In November 1807, the first in a series of short pieces appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine signed W.P. We now know they were by William Perry, who had sailed with James Cook in Endeavour many years before. Perry was already something of a regular correspondent to the magazine, usually on medical matters. This series of articles was in response to another correspondent, a Mr. Perkins.
Perry uses occurrences from the Endeavour’s stopover at Batavia (Jakarta) in his argument, detailing how he, as the medical officer present, dealt with matters. In doing so he presents different perspectives on events, some of which have not been previously described, some passed over very lightly, and some described in an indifferent fashion.
For example, the position of Tupaia on the voyage, and his sad demise, is given a fresh perspective. We are presented with a more complete description of the attack upon Richard Orton, the clerk, in May 1770. The living conditions that most of the company faced on Cooper’s Island are dealt with. Among several other items is information that rotating Chinese gangs were employed to carry out the repairs on Endeavour.
Perry is writing as a 60 year old, some 37 years after Endeavour returned to Britain, and it should not be a surprise that he presents a very personal version of events. His role in the medical treatment of his fellow men is, I feel, somewhat exaggerated, and he offers some rebukes for Cook that are easy to make with hindsight.
Despite these small reservations this is a most interesting set of observations and deserves far wider recognition and attention.
November 1807. Page 995.
Mr. Urban, Nov. 5.
It was my design to write again: I am saved, however, from the duller didactic part by a more able hand; yet, as Mr. Perkins’s promises (p. 900) turn upon a comparison where I am feeling vast obligation, do favour me by printing a matter of fact.
Many of your readers know that Batavia in the East Indies is remarkable for diseases of a violent nature: the fevers of Bengal, in the worst seasons of the year, are not more fatal than fevers here.
A ship I once belonged to met with damage from rocks, and stopt for a repair at Batavia. The Dutch Governor-general, in great kindness, ordered this to be done at Onrust, which is an isle within sight, appropriated to ship-wrights and their employment.
We had moved from Batavia Roads; the surgeon staid, with more in company, in the city, and the care of the crew of our vessel devolved upon your humble servant – perhaps happily for them. I had been one of the first persons indulged with a day’s leave ashore upon coming into port, and now the Batavia fever chose me for its first object of attack.
I looked round, and was convinced there was none on earth to help. Alarmed, I soon determined on the most vigorous means: after taking away twelve ounces of blood, I took an active purgative, which answered my purpose well. Evening was come on; the skin was parching hot, and most heavy head-ache made me fear that stupor or delirium would soon take place. My cot was slung in a cool cabin: I took one whole paper of Dr. James’s powder, and then lay down. The powder had not the least effect on the stomach, or otherwise: two whole hours elapsed with no change of symptoms. Another whole paper was taken, and in about ten minutes afterwards the most profuse drenching sweat broke out. I now took, occasionally, a little lime-juice and water. The general discharge by the skin continued to 4 o’clock in the morning, when it began to abate; and all that time I lay quiet, covered by a light sheet, without sleep, and drinking, as I have said, at times a little diluted lime-juice.
When the sweating moderated in the morning, I considered, as the head-ache (reckoned a mortal symptom at Batavia), although much lightened, was still unmoved, there was yet no safety. Half a paper more of Dr. James’s powder, taken now, renewed the same profuse perspiration till seven o’clock, when it lessened again, and the head-ache was entirely gone.
At eight, our breakfast hour, I drank tea only, and presently fell asleep; before noon arose; was rested well, and refreshed with clean linen. A light decoction of the Bark was the only medicine taken afterwards; for the cure was complete.
In the next 24 hours I had a dozen patients down in fever; and from that time during the whole of our stay, two months or more, at Batavia, the sickness had seldom less than 20 names upon it.
The surgeon died in the city after very short illness, perhaps through want of the same powder.
