F. J. Harvey (Frederick Joseph Harvey) Darton.

The marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England online

. (page 19 of 28)
Online LibraryF. J. Harvey (Frederick Joseph Harvey) DartonThe marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England → online text (page 19 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

open "lounge," full of plush and bamboo and wicker and
full-bosomed ladies. The coffee room still stood, however,
and in it waiters in " jimmy little Tuxedos." It appeared
that cold beef could be obtained. But the pickles therewith
were of an abhorrent t\^e, and the only salad was a cucum-
ber. My vegetarian friend was a little dismayed by this
gourd. He asked what sweets there were. " Prunes and
rice or stewed plums," said the polite Austrian waiter.
It was midsummer. " What cheese is there ? Have you
any Blue Vinney ? " The politeness of the alien faded, and
a look of siu-prise came over his face ; he goggled. Some
attempts to explain what was meant by Blue Vinney
followed, and then the manager or proprietor — likewise
Central European — was summoned. " No, sir, we haf no
Blue Finney, but we haf some very goot Cheddar." " Do
you get it direct from Cheddar ? " (Most of the towns and
villages in the district do or did.) " Oh no, sir. We get it
fresh every week from Harrod's."

Now there are at this day several hotels in Dorset which
live up to what you might call a good county or country
standard. The RoijdJ Lion is one. The Greyhound at
Bridport, the King's Arms and Anf elope at Dorchester,
the Grosvenor Arms at Shaftesbury, are others ; and
there are j'et more. There are also quite a number ; which
live up to what you might call a good village standard ;
places where you can get a clean bed, eggs and bacon, and a
chop or cold meat and decent cheese and civility.* (By the

• SomotimoH moro thftn barr- f ivility. At om« littlo inn on the cdgo of
Maruhwuod \'ulo, I went in und lisked for broad und cliooso. I \va.s told
I could liavo 8omo foltl lx>ef and pjckloH unil potntocH oh well, iind I aHHont«>d
greedily : I hod wiilkcd fiftiM-n niilcH. 'V\ui liindjord wiiitod on mo hint.stdf :
he apologiz/'d for it , but cxpluiMcd t hut biH wifo wits liaviu)^ a baby upstaim.
I had ItiHbin^ of really good food and tbnM' ])intH of homo bn>wt>d fidor
(it vroH July). At tho end I UHked tlio reckoning. " Well, Hir, 1 don't
rightly know : I'd bettor leave it to you." I wiid 1 niniply eouKln't guewH.
and UHkud what it eost him, if ho really did mean to louvo it to luo. " Well,
hhall we biij a HhiliiMt; t " he replii-d. 'I'bal, I fear, wiin in I'.UtH. Ibit I
Miid even then HOniething more than a Hbilling.


way, how many chops are there in one sheep ? Why is there
never a chop famine even in the lowHest village ?) But
why should hotel keepers trying to be progressive merely
succeed, as a rule, in getting near an average and usually
dull uniformity — a uniformity either in pretentious failure
or in monotonous achievement ?

Cheddar from Harrod's : excellent Cheddar, excellent
Harrod : but why ? Dorset produces so much food as to
be nearly self-supporting in all but cereals : and it is good
food. Eat it. Don't send to London for substitutes.

The fault, I think, lies in the guests, not in the hosts.
Of course, at the present time many of the guests in country
inns are apt to be more stupid, more hoggish and more
exacting than before the war : they have only just made
their money and adopted the hotel habit. (The good
country hotel, not the big London restaurant, is the place
to see the real profiteer expatiating, family and car and all.)
But apart from and before that slight change, the guest was
always, I think, prone to expect too much, and as a result
to induce the production of too little. People who complain
of English hotels usually speak as if they had a right to a
pretty good French dinner in them at a minute's notice,
or no notice at all. They demand at Lyme Regis, if they
prefer English food, their Cheddar from Harrod's, their
oysters from Scott's, their home-killed beef from Smithfield,
instead of the Dorset horn lamb and the Blue Vinney of
Marshwood Vale. They make odious comparisons, as if the
bad cooking of poor food were confined to England. I have
sometimes pulled a cosmopolitan leg by telling of that shilling
meal of mine as one obtained in a fictitious Spanish village ;
and the comment has almost always been " How unlike
what you would get in England " : to my great joy.

