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ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET; VICE-ADMIRAL OF GREAT BRITAIN;
AND FIRST LORD COMMISSIONER OF THE ADMIRALTY,
PREVIOUS TO, AND DURING, THE
SIR JOHN BARROW, BART., F.R.S.
TUC "LIFE OF ADMIRAL LORD HOWE."
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
E 45 · Abh
The Life of Lord Anson, though wholly spent in the civil and military services of the navy, is certainly less generally known than that of such an officer ought to be, who, by character and conduct, worked his way to the very top of his profession, to the head of the naval administration, and to a peerage ; and to whom was intrusted the principal direction of the fleets of Great Britain, during the two French and Spanish wars which occurred in the reign of George II. Every body has heard of, and multitudes have read, “ Anson's Voyage round the World;" many are acquainted with the fact of his having been, for a long time, First Lord of the Admiralty, and many in the profession may also know, that he fought a great action, took six ships of war, and defeated two important expeditions ; but it may be doubted whether the great majority of readers, even those in the naval service, know much more about him than these few particulars. The recollection of His late Majesty even (than whom few were better read in naval history, or better acquainted with the characters of naval officers, or whose memory was more retentive), failed him on one remarkable occasion with regard to Anson, the
omission of whose name, in the eulogy he bestowed on other officers, drew from him an expression of regret, and at the same time of the high opinion he entertained of Anson.*
It is true, as the King said, Anson was not a brilliant character: he was not one who had the faculty of shining in conversation or in writing, nor can his biographer give a detail of heroic deeds, such as the life of a Nelson or a Wellington affords, but no man's moral courage was put to a more severe test than that of Anson. He was no boaster; I have somewhere seen it observed that he was too modest ever to speak of his very unequal combat with the Acapulco galeon, or of the victory he gained off Cape Finisterre. In this kind of feeling Howe and St. Vincent participated. The former never talked of the glorious 1st of June, nor did the latter of the 14th of February ; it is said indeed he always discouraged that topic being brought into conversation. I think it was Lord St. Vincent who once made the observation, that it was that man only who had performed one little exploit who was for ever talking about it.
* The occasion was this. His Majesty, on the anniversary of the battle of Camperdown falling on a Sunday, attended by the Board of Admiralty and certain naval officers, heard divine service in the chapel of Greenwich Hospital, and afterwards dined at St. James's. When the queen and the ladies were about to retire, the king requested they would stay, as he had a few words to say regarding the British navy. He began with the landing of Julius Cæsar in Britain, which, he said, must have proved to the natives the necessity of a naval force to prevent and repel foreign invasion; and he went over the main features of all the great battles that had been fought down to that of Trafalgar.
Assembled in the drawing-room, after dinner, he beckoned me to him, and said, “I fear I forgot to mention the name of Anson, and the action he fought off Cape Finisterre : I am not sure I know the details correctly; pray send me an account of it to-morrow." He added, “Anson was a good man, and knew his business well; though not brilliant, he was an excellent First Lord, improved the build of our ships, made more good officers, and brought others forward in the Seven-Years' War, than any of his predecessors had done. Howe, Keppel, Saunders, and many others, were of his making.”
But if the Life of Anson affords not scope for recording many brilliant deeds of his own, he had the great merit of preparing fleets, selecting, appointing and making officers to command them, by which and by whom the British navy was never more triumphant, nor that of France more humbled and reduced, than in the Seven-Years' War, when Anson may be said to have had the whole direction of the naval department. No one ever formed a juster estimate of naval characters ; and it is worthy of remark that the officers who served under him, in his .celebrated voyage, were those who highly distinguished themselves in the said war — Saunders, Keppel, Brett, Denis, &c.
The fate of Admiral Byng is too intimately connected with the administration in which Anson held a prominent position, too deeply affecting the naval character, and too painfully impressive, to be omitted or slightly passed over in a work like this. What individual share Anson had in this deep tragedy, I liave not been able to discover; he had however his