« ZurückWeiter »
Tuesday, July 26. Contrary winds all day, blowing pretty hard. Saw the Isle of Wight again in the evening.
Wednesday, July 27.
This morning the wind blowing very hard at West, we stood in for the land, in order to make some harbour. About noon we took on board a pilot out of a fishing shallop, who brought the ship into Spithead off Portsmouth. The captain, Mr. Denham and myself went on shore, and during the little time we staid I made some observations on the place.
Portsmouth has a fine harbour. The entrance is so narrow that you may throw a stone from fort to fort; yet it is near ten fathom deep and bold close to: but within there is room enough for five hundred, or for aught I know a thousand sail of ships. The town is strongly fortified, being encompassed with a high wall and a deep and broad ditch, and two gates that are entered over drawbridges; besides several forts, batteries of large cannon and other outworks, the names of which I know not, nor had I time to take so strict a view as to be able to describe them. In war time the town has a garrison of 10,000 men ; but at present 'tis only manned by about 100 Invalids. Notwithstanding the English have so many fleets of men of war at sea at this time,1 I counted in this harbour above thirty sail of 2nd, 3d, and 4th rates that lay by unrigged, but easily fitted out upon occasion, all their masts and rigging lying marked and numbered in storehouses at hand. The King's yards and docks employ abundance of men, who even in peace time are constantly building and refitting men of war for the King's service. Gosport lies opposite to Portsmouth, and is near as big if not bigger ; but except the fort at the mouth of the harbour, and a small outwork before the main street of the town, it is only defended by a mud wall which surrounds it, and a trench or dry ditch of about ten feet depth and breadth. Portsmouth is a place of very little trade in peace time; it depending chiefly on fitting out men of war. Spithead is the place where the fleet commonly anchor, and is a very good riding place. The people of Portsmouth tell strange stories of the severity of one Gibson, who was governor of this place in the Queen's time, to his soldiers, and show you a miserable dungeon by the town gate, which they call Johnny Gibson's Hole, where for trifling misdemeanors he used to confine his soldiers till they were almost starved to death. Tis a common maxim, that without severe discipline it is impossible to govern the licentious rabble of soldiery. I own indeed that if a commander finds he has not those qualities in him that will make him beloved by his people, he ought by all means to make use of such methods as will make them fear him, since one or the other (or both) is absolutely necessary; but Alexander and Caesar, those renowned generals, received more faithful service, and performed greater actions by means of the love their soldiers bore them, than they could possibly have done, if instead of being beloved and respected they had been hated and feared by those they commanded.
Thursday, July 28. This morning we came on board, having lain on shore all night. We weighed anchor and
'One gone to the Baltic; one to the Mediterranean; and one to the West Indies.
with a moderate gale stood in for Cowes in the Isle of Wight, and came to an anchor before the town about eleven o'clock. Six of the passengers went on shore and diverted themselves till about 12 at night; and then got a boat, and came on board again, expecting to sail early in the morning.
Friday, July 29.
But the wind continuing adverse still, we went ashore again this morning, and took a walk to Newport, which is about four miles distant from Cowes, and is the metropolis of the island. Thence we walked to Carisbrooke, about a mile farther, out of curiosity to see that castle, which King Charles the First was confined in; and so returned to Cowes in the afternoon, and went on board in expectation of sailing.
Cowes is but a small town, and lies close to the sea-side, pretty near opposite to Southampton on the main shore of England. It is divided into two parts by a small river that runs up within a quarter of a mile of Newport, and is distinguished by East and West Cowes. There is a fort built in an oval form, on which there are eight or ten guns mounted for the defence of the road. They have a post-office, a custom-house, and a chapel of ease; and a good harbour for ships to ride in, in easterly and westerly winds.
All this day I spent agreeably enough at the draft-board. It is a game I much delight in; but it requires a clear head, and undisturbed ; and the persons playing, if they would play well, ought not much to regard the consequence of the game, for that diverts and withdraws the attention of the mind from the game itself, and makes the player liable to make many false open moves; and I will venture to lay it down for an infallible rule, that if two persons equal in judgment play for a considerable sum, he that loves money most shall lose; his anxiety for the success of the game confounds him. Courage is almost as requisite for the good conduct of this game as in a real battle; for if the player imagines himself opposed by one that is much his superior in skill, his mind is so intent on the defensive part that an advantage passes unobserved.
