Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Sailor’s Fortune – Essay II
by [?]

Quod me non movet aestimatione:
Verum est [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] mei sodalis.
CATULL. xii.

(Translation.)–It interests not by any conceit of its value; but it is a remembrance of my honoured friend.

The philosophic ruler, who secured the favours of fortune by seeking wisdom and knowledge in preference to them, has pathetically observed–“The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and there is a joy in which the stranger intermeddleth not.” A simple question founded on a trite proverb, with a discursive answer to it, would scarcely suggest to an indifferent person any other notion than that of a mind at ease, amusing itself with its own activity. Once before (I believe about this time last year), I had taken up the old memorandum book, from which I transcribed the preceding essay, and they had then attracted my notice by the name of the illustrious chemist mentioned in the last illustration. Exasperated by the base and cowardly attempt that had been made to detract from the honours due to his astonishing genius, I had slightly altered the concluding sentences, substituting the more recent for his earlier discoveries; and without the most distant intention of publishing what I then wrote, I had expressed my own convictions for the gratification of my own feelings, and finished by tranquilly paraphrasing into a chemical allegory the Homeric adventure of Menelaus with Proteus. Oh! with what different feelings, with what a sharp and sudden emotion did I re-peruse the same question yester-morning, having by accident opened the book at the page upon which it was written. I was moved; for it was Admiral Sir Alexander Ball who first proposed the question to me, and the particular satisfaction which he expressed had occasioned me to note down the substance of my reply. I was moved; because to this conversation I was indebted for the friendship and confidence with which he afterwards honoured me, and because it recalled the memory of one of the most delightful mornings I ever passed; when, as we were riding together, the same person related to me the principal events of his own life, and introduced them by adverting to this conversation. It recalled too the deep impression left on my mind by that narrative–the impression that I had never known any analogous instance, in which a man so successful had been so little indebted to fortune, or lucky accidents, or so exclusively both the architect and builder of his own success. The sum of his history may be comprised in this one sentence–Haec, sab numine, nobismet fecimas, sapientia duce, fortune permittente. (i.e. These things under God, we have done for ourselves, through the guidance of wisdom, and with the permission of fortune.) Luck gave him nothing: in her most generous moods, she only worked with him as with a friend, not for him as for a fondling; but more often she simply stood neuter, and suffered him to work for himself. Ah! how could I be otherwise than affected by whatever reminded me of that daily and familiar intercourse with him, which made the fifteen months from May, 1804, to October, 1805, in many respects the most memorable and instructive period of my life? Ah! how could I be otherwise than most deeply affected, when there was still lying on my table the paper which the day before had conveyed to me the unexpected and most awful tidings of this man’s death? his death in the fulness of all his powers, in the rich autumn of ripe yet undecaying manhood! I once knew a lady who, after the loss of a lovely child, continued for several days in a state of seeming indifference, the weather at the same time, as if in unison with her, being calm, though gloomy; till one morning a burst of sunshine breaking in upon her, and suddenly lighting up the room where she was sitting, she dissolved at once into tears, and wept passionately. In no very dissimilar manner did the sudden gleam of recollection at the sight of this memorandum act on myself. I had been stunned by the intelligence, as by an outward blow, till this trifling incident startled and disentranced me; the sudden pang shivered through my whole frame; and if I repressed the outward shows of sorrow, it was by force that I repressed them, and because it is not by tears that I ought to mourn for the loss of Sir Alexander Ball.