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THE Editor of this little volume (for he presumes not to write Author) has been induced to bring into one connected view what has hitherto appeared only in detached fragments (and some of these not generally accessible)—the historical narrative of an event which deeply interested the public at the time of its occurrence, and from which the naval service in particular, in all its ranks, may still draw instructive and useful les
The story in itself is replete with interest. We are taught by The Book of sacred history, that the disobedience of our first parents entailed on our globe of earth a sinful and a suffering race in our time there has sprung up from the most abandoned of this sinful family-from pirates, mutineers, and murderers a little society which, under the precepts of that sacred volume, is characterized by religion, morality, and innocence. The discovery of this happy people, as unexpected as it was accidental, and all that regards their condition and history, partake so much of the romantic, as to render the story not ill adapted for an epic poem. Lord Byron, indeed, has partially treated the subject; but by blending two incongruous stories, and leaving both of them imperfect, and by mixing up fact with fiction, has been less felicitous than usual;
for, beautiful as many passages in his 'Island' are, in a region where every tree, and flower, and fountain breathe poetry, yet as a whole the poem is feeble and deficient in dramatic effect.
There still remains to us at least one Poet, who, if he could be prevailed on to undertake it, would do justice to the story. To his suggestion the publication of the present narrative owes its appearance. But a higher object at present is engaging his attention, which, when completed, judging from that portion already before the public, will have raised a splendid and lasting monument to the name of William Sotheby, in his translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
To the kindness of Mrs. Heywood, the relict of the late Captain Peter Heywood, the Editor is indebted for those beautiful and affectionate letters, written by a beloved sister to her unfortunate brother, while a prisoner and under sentence of death; as well as for some occasional poetry, which displays an intensity of feeling, a tenderness of expression, and a high tone of sentiment, that do honour to the head and heart of this amiable and accomplished lady. Those letters also from the brother to his deeply afflicted family will be read with peculiar interest.
THE publishers of the present edition of this work, in order to render it more acceptable to the American public, have taken the liberty of omitting a few of the author's observations which were not deemed necessary to the history, and also of slightly modifying its title.