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The Naval History of Great Britain
From the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV by William James, a new edition with additions and notes, Also an account of the Burmese War and the Battle of Navarino by Captain Chamier, R.N. in six volumes (1837)


The flattering reception given to the first edition of this work again calls me before the public. Having no prepossessing adjunct to annex to my name in the title-page, no word, nor even letter, to denote the slightest connexion between that name and the professional subject treated of in these pages, I may be permitted to state my motives for undertaking a task, of such apparent difficulty to a landman, as a narrative of naval actions.

It is now upwards of 13 years since the subject first engaged my attention. I was then a prisoner, or detenu, in the United States of America, and recollect, as if it were but yesterday, the impression made on my mind by the news of the Guerricre’s capture. Having, during a few years’ practice as a proctor in the island of Jamaica, learnt not to place implicit reliance upon what an American swore, much less upon what he loosely asserted* I expected, very naturally, to derive consolation from the result of an inquiry into the actual force, in guns, in men, and in size, of the contending frigates. My acquaintance, while professionally employed, with many matters relating to ships, facilitated div labours; and the degree of intercourse, which had necessarily subsisted between several officers of the British navy and myself, gave, I confess, a spur to my exertions.

I soon ascertained that official fetter-writing, so far from, being a fair representation of facts, was Apolitical engine made use of by the government, to draw recruits to the army from the western states, to render the war popular throughout the union, and to inspire the nations of Europe with a favourable opinion of the martial character of the United States. I found that, although the republic was divided into two parties, democrats, and federalists, the latter would only scrutinize or call in question the statements of the former, when the deeds of the army were recounted; but that the most extravagant assertions, made by the government or democratic party on behalf of the navy, received the stanch support of the federal or, misnamed, English party. As fir, therefore, as related to the exploits of the American navy, the whole press of the republic, from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic frontier to Louisiana, co-operated in furthering the views of the government. Had these exaggerated accounts deluded the people of the United States only, the consequences would have been comparatively trifling; but, as if Buonaparte was the only potentate who could issue false bulletins, or that an official document, simply because it was drawn up in the English language, must be received as a truism by the English people, the press of this country unsuspectingly lent its aid in degrading the character of its own navy, and in exalting that of the United States.

While residing in an enemy’s country, I could do little else in the matter on which my mind was bent, than collect materials to be used at a future day. I did, however, manage to get inserted in some of the American journals, a few paragraphs setting right the comparative force in one or two of the actions, and had afterwards the pleasure to see those paragraphs copied into a London journal, as admissions extorted from the Americans themselves. At length my zeal nearly betrayed me; and I was on the eve of being sent to the interior, when I effected my escape, and arrived, in the latter end of the year 1813, at Halifax, Nova-Scotia.

I there became a gratuitous contributor to the only newspaper of the three, which could be called an English one, and published, from time to time, accounts of the different naval actions with the Americans; showing t\e exact force and dimensions of their ships, aud communicating to the colonial public many novel and important facts. I also transmitted several letters on the subject to England; and they afterwards appeared in the Naval Chronicle. In March, 1816, I published a pamphlet, “An Inquiry into the merits of the principal naval actions between Great Britain and the United States, &c.” and inscribed it as an “humble appeal to the understandings of the loyal inhabitants of his majesty’s North-American provinces.” In the succeeding J une I arrived in England ; and, in about a twelvemonth afterwards, I published a single octavo volume, entitled, “ A full and correct account of the Naval Occurrences of the late war between Great Britain and the United States. In June, 1818, was induced to publish a work, in two volumes octavo, on the “Military Occurrences” of the same war; and in the latter end of that year, or the beginning of 1819, formed the resolution, the presumptuous resolution, as I now think, of writing a narrative of the different naval actions fought between Great Britain and her enemies since the declaration of war by France in February, 1793.

