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WHEN I hear people talking about the
decadence of England I generally go for a
day or two to Portsmouth. It is so pleasant
to see the fleet of a third-rate power big
enough, and heavy metalled enough, to hold
its own against all other navies whatsoever;
and to feel that though we are sunk into
insignificance and contempt, it is an insignificance
of a very peculiar kind, consisting of a
hundred sail at Spithead, mounting upwards
of two thousand guns. So sinks a great Lord
into poverty when his creditors make him an
allowance of a hundred thousand a year; so
sinks Lucullus into fasting and abstinence
when his table is reduced to four courses and
a dessert.

Being very much depressed in spirits last
week, after reading some German pamphlets
which proved that England was ruined, and
several Irish and American newspapers
which positively asserted that the sun of
tyrannical Albion had sunk for ever, I
betook myself to the Boscawen Arms on
Portsmouth Hard, which is next door to the
Benbow, which is next door to the Cloudesley
Shovel, which is next door to the Earl St.
Vincent, so that it seems like a set of stout
volumes of the Lives of the British Admirals
ranged on a library shelf,—and, by means of the
smell of tar and salt water, and the sight of a
crowded harbour, and the echo of a thousand
hammers in the dockyard, I soon got into a
more comfortable frame of mind, and began
already to believe that we should have a very
fair chance against the King of the Two
Sicilies, or even Otho of Greece. I don't
know how it is, but whenever I am in any
part of Portsmouth I always feel as if I could
lick any amount of foreigners with the
greatest ease; I feel a strange twitching in
the shoulders, and a desire to hitch up my
lower integuments, as if the braces had broke;
and I find myself occasionally trying to
expectorate in a free and manly manner, as if I
never had a quid out of my right cheek. The
manner in which my legs flourish about,
evidently believing they are on a quarter-deck
in a considerable gale of wind, has often
caused me great uneasiness as to the opinion
my friends may entertain of the cause of so
unsteady a gait; but as everybody in
Portsmouth seems to heel over and sway from
side to side pretty much in the same manner,
let me hope they either don't notice the
obliquity of my motion, or attribute it to the
right causea marine sympathy which it
is impossible to resist. By the same peculiar
action of the sea-breezes, my language
becomes almost unintelligible to my friends,
and sometimes even to myself. Do you think
I could say I was walking down High Street?
No; I'd see you in Davy Jones's locker first!
I always either steer or bear down High
Street, and wouldn't "walk" for the world.
I always weigh anchor when I leave a room,
and bring up when I sit down to dinner;
and yetwould you believe it?—I hate the
real thing in spite of this strange, and, I
believe, involuntary imitation. I am seasick on
the voyage from Gosport to Hyde, and never
was on board a man-of-war in my life. In
fact I have never been able very distinctly to
understand how any body ever got on board
a man-of-war, except in dock. It seems to
me impossible to clamber up such an immense
height with only the help of a rope, and the
uncertain footing of the planking seams,—for
stairs, I understand, are done away with in
blue water, and chairs let down for none but
ladies. However, in spite of these
drawbacks, I am conscious I have the soul of a
Nelson in the body of a land-lubber, and
feel positively certain that I would sing Rule
Britannia and Hearts of Oak at the point
of death. I do it constantly nowor when I
don't sing the words I whistle the tunes:
"We burn them, and sink them, or drive them
on shore; And if they won't fight us what
can we do more?" Ah! What, indeed?

The water in the harbour is generally
smooth, and I hire a boat by the day, and sail
up and down for ever. Past the glorious
Victorypast the Excellentpast the huge
hulks we go, and up into a city of hooded
houses, with port-holes for windows, lying
upon their shadows opposite Portchester
Castle, and waiting only to be called on to
doff their roofs, and stick in their masts, and
hoist their sailsand behold the quiet line of
sleepy monsters transformed into leviathans
afloat, with their bulwarks on the brine, ready
for all weathers, and as gay with pennon and
streamer as a new made bride! Thirty-six
hours would send these vessels at any time to

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