His “autobiography” is written in a vain and egotistical strain, with much affectation of classical knowledge, and is rambling and disconnected. It occupies 195 closely-printed pages of the Annual, and readers who prefer their information at first hand cannot do better than procure the volumes, and read for themselves. My apology to the shade of the author must be that, as the publication in which his lucubrations appeared is long since out of print, and copies are extremely rare, it is just possible that such a course of action would—on the part of a few thousand readers—be absolutely impossible. I propose, however, to stick as closely to the narrative as I can, and to give Jorgenson’s own language wherever practicable. This “old tale,” therefore—to appropriate a jest made concerning a plagiarising writer of colonial notoriety—may be divided into two parts—that which is printed between inverted commas, and that which ought to be.
“Who so able to write a man’s life as the living man himself?” cries Captain Jorgenson. “The age of intellect has merged into the autobiographical. A Homer is no longer wanted to immortalise an Agamemmon. For where sound the trumpet of his own exploits? or who, like myself, would suffer the sad but instructive vicissitudes of his fate to pass by unwept and unrecorded, or as Horace says—illacrymabiles? No; having been promised a niche in Ross’s Van Diemen’s Land Annual—the only sanctuary and safe retreat of great names, the sole Westminster Abbey which these Australian regions can yet boast—I hasten to fill it up before a greater man steps in to occupy the ground.” After this peroration—repeated in the second part as a gem too bright to be lost—Captain Jorgenson proceeds to recount his birth and early adventures.
He was born in Copenhagen in the year 1780, and was the son of a mathematical-instrument maker. He received a good education, but, though his parents appeared to have been in easy circumstances, and would have started him in business, the boy must needs “go to sea.” “When I saw a Dutch Indiaman set sail, with its officers on deck, dressed out in their fine uniforms, my heart burned with envy to be like them.” Old Jorgenson, however, did not approve of his son’s notions, and, with a view to sicken him of a sea-faring life, bound him apprentice to an English collier, and kept him on board her for four years. He was then eighteen, and, “beginning to think for myself (for we in Denmark are of age at sixteen),” he quitted the collier, and shipped on board the “Fanny,” a South Sea whaler, bound with stores to the Cape of Good Hope. At the Cape he made another engagement with Captain Black, of the “Harbinger,” bound for Algoa Bay. Black had obtained his appointment for services rendered on board the “Jane Shore” (prison ship). The prisoners and soldiers concerted a plan of mutiny, and, seizing the vessel, took her to Buenos Ayres. Black escaped the carnage, and, with 180 others (among whom was the famous pickpocket and swindler, Major Sempill, who refused to join the mutineers), was put into an open boat, and after much hardship got to the West Indies. The “Harbinger” had a narrow escape of being taken by a French ship of 44 guns (this was in the year 1798), but beat off her enemy and accomplished her voyage without mishap.
Returning to the Cape, young Jorgenson joined a brig of 65 tons. This was the “Nelson,” commanded by Lieutenant Grant, and was sent as a tender to the “Investigator,” commanded by Captain Flinders, on a surveying voyage round the Australian coast. Dr. Bass, originally surgeon of H.M.S. “Reliance,” had got down to Western Port from Sydney in a whale boat, and gave it as his opinion that “some strait” must exist in that latitude. Captain Flinders set out from Sydney to ascertain this point, but, before the result of his expedition was known in England, the “Lady Nelson” was despatched on the same errand. She was built expressly for the voyage, and was admirably fitted. Jorgenson says she had “a remarkable sliding keel, the invention of Commissioner Shanks, of the Navy Board, which answered so well that I have often wondered it did not come into more general use.” It was composed of three parts or broad planks, fitted into corresponding sockets or openings, which went completely through the vessel, from the deck to the keel. These planks could be let down or drawn up at pleasure, to a depth of 8ft., according as the vessel went into deep or shallow water, or in sailing against the wind to obviate the leeway.
Lieutenant Grant received orders to shape his course for the western extremity of what was then believed to be the peninsula of Van Diemen’s Land. The first point he made was King’s Island (named after Captain King, third governor of New South Wales). From King’s Island they went to Sydney, and then returned and completed the survey of Port Phillip, Western Port, Port Dalrymple, and the Derwent. The “strait” was named after the doctor, and Bass’s Straits are a sufficiently credible witness that Van Diemen’s Land is not part of New Holland.
On her return to Sydney, the “Lady Nelson” was ordered to accompany Flinders in his expedition to the north; but at the Northumberland Islands she lost “all her cables and anchors on the coral reefs, and was obliged to steer for the main island of the chain,” and eventually returned to Sydney. The “Investigator” went on, and circumnavigated the continent. She had on board Messrs. Brown and Kelly, botanists (the latter sent out at the expense of Sir Joseph Banks), M. Bauer, and Westall, the landscape painter. The account of the voyage is well known, as it is written at length in the chronicles of the early explorers, but some particulars given by Jorgenson may find a place here. Having accomplished her task, the “Investigator” was condemned as unseaworthy—a condemnation which Jorgenson disputes—cut down, and sent home under the charge of Captain Kent, nephew (by marriage) to Hunter, the late Governor of New South Wales. Flinders placed his crew and himself on board the “Porpoise” man-of-war, and was wrecked in Torres Straits, in company with the “Cato” and “Bridgewater,” “extra East India ships.” The “Bridgewater” escaped, and seems to have left her consorts to their fate. The crew of the “Porpoise” got on to the reef, but all on board the “Cato” were lost except three. Flinders took the intelligence to Sydney in the ship’s boat, leaving the survivors “building a schooner of the wreck.” They were ultimately saved, but the botanical collection of “unknown Australian plants” was lost. Nothing daunted by his mischances, Flinders, being anxious to complete the survey of the continent, and to take the news of his discoveries to England, induced King to place at his disposal the “Cumberland,” a small craft of 30 tons burden. Running short of provisions, and relying on his passport, he sailed for the Mauritius, and was detained by the French Government under suspicion of being a “spy.” His charts and papers were never more heard of, and poor Flinders was kept a prisoner for six years. “He was at last liberated,” says Jorgenson, “by the peremptory order of Napoleon, and died on the 14th July, 1814, the very day that the ‘account of a voyage to Terra Australis’ was published.”
Dr. Bass met with even a worse fate. That worthy, having completed his survey of the “strait,” returned home, but, being unable to rest quietly, came out again as supercargo and part owner of the brig “Venus,” Captain Bishop, intending to trade in Sydney and Spanish America. On his arrival at Sydney, Bishop went mad, and Bass, “who, though a surgeon and physician, was a skilful navigator,” took command of the ship. He went to Valparaiso and endeavoured to “force a trade.” That is to say, “Either buy my goods or I storm the place.” Such amenities of commerce were not unusual in those days. The Spaniards consented, but Bass and his crew being on shore, “relaxing from the fatigues of the voyage,” and drinking rum and lime juice, the wily scoundrels seized the “Venus” and cargo, and, capturing Bass and his men after a deperate resistance, sent them to the quicksilver mines, from whence they never returned. I fancy that this little episode in the life of the discoverer of “Bass’s Straits” is but little known to the many good folks who sail across them twice a year. There were some things done in those days not unworthy of Salvation Yeo and the dogs of Devon.
Sydney was a tolerably strange place. It was a sort of South Sea city of refuge, and the French war gave a good excuse for gallant gentlemen with more blood than guineas to exchange the one for the other. The Spanish coast was the great place for gold and glory, and many a sly privateer of the “Venus” class sailed from Sydney harbour. Jorgenson mentions two—a “Captain M’Clarence, of the brig ‘Dart,’” who met with death or the mines at Coquimbo; and “Captain Campbell, of the East India brig ‘Harrington.’” Campbell, being in Sydney during the year 1803, got news of the peace of Amiens. Being a calculating, long-headed fellow, he guessed that a rupture would soon take place, and prepared to take advantage of the temporary calm. Getting together a crew of desperadoes like himself, he sailed for the Spanish-American coast. Entering the wealthiest ports, he brought his guns to bear upon the town, and, landing, sword in hand, at the head of his men, he plundered, burnt, and ravished, despoiling “even the churches, and bringing back with him an immense treasure.” On his return to Sydney, however, contrary to his expectation, news of war had not yet arrived, and, fearful of Governor King’s wrath, he buried his plunder in one of the many islands of the straits. His fears were not unfounded. Stern old King—he was an eccentric, homely, honest man—ordered the pirate and his officers into arrest, where they remained for some time in fear and trembling. But Campbell’s shrewd Scot’s head had not deceived him. When the English news arrived, it was discovered that war had been already declared with Spain, and “Captain Campbell” having but served his country, was honourably set free.
It is not absolutely stated that the pirate dug his treasure up again. If he did not, perhaps some lucky fellow may yet stumble upon it. But it is more than probable that a good deal of it found its way into the pockets of Sydney taverners. These gentry must have made large sums. Owing to the frequent failure of supplies from England, provisions were very dear. “It was no uncommon thing,” says Jorgenson “to give ten guineas for a gallon of rum. Tobacco was proportionately dear, and tea was never under a guinea a pound. Money itself sympathised with the general rise. The common penny pieces passed for two pence, and halfpence for pence. A large quantity of copper was in consequence brought out by the masters of vessels, who thus realised a profit of 100 per cent. The colony was ultimately most inconveniently overloaded with copper money. It was worse than the days of Wood’s halfpence, which Dean Swift so ably put down; and Governor King, in like manner, was compelled to put his veto on the further introduction of such money, and speedily settled the point by reducing pence and halfpence to the proper value.”
