Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/42

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28
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

I may say this: to the mere literary reader, the ideal of a sailor is represented by such books as Southey's Life of Nelson; or still more vividly perhaps by the novels of Captain Marryat or Smollett, or by Kingsley's Westward Ho! or possibly Miss Austen's Persuasion. We are all supposed to know something of the great admirals, upon whom R. L. Stevenson wrote a charming article. But any one who is attracted by the type, would do well to turn over the dictionary and look up the long list of minor heroes, who stood for their portraits to Marryat and his fellows; the men who cut out ships in harbour, and fought men-of-war with merchantmen; and lay in wait for galleons and suppressed mutinies, and had desperate single combats with French or American frigates: the Trunnions and Amyas Leighs and Peter Simples of real life, who certainly are to the full as interesting as their imaginary representatives. Many of them have hitherto only existed, as it were, in fragments: their lives have to be put together from despatches and incidental references in memoirs and histories; but when reconstructed, these lives form a gallery more interesting than that at Greenwich Hospital. They have got into a little Walhalla; and I think that no one will doubt who makes the experiments