The Sailor and the Stolen Pudding
Whilst researching for our forthcoming China, America and the Pacific project I came across a book entitled âFore and Aft; Or Leaves from the Life of an Old Sailorâ, by a chap called William Dane Phelps. As a teenager I sailed on the gaff-rigged pilot cutter, the Jolie Brise. Whilst my adventure on the high seas was fun, it was also at times testing. I was intrigued what it was like to be an actual sailor in the eighteenth century. And the answer is considerably harder!
Phelpsâ book is full of marvels; from battling leaks within a sinking ship to kicking and scratching at ârude bed fellowsâ (better translated as fleas), to trying rather disastrously to ration his weekly allowance of bread; âI have frequently taken my weekâs allowance of bread on a Sunday and finished it all before nightâ (Fore and Aft, 1871, p.35).
Our sailor often finds himself in awkward predicaments throughout his long voyages from Boston to Canton. Predicaments that are usually related to food, or the lack thereof! One morning he is relieved of his duties after a long and cold night at work and there is only one thing that will take the edge of his gloomy mood, a good meal. Taking a detour to the cookâs gallery he happens upon a rather appetizing looking pudding. Without a second thought he steals it! As he begins to eat he declares with glee, âI enjoyed a glorious tuck out, without any thought or care as to how the bill was to be footedâ (Fore and Aft, 1871, p.40). Unfortunately the pudding belongs to none other than the captain of the vessel who announces he will flog the thief for his devious deed. At least our sailor is honest, he admits his crime but tells the captain unashamedly, âWell, sir, youâll flog on a full stomach, thatâs some comfortâ (Fore and Aft, 1871, p.41). Maybe I shouldn't judge our sailor so harshly; if the above image, entitled âgetting breakfastâ is anything to go by it was quite a hazardous pursuit!
This illustrated text is part of the Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages from the University of California, San Diego and will feature in the upcoming project China, America and the Pacific.