Of that work, in its present amended state, I am now to speak. In the “ Introduction,” I have endeavoured to make the unprofessional reader acquainted with the’ rise and growth of the British navy; with the ancient as well as the modern armaments of the ships composing it; with the same respecting the ships of foreign uavies; and, in short, with every other particular that I thought would assist him in understanding details, among which, too avoid too frequent a recurrence to paraphrase, I have been obliged to intersperse a great many technical terms. In order, however, to lessen the inconvenience arising from that circumstance, I have given a “Glossary of sea-terms,” extracted chiefly from Falconer and Darcy Lever; and which Glossary, as it at present stands, is far more copious than it was in the old edition.

The main subject of the work I have divided into annual period), and have subdivided each year’s proceedings into three instead of, as formerly, four principal heads: British and French or other foreign fleets; light squadrons and single ships; and colonial expeditions.

Under the first head, the leading subject for the current year is invariably the state of the British navy. Some account of the navy of the opposite belligerent is then given; and, after that, the proceedings of the rival fleets. This head takes in all expeditions that are not of a colonial nature, the operations of Buonaparte’s invasion-flotilla, and a summary of such proceedings on shore, including measures of state and the movements of armies, as may contribute to throw a light upon naval history.

Under the second head, I have given an account of all actions between frigate-squadrons or single ships, boat-attacks, shipwrecks, and other naval proceedings not reducible under the fleet or the colonial head ; and the third and last head takes in, as it specifics, all expeditions fitted out against the colonies of any of the belligerents. On first introducing this head, I have thought it requisite to enumerate the colonies possessed, at that period, by the different European powers.

It was in the “Naval Occurrences,” that I first adopted the plan of exhibiting the comparative force of ships of war by a tabular statement. Before I introduced the plan into the present work, I consulted several naval officers and they all agreed, that the statement conveyed to their minds the clearest idea of that which it was meant to express, the actual force of the combatants. A committee of the most scientific officers belonging to the American navy, having been ordered by the president to compute and report upon the relative sirength of different classes of ships, compare them by the “weight of ball in a round.” M. Dupin, in the second, or naval part of his "Voyages daus la Grande-Bretagne,” a work of admitted science and research, wherever he has occasion to compare the force of two ships of war, adopts my mode, that of the broadside weight of metal. If it be the number and not the nature of the guns that decides the contest, what is to be understood by the frequent expression, "This ship is heavier than that?” Does it mean that the ship bears about her more wood iron work, and is therefore heavier; or that her guns are of a larger caliber, and the balls she discharges from them heavier?

In reasoning upon the issue of any battle, I have found neither the talent nor the inclination, to dwell on the consequences which might or did accrue to either nation from success or failure. The merits of the combat, considered as a combat, I have fully detailed, and freely discussed; and have left the field of politics open to those who know better how to traverse it Disclaiming as W° all party-feeling, my task as an impartial narrator has sometimes forced me to make remarks, which may be considered novel, if not, in an unprofessional writer presumptuous. Where such strictures appear, the grounds of them also appear; and it would be as impossible for a rational mind to overlook, as it would be degrading for an independent one to withhold, the fair conclusion. If, notwithstanding my endeavours to be accurate, I have in any case argued from wrong data, and thus unintentionally committed injustice, I shall be ready to make the best atonement in my power. But who is so weak as to expect that, because among the attributes of a profession, gallantry ranks as one, no member of that profession can be otherwise than gallant? Is it any reflection upon the army or the navy to say, that this general has nothing of the soldier about him but his gait; or that that admiral displays no trait of the genuine tar but his sea-phrases? I feel a satisfaction, however, in being able to declare, that no material mistatement has been charged to me in the first edition of this work; and yet, I neither spared the high, where facts told against them, nor refused my humble aid to the low, where their claims had been disregarded, and blustering assurance allowed to usurp the rights of modest merit.