Newport makes a pretty prospect enough from the hills that surround it; (for it lies down in a bottom). The houses are beautifully intermixed with trees, and a tall old-fashioned steeple rises in the midst of the town, which is very ornamental to it. The name of the church I could not learn: but there is a very neat market-house, paved with square stone, and consisting of eleven arches. There are several pretty handsome streets, and many well-built houses and shops well stored with goods. But I think Newport is chiefly remarkable for oysters, which they send to London and other places, where they are very much esteemed, being thought the best in England. The oyster-merchants fetch them, as I am informed, from other places, and lay them upon certain beds in the river, (the water of which is it seems excellently adapted for that purpose) a-fattening, and when they have laid a suitable time they are taken up again, and made fit for sale.
When we came to Carisbrooke, which, as I said before, is a little village about a mile beyond Newport, we took a view of an ancient Church that had formerly been a priory in Romish times, and is the first church, or the mother church of the island. It is an elegant building, after the old Gothic manner, with a very high tower, and looks very venerable in its ruins. There are several ancient monuments about it; but the stone of which they are composed is of such a soft crumbling nature, that the inscriptions are none of them legible. Of the- same stone are almost all the tomb-stones, &c. that I observed in the island. From this church, (having crossed over the brook that gives name to the village, and got a little boy for a guide) we went up a very steep hill, through several narrow lanes and avenues, till we came to the castle gate. We entered over the ditch (which is now almost filled up, partly by the ruins of the mouldering walls that have tumbled into it, and partly by the washing down of the earth from the hill by the rains) upon a couple of brick arches, where I suppose formerly there was a drawbridge. An old woman who lives in the castle, seeing us as strangers walk about, sent and offered to show us the rooms if we pleased, which we accepted. This castle, as she informed us, has for many years been the seat of the Governorsof the island : and the rooms and hall, which are very large and handsome with high arched roofs,have all along been kept handsomely furnished, every succeeding governor buying the furniture of his predecessor ; but Cadogan the last governor, who succeeded General Webb, refusing to purchase it, Webb stripped it clear of all, even the hangings, and left nothing but bare walls. The floors are several of them of plaster of Paris, the art of making which, the woman told us, was now lost:—The castle stands upon a very high and steep hill, and there are the remains of a deep ditch round it; the walls are thick, and seemingly well contrived : and certainly it has been a very strong hold in its time, at least before the invention of great guns. There are several breaches in the ruinous walls, which are never repaired, (I suppose they are purposely neglected) and the ruins are almost every where overspread with ivy. It is divided into the lower and the upper castle, the lower enclosing the upper which is of a round form, and stands upon a promontory to which you must ascend by near an hundred stone steps: this upper castle was designed for a retreat in case the lower castle should be won, and is the least ruinous of any part except the stairs before mentioned, which are so broken and decayed that I was almost afraid to come down again when I was up, they being but narrow and no rails to hold by. From the battlements of this upper castle (which they call the coop) you have a fine prospect of the greatest part of the island, of the sea on one side, of Cowes road at a distance, and of Newport as it were just below you. There is a well in the middle of the coop, which they called the bottomless well, because of its great depth; but it is now half filled up with stones and rubbish, and is covered with two or three loose planks; yet a stone, as we tried, is near a quarter of a minute in falling before you hear it strike. But the well that supplies the inhabitants at present with water is in the lower castle, and is thirty fathoms deep. They draw their water with a great wheel, and with a bucket that holds near a barrel. It makes a great sound if you speak in it, and echoed the flute which we played over it very sweetly. There are but seven pieces of ordnance mounted upon the walls, and those in no very good order; and the old man who is the gunner and keeper of the castle, and who sells ale in a little house at the gate, has in his possession but six muskets, (which hang up at his wall) and one of them wants a lock. He told us that the castle, which had now been built 1203 years, was first founded by one Whitgert a Saxon who conquered the island, and that it was called Whitgertsburg for many ages. That particular piece of building which King Charles lodged in during his confinement here is suffered to go entirely to ruin, there being nothing standing but the walls. The island is about sixty miles in circumference, and produces plenty of corn and other provisions, and wool as fine as Cotswold; its militia having the credit of equalling the soldiery, and being the best disciplined in England. ⁕⁕⁕⁕⁕⁕ was once in King William's time entrusted with the government of this island. At his death it appeared he was a great villain, and a great politician; there was no crime so damnable which he would stick at in the execution of his designs, and yet he had the art of covering all so thick, that with almost all men in general, while he lived, he passed for a saint. What surprised me was, that the silly old fellow, the keeper of the castle, who remembered him governor, should have so true a notion of his character as I perceived he had. In short I believe it is impossible for a man, though he has all the cunning of a devil, to live and die a villain, and yet conceal it so well as to carry the name of an honest fellow to the grave with him, but some one by some accident or other shall discover him. Truth and sincerity have a certain distinguishing native lustre about them which cannot be perfectly counterfeited, they are like fire and flame that cannot be painted.
