums and Gawrys, or Men and Women that fly. Likewise a Description of this strange Country, with the Laws, Customs, and Manners of its Inhabitants, and the Author's remarkable Transactions among them.

Taken from his own Mouth, in his Passage to England from off Cape Horn in America, in the ship Hector,

With an INTRODUCTION, giving an Account of the surprizing Manner of his coming on board that Vessel, and his Death on his landing at Plymouth in the Year 1739.

Illustrated with several Cuts, clearly and distinctly representing the Structure and Mechanism of the Wings of the Glums and Gawrys, and the Manner in which they use them either to swim or fly.

To the Right Honourable


Countess of Northumberland, Madam,

Few Authors, I believe, who write in my Way (whatever View they may set out with) can, in the Prosecution of their Works, forbear to dress their fictitious Characters in the real Ornaments themselves have been most delighted with.

THIS, I confess, hath been my Case, in the Person of Youwarkee, in the following Sheets; for having formed her Body, I found myself at an inexpressible Loss how to adorn her Mind in the masterly Sentiments I coveted to endue her with; 'till I recollected the most aim[i]able Pattern in your Ladyship; a single View of which, at a Time of the utmost fatigue to his Lordship, hath charmed my Imagination ever since.

If a Participater of the Cares of Life in general, alleviates the Concerns of Man; what an invaluable Blessing must that Lady prove, to the Softness of whose Sex Nature hath conjoined an Aptitude for Council, an Application, Zeal, and Dispatch but too rarely found in his own!

Had my Situation in Life been so happy as to have presented me with Opportunities of more frequent and minuter Remarks upon your Ladyship's Conduct, I might have defy'd the whole British Fair to have outshone my southern Gawry: For if, to a majestic Form and extensive Capacity, I had been qualified to have copied that natural Sweetness of Disposition, that maternal Tenderness, that Cheerfulness, that Complacency, Condescension, Affability, and unaffected Benevolence, which so apparently distinguish the Countess of Northumberland; I had exhibited in my Youwarkee a Standard for future Generations.

Madam, I am the more sensible of my Speaking but the Truth from the late Instance of your Benignity, which entitles me to the Honour of subscribing myself,

Madam, Your Ladyship's

most obliged and

most obedient Servant,

R. P.



Giving an account of the authors birth and family—The fondness of his mother—His being put to an academy at sixteen by the advice of his friend—His thoughts of his own literature


How he spent his time at the academy—An intrigue with a servant maid there—She declares herself with child by him—Her expostulations with him—He is put to it for money—Refused it from home by his friend, who had married his mother—Is drawn in to marry the maid—She lies in at her aunts—Returns to her service—He has another child by her


Minds his studies—Informs his master of his mother's marriage and usage of him—Hears of her death—Makes his master his guardian—Goes with him to take possession of his estate—Is informed all is given to his father-in-law—Moral reflections on his condition and on his father's crimes


Departs secretly from his master—Travels to Bristol—Religious thoughts by the way—Enters on shipboard, and is made captain's steward


His first entertainment en board—Sets sail—His sickness—Engagement with a French privateer—Is taken and laid in irons—Twenty-one prisoners turned adrift in a small boat with only two days' provisions


The boat, two hundred leagues from land, makes no way, but drives more to sea by the wind—The people live nine days at quarter allowance—Four die with hunger the twelfth day—Five more the fourteenth day—On the fifteenth they eat one just dead—Want of water excessive—They spy a sail—Are taken up—Work their passage to the African shore—One sent on a secret expedition—Are way-laid, taken, made slaves, and sent up the country


The author escapes with Glanlepze, a native—His hardships in travel—Plunder of a cottage—His fears—Adventure with a crocodile—Passage of a river—Adventure with a lioness and whelps—Arrives at Glanlepze's house—The trial of Glanlepze s wife's constancy—The tender meeting of her and her husband—The author's reflections thereupon


How the author passed his time with Glanlepze—His acquaintance with some English prisoners—They project an escape—He joins them—They seize a Portuguese ship and get off—Make a long run from land—Want water—They anchor at a desert island—The boat goes on shore for water—They lose their anchor in a storm—The author and one Adams drove to sea—A miraculous passage to a rock—Adams drowned there—The authors miserable condition


He thinks of destroying himself—His soliloquy—Strange accident in the hold—His surprise—Can't climb the rock—His method to sweeten his water—Lives many months on board—Ventures to sea in his boat several times and takes many fish—Almost overcome by an eel


Lays in great store of provisions—Resolves to traverse the rock—Sails for three weeks, still seeing it only—Is sucked under the rock, and hurried down a cataract—Continues there five weeks—His description of the cavern—His thoughts and difficulties—His arrival at a great lake, and his landing in the beautiful country of Graundevolet


His joy on his arrival at land—A description of the place—No inhabitants—Wants fresh water—Resides in a grotto—Finds water—Views the country—Carries his things to the grotto


An account of the grotto—A room added to it—A view of that building—The author makes a little cart—Also a wet dock for his boat—Goes in quest of provision—A description of divers fruits and plants—He brings home a cartload of different sorts—Makes experiments on them—Loads his cart with others—A great disappointment—Makes good bread—Never sees the sun—The nature of the light


The author lays in a store against the dark weather—Hears voice—His thoughts thereon—Persuades himself it was a dream—Hears them again—Determines to see if any one lodged in the rock—Is satisfied there is nobody—Observations on what he saw—Finds a strong weed like whip-cord—Makes a dragnet—Lengthens it—Catches a monster—Its description—Makes oil of it


The author passes the summer pleasantly—Hears the voices in the winter—Ventures out—Sees a strange sight on the lake—His uneasiness at it—His dream—Soliloquy—Hears the voices again, and perceives a great shock on his building—Takes up a beautiful woman—He thinks her dead, but recovers her—A description of her—She stays with him


He is afraid of losing his new mistress—They live together all winter—A remark on that—They begin to know each others language—A long discourse between them at cross purposes—She flies—They engage to be man and wife


The author's disappointment at first going to bed with his new wife—Some strange circumstances relating thereto—She resolves several questions he asks her, and clears up his fears as to the voices—A description of swangeans


Youwarkee cannot bear a strong light—Her husband makes her spectacles, which help her—A description of them


Youwarkee with child—The author's stock of provisions—No beast or fish in Youwarkee's country—The voices again—Her reason for not seeing those who uttered 'em—She bears a son—A hard speech in her lying-in—Divers birds appear—Their eggs gathered—How the author kept account of time


His concern about clothing for Pedro, his eldest son—His discourse with his wife about the ship—Her flight to it—His melancholy reflections 'till her return—An account of what she had done, and of what she brought—She clothes her children and takes a second flight


The author observes her flight—A description of a glumm in the graundee—She finds out the gulf not far from the ship—Brings home more goods—Makes her a gown by her husband's instruction


The author gets a breed of poultry—By what means—Builds them a house—How he managed to keep them in winter