There may be persons who consider, that a compilation of official letters from the London Gazette, properly headed and arranged, would form the best Naval History that could be written. As I have ngt only omitted to give one of those letters entire, but have amended some, flatly contradicted others, and enlarged upon the remainder, it becomes me to show upon what grounds I, a private individual, have taken such liberties with documents, that, as being official, are usually held too sacred to h: ve their contents called in question. Beginning with the fleet-actions, let the reader refer to Lord Howe’s letter. It contains two mistatements: one, that a French ship of the line was captured in the night of the.28th of May; the other, that a French ship of the line was sunk during the engagement of the 1st of June. No doubt his lordship firmly believed what he stated, for a more honourable man did not exist. Lord Howe gives a sketch of the day’s proceedings, and, for further information, refers to the bearer of his despatches,

Captain Sir Roger Curtis. That sketch of the action may be comprised in three or four pages; while the details I have given fill 80 pages. Look, also, at the mistatements in Lord Collingwood’s letter respecting the battle of Trafalgar. Compare that brief letter with my account, which occupies 120 pages. I might refer, in a similar way, to every other general action of the two wars.

With respect to single-ship actions, the official accounts of them are also very imperfect. The letters are generally written an hour or so after the termination of the contest, and of course before the captain has well recovered from the fatigue and flurry it occasioned. Many captains are far more expert at the sword than at the pen, and would sooner fight an action than write the particulars of one. I know a case where, after an officer had written a clear and explicit account of an important operation he had been engaged in, his commander-in-chief sent him back his letter to shorten. In consequence of this, the gazette-letter was not only brief, but unintelligible. If you are informed how long the action lasted, you seldom can learn at what hour it began or ended. As to the state of the wind, that is scarcely ever noticed. The name of the captured ship is given, and, now and then, the name of her commander; her numerical force in guns; also their calibers, generally when equal or superior, but less frequently when inferior, to those of the captor. The force of the British ship, being known to the Board of Admiralty, is left to be guessed at by the public, or partially gathered from Steel. Moreover, whatever may have been the mistakes or omissions in an official account, no supplementary account, unless it relates to a return of loss, is put forth to rectify or supply them.

But even the minuteness of my accounts has given rise to objections. That trite maxim of expediency, “Truth is not at all times to be spoken,” has been held up against me; and I have been blamed for removing the delusion, which the now no longer existing difference between the rated and the real force of a British ship of war had so long imposed upon the public. If, in showing that a certain frigate, instead of mounting, as was supposed, 38 guns, mounted 46, I leave to be inferred, that her captain did not deserve to be knighted for having captured a French frigate of 44 guns, I confer a benefit on the British navy; I assist to exalt, rather than to debase, the martial character of the nation. For instance, a French war breaks out tomorrow, and this same British frigate captures a French frigate of 44 guns. Is her captain knighted? No. Why? Because his ship is a 46, his opponent’s only a 44, gun frigate. The nation at large, not knowing that the old 38 and the new 46 gun frigate were armed precisely alike, that, in fact, they were the same ship, exclaims, that the British navy is not what it was; that it now requires a 46-gun frigate to perform as much as, 25 years ago, was performed by a 38-gun frigate. It is the explanations I give, which place the two actions upon a par; explanations due no less to truth, than to the rising generation of Nelsons, who require but the opportunity to be afforded them, to emulate, perhaps to outshine, the bravest of those that have gone before them.

Let not the reader imagine, because in the ensuing pages the veil may be drawn farther aside than has been customary, that he will find less to admire in the performances of the British navy. Far from it. Some hundreds of cases are here recorded, that are not to be found in any other publication of the kind; and even in many of those cases which have appeared before, my researches have enabled me to add particulars, calculated to raise the action to a still higher rank in the annals of the British navy.