The whole castle was repaired and beautified by Queen Elizabeth, and strengthened by a breast-work all round without the walls, as appears by this inscription in one or two places upon it. 1598
Saturday, July 30.
This morning about eight o'clock we weighed anchor, and turned to windward till we came to Yarmouth, another little town upon this island, and there cast anchor again, the wind blowing hard and still westerly. Yarmouth is a smaller town than Cowes; yet, the buildings being better, it makes a handsomer prospect at a distance, and the streets are clean and neat. There is one monument in the church w hich the inhabitants are very proud of, and which we went to see. It was erected to the memory of Sir Robert Holmes, who had formerly been governor of the island. It is his statue in armour, somewhat bigger than the life, standing on his tomb with a truncheon in his hand, between two pillars of porphyry. Indeed all the marble about it is very fine and good; and they say it was designed by the French King for his palace at Versailles, but was cast away upon this island, and by Sir Robert himself in his life-time applied to this use, and that the whole monument was finished long before he died, (though not fixed up in that place); the inscription likewise (which is very much to his honour) being written by himself. One would think either that he had no defect at all, or had a very ill opinion of the world, seeing he was so careful to make sure of a monument to record his good actions and transmit them to posterity.
Having taken a view of the church, town, and fort, (on which there is seven largeguns mounted) three of us took a walk up further into the island, and having gone about two miles, we headed a creek that runs up one end of the town, and then went to Freshwater church, about a mile nearer the town, but on the other side of the creek. Having stayed here some time it grew dark, and my companions were desirous to be gone, lest those whom we had left drinking where we dined in the town, should go on board and leave us. We were told that it was our best way to go straight down to the mouth of the creek, and that there was a ferry boy that would carry us over to the town. But when we came to the house the lazy whelp was in bed, and refused to rise and put us over; upon which we went down to the water-side, with a design to take his boat, and go over by ourselves. We found it very difficult to get the boat, it being fastened to a stake and the tide risen near fifty yards beyond it: I stripped all to my shirt to wade up to it; but missing the causeway, which was under water, lgot up to my middle in mud. At last I came to the stake ; but to my great disappointment found she was locked and chained. I endeavoured to draw the staple with one of the thole-pins, but in vain; I tried to pull up the stake, but to no purpose: so that after an hour's fatigue and trouble in the wet and mud, I was forced to return without the boat. We had no money in our pockets, and therefore began to conclude to pass the night in some hay-stack, though the wind blew very cold and very hard. In the midst of these troubles one of us recollected that he had a horse-shoe in his pocket which he found in his walk, and asked me if I could not wrench the staple out with that. I took it, went, tried and succeeded, and brought the boat ashore to them. Now we rejoiced and all got in, and when I had dressed myself we put off. But the worst of all our troubles was to come yet; for, it being high water and the tide over all the banks, though it was moonlight we could not discern the channel of the creek, but rowing heedlessly straight forward, when we were got about half way over, we found ourselves aground on a mud bank, and striving to row her off by putting our oars in the mud, we broke one and there stuck fast, not having four inches water. We were now in the utmost perplexity, not knowing what in the world to do; we could not tell whether the tide was rising or falling; but at length we plainly perceived it was ebb, and we could feel no deeper water within the reach of our oar. It was hard to lie in an open boat all night exposed to the wind and weather; but it was worse to think how foolish we should look in the morning, when the owner of the boat should catch us in that condition, where we must be exposed to the view of all the town. After we had strove and struggled for half an hour and more, we gave all over, and sat down with our hands before us, despairing to get off; for if the tide had left us, we had been never the nearer, we must have sat in the boat, as the mud was too deep for us to walk ashore through it, being up to our necks. At last we bethought ourselves of some means of escaping, and two of us stripped and got out, and thereby lightening the boat, we drew her upon our knees near fifty yards into deeper water, and then with much ado, having but one oar, we got safe ashore under the fort; and having dressed ourselves and tied the man's boat, we went with great joy to the Queen's Head, where we left our companions, whom we found waiting for us, though it was very late. Our boat being gone on board, we were obliged to lie ashore all night; and thus ended our walk.
Sunday, July 31.
This morning the wind being moderated, our pilot designed to weigh, and, taking advantage
of the tide, get a little further to windward. Upon which the boat came ashore, to hasten us
on board. We had no sooner returned and hoisted in our boat but the wind began again
to blow very hard at West, insomuch that instead of going any further, we were obliged to weigh