« AnkstesnisTęsti »
INTRODUCTION TO THE PIRATE.
"Quoth he there was a ship."
This brief preface may begin like the tale of the Ancient Mariner, since it was on shipboard that the author acquired the very moderate degree of local knowledge and information, both of people and scenery, which he has endeavoured to embody in the romance of the Pirate.
In the summer and autumn of 1814, the author was invited to join a party of Commissioners for the Northern Light-House Service, who proposed mak. ing a voyage round the coast of Scotland, and through its various groups of islands, chiefly for the purpose of seeing the condition of the many lighthouses under their direction,-edifices so important, whether regarding them as benevolent or political institutions. Among the commissioners who manage this important public concern, the sheriff of each county of Scotland which borders on the sea holds ex-officio a place at the Board.
These gentlemen act in every respect gratuitously, but have the use of an armed yacht, well found and fitted up, when they choose to visit the light-houses. An excellent engineer, Mr Robert Stevenson, is attached to the Board, to afford the benefit
of his professional advice. The author accompanied this expedition as a guest; for Selkirkshire, though it calls hiin Sheriff, has not, like the kingdom of Bobemia in Corporal Trim's story, a seaport in its circuit, nor its inagistrate, of course, any place at the Board of Commissioners, a circumstance of little consequence where all were old and intimate friends, bred to the same profession, and disposed to accommodate each other in every possible manner.
T'he nature of the important business which was the principal purpose of the voyage, was connected with the amusement of visiting the leading objects of a traveller's curiosity ; for the wild cape, or formidable shelve, which requires to be marked out by a light-house, is generally at no great distance from the most magnificent scenery of rocks, caves, and billows. Our time, too, was at our own disposal, and, as most of us were fresh-water sailors, we could at any time make a fair wind out of a foul one, and run before the gale in quest of some object of curiosity which lay under our lee.
With these purposes of public utility and some personal amusement in view, we left the port of Leith on the 26th July 1814, ran along the east coast of Scotland, viewing its different curiosities, stood over to Zetland and Orkney, where we were some ime detained by the wonders of a country which displayed so much that was new to us; and having seen what was curious in the Ultima Thule of the ancients, where the sun hardly thought it worth while