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Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

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No. Page
Life of Captain Cook, 40

Anecdotes of the Horse, 41

William of Orange and the Netherlands, - - - 42

Passion and Principle, - - 43

Life- Assurance : a Familiar Dialogue, - - - ^44

Excursion to the Oregon, 45

Mrs Macclarty. Scenes from the " Cottagers of Glen-

burnie," 46

The Little Captite King, 47

Children of the Wilds —

Peter the Wild Boy, 48 1

Mademoiselle Leblanc, - - - 48 5

Victor, the Savage of Aveyron, 48 10

Caspar Hauser, -48 12

Select Poems on Love for Flowers, 49 1


LOVE of maritime enterprise is one of those
well-known characteristics of British youth,
which have led to innumerable instances of dar-
ing- intrepidity on the seas around our coasts,
as well as the most distant parts of the ocean.
This quality of mind, to which Britain owes so
much of her supremacy in the scale of nations,
has been seldom more striking'ly manifested than
in the case of Captain Cook, a man who, from the humblest
rank in life, and after encountering' the difficulties which usually
lie in the path of a sailor, rose, by dint of good behaviour, intelli-
gence, and the energy of his character, to the hig-hest honours
of his profession. As an inspiring page in general biography,
we offer a sketch of the life of this distinguished individual.
James Cook was born in a mud hut at Marton, in the north
No. 40. 1


riding- of Yorkshire, 27tli October 1728. His father was an
agricultural servant, who, with his wife, bore a most unexception-
able character for honesty and industry. The villag-e school-
mistress taug'ht the boy to read ; but at eight years of age his
father, through his good conduct, was appointed to be bailiff of
a farm near Great Ayton, belonging to Thomas Skottowe, Esq.,
who at his own expense put James to a day-school in that town,
where he was taught writing and the first rules in arithmetic.
The predilection of the lad inclined him for the sea ; but as
this stood contrary to the wishes of his parents, he was soon
after his twelfth year apprenticed to William Sanderson, a gene-
ral dealer in haberdashery, g'rocery, hardware, &c. at Staith,
upon the coast, about ten miles north of Whitby. The youth's
mind, however, continued more occupied upon maritime affairs
than anything else, and though he faithfully discharged his duty
to his master, he longed to be at sea. An opportunity occurred
to favour his desires. Mr Sanderson cancelled his indentures,
and left him to pursue his inclinations. Thus freed, he bound
himself to Messrs John and Henry Walker, who owned the Free-
love, in which Cook embarked. She was principally engaged in
the coal trade, but made a voyage or two to the north ; and when
his time was out, the youngster still continued to serve as a fore-
mast-man till he was made mate of one of Mr John Walker's
ships. During this period he evinced no particular marks of
genius. His associates, however, were not exactly the class of
persons to observe the real bent of his mind; they thought him
taciturn, and sometimes sullen ; but this doubtless ai"ose from his
studious habits, and endeavours to acquire knowledge. As for
practical seamanship, there could be no better school than a collier.
When in his twenty-seventh year, war broke out between
England and France, and Cook, who was then in the Thames,
tried to escape the pressgang, which was sweeping the river of
every seaman that could be picked up. This restraint, however,
did not meet his views ; he looked upon the service of his country
as honourable, and at once entered for the Eagle, of 60 g'uns,^
commanded by Captain Hamer, who, a few months afterwards,
was superseded by Captain (subsequently Sir Hugh) Palliser.
The young man's steady conduct and seaman-like qualities soon
attracted this officer's attention. His knowledge of the coasts was
excellent ; and Mr Skottowe having applied to Mr Osbaldeston,
M. P. for Scarborough, to exert his influence to raise Cook to
the quarter-deck, by the joint interest of this gentleman, with
Captain Palliser, a warrant as master was obtained on 10th
May 1759, James being then in his thirty-first year. He joined
the Grampus, but she had a master already ; he was then ap-
pointed to the Garland, but she was abroad ; and eventually he
sailed in the Mercury, to join the fleet under Sir Charles Saunders,
then engaged in conjunction with General Wolfe in the reduction
of Quebec. Here the peculiar talents of Mr Cook were called


