I must here state that Bill Mann was a very distinguished character on board the styx. In person he was large and unwieldy, and possessed of great strength. He wore a pair of tremendous black whiskers, which he regarded as the greatest ornament to the human face divine; and altogether had the regular “damn-my-eyes” look of an old salt. Bill was unquestionably a hero, if great deeds entitle any man to that distinction. According to his own account, he had killed more whales, broken more girls’ hearts, whipped more men, been drunk oftener, and pushed his way through more perils, frolics, pleasures, pains, and general vicissitudes of fortune than any man in the known world. Nevertheless, Bill was a great grumbler. He had the happy knack of seeing through every thing at a glance, and making evil omens out of the smallest trifles. If a cloud appeared on the horizon, we were going to have “tough weather, and, like as not, the blamed old spars wouldn’t stand it, and we’d fetch up in Davy Jones’s locker.” He always “knew what he was about.” If he fell over a handspike and bruised his shins, he “knew what he was about.” Nay, for that matter, he could foretell every accident about to happen; but, unfortunately, seldom made particular reference to any special accident until after it did happen. Whenever any of the crew broke a looking-glass, he had fifty tragical stories to relate in proof of his position that it was a sure omen of bad luck. He was always “growling;” from morning till night he had something to growl at. If he had to do a job on the rigging, he went at it growling; be growled his way aloft twice a day; growled at the wheel; growled in the forecastle; growled in his sleep; and, although he could tell some amusing stories, he invariably wound up with a growl. Bill was every thing under the sun: a sailor; an actor, a musician, a pugilist; and, in short, considered himself an adept in seamanship, literature, politics, law, and every other pursuit that engages the attention of man. In all forecastle disputes touching questions in art; science, or literature, Bill was the great Sir Oracle, and clinched every argument by the assertion, that “there was nothing green in the corner of his eye; he knew what he was about.” His songs — for he could sing too — were never less than sixteen or eighteen verses. Every thing he did bore the peculiar stamp of his genius. Nothing pleased him; nothing went as he had seen things go. His last voyage was pleasant and prosperous; the last ship was a good sailer; the last crew were fine, clever fellows; the last forecastle wasn’t a hog-pen. He was continually cursing his “top-lights” if it wouldn’t be a source of infinite satisfaction to him if this crazy old tub of a barque would sink, spars, tackling, try-works, and all, and go crock to the bottom. He had seen salt water before; nobody could tell him about salt water; he knew what a sailor’s life was as well as any man; but he had never seen such doings aboard any other ship. He’d be blowed if he wouldn’t like to see the studding-sails dragging overboard, the top-masts swinging by the rigging, the yards braced to Halifax, and the whole bloody ship’s crew drifting on to a lee shore in the cook’s galley. Divers and sundry afflictions might befall him if he wouldn’t sooner be rammed and jammed into the fore-peak of purgatory than in such a ditty, lubberly, tub-sided blubber hunter as the barque styx.
Browne’s account on Captain Bill Mann, Chapter IX.
Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with Notes of a Sojourn on the Island of Zanzibar; With a History of the Whale Fishery, Its Past and Present Condition. By J. Ross Browne. Illustrated by Numerous Engravings on Steel and Wood. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 82 Cliff Street, 1846.
Herman Melville: Etchings of a Whaling Cruise: Rezension.
- in: Piazza Tales and Other Prose, The Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the Writings of Herman Melville, Volume Nine;
- bei Amazon.de;
- deutsch in: Moby-Dick, Friedhelm Rathjen bei mare;
- als Taschenbuch, Friedhelm Rathjen bei Fischer;
- in: Die große Kunst, die Wahrheit zu sagen: Von Walen, Dichtern und anderen Herrlichkeiten, Alexander Pechmann bei Jung und Jung.
Rotschopfbild: ohkayeor: Etching Workshop, 15. Juni 2009.