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the public, I shall only be imitating the example of a host of other writers, who, with far less opportunities of observation than chance has thrown in my way, have not hesitated to draw largely on their patience.
To those who may object that a deficient education, or an humble position in life are in themselves circumstances that necessarily incapacitate one from contributing to the general stock of amusement and instruction, I have only to reply, that it is neither education, nor rank, nor wealth which in this, as in most worldly distinctions, determines one's claims to consideration; for the humbler the station in which we may be placed, and the greater the struggles we have to encounter, the more likely are we to develop qualities that would otherwise have lain dormant in pampered indolence.
Let it not be supposed, from these few prefatory observations, that I am about to inflict on my readers the important nothings of an inflated autobiography :--such is far from my intention. I desire to occupy no more prominent place in the scenes I am about to describe than the stage carpenter, or call boy, who, with no pretensions to creative power, are yet necessary to the reproduction of images which are supposed to have an affinity with nature.
The commencement of hostilities with the
Burmese empire, in 1823, rendered large drafts from our home forces necessary. I was then a young, and like most persons at that age, a foolish and inexperienced lad, entertaining a thorough contempt and dislike for every thing like useful occupation; and an equally strong admiration of the pomp and circumstance of military life. When I look back to this period and recall the enthusiastic and ambitious hopes with which my young breast was filled—hopes destined never to be realized—I cannot help smiling at my own folly. And yet the retrospect is tinged with something of a melancholy feeling too, for there are few who can look upon the past without being conscious of having in some way misapplied their talents, and lost opportunities that may never again fall in
During the heat of my military ardour, I one day stumbled upon the recruiting sergeant and the result is not difficult to guess. I was on my way to India with a detachment of the-th Dragoons before I had time to reflect on the consequences of the step I had taken, but reflection being then too late I made up my mind not too add to the disagreeable realities of my position by useless repining, but to pursue the career I had chalked out for myself with a cheerful spirit and firm heart.
It is wonderful with what gay colours a little philosophy of this sort invests life. There is no state of circumstances however disagreeable that may not be divested of a portion of its unpleasantness by a disposition to view things through a contented medium. Our joys and
our sorrows are mostly of our own creation and he is a fool, who knowing this, suffers his spirit to sink under the petty annoyances of life. It is Dryden I think who says, and says wisely,
Happy the man and happy he alone;
The voyage to India crowding as it often does, into a brief space of time, incidents enough to fill up the measure of a life, has supplied such hacknied themes to the novel writers of the day that it was not at first my intention to dwell upon it. On reflection, however, I see no reason why the relation of actual occurrences should be omitted, because fiction has taken liberties with the subject.
As we approached Ascension Island, a suicide took place, which may be cited as a proof of the characteristic fondness of the Irish for liquor. A seaman, named O'Neil, a fine, ablebodied young fellow, having been reprimanded by the first mate for neglect of duty, turned upon him and made him some insolent answer. The circumstance was reported to the captain, and he ordered the Irishman's grog to be stopped. At eight bells, on the following day, O'Neil attended at the tub, but was refused his usual allowance. Casting a contemptuous look on the mate, he exclaimed—“ Better stop my wind than my grog:” and before any of us were aware of his intention jumped overboard. The sea was running high at the time, and the ship was crowded with canvass. The captain immediately ordered the vessel to be put about, and the boats to be lowered; but every exertion to save the poor fellow proved fruitless, as he had disappeared from view before any of these steps could be taken.