Reflections on mankind—The author wants to be with his ship—Projects going, but perceives it impracticable—Youwarkee offers her service, and goes—An account of her transactions on board—Remarks on her sagacity—She despatches several chests of goods through the gulf to the lake—An account of a danger she escaped—The author has a fit of sickness


The religion of the author's family


An account of his children—Their names—They are exercised in flying—His boat crazy—Youwarkee intends a visit to her father, but first takes another flight to the ship—Sends a boat and chests through the gulf—Clothes her children—Is with child again, so her visit is put off—An inventory of the last freight of goods—The authors method of treating his children—Youwarkee, her son Tommy, with her daughters Patty and Hallycarnie, set out for her father's


Youwarkee's account of the stages to Arndrumnstake—The author uneasy at her flight—His employment in her absence, and preparations for receiving her father—How he spent the evenings with the children


His concern at Youwarkee's stay—Reflections on his condition—Hears a voice call him—Youwarkee's brother Quangrollart visits him with a companion—He treats them at the grotto—The brother discovers himself by accident—The author presents his children to him


Quangrollarf s account of Youwarkee's journey, and reception at her father's


It might be looked upon as impertinent in me, who am about to give the life of another, to trouble the reader with any of my own concerns, or the affairs that led me into the South Seas. Therefore I shall only acquaint him, that in my return on board the "Hector," as a passenger, round Cape Horn, for England, full late in the season, the wind and currents setting strong against us, our ship drove more southernly, by several degrees, than the usual course, even to the latitude of 75 or 76; when the wind chopping about, we began to resume our intended way. It was about the middle of June, when the days are there at the shortest, on a very starry and moonlight night, that we observed at some distance a very black cloud, but seemingly of no extraordinary size or height, moving very fast towards us, and seeming to follow the ship, which then made great way. Every one on deck was very curious in observing its motions; and perceiving it frequently to divide, and presently to close again, and not to continue long in any determined shape, our captain, who had never before been so far to the southward as he then found himself, had many conjectures what this phenomenon might portend; and every one offering his own opinion, it seemed at last to be generally agreed that there might possibly be a storm gathering in the air, of which this was the prognostic; and by its following, and nearly keeping pace with us, we were in great fear lest it should break upon and overwhelm us, if not carefully avoided. Our commander, therefore, as it approached nearer and nearer, ordered one of the ship's guns to be fired, to try if the percussion of the air would disperse it. This was no sooner done than we heard a prodigious flounce in the water, at but a small distance from the ship, on the weather-quarter; and after a violent noise, or cry in the air, the cloud, that upon our firing dissipated, seemed to return again, but by degrees disappeared. Whilst we were all very much surprised at this unexpected accident, I, being naturally very curious and inquisitive into the causes of all unusual incidents, begged the captain to send the boat to see, if possible, what it was that had fallen from the cloud, and offered myself to make one in her. He was much against this at first, as it would retard his voyage, now we were going so smoothly before the wind. But in the midst of our debate, we plainly heard a voice calling out for help, in our own tongue, like a person in great distress. I then insisted on going, and not suffering a fellow-creature to perish for the sake of a trifling delay. In compliance with my resolute demand, he slackened sail; and hoisting out the boat, myself and seven others made to the cry, and soon found it to come from an elderly man, labouring for life, with his arms across several long poles, of equal size at both ends, very light, and tied to each other in a very odd manner. The sailors at first were very fearful of assisting or coming near him, crying to each other, "He must be a monster!" and perhaps might overset the boat and destroy them; but hearing him speak English, I was very angry with them for their foolish apprehensions, and caused them to clap their oars under him, and at length we got him into the boat. He had an extravagant beard, and also long blackish hair upon his head. As soon as he could speak (for he was almost spent), he very familiarly took me by the hand, I having set myself close by him to observe him, and squeezing it, thanked me very kindly for my civility to him, and likewise thanked all the sailors. I then asked him by what possible accident he came there; but he shook his head, declining to satisfy my curiosity. Hereupon reflecting that it might just then be troublesome for him to speak, and that we should have leisure enough in our voyage for him to relate, and me to hear, his story (which, from the surprising manner of his falling amongst us, I could not but believe would contain something very remarkable), I waived any farther speech with him at that time.

We had him to the ship, and taking off his wet clothes, put him to bed in my cabin; and I having a large provision of stores on board, and no concern in the ship, grew very fond of him, and supplied him with everything he wanted. In our frequent discourses together, he had several times dropped loose hints of his past transactions, which but the more inflamed me with impatience to hear the whole of them. About this time, having just begun to double the Cape, our captain thought of watering at the first convenient place; and finding the stranger had no money to pay his passage, and that he had been from England no less than thirty-five years, despairing of his reward for conducting him thither, he intimated to him that he must expect to be put on shore to shift for himself, when we put in for water. This entirely sunk the stranger's spirits, and gave me great concern, insomuch that I fully resolved, if the captain should really prove such a brute, to take the payment of his passage on myself.

As we came nearer to the destined watering, the captain spoke the plainer of his intentions (for I had not yet hinted my design to him or any one else); and one morning the stranger came into my cabin, with tears in his eyes, telling me he verily believed the captain would be as good as his word, and set him on shore, which he very much dreaded. I did not choose to tell him immediately what I designed in his favour, but asked him if he could think of no way of satisfying the captain, or any one else, who might thereupon be induced to engage for him; and farther, how he expected to live when he should get to England, a man quite forgotten and penniless. Hereupon he told me he had, ever since his being on board, considering his destitute condition, entertained a thought of having his adventures written; which, as there was something so uncommon in them, he was sure the world would be glad to know; and he had flattered himself with hopes of raising somewhat by the sale of them to put him in a way of living; but as it was plain now he should never see England without my assistance, if I would answer for his passage, and write his life, he would communicate to me a faithful narrative thereof, which he believed would pay me to the full any charge I might be at on his account. I was very well pleased with this overture, not from the prospect of gain by the copy, but from the expectation I had of being fully satisfied in what I had so long desired to know; so I told him I would make him easy in that respect. This quite transported him: he caressed me, and called me his deliverer, and was then going open-mouthed to the captain to tell him so. But I put a stop to that: For, says I, though I insist upon hearing your story, the captain may yet relent of his purpose, and not leave you on shore; and if that should prove the case, I shall neither part with my money for you, nor you with your interest in your adventures to me. Whereupon he agreed I was right, and desisted.

When we had taken in best part of our water, and the boat was going its last turn, the captain ordered up the strange man, as they called him, and told him he must go on board the boat, which was to leave him on shore with some few provisions. I happening to hear nothing of these orders, they were so sudden, the poor man was afraid, after all, he should have been hurried to land without my knowledge: but begging very hard of the captain only for leave to speak with me before he went, I was called (though with some reluctance, for the captain disliked me for the liberties I frequently took with him, on account of his brutal behaviour). I expostulated with the cruel wretch on the inhumanity of the action he was about; telling him, if he had resolved the poor man should perish, it would have been better to have suffered him to do so when he was at the last extremity, than to expose him afresh, by this means, to a death as certain, in a more lingering and miserable way. But the savage being resolved, and nothing moved by what I said, I paid him part of the passage down, and agreed to pay the rest at our arrival in England.