into active operation. The buoys in tlie navigation of the St
Lawrence had all been removed by the French at the tirst ap-
pearance of the English fleet, and it was essentially necessary
that a survey should be made of the channels, and correct sound-
ing's obtained, to enable the ships to keep clear of the numerous
shoals. By the recommendation of his old commander. Captain
Palliser, this onerous duty was confided to Mr Cook, who readily
undertook it in a barge belonging to a 74. This could only be
executed in many parts during the darkness of the nig-ht, on
account of the enemy ; and he experienced a narrow escape one
night when detected, his boat having' been boarded by Indians
in the pay of the French, and carried off in triumph, he and
his companions getting away just in time to save their lives and
scalps. Through Mr Cook's judicious arrangements, the fleet
reached the island of Orleans in safety ; and he afterwards sur-
veyed and made a chart of the St Lawrence, which, together with
sailing directions for that river, were published in London.

On his return from Quebec, Mr Cook was appointed master of
the Northumberland, under Lord Colville, who was stationed as
commodore at Halifax. Here he enjoyed much leisure during
the winter ; but instead of frittering' it away in the frivolous or
worse amusements of a seaport, he diligently employed it in
studies suitable to his profession. No sailor can possibly advance
beyond the rank of an ordinary seaman unless he be acquainted
with the theory as well as the practice of navigation ; and to
gain this knowledge, he must attain a certain proficiency in
mathematics. Aware of this, Cook began by gaining an accu-
rate knowledge of Euclid's Elements of Plane Geometry ; and
proceeded thence to the higher branches of mathematical study,
including nautical astronomy. By these means he learned to
take astronomical observations, to calculate a ship's progress, and
to ascertain the degree of latitude and longitude at any given
spot on the trackless ocean. In short, he became an accomplished
mariner, ready for any office of trust. Besides improving him-
self in these useful branches of education, he possessed sufficient
tact to cultivate urbanity of manner, and to gain the confidence
and esteem of his acquaintance. This was a point of some con-
sequence; for intellectual acquirements, without a polite and
high moral bearing, are of small avail in the general intercourse
of the world, and, personally, may do more harm than good. It
is gratifying to know that Cook aimed at gentlemanly behaviour
not less than skill in his profession ; and to this commendable
effort — which the most humble may practise — is perhaps owing
not a little of his future success in life.

In 1762 the Northumberland was ordered to Newfoundland,
to assist in the recapture of that island ; and here the talents and
assiduity of our hero were again conspicuous. Greatly improved
by his winter's studies, he was now still more able to make nau-
tical surveys, and these he carried on to a considerable extent on



the coast of Newfoundland ; laying' down bearing's, marking
headlands and soundings,^ and otherwise i:)lacing on record many
facts which proved highly advantageous to future voyagers,
especially those engaged in fishing speculations.

Towards the close of this year (1762) Mr Cook returned to
England, and was married at Barking', in Essex, to Miss Eliza-
beth Batts, who has been spoken of as a truly amiable and excel-
lent woman. In the following year, through the intervention of
Captain (afterwards Admiral) Graves, the governor of Newfound-
land, who was well acquainted with Cook's worth, he was ap-
pointed to survey the whole coast of that island, which he accom-
plished with great ability, as well as Miquelon and St Pierre,
which had been ceded to the French. Cook then returned to
England, but did not remain long. His constant friend, Sir
Hugh Palliser, assumed the command at Newfoundland, and
took Mr Cook with him, bearing the appointment of marine
surveyor, and a schooner was directed to attend upon him in his
aquatic excursions. His charts and observations, particularly on
astronomy, brought him into correspondence with the members
of the Royal Society ; and some scientific observations on the
eclipse of the sun were inserted in the 57th volume of the Philo-
sophical Transactions.

Here may be said to close the first chapter in Cook's life. We
have traced him from the humble home of his father, an obscure
peasant, through the early part of his career, till his thirty-fourth
year, at which time he had gained a footing among the most
learned men in England. The youthful aspirant will observe
that this enviable point had not been reached without patient
study. Cook could have gained no acquaintanceship with mem-
bers of the Royal Society, nor could he have j)laced himself in
the way of promotion, had he been contented to remain an illi-
terate seaman.


