Charles Waterton.

Essays on natural history, chiefly ornithology online

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town of Liege, where they had a celebrated college.

As the American war had caused a relaxation of
the penal laws which had been put in execution
against us with the most unrelenting severity, these
good fathers ventured to revisit their native land,
from which they had retired in early youth. The
generous Mr. Weld of Lulworth Castle in Dorset-
shire, immediately afforded them a resting place. He
well knew their worth, and he gladly stepped forward
to offer them his hand, in their utmost need. Having
succeeded by inheritance to the stately mansion of
Stonyhurst, near Clitheroe, in Lancashire, to it he
directed their wandering steps, and bade them settle
there. My father, who had been educated at the


Jesuits' college in St. Omers, having learned that
these inestimable disciples of St. Ignatius had put
things in a proper train for the instruction of youth,
took me to Stonyhurst, and placed me under their

Voltaire had said repeatedly that he could not sub-
vert Christianity until he had destroyed the Jesuits.
Their suppression was at last effected ; partly by his
own impious writings, and partly by the intrigues of
kept mistresses at the different courts, who joined
their influence to the already enormous power in the
hands of the infidel ministers of the day. The woes
unutterable which these poor followers of Jesus
Christ had to endure at the hands of the wretches
who had caused the breaking up of their order,
seemed to have made no alteration in their disposi-
tion ; for, on my arrival at Stonyhurst, I found them
mild and cheerful, and generous to all around them.
During the whole of my stay with them (and I
remained at their college till I was nearly twenty
years old), I never heard one single expression come
from their lips that was not suited to the ear of a
gentleman and a Christian. Their watchfulness
over the morals of their pupils was so intense, that
I am ready to declare, were I on my death-bed, I
never once had it in my power to open a book in
which there was to be found a single paragraph of
an immoral tendency.

My master was Father Clifford, a first cousin of
the noble lord of that name. He had left the world,
and all its alluring follies, that he might serve Al-
mighty God more perfectly, and work his way with
a 4


more security up to the regions of eternal bliss. After
educating those entrusted to his charge with a care
and affection truly paternal, he burst a blood-vessel,
and retired to Palermo, for the benefit of a warmer
climate. There he died the death of the just, in the
habit of St. Ignatius.

One day, when I was in the class of poetry, and
which was about two years before I left the college
for good and all, he called me up to his room.
" Charles," said he to me, in a tone of voice perfectly
irresistible, " I have long been studying your dispo-
sition, and I clearly foresee that nothing will keep
you at home. You will journey into far distant
countries, where you will be exposed to many dan-
gers. There is only one way for you to escape them.
Promise me that, from this day forward, you will
never put your lips to wine, or to spirituous liquors.
The sacrifice is nothing," added he, (C but, in the end,
it will prove of incalculable advantage to you." I
agreed to his enlightened proposal ; and, from that
hour to this, which is now about nine and thirty
years, I have never swallowed one glass of any kind
of wine, or of ardent spirits.

At Stonyhurst there are boundaries marked out
to the students, which they are not allowed to pass ;
and there are prefects always pacing to and fro
within the lines, to prevent any unlucky boy from
straying on the other side of them. Notwithstanding
the vigilance of these lynx-eyed guardians, I would
now and then manage to escape, and would bolt into
a very extensive labyrinth of yew and holly trees,
close at hand. It was the chosen place for animated


nature. Birds, in particular, used to frequent the
spacious enclosure, both to obtain food and to enjoy
security. Many a time have I hunted there the
foumart and the squirrel. I once took a cut through
it to a neighbouring wood, where I knew of a carrion
crow's nest. The prefect missed me ; and, judging
that I had gone into the labyrinth, he gave chase
without loss of time. After eluding him in cover for
nearly half an hour, being hard pressed, I took away
down a hedgerow. Here (as I learned afterwards),
he got a distant sight of me ; but it was not suffi-
ciently distinct for him to know to a certainty that
I was the fugitive. I luckily succeeded in reaching
the out-buildings which abutted on the college, and
lay at a considerable distance from the place where I
had first started. I had just time to enter the postern
gate of a pigsty, where most opportunely I found
old Joe Bowren, the brewer, bringing straw into the
sty. He was more attached to me than to any other
boy, for I had known him when I was at school in
the north, and had made him a present of a very fine
terrier. "I've just saved myself, Joe," said I;
" cover me up with litter." He had barely complied
with my request, when in bounced the prefect, by
the same gate through which I had entered. " Have
you seen Charles Waterton ?" said he, quite out of
breath. My trusty guardian answered, in a tone of
voice which would have deceived any body, " Sir,
I have not spoken a word to Charles Waterton these
three days, to the best of my knowledge." Upon
this, the prefect, having lost all scent of me, gave up
the pursuit, and went his way. When he had dis-*


