29 APRIL 1899, Page 38


persuade its readers "to see almost an infinite number of parallelisms in character between Sir Astley Cooper Key and Nelson," or to admit that in Sir Astley "natural chaiacter and the effect of environment" were so mingled as to make the record of his career "perhaps almost unique as a story," it must be allowed that the author has given "a very full idea of the modern naval officer's life and being." In the portraiture of incidents and personality Admiral Colomb is, perhaps, rather less impressive than when describing pro- grammes of naval defence, or imaginary tugs-of-war between torpedoes and ironclads. But he has given an interesting narrative of the steps by which the unprotected son of a demonstrator at Guy's Hospital contrived to climb to the top of his profession. When, in 1835, Cooper Key first went to sea, his ship, the Russell,' was, as to masts, yards, and rigging, a survival of the age of Howe and Duncan, only firing thirty - two - pound round shot, and carrying her powder almost loose in barrels. No sooner had the two-decker cleared out of Sheerness than the Middy of fourteen learned the meaning of the maxim, "Spare the cat and spoil the seaman or Marine "—" but especially the Marine." As in less than three months the gratings were "rigged" on twenty-four occasions, no wonder if the " hands " of that date regarded punishment by the lash as a mere bit of routine like scrubbing decks or loosing sails to dry. Even when Cooper Key was appointed to the Sanspareil ' just before the peace with Russia of 1856, the cat, now almost extinct, was still in vogue "There were thefts, desertions, drunkenness, quitting post of duty, stealing boats to run away with, and so on, before his command was six weeks old," and the usual floggings were meted out. The log of the juvenile Key's protracted cruisings in various waters, which were unattended by any special adventures, personal or professional, is kept by his biographer with un- usual fullness. We see how, like any average youth of his rank, he shot pigs near the coast of Cuba, chased • Memoirs of Admiral the Right Hon. Sr Astley Cooper Key, G.C.B.,D.C.L., Lit.S.L. By N lee-Adnikal P. IL Colomb. London : Methuen and Co. (162.1 slavers, enjoyed the fuchsias and pineapples of Madeira, shot snipe at Bahia, seeing at intervals a little town society, and reading Paley's Evidences and James's Naval History; Paddleships of war existed, but they were considered "bad form," so that "steamers' Midshipmen," like "steamers' Lieutenants," and even their Captains and Commanders, were voted an inferior set, and held to be rather out of the running. A certain divisor should probably be applied to our author's affirmation that his hero "foresaw that steam was coming to sweep away the old Navy." But Cooper Key may have thought that an alliance with the despised element might not be a bad speculation when, as a Lieutenant of twenty-three, he got him- self transferred to the 6-gun paddle-steamer, 'Gorgon.' He had a strong scientific bias, and he devoted himself to the study, practical and theoretical, of steam. When the 'Gorgon' ran ashore near Monte Video, her recovery was ascribed to the ingenuity of the Lieutenant's plans, and to the tenacity with which he conducted the very difficult and protracted arrange- ments for the rescue. Soon Cooper Key was appointed to the command of the Bulldog' steamer, whose capture in Portuguese waters of a miserable little flotilla of insurgents, which was conducted in triumph to the Tagus, we cannot call a very brilliant or glorious operation. Nor do we attach deep psycho- logical import to remarks like the following from one of the Commander's letters :—" What a pity that my favourites, Nelson and Byron, should be so unpopular. The latter, I fancy, is my favourite, from a spirit of contradiction." The 'Bulldog' was in constant proximity to scenes of revo- lution, and, when in the Mediterranean, Cooper Key wit- nessed several exciting chapters of the Italian movements of 1847-49. During the blockades, bombardments, and intestine troubles of Sicily and Naples, he had to advise and protect British subjects, to mitigate, when opportunity afforded, the horrors of war, and also to report to his superiors on the political incidents of which he was able to obtain knowledge. Our author travels somewhat beyond the facts of Cooper Key's intervention on behalf of the British community of Palermo when he describes him as assuming the position of "leading mediator between the infuriated parties contending for the control of a great city." But, after all deductions are made, it must be granted that during these protracted con- flicts the young Commander of the 'Bulldog' was always cool, moderate, and decided, that his despatches testify to his possession of a clearness of political judgment almost beyond his years, and that he extricated himself from sundry delicate positions without compromising his neutrality. The diplomatic phases of his employment included a mission to Rome to inform Pio Nono that the 'Bulldog' would be held at the disposal of his Holiness. This offer was to have been repeated after the murder of Count Rossi ; however, before Cooper Key could again reach the Vatican the Pope was on his road to Gaeta under French protection. Cooper Key's private letters are full of pleasant gossip and lucubmtions on art, but they have no special merits of style.