Thus having reprieved the poor man, the next thing was to enter upon my new employ of amanuensis: and having a long space of time before us, we allotted two hours every morning for the purpose of writing down his life from his own mouth; and frequently, when wind and weather kept us below, we spent some time of an afternoon in the same exercise, till we had quite completed it. But then there were some things in it so indescribable by words, that if I had not had some knowledge in drawing, our history had been very incomplete. Thus it must have been, especially in the description of the Glumms and Gawrys therein mentioned. In order to gain (that so I might communicate) a clear idea of these, I made several drawings of them from his discourses and accounts; and, at length, after divers trials, I made such exact delineations, that he declared they could not have been more perfect resemblances if I had drawn them from the life. Upon a survey, he confessed the very persons themselves could not have been more exact. I also drew with my pencil the figure of an aerial engagement, which, having likewise had his approbation, I have given a draught of, plate the sixth.

Then, having finished the work to our mutual satisfaction, I locked it up, in order to peruse it at leisure, intending to have presented it to him at our arrival in England, to dispose of as he pleased, in such a way as might have conduced most to his profit; for I resolved, notwithstanding our agreement, and the obligations he was under to me, that the whole of that should be his own. But he, having been in a declining state some time before we reached shore, died the very night we landed; and his funeral falling upon me, I thought I had the greatest right to the manuscript, which, however, I had no design to have parted with; but showing it to some judicious friends, I have by them been prevailed with not to conceal from the world what may prove so very entertaining, and perhaps useful.

R. P.





Giving an account of the author's birth and family—The fondness of his mother—His being put to an academy at sixteen by the advice of his friend—His thoughts of his own illiterature

I was born at Penhale, in the county of Cornwall, on the 21st day of December 1685, about four months after my father, Peter Wilkins, who was a zealous Protestant of the Church of England, had been executed by Jeffreys, in Somersetshire, for joining in the design of raising the Duke of Monmouth to the British throne. I was named, after my father and grandfather, Peter, and was my father's only child by Alice his wife, the daughter of John Capert, a clergyman in a neighbouring village. My grandfather was a shopkeeper at Newport, who, by great frugality and extraordinary application, had raised a fortune of about L160 a year in lands, and a considerable sum of ready money, all which at his death devolved upon my father, as his only child; who, being no less parsimonious than my grandfather, and living upon his own estate, had much improved it in value before his marriage with my mother; but he coming to that unhappy end, my mother, after my birth, placed all her affection upon me (her growing hope, as she called me), and used every method, in my minority, of increasing the store for my benefit.

In this manner she went on, till I grew too big, as I thought, for confinement at the apron-string, being then about fourteen years of age; and having met with so much indulgence from her, for that reason found very little or no contradiction from anybody else; so I looked on myself as a person of some consequence, and began to take all opportunities of enjoying the company of my neighbours, who hinted frequently that the restraint I was under was too great a curb upon an inclination like mine of seeing the world; but my mother, still impatient of any little absence, by excessive fondness, and encouraging every inclination I seemed to have, when she could be a partaker with me, kept me within bounds of restraint till I arrived at my sixteenth year.

About this time I got acquainted with a country gentleman, of a small paternal estate, which had been never the better for being in his hands, and had some uneasy demands upon it. He soon grew very fond of me, hoping, as I had reason afterwards to believe, by a union with my mother to set himself free from his entanglements. She was then about thirty-five years old, and still continued my father's widow, out of particular regard to me, as I have all the reason in the world to believe. She was really a beautiful woman, and of a sanguine complexion, but-had always carried herself with so much reserve, and given so little encouragement to any of the other sex, that she had passed her widowhood with very few solicitations to alter her way of life. This gentleman observing my mother's conduct, in order to ingratiate himself with her, had shown numberless instances of regard for me; and, as he told my mother, had observed many things in my discourse, actions, and turn of mind, that presaged wonderful expectations from me, if my genius was but properly cultivated.

This discourse, from a man of very good parts, and esteemed by everybody an accomplished gentleman, by degrees wrought upon my mother, and more and more inflamed her with a desire of adding what lustre she could to my applauded abilities, and influenced her so far as to ask his advice in what manner most properly to proceed with me. My gentleman then had his desire, for he feared not the widow, could he but properly dispose of her charge; so having desired a little time to consider of a matter of such importance, he soon after told her he thought the most useful method of establishing me would be at an academy, kept by a very worthy and judicious gentleman, about thirty, or more, miles from us, in Somersetshire; where, if I could but be admitted, the master taking in but a stated number of students at a time, he did not in the least doubt but I should fully answer the character he had given her of me, and outshine most of my contemporaries.

My mother, over-anxious for my good, seeming to listen to this proposal, my friend (as I call him) proposed taking a journey himself to the academy, to see if any place was vacant for my reception, and learn the terms of my admission; and in three days' time returned with an engaging account of the place, the master, the regularity of the scholars, of an apartment secured for my reception, and, in short, whatever else might captivate my mother's opinion in favour of his scheme; and indeed, though he acted principally from another motive, as was plain afterwards, I cannot help thinking he believed it to be the best way of disposing of a lad sixteen years old, born to a pretty fortune, and who, at that age, could but just read a chapter in the Testament; for he had before beat my mother quite out of her inclination to a grammar-school in the neighbourhood, from a contempt, he said, it would bring upon me from lads much my juniors in years, by being placed in the first rudiments of learning with them.

Well, the whole concern of my mother's little family was now employed in fitting me out for my expedition; and as my friend had been so instrumental in bringing it about, he never missed a day inquiring how preparations went on; and during the process, by humouring me, ingratiated himself more and more with my mother, but without seeming in the least to aim at it. In short, the hour of my departure arrived; and though I had never been master of above a sixpence at one time, unless at a fair or so, for immediate spending, my mother, thinking to make my heart easy at our separation (which, had it appeared otherwise, would have broke hers, and spoiled all), gave me a double pistole in gold, and a little silver in my pocket to prevent my changing it.

Thus I (the coach waiting for us at the door), having been preached into a good liking of the scheme by my friend, who now insisted upon making one of our company to introduce us, mounted the carriage with more alacrity than could be expected for one who had never before been beyond the smoke of his mother's chimney; but the thoughts I had conceived, from my friend's discourse, of liberty in the academic way, and the weight of so much money in my pocket, as I then imagined would scarce ever be exhausted, were prevailing cordials to keep my spirits on the wing. We lay at an inn that night, near the master's house, and the next day I was initiated; and, at parting with me, my friend presented me with a guinea. When I found myself thus rich, I must say I heartily wished they were all fairly at home again, that I might have time to count my cash, and dispose of such part of it as I had already appropriated to several uses then in embryo.

The next morning left me master of my wishes, for my mother came and took her last (though she little thought it) leave of me, and smothering me with her caresses and prayers for my well-doing, in the height of her ardour put into my hand another guinea, promising to see me again quickly; and desiring me, in the meantime, to be a very good husband, which I have since taken to be a sort of prophetic speech, she bid me farewell.

