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WE have heard in the past, and we continue to hear in the present a great deal concerning Napoleon's Marshals. The glamour of the short Napoleonic period is strong, the fascination in the story of the Revolution that gave it birth yet stronger; above all the personality of the great Corsican himself, in fame as in life, is irresistible. Men gaze at his astonishing career and are lost in amazement first over the man himself, and next over the number of able lieutenants that he was able to rally round him. It is true that even before the fall of their master the Peninsular war had done somewhat to dim their glory; but none the less their reputation is and remains great. Their names are still dear to Frenchmen; their biographies and memoirs are devoured by all devotees (and what Frenchman is not a devotee?) of la Gloire; their history is not abandoned to the rank and file of the literary profession; their lives and works, as Marmont's for instance at the hands of Sainte Beuve, find appreciation from the Marshals of criticism. They are treated as a unique group of phenomena; and the only reply hitherto given, when explanation of their appearance is demanded, is the oracular sentence, La carrière ouverte aux talents, the best place for the best man," a phrase which, like most of those coined during the Revolution, has ceased to ring true. For if the formula was reduced to practice in revolu
11. A SELECTION FROM THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE OF VICE-ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD, INTERSPERSED WITH MEMOIRS OF HIS LIFE; by G. L. Newnham Collingwood. Two vols.; London, 1828.
2. THE LIFE OF ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD; by W. Clark Russell. London, 1895.
tionary France, most certainly it was not in reactionary England; and yet there came out of England in that terrible twenty years' war such an array of naval talent as has never been matched in the world's history. And this consideration leads us to ask why the Marshals of France are remembered and the Admirals and Captains of England forgotten? There are many Englishmen who can tell off the names of the Marshals, with their titles, glibly enough, and can discourse of Soult and Massena, of Lannes and Ney. But surely the names of the Englishmen are not less remarkable; Bridport, Cochrane, Collingwood, Duncan, Hood, Howe, Nelson, Saumarez, Sidney Smith, Troubridge, to say nothing of Blackwood, Brenton, Gardner, Keith, Martin and a dozen more that stand high in the second rank, for the time would fail us to enumerate them all. Surely the rise of so many giants of the sea is at least as notable as that of Napoleon's lieutenants ashore. Yet of how many of them have we any adequate knowledge? At most of two; of Cochrane, who as Earl of Dundonald wrote his own story, and of Nelson who found a fit biographer in Southey. Lives of many of the rest do indeed exist but are not easily to be found by the general public, nor, if the truth be told, are always worth reading when discovered. Take again the case of naval history; what had we but the laborious compilation of James until Captain Mahan (an American, be it observed,) came forward to show us the true quality of the officers and of the fleet that broke the power of Napoleon? The names of great naval heroes are forgotten, and their faces are
familiar. We can show in London statues in abundance of soldiers, Charles Napier, Robert Napier, Havelock, Gordon, Burgoyne; not one of St. Vincent, Hood, Collingwood, or Cochrane. Nelson stands aloft in Trafalgar Square surrounded by generals who never saw his face, not by the captains who fought his battles with him.
Urgentur ignotique longa
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro.
We have been led to these reflections by the perusal of Mr. Clark Russell's recently published LIFE OF ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD. There exists an earlier biography of Collingwood, published by his son-inlaw in 1828, an excellent book, as Mr. Russell truly says, and we may add also a delightful book. It is however less a story of Collingwood's life than a collection of Collingwood's letters, strung together, with no lack of judg ment, on a slender thread of narrative. Still even in this form it passed through at least four editions within the space of a year, and is consequently still purchasable in its original boards for a few shillings at many a bookstall. But a continuous history of Collingwood's life remained yet to be written; it has waited, in fact, to be written since the death of the great Admiral eighty-five years ago. One can hardly think on such neglect without shame. If, however, the task has remained unfulfilled for three generations, we can at any rate rejoice that it has at last been committed to the right hands. Mr. Clark Russell has not only discovered a number of Collingwood's hitherto unprinted letters, but has approached his subject with rare insight, knowledge, and sympathy. The life of a man who spent forty-four years of his three-score and two at sea, the greater part thereof in tedious and uninteresting operations, is not easily
made palatable to landsmen; but here Mr. Russell's skill as a writer of sea-stories has stood him in good stead. By a hundred bright touches he reminds us perpetually that we are on blue water, and, while never suffering the thought to oppress us, enables us to realise the appalling discomfort, tedium, and anxiety of cruises which were reckoned not by weeks, but by months and even years. And on the blue water Mr. Clark Russell shows us the British fleet of a century ago, ships, officers, and men, lightly, but sufficiently and authentically drawn, and all subordinated to a grand central figure. A long intimacy with naval history and a profound and just reverence for his hero have helped his literary skill to display to us Collingwood in all his greatness; and we owe him thanks for a first, and withal an abiding, portrait of one of the noblest sailors who ever wore the king's uniform.