appeared, I stole out of cover, as strongly perfumed
as was old Falstaff when they had turned him out
of the buck-basket.

Once I had gone into the labyrinth to look into a
magpie's nest, which was in a high hollow tree ; and,
hearing the sound of voices near, I managed to get
a resting place in the tree just over the nest, and
there I squatted, waiting the event Immediately,
the President, two other Jesuits, and the present
Mr. Salvin of Croxdale Hall, passed close under the
tree, without perceiving me.

The good fathers were aware of my predomi-
nant propensity. Though it was innocent in itself,
nevertheless it was productive of harm in its con-
sequences ; by causing me to break the college
rules, and thus to give bad example to the com-
munity at large. Wherefore, with a magnanimity
and excellent exercise of judgment, which are only
the province of those who have acquired a consum-
mate knowledge of human nature, and who know
how to turn to advantage the extraordinary dis-
positions of those entrusted to their care, they
sagaciously managed matters in such a way as to
enable me to ride my hobby to a certain extent,
and still, at the same time, to prevent me from
giving bad example.

As the establishment was very large, and as it
contained an abundance of prog ; the Hanoverian
rat, which fattens so well on English food, and
which always contrives to thrust its nose into every
man's house, where there is any thing to be got,
swarmed throughout the vast extent of this anti-


quated mansion. The abilities which I showed in
curtailing the career of this voracious intruder did
not fail to bring me into considerable notice. The
cook, the baker, the gardener, and my friend old
Bowren, could all bear testimony to my progress in
this line. By a mutual understanding, I was consi-
dered rat-catcher to the establishment, and also fox-
taker, foumart-killer, and crossbow-charger, at the
time when the young rooks were fledged. More-
over, I fulfilled the duties of organ-blower, and foot-
ball-maker, with entire satisfaction to the public.]
I was now at the height of my ambition.

" Poteras jam, Cadme, videri

. . . felix."

I followed up my calling with great success. The
vermin disappeared by the dozen ; the books were
moderately well thumbed ; and, according to my
notion of things, all went on perfectly right.

When I had finished my rhetoric, it was my
father's wish that I should return home. The day
I left the Jesuits' college was one of heartfelt sor-
row to me. Under Almighty God and my parents,
I owe every thing to the fathers of the order of St.
Ignatius. Their attention to my welfare was un-
ceasing ; whilst their solicitude for my advancement
in virtue and in literature seemed to know no
bounds. The permission which they granted me to
work in my favourite vocation, when it did not
interfere with the important duties of education,
enabled me to commence a career, which, in after
times, afforded me a world of pleasure in the far
distant regions of Brazil and Guiana. To the latest


hour of my life I shall acknowledge, with feelings of
sincerest gratitude, the many acts of paternal kind-
ness which I so often received at the hands of the
learned and generous fathers of Stonyhurst College,
" Presidium et dulce decus meum."

After leaving this "safe retreat of health and
peace, " I journeyed homewards to join my father ;
and I spent a year with him, " Gaudens equis cani-
busque et aprici gramine campi." He was well de-
scribed by the Roman poet :

" Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis,

Ut prisca gens mortalium,
Paterna rura, bobus exercet suis
Solutus omni fcenore."

He had been a noted hunter in his early days ; and,
as he still loved in his heart to hear the mellow tones
of the fox hound, he introduced me particularly to
Lord Darlington, whose elegant seat on horseback,
and cool intrepidity in charging fences, made him
the admiration of his surrounding company.

