J. H. (John Henry) Hubback.

Jane Austen's sailor brothers: being the adventures of Sir Francis Austen ... and ... Charles Austen; online

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and Peterel They appear to have joined forces
at Jaffa, and to have cruised off the Egyptian
coast, with an occasional visit to Cyprus, for some
months. They were all this time without news
from England.

The allied fleets of France and Spain were by
no means inactive, and, though they did not
accomplish much in the Mediterranean, there was
always a serious risk for a single vessel, and
despatch-boats were particularly unsafe carrying,
as they did, intelligence that might be useful to
the enemy. At this time the Spanish ports in


The Patrol of the Mediterranean

the neighbourhood of Gibraltar were strongly
held, and it was a great object with the British
Government to relieve this pressure, which seri-
ously threatened their communications with the
whole of the Mediterranean. Algeciras was spe-
cially dangerous, and we find constant attacks upon
the enemy there, in which Charles Austen as
Lieutenant of the Endymion had a considerable
part, under Sir Thomas Williams and his successor
Captain Philip Durham. His service was varied
by the capture of several privateers, among others
of La Furze, The Endymion afterwards convoyed
ten Indiamen home from St. Helena, for which
service Captain Durham received the thanks of
the East India Company. On the occasion of
the capture of the Scipio, Lieutenant Charles
Austen specially distinguished himself The en-
counter took place in a violent gale, but, in spite
of wind and weather, he put off in a boat with
only four men, and boarded the vessel, which had
just surrendered. The Scipio was a fine craft of
1 8 guns, manned by 140 men.

Charles was particularly lucky at this time in
his shares of prize-money. Jane tells us in one
of her letters to Cassandra how generously he
spent it.

"Charles has received ;^30 for his share of the
privateer, and expects £\o more ; but of what
avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

in presents for his sisters ? He has been buying
gold chains and topaz crosses for us. He must be
well scolded. I shall write again by this post to
thank and reproach him. We shall be unbearably

It is a good instance of the way in which Jane
Austen '' worked up " her incidents that the
brother's present of a cross and a gold chain
should form the groundwork on which is built up
the story of Fanny's flutterings of heart over her
adornments for the ball at Mansfield.

**The *how she should be dressed' was a point
of painful solicitude ; and the almost solitary orna-
ment in her possession, a very pretty amber cross
which William had brought her from Sicily, was
the greatest distress of all, for she had nothing
but a bit of riband to fasten it to ; and though
she had worn it in that manner once, would it be
allowable at such a time, in the midst of all the
rich ornaments which she supposed all the other
young ladies would appear in ? And yet not to
wear it ! William had wanted to buy her a gold
chain too, but the purchase had been beyond his
means, and therefore not to wear the cross might
be mortifying to him. These were anxious con-
siderations ; enough to sober her spirits even
under the prospect of a ball given principally for
her gratitfication."

Then follows Miss Crawford's gift of a necklace


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The Patrol of the Mediterranean

to wear with the cross, with all its alarming associa-
tions with Henry Crawford ; then Edmund's gift
of a chain ; her resolve to wear Miss Crawford's
gift to please him ; and lastly the delightful dis-
covery that the necklace was too large for the
purpose. Edmund's chain, ** therefore, must be
worn ; and having, with delightful feelings, joined
the chain and the cross, those memorials of the
two most beloved of her heart ; those dearest
tokens so formed for each other by everything
real and imaginary, and put them round her neck,
and seen and felt how full of William and Edmund
they were, she was able, without an effort, to
resolve on wearing Miss Crawford's necklace too.
She acknowledged it to be right. Miss Crawford
had a claim ; and when it was no longer to en-
croach on, to interfere with the stronger claims,
the truer kindness of another, she could do her
justice even with pleasure to herself. The neck-
lace really looked very well ; and Fanny left her
room at last, comfortably satisfied with herself and
all about her."