I cannot recollect an instance where a British officer, of tried valour, has dissented from the opinion, that every justice ought to be done to the exertions of an enemy; and yet, I regret to say, there are officers, as well as others, who have objected to my work because it is too Frenchified. Such illiberal opinions I value as nought. Nay, in direct opposition to their spirit, I am gratified in reflecting, that I have shown an impartiality which will exonerate me from Hume’s sweeping charge, that, “ in relations of sea-fights, writers of the hostile nations take a pleasure in exalting their own advantages, and suppressing those of the enemy.” I feel, also, a degree of pride in the proofs I have afforded, that a man may write an impartial naval history, and yet belong to the country the most conspicuous in it. I esteem the brave of every nation; but I glory in recounting the exploits, and in celebrating the renown, of the. brave of my own. And I shall not, I trust, be considered less patriotic than the historian who says, “I confess, I love England,” because I will not go the length of saying also with him,“and I hate her enemies.”

Could I have persuaded myself to make those “authentic and valuable works,” the “Annual Registers, rather than the log-books of ships and the official accounts on both sides, the groundwork of my statements, I should have escaped both the troublesome task of seeking particulars, and the unpleasant one of passing censure. The fulness of my details would not have obliged me to violate historical unity, by dividing my subject into so many distinct heads; nor need I have run the risk of tiring the reader with the minuteness, nor of displeasing him with the technicality, of my descriptions. I should have cared less about the truth and originality, than about the easy flow and the “patriotic,” which, in plain English, means the partial, tendency of my narrative; and, instead of employing five or six years, I should scarcely have taken twice as many months, to bring my labours to a conclusion. He who is best read on naval subjects, can best appreciate the extent of my researches for matter that is novel. The accuracy of jy statements, a yet more important point, can best *be determined by those who were engaged in the services I profess to narrate. Of the many accounts of sea-fights to be found in these pages, there ^is not one but contains something original, something which has never before been in print ;If it is only the state of the wind, the name of the foreign captain, or the particulars of the force mounted by the contending ships.

When I look upon the pile of letters, full 300 in number, the contents of which have so enriched these volumes, I cannot but feel grateful to the writers, many of whom are of the first rank and distinction in the navy; and I beg them individually to accept my acknowledgments. Several of the writers betray an unwillingness to disclose facts creditable to themselves, and others strictly enjoin me, rather to under, than to over, rate their performances. Much, too, as I had calculated upon voluntary communications (having in my Prospectus requested information of the profession at large), 20 or 30 unsolicited letters are all that I have received. Nor were the remaining letters replies to a circular requesting information generally, but answers to a string of questions, leading directly to the point in doubt. In stating that upwards of 80 of my letters remain at tins hour unanswered, I shall perhaps be excused for some of the omissions that may discover themselves in the work. A few of those letters have probably miscarried, and others may have given offence. One captain, indeed, was candid enough to tell me, why he refused the least particle of information: he did not like the freedom of my remarks upon excessive flogging. .Let me assure him that, on a review of my past labours, there is no part I would wish less to retract, or even soften down, than that which, to my regret, has provoked his anger.

The celebrated author of the “Decline and Fall of Rome" in the Preface to his first octavo edition, says: “Some alterations and improvements had presented themselves to my mind, but I was unwilling to injure or offend the purchasers of the preceding edition." This appears to me to be the excuse of an author who either is weary of his subject, or who feels that he is already seated upon the highest pinnacle of fame. As I am still fondly attached to my subject, and have yet my fame (such as it ever will be) to make, no cause exists to divert me from what I conceive to be my bounden duty to the public, to give the most full and accurate account in my power of the naval events of the period embraced by my work.

The improvements I have been enabled to make in this edition are, for the most part, highly important. Such of those improvements as relate to the heads under which the narrative is carried on have already been described. Nearly the whole of the tabular matter in each volume has been transferred to an Appendix at the end; where, also, the Annual Abstracts of the British navy are now placed, instead of being put up in a separate quarto volume. The notes have almost all been incorporated with the text; and subjects connected in interest, but disunited in the former mode of arrangement, have been brought together. All the accounts have been revised, and many of them greatly enlarged. Upwards of 200 cases, chiefly boat and shore attacks, have been added to this edition. Among the improvements, is an epitome, under the head of Contents, of each year’s proceedings, with a reference to the page at which the action or case is to be found.