The result of that false standard is that the innkeeper
becomes more ambitious than his knowledge and ability
warrant. He tries to do things in style (a great phrase,
that) : but he does not really know the style.

And that is the end of this walk. We do not possess


to-day the style which covers Lyme Regis with such con-
spicuous perfection : the stj'le of an age which at least knew
when to leave off. If you youi'self do not wish to leave
off so soon, go up through the fields, over the Devil's
Bellows and the bracken-lined cliffs, to Charmouth, and back
along the shore. You will only gain fresh visions of the
perfect discretion, the enduring and not-to-be contaminated
beauty of Lyme of the King.


*' We hail bell-rijiging ami bocr-clriukiiij:; the niglit tliat we received tlie
ILst of tho killftl ami woiimleil uiul likewise when we rocoived your
letter. The eoloiirs were hoisteil on the tower. Mother had liard
work to keep the beer barrell a-numiiig. t)ur family Ls iiiereivsed very
niueh for we have liatl no less than thirlet>n piippii'S ; Blossom seven
and Clara six. . . . All the Bridport Volunteer* went to Chiu-eh on
Thanksgiving Day. . . ."

W. H. ROBERTS to his brother R. F. Roberts,
aboard H.M.S. Victory, 1805; from Nelson's
Hardy, by A. M. Broadloy and R. C. Bartelot.

" There is no London merchant telling over gold in Ins comiting-house, no
man-of-war's man standing his watch at sea, who does not owe hw
gold or his rights to the men who lived wretched days long ago aboard
old wooden battleships under martinets. ... In oriler tliat our days
might be pleasant, tho.'^> thousands of long-dead .sailors ha<l to live
and suffer. They passed rough days — living hard, working hard, and
dying hard. In order that we might live in jieace at home they were
dragged, with blows and curses, from tiieir homes. In order that we
might walk erect among men they cringed lx>fore tyrants, and lost
their manhood at the gangway. . . . They passetl, these mighty
ones, in the blackness of the cockpit, in the roaring hell of the gun-
deck, that we might hear no noLse of battle. TJiey were well pl('as(>d
to live among thieves and infamous folk, that our conversation might
be virtuous and our ways right ways. . . . Let ils think that
patriotism, in its true form, is of the kind they gave. It is not a song
in the street, and a wreath on a cohunn, and a flag fi\ ing from a
window, and a pro-Boer uiider a piuiip. It Ls a thing very holy, and
very terrible, like life itself. It is a burden to be bonie ; a thing to
labour for and to suffer for and to die for ; a thing which gives no
happiness and no pleasantness — but a hard life, an luiknown grave,
and the respect and bared heads of those who follow."


Sea Life in Nelson's Time.

" For what design these extraordinary events have been brought to pass,
or for what purpose the present .Vtheistical Usur|x<r is pt>rmitted to
keep so large a part of the civilized world in subjection, remains
concealed in the inscrutable coimcils {sic) of the Almighty."

PEREGRINE BINOHAM. B.C.L., in the intro-
duction to Dissertations by (he liev. George
liinijhain, 18(14.




FTi<y Waddon

NOT long ago I spent a day of great liappinoss at and
near Mostorton, a tiny village in a north-western
projection of Dorset, near the Somerset border, in
the rrewkerne district. Towards the end of the day, natural
appetite and curiosity together led me into the New
inn, a house dated 1751, but in architecture probably
older. As 1 drank my beer, I asked the landlady about the
building. She very kindly showed me over it, not without
pride. It waH the ancient manor-house of the Hood
family, with timbers and stone floor, and staircases as old
as they.