I shall not trouble you with the reception I met from my master, or his scholars, or tell you how soon I made friends of all my companions, by some trifling largesses which my stock enabled me to bestow as occasion required; but I must inform you that, after sixteen years of idleness at home, I had but little heart to my nouns and pronouns, which now began to be crammed upon me; and being the eldest lad in the house, I sometimes regretted the loss of the time past, and at other times despaired of ever making a scholar at my years; and was ashamed to stand like a great lubber, declining of haec mulier a woman, whilst my schoolfellows, and juniors by five years, were engaged in the love stories of Ovid, or the luscious songs of Horace. I own these thoughts almost overcame me, and threw me into a deep melancholy, of which I soon after, by letter, informed my mother; who (by the advice, as I suppose, of my friend, by this time her suitor) sent me word to mind my studies, and I should want for nothing.


How he spent his time at the academy—An intrigue with a servant-maid there—She declares herself with child by him— Her expostulations to him—He is put to it for money— Refused it from home by his friend, who had married his mother—Is drawn in to marry the maid—She lies-in at her aunts—Returns to her service—He has another child by her

I had now been passing my time for about three months in this melancholy way, and, you may imagine, under that disadvantage, had made but little progress in my learning, when one of our maids, taking notice one day of my uneasiness, as I sat musing in my chamber, according to my custom, began to rally me that I was certainly in love, I was so sad. Indeed I never had a thought of love before, but the good-natured girl seeming to pity me, and seriously asking me the cause, I fairly opened my heart to her; and for fear my master should know it, gave her half-a-crown to be silent. This last engagement fixed her my devotee, and from that time we had frequent conferences in confidence together, till at length inclination, framed by opportunity, produced the date of a world of concern to me; for about six months after my arrival at the academy, instead of proving my parts by my scholarship, I had proved my manhood by being the destined father of an infant which my female correspondent then assured me would soon be my own.

We nevertheless held on our frequent intercourse; nor was I so alarmed at the news as I ought to have been, till about two months after, when Patty (for that was the only name I then knew her by) explained herself to me in the following terms:—"You know, Mr. Peter, how matters are with me: I should be very sorry, for your sake, and my own too, to reveal my shame, but in spite of us both nature will show itself; and truly I think some care should be taken, and some method proposed, to preserve the infant, and avoid, as far as may be, the inconveniences that may attend us, for here is now no room for delay." This speech, I own, gave me the first reflection I ever had in my life, and locked up all my faculties for a long time; nor was I able, for the variety of ideas that crowded my brain, to make a word of answer, but stood like an image of stone, till Patty, seeing my confusion, desired me to recollect my reason; for as it was too late to undo what had been done, it remained now only to act with that prudence and caution which the nature of the case required; and that, for her part, she would concur in every reasonable measure I should approve of; but I must remember she was only a servant, and had very little due to her for wages, and not a penny besides that; and that there must necessarily be a preparation made for the reception of the infant when time should produce it. I now began to see the absolute necessity of all she said, but how to accomplish it was not in me to comprehend. My own small matter of money was gone, and had been so a long time; we therefore agreed I should write to my mother for a fresh supply. I did so; and to my great confusion was answered by my former friend in the following words:—

"Son Peter,—Your mother and I are much surprised you should write for money, having so amply provided for you; but as it is not many months to Christmas, when possibly we may send for you home, you must make yourself easy till then; as a school-boy, with all necessaries found him, cannot have much occasion for money.—Your loving father, J. G."

Imagine, if it is possible, my consternation at the receipt of this letter. I began to think I should be tricked out of what my father and grandfather had with so much pains and industry for many years been, heaping up for me, and had a thousand thoughts all together jostling out each other, so could resolve on nothing. I then showed Patty the letter, and we both condoled my hard fortune, but saw no remedy. Time wore away, and nothing done, or like to be, as I could see. For my part, I was like one distracted, and no more able to assist or counsel what should be done than a child in arms. At length poor Patty, who had sat thinking some time, began with telling me she had formed a scheme which in some measure might help us; but fearing it might be disagreeable to me, she durst not mention it till I should assure her, whatever I thought of that, I would think no worse of her for proposing it. This preparatory introduction startled me a great deal; for it darted into my head she waited for my concurrence to destroy the child, to which I could never have consented. But upon my assuring her I would not think the worse of her for whatever she should propose, but freely give her my opinion upon it, she told me, as she could see no other way before us but what tended to our disgrace and ruin, if I would marry her she would immediately quit her place and return to her aunt, who had brought her up from a child, and had enough prettily to live upon, who, she did not doubt, would entertain her as my wife; but she was assured, upon any other score, or under any other name, would prove her most inveterate enemy. When Patty had made an end, I was glad to find it no worse; and revolving matters a little in my mind, both as to affairs at home and the requested marriage, I concluded upon this latter, and had a great inclination to acquaint my mother of it, but was diverted from that, by suspecting it might prove a good handle for my new father to work with my mother some mischief against me; so determined to marry forthwith, send Patty to her aunt's, and remain still at the academy myself till I should see what turn things would take at home. Accordingly, the next day good part of Patty's wages went to tie the connubial knot, and to the honest parson for a bribe to antedate the certificate; and she very soon after took up the rest to defray her journey to her aunt's.

Though Patty was within two months of her time, she had so managed that no one perceived it; and getting safe to her aunt's, was delivered of a daughter, of which she wrote me word, and said she hoped to see me at the end of her month. How, thought I, can she expect to see me; money I have none! and then I despaired of leave for a journey if I had it; and to go without leave would only arm J. G. against me, as I perceived plainly his interest and mine were very remote things; so I resolved to quit all thoughts of a journey, and wait till opportunity better served for seeing my wife and child, and our good aunt to whom we were so much obliged. While these and such-like cogitations engrossed my whole attention, I was most pleasingly surprised one day, upon my return-from a musing walk by the river-side at the end of our garden, where I frequently got my tasks, to find Patty sitting in the kitchen with my old mistress, my master's mother, who managed his house, he having been a widower many years. The sight of her almost overcame me, as I had bolted into the kitchen, and was seen by my old mistress before I had seen Patty was with her. The old lady, perceiving me discomposed, inquired into the cause, which I directly imputed to the symptoms of an ague that I told her I had felt upon me best part of the morning. She, a good motherly woman, feeling my pulse, and satisfying herself of its disorder, immediately ran to her closet to bring me a cordial, which she assured me had done wonders in the like cases; so that I had but just time to embrace Patty and inquire after our aunt and daughter before madam returned with the cordial. Having drank it, and given thanks, I was going to withdraw, but she would not part with me so; for nothing less than my knowledge that this cordial was of her own making, from whence she had the receipt, and an exact catalogue of the several cures it had done, would serve her turn; which, taking up full three-quarters of an hour, gave room to Patty and me to enjoy each other's glances for that time, to our mutual satisfaction. At last the old prattlebox having made a short pause to recover breath from the narrative of the cordial, "Mr. Peter," says she, "you look as if you did not know poor Patty; she has not left me so long that you should forget her; she is a good tight wench, and I was sorry to part with her; but she is out of place, she says, and as that dirty creature Nan is gone, I think to take her again." I told her I well knew she was judge of a good servant, and I did not doubt Patty was such, if she thought so; and then I made my exit, lighter in heart by a pound than I came.