The truism that absence strengthens more ties
than it weakens is clearly demonstrated by the
letters of the Austen family. In spite of the diffi-
culty of sending letters, and the doubt of their
reaching England, the brothers managed to get
news through whenever it was possible. To know
that their efforts were appreciated one has only to
read how every scrap of this news was sent from
one sister to the other in the constant letters they
interchanged on those rare occasions when they
were parted. The Austen family had always a
certain reserve in showing affection, but the feel-
ing which appears in this longing for tidings, in
the gentle satires on small failings or transient
love-affairs of their brothers, combined with the
occasional ** dear Frank" or "dear Charles,"
was one which stood the test of time, and
was transmitted to the brothers' children in
a way that made the names of "Aunt Jane"
and "Aunt Cassandra" stand for all that was


At Home and Abroad

lovable in the thoughts of their nephews and

The scarcity of letters must have been a severe
trial. Just at this time, when those at home knew
of Frank's promotion, and he had as yet no idea
of it, the longing to send and receive news must
have been very great. He was hard at work in
the summer of 1800 with Sir Sydney Smith's
squadron off Alexandria. From there, early in
July, he wrote to Cassandra. This letter was
received at Steventon on November i, when
Cassandra was at Godmersham with Edward, so
Jane sent her word of its arrival. '* We have at
last heard from Frank ; a letter from him to you
came yesterday, and I mean to send it on as soon
as I can get a ditto (that means a frank), which
I hope to do in a day or two. En attendant, you
must rest satisfied with knowing that on the 8th
of July the Peterel with the rest of the Egyptian
squadron was off the Isle of Cyprus, whither they
went from Jaffa for provisions, &c., and whence
they were to sail in a day or two for Alexandria,
there to await the English proposals for the eva-
cuation of Egypt. The rest of the letter, accord-
ing to the present fashionable style of composi-
tion, is chiefly descriptive. Of his promotion he
knows nothing ; of prizes he is guiltless."

An event which would no doubt have made a
point of interest in this letter happened the day


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

after it was sent, but is recorded in the log for
July 9 :

** Received two oxen and fifty-two gallons of
wine, being the PetereFs portion of a present from
the Governor of the Island."

The same letter from Jane to her sister con-
tains news of Charles, who had been at home
comparatively lately, and was on the Endymion,
which was '* waiting only for orders, but may wait
for them perhaps a month." Three weeks later
he was at home again.

'* Naughty Charles did not come on Tuesday,
but good Charles came yesterday morning. About
two o'clock he walked in on a Gosport hack. His
feeling equal to such a fatigue is a good sign, and
his feeling no fatigue a still better. He walked
down to Deane to dinner, he danced the whole
evening, and to-day is no more tired than a gentle-
man ought to be. Your desiring to hear from me
on Sunday will, perhaps, bring you a more parti-
cular account of the ball than you may care for,
because one is prone to think more of such things
the morning after they happen, than when time
has entirely driven them out of one's recollection.

**Itwas a pleasant evening; Charles found it
remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the
absence of Miss Terry, towards whom his con-
science reproaches him with being now perfectly
indifferent, was a relief to him.


At Home and Abroad

'* Summers has made my gown very well indeed,
and I get more and more pleased with it. Charles
does not like it, but my father and Mary do. My
mother is very much resigned to it, and as for
James he gives it the preference over everything
of the kind he ever saw, in proof of which I am
desired to say that if you like to sell yours Mary
will buy it.

" Farewell ! Charles sends you his best love,
and Edward his worst. If you think the distinction
improper, you may take the worst yourself. He
will write to you when he gets back to his ship,
and in the meantime desires that you will consider
me as your affectionate sister J. A.

** P.S. Charles is in very good looks indeed. . . .

** I rejoice to say that we have just had another
letter from our dear Frank. It is to you, very
short, written from Larnaca in Cyprus, and so
lately as October 2nd. He came from Alexan-
dria, and was to return there in three or four days,
knew nothing of his promotion, and does not
write above twenty lines, from a doubt of the
letter's ever reaching you, and an idea of all letters
being opened at Vienna. He wrote a few days
before to you from Alexandria by the Mercury,
sent with despatches to Lord Keith. Another
letter must be owing to us besides this, one if not
two ; because none of these are for me."

The scenes of home life which these extracts

97 G

Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

give us form a strong contrast to the readings in
the log of the Peterel between the dates of Frank's
two letters.

In spite of the fact that viewed as a whole this
was a breathing space between engagements, each
side standing back to recover and to watch for the
next movement on the part of the other, yet, in
detail, it was a time of activity.