Mr. P. Perkins, after reading this, will not be the less able to appreciate Dr. James’s powder; to whom, and I remember the old Doctor well, a plain man, not pompous, I have been repeatedly indebted since for vast pleasure, in exhibiting this powder with the happiest effect, because always in doses sufficiently large.
Yours, &c. W.P.
January 1808. Pages 26-27.
Mr. Urban, Jan. 9.
Some desire may possibly be found to know the mode of our procedure during the ship’s repair (see p. 995 of your last volume). To such particulars the printed Voyage does not descend.
Let me say, after anchoring near Cooper’s Isle, which lies at a little distance from Onrust, the vessel was hauled up, and lashed head and stern alongside the jetty or wharf, immediately dismantled, her stores all lodged ashore, and the hull kept in readiness for warping over to Onrust. But the first thing in order after securing the ship was to fix a large tent for the crew, sick and well; and into this we moved with cheerful hearts.
One great evil that had originated even with the beginning of this voyage, hunger, was now no more: it had embittered every circumstance on-board, and seldom but had been artificially inflicted, where necessity was no plea. Of neighbour’s fare, whilst upon public service, we should never have complained: but of some being fed at an extra allowance from the ship’s provisions, whilst the bulk of the crew were kept in constant gnawing hunger, we had not only reason to complain, but were authorized by naval rules and discipline to demand redress.
Upon Cooper’s Isle was only one house, where the Captain, or Bass (as he was called), resided. A slave, who spoke English, brought us word, that at eight in the evening we must stop within our tent; for at that hour several fierce dogs would be loosed, to guard the Island; and he added, “not long before a chief Mate of some Indiaman, not attending to this notice, had been seized by these dogs at night, and killed.”
Accordingly we staid within that night and the night after, to our great inconvenience: the sick were full of ill humour at the heat from closing the tent, and those in health all quite indignant at the cause. Next day it was determined to put the mettle of these dogs to proof: a party was posted beyond the Bass’s gate; and when the dogs (seven or eight in number) burst forth with their usual roar, a great shout was raised behind. The dogs flew on, our people in chase; presently another party joined in the hunt, and so on from convenient corners started out others, hallooing and pursuing. The dogs never once faced about; but, terrified and cut off from any retreat homeward, in less than an hour took to the water, and disappeared. We supposed they might swim round and get ashore upon the master’s demesne, which took up at least one quarter of the Island, and was stoccaded off from sea to sea; but probably some alligators, sharks, or other monsters of the deep, finished them; for we heard no more barking after that night.
This same Bass was a cross-grained animal, half Dutch, half Malay; and had refused to sell poultry, although he was possessed of all sorts, at any price. He avoided every communication to the utmost: and not one of us ever got admission to his house. It was impossible to make his turkeys equally reserved, and no opportunity was lost of picking their bones.
Cooper’s Isle in surface was about ten acres; on the more elevated middle part, the whole being rather convex, several long warehouses were built parallel to each other. In these were lodged Spices in great quantity. The warehouses are separated by alleys, of breadth equal to the buildings. A double row of lofty trees at the nearest end of these warehouses gave us a pleasant shady walk between them and our tent; and this last was put up near the wharf. At a greater distance, and beyond our tent, was another wharf; and to that two Dutch Indiamen came in succession to deliver cargoes, and load again. This work was not done by a Dutch crew, but by Chinese; of whom a party, 100 in number, was relieved every 14 days from Batavia. The Dutch Officers seem to have no command over their China-men: they worked as they pleased, and when; with the eagerness of dray-horses whilst at it, and equally in earnest at their meals or at play. They indulged much in bathing, frequently drank tea; and this repast was for the most part followed by cards. Cards always produced quarrelling, and sometimes a general fight: such was, however, laughable in the extreme considering the brawny combatants, being a jargon of abuse, and open-handed clawing as of women. In spite of their care not to fetch blood, falls upon the sharp stones would wound, and then all hands were as ready to call for assistance from me. Nothing of this sort went unrequited: their supply-boats came often from Batavia, and as certain was a parcel of tea, of sugar-candy, of fresh pork, or of sweetmeats, brought to their English Surgeon by the whole party in cavalcade; the article in question elevated in front, and presented in a form and manner infinitely more pleasing than the gift.