In other naval histories, the name of the English captain is not always added to that of the ship he commands: and even when it is added, the Christian name is seldom given. With respect to French captains, the omission of their names is generally preferable to the attempt to insert them ; because, almost invariably, they are so mispelt, as to defeat every purpose of identity. In both these points, I was particularly careful in the first edition of this work; and I have, in the present edition, at incalculable pains, inserted the Christian and surname of every first lieutenant in au action of note; of every officer killed and wounded, in any action whatever; of every officer present (where obtainable) in any attack by boats, or in operations against the enemy on shore. When it is known, that these names comprise some thousands, that the surnames of part only, and the Christian names of scarcely any, are to be found in the gazette-letters, some idea may be formed of the difficulties I have experienced in consummating this part of my new plan. I will venture to say, that the Board of Admiralty themselves would have found considerable difficulty in adding the proper Christian names to such a mass of surnames. A few Christian names, and a few only, I have been obliged to leave in blank, and in others I may have erred; but I have used my utmost endeavours to be accurate in all. Let me here mention, that the London Gazette contains a great many misprinted names ; and that its Index of “State Intelligence” is extremely imperfect and erroneous.

To render this new system of nomenclature of increased practical benefit, as well to the public at large, as to the junior class of British naval officers, to do justice to whose gallant exertions was my chief motive in planning it, I have caused a list to be made of all the names, with the volume, year, and page in which they occur, and the progressive rank of the officer. Pardon me, reader, if I now descend, for a moment, from the station of the author, to give expression to feelings of rather a personal nature. To an affectionate partner, who has chared my anxiety in executing this arduous and protracted work, as well as incurred some of the danger consequent upon >t, I am indebted for the Index of both the present and the preceding editions. The labour of the undertaking is manifest; and its a uracy will, I trust, be equally evident when there is occasion to refc” to it.

In the Index to the last three volumes of the old edition, the names of ships, as well as of the officers, appear; and, in my Prospectus of the new edition, I promised that the ships should form part of the Index to the present work. By the time, however, that the first three volumes had been gone over the quantity of index matter was so great, that I decided to omit the ships; the rather, as no ship, no British ship at least except ir» a single instance or so, is named in the work without her captain or commander being also named.

For their novelty as well as their utility, the Diagrams will perhaps be considered the most important improvement in the Work. I wish they had been more numerous; but I found it impracticable to extend the number, and at the same time preserve that accuracy, without which the diagram would obscure, rather than illustrate, the letter-press. Although, with one or two exceptions, not finished quite so well as I could desire, these wood-cuts have greatly increased the cost, but without adding one shilling to the price, of the book.

The greater portion of the sixth volume is made up of the operations of the late American war, which, for the want of room, I was obliged to omit in the preceding edition. Here it is, I fear, that my zeal in the cause of truth, my wish, my determination to expose, as far as I am able, all counterfeit claims to renown in naval warfare, will subject me to the charge of national prejudice. Confident, however, that 1 have, in no instance, swerved from that impartiality which gives to these pages their principal value, I must console myself with the reflection, that those who charge me with being too severe in my strictures upon the officers and people of the United States, have never had an opportunity of forming a judgment of the American character. For the edification of such persons, I subjoin a brief account of the frontispiece of an American naval work, published at that which is reputed to be the most Anglican of all the cities of the republic, Boston.

