[Adam Duncan] [John Jervis] [Lord Howe]
The first of the admirals, Adam Duncan (1746-1804), son of a Dundee merchant, was a career sailor during the middle and latter years of the eighteenth century and is rightly famous for a victory over the Dutch, commanded by de Winter, offshore the village of Camperdown, in 1797. Duncan (promoted admiral in 1785) hoisted his flag in the Venerable, blockading the Dutch at the mouth of the Texel, until forced by storms to sail back to Yarmouth for refitting, whereupon de Winter ventured out (October 7th 1797). Duncan returned to block any Dutch return into the Texel and on October 11th signalled that his sixteen ships should pass through the Dutch lines to leeward and engage (one notes Nelson's similar tactics implemented later at the Nile). Vice-admiral Onslow attacked the Dutch rear and Duncan himself sailed through the lines at great cost, his ship becoming almost unmanageable (as example of the fury of the fighting, note the fate of the crew of Ardent noted below). It could be argued that Onslow saved the day since, after smashing the Dutch rear, he came to Duncan's assistance. Victory was gained, nine Dutch ships sunk and many damaged: yet others ran for it. Dutch hopes of an invasion of England were ruined. Duncan was awarded a pension and created Baron Duncan of Lundie and Viscount Duncan of Camperdown.4
Duncan literature is sparse (incidentally, nothing has emerged - so far - about Onslow). Pitts printed Duncan and Victory, a Dibdin song appearing in a whole set of Dibdin patriotic verse.5 This piece perfectly illustrates the difference in expression as found in what has, in this series of articles and notes, been described as 'scribbledom' as opposed to ballad convention. There is nothing in ballad literature approaching the relatively convoluted and high-sounding phraseology, elongated for effect as it is by constant adjectival adornment, as this:
Again the willing trumph of fame,This is also sustained panegyric, emphasised in a chorus:
Receives from bounteous heaven
Around glad nature's son's to call,
And make with wonder the terrestial
Strike shuddering France and harrow'd
With Duncan's thunder and Britan-
Confirm'd a new her empire o'er, the
… prizing what fateApart from 'Dismay to France' and 'horror to Spain':
Union, content, and gratitude to
Three hours nine ships saw captur'dAgain, 'Droop fearful France' and 'sink trembling Spain' for:
Vain Holland's dream of powr's no
Duncan in thunder greets Britannia'sThere is nary a thing in this that refers to the actuality of events at Camperdown in 1797 except for that total of nine ships captured.
Proclaim anew the sovereign of the
Duncan is, in fact, mentioned in two other pieces in the same Dibdin assemblage - in Naval Victories, where we find 'Brave Duncan so nobly Dutch treachery requiting', and in Yo Heave Ho (a piece in which a character known as Tom Tough speaks - Tom Tough is also the name of another jolly tar piece wheels within wheels appearing):
I sail'd with valiant Howe, I sail'd withDuncan also appears in yet another Dibdin piece, A Salt Eel For Mynheer, a very generalised and predictably cavalier dismissal of foreign arms:
And in gallant Duncan's fleet sang
out yo heave ho …
WHY, Jack, my fine fellow, here's glorious news, -The piece refers to 'Nine sail of the line' thus more than suggesting that the ostensible subject is Camperdown, after which 'How the Mounseers will jabber at this'.
Lord, I could have told 'em as much,
That the devil himself durst not stand in their shoes,
If Duncan fell in with the Dutch …
Eventually, in lines meant, it seems, to be taken as a chorus, Dibdin concludes his first stanza, emphasising generality in that:
We'll bang the Spaniards,The French, indeed, are castigated for not coming out of harbour to fight and the reason is given - it was:
Belabour the Dutch,
And block up and laugh at the French.
Lest from Bridport they get such another salt eelSimilarly, whilst the French, Spanish and Dutch might lay their heads together in order to 'sail up the Thames, take us all in our beds' and then 'hoist on the Tower their flag', yet:
As brave Duncan prepared for Mynheer …
… when Jervis, or Duncan, or Bridport come on,Finally, there is a general admonition to the 'audience' - English - to sing its nation's praises and take care of wife, family and king
They are damnably sick in the crew …
The man, then, so blest, who disseminates strife,Nothing is said of the events in Camperdown. This is in the line of fodder for the nation's appetite for victory. The piece appears on one broadside.6
Deserves, while he sinks in disgrace,
Neither king to protect him, to move him a wife,
Nor children to smile in his face …
It might have been hoped that two 'New' songs 'in praise of Admiral Duncan' would give us a better clue as to the course of events but this is hardly the case in the first which, in phraseology, immediately sets a ballad tone, adopting a 'Come-all-ye' invitation:
Good people of England I pray now attend,One notes the epithet 'bold'. The same is found in much ballad literature as evidenced in pieces about Nelson on this site. After a chorus, the epithet is repeated
Unto these few lines which lately I've penn'd,
Concerning bold Duncan, an admiral by fea,
How him and his tars have gain'd the victory.
It's come my bold Britons be of good cheer,- an empty enough gesture.
The wars will be o'er by and by, never fear;
Had they all been Duncan's (sic) fince the wars begun,
They would have been o'er, and the victory won …
And so the piece proceeds, with few concessions to actuality. It invites the reader to wait awhile because, perhaps, the 'bold Duncan the French may beguile' Duncan is, in fact, set in the panoply of admirals (though they are un-named) who would never give up 'to the proud Monfieurs'. And, similarly, 'I wish that the Spaniards would heave out to fea' so that the admirals and especially Duncan would 'bring them to England'. Further still, 'I hope' that yet another Duncan will arise to fight against the French:
And then in a battle to beat them full fore,So a health is proposed to Duncan and 'his jolly tars', the last another predictable description. The piece does, though, spare a thought 'likewife to Onflow that brave admiral' - and to the rest of 'our brave Commanders' ('brave' is another well-worn adjective in the context of naval encounters).
As Duncan as (sic) done the Myniers (sic) before.