But to return. Our people, being all under my eye, were no sooner indisposed, but medicines were administered; and in the first month every man, two or three excepted, had been alternatively the nurse or nursling of his messmate. As weeks ran on, I found we grew more prone to disease, the changes of the moon had very sensible effects, and even the flood-tide constantly rendered fever or local pains more severe. For all this, by good fortune I had been educated in a way most express: my first instructor had been long in India, and all his lessons for several years of my youth had been sweetened with various sea-stories, in which boys delight. His difficulties, his success, his failures, long familiar to my ear, were now realized, or likely to be so: and only one case occurred where I was myself apprehensive about the management. More of that in proper time.
We struggled on, whilst Death was making quicker progress at Batavia. In the first week of November came the news that our Surgeon was dead; and not long after the Captain took alarm at the scenes around him, and came to Cooper’s Isle. This wrought a great change for me.
Yours, &c. W.P.
(To be continued)
February 1808. Pages 101-102
Journal continued from p. 27.
Yes, the Captain’s arrival ended an aukward situation; aukward, because, from the decease of the Surgeon, his place could only be filled by me; and yet days had elapsed, and no notice taken or the least intimation sent from Batavia about my appointment.
This was the first loss of an Officer in the voyage; and our Captain now discovered, if not sooner, that his own Commission, though conferring command of the Vessel and her crew, did not contain any delegated power to fill up vacancies. Such was a strange omission of the Admiralty; and surely, if intended, quite a reverse to the double pay, &c. granted to the Dolphin for a mere post-haste run in seas already known! Capt. C. concealed this curtailment of powers, and wisely showed in his appointments an authority sufficient. I am anticipating here what only became thoroughly known to us all ultimately in England.
The Captain, as I said, came: he trusted the removal of his Batavia complaints to my care, at the same time presenting a warrant of Surgeon in lieu of the late William Brougham Monkhouse; and said some handsome things, the more flattering from him who was endued by Nature very sparingly with courteous and complimentary manners.
’Tis a tedious affair, when an Old Man would tell an old story. The sure consequence of getting on too fast is the necessity of going back for a new departure. I should have said that up to the Ship’s arrival at Batavia, Hunger and Health had held both Doctor and Doctor’s Mate as persons of very little use: in particular myself the Captain seemed to consider as one of the King’s hard bargains, an eternal idler, and like a 5th wheel to a coach, of much the same service to a Ship. We could challenge however one general affection, in which medical help had been courted from stern to stern. But some favours are easily forgot.
The most early precept from a Surgeon to his apprentice is, Keep your patient’s secret. That has been observed strictly; but deaths, reaching almost to the letter Z, allow my reverting now without reproach to a matter long since objected to the guilty Nation – the effect of French intimacy, Bougainville and crew, with the too bewitching Islanders of Otaheite.
Your Naval Readers will laugh at a command from our quarter-deck I have never heard in his Majesty’s ships since, or ever read of before or since –
“Call the Boatswain, there.”
“Mr. Gatheray, pipe all hands to the Doctor.”
Your humble servant was the party referred to; and my report to the Surgeon (ashore with the Captain, &c.) went down to no particulars. Two words conveyed information enough. “All alike”. I gained no ground however by this exploit, certainly not with our Commander, who being himself on the Island, if involved in the same mishap, had recourse to my Principal at his elbow.
Another disagreeable thing amongst ourselves, an unfounded suspicion in the mind of Captain C. pressed hard upon all the petty-officers, quorum pars parva sui. That suspicion shall be recorded in Mr. Urban’s pages. ’Tis now as a story of the generation past, and only brought forward after a retention of that maxim, nonum premature in annum, more than four times told. No pointed allusions, if in my power, can give pain in this æra; for self, alas! in the poor reminder of all the parties implicated.
