I RECEIVED my dear Tommy's epistle, in company with one from dear Brother M. and humbly thank them both for their kindness. As I am at a seaport, nothing can be expected from me but sea-terms. I have been engaged six times every week, and this week seven. A number of small cruisers every day surround me, and I spare neither ammunition nor labour, for I fear there are but few loyalists among them.
Several vessels have appeared leaky; this I gather from their sheering off; and others are very busy at the pump; some seem willing to strike, but doubt of lenity; others, who have come mooring up under full sail, with scorn and defiance in their looks, have received visible damage in their rigging; and even several in their real uniform dress sit constantly at my feet to learn navigation. I believe I have broke their lines, and driven some ashore; and, without the kind interference of Providence, some will most certainly go to the bottom. I can see tears and fears visible throughout the whole squadron; and all my fears are, that when I am recalled, unless succeeded by some able commander, that they will get into dock, and be repaired upon the old keel and timbers; and this will be rather an emboldening than a reduction. Here hath been a deal of engaging, firing, and report; but, alas! fire and brimstone will not do execution without nitre, and there hath been a visible want of this throughout the war; hence it is that the surgeon's room is so empty, and the hospital ship without a crew. There has been no fighting here to purpose, nothing but a parley, and perpetual exhibitions of a flag of truce; so that you do not know foreigners from domestics, nor enemies from friends. Our commanders seem to have aimed at nothing but their pay.
As to conquests or victories, there hath been no cheers upon that score; nor do I believe that they have ever shared one farthing of prize-money since the commencement of the war. We have a legion of recruiting-officers, but not one press-gang: opening rendezvouses; hanging out flags; inviting landsmen, and promising great bounties, in our old friend R's way, seem to be, and to have been, the employment of most or all of them: but no bounty ever coming forth has made many sick of their swelling speeches and empty proffers. And, for my part, my soul longs to be on board of my own ship, and with my own clear, dear, dear crew, with whom I hope to spend and be spent, for I believe I have got more that can hand, reef, and steer, in my cabin, than are here upon all the decks, if you examine them from the first-rate to the smallest sloop: and therefore I intend, by the leave and furlough of my great Commander, to go on shore on Monday next, and to take my leave of Plymouth Sound, and go and hoist my broad pendant on board my own ship, which lies nearer the Nore than this part is, and is in a much fairer way to reach the fair havens, than any that I have seen in this port. Nor am I afraid of our going down for want of an anchor or of going ashore for the want of cable. Tender my kind love to brother M. to dame, to father and mother C. when you write, and accept the same from your hearty companion in the voyage, and willing mess-mate at the pot,
Lieutenant of the Invincible, on a furlough, in Plymouth.
Bad ink, small table, no fire, the rolling of ship, and the hopes of a rout, have rendered this scrawl very unintelligible; but, as it is to the Oxford printer, I omit corrections: he having been long proved by a multiplicity of, hands and none without signification, though most without explication. I have heard by some that you have had a liberal boatswain in my absence, and plenty of fresh provisions, which I guess at by the corporations of the crew left here, who appear to be as robust as a penny whistle, and to waddle with fat like a beggar's dog.