Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society HTML version

Letter 27: 30th November, 1835
To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. Dec. 8, 1835)
LISBON, 30 NOV. 1835.
REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I arrived safe at Lisbon on the twelfth of the present
month after a passage which, considering the season in which it was made, may
be termed a fair one. On the morning of the tenth we found ourselves about two
leagues from the coast of Galicia, whose lofty mountains gilded by the rising sun
presented a magnificent appearance. We soon passed Cape Finisterre, and
standing farther out to sea speedily lost sight of land. On the morning of the
eleventh the sea was very rough, and a most remarkable circumstance occurred.
I was on the forecastle, discoursing with two of the sailors, [and] one of them who
had just left his hammock told me that he had had a most disagreeable dream,
for, said he, pointing up to the mast, 'I dreamt that I fell into the sea from off the
cross-trees.' He was heard to say this by several of the crew besides myself. A
moment after, the captain of the vessel, perceiving that the squall was
increasing, ordered the topsails to be taken in, whereupon this man with several
others instantly ran up aloft. The yard was presently loosened, and in the act of
being hauled down, when a violent gust of wind whirled it round with violence,
and a man was struck down from the cross- trees into the sea, which was raging
and tumbling below. In a few moments he emerged, and I saw his head distinctly
on the crest of a wave, and I recognised in the unfortunate man the sailor who
shortly before had been relating his dream. I shall never forget the look of agony
he cast us whilst the ship hurried past him. The alarm was given, and in a
moment everything was in confusion. It was at least two minutes before the
vessel was stopped, and the man was left a considerable way behind, but I still
kept my eye upon him, and could perceive that he was struggling gallantly with
the waves. A boat was at length lowered, but the rudder unfortunately was not at
hand, and only two oars could be procured, with which the men who manned her
could make but little progress in the tremendous sea; however, they did their
best, and had arrived within ten yards of the man who had continued struggling
for his life, when I lost sight of him, and the men on their return said that they saw
him below the waters at glimpses, sinking deeper and deeper, his arms stretched
out and his body to all appearance stiff, but they found it impossible to save him.
Presently afterwards the sea, as if satisfied with the prey it had received, became
comparatively calm, and the squall subsided. The poor fellow who was drowned
in this singular manner was a fine young man, twenty-seven years of age, the
only son of a widowed mother. He was the best sailor on board, and beloved by
every one who was acquainted with him. The event occurred on the 11th of
November 1835, the vessel was the 'London Merchant' Steamship, commanded
by Captain Whittingham. Wonderful indeed are the ways of Providence.