Memoirs of Rear-Admiral Sir W. Edward Parry…Late First-Governor of Greenwich Hospital.

This adoring work could qualify for the category of nepotistic hagiography, though it gives some insights to Parry’s character.

p. 19, on the tutelage aboard the Ville de Paris, his first assignment, of the Hon. Charles Powys: “January 4, 1804. ‘Ville de Paris.’ . . . . “You can not imagine how kindly I have been treated by Mr. Powys. Ever since I have been in this ship he has left nothing undone to make me happy, in which he has certainly succeeded. If he ever sees me the least melancholy, he is uneasy till he has discovered the cause. He is always displeased if I do not ask him for any thing I want, as he says it shows a want of confidence in him. In short, in him I have found a friend, to whose kindness I am in great measure indebted for my present happiness, and whom, I trust, I shall never forget as long as I live. I look on him as a kind of prop and support to me in my first setting out. By going into his cabin — by his instructions in seamanship, (which he is always ready to give me) — by reading English and Latin with him, etc., etc. — I really believe that I learn as much in a day as, without him, I should do in a week.”

p. 20, in a Parry letter dated April 7, 1804: “I am going on with my French and navigation, and beginning to make use of my ‘Dictionnaire Marine.’ I first write down in English any part of the ship’s duty with which I am acquainted, and then translate it into French. At the same time I go on with navigation; and though I have for some time left off Euclid, I shall now (by Mr. Morgan’s advice) continue to devote part of my time to it, as it gives me an insight into Plane Trigonometry, which is connected with almost every branch of navigation, and may, therefore, as well be learnt out of one book as another. I have been glad to find that I have forgotten very little of my Latin, not that I can say as much of my Greek. I find, however, that I can translate the Greek Testament pretty tolerably. My father says that amongst other books which he intends to send me is a Greek Testament. I have one already, but it is so small that they have been obliged to make use of the old abbreviations, which, in learning Greek, I had never known.’ ”

p. 25, an 1806 letter from Parry: “ ‘Tribune,’ off Belle Isle, June 21, 1806. “I am going on very comfortably in my new situation. ‘Early to bed, and early to rise,’ is my maxim at present. I find, however, that I have not, on the whole, so much time of my own as when I kept watch; for now I can not be sure of a minute in which I am not liable to be sent for on a hundred different occasions. … I have, in a former letter, given you a true account of my situation with regard to the duty I have to do. I often regret our not having any church or prayers here, which is one of the comforts to which I have been so constantly accustomed on board the ‘Ville de Paris.’ However, the outward show is not of much use; and while I can enjoy the comfort of a good conscience, and of addressing myself when I please to my Creator, and the happiness of reading books which will serve to teach me the religion I profess, I do not see much reason to lament the want of a black gown, a pulpit, or an organ. My more quiet and composed hours shall be employed in my duty to my Maker and Heavenly Father, whilst I shall be endeavoring, on occasions of duty, to please my officers and companions….”

p. 34-35, aboard Alexandria, starting in 1810: “ ‘ Alexandria,’ Sheerness, February 19, 1810. “I think I can not better employ myself, for half-an- hour after breakfast, than by giving you a description of my cabin, which is now nearly complete. I told you it was about six or seven feet square. Its door (which opens into the gun-room, where we dine, etc.) is in the middle of one of its sides, and on the right is a small window, looking also into the gun-room; facing you, as you go in, is a very pretty chest of drawers, and over it is my library, which makes no shabby appearance, I assure you. Just over the middle of the drawers is a small window, not a foot square, from which proceeds all the light which my cabin possesses. Upon the back row of books stands a small oval looking-glass, ‘neat but not gaudy.’ ”

p. 71: Lieut. Parry, now for the first time in command of a vessel [Alexandria, under Sir John Ross], set himself diligently to the task of gaining information upon subjects more immediately connected with the peculiar service to which he had been chosen. In this he was aided by the kindness of many influential friends. An introduction to Sir Joseph Banks was followed by an invitation to make free use of his library, a liberty of which the young officer gratefully availed himself. “Sir Joseph’s invitations,” he wrote, “are not like those of fashionable life, but are given from a real desire to do every thing which can in the smallest degree, tend to the advancement of every branch of science.”

p. 133-36: The season was now fast drawing to a close ; the rain froze as it fell, rendering the decks and ropes as smooth and slippery as glass, while the increasing darkness, added to the rapid formation of the young ice, gave too evident notice that winter was close at hand. Accordingly, a convenient bay in a small island, off the entrance of Lyon inlet, was selected for winter quarters. On the 8th of October, the ships were moved into their places, through a canal cut for the purpose, and, in a few hours, firmly frozen in.