Now and then, in the log, occurs the chace of a
germe (or djerm) carrying supplies for the
French, and a boat expedition is organised to cut
out one or two of these craft, from an inlet where
they had taken refuge.

*' At twelve the boats returned without the germe,
having perceived her to be under the protection
of a field piece and a body of soldiers." Next day
one was captured *' with only 17 bales of tobacco
on board" (Captain Austen was not a smoker).
Then *' condemned by survey the remaining part
of the best bower cable as unserviceable." ** Held
a survey on and condemned a cask of rice." ** The
senior lieutenant was surveyed by the surgeons of
the squadron and found to be a fit object for

The next incident is described in the following

report :

^* Peterel, off Alexandria, ^w^ws^ 14, 1800.

'* Sir, — On the morning of the loth, the day
subsequent to my parting with the Tigre, I joined


At Home and Abroad

the Turkish squadron off this place, consisting of
one ship of the line, and three corvettes under the
command of Injee Bey, captain of the gallies,
with whom I concerted on the most proper distri-
bution of the force left with him. It was finally
agreed that one corvette should be stationed off
Aboukir, a second off Alexandria, and the third off
the Tower of Marabout, the line-of-battle ship and
the /*^/f^r^/ occasionally to visit the different points
of the station as we might judge fit. It blowing
too hard to admit of any germes passing, I
thought it advisable to stretch to the westward as
far as the Arab's Tower, off which I continued
till the afternoon of the 12th, when I stood back
to the eastward, and was somewhat surprised to
see none of the Turkish squadron off Alexandria.
At 8 o'clock the following morning, having an
offing of three or four leagues, I stood in for the
land, and in about an hour saw three of the
Turkish ships a long way to the Eastward, and
the fourth, which proved to be the line-of-battle
ship, laying totally dismasted, on the Reef, about
halfway between the Castle and Island of Aboukir.
Thinking it possible, from what little I knew of
Aboukir Bay, to get the Peterel within gunshot
of her, and by that means to disperse the swarm
of germes which surrounded her, and whose crews
I could plainly discern busy in plundering, I stood
in round the east side of the island, and anchored


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

in quarter less four fathoms, a long gun-shot dis-
tance from her, and sent Mr. Thompson, the
master, in the pinnace to sound in a direction
towards her, in order to ascertain whether it was
practicable to get any nearer with the ship, and if
he met with no resistance (the germes having all
made sail before we anchored) to board and set
fire to the wreck. Though it blew very strong,
and the boat had to row nearly two miles, almost
directly to windward, yet by the great exertions of
the officers and boat's crew, in an hour and twenty
minutes I had the satisfaction of seeing the wreck
in a perfect blaze, and the boat returning. Mr.
Thompson brought back with him thirteen Greek
sailors, part of the crew, and one Arab left in their
hurry by the germes.

** From the Greeks I collected that the ship
went on shore while in the act of wearing about
9 o'clock on the night of the nth, that about
half the crew had been taken on board the cor-
vettes, and the Bey, with the principal part of the
officers and the rest of the crew, having surren-
dered to the French, had landed the next evening
at Aboukir. At the time we stood in, the French
had 300 men at work on board the wreck, endea-
vouring to save the guns, but had only succeeded
in landing one from the quarter-deck.

*' Shortly after my anchoring I sent an officer
to the corvette, which had followed us in, and an-


At Home and Abroad

chored near to us, to inform their commander what
I proposed doing, and to desire the assistance of
their boats in case of resistance from any persons
who might be remaining on board the wreck, a
demand which they did not think proper to comply
with, alleging that, as all the cloathes, &c., had
been landed, there was nothing of value remaining,
and besides that it would be impossible to get on
board, as the French had a guard of soldiers in

** I cannot sufficiently praise the zeal and acti-
vity with which Mr. Thompson and the nine men
with him performed this service, by which I trust
the greatest part, if not all, of the guns, and other
useful parts of the wreck, have been prevented
from falling into the hands of the enemy. The
thirteen Greeks I sent on board one of the Turkish
corvettes, and intend, as soon as I have commu-
nication with the shore, to land the Arab.
** I have the honour to be. Sir,

*' Your obedient servant,

" Francis Wm. Austen.

