Torr Abbey.—Cap of Liberty.—Anecdote of English Prejudice.—Fire Ships.—Southampton River.—Netley Abbey.
It was a circumstance, which will be memorable with me, as long as I live, and pleasant to my feelings, as often as I recur to it, that part of my intended excursion to the Continent was performed in the last ship of war, which, after the formal confirmations of the peace, remained, of that vast naval armament, which, from the heights of Torbay, for so many years, presented to the astonished and admiring eye, a spectacle at once of picturesque beauty, and national glory. It was the last attendant in the train of retiring war.
Under the charming roof of Torr Abbey, the residence of George Cary, esq., I passed a few days, until the Megæra was ready to sail for Portsmouth, to be paid off, the commander of which, captain Newhouse, very politely offered to convey my companion, captain W. Cary, and myself, to that port.
In this beautiful spot, the gallant heroes of our navy have often found the severe and perilous duties of the boisterous element alleviated by attentions, which, in their splendid and cordial display, united an elegant taste to a noble spirit of hospitality.
In the Harleian Tracts there is a short, but rather curious account preserved of the sensation produced at the Abbey on the 5th of November, 1688, after the prince of Orange had entered the bay with his fleet, on their passage to Brixham, where he landed:—
"The prince commanded captain M—— to search the lady Cary's house, at Torr Abbey, for arms and horses. The lady entertaining them civilly, said her husband was gone to Plymouth: they brought from thence some horses, and a few arms, but gave no further disturbance to the lady or her house."
Throughout this embarrassing interview, the lady Cary appears to have conducted herself with great temper, dignity and resolution, whilst, on the other hand, the chaplain of that day, whose opinions were not very favourable to the revolution, unlike his present amiable and enlightened successor, left his lady in the midst of her perplexities, and fled.
In the Abbey, I was much pleased with an interesting, though not very ornamental trophy of the glorious victory of Aboukir. The truckle heads of the masts of the Aquilon, a french ship of the line, which struck to the brave captain Louis, in that ever memorable battle, were covered with the bonnet rouge; one of these caps of liberty, surmounted with the british flag, has been committed to the care of the family, by that heroic commander, and now constitutes a temporary ornament of their dining-room.
Here we laid in provision for our little voyage, without, however, feeling the same apprehension, which agitated the mind of a fair damsel, in the service of a lady of rank who formerly resided in my neighbourhood, who, preparing to attend her mistress to the Continent, and having heard from the jolly historians of the kitchen, that the food in France was chiefly supplied by the croaking inhabitants of the green and standing pool, contrived, very carefully, to carry over a piece of homebred pork, concealed in her workbag.
Early in the morning after we set sail, we passed through the Needles, which saved us a very considerable circuitous sail round the southern side of the Isle of Wight, a passage which the late admiral Macbride first successfully attempted, for vessels of war, in a ship of the line.
The vessel, in which we sailed, was a fireship; a costly instrument of destruction, which has never been applied during the recent war, and only once, and that unsuccessfully, during the preceding one. We had several of them in commission, although they are confessedly of little utility in these times, and from the immense stores of combustibles with which they are charged, threaten only peril to the commander and his crew.
We soon after dropped anchor, and proceeded to Portsmouth, in search of a packet for Havre-de-Grace. In the street, our trunks were seized by the custom-house officers, whilst conveying to the inn, but after presenting our keys, and requesting immediate search and restoration, they were returned to us without further annoyance. Finding that the masters of the french packets were undetermined when they should sail, we resolved upon immediately leaving this celebrated seaport, and proceeding by water to Southampton, distant about twenty-four miles; where, after a very unpleasant passage, from its blowing with considerable violence soon after we left Portsmouth, we arrived, in a little wherry, about twelve o'clock at night, at the Vine inn, which is very conveniently situated for passengers by the packets....