Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms on Melville in the Southern Quarterly Review >> Page 35

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Page 35

Reviews/Essays | 1849-10 - 1852-10
Transcription the benefit of a good long sleep. But in a man-of-war you can do
no such thing ; your hammock is %cry neatly stowed in the 'lettings,
and,there it must remain till nightfall.
" But perhaps there i5 :h corner for you somewhere along the bat-
teries on the gun-deck, where sou may enjoy a snug nap. !hut as
no one is allowed to recline on the larboard side of the gun-deck,
(which is reserved as a corridor for the officers when they go for-
ward to their smoking-room at the bridle-port,) the starboard side
only is left to the seamen. But most of this side, also, is occupied
by the carpenters, sail makers, barbers and coopers. In short, so
few are the corners where you can snatch a nap (luring day-time in
a frigate, that not one in ten of the watch who e been on deck
eight hours can get a wink of sleep till the following night. Re-
peatedly,after by good fortune securing a corner, I have been roused
from it by some functionary appointed to keep it clear."
Too much cleanliness on board ship seems his aversion also. For
the unnecessary washings of the decks, our author alledges that the
officers have a passion, as fearful as that of a Philadelphia servant of
all work, for flooding the trottoir. Hear him on this topic :
"Now, against this invariable daily flooding of the three decks
of a frigate, as a man-of-war's-man, White-Jacket most earnestly
protests. In sunless weather it keeps the sailors' quarters perpe-
tully damp ; so much so that you can scarce sit down without run-
ning the risk of getting the lumbago. One rheumatic old sheet-
ancl.or-man among us was driven to the extremity of sewing a
piece of tarred canvas on the seat of his trowsers.
" Let those neat and tidy officers who so love to see a ship kept
spick mid span clean, who institute rigorous search after the man
who, chances to drop the crumb of a biscuit on deck when the ship
rolling in a sea-way, let all such swing their hammocks with the
sailors, and they would soon get sick of this daily damping of the
" Is a ship a wooden platter, that it is to be scrubbed out every
morning before breakfast, even if the thermometer be at zero, and
every sailor goes barefooted through the flood with the chilblains?
And all the while the ship carries a doctor, well aware of Boer-
haave's great maxim, `keep the feet dry.' He has plenty of pills to
give you when you are down with a fever, the consequences of these
things, but enters no protest at the outset—as it is his duty to do—
against the cause that induces the fever.
"Miring the pleasant night watches, the promenading officers,
mounted on their high-heeled hoots, pass dry-shod, like the Israelites,
over the decks; but by day-break the roaring tide sets back, and the
poor sailors are almost overwhelmed in it, like the Egyptians in the
Red Sea.
"(Oh ! the chills, colds, and agues that are caught . No snug
stove, grate or fire-place to go to ; no, your only way to keep warm
is to keep in :t blazing passion, and anathematize the custom that
every morning makes a wash-house of a man-of-war."
Of the favouritism which prefers the incompetent, and of the
looseness of rule which allows the navy of the country to be perilled
by untried officers, we have several striking illustrations. On these
points we quote the following :

" It is indirectly on record in the books of the English Admiralty,
that in the year 1808—after the death of Lord Nelsen—when Lord
Colhingwood commanded on the Mediterranean station, and his bro-