In 1803 the “Lady Nelson” set sail from Sydney with Captain Bowen, R.N., to form a settlement at the Derwent. “The late Dr. Mountgarrett and two ladies,” whose names Captain Jorgenson has still the pleasure to “enrol among his friends,” accompanied the expedition. They were disembarked on the “north bank of the Derwent, at Risdon,”1 and then went on to Port Phillip, where Collins had endeavoured to form a settlement. During their absence the station at Risdon was abandoned, and the tents pitched on the present site of Hobart Town. Speedily tired of His Majesty’s service, erratic Jorgenson now took charge of a small vessel going on a sealing voyage to New Zealand, and then shipped as chief officer of a whaler. They sailed for the Derwent, and our author “can boast of having stuck the first whale in that river.” From the Derwent they went to New Zealand, and, having cruised for some time in those seas, bore up for London, having on board two New Zealanders and two Otaheitans, whom Jorgenson introduced to Sir Joseph Banks. Sir Joseph took charge of them, paid their expenses, and placed them under the care of the Rev. Joseph Hardcastle, “in order that by initiating them in the truths of the Christian religion they might be able to confer a similar boon on their own countrymen.” The poor fellows died in a twelvemonth.
Jorgenson now went back to Copenhagen, which he found bombarded by the English, and, having seen his friends, was welcomed with great rejoicings. He seems to have become quite a “lion,” for next year (1807) we find him in a position of some importance. By dint of stories about the Australias and the Spanish main, he, like Mr. Oxenham, would appear to have fired the hearts of the honest Copenhagen burghers. Old Jorgenson and seven other merchants of Copenhagen, “touched with a spirit of reprisal against the English,” subscribed to purchase a small vessel, armed with 28 guns, and presented her to the Crown. She was armed, commissioned, and manned by the Government, and our hero placed in command. Now begins a new epoch in his life.
Our hero’s vessel, manned by 83 men, and carrying 28 guns, cut through the ice “a month before it was expected that any vessel could get out,” and, coming unawares among the English traders, captured several ships.
Encouraged by this success, and relying on his knowledge of the coast, Jorgenson stood over to England. His courage, however, outran his prudence, and off Flamborough Head he came plump upon two sloops of war, the “Sappho” and the “Clio.” The former, commanded by Captain Longford, instantly bore down upon him, and finding that flight was impossible, the Danish privateer determined to put a bold face on it and give battle. Notwithstanding that the “Sappho” had 120 men, he kept her at bay for three-quarters of an hour, making shift to fire 17 broadsides. At last, his powder being spent, and his “masts, rigging, and sails all shot to pieces,” he was compelled to surrender, and was taken in triumph to Yarmouth. That the action was a pretty severe one, is confirmed by the fact that Longford was made a post-captain for his “services” on the occasion.
It would appear that Jorgenson had, like a wise man, secured a retreat. When at Copenhagen, the year before, he had “chanced to obtain an interview” with a “public officer connected with the British Ministry,” and this individual sent for him to London, where Jorgenson delicately hints at an offer of secret service employment. Fairly established in the city, and introduced to “several of the high official characters of that eventful period,” Jorgenson suggested a scheme for the relief of Iceland. That island, being in the very midst of the Danish and English combatants, came rather badly off. The inhabitants derived their means of support chiefly from the export trade of wool and fish; and trade being prohibited, and “British supplies” cut off by the Danish ships, the place was in a state of famine. The miseries of the islanders had attracted the attention of English merchants, who—doubtless with a shrewd eye to the main chance—cast about for some daring fellow willing to run the blockade. Jorgenson called upon his old acquaintance, Sir Joseph Banks, and represented his own good qualities strongly. Permission was obtained from the British Government to freight a ship with provisions, and Jorgenson, taking the command, sailed from Liverpool on the 29th of December.
Many predictions were made as to the failure of the expedition, the danger being increased by inclement weather and the winter season. Though the vessel was but 350 tons burden, the insurance cost the benevolent speculators 1000 guineas, for, says Jorgenson, “the enterprise was considered almost desperate,” and it was held “madness to attempt such a voyage, which from the high latitude of the country, must necessarily be made at that season of the year almost in the dark.” The bold fellow, however, arrived in safety, and found “the hours of the night brighter than those of the day, owing to the brilliant reflection of the Northern Light.” Finding that matters turned out well, he left the provisions in charge of the supercargo, and hastened back to Liverpool, in order to bring out another cargo.
He speedily loaded two vessels, one with flour and another with provisions, and started again for the north. During his absence, however, the governor, Count von Tramp, had issued a proclamation prohibiting all communication with the English. It would seem that Count von Tramp did not disdain to trade a little himself, for a Danish vessel was in the habit of running small cargoes of rye, which were sold—as Jorgenson hints, to the advantage of the authorities—at 40s. per 200 lbs.
Here was a dilemma. The two vessels, anchored in the port with their flour and provisions aboard, were ordered to go away again, full as they came. Jorgenson, like “Captain Hiram Hudson,” in Foul Play, “knew his duty to his employers,” and vowed he would land his cargo at all hazards. He feigned submission, but the next day being Sunday, and the “people at church”—good souls—he landed with twelve of his men, and, making straight to the governor’s residence, stationed six men at the front, and six at the back, with orders to fire on any one who should interrupt him. Then, with a brace of pistols in his belt, he walked into the Count’s chamber, and informed him that he might consider himself deposed. The Count, “who was reposing on a sofa,” made an attempt at resistance, but, as there was no one in the house but the cook, one or two domestics, and “a Danish lady,” he was speedily overpowered, carried down to the beach, and placed under hatches in Jorgenson’s ship. The new king lost no time in “securing the iron chest,” and when the people came out of church they found that a revolution had taken place.2
“I am not aware,” says Jorgenson, “unless some more deep-read historian than myself can cite an instance, that any revolution in the annals of nations was ever more adroitly, more harmlessly, or more decisively effected than this. The whole government of the island was changed in a moment. I was well aware of the sentiments of the people before I planned my scheme, and I knew I was safe.”
The next day he issued a proclamation stating that the people, tired of Danish oppression, had called him to the head of the Government. This proclamation seemed to satisfy everybody. The few English on the island imagined that Jorgenson had concerted the plot with the Icelanders, and the Danes believed he was supported by the English Government. Having thus secured his position, our hero issued laws, all “of course of a popular description.” He relieved the people of half the taxes, ingeniously supplying their place by a duty levied on the “British goods” which he had himself imported. He released all people from debts due to the Crown of Denmark, compelled public defaulters to make up deficiencies from their private estates, and advanced moneys for the benefit of public schools and fisheries. He established trial by jury and “free representative government,” and with true judgment augumented the salaries of the clergy. Some of these gentry had but £12 a year to live upon, and, as the acute Jorgenson expected, “they were not wanting in gratitude, for they all preached resignation and contentment under the present order of things.” Having thus provided for wants temporal and spiritual, he erected a fort of six guns, raised a troop of cavalry, and hoisted the ancient and independent flag of Iceland.
The inhabitants appeared to enjoy this novel condition of things, and when the king made a tour of his dominions received him with acclamations. Indeed, it was but prudent that they should do so, for one contumacious fellow, a magistrate or head-man of one of the northern villages, some 150 miles from Reykavig, refusing to do homage and “surrender the iron chest,” the monarch piled brushwood round his front door and fired it, “upon which he immediately submitted.” One advantage in primitive government is—despatch. When at Liverpool, Jorgenson had written to New York requesting that a ship might be sent to Iceland with tobacco, and soon after his return to the capital he had the satisfaction of seeing a vessel enter the harbour “with a valuable cargo from New York,” which cargo he received in exchange for his (taxed) British manufactures. This commercial enterprise proving so successful, Jorgenson, secure in his own impudence, resolved to visit London and “enter into an amicable treaty with Great Britain in order to permit vessels with British licenses to import grain,” and set sail with a fleet of two ships, one the vessel which had brought him from London, and the other a Danish ship belonging to the deposed Von Tramp.
Unluckily, the Danish ship caught fire, and, though every effort was made to save her, she burnt to the water’s edge with all her cargo. “The firing of the 10 guns, with the flames blazing along the shrouds and sails, had,” says the king, “a sublimely grand effect upon the water; and when the hold and cargo took fire—the latter consisting of wool, feathers, oil, tallow, and tar—the effect was truly grand, the copper bottom continuing to float like an immense copper cauldron, long after the shades of night had come on.” Indeed, in that latitude and in those seas, one might not have inaptly called to mind the celebrated story of the old Viking and his floating funeral-pyre.
This accident compelled them to return to Iceland for provisions; and, putting the passengers on board H.M. Talbot, then in harbour, Jorgenson made all haste for Liverpool, which he reached in eight days. Fearing that the representations of the English captain might do him injury, he hurried up to London, and saw Sir Joseph Banks. That gentleman, however, justly incensed at the extraordinary breach of trust of which his privateer captain had been guilty, refused to have anything to do with him, and, the “Talbot” having meanwhile got into port, the captain made a statement of the “Iceland affair” to the Government. He said that King Jorgenson had “established a republican government in Iceland, for the purpose of making that island a nest for all the disaffected persons in Europe,” and added “that he was highly unqualified to hold the command of a kingdom, because he had been an apprentice on board an English collier, and had served as midshipman in an English ship of war.”
Hearing of this statement, and fearing the consequences, the king went into hiding for a week or so, but one day, while dining at the Spread Eagle, in Gracechurch-street, he was arrested and taken before the Lord Mayor, charged with being “an alien to an enemy, at large without the king’s license, and with having broken his parole.” In vain he pleaded that he was really acting in the interest of England; the Lord Mayor had no taste for romance, and the poor king was put into Tothill Fields prison, there to console himself by the recollections of other monarchs who had been placed in similar positions. Had Voltaire been alive, he might have given him a seat at the supper-table in Candide.