Prepared by diligent self-culture, Cook was ready for any
enterprise which circumstances might produce. The project
of a voyag'e of discovery, involving certain important astro-
nomical observations, fortunately came under discussion while
he was in a state of hesitation as to his future movements. The
principal object of the expedition was to observe a transit of the
planet Venus over the face of the sun, which could only be done
somewhere in the Pacific or Southern ocean. The transit was
to happen in June 1769. The Royal Society, as interested in
the phenomenon for the sake of science, applied to George III.
to fit out an expedition suitable to take the observations. The
request was complied with; and no other man being so well
calculated to take the command, it was given to Cook. The
appointment was quite to the mind of our hero, and he was soon
ready for sea. He received the commission of a lieutenant from



liis majesty, and the Endeavour, of 370 tons, was placed at his
disposal. About this time Captain Wallis returned from his
voyage of discovery, and reported Otaheite (now called Tahiti)
to he the most elig^ible spot for the undertaking'. That island
■was therefore lixed upon for the observation. Mr Charles Green
undertook the astronomical department, and Mr Banks (after-
wards Sir Joseph) and Dr Solander, purely through a love of
science, and at g-reat expense to themselves, obtained permission
to accompany the expedition.

The Endeavour was victualled for eighteen months, armed
with 12 carriage guns and 12 swivels, and manned with a com-
plement of 84 seamen. Every requisite preparation was made
for such a voyage that human foresight could suggest ; trinkets
and other things were put on board to trade with the natives ;
and on the 26tli August 1768 they sailed from Plymouth Sound
for the hitherto but little explored South Seas. On the 13th
September they anchored in Funchal roads, Madeira, and here
commenced the researches and inquiries of the men of science.
From hence they departed on the night of the 18th ; and falling
short of water and provisions on the Brazil coast, they put into
the beautiful harbour of Rio Janeiro on the 13tli November. The
viceroy of this tine city could make nothing of the scientific
intentions of the Eng'lish, and was exceedingly troublesome and
annoying. When told that they were bound to the South Seas
to observe the transit of Venus, he could form no other concep-
tion of the matter than that it was the passing of the north star
through the south pole. Numerous difficulties were thrown in
the Avay of the departure of the voyagers after they had victualled
and watered ; and when they sailed, shots were fired at them
from the fort of Santa Cruz, a heavy battery at the entrance of
the harbour ; and on inquiry, Mr Cook ascertained that the pass
for the Endeavour had not been sent from the city. A spirited
remonstrance was made, and the viceroy apologised.

On the 7th December the voyagers finally quitted this place,
and on the 14th January 1769 entered the Straits of Le Maire,
where the sea was running- tremendously high, and on the fol-
lowing day anchored in the Bay of Good Success. Although the
season was extremely inclement, yet the love of botany induced
Mr Banks, Dr Solander, Mr Monkhouse the surgeon, and Mr
Green the astronomer, to ascend the mountains in search of
plants. They took with them their attendants and servants, with
two seamen : and after suffering severe hardships from the cold
and the torpor it produced, they got back to the ship on the
second day, leaving' two black men, who had accompanied them,
dead from the extreme severity of the weather. They could not
be got on, but lay down to rest, and slept the sleep of death. Dr
Solander with great difficulty was saved ; for although the first
to warn others against the danger of reposing-, yet hewas event-
ually himself so overcome, that great exertion was required to



force him along*. They found the inhabitants on the coasts of
these straits a wretched set of being-s, with scarcely any covering- ;
dwelling in hovels made of sticks and grass, that offered no
obstruction to the entrance of the wind, the snow, and the rain.
They wandered about, picking* up a scanty subsistence wherever
they could, though they had not a single implement to dress
their fish when caught, or any other food : still, they appeared to
be contented ; and the only things they coveted from the English
were beads and useless trinkets.