A barbarous outrage had been done about 12 months before upon the Captain’s Clerk, who managed the victualling department with such a degree of cunning, as did not at all to whitewash his old and known character. Various roguery had broke him years before from the post of Purser in the Navy, and by his own acknowledgement the triple-tree might have borne faithful witness to wickedness well rewarded. Adept as he was in the paltry manoeuvres of the bread-room, coarse jests frequently spoke out insolence of office. Hungry men can bear no jokes about short allowance. He messed by himself, and had made no man his friend. He gloried in recounting anecdotes of his own disgraces, and drunk or sober exhibited to the life a low-bred foul-mouthed black-guard. Some presentiment of evil must have been uppermost from a consciousness of universal hatred; for, whilst at an anchor during our long stay at Otaheite, when the Captain and better half the ship’s company were ashore, he was always afraid to sleep in the great cabin alone.
Yours, &c. W.P.
(to be continued)
March 1808. Pages 221-222
Journal continued from p. 102.
On a third night, the customary term of his drunken fits, our hero lost both his ears. At breakfast the ship’s steward acquainted me with an appearance of blood in the clerk’s cabin, who lay drunk, as it seemed, and fast asleep. After much shaking he awoke, making a complaint; by a looking-glass I convinced him of the wounds. At once, as if liberated at that instant from the gripe of an assassin, he cried out against a certain petty-officer, accusing him of the fact. Our Captain, upon a report made, ordered that gentleman to consider himself a prisoner.
Although the clerk spoke at first far from sober, he persisted in this same charge; the gentleman’s arrest was continued. Such a charge occasioned a great sensation through the ship, it being evident that a person wallowing in liquor, unconscious of hurt or pain, and ignorant (until told) of his own loss, could not possibly say, who had assaulted him. The Captain, we concluded, had the same reflexion, for in about four days he commanded the arrest to cease.
Nobody seemed to stir in this matter. Every officer despised the poor suffering wretch, and the Captain, who probably made private enquiries, at the end of the week knew no more than at the first moment of our Surgeon’s report. Some public step however was necessary: the first lieutenant Zachariah Hicks (who was the soul of naval discipline, and upon one great occasion the preserver of the vessel, the preserver of us all), being closeted by the captain, subscribed five guineas towards a reward for discovery. The second lieutenant, John Gore, more alive to the criminal excesses and blasphemous sallies of the man (because their cabins adjoined) said bluntly, “Sir, it will be my duty to report whatever I may be told relating to transactions amiss on board: with regard to your mutilated clerk, I hope never to hear aught, and I will not give a sixpence to encourage informers.” The master, Robert Molineux, good-natured but a martyr to grog, was flattered by the captain’s application, and gave something. The subscription was filled up by the surgeon. Of the passengers we heard nothing, their play being professedly to hear and see and say little. In fine twenty guineas and thirty gallons of rum were published, for whatever information might lead to fix and prove the guilt. This reward was never claimed, although many persons were well acquainted with the whole transaction.
Good sometimes comes from evil: so it happened in this case. An incessant anxiety to hide his mangled ears, weaned the drunkard from that vice. His words were ever after curbed from wild wanton effusions against serious things, and he became literally a new man in deportment. Your readers will be pleased to learn, that he married comfortably after the voyage, obtained another appointment of purser, and died in the end, we hope, chastened into a proper course by some years blindness before his death.
This piece of secret history has been rather long. Its pleasant unexpected sequel may plead for insertion.