We are to suppose that the genius of America, having by some means got possession of old Neptune’s car and trident, along with a pair of prancing sea-nags, is desirous to take an airing on the deep. Behold her, then, as she dashes through the waves, pointing with the trident, by her degraded into a staff for the national colours, to some medallions of American worthies, fantastically stuck upon a monument, whose foundation, seemingly, is no other than the froth and foam which the lady herself has just kicked up. Wreaths of laurel, sea-gods, and a towering eagle, find appropriate places in the design. Upon the pedestal are the names of “Manly, Truxton, Jones, Preble, Barney, Little, Barry and the pillar is ornamented with the medallions of “Hull, Jones/)- Decatur, Bainbridge, Stewart, Lawrence, Perry, Macdonough and, at the top, with the names of “Porter, Blakely, Biddle". Several other medallions present their backs to us : they probably represent “Warrington, Burrows, Chauncey, Elliott, Angus, Tarbell, Thomas and Catesby Jones,” &c. &c. Nor has our old friend Commodore Rodgers been entirely forgotten, although rather shabbily treated, by having only “gers” of his name, and but one of his shoulders, thrust into view. In front of the car is a sort of raft, bearing pieces of cannon, mortars, shells, shot, &c.; but we search in vain for any of those chain and bar shot which the Americans employed with so much advantage in their warfare against the British. Upon the whole, no one, except an American, will consider as inapplicable ,to the design the following words of Mr. Addison: “One kind of burlesque represents mean persons in the accoutrements of heroes.”

Previously to the late war with the United States, persons in this country were in the habit of exclaiming against “French boasting,” “French misrepresentation,” and “French impudence.” My analysis of the American accounts has already, I trust, sufficiently shown that, in the art of boasting and misrepresenting, the French could never compete with the Arnericaus; and I will now make it equally clear, that, in impudence also, our neighbours must yield up the palm.

Within this week or two, an American bookseller, domiciled in London, has been trying to serve the cause of his country by practising a trick upon the gullible portion of this. He has put forth, in a neat octavo volume, a “History of the United States, from their first settlement as colonies, to the close of the war with Great Britain, in 1815.” Of that part of the work which relates to the late war I shall only speak, and I do pronounce it as barefaced a calumny against England as ever issued from the American press. The writer, whoever he is, for he seems to have been ashamed to tell his name, has found the mistatements in the American official accounts too moderate for his purpose: he has milled his choice collection of “facts” from the most violent party-papers in the United States; papers written when there was a fresh exciting cause to plead as some excuse for misrepresentation and invective; papers from which an American writer, with a name, would not, at this day, venture to draw his materials, even had he no other than an American public to please.

This genuine, but anonymous American writer, comes, or probably sends, here to tell us (p. 385), that the attack by the President upon the Little-Belt, was “insolence deservedly punished that (p.397) “the Wasp, of 18 guns, captured the Frolic of 22,” and that “in this action the Americans obtained a victory over force decidedly superior,” that (p.405) “Admiral Cockburn, departing from the usual modes of ^honourable warfare, directed his efforts principally against unoffending citizens and peaceful villages,” and that “the farm-houses and gentlemen’s seats near the shore were plundered, and the cattle driven away or wantonly slaughtered that (p. 406)“ the Hornet met and captured the British Peacock, of about equal force that (p. 411) Commodore Perry’s victory on lake Erie “was achieved over a superior force that (p. 415)“ Commodore Chauncey upon lake Ontario, repeatedly offered battle to the enemy’s squadron, which was superior in force; but Sir James Yeo, the British commander, intimidated by the result of the battle on lake Erie, retired before him that (p. 425) “Commodore Downie’s squadron on lake Champlain carried 95 guns, and was manned with upwards of 1000 men, and that Commodore McDonough’s carried 86 guns, and was manned with 820 men that (p. 426) “the American sloop Peacock captured the Epervier, of equal force and that “the sloop Wasp captured the Reindeer, and afterwards in the same cruise sunk the Avon, each of superior forcethat (p. 437) “the Constitution captured the Cyane and Levant, whose forces united were superior to hers; and the sloop Hornet captured the brig Penguin, stronger in guns and men than the victor.”