And there is a somewhat curious stanza, presumably best understood by a strictly contemporary audience, describing an 'illumination' - which would probably mean a general rejoicing - during which even Jacobins, 'However treacherous they be', joined in the celebrations. The piece concludes rather lamely (to our eyes):
So now to conclude, here's an end of my fong,In the final two lines, a general hope as found in other ballads emerges - for example, in England's Glory Or Bonaparte's Downfall and in Nelson's Glorious Victory at Trafalgar. Of the action at Camperdown itself we learn practically nothing. This is conventional ballad text.7
I think I have faid nothing here that is wrong:
I hope we shall have a peace without long delay,
And then but trade will go merrily they say.
A second 'New' song, this time from a named author, a J Prat, succumbs somewhat to the Dibdin treatment but is perhaps a little constrained by being set to the tune of Arethusa8:
TO tame the Dutch, our treacherous foes,Again, one notes the word 'brave' used to describe Duncan - later, he is described as an 'admiral bold' (just like Nelson) and then as 'our brave admiral'.
And give Mynheers a bloody nofe,
Brave Duncan to the Texel goes,
Expecting they would meet him …
In fact, the author does allow us a glimpse of some detail if not at first intimately connected with the action how the Dutch would not venture but tried to keep secure at home; and then, more in accord with actuality, how 'we' went to Yarmouth roads in order to take on board 'Frefh ftores our ifle afford' and how ships 'quickly were refitted'. Following on:
Our Admiral foon a fignal fpies,Then the piece allows a glimpse of the battle:
Prepare my lads! He loudly cries,
The proud Mynheer from the Texel steers …
All hands then to their quarters run,The time given - twelve o'clock - is accurate enough. Duncan had given the signal to engage the enemy closely at around ten minutes past eleven but firing did not commence until just before noon.
Each tar with courage feiz'd his gun,
At twelve the bloody fight begun,
At every fire our foes expire,
We drum'd them to our heart's defire:
God prosper Britifh sailors …
Further, according to the ballad, eleven Dutch ships engaged three British ships but they were made to surrender. De Winter 'haul'd his colours down', and the British were victorious. Of eleven other ships, only four escaped. Two admirals were made prisoner. Nine ships of the line were captured (a true figure).
In a curious passage, the author records that on board Ardent, 'Brave captain Burgel's nobly fell'. Actually, the name is mis-spelled, the captain of Ardent being named Richard Burgess. He was killed alright, along with Ardent's master, some thirty-three seamen and six marines. There were around a hundred wounded as well. On the British side alone, there were, in fact, two hundred and twenty-eight men killed in the battle and over a thousand injured.9
All this 'On the glorious eleventh of October'. Then:
Let every loyal Briton fing,Duncan, just as he was in the first 'New' song, is thus set within the usual panoply of British naval heroes, an admiral much like any other admiral, in the manner of many Nelson ballads. The important point seems to have been to keep up British spirits, emphasising and re-emphasising success in well-known terms and with less regard to exact detail of either fight or character. J Prat is not that removed in his literary style from anonymous ballad convention.
God fave great George our king!
And in her train lay victory bring,
Long peace unto our nation.
To Duncan and his tars fuccefs …
And Vincent bold, who Spain controul'd;
With Howe also, who arm'd ablow,
That brought the fleet of Galla low:
Succefs to all true Britons
Much later (1891), John Ashton printed a piece in his Real Sailor Songs10 entitled A Song In Praise Of Admiral Duncan and this, too, differs little from the foregoing examples:
Come all you bold Tars who long for glory and renown,A chorus includes generic images (my italics):
See your Courage and Conduct with Victory crown'd,
Commanded by DUNCAN, the bravest of men,
We will conquer the Dutch again and again.
For such valour would soon put an end to the wars,There is, though, an individual perspective in the piece the Dutch stealing away from the Texel at night in order to assist 'the proud French' who, it seems, 'Old Scotland intending to take and subdue'. The mystery of this reference remains.
As Admiral Duncan, and his brave British Tars,
Who boldly fought like heroes bright for honour and
And defie the French and Dutch for to alter the Laws.
The battle itself is hardly described: 'On the eleventh of October we had them in sight' and 'Our valorous forces compell'd them to fight', whereupon the Dutch called for quarter and 'Three cheers, showed the British had gain'd their desire'. 'Brave' Duncan took 'D'Winter' and '12 more were tane (sic)', one sunk and thousands of Dutchmen 'slain'.
Again there is an individual touch as the 'valour' of 'Brave Captain Trollope' is mentioned fighting 'like a Hero of Fame and Renown'. Henry Trollope commanded the 74-gun Russell and had kept watch with a small squadron over the Texel when Duncan was in Yarmouth refitting. Duncan received early information from Trollope about the Dutch being at sea.
Finally, thousands of people, with tears in their eyes, watched the fight 'From the banks of Old Holland'. Duncan achieved 'Victory Complete'.
The piece is hardly enlightening and one must assume that, like the other pieces, and whenever it was first issued, it was designed to remind the British of their immediate heritage, to rally them to the continuing cause. The administration often needed a boost when the wars became unpopular through loss and privation; ballads discussed here would seem to have fitted the bill. Further, Ashton's ballad, the tone very much in keeping with that of other ballads noted above, might suggest that the piece made its first appearance nearer to rather than further from events than the original publishing date of Real Sailor Songs in 1891 would indicate. Printers, of course, were ever open to commercial consideration.
Duncan (and others) remain as shadowy figures … or, rather, figureheads. And, after the small eruption as discussed above, there is no further sign of Duncan in printed balladry as the century progressed. Nor did he survive in song (except in passing in, say, Deeds… and in Bold Nelson's Praise).11 In this he is lost to view as were the vast majority of heroes.
Jervis eventually became Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, in November 1796 at a time when the British had been expelled from the Mediterranean unable to counter the build-up of French naval power and the declaration of war on Britain by the Spanish; and his most notable achievement came during the action off Cape St Vincent in 1797. Jervis found that a Spanish fleet under its admiral Don José Cordoba Y Ramos was out from Cartagena (1st February) bound for the safety of Cadiz; and though outnumbered (his own despatches perhaps exaggerated the proportion just a little) Jervis - aboard Victory - 'happily formed in the most compact order of sailing in two lines' whilst the Spanish had separated into two sections. He felt 'justified in parting from the regular system' and passed through the Spanish lines, aided by a fog which helped blanket his movements, tacked and came up to leeward (as Duncan, be it noted, had done before him). Four ships were captured, including San José (see below).