Cuthbert Collingwood was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 26th of September, 1748, that is to say two years before the date assigned for his birth by his own son-in-law, and still perpetuated on his monument in St. Paul's Cathedral; a curious discrepancy which, however, need not detain us here. Though his family was one of the most ancient in Northumberland, his father was of no greater station than a small, and, it must be added, an unsuccessful, tradesman, whose whole fortune at his death amounted to but nine hundred pounds. Cuthbert, however, received a cheap though excellent education at the grammar-school under a teacher of exceptional ability and sympathy, until in 1761 he went to sea in the Shannon under the protection of a relation, one Admiral Brathwaite. It was not until 1775 that he had experience of active service, being a spectator of the terrible conflict of Bunker's Hill. So few people remem
ber Bunker's Hill as one of the bloodiest actions ever fought by the British, that we may mention that our losses amounted to over a thousand of the two thousand men engaged. From the American coast he passed to the West Indies, fortunately escaping Admiral Graves's unsuccessful action with the French off the Chesapeake, and there met, and began his memoraable friendship with, Nelson. As fast as Nelson was promoted, Collingwood stepped into his place; and finally the two friends served together in the disastrous Central American campaign known as the San Juan expedition. Nelson fell dangerously ill; but Collingwood though he buried one hundred and eighty out of two hundred of his ship's company was strong enough to resist the climate; and, being relieved in command of the Hinchinbrooke in August, took over that of the Pelican in December, 1780. In the following year the Pelican was wrecked in the memorable hurricane of 1781, a storm still remembered by tradition in the West Indies, and Collingwood barely escaped with his life. Little appears to be known of his doings at this period, though it is that wherein Hood and Rodney made their names in naval history. We gather only that when peace was signed with France in 1783 he was in command of the Samson; and that shortly after he returned once more to the West Indies in the Mediator. Nelson was on the same station in the Boreas, and was so active in enforcing the Navigation Laws that he dared not go ashore for fear of the merchants. "Had it not been for Collingwood," he wrote, "this station would have been the most disagreeable that I ever saw." In 1786 Collingwood returned home and, to use his own words, made the acquaintance of his own family, to which he had hitherto been, as it were, a stranger. This, the
quietest period of his life and his longest spell ashore, lasted until 1790, when the dispute with Spain, which is generally identified with the name of Nootka Sound, called him to the command of the Mermaid frigate. Once again he was sent to the West Indies; but, on the amicable settlement of the Spanish quarrel, soon returned home. Seeing no immediate chance of further employment he went back to Northumberland, and in June, 1791, married Miss Blackett, daughter of the reigning Mayor of Newcastle. He then settled down in a house at Morpeth where, in the two following years two daughters were born to him, to whom, as Fate ordained it, he was doomed to remain, except on paper, almost unknown. For on the 1st of February, 1793, the National Convention of France declared war against England, and the great death-struggle began that was only to be closed at Waterloo. Collingwood was appointed to the command of the Prince, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Bowyer in Lord Howe's fleet. Then came a season of weary and profitless cruising, "a series of vexations, disappointments, and bad weather." It was no fault of the Admiral, nor indeed of any one except the men who built British ships inferior to the French. The Prince was the worst sailer in the fleet, and was finally exchanged by Bowyer, in March, 1794, for the Barfleur.
On the 2nd of May Lord Howe's fleet of thirty-four ships of the line with smaller vessels and a large convoy, one hundred and forty-eight sail in all, got under way from St. Helen's; and on the 4th the convoy having parted company with its protecting vessels, Howe was left with twenty-six sail of the line, seven frigates and other smaller craft. On the 16th he passed the French fleet in a fog, so near at hand as to hear the
noise of its signals on bell and drum ; and finally on the 28th and 29th the two fleets brushed against each other, and there was hard fighting. On the 30th the fog again came down, but cleared away on the following day, leaving twenty-four hours wherein the British fleet could rally itself for the great battle of the 1st of June.