On the 26th January the Endeavour took her departure from
Cape Horn, and before March 1st had run 660 leagues. Several
islands were discovered in their progress, most of which were
supposed to be inhabited ; and their beautiful verdure and de-
lightful appearance were highly gratifying to the sea-worn mari-
ners. On the 11th April they came in sig'ht of Otaheite, and
two days after anchored in Port Royal (Matavai), where the
scientific gentlemen landed, and fixed upon a spot to serve them
for an observatory. The natives displayed much friendship ; but,
to prevent collision, Mr Cook drew up a code of regulations by
which communication and traffic were to be carried on. A tent
was erected on the site proposed — the natives keeping outside a
marked boundary — and a midshipman with thirteen marines
were placed over it as guards. As soon as this was accomplished,
the party 23roceeded to examine the interior of the island ; but
soon after their departure, one of the natives snatched away the
musket of the sentry. The marines were ordered to fire, and the
thief was shot dead. This greatly alarmed the natives ; but in
a day or two they again became familiarised and friendly. Mr
Cook proceeded to erect a fort round the observatory, and
mounted six swivel guns, which caused apprehensions amongst
the chiefs ; but the natives assisted in the works ; and the com-
mander displayed his sense of justice by publicly flogging the
butcher for having attempted or threatened the life of a wife of
one of the chiefs, who was particularly favourable to the English.
On the first stroke of the lash, the natives earnestly solicited that
the man should be forgiven ; but Mr Cook deemed the example
essential, and inflicted the whole punishment, greatly to the pain
and regret of the compassionate Indians, many of whom shed

As soon as the fort was completed, and the astronomical in-
struments were landed, they sought for the quadrant by w^hich
the transit was to be observed, but it was nowhere to be found.
Diligent search was made, and a reward offered, but without
success; and it was feared that the object of their long' and
arduous voyage would remain unaccomplished. At length,
through the judicious intervention of Mr Banks, the quadrant
was recovered from the natives who had stolen it, and with great
joy set up in its place. The approach of the time of observation
produced anxiety and excitement; and hoping that the atmo-



sphere would be clear and favourable, as well as to make assur-
ance sure, Mr Cook established two other observatories — one on
the island of Eimeo, under Mr Banks, and the other to the east-
ward of the main observatory, under Mr Hicks (the master).
The morning" of the 3d June was ushered in with a cloudless
sky, and at the fort the transit was observed in the most satis-
factory manner. The success of their enterprise was highly
gratifying: to the voyagers ; but their pleasure was somewhat
damped by the violence which at times was engendered be-
tween the natives and the seamen, the former of whom proved
to be dexterous thieves. But Mr Cook would not allow the
plunderers to be fired upon, as he considered the issue of life
and death to be of too important a nature to be intrusted to
a sentinel, without any form of trial or show of equity; nor
did he deem a petty theft as meriting so severe a punishment.
On one occasion, however, he seized upon all their fishing
canoes, fully laden ; and though from motives of humanity he
gave up the fish, yet he detained the vessels, under a hope that
several articles which had been j)ilfered would be restored. But
in this he was mistaken ; for nothing of value was g*iven up,
and ultimately he released the canoes. Mr Cook and Mr
Banks circumna\'igated the island, and visited many villages,
where they renewed acquaintance with the several chiefs. Ex-
ploring parties were also sent into the interior ; and Mr Banks
planted the seeds of water-melons, oranges, lemons, limes, and
other plants and trees which he had collected for the purpose (some
of which are now in rich perfection) ; and it was ascertained that
parts of the island manifested appearances of subterranean fire.

On the 7th July the carpenters began to dismantle the fort
preparatory to departure, and on the 13th the ship weighed
anchor. Tupia, one of the principal natives, and chief priest of
the country, with a boy of thirteen, having obtained i)ermission
from Mr Cook to embark for England, they took an affecting*
and affectionate leave of their friends. Few places possess more
seductive influences than Otaheite. The climate is delightful,
the productions of the earth bountiful and almost spontaneous,
and the people, though addicted to pilfering, simple, kind-hearted,
and hospitable.

After quitting Otaheite, the Endeavour visited the islands
Huaheine, Ulietea, Otaha, and Bolabola, where Mr Cook pur-
chased various articles of food. They also anchored at Owharre,
and exchanged friendly gifts with the natives ; and presents of
English medals, &c. with inscriptions, were made to the king
Oree. Ulietea had been conquered by the king of Bolabola, but
he received the English with considerable courtesy. These visits
occupied rather more than three weeks ; and Ulietea, Otaha,
Bolabola, Huaheine, Tabai, and Mawrua, as they lay contiguous
to each other, were named by Mr Cook the Society Islands.

