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The crews of these had seen with horror the Royal George quietly heave over her mighty mass, and sink like a rock from their view. Instantly the shores of Spithead heard the guns firing signals of distress ; and boats advanced from all points to the rescue of the sufferers, some of whom were dragged, in a senseless state, from the water, and others rescued from the upper works of the sunken ship. It was, indeed, providential that some portion of the masts appeared above the sea ; for, had the vessel anchored in deeper water, few would have been saved. The water was only about eightyfeet deep, and the vessel unusually tall ; so that all the topmasts remained visible, and even the flag floated above the sea which had ridden so fearfully over the brave ship, whelming seamen, Jew-dealers, and three hundred women beneath the waves.
As to the number who were drowned ; first, there was the admiral himself, who perished in his own cabin, locked in by the tightened door, and prevented from making even an attempt to escape. It is not, however, probable that he could have been saved had the door been opened, as a man seventy years old could have made but a feeble resistance against the tide which dashed in upon the sinking ship. His portrait was formerly preserved, with a model of the vessel which became his tomb, in the small “ Blue drawing room of the celebrated “ Lady Place," at Hurley, Berks, which belonged to his brother, Captain Kempenfelt. The portrait was a full-length one, and the admiral was represented leaning upon a stick, and apparently contemplating, with his peculiarly thoughtful countenance, the model at his feet. All who entered those ancient rooms were arrested by the quiet eye of the ancient admiral, whose melancholy fate was so forcibly recalled by the miniature Royal George, carefully protected by its glass covering. Whilst Lady Place was standing, many visitors came for the sole purpose of seeing the beautiful model ; which was supposed to represent faithfully every detail of hull, masts, and rigging of the ill-fated vessel.
Of the three hundred women, only one escaped ; she was dragged through a porthole by a sailor, as the ship was sinking, and afterwards picked up whilst floating on the sea, by a frigate's boat. This great loss amongst the women was, of course, owing to their inability to struggle with the rush of
waters, or to dive through the openings and intricacies of the ship.
Öf the seamen it is reckoned that not more than seventy or eighty were saved. Nor is this remarkable when it is considered that the greater part were forced to run down to the guns when the ship began to sink, and were thus unable to extricate themselves from the lumber and machinery of the decks. Few things are more fitted to impress the mind than the appearance of those doomed seamen descending into the lower parts of the vessel when she began to sink. At that moment, all would naturally have desired to remain on the - upper decks ; but the stern and clear voice of duty sent them below to the places which became their graves.
A greater number of the marines, and of the visitors, who were on the upper decks, escaped ; though, after all, it is most likely that between eight or nine hundred perished in that fatal spot.
The lieutenant who neglected the warning, and the carpenter who gave it, were both lost ; for though the body of the carpenter was soon picked up and taken on board the Victory, he was dead. The captain who had so vainly striven to open his admiral's door was saved by the
generous efforts of a sailor, who bore him up till help arrived. One case of preservation is recorded which is at least singular, and exemplifies the simple agencies which often work out deliverances from peril. A child, who was on board when the ship went down, clung, in his terror, to the woolly back of a sheep, to which he kept hold till picked up. Both his parents perished in the ship ; and as the little fellow knew no name except “ Jack,” he was always called “ John Lamb.”
Many who escaped by swimming had some dark remembrances of unavoidable acts of desperate selfishness, upon which none could look with satisfaction, however great the necessity for the deeds. Some, whilst striking out for their lives, were clutched by their drowning comrades, whom they were compelled to kick off and leave to perish. In fact, the great danger encountered by those who rose towards the surface, and could swim, came from the death-grips of the hundreds round them. One man, whilst rising, felt the heel of his shoe clenched by some agonized swimmer, whose fatal hold he eluded by striking off his shoe. Such desperate clingings, no doubt, led to the death of numbers who might have risen
to the surface had they not been grasped by the convulsive clutch of the dying around them. This fact was clearly shewn when, some days after, crowds of bodies suddenly darted up to the surface, firmly held together.
But many never rose, remaining where they died, in the lower parts of the ship; and though no church-bell sounded for their burial, seldom have sailors had a more solemn funeral knell than that which echoed over England for the dead in the Royal George. The tolling bell announces the passing away of a soul from this, its first estate, and excites in the hearts of all hearers a solemn thoughtfulness ; and loud was the announcement which rumour knelled over the land on that eventful 29th of August, and deep the sympathy excited by the strange tale, as it ran through busy cities, hushing the bustle of commerce, and stirring the heart in many a lone hamlet.
The following lines, written by Cowper when the report of the event reached him, will fitly close this account of so disastrous a wreck.
"Toll for the brave !
The brave that are no more!
Fast by their native shore.
“ Eight hundred of the brave
Whose courage well was tried
And laid her on her side.
" A land-beeze shook the shrouds,
And she was overset;
With all her crew complete.
" Toll for the brave !
Brave Kempenfelt is gone:
His work of glory done!
“ It was not in the battle ;
No tempest gave the shock;
She ran upon no rock.