Still my father- would every now and then say to
me, with a gracious though significant smile on his
countenance, " Studium quid inutile tentas?'' and,
as my mother was very anxious that I should see
the world, they took advantage of the short peace of
Amiens, and sent me to Spain.

Two of my maternal uncles, who had received
brilliant educations, and were endowed with great
parts, but who were not considered worthy to serve
their country in any genteel or confidential capa-
city, unless they would apostatise from the faith of
their ancestors, had deemed it prudent to leave their


native land, and retire to foreign climes. A Portu-
guese gentleman, named Martinez, who, in his travels
through England, had received great hospitality
from Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, in Norfolk,
invited the wanderers to Malaga, where they finally
settled, and became naturalised Spaniards.

I sailed from Hull in the month of November,
with my younger brother (poor fellow ! he died
afterwards in Paumaron of the yellow fever), in the
brig Industry, bound for Cadiz. The wind becom-
ing adverse, we put into Margate Roads, and lay
there for nine days. A breeze having sprung up
from the northward, we went to sea again ; in com-
pany with a Scotch brig, which was going to Vigo,
and we were within gun-shot of each other the next
morning at daybreak. On the preceding night, I
had heard one of our own crew tell his comrade
that, when he was ashore at Margate, a sailor from
the Scotch brig had told him that their mate was
in a conspiracy to murder the captain, and to run
away with the vessel. I questioned our tar very
particularly the following day, as the brig was not
far off; and, finding his account quite consistent, I
went down into the cabin, and committed it to paper.
Having enclosed it in a bottle, we ran along-side of
the brig for Vigo, and hailed the captain. I then
threw the bottle on the quarter-deck. The captain
immediately took it up, and carried it below. He
returned to the deck in a short time, and made us a
very low bow ; which, no doubt, was the safest way
to express his gratitude for the favour which we
had done to him. We parted company in a gale of


wind at night-fall, and I could never learn any
thing afterwards of the brig, or of the fate of her

On our arrival at Cadiz, we found the town illu-
minated ; and there were bull fights in honour of
royal nuptials. We accompanied Consul Duff to the
amphitheatre. He was dressed in a brilliant scarlet
uniform ; and, though he had cautioned us not to
lose sight of him as soon as the entertainment should
be finished, still my eyes wandered upon a thousand
objects, and I most unfortunately missed him, just
as we were departing from the amphitheatre. As
there were hundreds of Spaniards in scarlet cloaks,
it was probably on this account that the consul
had been particular in requesting us to keep him
always in view. I walked up and down Cadiz till
nearly midnight, without being able to speak one
word of Spanish, and trying in vain to find the Bri-
tish consul's house. At last, in utter despair, I re-
solved to stand still, and to endeavour to make out
some passing Frenchman, or some American, by the
light of the moon, which shone brilliantly upon the
white houses on each side of the street. The first
person whom I accosted luckily turned out to be a
French gentleman. I told him that I was a stranger,
and that I was benighted, and had lost my way. He
most kindly took me to the consul's house, which
was a long way off.

After staying a fortnight in Cadiz, we sailed
through the Straits of Gibraltar, for Malaga in An-
dalusia ; a province famous for its wine, its pome-
granates, its oranges, and its melons.


My uncles had a pleasant country-house at the foot
of the adjacent mountains, and many were the days
of rural amusement which I passed at it. The red-
legged partridges abounded in the environs, and the
vultures were remarkably large ; whilst goldfinches
appeared to be much more common than sparrows
in this country. During the spring, the quails and
bee-eaters arrived in vast numbers, from the opposite
coast of Africa. Once when I was rambling on the
sea shore, a flock of a dozen red flamingoes passed
nearly within gun-shot of me.

At my uncles' house, I made the acquaintance of
an English gentleman who had been staying with
them for some time. He was travelling in Spain to
obtain commercial orders, in favour of his firm in
England ; which was most respectable. He was a
pleasant, laughing, well-made, dapper, little man ;
and, as he was full of information, which he had
collected in the different places through which he
had passed, I found his conversation very agreeable;
and we made arrangements to go to Cadiz by land,
taking Gibraltar in our way.