The worst is, that, for any thing appearing to the contrary, these statements are contained in an English work; and I should not be surprised, if the Nortli-American Review were by and by to quote them, as admissions extorted from an English author of note, who had some special reason for concealing his name. It is to be hoped that the more influential of the English reviews will give a trimming to the only party whose name appears to this work, for his impudent partto palm upon the English public a book of lies and trash, for a book of “history.” Unfortunately, the reprobation of the work may answer the publisher’s purpose as effectually as the praise of it; and he is chuckling to himself as lie reads this, to think that even I shall put 'into his pocket some “pretty considerable” amount in British coin for his libels upon British character.

Between the publication of the first and second parts of the former edition of my work, two volumes of another “Naval History” made their appearance before the British public. I discovered inaccuracies, but I abstained from noticing them, because the author had not completed his undertaking, and might, in his succeeding volumes, correct them himself. The whole work has since been published ; and I have felt myself quite at liberty to discuss its merits: nay, I was bound to do so in my own justification, for who is there, when a naval occurrence is related differently by an unprofessional and a professional writer, that will not pin faith upon the latter? I am not such a hypocrite as to disown, that I derive a satisfaction from the comparison of Captain Brenton’s work with my own, short as even that falls of what my wishes would have made it. And yet, how often have I longed for the experience of a post-captain of 20 years’ standing, for some of those “great opportunities for obtaining the most correct information” enjoyed by my contemporary. Captain Brenton could go to the club-rooms and convivial meetings of his brother-officers, and collect his facts from among them; while, for a single fact, often of dubious importance, I had to address myself to a stranger; one, perhaps, who thought so meanly of my abilities for the task I had undertaken, that lie would not deign to send me a reply.

I hope, therefore, that those of the naval profession, who have felt, or who may feel, disposed to bear hard upon me for the inaccuracies they discover, or the strictures they dislike, will reflect upon the fallibilities of a naval historian of their own body. Let them consider, that any three of my six volumes contain more matter pertaining to naval history, than the five volumes of Captain Brenton. Let them make some allowance ^for the increased quantity of detail in my work, as well as for the increased liability to err, which I have thus brought upon myself. Let t ose, also, who may prefer the style ol my contemporary to min., reflect how much easier it is for a writer, who skims over the surfaces of things and finds little or nothing jto start at, to construct well-turned periods, than a writer, who dips deeply into his subject, and stops every now and then to investigate a disputed fact. Finally, whatever literary aid Captain Brenton may have received, I can conscientiously say with Gibbon, “1. My rough manuscript, without any intermediate copy, has been sent to press. 2. Not a sheet has been seen by any human eyes, excepting those of the author and the printer.

It is now upwards of eighteen months since I announced an intention of printing a new edition of my Naval History, and requested to have transmitted to me any corrections necessary to be made in the statements of the former edition. I expended upwards of fifty pounds in advertisements, urging naval officers to assist me in rendering my forthcoming work worthy of them and of the country. Consequently, I do not feel myself answerable for any mistatements, which appeared in the old, and may reappear in the present edition. I trust, however, that there are very few of them. Two or three officers, who have never applied to me directly or indirectly, will find that I have corrected errors which had crept in respecting them, and have expressed my regret that those errors should have occurred. On the other hand some of the most noisy claimants for redress will wish they had remained silent: justice, however, was all they could expect, and justice I hope I have done them.

