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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.
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 have not been able to discover; he had however his share of responsibility, as First Lord of the Admiralty, for the harsh and severe measures taken against the unfortunate admiral in the first instance, which, in fact, led to all the rest ; but no blame attaches to him for the selection of this officer, who, being a full admiral in the actual command of the Channel fleet, and no complaint appearing against him, could not have been superseded, without casting a stain on his character,
In writing the Life of Anson, it would have been unpardonable not to give an outline of the voyage round the world, the second performed by any Englishman, that of Drake being the first. The narrative of this voyage is cleverly drawn up, but it does not give the sentiments and feelings of the Commodore, under the many distressing incidents and the melancholy occurrences that befel him and his companions. This is a fault inseparable from a narrative of personal adventures, drawn up by a second hand, not concerned in them. It is generally understood that, although it bears the name of Mr. Walter, the chaplain, the account of the voyage was written by Mr. Robins, an engineer officer of great talent and celebrity; but the widow of Walter claimed the work as that of her husband. Lady Anson, in a letter to Dr. Birch, asks, “ Pray is Mr. Robins' second volume almost ready for President Montesquieu’s approbation ?”— implying his authorship of the first. And a letter of Lord Anson makes a similar inquiry. This second volume would have furnished an interesting document, as showing the real state and extent of nautical science when this voyage was performed, which we know only, very partially, from Pascoe Thomas, the schoolmaster ; but its loss, in other respects, is not much to be regretted. Major Rennell observes, in a letter to his friend, " I forgot to say, in defence of Anson's voyage, that a second volume, containing the nautical observations, was written, and approved by Anson ; but Colonel Robins, being hurried off to India (as Engineer General), took the manuscript with him, to revise and correct, very contrary to Anson's desire. Robins died not long after at Fort St. David, and the manuscript could never be found.” But with regard to the writer of the first volume, the matter appears to be set at rest by what follows.
In 1761, Dr. James Wilson, a particular friend of Mr. Robins, published his “Mathematical Tracts, ” in the preface of which he satisfactorily decides the question whether Mr. Walter, the chaplain to the Centurion, whose name it bears, or Mr. Robins, the engineer officer, to whom it has generally been given, be the real author of that celebrated work; or whether, which I have always thought most probable, both these gentlemen did uot participate in it. Dr. Wilson says,
“Of this voyage the public had for some time been in expectation of seeing an account composed under his Lordship’s own inspection. For this purpose the Rev. Mr. Richard Walter was employed, as having been chaplain aboard the Centurion for the greatest part of the expedition. Mr. Walter had accordingly almost finished his task, having brought it down to his own departure from Macao for England, when he proposed to print his work by subscription. Then Mr. Robins being recommended as a proper person for reviewing it, on examination it was resolved that the whole should be written entirely by Mr. Robins; what Mr. Walter had done, being, as Mr. Robins informed me, almost all taken verbatim from the Journals, and was to serve as materials only. And, upon a strict perusal of both performances, I find Mr. Robins' to contain about as much matter again as that of Mr. Walter; and indeed the introduction entire, with many dissertations in the body of the book, were composed by Mr. Robins, without having received the least hint from Mr. Walter's manuscript; and what he had thence transcribed regarded chiefly the wind and the weather, the currents, courses, bearings, distances, offings, soundings, moorings, and the qualities of the ground they anchored on, with such particulars as generally fill up a sailor's account. So this famous voyage was composed, in the person of the Centurion's chaplain, by Mr. Robins in his own style and manner.”
If however the description of Mr. Walter's production be correct, Mr. Robins must have been not a little indehted to the “ Journal of the Voyage,” published three years before, namely, in 1745, by“ Pascoe Thomas, teacher of the mathematics on board the Centurion,” a very respectable work, containing nearly all that is found in Robins', and, in some respects, unnecessarily, more. To corroborate the statement made by Doctor Wilson as to Robins' share in the work, he further states that Mr. Robins' friends, Mr. Glover and Mr. Ockenden, with himself, compared the printed book with Mr. Walter's manuscript The fact then appears to be simply this—that Walter drew the cold and naked skeleton, and that Robins clothed it with flesh and muscles, and, by the warmth of his imagination (chaleur d'imagination, as a French writer says), caused the blood to circulate through the veins, giving a colour and freshness to the portrait.
An observation was made by some one (I think in Nicholl's Literary Anecdotes) that there is not a single expression in the book that could lead a stranger to suppose it had been written by a Christian (much less by a clergyman) or suited for the reading of Christians; and this accords with a remark made by the late Major Rennell, that in the whole narrative of such dangers, distresses, and calamities, as rarely, if ever, occurred in any voyage, before or since, the word Providence is not to be found. Perhaps not; but the finding of a compass on Tinean, when the Centurion had been driven to