The Dorset admirals are a remarkable group. 1 ;uii
not sure that they do not surpass those of Devon. The
Ho(jd.s alone would give lustre to any county. The earliest
iioli'd fiimily of the name seems to have lived in Charles II'h
reign iit Little Windsor in .Murshwood Vale -Alexander



Hood. His collaterals and descendants were at Kingsland,
near Bridport, at Mostorton, and in Somerset. The various
branches of the family hover, so to speak, on the Somerset
and Dorset border, and I am not going to claim them all as
wholly Dorset men ; but they had Dorset in their blood,
in one of their titles, and often for their home.

The most notable of the race was Samuel, afterwards
Viscount Hood — " the best officer, take him altogether, that
England has to boast of ; great in all situations which an
admiral can be placed in," was Nelson's verdict. He was
born in Somerset : his mother was a Beaminster woman.
But his younger brother Alexander, first Viscount Bridport,
was hardly less illustrious : his title was won at his " glorious
first of June." His cousin of the next generation, Alexander,
Captain of the Mars, served with distinction in the Napoleonic
wars and died in action at the moment of victory, while
his brother, Sir Samuel Hood, Vice-Admiral, fought under
Nelson at the Nile, and in many other engagements.

And the tradition holds good still. Rear -Admiral the
Hon. H. L. A. Hood commanded H.M.S. Invincible at the
battle of the Falkland Isles, and went down with her at
the battle of Jutland.

The Hoods are only the better known stars in the Dorset
galaxy — better known, that is, outside Dorset. Admiral
Marriott Ai-buthnot, born at We3^mouth, served at Quiberon
Bay and elsewhere, and under Lord Hood's colleague,
Rodney. I am afraid that his record, though he was not
wholly unsuccessful as a seaman, leads to the Dictionary of
National Biography's conclusion — he was " a late smvival
of the class of officer described under the name of Flip or
Trunnion ... a coarse, blustering, foul-mouthed bully."
He was conservative in tactics. Of a different type was
Admiral Sir William Domett of Hawkchm-ch, an officer
under both Lord Hood and Lord Bridport (with whom he
was on the First of June) and also under Nelson. He futher-
more held office on land, at the Admiralty.

Yet another Dorset family produced admirals — the Ryves'

:mahixehs of kxglaxd i>ir>

of Damorv Court. Blandford : a family whieli aUo lmvc to
England in the seventeenth century a Dean of Windsor, a
Warden of Xew College, an Attorney-General for Ireland,
and a judge. The more notable of their two admirals was
Rear-Admiral George Frederick Ryves. He too served under
Arbuthnot and Nelson. His eldest son likewise became a
rear-admiral, and foiu" others served in the navy.

It may be worth while here, in view of a later reference,
to mention also two sailors of yet another family — two sons
of Lord Dorchester of Milton Abbas, who in 1788 were borne
on the books of H.M.S. Thistle without having been aboard
her at all.

On the civil side there maj' be interpolated here two
other figure^:. The first beai-s the later Dorset name of
Nepean of Loders. Sir Evan Nepean, .Secretary of the
Admiralty throughout the period of the victories of Jorvis
and Nelson, bought the manor of Loders six years before
Trafalgar : but lie was a Cornishman by birth. And the
great and good George Bubb Dodington's public services
were rewarded by his holding tlic ofHcc of Treasurer of the
Navy in 1744, 1755, and 1757.