In their intercourse with the natives of these places (all of


which more or less resembled the manners and habits of the
Otaheitans), they were greatly assisted by Tupia, who was very
proud of the power possessed by his new friends. On the 9th
August, the Endeavour quitted Ulietea, and on the 13th made
theisland Oheteoa, where they attempted to land ; but the natives^
displayed so much hostility, that Mr Cook deemed it best to de-
sist, and proceeded on his way to the southward in search of a
supposed continent. On the 25th they celebrated the anniver-
sary of their departure from England, and on the 30th they ob-
served a comet ; it was just above the horizon, to the eastward,
at one a.m.; and about half-past four, when it passed the meri-
dian, its tail subtended an angle of forty-five degrees. Tupia
declared that its appearance would be the signal for the warriors
of Bolabola to attack the Ulieteans and drive them to the moun-
tains. The vessel was now proceeding in a south-westerly direc^
tion from the Pacific towards New Zealand, Cook designing to
return by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and thus circumnavi-
gate the globe. On the 6th October land was discovered, which
proved to be a part of New Zealand ; where, having anchored, an
attempt was made to open a communication with the natives, but
without effect. Their hostile menaces and actions were all of a
decidedly warlike nature, and it Avas only when they felt the supe-
riority of firearms, of which they seemed to have been in igno-
rance, that they desisted from attacks. Tupia addressed them to
be peaceable, and they understood his language; but he could not
prevail upon them to put confidence in the English. A conflict
took place, in which some of the New Zealanders were rather
unnecessarily killed, and three boys were taken prisoners, who
were treated with much kindness. As the place afforded nothing
that the voyagers wanted, Mr Cook named it Poverty Bay. The
boys were dismissed, and the treatment they had experienced
induced some of the Indians to come off to the ship ; but it ap-
peared almost impossible to conciliate any one of them for long.
Armed parties in large canoes assembled, and paddled off to the
Endeavour, under pretext of trading, but in reality to plunder;
and in various instances it was deemed essentially necessary to
fire upon them. They also seized Tayeto, Tupia's boy, but were
compelled to relinquish their prey through the effects of a mus-
ket ball; and the lad, taking advantage, leaped from the canoe,
in which he had been held down, and swam back to the ship.
Whilst standing along the coast, they fell in with the largest
canoe they had yet seen : her length was 68^ feet, her breadth
6 feet, and her depth 3 feet 6 inches. About this time the En-
deavour narrowly escaped being wrecked on the rocks that lay
some distance from the land ; but by the skill and judgment of
Mr Cook, the danger was avoided. On the 9th November, Lieu-
tenant Cook, accompanied by Mr Green, landed with the neces-
sary instruments to observe the transit of Mercury over the sun's
disc, and this they performed to their entire satisfaction.


On the otli December, whilst turning" out of the Bay of Islands,
it fell calm ; and the Endeavour drifted so close to the shore, that
notwithstanding* the incessant roar of the breakers, they could
converse with the natives on the beach. The pinnace was got
out to tow the vessel's head round ; but none expected to escape
destruction, when a light land-breeze sprang' up, and g-radually
they got clear from their perilous situation — the g-round was too
ibul to anchor. About an hour afterwards, just as the man
heaving^ the lead sang' out " seventeen fathoms," she struck on
a sunken rock with force ; but the swell washed her over, and
■she was ag-ain in deep water. On the 30th December they made
the land, which they judged to be Cape Maria, Van Diemens ;
and on the 14th January 1770, anchored in a snug cove in Queen
•Charlotte's Sound, to refit the ship and clean her bottom. Here
they caug'ht a great quantity of fish by means of the seine — at
one time not less than three hundredweig'ht at two hauls. They
also found an excellent stream of fresh-water. In one of their
researches they discovered an Indian family ; and it is related
that they had indisputable proofs of the custom of eating* human
:flesh. The place they were in is described as very delightful ;
and Mr Cook took several opportunities of obtaining- views from
the hig'h hills, and examining- the nearest coast. The inhabitants
were friendly disposed, and everywhere received the English
with hospitality. Mr Cook selected a favourable spot, on which

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 1 of 59)