A bell-tent and marquee were fixed for the captain, who staid on the island about a fortnight. During that time a young gentleman (now an old post captain, Isaac George Manley) fell sick. The captain, knowing his father, offered to send for the Dutch doctor from Onrust, if I desired it. “On the part of Mr. Manley,” I told the captain, there was no difficulty; “but requested that or any assistance in another case, viz. of Mr. Charles Clerke (who died some years after as captain of the Resolution having succeeded Captain Cooke), whose perilous state filled me with apprehension. He had been ill a week, and a severe deep-seated pain in one eye came on every forenoon about nine, and, as the sun got higher, raged beyond bearing. In each of the three days preceding, by very large and speedy bleedings down to his fainting, the pain had been stopt; and I was then afraid, should bleeding become needful on the morrow, of the consequences being fatal. The Dutchman came; and upon explanation he professed himself well acquainted with the disease, but knew no mode of cure; in short, he recommended opium to make death easy. So much for medical help from Onrust; and in the whole city of Batavia, as I learnt afterwards, there was but one Physician who deserved the name!
The captain returned; and shortly after our truly magnanimous Otaheite passenger was brought from Batavia to the same tent, accompanied by his great friend, who flattered himself with hopes beyond my abilities to realize. Sinking in spirits, sinking in frame, that admired patriot Tabiah came to Cooper’s Isle, but came to die.
Yours, &c. W.P.
(To be continued)
April 1808. Pages 298-299
Voyage to Batavia.
(Continued from p. 222).
Mr. Urban, April 4.
I have called Tabiah “truly magnanimous”, “admired Patriot”. The rooted preference of a native soil, and a readiness to suffer miseries and death in its defence, are confined to no particular portions of this Planet. Was a balloon-fleet traversing our element above, under an Aeronaut skilled enough to make the magazine of storms his own, and direct his flights with certainty – was such a fleet now to hover where Tyranny and Usurpation are bedizening their Idol, and some modern Scævola, by that uncommon wastage, make a stroke to liberate Thrones and restore an oppressed Family:– would he not be blazoned forth “truly magnanimous”, “admired Patriot?”
Tabiah dared an enterprise no less. He saw far-come strangers, who, in his ideas, had enslaved the winds; who could destroy, while yet unseen; against whom distance offered little safety, and armour opposed no defence. To these mysterious wanderers on the ocean, he, without fear, entrusted himself – entrusted a glorious hope, one day to deliver his dear Country from the fangs of Opuni, a neighbouring despot, by means only to be acquired in Britain, – means that appalled those unhurt, resembling the agency of superior beings, and irresistible as lightning.
Extolled as Scævola stands in History, the life of a good man is least of all an oblation necessary to rid every soil of its Cain. The difficulty of access to men in power, for fellow-creatures so great, is for most other objects in creation but as gossamer against a giant. The veriest trifle in existence derides every precaution, all the arts of multiplied force: an amatory frisk of the vilest insect may drive the most aspiring mind into idiot-imbecility, or condemn for life his galled limbs to nakedness and chains, the Madman’s gear;– yes, a flea’s leap in a conqueror’s ear may lift the anchor of Commerce – may resolve the Legion of Honour into primitive base materials, viz. misled and idle princes, harlequins, or pickpockets – may pacify a troubled world. Thus suddenly does uproar itself sink in enforced repose, under an atom commissioned from above! Then what are guards – what, concealed lodgings – what, an eternal shifting of place – what, Mamelukes – what, brother-kings and brother-sinners, if a flea or a fly can break down such a climax of security, – can overturn all the deep-laid foundations of imaginary perpetuated power, can reduce fair order from a chaos, the studied maze of confusion? Have comfort, thou rightful heir of Charlemagne! Thou wanderer of France! Thou blameless King! Sweet Peace closes your eyes at midnight; dread and suspicion are afar off; dangers look not within the chambers of Wanstead: whilst Usurpers every hour anticipate horrors of the bottomless pit – wish in vain for sleep without dreams – for thoughts without recollections – for the dawn of to-morrow, without its many nameless pangs and fears; without that obtrusive piercing eye of day.
