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FOUR YEARS IN GREAT BRITAIN.
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.
Feelings on leaving one's country—The Lightning-cloud at Night on the
Ocean-Style of Packet-ships-William IV. and George WashingtonCharacter of Passengers-An Irishman going to America for Gold Ship's Letter-bag, and an Incident-A Sermon, and Conscience-Remarkable Celestial Phenomena-A Funeral at Sea-The Shipboy asleep on the Mast—A Wreck-Arrival.
On Tuesday, the 9th of August, 1831, we put to sea from New-York, with a favourable wind, in the packet-ship Silas Richards, for Liverpool. The pilot, having kept the helm till we had passed the limit of his jurisdiction, promised us, as he dropped down the side of the vessel into his boat, a passage of twenty-three days, bade us good-by in fine spirits, exhilarating ours, and bore away for another job.
The first night we found ourselves in a dead calm, drifting with the tide on the Long Island shore. A slight breeze, however, sprung up in season to save us the necessity of throwing out an anchor, and we dropped all traces of land beneath the horizon before the break of day. Let those who have left their native shores for the first time judge of the thoughts and feelings of some of us, being of that number, as we rose to behold naught but heaven and the sea, and to think of our rapidly-changing geographical relations. From that moment, the wide expanse of waters, the blue arch above, clouds, winds, perhaps a tempest, stars, and an occasional sail, were destined for many days to be our only familiar objects.
On the 12th, between two and four in the morning, as I walked the deck-for I often rose to enjoy the night at seaI had the pleasure of witnessing one of the finest exhibitions of the lightning-cloud which I ever beheld, without the anxiety of expecting its approach. It rested in distant and solemn repose over the Gulf Stream, as the wind bore us along in a parallel line with that mysterious current; and there played off its splendours of blazing fire in the quickest and most lively succession all along the eastern horizon, as if to please the stars and me, and welcome in the coming day. Had the same cloud displayed itself in the west, I should have suffered apprehension; but being advised of the
fitful and stormy regions impending over the Gulf Stream, and feeling the steady and majestic march of our ship under a cool and refreshing breeze from the northwest, I had nothing to fear, and every thing appropriate to enjoy, by such a vision. It was the first scene of the kind, under like circumstances, that I had ever witnessed-indescribably grand, and differing from similar exhibitions on land, not only by the more incessant and more earnest coruscations, but especially by their red and angry hues. In the midst of this demonstration, the fiery car of day came rushing in, side by side, on the left of his rival, and there seemed an actual contest between these powers of nature.-the first occupant to retain its dominion, and the intruder to gain his rightful ascendency. Nor was it doubtful. Before the steady and increasing blaze of the latter, the darting fires of the cloud grew pale and feeble, gradually relaxed their ardour, and were at length immersed and quenched in the sea. I observed on this occasion, as on others, that the twilight of the ocean is much more attractive-principally, perhaps, as being more ardent—than the twilight of the land.
New-York and Liverpool packets, as all know who have sailed in them, are very commodious and perfect things of the kind. No expense is spared in their building, in the finishing of the cabins, in their furniture or provisions. Every new ship put upon the line is in some sort and particulars an improvement on every former one. Some of them are indeed superb enough to make a passenger proud, though sick, at sea. The tables, too, are most sumptuously supplied, though they may not, perhaps, in all cases, and in every item, be served to the taste of a London or Paris gourmand. The sea, however, is often a more offensive medicine to these nice and fastidious appetites. “What care these roarers for the name of king ?” As little do they seek to please the palate.
The Silas Richards was a ship of excellent proof, though not the most elegant on the line in the workmanship and furniture of her cabins. But her captain (Holdridge) is a public favourite, and well deserving such esteem for his good temper, his kindness, and his professional skill. It is amusing and interesting to observe the sympathy of a sailor with his ship. “Well, captain,” said I, one pleasant day, as he sat in a chair on the quarter-deck, and was apparently absorbed in watching the steady and majestic careering of his vessel before a fine breeze, “a penny for your thoughts.”
"She all but talks,” said he; “she does every thing I bid her.” The captain, however, was then making his last voyage in the Silas Richards. A new ship was in building for him at New-Bedford, Massachusetts, which, he said, was to be called William IV. Her name, however, is the George
Washington, in which I returned to New-York. The captain informed me, that when William IV. behaved badly in a time during the pending of the Reform Bill, it was resolved that he should not have the honour intended; and Washington, who had plucked the brightest jewel from his father's crown, superseded the son in the christening of one of the finest ships that sail on the ocean. Washington was consistent: he might have been a king; but he would not tarnish his reputation.
Our cabin-passengers were fifteen-all civil, and seeking to please throughout the voyage,-an enviable privilege, if I may trust the accounts I have received from persons who have had little but annoyance and vexation in crossing the Atlantic, in consequence of bad tempers, viciously-disposed characters, profane swearers, and gamblers, on board. The close and intimate contact of a ship's cabin renders civility and other expressions of good-breeding and habitual kindness indispensable to comfort. To be imprisoned in such a place with vile persons, for the time necessary to cross a wide ocean, is a great calamity. I have the pleasure to say, I do not recollect a single violation of that law of politeness, which was defined to me in early life, and which I shall never forget—"a wakeful regard to the feelings of others in the intercourse of life.” The presence of four ladies of exemplary manners was itself sufficient to impose restraint and decorum on any collection of gentlemen, although such influence was quite unnecessary to secure the object.
We had a Philadelphia merchant, his wife, and wife's sister; an English lady, resident in America, returning to visit her mother and family connexions in Yorkshire, with a charming little boy; the captain's excellent lady; a civil Scotch merchant, who had spent many years in South America, and seen enough of the rough-and-tumble of life to appreciate the advantages of civility; a sprig of English nobility, as was understood, who was prudent enough to say little, whatever might have been his thoughts; a cross-eyed flute-blower, of London, who occasionally entertained us with the melodies of his instrument; a young commercial agent, of Bristol, companion of my state-room, with whom I never quarrelled; a hypochondriac, of London, who scarcely left his berth during the passage ; and some other persons, whose characteristics were quite agreeable, but not particularly important to be specified. We breakfasted, lunched, dined, and tea-ed (as the English say) in good fellowship, and very regularly; seldom having a cup of coffee, or bowl of soup, or platter of roast-beef or fowl, or any other dish, fall into our lap by a sudden lurch of the ship. The deadlights were not fastened in for once, though for want of it we had a dash or two of the sea into the stern windows,