After five weeks in Tothill Fields, where he “met with persons the effect of whose intimacy steeped his future life in misery”—notably Count Dillon, then a political prisoner—he was removed to the hulk appointed for the reception of Danish prisoners, and kept there for nearly twelve months, at the end of which time he was permitted to reside at Reading on his parole. Here he cultivated literary tastes, and wrote a little work, entitled The Copenhagen Expedition Traced to other Causes than the Treaty of Tilsit. I have no doubt he knew as much about the subject as most people. After a ten months’ residence at Reading, he received a permission to return to London, and was “soon picked up by my Tothill Fields acquaintance.” How he lived at this epoch it is not difficult to conjecture. He says himself, “I was thoroughly initiated into all the horrors and enticements of the gaming-table.” He appears to have lived his fair share of life in Bohemia, being now rich, now poor, now strolling in the parks, now lurking in a garret. At last, stripped of every penny, “including a 16th share of a £20,000 prize in the State lottery,” he took his passage in a vessel bound for Lisbon. Even here his ill fortune pursued him. Just before the vessel sailed, Bellingham had assassinated Mr. Perceval in the lobby of the House of Commons, and meddlesome Jorgenson must needs be the first to convey the intelligence to the British Consulate. The Consul, however, disbelieved the story, and, as Jorgenson could give no very good account of himself, sent him back to England. Determined to go to Spain—doubtless, like Ancient Pistol, with a view to the plunder obtainable at the seat of war—he engaged as a mate of a merchant vessel, was discharged at Lisbon, passed through the lines, and visited Madrid. Unable to keep from play, however, he was again robbed of his gains, and, selling his clothes, and retaining only a jacket and trousers, entered as seaman in a gunboat which was “going home with the mail.” Unluckily, the packet-boat hove in sight, and took the mails, while the gunboat was sent to cruise off Cape St. Vincent.
Here Jorgenson assisted in the capture of several privateers, and gained promotion. On arriving at Gibraltar, he “malingered,” and was placed in the hospital, and finally invalided in the “Dromedary” (afterwards sent as store and prison ship to Van Diemen’s Land). Arriving at Portsmouth in 1813, he was placed on board the “Gladiator,” 50 guns, stationed as an invalid-hulk. The berthing of the invalids would not appear to be conducive to their recovery. “Between 700 and 800 persons,” says Jorgenson, “were collected in this horribly pent-up place, which could not have afforded moderate accommodation for half of them, even had they been in good health. As it was, they were obliged to remain on deck and below alternately night and day, a most trying vicissitude, which occasioned the death of many.” Jorgenson, not liking his position, wrote a letter to the Admiral requesting to be allowed to go ashore. But, this coming to the ears of the captain and the doctor, they were indignant, the doctor vowing that the patient was “shamming,” and the captain swearing that he would “teach him to apply to the Admiral instead of to him.” Upon this Jorgenson reflected—the small vanity of the captain was hurt at his authority being slighted. What would move one man would move another. Jorgenson wrote to the Admiral apologising for his former letter, and regretting that “he did not know that the captain was only responsible to the Lords of the Admiralty and not to him.” This touched the Admiral on a sore point. He ordered the captain and the patient both before him, and, to assert his dignity, dismissed Jorgenson and reprimanded the captain.
Getting back to London, Jorgenson seems to have subsisted by writing for patronage, and spying for the Government. In his leisure moments, he wrote an account of the Icelandic revolution, which he presented to Sir Joseph Banks. He seems to have become quite a “lion” among the curious at this period. His “tempter,” as he calls it, overtook him again, and, going up to town, he “launched into extravagance,” and soon became little better than a sharper.
He tells here a curious ancedote. Being one day at a coffee-house in the Strand, he met Count Dillon, whose acquaintance he had made in Tothill Fields prison. Dillon, thinking him an “enemy of England,” began to talk freely; and Jorgenson, always ready to turn an honest penny, did not scruple to draw him out with a view to giving information to the Government. Dillon told him of a plot then concerted between the Americans and the French, “to send out an armed expedition” to take possession of the Australias.
This idea originated from the reports given by Boudin, commodore of the “Geographe” and the “Naturaliste,” who had visited the colonies in 1801. Jorgenson had met this adventurer in Sydney, but had at that time no suspicions of his intentions. He recalls, however, that, “on the occasion of his making an exploring tour into the interior of New South Wales, I was induced to accompany him, and all his ambition was to advance further than any Englishman had ever been before. We had travelled about 100 miles from Sydney, and had ascended the Hawkesbury a considerable way, some marked tree or remains of a temporary hut giving constant indications that a European had been there at some former period. I had become so impatient at his incessant reasons, thus continually discovered, for penetrating further, with so futile an object as that of returning to Paris and boasting that he had been where no traveller had been before him, that, espying a large white rock projecting from a little eminence, I ran forward, and, standing upon it, called out to him with a show of exultation that that was the point beyond which no white had been. Boudin then marched about 20 paces further, and returned quite satisfied.”
The expedition was to consist of two armed French and American vessels, which, meeting at a certain rendezvous, were to sail together into the South Seas, and “participate in the plunder of the colonies.” Immediately on hearing this, Jorgenson posted to the Colonial Office, and laid his intelligence before “a gentleman high in office.” The information was, however, disregarded, the Government considering it a “wild scheme,” and unlikely to be carried into effect “while the whole energies of Europe were drawn to a vortex in the Continental contest.” Jorgenson says, moreover, that the “gentleman” remarked that even should the attempt be successful, England would lose little or nothing. “These colonies are not worth keeping,” said he, “for they already cost the Government £100,000 a year!”
The expedition, however, sailed in 1813, but the two French ships, under Count Dillon, were wrecked off Cadiz. The Americans proceeded, and captured and burned 17 whalers. The deficiency thus created in the London market sent sperm oil up to an enormous price. Upon this circumstance, and the indifference of the British Government to the smaller dependencies, Jorgenson remarks—“It is indeed much to be regretted that the navigation, fisheries, and trade of these seas has so long been looked over by the authorities at home. The immense archipelago of the Pacific is studded with islands, and inhabited by millions of friendly-disposed people, ready and anxious to exchange their commodities for British manufactures. The benign influence of the Christian religion, which is rapidly extending itself by the aid of our gospel missionaries, is doing much to raise these people in the scale of civilised society; and although the Americans are hourly taking advantage of our comparative supineness, the approach of an English flag is always, and we trust ever will be, hailed with superior satisfaction. The pearl fishery is said to be more profitable and less hazardous than that of the sperm whale, and the sandalwood and beche-de-la-mer, which are produced so abundantly on the northern coasts of our New Holland, are known to yield the Dutch, through the medium of the Malays, an immense revenue. Nothing surprised Captain Flinders more, in the course of his navigation of these countries, than the immense fleets of Malay proas extensively engaged in this traffic which he met with in the Gulf of Carpentaria.”
Just at this time, the adviser of the Government was arrested and sent to the Fleet for two years, and, when the intelligence of the destruction of the British whaling ships was brought, did not fail to remind His Majesty’s Ministers of the service he had rendered. He was supplied with money to pay his debts; but so inveterate was his passion for the gaming-table, that, instead of discharging his liabilities, he went to a hazard-table and lost every penny.
Being now securely locked up, without hope of release, Jorgenson “amused himself” by writing histories, pamphlets, and stories. Sending these, “neatly written in manuscript,” to several persons of rank, he made enough money to live upon, and too little to allow him to gamble. He enjoyed the “liberties of the Fleet,” and became a sort of “patron,” a Danish Dorrit, a “father of his people.” This Arcadian life, however, was somewhat strangely interrupted. One day he was sent for from the Foreign Office, and “had the pleasure to be engaged on a foreign mission to the seat of war;” in other words, he took service as a “spy.”
Amply supplied with money for his present expenses, and provided with an order to “draw on London” for any funds he might require while travelling, it would appear that Jorgenson at last had fallen on good days. He had a “career,” such as it was, before him, and could have at once left London and the Fleet Prison with credit. His propensity for gambling was, however, too much for him, and, instead of going to Dover, he went to a “silverhell, ” and lost, not only his money, but the very clothes he had provided for his journey.
Totally destitute of the means of living, and ashamed to apply to “the gentleman in the Foreign Office” who had given him his place, and who naturally concluded that his protégé was already in Paris, our poor hero was at his wits’ end. But, with a determination and impudence worthy of Lazarillo.de Tormes or the more famous Gil Blas of Santillane, Jorgenson resolved to seize his chance of advancement with his naked hands. Repairing to the friend of debtors, vagabonds, thieves, and adventurers—the old-clothes man, that great “dresser” for the Beggar’s Opera—he exchanged his only suit for a sailor’s jacket and trousers, walked to Gravesend, and embarked on board a transport bound for Ostend. At Ostend he met an officer who knew him, and testified to his identity, and an “order” on the Foreign Office was cashed without difficulty. Of his business on the Continent our friend speaks little, as becomes him. He says vaguely that he was “sent to ascertain what effect the subjugation of Napoleon was likely to have on British Commerce,” but, as he arrived in Ghent some weeks before the Battle of Waterloo, his explanation is not as satisfactory as it might be, and, though we admire his delicacy, we can but regret his reticence. He was at Brussels when the celebrated stampede took place, and may have witnessed Mrs. Crawley’s triumph and Jos. Sedley’s flight (relictâ non bene parmul â—his moustache ingloriously left behind). He was a “silent spectator of the three days,” and, wandering over the field of Waterloo after the battle, may perhaps have seen M. Thénardier (like Diogenes with his lantern), seeking for a man honest enough to be worth robbing. How the father of Eponine, and the saviour of the Baron Pontmercy would have fraternised with such a comrade!