I had the pleasure to find Mr. Clerke gradually recover without another accession of pain (see p. 222). Our people sometimes rowed over to a small island, called Parmarant, lying wider from the Java shore. Here the Dutch had an hospital for Lepers. Compared with Cooper’s Isle, it was a pleasant garden, being variously planted; amongst other shrubs, the physic-nut was found in abundance; and Messrs. Pickersgill and Booty made free with the kernels, without clearing away the intermediate skins, in which lies their medicinal effect; sudden and potent that proved, first as an emetic, ending a purgative. The lax continued above a fortnight, and wasted both gentlemen to shadows, but obviated all other relapses; yet to this I could not but attribute the loss of Mr. Booty some weeks after, of which I will speak.
Tabiah came drooping from Batavia, gradually got weaker; and the death, unexpected, of a lively boy he had brought as a servant, hastened his own. The lad’s name was Tayatto of the tow-tow or slave cast, and of such ingenuity and manners to deserve all his master’s regard. A short illness hurried him off, and he died like a Patriarch, taking leave of us pathetically, each by his name. Tayatto had been received in our large tent; but Tabiah would have the corpse removed into his own, that he might chaunt a certain funereal or death-song in his country fashion. The next, or the day after, joined master and man.
It was unfortunate, that the answer to Tabiah’s first enquiries about our future absence from England was “ten Months.” He believed implicitly, moon after moon was reckoned, still with blooming hope up to that period;– but then came all the bitter disappointment. His farther enquiry got ever an uncertain answer, and this made the former mistake infinitely worse. We could all see considerable alteration both in his temper and looks, before we knew, from his various discourses, what the article was so oppressing. To me he said one day, “Your account about Britain being the ship’s country is a mere story;–in fact, you have risen from the bottom of the Sea.” I smiled at the notion, and asked, “Which of the many strange sailing canoes he had seen at Otaheite he had known to grow in the Sea?” – He paused, and seemed vexed; but presently finished the conversation with these words: “If not so, you have however lost your way and can never find out Britain again”. This last opinion of Tabiahhad more force than he was aware of, for, at the time I speak of, my own expectation of ever returning to England was very faint.
Similar were the enquiries of our Islander through the ship; and it was too clear that his high-flown hopes had sunk to a very low ebb, long before we reached Batavia. In this Dutch colony so many things presented to confirm every report about Britain, that he lived many days in a state of pleasing wonder. The precious loss of month after month, however, could never be repaired, and his first indisposition brought with it a despondency about conquering Opuni &c. How distress of mind gives the most trifling complaint in India its most aggravated symptoms! Tabiah declined so fast, that a removal from the City of Batavia was directed. He was conveyed to Cooper’s Isle, where his last sigh was breathed over Tayatto lying dead at his feet.
(To be continued)
July 1808. Pages 597-599
Voyage to Batavia.
(Continued from p. 299).
My last closed where our departure from Cooper’s Isle drew near; and as to myself, in a state, compared with our arrival, not differing less than usefulness from discredit. Our Captain had tasted somewhat of the bitterness disease brings, and, nolens volens, turned to a profession for relief, which constant freedom from sickness in healthful habits is too apt to think unnecessary. Whatever slighting opinion of Doctor or of medicines he had imbibed was now palpably changed, and his old looks of scowl and contempt no longer challenged, in spite of subordination, equal unbelief.
The Carpenter, from being the Great Man, from being all in all, sunk into comparative insignificance; whilst little Bolus, Crocus metallorum, Pill-monger, and Clyster-pipe, arose into the by-gone greatness of Broadaxe, of our Mr. Satterly, in seriousness a most worthy respectable man.
The want of repair being now transferred from ship to ship’s company, we made ready for sailing back to Batavia. Our time had passed pleasantly enough, with scarce a dispute or squabble, for six or seven weeks: the weather by day was all along bright and cheering; in the night, now and then, we had a thunder-storm; and about once a week, or oftener, there fell heavy rain. Hardly one evening shut in without some kind of lightning in view. During the showers our tent let water through by wholesale, and, on such occasions, we got fairly washed out; but the morning’s sun and a thirsty soil soon put every thing to rights. Contrivances, by painted canvas, pieces of tarpaulin, or other extra covering, secured the sick upon these visitations; whilst to the rest of the party a good sousing proved only matter of diversion.