I shall not tire you any farther with the amours between self and Patty; but to let you know she quitted her place again seven months after, upon the same score.


Minds his studies—Informs his master of his mother's marriage, and usage of him—Hears of her death—Makes his master his guardian—Goes with him to take possession of his estate—Is informed all is given to his father-in-law—Moral reflections on his condition, and on his father's crimes.

I was now near nineteen years of age; and though I had so much more in my head than my school-learning, I know not how it happened, but ever since the commencement of my amour with Patty, having somebody to disburden my mind to, and to participate in my concerns, I had been much easier, and had kept true tally with my book, with more than usual delight; and being arrived to an age to comprehend what I heard and read, I could, from the general idea I had of things, form a pretty regular piece of Latin, without being able to repeat the very rules it was done by; so that I had the acknowledgment of my master for the best capacity he ever had under his tuition: this, he not sparing frequently to mention it before me, was the acutest spur he could have applied to my industry; and now, having his good will, I began to disuse set hours of exercise, but at my conveniency applied myself to my studies as I best pleased, being always sure to perform as much, or more, than he ever enjoined me; till I grew exceedingly in his confidence, and by reason of my age (though I was but small, yet manly) I became rather his companion upon parties than his direct pupil.

It was upon one of these parties I took the opportunity to declare the dissatisfaction I had at my mother's second marriage. "Sir," says I, "surely I was of age to have known it first, especially considering the affection my mother had always shown to me, and my never once having done the least thing to disoblige her; but, sir," said I, "something else, I fear, is intended by my mother's silence to me; for I have never received above three letters from her since I came here, which is now, you know, three years, and those were within the first three months. I then showed him the fore-mentioned letter I received from my new father-in-law, and assured him that gave me the first hint of this second marriage."

I found, by the attention my master gave to my relation, he seemed to suspect this marriage would prove detrimental to me; but not on the sudden knowing what to say to it, he told me he would consider of it; and, by all means, advised me to write a very obliging letter to my new father, with my humble request that he would please to order me home the next recess of our learning. I did so under my master's dictation; and not long after received an answer to the following effect:—

"Son Peter,—Your mother has been dead a good while; and as to your request, it will be only expensive, and of little use; for a person who must live by his studies can't apply to them too closely."

This letter, if I had a little hope left, quite subdued my fortitude, and well-nigh reduced me to clay. However, with tears in my eyes, I showed it to my master, who, good man! wishing me well, "Peter," says he, "what can this mean? here is some mystery concealed in it; here is some ill design on foot!" Then taking the letter into his hand, "A person who must live by his studies," says he; "here is more meant than we can think for. Why, have not you a pretty estate to live upon, when it comes to your hands? Peter," says he, "I would advise you to go to your father and inquire how your affairs are left; but I am afraid to let you go alone, and will, when my students depart at Christmas, accompany you myself with all my heart; for you must know I have advised on your affair already, and find you are of age to choose yourself a guardian, who may be any relation or friend you can confide in; and may see you have justice done you." I immediately thanked him for the hint, and begged him to accept of the trust, as my only friend, having very few, if any, near relations: this he with great readiness complied with, and was admitted accordingly.

So soon as our scholars were gone home, my master lending me a horse, we set out together to possess ourselves of all my father's real estate, and such part of the personal as he had been advised would belong to me. Well, we arrived at the old house, but were not received with such extraordinary tokens of friendship as would give the least room to suppose we were welcome. For my part, all I said, or could say, was that I was very sorry for my mother's death. My father replied so was he. Here we paused, and might have sat silent till this time for me, if my master, a grave man, who had seen the world, and was unwilling any part of our time there, which we guessed would be short, should be lost, had not broke silence. "Mr. G." says he, "I see the loss of Master Wilkins's mother puts him under some confusion; so that you will excuse me, as his preceptor and friend, in making some inquiry how his affairs stand, and how his effects are disposed, as I don't doubt you have taken care to schedule everything that will be coming to him; and though he is not yet of the necessary age for taking upon himself the management of his estate, he is nevertheless of capacity to understand the nature and quantum of it, and to show his approbation of the disposition of it, as if he was a year or two older." During this discourse, Mr. G. turned pale, then reddened, was going to interrupt, then checked himself; but however kept silence till my master had done; when, with a sneer, he replied, "Sir, I must own myself a great stranger to your discourse; nor can I, for my life, imagine what your harangue tends to; but sure I am, I know of no estate, real or personal, or anything else belonging to young Mr. Wilkins, to make a schedule of, as you call it: but this I know, his mother had an estate in land, near two hundred a year, and also a good sum of money when I married her; but the estate she settled on me before her marriage, to dispose of after her decease as I saw fit; and her money and goods are all come to my sole use, as her husband." I was just ready to drop while Mr. G. gave this relation, and was not able to reply a word; but my master, though sufficiently shocked at what he had heard, replied, "Sir, I am informed the estate, and also the money you mention, was Mr. Wilkins's father's at his death; and I am surprised to think any one should have a better title to them than my pupil, his only child."—"Sir," says Mr. G., "you are deceived; and though what you say seems plausible enough, and is in some part true, as that the late Mr. Wilkins had such estate, and some hundreds—I may say thousands—at his death; yet you seem ignorant that he made a deed, just before entering into the fatal rebellion, by which he gave my late wife both the estate, money, and everything else he had, absolutely, without any conditions whatsoever; all which, on his unhappy execution, she enjoyed, and now of right, as I told you before, belongs to me. However, as I have no child, if Peter behaves well under your direction, I have thoughts of paying another year's board for him, and then he must shift for himself."—"Oh!" cried I, "for the mercy of some savage beast to devour me! Is this what I have been cockered up for? Why was I not placed out to some laborious craft, where I might have drudged for bread in my proper station? But I fear it is too late to inquire into what is past, and must submit."

My master, good man! was thunderstruck at what he had heard; and finding our business done there, we took our leaves; after Mr. G. had again repeated, that if I behaved well, my preceptor should keep me another year, which was all I must expect from him; and at my departure he gave me a crown-piece, which I then durst not refuse, for fear of offending my master.

We made the best of our way home again to my tutor's, where I stayed but a week to consider what I should do for myself. In this time he did all he could to comfort me; telling me if I would stay with him and become his usher, he would complete my learning for nothing, and allow me a salary for my trouble. But my heart was too lofty to think of becoming an usher within so little way from mine own estate in other hands. However, since I had not a penny of money to endeavour at recovering my right with, I told my master I would consider of his proposal.