The life of a spy in those days was not an unpleasant one. Jorgenson went to Paris with the stream, and found that “the business he had to perform brought him in contact with several celebrated names of that day,” and in particular he had “the pleasure to form an acquaintance with a French general, a great favourite of Bonaparte, and now a marshal of France,” and, being liberally supplied with money by his employers, enjoyed himself much. Paris at that time was a kaleidoscope of uniforms—Germans, English, French, and Russians, all fraternised and fought. Jorgenson had for six months ample opportunities to study human nature. He could attend the balls of Madame Roni (née Rooney); comment on the conduct of Captain Gronow’s ferocious duellist; gaze at a distance on Madame Firmiani; or lend the natural vigour of his arm to the assistance of Arthur O’Leary, Esq., beleagured in the gaming-house of the Palais Royal. This last conjecture is not without foundation. He rushed to the gambling-houses with eagerness, and played with desperation. Mr. Blunt (the friend of Mr. Sala) did not beggar himself with greater bonhomie. Notwithstanding that he was ordered on a special mission to Warsaw, he played until he had nothing to sell but his shirt, and, disposing of that garment for seven francs to a sergeant, he buttoned up his coat, and, leaving Paris by the east gate, set out along the north road on foot.
It was the month of December, and bitterly cold. Arriving at Joncherie, one hundred and twenty miles from the capital, Jorgenson found himself worn out with fatigue and reduced to the last sou of the seven francs. He dare not draw upon the F.O. until he reached Poland, and knew no-one on the road. Rendered desperate by circumstances, he did just exactly what little Con Cregan did in Dublin—walked boldly into the best hotel, and ordered the best dinner they could give him. The hotel was a cabaret of mean pretensions, and the dinner bacon and eggs. Jorgenson turned up his nose with the air of a prince, and determined to make the best of it. As he was very hungry, this was not so difficult. Meanwhile the news of the illustrious stranger in the buttoned-up coat had gone the rounds of the village, and the mayor called to see the stranger’s passport. In the course of a lofty conversation with the host, Jorgenson had learned that the mayor was “Bourbonniste,” and, in pulling his passport from his pocket, pulled with it a letter from the Duchess d’Angoulême. The mayor picked it up. “Ha!—oh, a letter!—see!” “From my friend the Duchess d’Angoulême.” “Thirty thousand pardons, Monsieur,” cries the polite mayor, “but we officials have our duties, you know.” Jorgenson finished the bacon, and graciously forgave the impertinence of M. le Maire’s inquiries. He was an Irishman going to the Holy Land—poor, like many of his countrymen, but of excellent family, like all of them. “Then,” cries the mayor, “you must see our Baroness D’Este, who will be most glad to receive any person going on such a mission!” Jorgenson visited the baroness—some pious woman without much brains—and not only talked her into paying his expenses at the inn, but got from her several coins to deposit, with her blessing, at the sacred shrine. With this aid, our adventurer contrived to get as far as Rheims, and there resolved to make a bold stroke for fortune. “The politics of this ancient city,” says he, “were of a very opposite description from those of my last resting place.” The prefect was a zealous Bonapartist, and Jorgenson, who, like St. Paul, seems to have been “all things to all men,” avowed himself a zealous adherent of that banished potentate, and further informed the perfect of a plot formed by the English to rob the commissariat. The plot was not discovered, but the letter procured a personal interview, and the prefect was so charmed with the stranger that he not only gave him a supply of money, but a fine horse, and a “billet,” which entitled him to a certain sum per mile to defray expenses. Armed with these useful evidences of the prefect’s political sentiments, Jorgenson reached Frankfort in twenty-two days—not without adventures. At Metz the mayor could not speak French, and refused to assist the traveller. “Though,” remarks Jorgenson; with a degree of self-complacency only equalled by that of the bashful Plumper, “I have always found it an up-hill sort of thing for myself to get over, I have found almost on all occasions, both in the old world and the new, that a certain degree of ‘modest’ assurance was a great help to a man in getting through life.” Acting on this notion, he put the “billet” (written in French) into the surly mayor’s hand, and remarked with a low bow, “You will see, sir, by that document with what you are to supply me.” The excellent man, rather than admit his inability to read, at once gave the modestly assured Jorgenson all he wished. Another mayor, however, received a specimen of what Frank Smedley called “Oaklands’ quiet manner.” He refused to do anything, and told the bearer of the “billet” that he was “a lazy vagabond.” Jorgenson, whose Icelandic experiences had taught him to mingle the fortiter in re with the suaviter in modo, promptly knocked him down, seized a horse, and galloped off amid a demonstration of pitchforks from the inhabitants.
Arrived in Frankfort in a storm of rain, he began to wonder how he should get on, and, meeting an apparently charitable Jew, told him his story. The Jew, however, remarked that he had taken him for a rich Polish merchant, and, waggishly laying a finger along his nose, departed. The recollection of his good fortune at Joncherie now came upon Jorgenson, and, “entering a good inn,” he ordered “a sumptuous meal, and went to bed.” In the morning he sent for the landlord, told him that he had no money, but expected some in the course of the day, and that if he would permit him to go out he would leave his “waistcoat” as security. The landlord accepted, and, once more buttoned up, Jorgenson roamed the town in hopes of meeting with a friend. But Frankfort was large, and friends were few and far between. From the scanning the faces of passers-by, he at last took, like Balzac, to studying shop-fronts, and, also like Balzac, was at last rewarded by a name which “embodied his idea.” This name, however, was not Z. Marcas, but Fraser, and its owner was not a cobbler, but a watchmaker. In goes Jorgenson. “Good morning. My name is Jorgenson; that chronometer there was made by my father in Denmark.” The honest Fraser looked. Sure enough it was so. A conversation began which ended by the watchmaker taking the waistcoatless son of his fellow tradesman to the house of Lord Clancarty, the British Minister. Jorgenson sent in his name, “on secret service.” The servants stared at his shabby attire. What if he were come to murder His Lordship! His fate hung in the balance, when a side door opened and “a gentleman attached to the Foreign Office” came out, like Horace’s god of the go-cart, and recognised him. All was now put right. He was supplied with money, redeemed his waistcoat, and paid for his dinner.
Mr. Fraser, who seems to have been a man of intelligence and position, gave him a letter to the secretary of the Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, and on presenting it Jorgenson had “some interesting conversation with His Highness with regard to what I had seen in these colonies” (Tasmania and New South Wales), and spent some time in admiring the ducal gallery of paintings. When he took his departure the Duke made him a handsome present. Encouraged by these compliments, Jorgenson began to take his proper position, and travelled in a carriage to Berlin, calling on all the celebrities as he passed. He was mistaken by some for an English milord. At Saxe-Weimar he was introduced to Goethe. “I saw him in the library of the Duke—a magnificent collection of books, containing upwards of 700,000 volumes. Goethe was a member of the privy council, as well as filling the office of librarian to the Duke, a situation more congenial to his literary habits. Though upwards of seventy, he was full of life and spirits. He wore the dress of a privy councillor, a blue coat with gold facings. He was stout and portly in appearance, rather tall, with hazel eyes, remarkably heavy eyebrows, and dark complexion.”
At Leipsic our adventurer surveyed the battle-field, and, like a premature Childe Harold, moralised there. In Berlin, the British Minister afforded him “every assistance,” and there is little doubt that he held a position of some confidence as a secret agent. He visited Niebhur and Bernstoff (the latter being Minister of Foreign Affairs), and appears to have been on terms of acquaintanceship with Prince (then Count) Puckler Muskau. He gives an entertaining description of the Prince’s ascent in a balloon, in company with “a female aëronaut, to whom he presented 500 crowns.” He played cards with Marshal Blucher, and had the entrée to good society. Unluckily, his passion for gambling again beset him, and ultimately proved his ruin. So enthralled was he by the gaming-table that he never set out for Warsaw at all, but, forming an acquaintance with some Poles, “collected from them such information as it was my duty to obtain,” and actually wrote several despatches, dated Warsaw, embodying the intelligence thus received.
At last, in November, 1816, he got as far as Dresden, and there his ruin was completely effected. In two days all his money was swallowed up by a “set of sharpers.” His false despatches were detected, and, in debt and disgrace, he determined to retrace his steps to London. His creditors pressing him, he was compelled to leave without a passport, and thus had to “dodge” his way to the seaboard. One instance which he relates will serve as an example of the tricks to which he resorted. One night the gatekeeper at the gate of a small fortified town refused to let him pass. He was cold, hungry, and in despair. The noise of the altercation brought out the gatekeeper’s wife. The sex adore three things—charity, mystery, and finery. Jorgenson beckoned her aside, and, begging her to intercede in his behalf, pulled from his pocket two silk handkerchiefs, gave her one, and avowed himself a smuggler expecting hourly the arrival of his cart from the frontier. The gatekeeper’s wife was mortal, and the gatekeeper was uxorious. The smuggler was asked in to supper, passed a pleasant night, and after a hearty breakfast went out to look after his cart, and “so proceeded on his journey.” When he got to London he was paid for his services, and resolved with the money thus acquired to emigrate to Spanish America, the natural home of adventurers like himself. But, “venturing a small stake” in the hope of adding to the small store he had already with him, he soon lost every penny, and for the next three years of his life was engaged in a “continual whirl of misery and disappointment at the gaming-table.”
