Among the annals of the vanished days of the old navies, of the tarry, pigtailed seamen with hearts of oak, the story of a shipwreck has been preserved in a letter written to his mother by a lieutenant of the frigate Phoenix in the year 1780. He tells her about the tragic episode as though he had actually enjoyed it, scribbling the details with a boyish gusto which conveys to us, in a manner exceedingly vivid, how ships and men lived and toiled in the age of boarding-pikes, hammock-nettings, and single topsails. Few young men write such long letters to their mothers nowadays, and even in that era of leisurely and literary correspondence a friend who was permitted to read the narrative was moved to comment:
"Every circumstance is detailed with feeling and powerful appeals are continually made to the heart. It must likewise afford considerable pleasure to observe the devout heart of a seaman frequently bursting forth and imparting sublimity to the relation."
This stilted admiration must not frighten the modern reader away, for Lieutenant Archer held his old-fashioned piety well under control, and was as brisk, slangy, and engaging a young officer as you could find afloat in a skittish destroyer of the present day. The forty-four-gun frigate Phoenix was commanded by Captain Sir Hyde Parker, who