This is not quite the full story. It had been Nelson on reconnaissance in Minerve who had found the Spanish fleet and who had sailed through Spanish lines (11th February) so as to give Jervis the vital information and enable battle on 14th February. The Spanish fleet was sailing in two groups and the larger of them attempted to sail away. Jervis gave pursuit. Nelson, meanwhile, back in his own ship, Captain, had come close to the fleeing larger group and, disregarding Jervis's orders to turn and engage the smaller group, placed his ship across the track of the bigger proportion of the Spanish fleet. Jervis immediately ordered Excellent (under Collingwood's command) to make the same manoeuvre across the rear of the Spanish fleet. Captain received the brunt of Spanish fire, becoming virtually disabled, so Nelson ran alongside the enemy in the shape of San Nicolas and boarded. Collingwood, in Excellent, laying alongside San José, found the latter entangling itself with San Nicolas and Nelson was able to cross that ship and board San José thus enabling the capture of both: an action famously known afterwards as 'Nelson's Bridge'.
Jervis made a show of reprimanding Nelson for ignoring his orders and it seems that if the Spaniards had proved as able as the British then Nelson's gesture might have had another result. However, the Spanish fleet withdrew and never threatened again. The immediate upshot of the action was that the British could once more enter the Mediterranean which they had been forced to quit in 1796. From this position, not long after, came the battle of the Nile.
After the battle at Cape St Vincent Jervis was elevated to the peerage as Earl St Vincent. Nelson was knighted. The two men went on to share mutual respect and activity.
Where ballads and songs are concerned, we begin with a broadside entitled England's Glory, Or the Downfall of Spain. A NEW SONG …12 that continues in something of the vein discovered in discussion of Duncan, listing previous admirals:
BRAVE Anson and Hawke were fam'd heroesThe scansion makes it pretty certain that a known tune was being invoked - The Roast Beef of Old England, a Richard Leveridge composition dating from 1735 setting words by Henry Fielding from The Grub-Street Opera which was first performed in 1731. One notes the spelling 'Jarvis' in the title whereas in the body of the text it is spelled 'Jervis' … the same pronunciation is assumed.
And of Rodney and Howe mighty deeds have been
Next the glory of Jervis to you I'll unfold.
O the gay tars of Old England,
And O the bold brave Englifh tars.
The battle at Cape St Vincent is described, actually in detail that progresses logically time-wise; how on 'valentine's Day', Jervis encountered a 'spanifh fleet' and how, at eleven, 'he bore down upon their main line' (battle was actually joined at around eleven-thirty), attacking with 'Fifteen againft twenty and seven of their line'. Jervis 'pour'd in fuch broadsides to the Trinidad' that she was forced out of the battle and:
The Sa'vador del mundo unto us did ftrike,Then, 'The San Nicholas, and San Isidro we've got' … ; and 'Don Winthuyfen, their General, was kill'd' together with a great many others.
The San Jofeph to fight us no longer did like,
The reft of their fleet in confusion did [pike] …
By acting fo glorious a beating they've got'.For the record, the ships mentioned above were actually Santissima Trinidad (120 guns); San José (112 guns) on board of which was the admiral F J Winthuysen who, with both legs shot off, surrendered his sword to Nelson before being carried below deck to die; Salvador del Mundo (112 guns); San Nicolas (80 guns); and San Ysidro (74 guns). San José, captured, later entered the British fleet as San Josef - perhaps the ballad-maker took a cue from that occurrence. At Trafalgar (21 October 1805), flying the flag of Rear Admiral Don Baltazar de Cisneros, Santissima Trinidad (it is thought that she carried 136 guns by then) was targetted by the British and eventually surrendered to Neptune, commanded by Nelson's close friend Captain Thomas Fremantle; was taken in tow by Prince; but, being badly damaged, sank in the storm that followed Trafalgar.
The ballad continued: the British 'wooden walls' took, sank or disabled the Spanish fleet, 'Whilst commerce and trade plenty brings to our table' - we have found such hopes before. The final two stanzas are almost illegible on copy but appear to praise the king, damn the Spaniards and 'give merit' to Jervis and his 'brave crew'.
There is another broadside, this time entitled Jervis Taking The Spanish Fleet.13 In it, after an appropriate opening - 'Once more, you British heroes' that immediately implies a succession of British feats of arms - the piece recounts events in one continuous set of lines - that is, without being divided into stanzas. It pinpoints 'The fourteenth day of February' and states that 'Brave Jervis' (our favourite epithet) 'Gave orders to pursue'.
Now this was off Cape St. Vincent,The British fleet is numbered at fifteen.
We had them close engag'd;
Full twenty-seven Spanish ships,
They did us more enrage …
We made them spread the oceanAnd then:
All o'er with crimson dye …
While Britons they lay bleeding,A health is called for Jervis and his officers and crew and, with a certain quirkiness in wording, this particular broadside declares:
While Spaniards they lay slain,
And Britain sounds the trumpet,
We're masters of the main.
Spain, with your surprising force,As indicated above the numbers refer to how ships were rated. Of course, in the ballad, it is hoped that, for Britons:
We've made you for to rue,
Two of your hundred-and-twenties
And two of eighty-four,
By Britons brave were soon con-
Safe to Old England's shore.
… may your glorious actionsApart from these broadsides, Dibdin enters the scene with a piece entitled Jervis For Ever.14 In terms of similarities and contrast with other such songs and with broadsides, we know more or less what to expect - and Dibdin, given that there are some very individual expressions in his work, conforms. A lively opening stanza reads as follows:
In British annals shine.
I've sail'd the salt seas pretty much,We pause to remark the fourth individual line; and the deliberate inclusion of 'authentic' expression in 'know'd', for example, and 'seed'. Otherwise, the piece moves along in familiar vein, chiefly in listing the achievements of previous admirals and then producing Jervis as the trump … Benbow, Boscawen, Russell, Rodney, Blake, Howe - who 'made the Frenchmen dance a tune' …
And rough'd it in all weathers,
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch,
To buckle to their tethers,
And in each voyage I must need
You see, have known some service,
But all I've know'd and all I've seed
Is now outdone by Jervis!
