Sailors’ Life and Sailors’ Yarns

A journalistic kind of composite by a somewhat pious and rather strict naval disciplinarian. The following extracts some may read as the comments of a urbane writer of sound but severe morals; I see them as those of a pompous ass.

p. [11]. A Preface: Most of the contents of this book, are contributions for the Boston Journal, written for my own amusement in leisure hour, at sea, when I had no passengers, and the tedious hours of a long India voyage hunt heavily on me. Such is my excuse for writing them, and my excuse for publishing them is—the desire that they may amuse others.

p. 16, on work aboard merchant ships: And then on board of all well-regulated ships, there is time given, and books furnished, for reading, and improving the mind; and more knowledge is often acquired in these precious moments than if abundance of time were at disposal

p. 43-44 is a plea to keep flogging on the statute books “that the fear of it may deter from evil.”

p. 182-93, “David Williams, the Steward,” is a satirical racist yarn about a cowardly black steward.

p. 242-43 records a visit to the Sailors’ Home in New-York (Snug Harbor?): After attending service in the “Floating Chapel of our Saviour,” one Sunday morning, I received an invitation from the Rev. Chaplain to dine with him at the Home, which was gladly accepted. Having visited the library, reading room, parlours, and in fact the whole establishment, throughout which the greatest neatness and good order prevailed, we followed the summons of the gong to dinner. The Rev. Mr. Parker said grace amidst the profound silence of two hundred sailors, who then sat down to their meal and conducted themselves much more like gentlemen, than a party with whom I dined at the Astor House on the previous day. Cold “Croton” was the only drink…. Two hundred seamen voluntarily bringing themselves within the pale of civilization, and behaving like so many rational and intelligent men! It would certainly but a few years ago, have been regarded as miraculous.

p. 251: I do not wish to deal in hints, but much prefer to speak out plainly. Such books as Mr. Dana; Two Years Before the Mast,” and Mr. Browne’s “Whaling Cruise,” however interesting in many particulars, convey very wrong impressions as to the general treatment of seamen. They do not assert in so many words, that sailors are always abused (for they acknowledge instances to the contrary,) but they give people to understand that sailors are rather maltreated by their officer than otherwise. The reverse is the truth. I do not profess to know about whale ships; but no one can read Mr. Browne’s experience, without seeing plainly that he has overshot the mark, and without being amused at his project of establishing a democracy at sea.