" To Sir Sydney Smith, K.S.,

" Senior officer of H.M. Ships and Vessels
"employed in the Levant."

The French were quite ready to take possession
of all that the predatory Arab germes were likely
to leave on board the Turkish line-of- battle ship.


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

There was of course much less difficulty in getting
the Peterel into Aboukir Bay than in navigating
the larger corvettes of the Turks ; but, where
Nelson had brought in his fleet, before the Battle
of the Nile, there was water enough for any vessel,
if properly handled.

The following letters give the conclusion of the
matter :

•♦ His Britannic Majesty's Sloop Peterel, off Alexandria,

"August 1 6, 1800.

**SiR, — I avail myself of the present flag to set
on shore with an unconditional release eleven
Arabs, prisoners of war. Should it be not incon-
sistent with the instructions you may be acting
under, the release of an equal number of the sub-
jects of the Sublime Porte will be considered as
a fair return.

'* I have the honour to be, &c.,
" Your obedient servant,

** F. W. Austen.
** To General Lanusse,

** Commandant of Alexandria."

" Peterel, off Alexandria, August 7.

" Sir, — The King George transport is this
morning arrived here from Rhodes, and as I find,
by the report of the master, that the object of his
mission in landing the powder has not been accom-
plished, I shall send him off directly with orders to


At Home and Abroad

follow you agreeable to given rendezvous. ... I
enclose herewith a letter received five days ago by
a Turkish transport from Jaffa ; one from myself
containing the particulars of the loss of the
Turkish line-of-battle ship, a copy of my letter
to General Lanusse, which accompanied the Arabs
on shore yesterday (the first day since my leaving
the TtgrCy that the weather has been sufficiently
moderate to admit of communicating with the
shore), and lastly a letter from the Vizir, which I
received yesterday from Jaffa by a Turkish felucca.
As the weather becomes more settled I hope to
annoy the germes, though I must not count on
any support or assistance from the Turks, as
Injee Bey, when I first joined him, declared he
had received directions from the Capitan Pacha
not to molest them. Two of the corvettes are
gone to join the Capitan Pacha, but this I learnt
only two days after they went. The officer who
accompanied the flag yesterday could not obtain
any certain intelligence of Captain Boyle and his
people, for in answer to his inquiries he was told
they were still at or near Cairo.

** I have the honour to be, &c.

"To Sir Wm. Sydney Smith, K.S.,

" Senior officer of H.M. Ships and Vessels
" employed in the Levant."

This Capitan Pacha was a man of some note.


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

His career is an example of the inefficacy of the
greatest talents under such a government as that
of Turkey. He was in every way an able man —
strong and determined — considering all circum-
stances not to be called cruel — enlightened in his
ideas. His chief lack was that of education, but
he was anxious to learn from all. He had great
respect for Europeans and sympathy with their
outlook. Altogether, though he did a great work
for the Turkish navy — improving the construction
of the ships — taking care that the officers should
be properly educated, and drawing the supply of
men from the best possible sources, and all this in
a country where reform seemed a hopeless task,
yet, so great was the power of his personality, that
one is more surprised that he did so little than that
he did so much.

The Captain Courtney Boyle spoken of in this
letter was evidently an acquaintance of the family,
as we find him mentioned in one of Jane's letters.
His ship, the Cormorant, had been wrecked on the
Egyptian coast, and the whole crew made prisoners
by the French. He must have obtained his
release very shortly afterwards, for the following
letter from Jane to Cassandra was clearly written
when the family at Steventon were looking for-
ward to Frank's return, but before they had direct
news from himself :

''I should not have thought it necessary to write


At Home and Abroad

to you so soon, but for the arrival of a letter from
Charles to myself. It was written last Saturday
from off the Start, and conveyed to Popham Lane
by Captain Boyle, on his way to Midgham. He
came from Lisbon in the Endymion, I will copy
Charles's account of his conjectures about Frank :
* He has not seen my brother lately, nor does he
expect to find him arrived, as he met Captain Inglis
at Rhodes, going up to take command of the Peterel
as he was coming down ; but supposes he will arrive
in less than a fortnight from this time, in some ship
which is expected to reach England about that
time with despatches from Sir Ralph Aber-
crombie.' The event must show what sort of a
conjurer Captain Boyle is. The Endymion has
not been plagued with any more prizes. Charles
spent three pleasant days in Lisbon. When this
letter was written, the Endymion was becalmed,
but Charles hoped to reach Portsmouth by Monday
or Tuesday. He received my letter, communi-
cating our plans, before he left England ; was
much surprised, of course, but is quite reconciled
to them, and means to come to Steventon once
more while Steventon is ours."

