Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

mine. But certain it is, that while an apprentice, among

the “ gallants of Fowey *,” he might, with a triffing variation, have exclaimed, in the language of the celebrated Scottish bard: “ The poetic Genius of my country found me, as the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha — at the Mortar, and threw his inspiring

mantle over me !"

His relation, who was a plain, unsophisticated, and sensible man, had so long and so intimately associated the words

poetry and poverty,” in his own mind, that he deemed them almost synonimous. He was extremely anxious that his nephew should " attend to the main chance," and consequently apply himself to business alone. But the young apothecary was not, according to his own account, very zealous to become, what in scorn he termed a “plodder;"

" and he accordingly withdrew as often as possible, to indulge the master-passion of his heart in secret.

“ As my uncle was always averse to my shining," observes he, in a letter now before us, 6 I used to steal away to an old ruined tower, situate on a rock close by the sea, where many an early and late hour was devoted to the muses. This old tower I have painted, and it makes one of my picturesque views engraved by Alken.”

Here follows an “ Ode to the River Fowey,” which may be supposed to have flowed at his feet, during these moments of inspiration ; and, although it appears to have been actually composed, or at least retouched, at a latter period, there is but little doubt that the original ideas were conceived in his mind at the epoch to which we now allude.

O lovely flood, on whose fair banks
I play'd in early youth my pranks,

And often sail'd thy clear expanse along,
And from thy bosom hook'd up fish,
Pollock and bream, a dainty dish,

Salmon and mackarel, worthy epic song.


* The inhabitants of this town were so denominated in the reign of Edward III., account of their naval exploits. They were, at that periol, half merchants, and half pirates. Preface to Burn's works.

Lobster, turbot, and John Dory,
As nice as e’er were put before ye,
O epicures! and plaice and mullet,
Fit to descend a royal gullet !

Thy margin green, and castles hoar, Where heroes dwelt, and fought of yore.

And smote the daring Gaul with dread, Boast not a muse to sing their praise The tribute of immortal lays,

And cast a glory round their head.

Full oft in summer's golden hour,
We made in boats a happy tour,

Full many a nymph and swain;
And frequent on a verdant bank,
Our tea and well-cream'd coffee drank,

While music pour'd her strain,
Loud on the zephyr's pinions borne,
The triumph of the echoing horn.

The walks of Graham and Trefry,
The walks of Hall delight mine eye,

And pleasant valley of Lewire;
With villas on the winding stream,
That rather look of Fancy's dream,

And claim the Muse's loudest lyre.

Though Britain's king and Britain's queen
Are every year at Weymouth seen,

Thy spirits let me cheer ;
For hark! this instant on the breeze,
In sounds of thunder from the seas,

A voice salutes mine ear!

The majesty of Ocean speaks!
And thus the god sublimely breaks ;

Ye rivers list around !
Though some of ye on Britain's coast,
May many a beauty justly boast,

And much with fish abound;

Though far and wide may fly your name,

Yet it shall be your harbour's lot,

That pretty yet neglected spot, To fill the largest trump of Fame.

[blocks in formation]

Notwithstanding all these untoward propensities, it appears that our young Esculapius soon attained a competent share of medical knowledge, and also conducted himself in such a manner as to acquire the esteem of all to whom he was known.

In the art of drawing, too, he exhibited such an early proficiency as enabled him to depict surrounding objects with a considerable degree of taste and verisimilitude.

He found means, at the same time, to improve both his head and his heart, by a sedulous perusal of the best modern writers.

His kind master, however, still persisted in his resolution of rendering him eminently expert in his art. It was accordingly with this view, that he fitted him out and sent him to London, for the express purpose of obtaining every possible professional assistance. It appears, indeed, from a note, that the chief object was “ hospital practice," and this could be

" alone attained by a residence, of some duration, in the metropolis.

After this, young Wolcot went back to Cornwall, not a little improved, no doubt, both in his own estimation, and that of his neighbours. But he himself was not greatly attached to his present situation, and he began to consider Fowey as a place too small in point of importance, to become the theatre of his ambition. A lively imagination, too, had been set to work, and he was anxious to rush into the world, in search of fame and achievements. Accordingly, panting after distinction, he longed for an opportunity to change the scene and gratify his taste for variety, while he improved his condition.

