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has had his frolic, he has spent his
and has “got no ship.” Half-a-dozen blue jackets, some with canvass caps, and others with new black hats on their heads, not over steady in their appearance, go forwards with a rolling walk, and enter the public house at the corner. I have just passed by a sailor, exhibiting a painting of a shipwreck. There he is with a copper coin in his pocket, which a minute ago was in mine. He has lost both his legs, and would, no doubt, give me a full, true, and particular account of his birth, parentage, education, and misfortune, were I to require it at his hands. Where is the heart that has not its tale of sorrow?
Though we to-day sweet peace possess,
It soon may be withdrawn;
Before to morrow's dawn.
Half-an-hour ago, as I turned along the street by the side of the India House, at least twenty seamen, in their holiday clothes, stood congregated together on one side of the street, while a man, in a Scotch dress, playing on the bag-pipes, paraded backwards and forwards before them on the other. Another man, a complete Highlander in face, figure, dress, and activity, was dancing the Highland fling, with an unwonted degree of vigour, and apparent lightheartedness, while the delighted tars showered upon him their bounty with liberal hands. Some of these seamen were as fine-looking men as any in the world.
The principal entrance to the East India Docks is at Poplar, where buildings have been erected for the accommodation of those employed in the several warehouses and in the quays. I have been on board a vessel bound for the Mauritius, and am now looking at the docks. The one for loading outwards is more than seven hundred feet long; and that for unloading inwards double that length, by a breadth of five hundred feet. The warehouses and quays are very spacious. It is a busy scene, when an East India fleet arrives with its produce of tea, coffee, silk, wool, cotton, indigo, saltpetre, mace, nutmegs, camphor, elephants' teeth, muslins, and other commodities.
The stranger desirous to see all that is interesting in the Docks of the metropolis, should not omit, when at Blackwall, to visit what is said to be the largest private dock in Europe. On one of the quays, blubber is landed from Greenland ships. On another are powerful cranes for landing anchors and guns ; and on a third is a machine for masting and dismasting vessels with more than usual despatch. How comparatively feeble is man, until the powers of his mind are called into action! He invents machinery, and then goes forth with more than the strength of a giant.
Before the establishment of the Marine Police, in 1798, the robberies which took place on the river were very frequent, and sometimes very extensive. Where plunder is to be had, plunderers, will be found. When we reflect on the valuable
with which ships are freighted from the East and West, and on the daring characters which abound in large cities and seaports, it will not excite wonder, that, so long as vessels remained in an unprotected state, continual attempts should be made to plunder them. To such a pitch of audacity has pillage been carried on in the river, that a vessel has been known to be boarded, during the night, by a desperate gang, her anchor weighed, and both anchor and cable borne
presence of the captain, in spite of all his attempts to prevent it. As on land there are thieves of all grades, from the daring highwayman and burglar, to the wily pickpocket, so on the water, there were spoilers of all kinds, ready to rob on a large or small scale, from a cargo, to a cocoa-nut or a nutmeg. The river pirate boldly took, by open force, his share of the booty. The night plunderer bribed the watchmen on board, and by their connivance, bore away in his boat all that he could conveniently remove. The light horseman, on good terms with the mates of ships and revenue officers, opened hogsheads of sugar and other produce, plundering them with impunity. The heavy horseman stowed away, beneath his
ample dress, as much coffee, ginger, and cocoa, as he could well carry ; while the gauze lighterman was ever ready to receive stolen goods. Besides these, there were the mudlark and the scupple hunter : the former prowling about at low water, receiving in his small bag such petty packages as he could get from his dishonest friends on board ; and the latter sneaking about the wharves and quays, under pretence of wanting work, to pick up everything and anything that came to hand. The West India Docks have
very extensive ranges of warehouses for the stowage of merchandize. The northern dock, for unloading ships arriving from the West Indies, is two thousand six hundred feet in length, by a breadth of more than five hundred. Here a fleet of three hundred West Indiamen may ride safely. The southern dock, for loading outward-bound vessels, will hold, at least, two hundred ships. Before the formation of the West India Docks, the river used to be very inconveniently crowded on the arrival of a fleet.
The Wapping entrance to the London Docks is before me. Workmen, revenue officers, merchants, clerks, porters, and visitors, are passing to and fro. On the right, stand a number of caravan-looking accounting houses on wheels, that they may be removed from place to place ; and the painted boards in the front announce the
intelligence that carts, wagons, vans with springs, and every other accommodation for the speedy and safe removal of merchandize, may be there obtained. On the left, stand empty and laden wains, cabs, and coaches, with their attendant wagoners in frocks, coachmen in great coats, and cab-drivers in similar attire.
Against the wall, by the gates, are placards of the different vessels about to sail to all parts of the world ; a goodly number of ships bound to Australia, New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land among them. On entering the gates, the immense area is covered with pipes and casks of different kinds of wine, to be inspected before they are stowed in the ground floors and vaults of the surrounding warehouses.
Masts, without number, now attract my attention, figure-heads, and the great bulging bows of vessels; a confused mass of closely reefed sails, rigging, blocks, and tackling. Here is a lad swinging in the noose of a rope
down the hull of a ship, turning an iron nut with a nut-screw; and there is another busily employed at the mast head. Seamen, fair, sunburnt, swarthy, and black, are on the decks and round the cabooses, and “ Heave ho !” is heard in different directions, as the tackling creaks, and the heavy hogsheads dangle in the air.
Years ago I came to this place to welcome home an aged relative, to whom, in my youthful