During my stay with him he used all methods to make me as easy as possible; and frequently moralised with so much effect, that I was almost convinced I ought to submit and be content. Amongst the rest of his discourse, he endeavoured to show me (one day after I had been loudly condemning my cruel fortune, and saying I was born to be unhappy) that I was mistaken if I thought or imagined it was chance or accident that had been against me when I complained of fortune. "For," says he, "Peter, there is nothing done below but is at least foreknown, if not decreed, above; and our business in life is to believe so: not that I would have such belief make us careless, and think it to no purpose to strive, as some do; who, being persuaded that our actions are not in our own choice, but that, being pressed by an irresistible decree, we are forced to act this or that, fancy we must be necessarily happy or miserable hereafter; or, as others, who, for fear of falling upon that shocking principle, would even deprive the Almighty of foreknowledge, lest it should consequentially amount to a decree: for, say they, what is foreknown, will and must be. But I would have you act so as that, let either of these tenets be true, you may still be sure of making yourself easy and happy; and for that purpose let me recommend to you a uniform life of justice and piety; always choosing the good rather than the bad side of every action: for this, say they what they will to the contrary, is not above the power of a reasonable being to practise: and doing so, you may without scruple say,—If there is foreknowledge of my actions, or they are decreed, I then am one who is foreknown or decreed to be happy. And this, without farther speculation, you will find the only means always to keep you so; for all men, of all denominations, fully allow this happy effect to follow good actions. Again, Peter, a person acting in a vicious course, with such an opinion in his head as above, must surely be very miserable, as his very actions themselves must pronounce the decree against him: whilst, therefore, we have not heard the decree read, you see we may easily give sentence whether it be for good or evil to us, by the tenor and course of our own actions.

"You are not now to learn, Peter, that the crimes of the father are often punished in the children, often in the father himself, sometimes in both, and not seldom in neither, in this life; and though, at first, one should think the future punishment annexed to bad actions was sufficient, still it is necessary some should suffer here also for an example to others; we being much more affected with what the eye sees, than what the heart only meditates upon.

"Now, to bring it to our own case; your father, Peter, rose against the lawful magistrate, to deprive him (it matters not that he was a bad one) of his lawful power. Your father's policy was such, and his design so well laid, as he thought, that upon any ill success to himself, he had secured his estate to go in the way of all others he could wish to have it, and sits down very well contented that, happen what would, he should bite the Government in preventing the forfeiture. But lo! his policy is as a wall of sand blown down with a puff! for it is to you it ought, even himself being umpire, to have come, as no one would think he would prize any before you, his own child. Now, could he look from the grave, and know what passes here, and see Mr. G. in possession of all he fancied he had secured for you, what a weak and short-sighted creature would he find himself! If it be said he did not know he should have a child, then herein appears God's policy beyond man's; for He knew it, and has so ordered that that child should be disinherited; for, by the way, Peter, take this for a maxim, wherever the first principle of an action is ill, no good consequence can possibly ever be an attendant on it. Could he, as I said before, but look up and see you, his only child, undone by the very instrument he designed for your security, how pungent would be his anxiety! I say, Peter, though there is something so unaccountable to human wisdom in such events of things, yet there is something therein so reasonable and just withal, that by a prying eye, the Supreme Hand may very visibly be seen in them. Now, this being plainly the case before us, and herein the glory of the Almighty exalted, rest content under it, and let not this disappointment, befallen you for your father's faults, be attended with others sent down for your own; but remember this, the Hand that depresses a man is no less able to exalt and establish him."


Departs secretly from his master—Travels to Bristol— Religious thoughts by the way—Enters on shipboard, and is made captain's steward

I seemed to be very well satisfied whilst my master was speaking; but though I thought he talked like an angel, my former uneasiness seized me at parting with him. In short, without more consideration, I rose in the morning early and marched off, having first wrote to my wife at her aunt's, relating the state of the case to her, with my resolution to leave England the first opportunity, giving her what comfort I could, assuring her if I ever was a gainer in life she should not fail to be a partaker, and promising also to let her know where I settled. I walked at a great rate, for fear my master's kindness should prompt him to send after me; and taking the bye-ways, I reached by dark night a little village, where I resolved to halt. Upon inquiry I found myself thirty-five miles from my master's. I had eaten nothing all day, and was very hungry and weary, but my crown-piece was as yet whole; however I fed very sparingly, being over-pressed with the distress of my affairs and the confusion of my thoughts. I slept that night tolerably, but the morning brought its face of horror with it. I had inquired over-night where I was, and been informed that I was not above sixteen miles from Bristol, for which place I then resolved.

At my setting out in the morning, after I had walked about three miles, and had recollected a little my master's last discourse, I found by degrees my spirit grew calmer than it had been since I left Mr. G. at my house (as I shall ever call it), and looking into myself for the cause, found another set of thoughts were preparing a passage into my mind, which did not carry half the dread and terror with them that their predecessors had; for I began to cast aside the difficulties and apprehensions I before felt in my way, and encouraging the present motions, soon became sensible of the benefit of a virtuous education; and though what I had hitherto done in the immediate service of God, I must own had been performed from force, custom, and habit, and without the least attention to the object of the duty; yet, as under my mother at home, and my master at the academy, I had been always used to say my prayers, as they called it, morning and night: I began, with a sort of superstitious reflection, to accuse myself of having omitted that duty the night before, and also at my setting out in the morning, and very much to blame myself for it, and, at the same instant, even wondered at myself for that blame. What, says I, is the real use of this praying; and to whom or to what do we pray? I see no one to pray to; neither have I ever thought that my prayers would be answered. It is true they are worded as if we prayed to God: but He is in heaven; does He concern Himself with us who can do Him no service? Can I think all my prayers that I have said, from day to day, so many years, have been heard by Him? No, sure; if they had, I should scarce have sustained this hard fate in my fortune. But hold, how have I prayed to Him? Have I earnestly prayed to Him, as I used to petition my mother for anything when I wanted it against her inclination? No, I can't say I have. And would my mother have granted me such things, if she had not thought I had from my heart desired them, when I used to be so earnest with her? No, surely; I can't say she had any reason for it. But I had her indeed before me; now I have not God in my view: He is in heaven. Yet, let me see; my master (and I can't help thinking he must know) used to say that God is a spirit, and not confined by the incumbrance of a body, as we are; now, if it is so, why may He not virtually be present with me, though I don't perceive Him? Why may He not be at once in heaven and elsewhere? For if He consists not in parts, nothing can circumscribe Him: and, truly, I believe it must be so; for if He is of that supreme power as He is represented, He could never act in so unconfined a capacity, under the restraint of place; but if He is an operative and purely spiritual Being, then I can see no reason why His virtual essence should not be diffused through all nature; and then (which I begin to think most likely) why should I not suppose Him ever present with me, and able to hear me? And why should not I, when I pray, have a full idea of the Being, though not of any corporeal parts or form of God, and so have actually somewhat to be intent upon in my prayers, and not do as I have hitherto done, say so many words only upon my knees; which I cannot help thinking may be as well without either sense or meaning in themselves, as without a proper object in my mind to direct them unto?