But twenty-seven beat with fifteenThere is a particularly interesting reference in the very next stanza in with the observation that 'All praise this noble service', where Dibdin added:
None ever did but Jervis.
And ballad-singers in the streetsObviously, Dibdin was sufficiently self-aware to distinguish such a genre and the general run of his piece here and, indeed, of other pieces, as noted in the last Enthusiasms survey - of Duncan - underlines his own position, first off, in the pantheon of 'scribbledom' (would Dibdin have disputed such an epithet or been content to be so placed?) whether or not some of his work was subsequently adopted by 'ballad-singers'.
Roars - Admirable Jervis!
Jervis For Ever, at length, describes how the admiral 'he's become a lord' although always 'a king aboard'. There follow more references to more admirals - Nelson included but some now quite obscure - and then to a desire to down 'a feight of grog'; and blessings on all - the king, the queen, 'the fam'ly royal':
Let Frenchmen come, 'twill soon be seenThe piece ends up with:
That British hearts are loyal.
Zounds! Who's afraid, while England boastsThere is nothing about any actual encounter between Jervis and the French. Clearly the piece, a potboiler if ever there was one, relied for its success on contemporary apprehension of a contemporary event. Dibdin must have been confident that his piece had an immediate application.
Such admirals as Jervis.
Afterwards, the piece was reprinted in the Vocal Library of 1818, under the title Admiral Jervis, evidence of a certain continued interest.15
All the same, other than in these three pieces and as a name in the Pitts piece, The Chapter of Admirals16 and, of course, in Deeds of Napoleon, Jervis appears to fade from the ballad and sung scene. The above material is a meagre haul, indeed.
Howe next served in the West Indies being made acting-lieutenant in 1742 with this rank confirmed in 1744. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, he commanded the sloop Baltimore in the North Sea and in 1746, became post-captain, commanding Triton in the West Indies. Then, as captain of Cornwall, the flagship of Sir Charles Knowles, he was in the battle with the Spaniards off Havana on October 2nd 1748. While the peace between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War lasted, Howe held commands at home and on the west coast of Africa. In 1755, he went with Boscawen to North America as captain of Dunkirk, and from this date until the peace of 1763, he served in the Channel in various expeditions against the coast of France (none of which achieved any great measure of success), with a personal increase of reputation as a firm and skilful officer. On November 20 1759 he led Hawke's fleet as captain of Magnanime in the victory at Quiberon (but, as will be seen, is not mentioned in ballads for this).
As a result of the death of his elder brother, killed near Ticonderoga during the land operations of the North American campaigns in 1758, Howe became a Viscount; and in 1762, he was elected MP for Dartmouth. During 1763 and 1765, he was a member of the Admiralty board, and, from 1765 to 1770, was treasurer of the navy. At the end of this tenure, Howe was promoted to Rear-admiral, and then again, in 1775, to Vice-admiral. The following year, he was appointed to the command of the North American station.
He was joined by his brother, General Sir William Howe, head of the land forces, in an effort to bring about conciliation - without success. Then, the appointment of a new peace commission in 1778 upset Howe so deeply that he sent in a resignation of his command. It was reluctantly accepted by Lord Sandwich, then First Lord, but before it could take effect France declared war, and a French squadron was sent to America under the Comte d'Estaing. Howe managed to acquit himself well but still left his station in September 1778. After that, he refused to serve, citing distrust of Lord North and a lack of support during his command in America. His situation was not helped by the decision to replace himself and his brother as peace commissioners and when sections of the press influenced by government made several attacks on his reputation.
It was not until the fall of Lord North's ministry in March 1782 that Howe once again came to prominence, serving between 1783 and 1788 as First Lord of the Admiralty. When the French Revolution erupted in 1793 Howe was again given command of the Channel and this is when his greatest moment came. Howe's active service ended after the 1794 campaign although he held nominal command by decree of the king and after the Glorious First … , Howe was made a Knight of the Garter. In 1797 he was one of those called on to try to meet the mutineers at Spithead.
We can see that Howe enjoyed a genuinely distinguished career - almost continuously at war - and the Glorious First of June can be seen as something a grand climax despite misgivings over the practical outcome of the battle. The action came about during the most prolonged of wars between Britain and France and when the French people, suffering the effects both directly through war and of a terrible harvest the year before, sent for grain from the Americas whereupon a convoy of some 117 ships set sail for France. There were four months of slack before news of the convoy began to circulate although manoeuvrings between French and British fleets continued as a daily part of hostilities.
Then, between 4th of May and 28th May 1794, there were moves and counter moves to intercept and to protect the grain convoy with French ships coming out of and going back into Brest and British ships trying to guess exactly where the grain convoy would appear in the Atlantic. At one point the two battle fleets sailed past each other in thick fog. And all the time, there were engagements where one side or the other captured and sometimes recaptured ships.
The major action began on the 28th May with the British and the French vying for the weather gauge and various encounters taking place, during one of which the French Revolutionnaire was dismasted and had to be towed in to Rochefort by Audacieux. At the same time, the British Audacious had been crippled and had to return to Plymouth. The following day each fleet renewed its tactics and again there were brief encounters and not a few blunders on the British side before Howe himself sailed his flagship, Queen Charlotte, through the French line, cutting off two rear French ships; and he was followed by other British vessels. The French admiral, Villaret-Joyeuse, immediately wore all his ships together to help those ships at the rear of his column. Whilst both fleets had been thrown into confusion by these movements the British had gained the weather-gauge and Villaret-Joyeuse, although he was able to save the two ships, had fallen to leeward so that the advantage lay with Howe. As well as this two damaged French ships, Montagnard and Indomtable, were forced to return to port.
The struggle for tactical dominance continued throughout the 30th of June and at one point the two fleets lost sight of one another. The French, who had four ships crippled, had been reinforced by four others, and were again 26 in number. A further day went by whilst the two fleets dealt with thick weather but by the evening the British were close and to windward of the French. Howe, without full confidence in all his captains, waited until the following morning, keeping the French under observation by frigates, before seeking to join battle.