Many letters were addressed to Nepean by Nelson and
by the seaman whose namj in Dorset is best loved and
remembered of them all : " Nelson's Hardy." ,Sir Thomas
Masterman Hardy, as I have said, was born at Kingston
Russell ; but nf)t long after his birth in 17()9 his parents
moved to Portisham, to which delicious village his memory
turned throughout his long and varied life. He was sent in
duo course to Crowkerno grammar school. He first went to
Hoa in 17H1, under a Dorset captain, Francis Roberts, whoso
descendants still inhal»it his homo at Burton ]iradstock.
Hardy .seems to have returned after a time for more school-
ing, and to have be(^n sent to the famous grammar school
at Milton Abba-;. There is some dctubt about these yoars,
but it is certain that in 17!M) hf was a midshipman under
yet another Dorset caj)tain, Ale.xandii IImoiI of Xcihci-
bury. He made his way by 1 1'Xi to a lieutenancy, and in that


rank won in 1796 Nelson's warm commendation. It was
about that time, perhaps, or a year or two before, that their
close friendship (so valuable to the mercurial admiral)
commenced. The action for which Hardy was praised was
a curious one. He wa.s in charge of La Sabina, a prize, with
Lieut. Culverhouse, when his own ship, the Minerve, was
attacked by a superior Spanish force. The two lieutenants
hoisted the English colours above the Spanish, " evidently,"
says Nelson, " with the intention of attracting the attention
of the (Spanish) Admiral," and drawing him off from
Minerve. Minerve got away ; La Sabina wa,s recaptured,
and the two officers with her. " This is, Sir, an unpleasant
tale," wrote Nelson to Jervis, " but the merits of every
officer and man were conspicious through the whole of this
arduous day." Hardy and his brave companion were taken,
but exchanged almost immediately. " By God, I'll not lose
Hardy," Nelson said a little later, when Hardy, trying to
save a comrade's life, was in danger.

Hardy took part in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797)
and not long afterwards got his captaincy (at the age of
twenty-eight) from Jervis himself. It is unnecessary here
to go into the full details of his life. He returned whenever
he could to his beloved " Possum " (Portisham), whose
ale and mutton he never wearied of praising. He became
in due course Admiral, First Sea Lord, and Governor of
Greenwich Hospital. At no time in his career, it seems
safe to assert, did he fail to win affection and esteem from
his companions, or to display complete efficiency in his
profession. Everyone knows of the scene at Nelson's
death. The late Mr. A. M. Broadley gives a homely version
of it from an interlude inserted after Trafalgar in the
traditional Dorset mummers' play : it is the shortest
tragedy on record. Nelson and Hardy enter :

" Nelso7i : Hardy, I be wownded.
Hardy : Not mortually I hopes, my lord.
Nelson : Mortually I be afeard. Kiss me, Hardy, thank
God I've done my duty."


There was another Dorset man at Nelson's side : young
Roberts of Burton Bradstock, nephew of Hardy's first
captain. It was he who reported that other fine saying of
the greatest of all seamen — his answer when he was asked
not to wear his full uniform, because of the danger to which
it exposed him — " I was never afraid of my honour."
Roberts tells, too, how for every enemy ship that struck
oiu" men gave three cheers, "which was re-echoed by some
of the poor wounded then in the cockpit, and it seemed to
give new life to Lord Nelson."

Mr. Broadley commemorates other Dorset Trafalgar
captains : Admiral of the Blue Sir Charles Bullcn — who with
his brother first went to sea under Marriott Arbuthnot and
was instrumental in preventing the spread of the mutiny
of the Nore — and Admiral of the Blue Sir Henry Digby,
who likewise first served under a Dorset admiral, his kins-
men Robert Digb}' of Sherborne. Admiralty ran in the
Dorset families.