These thoughts agitated me at least two miles, working stronger and stronger in me; till at length, bursting into tears, Have I been doing nothing, says I, in the sight of God, under the name of prayers, for so many years? Yes, it is certainly so. Well, by the grace of God, it shall be so no longer; I will try somewhat more. So looking round about me, to see if I was quite alone, I stepped into an adjoining copse, and could scarce refrain falling on my knees, till I came to a proper place for kneeling in. I then poured forth my whole soul and spirit to God; and all my strength, and every member, every faculty was to the utmost employed, for a considerable time, in the most agreeable as well as useful duty. I would indeed have begun with my accustomed prayers, and had repeated some words of them; when, as though against and contrary to my design, I was carried away by such rapturous effusions that, to this hour, when I reflect thereon, I cannot believe but I was moved to them by a much more than human impulse. However, this ecstasy did not last above a quarter of an hour; but it was considerably longer before my spirits subsided to their usual frame. When I had a little composed myself, how was I altered! how did I condemn myself for all my past disquiet! what calm thanks did I return for the ease and satisfaction of mind I then enjoyed! And coming to a small rivulet, I drank a hearty draught of water and contentedly proceeded on my journey. I reached Bristol about four o'clock in the afternoon. Having refreshed myself, I went the same evening to the quay to inquire what ships were in the river, whither bound, and when they would depart. My business was with the sailors, of whom there were at that time great numbers there; but I could meet with no employ, though I gave out I would gladly enter myself before the mast. After I had done the best I could, but without success, I returned to the little house I had dined at, and went to bed very pensive. I did not forget my prayers; but I could by no means be roused to such devotion as I felt in the morning. Next day I walked again to the quay, asking all I met, who looked like seafaring men, for employment; but could hear of none, there being many waiting for berths; and I feared my appearance (which was not so mean as most of that sort of gentry is) would prove no small disappointment to my preferment that way. At last, being out of heart with my frequent repulses, I went to a landing-place just by, and as I asked some sailors, who were putting two gentlemen on shore, if they wanted a hand on board their ship, one of the gentlemen, whom I afterwards found to be the master of a vessel bound to the coast of Africa, turned back and looking earnestly on me, "Young man," says he, "do you want employment on board?" I immediately made him a bow, and answered, "Yes, sir." Said he, "There is no talking in this weather (for it then blew almost a storm), but step into that tavern," pointing to the place, "and I will be with you presently." I went thither, and not long after came my future master. He asked me many questions, but the first was, whether I had been at sea. I told him no; but I did not doubt soon to learn the duty of a sailor. He then looked on my hand, and shaking his head, told me it would not do, for I had too soft a hand. I told him I was determined for the sea, and that my hand and heart should go together; and I hoped my hand would soon harden, though not my heart. He then told me it was a pity to take such a pretty young fellow before the mast; but if I understood accounts tolerably, and could write a good hand, he would make me his steward, and make it worth my while. I answered in the affirmative, joyfully accepting his offer; but on his asking me where my chest was (for, says he, if the wind had not been so strong against me, I had fallen down the river this morning), I looked very blank, and plainly told him I had no other stores than I carried on my back. The captain smiled. Says he, "Young man, I see you are a novice; why, the meanest sailor in my ship has a chest, at least, and perhaps something in it. Come," says he, "my lad, I like your looks; be diligent and honest; I will let you have a little money to set you out, and deduct it in your pay." He was then pulling out his purse, when I begged him, as he seemed to show me so great a kindness, that he would order somebody to buy what necessaries he knew I should want for me, or I should be under as great a difficulty to know what to get, and where to buy them, as I should have been at for want of them. He commended my prudence, and said he would buy them and send them on board himself; so bid me trouble myself no more about them, but go to the ship in the return of his boat, and stay there till he came; giving me a ticket to the boat's crew to take me in. When I came to the shore, the boat was gone off and at a good distance; but I hailed them, and showing my ticket, they put back and took me safe to the ship; heartily glad that I was entered upon my new service.


His first entertainment on board—Sets sail—His sickness— Engagement with a French privateer—Is taken and laid in irons—Twenty-one prisoners turned adrift in a small boat with only two days' provision

Being once on board and in pay, I thought I was a man for myself, and set about considering how to behave; and nobody knowing, as yet, upon what footing I came on board, they took me for a passenger, as my dress did not at all bespeak me a sailor; so every one, as I sauntered about, had something to say to me. By and by comes a pert young fellow up: "Sir," says he, "your servant; what, I see our captain has picked up a passenger at last."—"Passenger?" says I; "you are pleased to be merry, sir; I am no passenger."—"Why, pray," says he, "what may you be then?"—"Sir," says I, "the captain's steward."—"You impertinent puppy," says he, "what an answer you give me; you the captain's steward! No, sir, that place, I can assure you, is in better hands!" and away he turned. I knew not what to think of it, but was terribly afraid I should draw myself into some scrape. By and by others asked me, some one thing, some another, and I was very cautious what answers I made them, for fear of offence: till a gravish sailor came and sat down by me; and after talking of the weather and other indifferent matters, "Pray," says I, "sir, who is that gentleman that was so affronted at me soon after I came on board?"—"Oh," says he, "a proud, insignificant fellow, the captain's steward; but don't mind him," says he; "he uses the captain himself as bad; they have had high words just before the captain went on shore; and had he used me as he did him, I should have made no ceremony of tipping him overboard—a rascal!" Says I, "You surprise me; for the captain sent me on board to be his steward, and agreed with me about it this afternoon."—"Hush," says he, "I see how it will go; the captain, if that's the case, will discharge him when he comes on board; and indeed I believe he would not have kept him so long, but we have waited for a wind, and he could not provide himself."

The captain came on board at night; and the first thing he did was to demand the keys of Mr. Steward, which he gave to me, and ordered him on shore.

The next morning the captain went on shore himself; but the wind chopping about and standing fair about noon, he returned then with my chest, and before night we were got into sailing order, and before the wind with a brisk gale.

What happened the first fourteen days of our passage I know not, having been all that time so sick and weak I could scarcely keep life and soul together; but after grew better and better. We prosecuted our voyage, touching for about a week at the Madeiras in our way. The captain grew very fond of me, and never put me to hard duty, and I passed my time, under his favour, very pleasantly. One evening, being within sixty leagues of the Cape of Palms, calm weather, but the little wind we had against us, one of our men spied a sail, and gave the captain notice of it He, not suspecting danger, minded it little, and we made what way the wind would permit, but night coming on, and the calm continuing, about peep of day we perceived we were infallibly fallen in with a French privateer, who, hoisting French colours, called out to us to strike. Our captain had scarce time to consider what to do, they were so near us; but as he had twenty-two men on board, and eight guns he could bring to, he called all hands upon deck, and telling them the consequence of a surrender, asked them if they would stand by him. One and all swore they would fight the ship to the bottom, rather than fall into the privateer's hands. The captain immediately gave the word for a clear deck, prepared his firearms, and begged them to be active and obey orders; and perceiving the privateer out-numbered our hands by abundance, he commanded all the small arms to be brought upon deck loaded, and to run out as many of the ship's guns as she could bring to on one side, and to charge them all with small shot, then stand to till he gave directions. The privateer being a light ship, and a small breeze arising, run up close to us, first firing one gun, then another, still calling out to us to strike, but we neither returned fire nor answer, till he came almost within pistol-shot of us, and seeing us a small vessel, thought to board us directly; but then our captain ordered a broadside, and immediately all hands to come on deck; himself standing there at the time of our first fire with his fusee in his hand, and near him I stood with another. We killed eight men and wounded several others. The privateer then fired a broadside through and through us. By this time our hands were all on deck, and the privateer pushing, in hopes to grapple and board us, we gave them a volley from thence, that did good execution; and then all hands to the ship's guns again, except four, who were left along with me to charge the small arms. It is incredible how soon they had fired the great guns and were on deck again. This last fire, being with ball, raked the privateer miserably. Then we fired the small arms, and away to the ship's guns. This we did three times successively without loss of a man, and I believe if we could have held it once more, and no assistance had come to the privateer, she had sheered quite off: but our captain spying a sail at some distance behind the privateer, who lay to windward of us, and seeing by his glass it was a Frenchman, was almost dismayed; the same sight put courage into our enemies, who thereupon redoubled the attack, and the first volley of their small arms shot our captain in the breast, upon which he dropped dead without stirring. I need not say that sight shocked me exceedingly. Indeed it disconcerted the whole action; and though our mate, a man of good courage and experience, did all that a brave man could do to animate the men, they apparently drooped, and the loss of the ship became inevitable; so we struck, and the Frenchman boarded us.