Instead of any adieu from the jetty-head, obstinate Sour-paie the Bass muttered deep-mouthed curses; and, as the Devil probably held him a tried servant, every incantation he could make found its hour of misery before we got clear of Java’s pestiferous air. How unlike had been the day of departure from Otaheite, when every eye was strained back to behold the last glimpse of the Island! Not only the spur of public duty, but the faded ideas of family attachment, were conjured up, to drag many of us from that place of fascination; and these of themselves would have been insufficient!
Years after years sunk in the gulph of time, and various circumstances of weight in their day, somewhat flatten the impression: in spite of such, however, that jubilee-spot, so complete an illustration of the fabled Cythera, calls forward at this moment a grateful train of thought to past adventures, in which our utmost indulgences came unaccompanied by the base vexatious alloy of deceit or imposture, jealousies or riot.
The notion of superlative beauty seemed fixed in these charming islanders upon whiteness of skin; and it is not improbable the crew of the Dolphin had much original family-colour to produce: certainly the Endeavour’s although most of us could only boast of the true nutmeg-brown (from kisses of sun and weather) succeeded at once to the happy character, claim, and privilege, of the Dolphin’s; were received by the ladies as acknowledged favourites; and reckoned by these ladies’ male relatives as beings of a superior nature, like Jupiter in his condescending at Thebes by Amphitryon.
Notwithstanding their mistake in admitting us as good specimens of England’s fair-hued sons, on our side there was no mistake as to the symmetry of limb in the Houris we saw; their natural graces, as to the studied elegance of manners, a sultan might well admire. Yet less than a year from London’s galaxy of beauties, not an eye had need to wander far for similar attractions; and one only real difference (tinge of skin) was abundantly compensated by the most irresistible flattery, in admiration incessant of our heretofore valueless white. What were the joyous exertions on the part of my shipmates on such an Island, I leave to
By chance and considering friends, many of us were rich in iron, thanks to the quartermen of Plymouth Dock-yard in 1768, for spike-nails numberless; added to these looking-glasses provided in London for the purpose had fitted out some lucky souls as chapmen for crowned heads to deal with. Oberea took especial care of all afloat; and two spikes and one looking-glass shone a wonder of treasures, no Maid of Honour, the most fastidious in her retinue, was ever found to withstand. The carpenters at Plymouth knew the ship’s destination, and were liberal in the extreme; to them were we personally indebted beyond all account. But for them, the profusion of some gallants, who could and did give away shirts, had well nigh knocked up trade: luckily we had not many such darlings of Plutus on-board – as it was, an emulation, ruinous in body-linen way, left more of the officers in a situation to borrow shirts than to lend one.
Had our stay at Otaheite been much longer, the ship might have been laid up; for not a nail or a bolt, to be drawn by strength or art, could have rested in place to hold her sides together. Fortunately, rather providentially, (and Dr. Hawkesworth, if alive again, would not dispute this correction) a draw-back, needless to repeat now, checked the headlong career of pleasures. This circumstance contributed much to damp a wish and an attempt, which followed but too fatally some years after in the Bounty. Your Readers, those of the Navy at least, will rejoice at our escape from the same slippery precipice, towards which every conducting path teemed with unusual delights. Others, less favoured of Heaven, fell: we suffered in time, in a way most unexpected: that tribulation opportune proved an antidote, our deliverance – it broke the spell of female witchery.
Imagine the ship returned to Batavia Road.
(To be continued)
September 1808. Pages 766-767
Voyage to Batavia.
(Concluded from p. 599)
Our business again at Batavia being only to receive stores, which were soon procured, the gentlemen who had resided in that city returned to the ship. Their most sickly condition called for every medical exertion; yet comparative success hitherto had so puffed me up, that, could the same call be made at this hour, after a long and painful experience in East India complaints, I should hardly
feel more self-confidence.