"The night (of the 31st)," writes Collingwood, "was spent in watching and preparation for the succeeding day; and many a blessing did I send forth to my Sarah lest I should never bless her more. At dawn we made our approach on the enemy, then drew up, dressed our ranks, and it was about eight when the Admiral made the signal for each ship to engage her opponent and bring her to close action; and then down we went under a crowd of sail, and in a manner that would have animated the coldest heart and struck terror into the most intrepid enemy. The ship we were to engage was two ahead of the French Admiral, so that we had to go through his fire and that of two ships next him, and received all their broadsides two or three times before we fired a gun. It was then near ten o'clock. I observed to the Admiral that about that time our wives were going to church, but that I thought the peal we should ring about the Frenchmen's ears would outdo their parish bells. Lord Howe began his fire some time before we did; and he is not in the habit of firing soon. We got very near indeed, and then began such a fire as would have done you good to have heard. During the whole action the most exact order was preserved, and no accident happened, but what was inevitable and the consequence of the enemy's shot. In ten minutes the Admiral (Bowyer) was wounded; I caught him in my arms as he fell; the First Lieutenant was slightly wounded by the same shot, and I thought I was
in a fair way of being left on deck by myself; but the Lieutenant got his head dressed and came up again. Soon after they called from the forecastle that the ship was sinking, at which the men started up and gave three cheers. I saw the French ship dismasted and on her broadside, but in an instant she was clouded with smoke, and I do not know whether she sank or not. All the ships in our neighbourhood are dismasted and are taken, except the French Admiral who was driven out of the line by Lord Howe and saved himself by flight. At about twenty minutes past twelve the fire slackened, the French fled and left us seven of their fine ships . . . and Le Vengeur, which last sank the same evening, so that you see we have had as complete a victory as could be
Such, in what Mr. Clark Russell truly calls one of the most charming letters in the language, is Collingwood's account of this memorable action. Unfortunately his satisfaction short-lived. When the news of the victory reached England a medal was granted to every captain mentioned in Lord Howe's despatch; but among them the name of Collingwood was not to be found, so that there was no medal for him. He was deeply hurt, and so likewise were many of his more fortunate comrades for his sake. Collingwood," said one, "has not deserved the medal, neither have I, for we were together the whole day." Lord Howe was taken to task for his despatch, and was soon heartily sorry that he had ever set his name to it. The fact was that, finding himself completely exhausted at the close of the action, he had left the writing thereof to his flag-captain, Sir Roger Curtis, an officer who has left an unenviable reputation behind him. Collingwood, with a warmth that is most unusual in him, calls Curtis in a
private letter "an artful sneaking creature," and the epithet is by no means too strong for the man who sat as president in the infamous courtmartial on Lord Gambier. There however the matter for the present rested, and Collingwood was far too good an officer to allow neglect to sour him.
We find him next in the Excelent, taking a convoy of merchantmen to Leghorn. Marryat has given us a vivid picture of the troubles of convoying in those days, and has described to us the protecting frigate sailing round and round her troublesome charge, and actually firing into them to make them keep up. "Figure," says Mr. Russell, "figure seventy or eighty sail of ships, many of them heavy round-bowed old merchantmen so shaped in beam and length that they might have been built by the league and sawn off as customers required them. A dozen ships at a time would be lagging; the naval officer in command would signal them, -but to no purpose; the sour old merchant-skipper, wrapped up in pilotcloth, eyed the epaulet askant and sulkily went to work to give as much trouble as possible." No less a man than Cochrane once started from Halifax with a large convoy, and arrived at Plymouth with a single vessel, and that vessel in tow. Collingwood, on this shorter voyage, records with relief that he has got his convoy safe off his hands, though at the cost of great exertion. "I seldom slept more than two hours at a time all the way out, and took such true care of my charge that not one was missing All the masters came on board my ship to thank me for my care and attention to their safety."
The Excellent then joined the fleet, under Sir John Jervis, that was occupied with the blockade of Toulon. It was weary work, and the British
navy may bless the advent of steam for the summary end that it has set to all blockading. Collingwood, in the dearth of fresh provisions, pined even for the bad potatoes that his old gardener at Morpeth used to throw away as worthless; but with Jervis in command the fleet was kept in a healthy state even after twenty-eight weeks at sea. It is always worth while to note the care which our great naval commanders have taken of their men; Cook, Cook, Jervis, Nelson, Collingwood, Cochrane, to name a few out of many, are all equally remarkable in this respect. But all Jervis's pains could not save the fleet from terrible damage from storms. Two of his ships perished outright, and others were so far crippled that it was with but eleven sail of the line that he made for Cape St. Vincent to pick up a reinforcement of five ships, sent him by Lord Bridport in January, 1797. A month later, on St. Valentine's day, the great battle was fought which gave Jervis his title of Lord St. Vincent. Captain Mahan has brought vividly before us the story of the action: how Jervis with his fifteen ships flew upon the Spanish twenty-seven, to use Collingwood's words, "as a hawk to his prey," cut their line in two and then tacked upon the larger division; how Troubridge, who led the British line, answered St. Vincent's signal to tack before it was well blown out; how Nelson, taking the initiative, wore out of the line and attacked on his own account; and how Collingwood, after crushing two Spanish ships, "disdained the parade of taking possession of beaten enemies," and pushed on to the rescue of Nelson who was engaged with no fewer than three adversaries. But we must transcribe a few lines from Collingwood's own account of the action in a letter to his wife. Readers will note the similes