Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

fully prove.

than an injury, the success in life of them all, and the splendid career of one of them, most

It appears to us that Sir Sidney's father was treated rather harshly throughout the course of these unhappy disagreements. It is a most invidious task to attach anything approaching to censure on any of the progenitors of this distinguished family. We will hastily pass over these occurrences, as they do not appear to have greatly influenced the fortunes of Sir Sidney Smith. Let it be sufficient to mention, that the angry grandfather, owing to some representations made to him by his daughter, removed his three sons from under the care and fostering protection of the father, when they were receiving the first rudiments of their education under the celebrated Mr. Knox of Tunbridge, and caused them to be placed at a boarding-school in Bath, kept by a Mr. Morgan. That Mr. Wilkinson possessed the power thus cruelly to divide the sons from their father, arose out of the circumstances of his being able to withhold from his son-in-law a very great proportion of his not too abundant income. That he could do this neither justly nor legally, a verdict of an English jury subsequently determined :— that he did it with impunity, for some years, is certain.

When William Sidney Smith was between the age of eleven and twelve, Captain Smith, no longer able to bear this unnatural separation, and his yearning to have them under his own care and protection, took away, clandestinely we believe, his three sons from the school at which they had been placed, to his house at Midgham. This commendable and parental act was visited upon him by an attempt to straiten him in his pecuniary resources. The indignant father appealed to the laws of his country, and his conduct was vindicated by obtaining the costs, and heavy damages against his persecutors.

We do not lay much stress upon the opinion that the future man may be indicated by the predilections of the infant; indeed, experience, would rather teach us another doctrine; but as many very sensible persons like to reduce everything to a system, we will, for their satisfaction, and for the amusement of others, relate a puerile anecdote that strongly displayed young Smith's predilection for aquatic exploits ; indeed, that at that unjudging age he loved them better than praying-a very singular depravity, but which, we trust, will be forgiven to him in consideration of his extreme youth.

When William Sidney's father had abducted (for it was in reality an abduction) his children from their boarding-school at Bath, he removed

1

with them to his seat at Midgham in Berkshire. The mansion had been built by Captain Smith's father, and the extensive grounds surrounding it were laid out with great taste. Among the other accessories to the beauty of the place was a large piece of deep water, which immediately attracted the almost undivided attention of the embryo admiral—almost, we say, for even then he showed symptoms of that refined and graceful gallantry to the softer sex that has always marked his character. In fact, he divided his attention with a tolerable impartiality between a young lady of his own age, (eleven years,) this piece of water, and a large washing-tub.

It was the custom of Captain Smith to summon all his household to prayer every evening, and they were called together, in a kind of patriarchal fashion, by the sounding of a horn. One summer's evening the horn was blown the usual number of times; but to the customary blast no William Sidney appeared.

The father grew alarmed, and, as his fears arose, so did the echoes of the horn upon the evening breeze. The young absentee heard the holy summons plainly enough, but he did not obey it, solely because he could not.

His non-appearance had caused great alarm, and the evening devotions were postponed in

a

order that the household might search for the lost and beloved son. He was at length found in a situation extremely nautical, but agreeable only to himself. He had embarked in the large washing-tub his youthful protegée, and taking a long pole, he had contrived, by its means, to place his circular ship, with himself and passenger, in the very centre of the large and deep water. We know very well, upon the best authority, which is that of the nursery, that, when seven wise men went to sea in a bowl, they made a very foolish expedition of it; we must not, therefore, greatly blame young Smith when we relate that by some inadvertence, probably a slight attention to the young lady, the companion of his dangers, he lost his pole.

Unfortunately, just as his alarmed father arrived, it fell calm, and the only motion the tub had was that unpleasant one of the pillory, going slowly round and round. There stood the future hero of many fights, with his arms folded in a manner that reminds one now of the prints of Napoleon on the Island of St. Helena.

Those on shore were totally at a loss how safely to bring the frail vessel with its precious charge on shore, for a very little shifting or tottering would have overturned it. None of the spectators could swim, and night was drawing on

[ocr errors]

!

apace, when, to add to the dismal nature of the scene, William Sidney's companion began to

, wail most bitterly. Indeed, the situation of the children became critical, if not dangerous. It fell, however, to the lot of him who had created, to unravel the difficulty. Having sufficiently enjoyed the glory of his situation, (he was always a little fond of display,) he hailed those on shore, and told them to fasten the string of his kite to a favourite dog that belonged to him. This being done, he called him to the tub, and thus conveyed a towing line on board the first craft that he had the honour of commanding.

When the tub was brought to the bank of the lake, so nicely fitted was the cargo to the tonnage of the tub, that the children were nearly drowned, because the one was attempted to be taken out a little before the other. The father and one of the servants at length snatched them both out simultaneously, and flung them on the grass. Captain Smith was so much affected that he could not, at fir t, speak.

Now, father, we will go to prayers,” said the young desperado.

“ We had better,” he replied, with feelings that a father only can appreciate.

Though this anecdote may be, by some, deemed puerile, we think that it strongly marks the

« AnteriorContinua »