At last, having sunk lower and lower, he seems to have become something little better than a copper-captain, the swashbuckling bully of the gaming-house. In the year 1820 he was arrested for pawning certain articles of bed-furniture belonging to his landlady in Tottenham Court road, and was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Pending the execution of his sentence, he was placed under the surgeon of Newgate, Mr. Box, as assistant in the hospital. Here he made desperate efforts to get his sentence commuted, and at last succeeded. Permitted, doubtless through the influence of his former employers, to retain his post as dispenser, for nearly two years, Jorgenson conducted himself with propriety; and getting “favourable notice” from the sheriffs, his case was more minutely inquired into, and it being found that the articles for the theft of which he had been sentenced were pawned in the name of one of his fellow-lodgers, he received his pardon, on condition that he should quit the kingdom within a month from the day of his liberation. Unfortunately, however, having a considerable sum in his pockets, the savings of his “gratuities,” he again sought the gaming-table, and in the excitement of play overstayed his leave. At last, being several weeks over his allotted time, he resolved to ship on board a man-of-war, and was on his way to the tender in the river, when he fell in with an old acquaintance on Tower Hill, who asked him to dinner. This jolly companion had been Jorgenson’s predecessor as “assistant” in Newgate, and, hearing that he had “outstayed his time,” brought in the police, and handed his guest over to the law he had outraged. Jorgenson calls this betrayer of social confidence a “scoundrel,” and there are few who will not heartily endorse his opinion. He was tried and sentenced to transportation for life, and though three years in his former situation in the hospital—during which time he revised the account of his Continental tour, and wrote a religious work, The Religion of Christ the Religion of Nature—he was at last sent out to Van Diemen’s Land in the “Woodman,” which “sailed from Sheerness with 150 convicts and a detachment of military,” with their wives and children, in November, 1825.
Some of his experiences of Newgate are curious, as examples of convict discipline of that epoch. He says that “cards were often smuggled in,” and that “as there is a standing rule against the admission of any female, unless a prisoner’s wife, the majority of prisoners declare themselves married in order to obtain interviews with their former associates.” This declaration is, of course, recorded in the books of the gaol, and transmitted in the lists sent to the convict settlement. The trials were conducted with indecent rapidity, and it was a common thing for prisoners to plead guilty “in order to save time.” “I well remember,” says Jorgenson, “one day when five men were arraigned at the bar, the four most guilty of whom, being asked their plea by the court, answered promptly, and with much seeminy contrition, ‘Guilty, my Lord, ’ and were sentenced to a few months’ imprisonment, while the fifth, sensible of his comparative innocence, pleaded ‘Not guilty,’ occupied the time of the court with his defence for three-quarters of an hour, and was sentenced to seven years’ transportation.”
Capital punishment was frequent, and apparently but little feared. A man named Madden, under sentence of death, “malingered” for hospital comforts in his last moments. “He had fallen fast asleep one evening, when the sheriff came about eleven o’clock to announce to him the awful news that he was to be hanged next Monday morning. The poor creature, raising himself in his bed, and thinking, I verily believe, more of the respect that was due to the sheriff than of his own dreadful situation, touched respectfully with his hand a little tuft of hair that stuck out on his brow from under his nightcap, in lieu of his hat, and, bending his head, merely said, ‘Very well, gentlemen,’ then, laying himself down again, and throwing the blankets over his shoulders, was asleep and actually snoring in five minutes.” At the same time, he mentions the case of an old man who was under sentence, and whose wife, being in the most destitute condition, often came to the prison vowing that he had money, and begging him to give her some—“if it was but a single sixpence.” The miser refused, and “actually went to the gallows, and was hanged, with nine sovereigns in his trousers pocket.” Jorgenson speaks highly of Dr. Box, and cites, in support of his assertion of that gentleman’s probity, a story to the effect that a gentleman of good family was condemned to death, and, as by his decease his relatives would lose a valuable lease of certain Crown lands, his two sons offered Box a bribe of £4000 to declare their father insane. Box would not accept the bribe, but pledged himself to secresy, and two “eminent physicians” being less scrupulous, the prisoner escaped. He tells also a very strange story of a clerk in the Transfer Office of the Bank of England, who, being committed for forgery, attempted to escape through the window of a third storey, but fell, and broke his jaw-bone, his hip-bone, and one of his arms. The case was clear, but the accident caused a postponement of the trial until the next sessions, and the prisoner, being then brought into court, “carried on a litter and bandaged all round,” was again remanded. In the meantime, his friends set vigorously to work, and, by dint of high bribery, suborned witnesses, and destroyed vouchers, got an acquittal.
Jorgenson gives as his opinion that convicts were in great terror of “transportation,” and regarded it in many instances as a punishment worse than death. “I have known,” says he, “several who would have looked upon death as less severe than being torn from their old friends and associates. The very remoteness of the scene, and the uncertainty (not-withstanding every representation) of the fate they are to meet with, affects them with a species of horror inconceivable to those who have not been similarly situated. . . . The idea of reforming a person who has been convicted of never so small an offence at home seems never to be entertained. . . . When in gaol, it is a common boast among themselves, and a spirit of emulation exists among them to show who has committed the most numerous and most daring offences, from which they derive a sort of consequence over each other.”
Previous to his removal on board the “Woodman,” he was placed in the “Justitia” hulk, stationed off Woolwich, and did not appear to like his situation. The hulks were hot-beds of infamy and blackguardism. The authority possessed by the officers was often abused, and the most vicious of the criminal class, herded together without proper superintendence, committed the most abominable crimes with comparative impunity. Jorgenson speaks bitterly of his sufferings; and, admitting that it is possible that he may exaggerate, one cannot but agree with him when he characterises the English galleys of that time as “schools of abominable pollution,” and avers that “those who have been discharged from them have over-run England, and everywhere spread vice and immorality.” On board the prison-ships things were but little better. “Each prisoner was supplied with new clothing of the coarsest description,” and each, without exception, had a pair of double-irons placed on his legs. . . . Swearing, cursing, wrangling, lamentations, and tears deafened all within hearing, and it appeared as if ten thousand demons had been let loose. . . . By daylight or dark, they (the prisoners) did not scruple to steal all that came in their way, boxes and parcels of tea and sugar were torn from those who possessed any, and in case of resistance life was endangered. . . . Those who were most daring and active in these exploits were looked up to with a great deal of respect by their less hardened fellow convicts. . . . The thieves easily found receivers, as wearing apparel and other things were sold to the soldiers and their wives, and the sailors in the half-deck.” The surgeon-superintendent is described as a good-hearted man, as is also Mr. Leary, a lieutenant in the navy, who commanded the vessel. Jorgenson’s description of the voyage is somewhat minute, but too lengthy to quote here. Once fairly in blue water, the irons were knocked off, and the prisoners sent up on deck in gangs. In the tropics four died of fever, and several were placed in hospital. This “fever”—probably “ship fever”—carried off the surgeon himself, and the “Woodman” was obliged to make the Cape, and take another surgeon on board. Fortunately, the disease did not spread in colder latitudes; they arrived safely at Hobart Town on the 5th May, 1826; and Jorgenson “remembered sadly,” as he contemplated the rising city, that “twenty-three years before he had assisted in forming Risdon, the first settlement in the island.”
The morning after the “Woodman” arrived in Hobart Town, the usual muster of prisoners took place.
The convicts in their prison clothes were landed and marched up to the prisoners’ barracks, where they were inspected by the Governor, Colonel Arthur, and in due course “assigned” or sentenced to such further imprisonment as their conduct during the voyage had rendered desirable. Jorgenson had “letters of recommendation” from two of the directors of the Van Diemen’s Land Company to their principal agent, Mr. Edward Curr. Unluckily, however, our hero had been enthralled by the representations of a Mr. Rolla O’Farrell, “a gentleman of fashionable appearance, who spoke a little French,” and had made application to be placed in his office on Government service. This application was granted, and Jorgenson found that he had committed a great error, the Government pay being small and the work arduous. “A prisoner clerk,” he says, “received only 6d. a day and 1d. for rations; the former paid quarterly, and the latter every month.”
He had hoped that the Government would have extended some mercy towards him, not only on account of his period of imprisonment in Newgate, but because of his services on board the “Woodman.” But he was disappointed. Strange rumours concerning him were afloat. Some said he was a political pamphleteer, imprisoned for having written against the Government; others, that he had been a political spy, employed against the British Crown. Those reports Jorgenson stigmatises as “devoid of truth,” adding, with some tolerable degree of that modest self-assurance which he alleges is so needful to success in life, that “a system of espionage is of so abominable a character, that no man possessed of the least particle of honour would engage in it.”
At last there was found for him an employment more suited to his ambition than that of copying letters in a Government office. A party having been formed to explore the company’s land, and to trace a road from the River Shannon to Circular Head, he was placed in command. It was the early part of September, and the rivers were much swollen with recent heavy rains. Each man had with him six weeks’ provisions, slung swagwise on his back (no small weight to carry), and the journey was most laborious. The settlers, however, received them with much kindness, and until their arrival at the Big Lake, north-west of the ford of the Shannon, they got on well enough. At the River Ouse, which runs parallel with the Big Lake, however, their difficulties commenced. No ford was to be found, and for more than thirty miles Jorgenson followed the course of the stream, searching in vain for a crossing-place. Being now nearly fifty years of age, and in nowise re-invigorated by his travels and dissipations, Jorgenson was becoming knocked up, and meditated a retreat. Reaching, however, a “cataract pouring down between perpendicular and impracticable rocks,” the party were brought to a ford by the accident of their dogs pursuing a kangaroo, which “led them through an opening” in the cliffs. They crossed the river some miles further down, but, the provisions being nearly expended, were compelled to fall back to Dr. Ross’s farm, situated on the confluence of the Ouse and Shannon. From this place Jorgenson despatched a man to Hobart Town, with letters for Mr. Curr, and himself explored the country round, “armed with a ponderous sword given him by Dr. Ross.”