Of the atmosphere on land in Dorset during the threatened
Napoleonic invasion, apart from the personal interest of
half of the county in its seamen individually, it would bo
usolftss to speak. The Trumpet Major and The Dynasts
make any other comment, any general history, any further
attempt to get into the spirit of the times, impertinent
and unnecessary. It may be interesting to mention very
briefly the practical steps taken for defence. Dumoiu-iez,
Pitt's adviser on coast-defence, recommended a certain
num})er of batteries at the various river-mouths ; a camj) on
Ballard Down ; fairly strong fortification of Portland
(" the western shore of Portland is not open to invasion "
— God help an invader in Deadman's Bay !) and post** at
Abbotsbury, Charmouth, and Lyme. He thought the geogra
phical position of the country important — it was " tho
pivot on which the defence of tho west of England turns."
It ought to be defended " foot by foot with exceeding
stubbf^nmess." But ho al-;o thought it easy of defence.
William Clavell (High SherifT) and William Moreton I'itt, of


whom I shall speak later, put forward schemes for mobiliza-
tion which were rightly considered to be of more than local
value. Clavell's plan for moving stock and property in
cise the invasion materialized was very like that secretly
circulated — officially — in 1914 to leading men in country
districts. George III himself thought the county " one of
the most valuable parts of the Kingdom," and mentioned
it in his letters. For the rest, Boney was the ogre, and
Dorset, not unique in its apprehensions, is unique in
possessing the intimate record of its feelings in Hardy's
great novel.

It must not be thought, however, that the French wars
and the great admirals were all the maritime preoccupation
of Dorset between Blake's battle off Portland and Trafalgar.
It is in the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth
that the direct relation between the sea and the land is
made most convincingly evident. Privateering, piracy, and
smuggling were not trades undertaken for fun, for adventm*e.
Those who took them up were in them for life or death : for
life, because the inhabitants of England needed desperately
many of the smuggled or captured goods, and because the
adventurers must themselves live by the seacraft they knew
so well ; and for death, because death, which mattered less
then than we esteem it to matter now, " will come when it
will come," whether by a chance shot, or by the power of
the sea, or by a Bridport dagger.

I deem it to be in something of that compulsion of
necessity, of the choice between life and death, that in 1695
a Poole man performed a singular act of valom*. In May of
that year " William Thompson, master of a fishing boat,
when fishing near the Isle of Purbeck, accompanied by only
one man and a boy, perceived a privateer of Cherbourg
bearing down upon him. He did not avoid the enemy, but
prepared to defend himself in the best way he could, having
two small guns mounted and some small arms. He was so
successful in the encounter that in a short time he wounded
the captain, the lieutcucant, and six more of the French, so


disheartening tiioni that tliov bore awav to avoid him.

But Thompson in his tiun. eneomaged b}^ his success, gave

chase to the privateer, fired upon her incessantly for two

hours, and at lengtli compelled the enemy to surrender.

He took po.-isossion of the sloop, and with fourteen prisoners

brought her into Poole harbour."

]?ut Thompson Wiis not the privateer's first assailant. The

day before, another Poole captain had taken the offensive

against the same enemy without hesitation. He might have

pleaded that he was really a coast defender : but as a matter

of fact, I think. Captain Peter Joliffe was a privateer,

whether licensed or not : other of his exploits are recorded.

A ballad de-scribes the action whicli prec<;ded Thompson's,

and was cut short only by nightfall. It extols Joliffc's

powers : —

" Whatc'er he took in hand did ihrivc ;
Behold, this year of '05
Full twenty sail of fishermen
He freed from cruel Rovers then.

" He had hut one great gun aboard,
.And two young liuis, wliich did afford
But slender help, yet ne'er the less
They flew before him in distress.

" This privateer which he forsook,
It was the same that Thompson took
Next day ; therefore it will appear
Few men like those of Dorsetshire."