At about a quarter past eight on the morning of Ist June Howe was able to bear down on the French, throwing his whole line on them at once from end to end, ordering his captains to pass through from windward to leeward, and so to place the British ships on the French ships' line of retreat. We have already seen how Duncan and Jervis adopted the same sort of tactics and whilst historians continue to write about established tradition - placing your fleet broadside to broadside with the opposing fleet - it is clear that British admirals, including Howe, were adapting rapidly. One recalls that the tactic described here - dividing the enemy fleet - was also essentially that employed by Nelson at Trafalgar and Nelson enjoyed the benefit of more highly trained squadrons. What happened on 1st June 1794 was that there was no discernible, decisive pattern to British action but rather an opportunity in a general mêlée to bring to bear the suprior gunnery and seamanship of the British fleet. Again, it seems, Howe's orders were not fully obeyed by all his captains, but, during the course of the day, the French ships Sans-Pareil, Juste, America, Impétueux, Northumberland and Achille were taken and Vengeur du Peuple sunk after a four-hour duel with the British Brunswick. Some named ships appear in the ballads discussed below.
British naval power, then, was seen to triumph but the British fleet itself was too damaged to take advantage - Defence and Marlborough being dismasted and having to be towed back to port - and the avowed intention of the French to get food ships through the British blockade, was fulfilled. The French grain convoy, the object of pursuit in the first place, escaped capture, having sailed on 29th May through the area where the previous day's action had taken place; and apart from a ship lost in heavy weather, the convoy anchored at Brest on the 3rd of June. Any breaking of the British blockade was a minor triumph for the French. And, at the same time, in the general rejoicing in Britain, Howe's failure to stop the convoy appears to have been forgotten.
Apart from the six ships captured by the British and the loss of Vengeur du Peuple, sunk, the French had another thirteen ships badly damaged. There were around 1,500 French sailors killed, 2,000 wounded and 3,000 captured. The British had eight ships seriously damaged even if the butcher's bill was small in comparison to that if the French. Clearly, British tactics had prevailed against the French fleet even if the grain convoy evaded capture. And it is true that the French Navy never again tried to fight a convoy through the British blockade, France resorting instead to blockade-running, privateering and trade through neutral countries. This aftermath, though, would never have been known to the ballad-makers surveyed below. We are left with celebration, with a familiar parade of British confidence.
As far as quantity of printed material is concerned Howe just about shades Duncan and there is no point in rehearsing entirely the usual discrepancy between actuality and ballad perspective. Of course certain images and expressions will stand out but we know full well that the objective of ballad printing on naval histories was not necessarily to give an accurate account but to boost morale and British arms. In this, a tone is perceptible (although the printing is hardly legible) in Britannia Triumphant: Or The Glorious Victory Gained Over The French Fleet, By Lord Howe17:
Behold from afar what glad tidings are brought,how (in a chorus):
What glorious exploits in the Channel are wrought …
Gallia's proud fons fhall trembling ownLike Duncan and Jervis, Howe is set in a list of successful admirals:
The glorious deeds by Britain done.
In the late glorious war, noble conquests were made,The names of Hawke and Strachan suggest that the particular reference is to the battle of Quiberon Bay against the French on 20th November 1759 which effectively ended French ambitions in the Seven Years War as well as offering a roll of honour as context for Howe. It might seem strange, all the same, that Howe's part at Quiberon, a major one, is not mentioned.
And [Strachan], and Hawke, Britifh valour difplayed,
They fought and they conquer'd, true glory to fhare,
But the glory of Howe is [past] all compare …
And there is no account of the battle on the first of June 1794 which, as indicated above, extended over three days: simply praise for Howe (whilst it has not been possible to decipher all the words exactly there is enough evidence to dispel any doubt about this). It must be assumed that the piece could not fail to find an audience conversant with contemporary events.
It is difficult here to pinpoint issue and it was not necessarily Britannia Triumphant … that appeared first off. Indeed, it seems that the Glorious First … provoked almost instantaneous reaction from more than one source but Evans, as we have copy, would seem to have been one of the most eager to issue material.
In respect of Evans, there are two different 'New' songs, both 'Sold at No. 42, Long-Lane', and both claiming to have been 'Printed in June, 1794'. How 'new' then? Was it a matter of days only?
The first (reprinted much later by Firth in his Naval Songs and Ballads) has a short prose introduction:
A New SongThere is the usual invitation to 'Come all ye Britifh hearts of gold … ' and a 'glorious tale' is unfolded:
On the Sea Engagement fought the firft
of June 1aft, when Lord Howe beat the
French Fleet, and took feven of their
Ships, viz. La Jufte, Sans Pareilkle, both
of 80 Guns, L'America, L'Achille,
Northumberland, L'Impetieur, and the
Vengeur, all 74 Gun Ships; but the
Vengeur funk very foon after she was
The Charlotte, with Lord Howe therein,He found it too 'hot' that day; deciding that he could not 'ftay' and, therefore, bearing away. 'He was no falamander':
This fierce encounter did begin,
So bravely threw her broadfides in,
Against the French commander …
They left us feven fhips that day,And 'Huzza! huzza! Their Admiral runs'.
So crippl'd could not get away,
Like logs they on the fea did lay,
So hot was their reception …
The piece lists some casualties - 'Brave Bowyer, Palfrey, Captain Hutt' who each 'loft a leg' and 'Poor Montague' who was killed: a somewhat unusual list amid the familiar praise. Then there is a claim that twenty-six French ships fought twenty-five British but, naturally:
We being Britifh failors bold,So the French ships 'are brought' in honour of 'great George our King' and, further:
Who value honour more than gold,
Our courage has been try'd of old,
We ever will prevail.