Admiral Colomb is nothing if not polemical, and he grows picturesque when he describes, with evident gusto, the amazing cycles and epicycles of red-tape which almost strangled naval progress a quarter of a century ago. In the Baltic and Chinese Campaigns, and as member of the Royal Committee of Defence, Cooper Key came well to the front, and in 1863 he became Cap- tain of the Excellent,' and head of the gunnery department of the Navy. The Admiralty having then no technical staff for the consideration of questions relating to ships guns, such matters were referred to the War Office, and to the Ordnance Select Committee (in which military opinions predominated), and were further subject to the control of the Re al Factory at Woolwich, where Whitworth was competing for influence with Sir W. Armstrong, and a host of private inventors were bring- ing forward rival proposals,—conditions of strife aggravated by the supplementary interference of the Royal Carriage Department, and the Dockyards, in regard to mounting, and of the Laboratory, touching explosives ; while the gun wharves at the ports, with their naval stores and factories,-were under the War Office I By the side of these advisory powers stood the Controller of the Navy, and, as chief authority with respect to marine fighting power, and gunnery as a whole, besides other cognate topics, the Captain of the Excellent,' whose exact functions it passed the wit of official man to_ define. Above this chaotic turmoil of departmental muddle and decentralisation there arose eternal clashings between the 'Excellent' and the War Office ; and, moreover, when the Captain of the 'Excellent,' in the discharge of his functions, ventured to_. criticise, some of. the Con- trollers plans, there grew up an "exasperated antagonism' between that branch of the Admiralty and the Staff of the gunnery ship. Gradually a "climax" was reached, and the Captain, besides duly protesting, resigned his post, receiving in compensation the office, newly created by Sir John Pakington, of Director of Naval Ordnance at Whitehall. Cooper Key's ambitions and energies were exerted on two main lines. Besides being the originator of such innovations as the Staunch' eless; of gunboats, armoured decks, and all-round fire—to say nothing of matters too esoteric for mention here—he put on paper "the essence of the plan upon which the 'Collingwoocr was built, and, therefore, the basis of the great battleship fleet which followed her," and recommended a new departure in torpedo vessels, thereby, says Admiral Womb, anticipating our newest destroyer type. But his mind, if enterprising, was notable for balance, and he played the while the part of "moderator in a tremendous experi- mental revolution which was running riot in all directions." His quality of self-restraint did not shield him from conflicts with Mr. Childers, who, as First Lord, had hoisted the flag of rigid economy in naval administration, and twice declared war against Sir Astley, forcing him first to take the post of Admiral-Superintendent at Portsmouth and then banishing-him, against his will, to Malta Dockyard.

In these posts and others that followed Sir Astley found havens of repose in which he recruited his strength for the final chapter of his professional life. As First Sea Lord of the Admiralty it became his business, in association with Lord Northbrook, to carry out the executive arrangements required in 1883 when Arabi's movement decided her Majesty's Government to intervene in Egypt. According to Admiral Colomb's detailed narrative, the forts surrounding the harbour of Alexandria were seized by the rebels, strengthened, and armed with guns which covered Sir Beauchamp Seymour's ironclads as they lay in the basin. The bombardment and destruction of the forts by our ships, which caused such a commotion at home and on the Continent, was the consequence whereupon Alexandria fell into anarchy. The city was looted: its finest quarters were partly burnt to the ground, and order was not restored until a suitable force of men and Marines was landed from Sir B. Seymour's squadron. Admiral Colomb's marked approval of the bombardment runs counter to opinions expressed by some equally competent judges of the situation. Our author may be unaware that when the crisis had become acute, a local British deputation waited on the proper authority to express the hope that the commanding Admiral would set men on shore to take or observe the forts in rear, which step neglected, great disasters would surely fall Upon the city. The reply was that until the sun rose in the West the form of attack thus deprecated wollla-not lunae-r- taken. Upon this, the views in question were brought before Sir B. Seymour, who, without discussing the technical issues involved, pointed to the French ships in sight, and said that he had no spare hands for shore work. Nevertheless, when it was seen that anarchy reigned in Alexandria, the disembarka- tion of the requisite Marines and seamen presented no diffi- culty, and our author emphasises "the speed with which order was restored in the ruined city" by their exertions. We are no nearer the solution of the puzzle when we learn that a regiment of British infantry and one thousand Marines arrived at Alexandria a few days after the bombardment took place.

The Egyptian incidents of 1883, with the Russian advance to Mery and the Afghan frontier, helped to rouse the nation from the apathy into which it had fallen on the subject of the naval balance of power. At present our Admiralty demand for 228,000,000 is regarded as not a penny too much, fifteen years ago the equivalent bill was about 210,000,000, and Key's proposal to ask for an additional million for shipbuilding was rejected by the Cabinet. Yet that was a time of rush compared with 1877, when we did not lay_down a single large armour-clad, although three were commenced in France. Amazing seems the fact that in 1884 it was declared if the Admiralty were _granted three or four millions at once they would not know how to spend them. The new guns could penetrate any armour, however thick, and the torpedo would perhaps be able to blow up any vessel, how- ever powerful ; would it be wise greatly to increase the number of our vulnerable floating monsters 7 However, the Press and public continuing to agitate, the Admiralty pro- duced "a suddenly devised programme" for building twenty- seven vessels of all types, which drew a protest from the First Sea Lord to the effect that the 23,000,000 thus specially pro- posed was "an absurdly small sum.' Sir Astley was an ardent enemy of the Channel Tunnel. Admiral Colomb, in argument with his friend, made light of the objections raised against such a "mere rat hole," and, curiously enough, "also thought that the French would keep any promises made in regard to attack via the tunnel " ! To which Sir Astley Cooper Key justly rejoined that he "did not think they would."