Lo! The froth of youthful vanity, how soon put down. – Three of that party died presently, and the two principals escaped but by an hair’s breadth. The recovery of these was, questionless, not less owing to good stamina in themselves, than to my utmost efforts. Acknowledgment, however, warm in gratitude, ended but with the life of one; and the other, distinguished with the highest favour in the realm, would have served me materially; but, as he presides in the Chair of Science, instead of the Admiralty Board, I have of course missed of that assistance the shipmates of Lord Anson in the Centurion always found. Good wishes of this Right Honourable Gentleman often expressed are some gratification: and I hold it no trifling advantage to know where we may knock, and be sure to find in the master of the house an effectual friend.
The printed voyage speaks of a fatal flux on-board shortly after leaving Prince’s Island. A parcel of turtle bought of the natives was the cause, aggravated in virulence by many days rainy chilling Westerly winds off Java Head. Every morning the ceremony of a knife drawn across the throat of the turtles which had died in the night, or were thought dying, consigned some to the ship’s cook; and this food hastened through the bowels like quicksilver, leaving as little nourishment. All who had other than the ship’s provisions escaped the flux.
The damp and wet weather was brought by the foul Westerly wind; and our ship made miserable work in plying to windward. No medicine I could give had the least effect – a despondency gained ground; and the Captain seriously lamented, upon perusing my sick list, this probable finish; the vessel will shortly be left without hands to navigate her. I could make no consoling reply.
The turtle got expended, and the bad weather wore out, both together. A blessed S.E. trade reached us; its dry clear sky and vivifying breeze gave a comfort only to be understood after feeling the difference. Several of our crew, apparently dying at the moment of this change of weather, were snatched from death and gradually recovered. One gentleman only, Mr. Booty, afterwards fell a sacrifice, struggling hard through two the last days of a miserably painful existence. His loss I accounted for from the Parmarant imprudence. (See p. 299).
Here it may be objected, why did I not represent the mischief of such improper food? That mischief was all done, and more years served at sea, before I could decide upon this point. Indeed the ignorance that prevailed in the ship as to India among so many people on-board the Endeavour, I mean locally, was remarkable. The Gentleman’s Magazine has beguiled many a painful hour in distant parts of the world; and this charge, protracted so long, against turtle, as considered a diet wholesome after being kept ashore in a starving state, may save some other ship’s company from such a mistake.
We sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, committing afterwards an error so nearly fatal to the ship, that its entire suppression in Hawkesworth’s book can never be reprobated enough amongst seamen. Whilst yet above sixty leagues from land by reckoning, the ship was found at day-break stemming in upon breakers, and the shore so close that little chance appeared of clawing off.
Our steering had been large all night, and now, by bracing up to the wind, that became a-head. Luckily it did not overblow; the ship, instead of drifting to leeward upon the breakers, as we had feared, proved, by our shutting-in the land to the North, to be in the stream of a current sweeping round the coast. This happened near Terra de Natal, and relates to a matter of much more consequence for a Nation so connected with India, than all our researches in the South Sea.
It was once fashionable to read Capt. Cooke’s Voyages. Had this circumstance been properly represented, might it not have saved the Grosvenor? Her fatal wreck, and the more miserable plight of Capt. Coxon, &c. possibly at this moment, are owing to the same mistake of reckoning. Now Sparrman, in his account of Africa, gives us reason to believe that this coast stretches out more Easterly than is laid down in the charts: he shews where the Doddington was lost, clearly by that fault in the geographical descriptions.
Sparrman speaks of the Endeavour’s danger here: he learnt it doubtless by conversation on-board the Resolution, and the world are obliged to him for his repetition. It will for ever remain a curious distinction, that a fact of such importance in a nautical view should have struck Sparrman forcibly, and yet not have merited from Capt. Cooke one word of caution.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 7, volume 39, number 4 (2016).