In praife of failors let us fing,and 'drive the boafting French away'.18
And drink to each brave tar …
The second 'New' song, 'Compofed on the glorious Victory obtained by Lord HOWE'19, is set to the tune Hearts of Oak and even echoes some of the words:
COME cheer up, ye Britons, attend to my lay,The process of linking one song with another mirrors common practice, often when a suitably martial or patriotic air is invoked, and seen at length in the procession of songs using the air of Arethusa, as described previously on this site.20 Sometimes the air might be quite different, of course, as with the first Howe piece cited here, the suggestion on copy being to sing it to A full yield to Mulbery Tree but even if this tune is unfamiliar to us we could not doubt that it had currency at the time of the issue of the Howe piece. The words of Heart of Oak, incidentally, were written by David Garrick in 1759 and the music composed by William Boyce - it is not clear exactly when but there had been plenty of time (Boyce died in 1779) before Howe's battle for the song to have circulated and to have been adopted and adapted.
And join in my chorus, on this happy day,
Let faction and difcord no longer appear,
Since Howe is a Briton, to Britons moft dear.
Heart of oak is brave Howe, hearts of oak are his men,
To fight he is ready, fteady, boys! Fteady!
He'll conquer the proud French again, and again.
In the Howe piece the familiar adjectives roll - 'brave' (for the British); later 'valiant' and 'bold'; 'proud' (for the French) … as 'On the firft day of June this brave victory was won'. Two stanzas remind us of lines in one of the Duncan piece, referring, as they do, to how:
Tho' Jacobites rail, and difloyal fools rife,- suitably conservative and patriotic sentiments that indicate how the government of the time may well have felt at a time of great anxiety in Britain in the face of assaults from more than one quarter, the French representing the most obvious threat but discontent with war and problems in Ireland (even if the British populace was not particularly aware of them) adding to discomfiture:
All fenfible men do their actions defpife,
With Equality - Liberty - fuch fort of ftuff,
Our neighbours, the French, are made wretched
So let grumblers rail on, without reafon or caufe,The last, presumably, is a reference to the Tree of Liberty as embraced by several groups to whom the sniff of French ideas gave heady impulse. But it had been Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris in 1787, who gave a certain notoriety to the symbol as needing to be refreshed by 'the blood of patriots and tyrants' and he was writing in the context of the late American revolution when the symbol was adopted. French Jacobins first planted their own tree in 1790. In 1848 the same potent symbol was adopted by the Italians in their revolution. At the time of Howe's triumph there was great suspicion in Britain of any notion encouraged by revolution; hence the tenor of the reference here.21
Still we'll honour our King, our religion, and laws,
We've no guillotine here, but without it are free,
And for liberty look not on tops of a tree.
So in opposition to French ideas a gesture towards the panoply of the British state is made: 'Courts to determine', and 'a King to redrefs” and 'Not forgetting 'good Charlotte, our amiable Queen'.
Then, quite suddenly, the piece reverts to the battle scene:
After an engagement of several hours,bringing them to Spithead. 'Our brave British tars ftill the Frenchmen fhall dread'.
We took two noble eighties, and four feventy-fours …
But instead of more details of the battle a quite new note appears:
The twenty-fourth day of June what a fight will beSo Britons are urged to charge their glasses to toast the King:
Spithead will be honour'd by our King and Queen,
Likewife the Prinfceffes …
And when angels take him, may George his fon reign,Howe, in this scenario, disappears from view, his victory no more than an occasion for patriotic outpouring.
And the Brunfwick's (sic) rule o'er us, again and again …
There are yet two more 'New' songs, both 'Sold at No. 42, Long Lane', but this time to be taken literally as songs, each having had a public airing. The first was:
Sung by Mr. Sedgwick,This turns out to offer a personal story, told by a seaman who has left his girl behind:
in the 1ft of June,
Performed at Drury Lane, for the
Benefit of Sailor's Widows.
Written by the Earl of Mulgrave.22
OUR line was form'd, the French lay to,Nonetheless, Howe's 'daring fignal' flew 'on high' and through the cannon smoke the French are seen to break: 'They ftrike! They fink! They fly!'. And there is a chorus:
One figh I gave to Poll on shore,
Too cold I thought our laft adieu,
Our arting kiffes feem'd too few,
If we fhould meet no more.
Now, danger paft, we'll drink and joke,This particular seaman has his foot 'ftruck off' but the chance of war would be explanation to Poll; and the seaman is proud of his loss, feeling no smart:
Sing, Rule, Britannia! Hearts of oak!
And toaft before each martial tune,
Howe, and the glorious firft of June!
But as it wrings my Polly's heartEach scar is 'a beauty in my face' and 'all my limp a grace'.
With fympathetic pain.
Farewell to every- fea delight,And Polly's love and constancy are welcomed instead - 'with prattling babes' as well, who, in their turn, will go to sea:
The cruise (sic) with eager wa tchful days,
The fkilful chace by glim'ring night,
The well-work'd fhip, the gallant fight,
The lov'd Commander's praife …
Follow great Howe a victory,The second piece is:
And ferve our noble King.
A New Song,It begins:
Sung by Mr. Bannifter, in
The 1ft of June,
Performed at Drury Lane, for the
Benefit of Sailors Widows.
Written by the Duke of Leeds.23
O'er the vaft surface of the deepThough hostile bands dare to dispute, though 'savage Fury nurs'd in gore', hopes to despoil, yet Heaven supports the decree still:
Britain shall ftill her empire keep,
Her heaven defended charter, long
The fav'rite theme of Glory's song,
Shall full proclaim the bleft decree,
That “Britons ever fhall be free.”
'Twas thus with Howe, illuftrious name!Victory was gained and the decree 'sanction'd':
Still adding to a life of fame,
Thro' Gallias' proud Armada broke,
And Albion's wrath in thunder fpoke …
Hail happy Britain, favour's ifle!And prove that “Britons ever fhall be free”.
Where Freedom, Arts, and Commerfe fmile!
Long may thy George in glory prove
The tranfports of a nation's love!