The messenger having returned after an absence of some weeks, the adventurers made another more successful attempt to pursue their journey. Retracing their steps they penetrated to the source of the Derwent, and ascending the mountains—foot-deep with snow—had hopes of reaching Circular Head, when the desperate nature of the country again barred their progress. The hills were rifted with chasms, and gored with cañons and ravines. It was impossible to go on, and the floods which had risen since their setting forth forbade them to go back. Provisions fell short, and death stared them in the face. In this plight Jorgenson avowed his ability to lead his companions to a stock-hut, and to his astonishment succeeded in doing so. Descending from the hills and keeping between the river-beds, the party found themselves in a country of a different aspect, and traversing some broad cattle-tracks leading down a series of gentle slopes, arrived at the banks of Lake Echo. A distinct view of the Table Mountain on the Clyde now cheered their spirits, and by the afternoon of the next day they reached “a stock-hut.”
The stockmen, observing the tattered clothes, long beards, and portentous firearms of the travellers, took them for bushrangers; and until Jorgenson produced his maps, compass, journal, and letters from Curr, refused to give them shelter. Bushrangers swarmed at that time in the country districts, and the fear of the good folks was not without warrant. Jorgenson’s good fortune—now bringing him in contact with a scholar, and now with a “shipmate”—protected him until he reached Hobart Town. It was lucky indeed that he had not succeeded in making Circular Head, for the provisions which were to have been buried there had missed carriage, and had the explorers reached the Bluff they must all have died of starvation.
In the early part of January, 1827, he was again employed by the company on a like service. It was decided to send a party along the western coast of the island from Circular Head to the Shannon. Proceeding to Circular Head, Jorgenson did good service in “talking over” some of the most dissatisfied of the convicts—a mutiny had just been put down by force of arms—and with three others, including Mr. Lorymer, one of the company’s surveyors, set out from Cape Cameron to Pieman’s River. This expedition was a more disastrous one than the first. The coast was barren and flinty. In various resting-places on their weary journey they fell in with wrecks of beached vessels—melancholy memorials of former visitors. The sand-hills rivalled those of Jutland—“in one place,” says Jorgenson, “a mountain of sand had been reared which, after ascending with great difficulty, measured on the top seven miles in length.” Timber was scarce—it was even difficult to find a crosspole for their tent. Climbing at last with immense toil the almost perpendicular banks of Pieman’s River, a scene of appalling desolation burst upon them. “It was as though some mighty convulsion had rent the earth asunder, and sported with trees of enormous length and circumference, tearing them up by the roots—trees nearly coeval with centuries back.” Beyond this wild stretch of mountain land towered the Frenchman’s Cap and the Traveller’s Guide, the two landmarks of that dreary spot, Macquarie Harbour. Descending the gullies, with the hope of finding a road through what seemed to be a huge plain stretching away to the westward, they found themselves in a desert of six-wire scrub, so dense that they could not cut their way through it quicker than at the rate of 200 yards a-day. This was the “desert” where so many runaways from “Hell’s Gates” settlement had been lost; and Jorgenson, finding that his two best dogs had died from hunger, and that the provisions were reduced to two bags of flour, determined to retreat to Circular Head.
Arriving at Cape Camberon, danger thickens upon them. They could not find water. They were nearly swallowed by the quick-sands on the seashore. They made a raft, and poor Lorymer was drowned in attempting to cross the Duck River. Wet, exhausted, and fainting from want of food, the three survivors at last came upon “the tail of a dog-fish, at which the crows and gulls were greedily picking,” and saw in this “savoury morsel a new lease of life.” Concealing their firearms in the scrub, and flinging away all unnecessary burden of accoutrements, they pushed on with the energy of desperation, and at last reached Circular Head in safety. Jorgenson lay between life and death for four days, and at last recovered. This was his last expedition on the part of the Van Diemen’s Land Company. Arrived at Hobart Town once more, he received his ticket-of-leave, and occupied himself in assisting in editing a colonial newspaper, “being glad,” he says, “to employ myself in any way in which I could obtain an honest subsistence.” He did not long fill the editorial chair, finding the “proprietor of the paper” not at all to his taste. This worthy man, it appears, “kept him starving,” and also, after a fashion which has been found uncongenial to men of letters in every age, “insisted that every one in the house should attend prayers three times a day, and as these prayers were unusually long, and delivered in a tone and dialect extremely disagreeable,” Jorgenson was “glad to get rid of the connection.”
A new field for enterprise awaited him. As I have already stated in a previous article, the country at that time (1827-29) was infested with desperadoes, who, escaped from the various prison gangs on the island, had taken to the bush. The most daring robberies were committed in open day, and the authorities set completely at defiance. The day before Jorgenson had reached Dr. Ross’s house on the occasion of his first expedition to the Big Lake, the place had been “visited by Dunn,” a notorious ruffian, whose name yet lives in prison story. This gentleman was a mate of the more infamous wretch Brady, and was the terror of the district. He is reported to have shot down alike aborigines and settlers. Mr. Bonwick, in his Bushrangers, tells how he cut off the head of a native and tied it round the neck of a lubra as a token of esteem; on this occasion he merely made one of the stockmen tie up the other two, and then fry him some chops.
He was caught and hung, not long after; and the compiler of the Bushrangers states that he appeared on the scaffold in “a long white muslin robe, with a huge black cross marked thereon before and behind.” Such monsters as these were numerous, and a formidable gang, consisting of upwards of sixty in different parts of the colony, acted in concert, in stealing sheep, cattle, and horses. The Government had determined to put down these villains with a strong hand. Up to that time it had been the custom to punish with death all captured runaways, but it was found that such policy did not answer. It was resolved to offer pardon to approves, and the instant this was done crime began to decrease. When a man had no chance of escape from the gallows whatever he confessed, he not unwisely held his tongue and confessed nothing; but when hope of mercy was held out, many betrayed their associates. As go-betweens of the Crown and the convict, some few daring and trusted agents were employed, and Jorgenson was chosen one of these. Given a letter from the Colonial Secretary to Mr. Thomas Anstey, of Anstey Barton, police magistrate in the Oatlands district, he proceeded to that gentleman’s house, and was soon installed as constable of the field police and assistant-constable to the police-magistrate. His duties were arduous. The circumference of the Oatlands district alone is more than 150 miles, and “bushrangers harassing the settlers, and the hostile aboriginal tribes committing many murders and depredations, the situation of a constable was not without its difficulties and dangers.” Jorgenson was obliged to visit all the farms and stock-huts in the districts of Oatlands, Clyde, Campbell Town, the great and little Swan ports, and sometimes the Richmond district, and slept out among such suggestive names as those of “Murderer’s Plains,” “Murderer’s Tier,” “Deadman’s Point,” “Killman’s Point,” “Hell’s Corner,” “Foursquare Gallows,” “Dunn’s Look-out,” “Brady’s Look-out,” and the like.
After two years of this life, during which he several times narrowly escaped death from bullet or starvation, Jorgenson took part in the celebrated war of extermination against the blacks. The aboriginals had for a long time harassed the settlers, reprisals took place, and a mutual distrust was engendered. At this time things had arrived at the pass that natives speared white men wherever they found them, and white men shot down natives wholesale in return. In the year 1827, 121 outrages by natives were committed in the Oatlands district alone, and no less than 28 inquests were held by one coroner on the bodies of people murdered by aboriginals. As an instance of the sort of amusement that had been going on for the previous eight years, Jorgenson cites an official report made by a settler named Robert Jones, “residing at Pleasant Place, near Poole’s Marsh, on the River Jordan, in the district of the Upper Clyde.” This report gives so vivid a picture of “squatting” life at that period of Tasmanian history that I proceed to quote it nearly at length.
“On the evening of the 17th and 18th day of March, in the year 1819,” says Mr. Jones, “I resided in a stock-hut under a stony sugar-loaf, about two miles to the westward of the Macquarie River, then called the Relief River. There were three inmates, of whom one went out on the Relief Plains to look after the sheep. Towards the evening this man came running to the hut, seemingly in a very exhausted state. He said that the natives were spearing the sheep on the plains, and when they saw him they pursued him until he came in sight of the hut. We seized our firearms, consisting of two muskets, and went in pursuit, but they were in so bad a state as to be almost useless. After proceeding about 200 yards, we observed several natives lurking behind the trees. We attempted to get up with them, but they ran up into a high tier, where they were joined by a great number of others. They did not offer to disperse, but on the contrary, some of the most daring came up to us quivering their spears and making a hideous noise. We presented our pieces with an idea of frightening them, but they heeded us not; and what was worse, the man who carried the ammunition had unfortunately lost it. We now commenced our retreat, in which we found little difficulty, as it was by this time quite dark.