It is a well-known fact, that apes are found
in no part of Europe except in Gibraltar. They
inhabit the steepest parts of the mountain, and
always prefer to be sheltered from the wind, when
it blows hard. I had letters of introduction to thq
Danish consul, Mr. Glynn. As good luck would
have it, the wind changed to the eastward on the
very morning on which the consul had arranged
to show us over the rock of Gibraltar. He said that
the apes were sure to be on the move, as the change


of wind would force them from their quarters ; and
actually, on our way up the mountain, we had a fair
view of the apes on their passage. I counted from
fifty to sixty of them ; and an ape or two might be
seen in the flock, with a young one on its back.
JEneas in his day reversed the thing, and carried an
old animal ; not a young one.

" Cessi, et sublato montem genitore petivi."

We visited Algesiras, and there I saw the Han-
nibal seventy-four aground. Colonel Lyon of St.
Roque gave us a full account of her misfortune.
This brave old Irish gentleman, aware that there
would be no promotion for him in his own country,
on account of his adherence to the ancient creed,
had left it with many others in early life, and entered
the Spanish brigade.

" Interque moerentes amicos,
Egregius, properarat exuL"

He told us he was standing in the fort of St. Roque
just at the time that the Hannibal ran aground, and
was forced to strike her colours to the guns of Al-
gesiras. At that moment, unconquerable love of
his deserted country took possession of his soul. He
threw down a telescope which he held in his hand,
and burst into a flood of tears. After he had told
us this, he added that, whilst Sir James Saumarez
was hotly engaged with the forts, his son, a boy of
only eleven years old, stole away from St. Roque,
and ran round the bay to Algesiras. There he
mounted the battery, against which Sir James was


directing his heaviest shot ; and he helped to serve
the guns till all was over.

" On the boy's safe return home," said the
colonel, " though I admired his bravery, I was
obliged to whip him for his rashness in having ex-
posed himself to almost inevitable death."

I thought I could perceive a mark in the colonel's
face, as he said this, which led me to understand
that there was something more than paternal anx-
iety for the boy's welfare which had caused him to
apply the rod ; and, when I called to mind the affair
of the telescope, I concluded that, had a French
squadron, in lieu of an English one, been bombarding
Algesiras, young Lyon would have escaped even
without a reprimand.

I left my travelling friend in Cadiz, and returned
to Malaga on board a Spaniard, who kept close under
Ceuta, as we passed up the Straits of Gibraltar. It
grieves me to add that, many years after this, on my
return to England from the West Indies, in passing
through my former companion's native town, I made
inquiries after him, and I was informed by a gentle-
man who had sat upon the inquest, that my compa-
nion had fallen in love, had wooed in vain, and
hanged himself in despair.

More than a year of my life had now passed
away in Malaga and its vicinity, without misfor-
tune, without care, and without annoyance of any
kind. The climate was delicious ; and I felt regret
in making preparations to leave this old Moorish
town on a trip to Malta. But the Spanish proverb
informs us, that man proposes, and God disposes;


" El hombre pone, y Dios dispone." Many a bright
and glorious morning ends in a gloomy setting

There began to be reports spread up and down
the city that the black vomit had made its appear-
ance ; and every succeeding day brought testimony
that things were not as they ought to be. I my-
self, in an alley near my uncles' house, saw a mattress
of most suspicious appearance hung out to dry. A
Maltese captain, who had dined with us in good
health at one o'clock, lay dead in his cabin before
sunrise the next morning. A few days after this
I was seized with vomiting and fever during the
night. I had the most dreadful spasms, and it was
supposed that I could not last out till noon the next
day. However, strength of constitution got me
through it. In three weeks more, multitudes were
seen to leave the city, which shortly after was de-
clared to be in a state of pestilence. Some affirmed
that the disorder had come from the Levant ; others
said that it had been imported from the Havanna;
but I think it probable that nobody could tell in
what quarter it had originated.