One would suppose that the two songs formed part of a programme, perhaps an illumination, certainly much removed from Howe's battle except for impulse. This mix of 'scribbledom' - one recalls Dibdin - and broadside issue is typical of how events were celebrated. Broadside printers as a whole often took material from the theatre as well as from poets, past and present; the case of Besley in Exeter, as described on this site, provides an excellent example.24
A Pitts issue some filling in of the picture: a piece entitled Battle On The First Of June.25
ON the glorious first of June, early in the forenoon,Pitts is both general 'Well victual'd, well man'd, all things at command' and particular, listing beef, pork, 'good butter and peas', brandy and 'good beer'. It appears that only one ship is being described, on which there were 'six hundred and ten' of Britain's bravest, 'stout and bold', as well as seventy-nine guns. The ship was set for honour and gold ('my brave boys, &c.')
Of seventeen hundred and ninety and four,
Our anchors was (sic) weigh'd, British colours displayed,
And a cruising 'sic) along the French shore,
My brave boys, &c.
And 'We fell in with those bold Monsieurs' who 'bore down with pride'. The 'Britons bold', of course, 'fired our shot as smart and as hot'. In fact 'Our canister shot flew like hail'. The Frenchmen tried to run but 'it could not be done' because the British 'clap'd such a sting in their tails'.
We soon jumpt on board with pistols, guns and swordsThe British found that the French 'had money great store' (we do not learn this anywhere else in Howe literature) and they were put on shore:
Saying, where is (sic) those heroes? We cryed,
That, says they, will kill us all, but now indeed ye shall
Be punished ann (sic) paid for your pride, my French
At Portsmouth we left six sail of them, bereftThen the British sailed away because they were bound to meet the French again.
Of all their bright silver and gold.
It is a peculiarly garbled piece in some ways, more a tall story than an account of an event.
As it happens, it carries the name of Mantz in Finsbury at its foot and, casting a glance at the top of the piece, we note that it was 'Printed for and sold by J. Pitts', one of those small links that give a slightly different idea of how certain broadside printers functioned 5like Catnach's nexus of agents as noted before on this site).26
A further piece, without imprint, Lord Howe Triumphant, carries a subtitle: 'His valiant Tars and the British Fleet Victorious'.27 There is a conventional appeal to 'Come every true and lawful friend' whilst British fame against the French is promoted and there is a short chorus:
Brave Howe, brave Howe victorious on the seas,In this piece we have numbers and names; 'twenty-five fhips compos'd our fleet' and the French had twenty-six. On Sunday the fight began on the British side with Charlotte, Carfax, Queen, Royal George and so on - ten ships are named in all. The piece then concentrates on Brunswick and its fight with 'Le Vengeur', ' a dreaful fcene of flaughter', over 'three hours'.
Our British tars victorious be.
But Britifh tars, in glory's caufe,Vengeur du Peuple, it should be reiterated in view of the conflicting times given in these ballads, actually sank after a four-hour battle with Brunswick.
Would fooner die than lofe applaufe,
The fhip Le Vengeur they funk in the deep,
And configned the Frenchmen there to fleep.
In the end, 'We Britons did the French defeat', taking six of their ships amidst scenes of 'fhocking flaughter'. 'Brave Montague', though, fell, crying 'fight on, my lads' because 'my brother ' will 'revenge my caufe'.
The sea was 'ting'd with crimson gore' for 'Blood from the fcupper holes did pour'. And Neptune, rising the 'glorious fight to fee', was able to proclaim Britannia's victory. So the British boys could rejoice and make 'Great George's foes' quake …
May our British arms by land and feaThe selection of detail is individual enough in a piece where the sentiments are as one would expect them to be and it is interesting to find Montague's name mentioned since he appeared in one of the 'New' songs described above and one might be forgiven for a degree of confusion over actual historical occurrence when first contemplating the hierarchy. The Montague so-named was James, a Captain of the vessel Montague, son of Admiral Montague who had been prominent in the first search for the grain convoy and the first encounters with the French fleets.
Be always crown'd with victory,
Brave commanders, valiant men,
Health and conqueft them attend.
Much later, there is a Howe piece in Firth's Naval Songs and ballads of 1908, The Downfall Of The French Fleet.28 Here, the text is much more in line with actuality although the sentiments are recognisable from the pieces described above - without, that is, the purely personal-seeming stories of the two songs from the Earl of Mulgrave and the Duke of Leeds. A first stanza notes that 'The 28th of May the French fleet hove in sight' and that 'Lord Howe he made a signal, resolv'd he was to fight.' His ships drew in line and firing began 'Resolv'd the French dogs to subdue' - 'Like brave British boys … '. 'On the 29th again', the ships were drawn in line, the action renewed 'And Admiral Gardiner then the line he broke' in order to 'make you smoke', 'like true British boys'. Then, 'At last the glorious day, call'd the first of June' arrived and 'So well I do remember, it was about noon', the British fleet, to windward of the French, 'Resolv'd our courage to display,' 'Like brave British boys.' And so it goes on, Brunswick lying alongside and fighting with Vengeur for two hours under 'Brave Captain Harvey', who fir'ed nine shots into the Vengeur's copper, the crew the while 'Crying out, 'Monsieur, we'll sink you all'. Then another vessel drew alongside Brunswick, 'the America by name'. Brunswick fired three broadsides and America's 'three masts on board did lie'.
Success to Lord Howe, and all his noble fleet;Further:
Such a set of fighting fellows together ne'er did meet.
May they together still remain,
And brave Lord Howe still rule the main
For to subdue Monsieur again
Like brave British boys.
Success to King George, likewise our royal Queen,and God be on their side …
And may they be happy throughout their glorious reign …
The epithets are standard and few ('glorious', for instance, and 'brave') and the sentiments are predictable enough all following very much in the line already examined and we would expect that the piece was put together long before Firth's assemblage.
Finally, we note Howe's name in those lists of admirals such as A Chapter … and remind ourselves of his reappearance in Deeds of Napoleon. But between the issue of the pieces noted above and Firth's book, Howe, like Duncan and Jervis, dropped from view. We may look back on Howe's victory as an occasion for general joy in pieces from which, collectively, we do learn quite a bit about the battle but perhaps even more so of the enfolding sentiments, the need for a boost to the morale of the nation, which the two songs as sung - by Mr Sedgwick and Mr Bannister - illustrate well, neither being especially noteworthy as elevating Howe himself.