An Arctic winter was, by this time, no novelty to the crews of the “Fury” and “Hecla,” and the experience of Winter Harbor had taught Captain Parry the best means to be employed, for the preservation of health and comfort. The theatre, from which so much amusement had been before derived, was now “rigged out” afresh, on a grander and more commodious scale, with its decorations much increased; while the improved mode of warming the ships, by means of Sylvester’s stoves, prevented the inconvenience they had before experienced from the cold.

“It must not be supposed” (writes one of the officers) “that the pleasure afforded by these exhibitions arose from the great merit of the performers, and the excellence of the acting. The audience were a class ready to be amused by any novelty, and, in an especial manner, to be gratified by seeing the officers, to whom they were in the habit of looking up with respect and obedience, voluntarily exerting themselves for their sole amusement. The exertion was not made in vain; the men were amused, and to their hearts’ content. It is impossible to witness such a scene, without being impressed with a full conviction of its value, and without expressing a hope, that nothing might deprive the men of this occasional relief from ennui, the natural and baneful attendant on an uninformed mind, during the long and tedious winter.”

Of one play, “The Poor Gentleman,” acted on the 17th of December, Parry observes, that “it was performed by the officers in so admirable and feeling a manner, as to excite uncommon interest among the men, and to convince him, more than ever, of the utility of their theatrical amusements.” These entertainments were occasionally varied by the exhibition of an excellent magic lantern, presented to the commander, for the use of the expedition, by a lady, who persisted in keeping her name a secret from those whom she was thus serving. On other

evenings, Parry, who had no notion of being idle himself, or of allowing others to be so, succeeded in mustering, alternately in his own cabin,

and in that of Captain Lyon, a very respectable orchestra, in which his own violin took not the least conspicuous part. On these occasions, the doors of the cabin were thrown open, that the ship’s company outside might enjoy the music.

“More skillful amateurs” (says Parry) “might have smiled at these, our humble concerts; but it will not incline them to think less of the science they admire, to be assured, that, in these remote and desolate regions of the globe, it has often furnished us with the most pleasurable sensations which our situation was capable of affording. Independently of the mere gratification to the ear, there is, perhaps, scarcely a person in the world really fond of music, in whose mind its sound is not, more or less, connected with his far distant home.”

For a couple of hours, during those evenings which were not thus occupied, a school for teaching the men reading and writing was established on the lower deck of each of the ships, that in the “Fury” under the superintendence of the purser, Mr. Hooper. Attendance was quite voluntary, but so good a use was made by the seamen of the advantages thus afforded, that, when the expedition returned to England, there was not a man on board who could not read his Bible.

In the midst of these occupations, the shortest day passed over their heads, without any of the interest which it had excited on a former occasion.

“In fact,” as Parry observes, “our winter was no longer an experiment; our comforts were greatly increased, and the prospect of an early release from the ice as favorable as could be desired. In short, what with reading, writing, making and calculating observations, observing the various natural phenomena, and taking the exercise necessary to preserve health, nobody felt any symptoms of ennui, during our imprisonment in winter quarters.”

p. 219-20, later in Parry’s life when assigned as Commissioner in Port Stephens, Australia in 1830: At other times, Sir Edward would read aloud in the drawing-room. “No one,” says Mr. Ebsworth again, “could excel him in reading, and I have heard people remark, on these occasions, that ‘he ought to have been a bishop instead of a sailor!’ Sometimes Lady Parry would play on the piano, Sir Edward accompanying her on the violin, or with his fine manly voice, which harmonized very sweetly with hers.” At nine o’clock, all assembled once more for prayers, and shortly afterwards retired to rest.

Sometimes Sir Edward was obliged to leave home for days, or even weeks together, to conduct exploring or surveying expeditions into the interior. At these times, the want of his presence was greatly felt in the settlement, and other eyes than those of his wife would joyfully hail the Union Jack, hoisted on the flagstaff close to Tahlee house as the signal of his return. “It is not only at the Church services, “writes Lady Parry, during his absence, “that my husband’s presence is wanted. I think it is a general feeling, throughout the settlement, amongst all parties, that nothing seems to go on with spirit when he is away, and no one looks so contented and comfortable as when he is at home, watching over their concerns and interests.”