“The following morning, at dawn of day, I went down on the plains, about a quarter of a mile from the hut; I heard a kind of gibberish, and on looking round I saw a great number going towards the hut. I might have made my escape, for they seemed to take no notice of me; however, I ran with all speed to the hut, for I guessed it to be their intention to set fire to it, which might have been easily accomplished, as the inmates were still in bed. I succeeded in rousing them, and we prepared ourselves against an attack. They made a most formidable appearance; some were making along a valley at the back of the hut with lighted bark in their hands, whilst a far greater number took up a position on the side of the hill, whence they could safely throw spears, waddies, and stones at us. They now gave a great shout, and commenced operations, so we were obliged to take shelter under the far end of the hut. They continued to assail us for a length of time; and finding that our pieces would not go off, they made signs for us to quit the place, which we were unwilling to do. I could perceive, as they approached closer, that they were smeared all over with red ochre; and I have since been informed, that when so daubed it is a sure sign of hostile determination. The whole strength of the tribe present could not have been less than 200 in number. I observed one of a portly stature, who appeared to stand six feet in height. He was smeared all over with red ochre, carrying a spear of peculiar make, different to those of the rest, and much longer; he had no other sort of weapon, and even of that he made no use; he stood aloof from the rest and issued his orders with great calmness, and was implicitly obeyed. They now formed themselves into a half-moon ring, and attacked us with great vigour. We placed ourselves in the best posture of defence that we could. One of our men stood at the door of the hut with a waddy in his hand, while myself and the third man armed ourselves with shovels, and, in a state of desperation almost, attacked the two wings. This made a momentary impression on them, and they retreated up the hill, being closely pursued by us. On a sudden they made a halt, and again commenced darting their spears, waddies, and stones; one of our men received a spear-wound on the shin-bone. We endeavoured to ward off their spears, thinking they would at last be expended. They now rushed down in a most furious manner, so we were obliged to make our retreat towards the plains, having first secured our fire-arms. We ran down a small valley, with a small rise on each side. I observed a wild cow running with a spear in her, and several kangaroo-dogs were also speared. We were now completely surrounded, and in a very disadvantageous situation. We were obliged to stop; I received three spear-wounds at the same moment; one through my right cheek, another through the muscle of my right arm, and a third in my right side. I endeavoured to pull out the spears, but could not succeed, and one of my comrades came to my assistance. This man himself now received a spear wound in the back, whilst the third, who was as much exposed as we were, escaped unhurt. I bled most profusely. We kept snapping our pieces, but to no purpose; our caps were knocked off several times, our trousers were full of spear-holes, and the blacks now came rushing down within a few yards with uplifted waddies to knock out our brains. We had now been engaged about six or seven hours, and were greatly exhausted; I stood in utter stupefaction, and we gave up all hopes of escape. At that moment a most fortunate accident occurred, which I have ever considered as an act of Providence. One of the pieces, which would not for a length of time go off, now happily did execution, and the chief, the portly man spoken of above, received a ball, which killed him on the spot. The natives gave way on all sides; they endeavoured to make the chief stand on his legs, made a frightful noise, looked up to heaven, and smote their breasts. With the help of my comrades we made towards the plains, but about forty blacks, forming themselves into two divisions, pursued us until we reached them, when they abandoned further pursuit. A man now came up with a gun in his hand, who asked us what was the matter. He conducted us to a fire by the river-side, and gave us some warm tea. I became very faint; my comrades disincumbered me of my jacket, and sprinkled me over with cold water. We had now upwards of ten miles to travel before we could obtain any assistance, and we were compelled to course down the river, as I was obliged to lie down very frequently. At length we reached the stock-hut of Mr. Rowland Walpole Loane, where we were received with much kindness; after which, suffering severely from my wounds, I was with difficulty conveyed to Hobart Town.
“A party afterwards went in quest of the hostile tribe, and found that they had burned the hut down, after having taken out a bag of sugar, sheep-shears, a tomahawk, a hat, and jacket. All these things they had scattered about in every direction.”
This is not the only narrow escape Mr. Jones had from the blacks. In another part of his report he says:—“In November, 1826, I was attacked by a numerous tribe of the aborigines, at my residence at Pleasant Place, in the parish of Rutland, in the county of Monmouth. On a Thursday morning I left my wife and family at home, proceeding myself in search of some sheep, and returned about ten o’clock of the forenoon. I had scarcely entered my dwelling when my little boy came in, saying to his mother that the blacks were about. I seized my musket and went out, and saw two. I pursued them; but when I had got half-way up the tier I saw about twenty natives in ambush amongst some wattle-trees. My wife was at the time standing at our door, with a loaded pistol in her hand, and called to me to come down, which I did. The natives followed, swearing at me in good English. They now extended themselves; and as the trees were at that time standing close to the house, they singly skulked behind them. I was on the alert, for I observed one man on one side, and another one on the other side, with lighted bark in their hands; the women and children were up in the tier. I was much perplexed, for I was obliged constantly to run forwards and backwards. The centre of them worked down when they saw an opportunity. It had been a high flood the day before, and the water had scarcely left the marshes, so we were hemmed in on all sides—the river behind, and the blacks before us. Mrs. Jones had several times prevented the men from coming to the house, by presenting her pistol to them; which so exasperated them, that he who was taller than the rest, and seemed to be their chief, exclaimed in a great passion, in English—‘As for you, ma-am—as for you, ma-am—I will put you in the b—y river, ma-am,’ and then he cut a number of capers. We had then with us a courageous and faithful little girl, who proposed to go upon a scrubby hill, about a mile distant, to tell the sawyers who were at work there the dangers to which we were exposed; but we would not allow it, fearing she might be speared. Shortly after the girl was missing; it appeared afterwards that she had crawled along the fences, and succeeded in getting up to the sawyers. Guessing that she had proceeded thither, in about half-an-hour after we cooced, and were speedily answered by the men. The native women on the tier gave out a signal, and the blacks all fled. We pursued them, and I got very close to one, when he stooped under the boughs of a fallen tree, and I could see no more of him. We came up to a spot where we found a fire, with some kangaroo half-roasted, and some dogs which ran away. We then observed the blacks ascending the second tier, and we quitted further pursuit, as it would not have been safe to leave the house and family unprotected. This engagement with the natives lasted about four hours.”
This statement of Mr. Jones gives a very accurate notion of the condition of affairs in the colony. Jorgenson quotes it with expressions of resentment against the aboriginals which need not be repeated here. There can be but little doubt but that there existed faults on both sides. The colonists—rude, hot-tempered, and blood-thirsty, as many of them were—often made unprovoked attacks upon the natives, and the blood shed in these encounters was bitterly avenged on the first opportunity. “The career of the blacks in Van Diemen’s Land,” says Jorgenson, “has been ever marked with ingratitude towards those who treated them with kindness, and in their attacks on the whites they pursued them with indiscriminate slaughter, not sparing any who had even vindicated their cause and fed them.”
In consequence of repeated outrages of this nature, the Government resolved to bestir itself; but as yet apparently unwilling to commence hostile operations on a “grand scale,” contented itself by forming a committee of deliberation, which should take into consideration the whole question.
The sitting of this committee resulted in the establishment of an armed band—a sort of land privateer force—in each district. Mr. Gilbert Robertson, the chief constable of the Richmond district, had in November, 1828, been sent in pursuit of an aggressive tribe, and had captured six of them without injury to his own men. Upon the strength of this exploit the Government engaged him to go in quest of the blacks for twelve months on a salary of £150 per annum, and in case of success he was to receive a grant of 2000 acres of land. Robertson does not appear to have been particularly successful, for in the spring of 1829 Mr. Anstey received a commission from Colonel Arthur to undertake the superintendence of all the roving parties. Four bands were thereupon sent out, and the direction of these guerillas was assigned to Jorgenson. Mr. Batman had twelve men under his control; Nicholas, in the Campbell Town district, six; Sherwin, in the Clyde district, and Doran, in the New Norfolk district, five apiece. The duty of these bands was to range the country, and, while executing vengeance for outrage committed, to keep the natives within their assigned limits. A bounty of £5 was given for every one of the aborigines taken alive. The settlers roundabout meantime did yeoman service. Mr. George Anstey, “then a mere youth,” headed a party of his father’s servants, and captured a small tribe; and Mr. Howell, of the Shannon, captured another, and, forwarding them to head-quarters, received a grant of 1000 acres of land. The blacks, however, were bold and united. Arranging their plans of action, they would creep through the country by twos and threes, and suddenly uniting at a given spot, would slaughter women and children, and fire homesteads. The settlers in those days never went out to plough without “placing their firearms against a stump in the field.”
The nature of the country favoured these sudden attacks. Mr. Frankland, the Surveyor-General, in a report prepared for the express purpose of assisting Colonel Arthur in a campaign which he was then meditating against the natives, says—“The most lofty mountains rise in basaltic order in all parts of the territory, piercing in their upheaval the more recent formations, and leaving round their bases the various strata of sandstones and fossilliferous rocks. Independent of these great ranges, the whole country is broken into a sea of minor elevations, sometimes extending in long ridges called by the colonists ‘tiers,’ sometimes in unconnected hills.” The nature of the ground thus rendered anything like concerted action of a disciplined body almost impossible, and the guerillas dodged the blacks from gully to rock, from hill to plain, silently following their footsteps like Indian warriors on a war-trail.
The conduct of the scouting parties, however, was so far unsatisfactory that Colonel Arthur determined to put in practice a notion which had been long simmering in his brain—he would draw a cordon round the recalcitrant blacks, and drive them into one corner of the island. The natives, irritated rather than cowed by the constant pursuit of the armed force, had committed some daring reprisals. Watching until their enemies had been betrayed by a false alarm into some fruitless errand, they would in broad daylight sally forth upon the unprotected farms, and massacre the inhabitants. So bold had they grown that in one case— a peculiarly atrocious one—six of them climbed the fence of a settler’s house, and entering by the back door killed the housewife and three children, while the father and his servants were at work but fifty yards away in the field, with fire-arms at hand. Popular indignation was excited to the highest pitch; and upon the proposition of Colonel Arthur being mooted, an extraordinary demonstration took place.