We had now all retired to the country house;
my eldest uncle returning to Malaga from time to
time, according as the pressure of business demanded
his presence in the city. He left us one Sunday
evening, and said he would be back again some time
on Monday; but that was my poor uncle's last
day's ride. On arriving at his house in Malaga,
there was a messenger waiting to inform him that
Father Bustamante had fallen sick, and wished to


see him. Father Bustamante was an aged priest,
who had been particularly kind to my uncle on his
first arrival in Malaga. My uncle went immedi-
ately to Father Bustamante, gave him every conso-
lation in his power, and then returned to his own
house, very unwell, there to die a martyr to his
charity. Father Bustamante breathed his last before
daylight ; my uncle took to his bed, and never rose
more. As soon as we had received information of
his sickness, I immediately set out on foot for the
city. His friend Mr. Power, now of Gibraltar, was
already in his room, doing every thing that friend-
ship could suggest, or prudence dictate. My uncle's
athletic constution bore up against the disease
much longer than we thought it possible. He
struggled with it for five days, and sank at last about
the hour of sunset. He stood six feet four inches
high ; and was of so kind and generous a disposition,
that he was beloved by all who knew him. Many a
Spanish tear flowed when it was known that he
had ceased to be. We got him a kind of coffin made,
in which he was conveyed at midnight to the out-
skirts of the town, there to be put into one of the
pits which the galley-slaves had dug, during the day,
for the reception of the dead. But they could not
spare room for the coffin ; so the body was taken out
of it, and thrown upon the heap which already occu-
pied the pit. A Spanish marquis lay just below him.

" Divesne prisco natus ab Inacho,
Nil interest, an pauper, et infima

Thousands died as though they had been seized
b 2


with cholera ; others with black vomit, and others of
decided yellow fever. There were a few instances
of some who departed this life with very little pain,
or bad symptoms. They felt unwell ; they went to
bed; they had an idea that they would not get
better, and they expired in a kind of slumber. It
was sad in the extreme to see the bodies placed in
the streets at the close of day, to be ready for the
dead-carts as they passed along.

" Plurima perque vias, sternuntur inertia passim


The dogs howled fearfully during the night. All
was gloom and horror in every street ; and you
might see the vultures on the strand tugging at the
bodies which were washed ashore by the eastern
wind. It was always said that 50,000 people left
the city at the commencemement of the pestilence ;
and that 14,000 of those who remained in it fell
victims to the disease.

There was an intrigue going on at court, for the
interest of certain powerful people, to keep the port
of Malaga closed, long after the city had been de-
clared free from the disorder ; so that none of the
vessels in the mole could obtain permission to depart
for their destination.

In the mean time the city was shaken with earth-
quakes ; shock succeeding shock, till we all imagined
that a catastrophe awaited us similar to that which
had taken place at Lisbon. The pestilence killed
you by degrees ; and its approaches were sufficiently
slow, in general, to enable, you to submit to it with
firmness and resignation. But the idea of being


swallowed up alive by the yawning earth, at a mo-
ment's notice, made you sick at heart, and rendered
you almost fearful of your own shadow.

The first shock took place at six in the evening,
with a noise as though a thousand carriages had
dashed against each other. This terrified many
people to such a degree, that they paced all night
long up and down the Alameda, or public walk,
rather than retire to their homes. I went to bed a
little after midnight; but was roused by another
shock, about five o'clock in me morning. It gave
the bed a motion, which made me fancy that it
moved under me from side to side. I sprang up,
and, having put on my unmentionables (we wore no
trousers in those days), I ran out, in all haste, to
the Alameda. There the scene was most distress-
ing : multitudes of both sexes, some nearly in a
state of nudity, and others sick at stomach, were
huddled together, not knowing which way to turn,
or what to do.

Omnes eodem cogimur."

However, it pleased Heaven, in its mercy, to spare
us. The succeeding shocks became weaker and
weaker, till at last we felt no more of them.

I now began to think it high time to fly. I was
acquainted with a Swedish captain, by name Bolin ; a
most excellent man, and of surprising intrepidity and
coolness. His brig having been long laden with fruit
for London, he was anxious to depart; and he formed
a plan to escape from the harbour. There was no
getting a regular clearance at the custom-house >
b 3


neither would the Swedish consul afford any assist-
ance ; so I went to our own consul, Mr. Laird, with
whom I was very intimate, requesting him to give
me a certificate to signify that there had not been
any sickness in the city for a long time : indeed, it
was now in a remarkably healthy state. The consul
complied with my request : as he put the certificate

Online LibraryCharles WatertonEssays on natural history, chiefly ornithology → online text (page 2 of 28)