I have still a trifling topic to touch upon. One evening at eight o’clock, my publishers sent me down two pretty little wide-printed volumes. The title of "Naval Sketch-book,” and that by "An officer of rank,” made me regret that the work had not appeared a twelvemonth earlier, in order that I might have profited by the naval information I expected to find within it. At the very first thumbful of leaves I turned over, my heart almost leaped into my mouth; for I read as follows: "Inconsistencies, Infidelities, and Fallacies of James.” Here was a plurality of faults! I presently discovered that I, or my printer for me, had made use of main instead of mizea, but that the “officer of rank” had overlooked the circumstance of my having corrected the mistake in the Errata; are that, on another occasion, I had accidentally made an inappropriate use of the term bear up. As these little slips would not justify the heavy imputation cast upon me in the "Contents,” I went through the work, and was pleased to find that, having no specific charge to bring forward, the author could only vent his spleen in general abuse of me and my work. I saw clearly, that the "officer of rank” was not what he pretended to be, any more than the sixpenny scribe noticed by him was “Capt. William Goldsmith, R.N.” Before one o’clock the next afternoon, I traced the “ officer of rank” through every ship he had served in, and found that, in 1793, when my work commences, he was just breeched, that seven years afterwards he entered the British navy, and that, at the battle of Algiers, in August, 1816, he had been not quite eight years a lieutenant. I may add, that, although many a boatswain's name does, the name of the “officer of rank” does not, appear in these pages.

The “officer of rank” made his virulent attack upon me a full twelvemonth after I had announced a new and improved edition as being in the press; but as regarded him, I staid my “corrective” pen, the moment I discovered that a new edition of the “ Naval Sketch-book” was about to appear. I have seen it; and find that, as far as relates to me, the new work is a reprint of the old. I am therefore at liberty to proceed in “showing up” the “officer of rank.” Will it be credited of a writer, who declares that he never presumes to give an opinion of a work until he has read it with attention, that he actually fathers upon me a “maxim,” which I quote from another, for the express purpose of showing its objectionable tendency? Let the reader turn to p. 105 of the first volume of the “ officer of rank’s” book, and then to the passage at p. vi of this Preface, beginning, "But even, &c.”; which is a transcript of what appeared in my former edition. In another place, the “officer of rank” is disposed to be facetious with me, and that about a circumstance, which every British naval officer, possessed of feelings a little more refined than would fit him for excelling in a “galley story,” must wish had never happened. But, has not the “officer of rank” himself, in one alteration made by him, afforded a practical proof, that the threat of correction sometime s operates as beneficially as the actual infliction of it? The reader is requested to compare a sentence at the top of p. 174, vol. i., of the old, with a sentence at the top of p. 208, vol. i., of the new, edition of the “Naval Sketch-book.” Nor is “Lyon,” if it be so at all, the only name that will bear to be punned upon. “People's says the proverb, “who live in Glass houses, should beware of throwing stones.”—Pray, reader, do not, like this writer, condemn me without looking at the Errata ;* and should you then, in spite of my endeavours at accuracy, discover any mistatements, I request you will communicate them to me. If I say to an officer who may have a complaint to allege, send your statement in writing, it is because none but a written statement can serve his purpose or mine, and not because I fear him or any other man, or have the least expectation of a renewal of the disgraceful business that once occurred. I should be ill fitted for the task I have undertaken, were I to found a charge against a whole profession upon the misconduct of one of its members.

In the preface to the fourth volume of the old edition, I hinted at the probability of my undertaking an account of the principal naval actions of the first American war, or that commencing in 1775 and ending in 1783. I still think it probable that I shall make the attempt; and I would wish, also, to give a history of signal-making in the British and French navies, as exemplified in the different general actions fought between them. On this abstruse subject, I should be thankful to receive assistance from British officers; and I will undertake to return in safety any signal-books or other documents which they may please to send to me. Should I succeed in completing a volume of this description, a part of it will be devoted to corrigenda and addenda connected with the present work ; and it is to that end more especially, that I solicit officers to apprize me of any inaccuracies they may discover. Diagrams applicable to actions detailed in these pages, I would willingly insert in the supplementary volume; and I will thank officers to transmit me copies of any letters which they may have forwarded to the Admiralty, describing boat-attacks and other similar services against the enemy; and which, not having appeared in the London Gazette, or only*in the shape of abstracts, may not have been recorded in this work. When I state that my postage account for the Naval History, from first to last, has exceeded the sum of one hundred pounds, I shall be excused for requesting officers to endeavour to forward their communications free of charge.

12, Chapel Field, South Lambeth,
March 25, 1826

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