By a Government order issued from the Colonial Secretary’s Office on the 9th September, 1830, the whole population of the island was called to arms. “The Lieutenant-Governor calls upon every settler, whether residing on his farm or in a town, who is not prevented by some overruling necessity, cheerfully to render his assitance, and place himself under the direction of the police-magistrate of that district in which his farm is situated, or any other district he may prefer.” The whole military force in the colony was to be stationed at those points where the natives were most likely to be encountered. The north side of the island was placed under the care of Captain Donaldson, of the 57th Regiment. Captain Wellman, of the same corps, commanded from “Ross, north-east of St. Patrick’s Head, and north-west to Auburn and Lake River.” The Bothwell district was occupied by Captain Wentworth, of the 63rd, whose cordon extended north-west to the lakes, and southwest to Hamilton township. The Lower Clyde, from Hamilton township, south-east to New Norfolk, was under the charge of Captain Vicary, 63rd Regiment. The force at Crossmarsh, and the borders of the Oatlands, Richmond, and Bothwell districts, was commanded by Captain Malion, 63rd Regiment. Lieutenant Barrow, 63rd, commanded the force in the district of Richmond, “extending north to Jerusalem, north-east to Prosser’s Plains, and east to the coast;” and Lieutenant Aubin, of the 63rd, commanded the force in the district of Oyster Bay, extending south to Little Swan Port, north to the head of the Swan River, and west to Eastern Marshes, while the whole body thus employed was placed under the general charge of Major Douglas, 63rd, who was stationed at Oatlands. Volunteers from Hobart Town were urged to join the force in the districts of New Norfolk, the Clyde, or Richmond; and those from Launceston were directed to close in with the police to the westward of Norfolk Plains, or in the country between Ben Lomond and George Town; “while,” says the Gazette, “still more desirable service will be given by any parties who will ascend to the parts round the Lakes and Western Bluff, so as to intercept the natives if driven into that part of the country; and any enterprising young men, who may have been accustomed to make excursions in the interior, and to endure the fatigues of the bush, will most beneficially promote the common cause by joining the small military parties at the outstations, and in making patrol expeditions with them, and the services of all such will be readily accepted by the military officers in command of the several stations.”
The roving parties were to be further increased by every possible method, to which end the Governor desired that “all prisoners holding tickets of leave, who are capable of bearing arms, report themselves to the police magistrate of the district in which they reside, in order that they may be enrolled, either in the regular roving parties, or otherwise employed in the public service under the instructions of their respective employers.”
This announcement once made, operations were pushed forward with vigour. Colonel Arthur placed himself at the head of the forces; the “peace” of Hobart Town and Launceston was left to the care of the principal inhabitants, who could not attend the line. Captains Wentworth, Mahon, Bayley, Vicary, Wellman, Macpherson, and Lieutenants Aubin, Croly, Pedder, Champ, and Murray, placed themselves at the head of their respective divisions. The whole field police, all ticket-of-leave men, and a multitude of convicts, either in assigned service or otherwise at the disposal of Government, were ordered to join the line; and this immense force, consisting of more than 2000 armed men, moved slowly across the island, driving the natives before them. A glance at the map of Tasmania will show the effect of this manœuvre. The blacks were to be “driven” like deer into the south-east corner of the island, to be forced over that narrow strip of sand known as East Bay Neck, connecting Forestier’s Peninsula with the mainland, and then—driven across the second isthmus, “corralled” in what is now the penal settlement of Port Arthur. Nature had made for Colonel Arthur an immense stockyard, with two natural gates. The cordon drawn across County Pembroke was complete from Sorell Town to Spring Bay. Huge fires were lighted at night, and guards posted constantly by day. Constantly reinforced, supplied with an ample commissariat, the terrible line closed in as it were inch by inch, and the natives, entrapped in the point of land that runs out between Pittwater and Marion Bay, were compelled to retreat towards East Bay Neck—the first gate of the stockyard. From East Bay Neck it was proposed to drive them still further south, across the terrible Eagle Hawk Neck—yet seen in dreams by many a manumitted convict—down to the last point of dry land, the basalt cliffs at whose jagged base breaks unchecked the fury of the Southern Sea. It was as though the blacks, like rats driven to the utmost extremity of a quay, should be compelled to take to the water.
Colonel Arthur, however, did not push matters to this extremity. Having closed in upon East Bay Neck, and driven the natives into the stockyard, he broke up his forces and gave the volunteers leave to return to their homes “to prepare for a second series of operations,” which ultimately resulted in something very like the complete destruction of the native race. The disarmed convicts, strange to say, returned quietly to their stations, though Jorgenson hints that several promising conspiracies were nipped in the bud, and the Van Diemonians, in a fever of joy, presented a congratulatory address to the Governor. It was reported that the natives had broken the cordon, and papers of the day hint that the expedition was a failure. There is no doubt that, when we take into consideration the state of the country, the feeling of the population, and the fact that a large body of the vilest scoundrels were entrusted with arms which at any moment they might have turned against their leaders, the undertaking was a brilliant success. But the second expedition was even more wonderful than the first, and the story of Mr. Robinson, the “apostle of the blacks,” who, unarmed and alone, went into the midst of them, and by dint of argument brought whole tribes into submission, is in itself a romance. Jorgenson wanders from his own history to relate some of the exploits of this extraordinary man, but as the history of the final subjugation of the native race and the labours of their missionary is worthy of a place to itself, I will reserve further account of them.3
But Jorgenson’s adventures were drawing to a close. One afternoon at Anstey Barton, in turning over the leaves of the Gazette just brought by the mail-boy, Jorgenson observed his own name. He had obtained his pardon! One would think that this intelligence would have filled him with joy; but, if we are to believe his own account, he felt rather miserable than otherwise. He had become used to his chain, and freedom was strange to him. Moreover, he was in a worse plight free than as a bondsman, for he had to keep himself. The roving bands, of which he was leader, were broken up in the spring (1831), and he was left without employment. He received a grant of 100 acres of land, but with a touch of his old extravagance, he “sold it almost immediately,” and in all probability gambled away the proceeds. There was no occupation for a swash-buckler like himself; and even had there been some exploring expedition to join, or bushranger to capture, his altered condition had brought with it altered feelings. When a convict, Jorgenson was fearless to desperation; as a freeman he could appreciate the value of life:—“Prior to my receiving a pardon I had fearlessly plunged into rapid rivers, up to the armpits, with a knapsack on my back, containing a weight of 60 lbs. to 70 lbs. When in quest of the blacks, I spent one night at Mr. Kemp’s farm at the Cross Marsh; the next morning I proceeded to Mr. George Espie’s farm, on the Jordan, to cross the river, as the floods were down. Here, across the Jordan, is a post and rail-fence, where persons may cross, although it is not without danger, the fence trembling from the heavy pressure of the current. I went down, and although I had often crossed when the fence was completely under water, and that there was now a clear rail, I would not venture to cross. Mr. Espie expressed some surprise at my backwardness, as he had formerly seen me cross without any apprehension. I replied, ‘Yes, Mr. Espie, I was then a prisoner, and life of little matter; but now that I am free, I must take more care of myself.’”
The month after he got his pardon he took up his abode in Hobart Town, but “was sadly put to it to make both ends meet.” He seems to have got married also, and speaks of his wife, “who volunteered to take charge of a dairy farm;” but as Jorgenson knew nothing about farming, and confounded seedtime with harvest, the pair were speedily discharged. In this dilemma, the king, sailor, spy, courtier, gambler, convict, constable, and explorer, bethought himself of a ninth profession—letters. He had lived in London on his writings: he would try to do the same in Hobart Town. No sooner thought than achieved, and by-and-by our hero calmly publishes “a tolerably large pamphlet on the Funding System,” which brought him in more than 100 guineas. This easily-earned money was soon spent, and he was again destitute, when fortune, which had buffeted him long, landed him safely at last. A letter from the Danish envoy in London to Lord Glenelg was enclosed by that nobleman to Colonel Arthur, with an intimation that the “mother of J. Jorgenson, a prisoner of the Crown,” was dead, and that he had come into a comfortable little fortune. The curtain falls upon him petitioning the Government for a further grant of land, in consideration of his services in 1829-30-31. Here is one of the “testimonials” out of many he gives as having been attached to the document:—
“There are to certify that memorialist has been well known to me during the last nine years. He was some years under my orders when I was police-magistrate of the Oatlands district, during which period he acted successively as my assistant-clerk, constable of the field-police, leader of several roving bands in quest of the aborigines, and one of the directors of the Oatland volunteers, in the levy en masse against the aborigines. In all those capacities memorialist discharged honestly and fearlessly the arduous duties which were entrusted to him.”
“(Signed) THOS. ANSTEY, M.L.C., J.P.
“Anstey Barton, 10th December, 1836.”
Whether he ever got his grant or not I do not know, as his story breaks off abruptly:—“I have,” says he, “now come to the conclusion of the second part of my autobiography. It is not for me to speculate upon whether I shall ever be able to write a third portion. This must be left to the will of that Being who rules man’s destiny. I have had my full share of days! little is there in this world to care for. The joys of human life are fleeting and transient; they may be likened to two friends meeting each other on a hasty journey, who ask a few questions, and then part, perhaps for ever, leaving nothing behind but a tender regret. Such is it with the joyous hours of our transitory existence. These pages had probably never appeared, had I merely consulted the state of my own feelings; for I am not, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, fond of thrusting myself on the public with unnecessary confessions: I have been swayed by motives of a higher character. My youthful readers may derive a lesson from the history of my life. All human wisdom is vanity if not regulated by prudence. One error leads to another, and every deviation from the straight path is sure to entangle the strayed sheep in the mazes of a labyrinth.”
Poor strayed sheep! I can fancy worthy Doctor Ross, the editor, saying, “Jorgenson, you must have had a strange life of it. Can’t you jot down some of those yarns you are always spinning for the Annual?” and see the wily smile with which the “Captain” replies, as he shifts his pipe from one side of his mouth to the other.
Write romances! Why, this poor old convict, who has been resting in his nameless grave these twenty years, has lived one beside which the “story of Cambuscan bold,” the adventures of Gil Blas, or the doings of that prince of scoundrels, Mr. Barry Lyndon himself, dwindle into insignificance. All the raven-haired, hot-headed, supple-wristed soldiers of fortune that ever diced, drank, duelled, kissed, and escaladed their way through three volumes octavo, never had such an experience. Think over his story, from his birth in Denmark to his death in Van Diemen’s Land, and imagine from what he has told us, how much more he has been compelled to leave unrelated.
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