21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 7


MR. STRANG has done well in giving such honour as his pen can confer to the memory of John Benbow. A great seaman—that is evident enough from the impression which, without having achieved anything very famous, he made on the popular imagination of his time—he was not happy in his opportunities of action. Whatever blessings the restoration of the Stuarts may have brought to England, it did not do the Navy any good. Benbow when he rose to Admiral's rank found a Fleet which had been almost starved, and officers in many of whom the tradition of honour was not of the highest. When his great chance came in August, 1702, on the Hispaniola coast, some of his Captains failed him shame- fully. Benbow had a fleet stronger and in a better condi- tion than the hostile force, but these cowards would not fight. Mr. Strang in his chapter "The Six Days' Battle" gives an admirable account of the engagement, but it could not be made pleasant yeading. Benhow's exploits, however, necessarily form but a small part of the story. Very little, in truth, is known about him; he was a rough diamond—" We must spare our beaux and send honest Benbow," said King William, referring to some better dressed but- less effective seamen—and a gallant tar, and that is about all that can be said. But the "time of Benbow" affords ample material on which Mr. Strang's gift of story-telling can work. Humphrey is sent on his adventures by one of those con- venient mistakes which furnish us with heroes,—the will which would have given him an independence cannot be found. The lawyer, blaming himself for the mishap, gives him his articles; but an office-desk is not to his mind, and he resigns his employment. So he goes out to seek his fortune with little provision save a certain skill in the use of arms which he has learnt from an expert with the foils. He makes friends and enemies, goes through the customary round of perils and escapes, ordinary in themselves, but told with the skill of a practised hand, and finally comes to the haven where he would be. The tale is an excellent specimen of this kind of book. We have also received a handsome edition on large paper (7s. 6d. net). We find ourselves in a very different atmosphere when Mr. Collingwood takes us to the West Coast of South America • (1) Humphrey Bold : a Story of the Time of Benbow. aBni Herbert Strang. London : Henry Frowde and Hodder and Stoughton. [6s. —(2) Under the .Chlliatt Flag. By Harry Collingwood. London: /Mackie Son. [38. 6d.1

and brings the hostile navies of Chile and Peru before us. -He gets to business, so to speak, with a commendable prompti- tude. By the end of chap. 2, Jim Douglas, the hero, has • obtained a commission in the Chilian Navy,—it is interesting to see from Mr. Colliugwood's story, which is historical as far as possible in its details, how many officers' names have a British sound. We soon see, too, that we have got a long - way from the days of John Benbow. Douglas is on duty as - officer of the watch with his comrade, who is second engineer, when the sharp ears of the latter catch the throbbing sound - of an engine in the darkness. Before long two torpedo-boats appear, each carrying a spar torpedo. The course of the • first is turned aside by a shot which kills its steersman ; it runs upon the rocks and is blown to pieces by its own torpedo. The second comes to much the same fate, for its torpedo –is exploded by a shot from the vessel which she is • attacking. These incidents are eminently characteristic - of the naval warfare of to-day, not only in the way in which the catastrophe is brought about, but in its sudden- ness and its completeness. The horrors of a sea-fight are • certainly worse than they were in the old days of the broadside - and the boarding-party. The other historical incidents of the tale are of the same sort, the fight between the Esmeralda ; and the Peruvian fluascar ' and the battle of Angamos. Of • course the hero's career has to be chequered by ill-fortune and : 'reverses. The reader must be hard to satisfy in the way of

hairbreadth escapes and the other usual experiences of a hero 'who finds anything wanting in Jim Douglas's career. We ',might ask whether among the Peruvian officers there was such 7- a cold-blooded villain as Captain Villavicencio. One reflects

that there were not many commanding officers in the Peruvian _ Navy, and the reproach applies somewhat closely. Apart from this, the adventures are all, so to speak, in the way of l-business. We doubt, however, whether the Inca prophetess and the mysterious treasure are quite in keeping with the rest of the tale.