Captain Charles Inglis, who was to succeed
Francis Austen, had served as lieutenant in the
Penelope, and specially distinguished himself in
the capture of the Guillaume Tell.

While these conjectures as to Frank's where-


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

abouts and the possible date of his return were
passing between his relations at home, he had
been still pursuing the ordinary round of duties
such as are described in this letter, quite ignorant
until the actual event of any approaching change
either for them or for himself.

''Sir, — I have to inform you that I anchored
with his Majesty's sloop under my command at
Larnaca on the evening of the ist instant, where
I completed my water, and purchased as much
wine as the ship would stow, but was not able to
procure any bread, as from the great exports of
corn which have been lately made to supply the
Vizir's army in Syria, the inhabitants are almost
in a state of famine. I sailed from Larnaca the
evening of the 6th, and anchored here on the 9th
at noon. As I had only five days' bread on board
I have judged it proper to take on board 50
quintals of that which had been prepared for the
Tigre, and not being acquainted with the price
agreed on, have directed the purser to leave a
certificate with the Dragoman of the Porte, for the
quantity received, that it may be included with
the Tigres vouchers, and settled for with the
purser of that ship.

'* The Governor of Nicosia made application to
me yesterday in the name of the Capitan Pacha
for assistance to enable him to get a gun on shore


At Home and Abroad

from one of the gun-boats which has been wrecked
here, which, tho' I knew would detain me a day,
I thought it right to comply with ; the gun
has been to-day got on shore, and I am now going
to weigh. I propose stretching more towards
Alexandria if the wind is not very unfavourable,
and should I find no counter orders, shall after-
wards put in execution the latter part of yours of
the 23 rd ult.

'* I have directed the captain of the Kir ling
Geek, which I found here on my arrival without
orders, to wait till the i6th for the arrival of the
Tigre, when, if not otherwise directed, to proceed
to Rhodes, and follow such orders or information
as he may obtain there.

** I have the honor to be, &c.,

" To Sir Sydney Smith."

'* The latter part of yours of the 23rd " possibly
refers to instructions to proceed to Rhodes, for
we find in the log that the Peterel went on there
early in October, and there at last Captain Austen
was greeted with the news of his promotion to
Post Rank. The /^^/^r^/ anchored in the Road of
Rhodes at ten o'clock on the morning of October
20, where the Tigre was 2 1 days at anchor, and
at this point the private log of the Pe^ere/ stops

Although we have no account from Francis


Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers

Austen himself of his meeting with Captain Inglis,
he evidently wrote a lively description of the inci-
dent to his sisters. Jane writes from Steventon
on January 21st to Cassandra: '*Well, and so
Frank's letter has made you very happy, but you
are afraid he would not have patience to stay for
the Haarlem, which you wish him to have done,
as being safer than the merchantman." Frank's
great desire was clearly to get home as soon as
possible after an absence of nearly three years.
It is curious to think of the risks supposed to be
incurred by passengers on board a merchantman.

The following comment on the colour of the ink
is amply borne out in the log : ** Poor fellow ! to
wait from the middle of November to the end of
December, and perhaps even longer, it must be
sad work ; especially in a place where the ink is
so abominably pale. What a surprise to him it
must have been on October 20th to be visited,
collared, and thrust out of the Peterel by Captain
Inglis. He kindly passes over the poignancy of
his feelings in quitting his ship, his officers, and
his men.

**What a pity it is that he should not be in
England at the time of this promotion, because he
certainly would have had an appointment, so
everybody says, and therefore it must be right for
me to say it too. Had he been really here, the
certainty of the appointment, I dare say, would not


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(When the forts were constructed, this avemte was ait down.)

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Online LibraryJ. H. (John Henry) HubbackJane Austen's sailor brothers: being the adventures of Sir Francis Austen ... and ... Charles Austen; → online text (page 6 of 18)