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Quote: “For winter or summer he rigged alike…” 15 February, 2010

Posted by Molly Joyful in Books, Cuthbert Collingwood, Quotes, Royal Navy.
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“Poor old Cuddy! a better soul, nor braver heart in breeze or battle, never thumped ‘twixt the ribs of man! He was none o’ your nice-uns as never seed daylight till the decks were dried up, and reg’larly reported dry as a bone. Sea or harbour, wet or dry, gale or calm, the dawn always seed him on deck. There he’d pace the break o’ the poop, with his bluebreeks and white stockings (for winter or summer he rigged alike), his hard-weather hat shipped—for the scraper he bent in a breeze was always in use afore breakfast. It was as brown as a berry, and the lace round the rim as black as an old copper bolt. Well, there, with his three-cocked-scraper a-thawtships—for ’twas a reg’lar razee—ay, lower cut-down nor a Green’ich boson’s—well, there, in this sort o’ rig, he’d pace the poop, twirling his two thumbs afore him, for all the world like a straighthaired quaker, whilst the mizen-topmen washing decks of a morn, would sluish and slash the water about him, in every direction.

“Never mind me,” he’d say, as if he was no more,—no, no more nor a reg’lar galoot, never mind me, my man,” (for he always spoke to a man like a man,) “if I gets in your way,” he’d say, in a voice and look as told the truth of his tongue—for half your chaps as say a kind word to a fellow, don’t say it so much from their nat’ral bent, as to try and earn a name, as they knows in their hearts they doesn’t desarve—”if  I gets in your way,” old Cuddy ‘ould say—”it’s my fault, my man, and not yours, my man.”

He’d the most takenest tongue I ever met in my day.—I’m blessed, if I woudn’t rather get a reg’lar blowin-up from he—nor—ay,—a good word from half your capring skippers.”

Quote from an unknown tale by “Captain Glasscock”, as reviewed in The Edinburgh review, Vol. 52, October 1830 to January 1831. In the same issue, the first book my Frederick Marryat was reviewed, and they didn’t like it – “we are sorry to be obliged to say, that it is marked by many violations of taste and propriety.”

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1. ShipRat - 16 February, 2010

Arrrrrrhh me hearties! That fictional sea-dog jargon goes down like a maggoty biscuit, me lads! *cough, hack, choke*
If old Cuddy could read this he might remark, Erm, what language is this in? …Nah, he would never end a sentence with a preposition.

Molly Joyful - 16 February, 2010

If old Cuddy could read this he might remark, Erm, what language is this in?

He’d probably value the sentiment far higher than the words used to express them.

2. Nana - 16 February, 2010

Brilliant find! :)

Molly Joyful - 16 February, 2010

Thank you! It’s very sweet, and gives a rather three-dimensional description, even if it’s probably a bit romanticised.

3. Jen - 16 February, 2010

It’s a wonderful quote – but it does sound like the kind of thing no one would have dared to say while he might read it! :)

Molly Joyful - 16 February, 2010

Hehe, you’re probably right! Still, I can well imagine he’d secretly been very flattered. ;)

4. ShipRat - 16 February, 2010

Sorry to snap at poor old Captain Glasscock. What bugs me is that we’ll never know for sure whether this is a true story. (Specifically the bit about C’s comment, “I’m getting in your way not you in mine”)
This isn’t my strong suit at all, but… if I’m not mistaken, from this period there are a number of “reminiscences” of the heroic age of sail, in which fact, fiction, satire, etc. were freely mixed. And when they contain a little nugget like this, there’s no earthly way to know whether it’s fact or fiction.
Grrr, I want to retrospectively shake these writers and tell them, “The facts man, only the facts!” :-/

Molly Joyful - 16 February, 2010

I don’t think it matters if it’s a true story (it’s a quote from a “tale”, which usually implies fiction). But the scene matches perfectly with other descriptions of Collingwood, and many of those who served under him were still alive at the time this tale was written. The author probably used actual statements (though, admittedly, memories tend to be rose-tinted) to write it. What he got spot on, in my opinion, is the admiration of Collingwood’s men for their admiral.

“The facts man, only the facts!”

That would leave us with very thin history books! ;)

5. ShipRat - 16 February, 2010

Thin but well-founded :-)

Of course you’re right, it’s a great story, it illustrates the point well, and I truly didn’t mean to give offense – tho I fear I’ve done so, for which I am sorry. :*-(

It’s just the sense of lost opportunity that dismays me in general (not really about this in particular). Can’t help it. I could never be a historian. Don’t know how they stand it.

The real lost opportunity is when an actual biographer “improves” the info at his fingertips. AFAIK when G. Newnham Collingwood published his collection of Lord Collingwood’s letters, he denatured them where he thought it appropriate, removing some of Collingwood’s acidity, unusual notions, who knows what else. Nothin we can do about it now, if the originals are no more…

What I really REALLY want to know is whether Collingwood actually had a hat like that. And before I die I want a hat like John Jervis.
http://tinyurl.com/y8z6vlg

Molly Joyful - 16 February, 2010

Aw, no, I’m not offended. :) Usually, I’m of the “facts!facts!facts!” school myself. But with history, we’ll never know 100% how things (and people!) really were, because following generations always feel they have to “improve” facts. Newnham’s bleach-treatment of Collingwood’s letters is an excellent example for that. But if we take facts and fiction and legends, treating them like tiny puzzle pieces, we might be lucky to get some sort of realistic picture. At times it’s frustrating that we don’t know the whole truth, but then again, it makes history fun.

And before I die I want a hat like John Jervis.

… that’s – very special! D + G it ain’t! :-D

6. ShipRat - 16 February, 2010

In her afterword to The Persian Boy, one of her books on Alexander, Mary Renault rants about Quintus Curtius (sp?), biographer of Alexander in antiquity. She laments that he had access to invaluable primary sources, now lost, which he transmits to us in garbled, obfuscated, moralized form. (Something like that – it’s been a while.)

Yeah. What she said.

The late Colin White’s “Nelson: New Letters” is such a pleasure to read because the original letters are presented complete, with the expert compiler’s interpretations and supplementary information alongside.

Now if only we had some energetic person and a spot of funding to do a “Collingwood Letters” project.
*wishing*

Molly Joyful - 26 February, 2010

I guess the temptation to paint the past pink is too great; whatever we know about history has to be taken with a huge grain of salt. It’s like the three blind men describing an elephant, and it’s up to us to figure out the truth. I’m all in favour of a Collingwood Letter Project, of course, and who knows? Maybe this year will kick off some interesting activities which go beyond celebrations and firing of salutes.


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