One at length occurred. Sir William Trelawney, in the year 1767, had the good fortune to be nominated governor of Jamaica, a very lucrative as well as important office; and, even

Fowey is always so pronounced by the inhabitants.

at that period, the second or third in the gift of the crown. To go thither as the medical attendant of his excellency and family, and be considered one of his suite, was an object exactly fitted to the curiosity and ambition of Mr. Wolcot. Nor were his pretensions at all despicable, for he was either related or allied to the new governor, had by this time attained a mature age, and was duly qualified, both by the period he had spent in the capital and the circle of his provincial practice, for such a station. But it was not without great difficulty, and after many entreaties, that he could prevail on his uncle, who was known to and respected by the baronet, to interpose. Reluctant, however, as he was to part with his nephew, this kind hearted man so strongly urged his claims and pretensions, that the appointment actually took place. On this, he immediately applied for, and obtained a degree. As some doubts had been formerly engendered on this subject, we shall here quote a passage from the Doctor's own written communication : “ I qualified myself for the medical walk solely, and the honour of M.D. * was conferred on me by one of the Scotch universities ; so that on my arrival in Jamaica, I acted only as physician.”

On the voyage outward the frigate, as usual on similar occasions, anchored at the island of Madeira, for the express purpose of laying in a stock of wines, fruits, and other refreshments. The

eyes of our bard had hitherto been only accustomed to the wild scenery of Cornwall; rocks, mountains, water, and these too on a grand scale were familiar to him. But here he beheld all these component parts of beauty under new modifications, arising from a sun almost vertical, a soil eminently fertile, and a climate warm, healthy, pure, and

Here too the woods and plantations exhibited a


* It would appear that the diploma was not transmitted until after the receipt of proper certificates, testifying the skill and respectability of the candidate. The celebrated Dr. Huxham, then residing at Plymouth, was so conscientious on the present occasion, that he would not affix his signature, until after a strict examination by himself.

It is not however correct, although repeatedly stated, that Dr. Wolcot accompanied his Excellency in the character of “ Physician General to the island," as no such appointment existed either then or now,


degree of luxuriance seldom witnessed by an Englishman, while the vineyards, loaded with the white and purple grape, proclaimed the approach of vintage. The apple and the pear were indeed almost unknown; but the face of the country seemed

1 to present the gardens of the Hesperides to hiş enraptured view; for it exhibited the pine, the orange, the pomegranate, the fig, and an endless variety of other productions, in a degree of beauty, excellence, and abundance seldom witnessed by mortal man.

Perched on the back of a mule, Doctor Wolcot gratified his curiosity by ascending the neighbouring hills; now viewing the boundless ocean to the right, and now turning to the left, to contemplate the objects around him, every one of which attracted his attention, by its richness, novelty, or picturesque appearance. He endeavoured to transfer some of these enchanting views to paper; but without much success: for here were not to be found any of his favourite objects : ruined battlements, decayed castles, and solitary rocks.

The efforts of his pen proved far superior to those of his pencil; the Muse, which had so often visited him in Cornwall, did not forsake him here: for he composed some sonnets, which, from their elegant simplicity and plaintive air, were deemed highly deserving of attention.

After a residence of a few days in the capital, where they were treated with great hospitality by the Portuguese Governor, Sir William Trelawney and suite reimbarked; and, receiving and returning a salute, the same as on their arrival, proceeded on the destined voyage. Having shaped their course for the West India Archipelago, which forms a crescent in the Atlantic, thickly studded with islands, they at length experienced the benignant influence of the trade-winds, and passing the tropic soon after espied land. Meanwhile they were all amused with the singular scene around them. Here was one of the numerous clusters of little islands, discovered by Columbus, within sight, and almost within grasp. The shore was level and swampy, but it soon swelled, first into delightful ascents, and then into hills and mountains, the latter

« AnteriorContinuar »