I am reminded by that gallant rhyme of another which
was repeate<l t»( me by a mariner of ]5ridport Harbour
a great many years ago. He and I and other old friends had
had a sing-song in the parlour of the George inn (nursery
of many friendshij)^) ; and this ballad is one which all the
fiwhermen knew, and sang with such sincere enjoyment
that I desired the (to me) unfamiliar words. Dick, in his
beautiful slow drawling voice, gave them to me the next
day, breaking invcjluntarily iiit<» a sort of chant as ho re-
peated them. H(i said In- hatl learnt the words and tune


from his grandfather, with whom he (as a boy) and his
father used to go fishing off Bridport, especially at night.
(They all had worked in the vanished shipyard.) I have been
out with Dick on various errands, and I can see that little
crew, picking up their lobster pots or letting down a line
to the floor of the sea, whose every inch they knew by heart
without ever having seen it, and finding their way back,
by just smelling the wind, to the little dark difficult harbour.
It was chiefly at night, Dick said, that they sang : perhaps
not always such a holy and cheerful note as woke the
unespied Bermudas, but anyhow good robust English.
This is the song : —

" It was of two noble ships from England did set sail ;
One's name was Prince of Lewis, and the other Prince of Wales.
Blow high, blow loiv, and so sailed tve.
Cruising down on the coast of Neiv Barbaree.

" Look ahead, look astarn, look a-weather, look a-lee,
Blow high, bloiv low, and so sailed we :
O weather look-out man, ' A lofty sail,' said he,
Cruising down on the coast of New Barbaree.

" ' O hail her, O hail her,' our noble captain cried.
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we :
' Are you a man of war, or a privateer you be.

Cruising down on the coast of New Barbaree ? '

" ' I am no man of war, nor a privateer I be '

Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we.
' But I am a noble pirate, a-cruising on the sea,
Cruising down on the coast of New Barbaree.'

" 'Then it's quarters for quarters,' our noble captain cried,
Bloio high, blow low, and so sailed we :
And the quarters that we showed to them, we sank them in the sea,
Cruising down on the coast of New Barbaree.

" So now this noble pirate is coming to an end,
Blow high, blow loiv, and so sailed we :
With the ship she was their cofifin, their grave it was the sea.
Sunk down on the coast of New Barbaree."


It is taken cUtwn verbatim, grainmar. ^^yutax, and all. I
t>ent a copy to Mr. John Masetield, who had recently published
his admirable Sailor's Garland. New Barbaree is, of course, a
well-known sea-song, of great age. If Dick's grantlfather
knew it as a boy, as I was told, he must have learnt it al)out
the time of Trafalgar. But Mr. Masefield, w iiose book in-
cluded a version of it, thought Dick's was older tlian his —
probably going back, by oral tradition, almost to the seven-
teenth century, when the " noble pirate " from the coast
of New Barbaree was a real and present menace.

" The ship she was their coffin, their grave it was the sea."'
Life and death are real upon the sea, whatever your lawful
or unlawful occasions. A Dorset map of 170,3 records
three recent wrecks on the coast between l^ridport and
Abbotsbury — not, in many ways, a dangerous seaboard.
In one case, off Swyre, " a Logwood ship taken by the
Culloden was stranded here ami the boat thrown over the
beach on a wall."

The smuggling and privateering industries certainly
prospered in Dorset during thi^ period. 1 have spoken
of the gipsies" adventures, and perhaps have given them
an epic turn. But these tales are not romances. They
arc the warp and woof of the life of the people of Dorset,
a,s well a« of other countio-;. You do not risk your neck for
the benefit of a novelist a huixdrcd ami fifty years later,
and you do not become a ciiminal (even if the law is going
to be altered sometime aftei- you are dead, aiul realtcred
later by a Free Trade Prime Minist^*r) for the mere love of
adventiu-o. The notof i<nis and horrible Chater case briuirs
a few realities to the surface. Certain smugglers in 1717
tried to land a large cargo of tea on the Dorset coast ; but
it was seized and stored at l*ool(^ Such was the power of
the Fre(; Tradc^rs that they attacked J'oole Custom House
openly in force? and recovered the gooils. Jiut the ciiauiu^ls
of distribution <n\ this occasion leaked. The tea was taken
inland i*y way of Fordingbridge : I am inclined to conjectinc,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryF. J. Harvey (Frederick Joseph Harvey) DartonThe marches of Wessex, a chronicle of England → online text (page 19 of 28)