Roly Brown - 27.10.06
Oradour sur Vayres, France
2. For Nelson see MT articles 166, 172 and 173 which make the point about the disappearance of heroes.
3. For Deeds of Napoleon see, as bss examples, Catnach in Bodleian Allegro archive (Harding B 11(849), Hodges in Madden Reel 78, Number 88 and Ross - with Stewart and Dalton - in Madden Reel 83, Number 519 (there are several other examples but all are late in appearance as are broadside printers' catalogue references), and for a sung version, that from Henry Burstow in JFSS, Vol. 8 (1906), pp. 186-187. There is also a manuscript version from Cecil Sharp, got from Robert Parish in Exford, 5th September 1906 (Folk Tunes 1118), entitled, simply, Napoleon. A study of this song is in preparation.
4. Details of the life of Duncan are easily available on various websites.
5. See Bodleian Allegro archive as Curzon b. 20(17) - the title is given as Vol. I. Of Dibdin's Budget of Sea Songs
6. See Songs By Charles Dibdin Collected and Edited by T. Dibdin (London, George Bell And Sons , 1886 edn.), pp. 114-115. The Bridport reference is a puzzle. For another version of the Dibdin piece, see Madden Reel 83, Number 70. Dodd, the printer, is known to have issued one or two other pieces but his details remain obscure although there were several Dodds operating in London, Liverpool and elsewhere at a convenient time for the piece to be claimed as their own.
7. For this New song , see Madden Reel 72, Number 1356, n. i.. For England's Glory see Madden Reel 90, Number 361 (Storer of Bristol) and for Nelson's Glorious Victory Madden Reel 87, Number 36 (Ford of Chesterfield).
8. See Madden Reel 83, Number 54, n. i.. For a discussion of the song and tune entitled Arethusa, see MT Enthusiasms, No. 45 (and see below: Bold Nelson's Praise). Interestingly, a 'J. Pratt' wrote a piece entitled A Small Tribute to the Memory of The Late Gallant Lord Nelson set to the tune 'Arathusa' (sic); probably, then, together with the Duncan piece, evidence of a 'hack' at work.
9. Details can be found on several websites.
10. John Ashton: Real Sailor Songs (London, Broadsheet King, 1973 - unpaginated reprint), No. 9.
11. Oddly, a Pitts printing from 14 Great St. Andrew Street, The Chapter Of Admirals (Bodleian Allegro archives as Harding B 25(357), lists some thirty-three admirals, including Howe and 'Jarvis' (sic) - but not Duncan. Pitts' Chapter of Victories, involving another such list, does mention him (Bodleian Allegro archives as Curzon b. 24(98). For Bold Nelson's Praise, see Cecil Sharp manuscripts as Folk Tunes 2380, got from Tom Gardiner in Blackwell, Warwickshire, 9th September 1909. It was also published in English Folk Songs, Collected and Arranged by Cecil J. Sharp, Vol. 2 (London, Novello, 1912), pp. 93-96. That no other material specific to Duncan has yet appeared is, as stressed first off in this article, subject to further research. It might be that, as in the case of the eighteenth century admiral Edward Vernon, there is much to be discovered even if it might not be accounted 'traditional' in any way. For Vernon, see MT article 166 and the source for quotation there - Gerald Jordan and Nicholas Rogers: Admirals as Heroes: Patriotism and Liberty in Hanoverian England in Journal of British Studies 28, (July 1989), pp.201-224.
12. See Madden Reel 71, Number 527, n. i..
13. See Bodleian Allegro archive as Harding B 25(967), from McLachlan in Dumfries the copy employs the long 'f' but no details of McLachlan's operations have yet been found; and Firth c. 12(10), n. i., this time in ostensibly more modern layout.
14. See Songs Of Charles Dibdin Collected And Edited by T. Dibdin (London, George Bell and Sons 1886), pp.109-110
15. The Vocal Library; Being The Largest Collection Of English, Scottish, And Irish Songs, Ever Printed In A Single Volume (London, John Souter 1818), p.204.
16. See Bodleian Allegro archive as Harding B 25(357).
17. See Bodleian Allegro archive as Harding B 22(27), n. i..
18. See Madden Reel 72, Number 1379. 42 Long Lane was the address of John Evans, the most prominent in ballad-printing terms of all the family in a career, according to the Bodleian library, evidently extending from 1780 to 1812. The British Book Trade Index gives different dates beginning with 1799 and taking the story up to 1856. The firm went through several vicissitudes but the address gives the clue as to which John Evans was involved. At this point it is enough to say that John Evans certainly printed during the early part of the French wars and looks to have been responsible for the majority of ballads examined here although we note that pieces were 'Sold at' Long Lane: not necessarily printed there (see also Pitts below). Sir Charles Firth's volume was 'Printed For The Navy Records Society' in 1908.
19. See Madden Reel 72, Number 1350.
20. For Arethusa see MT Enthusiasms 45.
21. See Duncan above; copy in question is from Madden Reel 72, Number 1359 (a 'New' song without imprint).
22. See Madden Reel 72, Number 1405.
23. See Madden Reel 72, Number 1391. The lives of the authors of the two 'New Songs' need not detain us but the title of Earl of Mulgrave presents a slight difficulty since the most likely candidate, Henry Phipps, was created Baron Mulgrave in 1794 whilst the title of Earl does not appear to have been bestowed until 1812. The other author was probably the 5th Duke, Francis Osborne, who died in 1799.
24. See MT article 155.
25. See Madden Reel 75, Number 89. Mantz of Finsbury, operating between 1795 and 1840 according to the introduction to the Madden collection on-line (based on R. S. Thompson's well-known thesis, The Development of the British Broadside Ballad And Its Influence On English Folk-Songs, unpublished PH D thesis, Cambridge, 1974), was one of several who printed the earlier Pitts broadsides.
26. In a sort of extension strictly, perhaps, a precursive example of the practice - Leslie Shepard suggested that Pitts may have printed some stock from the Evans family so prominent in the issue of Howe material (See Leslie Shepard: John Pitts (London, Private Libraries Association, 1969) p.35.
27. See Madden Reel 72, Number 1004.
28. See Firth, op cit, pp.268-269.
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