During the latter part of the engagement we had two men killed and five wounded, who died afterwards of their wounds. We, who were alive, were all ordered on board the Frenchman, who, after rifling us, chained us two and two and turned us into the hold. Our vessel was then ransacked; and the other privateer, who had suffered much the day before in an engagement with an English twenty-gun ship of war, coming up, the prize was sent by her into port, where she herself was to refit. In this condition did I and fourteen of our crew lie for six weeks, till the fetters on our legs had almost eaten to the bone, and the stench of the place had well-nigh suffocated us.

The "Glorieux" (for that was the name of the privateer who took us) saw nothing farther in five weeks worth her notice, which very much discouraged the men; and consulting together, it was agreed to cruise more northward, between Sierra Leone and Cape de Verde; but about noon next day they spied a sail coming west-north-west with a fresh gale. The captain thereupon ordered all to be ready, and lie by for her. But though she discerned us, she kept her way, bearing only more southward; when the wind shifting to northeast, she ran for it, full before the wind, and we after her, with all the sail we could crowd; and though she was a very good sailer, we gained upon her, being laden, and before night came pretty well up with her; but being a large ship, and the evening hazy, we did not choose to engage her till morning. The next morning we found she was slunk away; but we fetched her up, and hoisting French colours, fired a shot, which she not answering, our captain run alongside of her and fired a broadside; then slackening upon her, a hard engagement ensued; the shot thumping so against our ship, that we prisoners, who had nothing to do in the action, expected death, one or other of us, every moment. The merchantman was so heavy loaded, and drew so much water, that she was very unwieldy in action; so after a fight of two hours, when most of her rigging and masts were cut and wounded, she struck. Twelve men were sent on board her, and her captain and several officers were ordered on board us.

There were thirty-eight persons in her, including passengers; all of whom, except five, and the like number which had been killed in the action, were sent chained into the hold to us, who had lain there almost six weeks. This prize put Monsieur into good heart, and determined him to return home with her. But in two days' time his new acquisition was found to have leaked so fast near the bottom, that before they were aware of it the water was risen some feet. Several hands were employed to find out the leak; but all asserted it was too low to be come at; and as the pumps, with all the labour the prisoners, who were the persons put to it, could use, would not reduce it, but it still increased, they removed what goods they could into the privateer; and before they could unload it the prize sunk.

The next thing they consulted upon was what to do with the prisoners, who, by the loss of the prize, were now grown too numerous to be trusted in the privateer; fearing, too, as they were now so far out at sea, by the great addition of mouths, they might soon be brought to short. allowance, it was, on both accounts, resolved to give us the prize's boat, which they had saved, and turn us adrift to shift for ourselves. There were in all forty-three of us; but the privateer having lost several of their own men in the two engagements, they looked us over, and picking out two-and-twenty of us, who were the most likely fellows for their purpose, the remaining one-and-twenty were committed to the boat, with about two days' provision and a small matter of ammunition, and turned out.


The boat, two hundred leagues from land, makes no way, but drives more to sea by the wind—The people live nine days at quarter allowance—Four die with hunger the twelfth day— Five more the fourteenth day—On the fifteenth they eat one just dead—Want of water excessive—Spy a sail—Are taken up —Work their passage to the African shore—Are sent on a secret expedition—Are waylaid, taken slaves, and sent up the country.

When we, who were in the boat, came to reflect on our condition, the prospect before us appeared very melancholy; though we had at first readily enough embraced the offer, rather than perish in so much misery as we suffered in our loathsome confinement. We now judged we were above two hundred leagues from land, in about eight degrees north latitude; and it blowing north-east, a pretty stiff gale, we could make no way, but rather lost, for we aimed at some port in Africa, having neither sail, compass, nor any other instrument to direct us; so that all the observation we could make was by the sun for running southward, or as the wind carried us, for we had lost the North Pole. As we had little above two days' provisions, we perceived a necessity of almost starving voluntarily, to avoid doing it quite, seeing it must be many days before we could reach shore, if ever we did, having visibly driven a great deal more southward than we were; nay, unless a sudden change happened, we were sure of perishing, unless delivered by some ship that Providence might send in our way. In short, the ninth day came, but no relief with it; and though we had lived at quarter allowance, and but just saved life, our food, except a little water, was all gone, and this caused us quite to despair. On the twelfth day four of our company died with hunger in a very miserable way; and yet the survivors had not strength left to move them to pity their fellows. In truth, we had sat still, attempting nothing in several days; as we found that, unless the wind shifted, we only consumed the little strength we had left to no manner of purpose. On the fourteenth day, and in the night, five more died, and a sixth was near expiring; and yet we, the survivors, were so indolent, we would scarce lend a hand to throw them overboard. On the fifteenth day, in the morning, our carpenter, weak as he was, started up, and as the sixth man was just dead, cut his throat, and whilst warm let out what blood would flow; then pulling off his old jacket, invited us to dinner, and cutting a large slice of the corpse, devoured it with as much seeming relish as if it had been ox-beef. His example prevailed with the rest of us, one after another, to taste and eat; and as there had been a heavy dew or rain in the night, and we had spread out everything we had of linen and woollen to receive it, we were a little refreshed by wringing our clothes and sipping what came from them; after which we covered them up from the sun, stowing them all close together to keep in the moisture, which served us to suck at for two days after, a little and a little at a time; for now we were in greater distress for water than for meat. It has surprised me, many times since, to think how we could make so light a thing of eating our fellow creature just dead before our eyes; but I will assure you, when we had once tasted, we looked on the blessing to be so great, that we cut and eat with as little remorse as we should have had for feeding on the best meat in an English market; and most certainly, when this corpse had failed, if another had not dropped by fair means, we should have used foul by murdering one of our number as a supply for the rest.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse