Fascinating account of a shipwreck, a potential mutiny, and a Warrant Officer who took it on himself to advise incompetent officers in how to save the lives of the crew. His advice was dependent upon one volume he borrowed from the ship’s Captain.
p. x, in a delightful Introduction written many years later by Arthur D. Howden Smith (1926): But to return to the Honorable John Byron. Of those in the Wager’s company, he was the single one destined to immortality, for this and two entirely separate reasons. In the first place, he rose by dint of his own talents to flag rank, and as Vice Admiral commanded the fleet in the action with Count D’Estaing off Granada, July y, 1779; proving himself therein a sea-dog of the old school, whose theory of battle was to make signal for “general chase”— and then trust to luck and his batteries. He was lucky at Granada in having an opponent more inept than himself. But he is enshrined in British naval history by the picturesque cognomen conferred upon him by his sailors, “Foulweather Jack,” a tribute to the belief of the Service that he had only to put to sea to stir the elements to their worst. His second claim to memory is that his grandson was a famous—some will have it infamous—poet, who made use of his “Narrative” in shaping a work called “Don Juan,” and left a fleeting reference to him in “An Epistle to Augusta”:
A strange doom is thy father’s son’s, and past
Recalling, as it lies beyond redress.
Reversed for him our grandsire’s fate of yore,
He had no rest on sea nor I on shore.
I dare swear that Master Bulkeley could have written better verse than that had he put his mind to it—with a trifle of carpentering help from Master Cummins. He was a fellow of infinite wit, this Bulkeley, observant, disputatious and mighty pious. He would crack a joke… or tell his Captain what to do or quote you Thomas à Kempis or beard the Viceroy of the Brazils or restrain a pack of half-starved, ignorant refugees, and all with the sturdy assurance of a man accustomed to wearing a square-skirted coat and a tie-wig and to regarding Lords and Honorbles as being apart. How he sucks up to the Honorable Foulweather Jack, even when disagreeing with that personage, who was all of seventeen at the moment and owned not a tithe of his sea-lore! Which simply proves him the thoroughgoing Britisher that he was. He revered the upper classes, but he was nonetheless prepared to stand upon his rights.
p. 31, Thursday July 30, 1740: Being at the Honourable Mr. Byron’s Tent, I found him looking in Sir John Narborough’s Voyage to these Seas; this Book I desired the Loan of, he told me it was Captain Cheap’s and did not doubt but he would lend it me; this Favour I requested of the Captain, and it was presently granted. Carefully purusing this Book, I conceived an Opinion that our going through the Streights of Magellan for the Coast of Brazil, would be the only Way to prevent our throwing ourselves into the Hands of a cruel, barbarous, and insulting Enemy…. This Evening Proposals were offered to the Officers concerning our going through the Streights of Magellan; which at this Time they seem to approve of.
p. 173: I take this Opportunity, to recommend to the candid reader, the perusal of that excellent Book, entitled, The Christian Patern, or, the Imitation of Jesus Christ, by Thomas à Kempis ; which Book I brought with me through the various Scenes, Changes, and Chances of the Voyage, and Providence made it the Means of Comforting me.