Charles Sturt

Charles Sturt

by J H L Cumpston
     
 

About the middle of May 1827 the ship _Mariner_ was forging eastward with
long lunges driven by a strong cold wind under a wet dead sky: no one on
board without previous knowledge would have guessed that the bright land
of their new life was then to the north of them.

Standing by the port rail of the quarterdeck was one man who knew it;…  See more details below

Overview

About the middle of May 1827 the ship _Mariner_ was forging eastward with
long lunges driven by a strong cold wind under a wet dead sky: no one on
board without previous knowledge would have guessed that the bright land
of their new life was then to the north of them.

Standing by the port rail of the quarterdeck was one man who knew it; and
whose memories and forebodings were stirred by the knowledge. For him the
warm sunlight of Cape Town was fading to a pleasant dream, the sullen
rollers a depressing illusion of immobility and desolation, and the
solitary albatross a symbol of life spent in ceaseless movement with an
uncertain goal and an unknown destiny.

These things affected his thoughts and produced a mental depression which
was to recur more than once in later life.

He was a professional soldier--a captain of the 39th Regiment of
Foot--and as he looked back to the west he reviewed the past and all that
he was leaving. His career as a soldier began when, at the age of
eighteen years, he had, through the patronage of the Prince Regent, been
gazetted ensign in the 39th Regiment. Service in the Pyrenees against the
French was followed by service in Canada against the Americans, soon
ended by the hurried recall of the regiment after Napoleon's escape from
Elba. As they arrived in France after Waterloo the regiment served as
part of the army of occupation in France until the end of 1818.

He had had, therefore, five years of varied experience--the first two on
service under active warfare conditions, the last three on garrison duty.

From 1818 to 1825 the regiment was on duty in Ireland, without incident
especially affecting his personal career but involving long delay in
military promotion. He was twenty-eight years old when he, at last,
became Lieutenant; and, at thirty, he became Captain. Then, removed from
Ireland to Chatham, he was sent in charge of a detachment of the regiment
as guard over convicts on this present voyage to New South Wales, which
had begun in December, 1826.

He remembered his boyhood and his family life. He could barely remember
his childhood in India as he had been, in his fifth year, sent with his
elder sister to England to live with their mother's sisters. A happy
childhood lasted until his fifteenth year when,, on his parents' return
to England, he was sent to Harrow. Memories of his happy days with his
uncle Charles, who taught him the management of small boats; with his
sister Susan, with his cousin Isaac Wood, were clouded by the unhappiness
and misfortunes of his father, Napier Sturt.

Napier Sturt was a judge in Bengal under the East India Company, and it
was shortly after his marriage that the prospects of easy wealth, which
was the main attraction to India, had been greatly reduced by the
impeachment of Warren Hastings. His second son, Charles, was born on 28th
April, 1795, in the, very month of Hastings' acquittal.

A large family--there were eight sons--unsuccessful speculation, failure
of an Indian bank, gravely affected the economic position of the family
and saddened the family life.

He remembered with quiet satisfaction that in respect of family and
ancestry he was, in the standard of those times, of "good birth." The
Sturts and the Napiers were Dorsetshire county families of standing. But
he remembered that his grandmother was a confirmed gambler for high
stakes and that all her fifteen children, including his own father, were
distinguished for good looks, fine manners, and the fatal habit of being
in debt.

All this passed through his mind as he stood there. He, a soldier without
influence, for whom promotion had already been very slow, was posted on
service in a lonely outpost at a time when there seemed no possibility of
war, with its chances of quick promotion, and no prospect of promotion
otherwise. He was in his thirty-third year, with no hope of marriage on
his pay. And he had already in his mind prejudged and condemned this new
country which, as yet, he still could not see--he condemned it because of
the uninteresting nature of the military service there; and because of
the character of the population--the majority being convicts.

He admitted later that these prejudices were formed in complete ignorance
of the real conditions, but his depression as he shivered in his great
coat was real enough.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013740358
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/08/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
176 KB

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