Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Preface


It is an old remark, that the life of any man, could the incidents be
faithfully told, would possess interest and instruction for the general
reader. The conviction of the perfect truth of this saying, has induced
the writer to commit to paper, the vicissitudes, escapes, and opinions of
one of his old shipmates, as a sure means of giving the public some just
notions of the career of a common sailor. In connection with the amusement
that many will find in following a foremast Jack in his perils and
voyages, however, it is hoped that the experience and moral change of
Myers may have a salutary influence on the minds of some of those whose
fortunes have been, or are likely to be, cast in a mould similar to that
of this old salt.

As the reader will feel a natural desire to understand how far the editor
can vouch for the truth of that which he has here written, and to be
informed on the subject of the circumstances that have brought him
acquainted with the individual whose adventures form the subject of this
little work, as much shall be told as may be necessary to a proper
understanding of these two points.

First, then, as to the writer's own knowledge of the career of the
subject of his present work. In the year 1806, the editor, then a lad,
fresh from Yale, and destined for the navy, made his first voyage in a
merchantman, with a view to get some practical knowledge of his
profession. This was the fashion of the day, though its utility, on the
whole, may very well be questioned. The voyage was a long one, including
some six or eight passages, and extending to near the close of the year
1807. On board the ship was Myers, an apprentice to the captain. Ned, as
Myers was uniformly called, was a lad, as well as the writer; and, as a
matter of course, the intimacy of a ship existed between them. Ned,
however, was the junior, and was not then compelled to face all the
hardships and servitude that fell to the lot of the writer.

Once, only, after the crew was broken up, did the writer and Ned actually
see each other, and that only for a short time. This was in 1809. In 1833,
they were, for half an hour, on board the same ship, without knowing the
fact at the time. A few months since, Ned, rightly imagining that the
author of the Pilot must be his old shipmate, wrote the former a letter to
ascertain the truth. The correspondence produced a meeting, and the
meeting a visit from Ned to the editor. It was in consequence of the
revelations made in this visit that the writer determined to produce the
following work.

The writer has the utmost confidence in all the statements of Ned, so far
as intention is concerned. Should he not be mistaken on some points, he is
an exception to the great rule which governs the opinions and
recollections of the rest of the human family. Still, nothing is related
that the writer has any reasons for distrusting. In a few instances he has
interposed his own greater knowledge of the world between Ned's more
limited experience and the narrative; but, this has been done cautiously,
and only in cases in which there can be little doubt that the narrator has
been deceived by appearances, or misled by ignorance. The reader, however,
is not to infer that Ned has no greater information than usually falls to
the share of a foremast hand. This is far from being the case. When first
known to the writer, his knowledge was materially above that of the
ordinary class of lads in his situation; giving ample proof that he had
held intercourse with persons of a condition in life, if not positively of
the rank of gentlemen, of one that was not much below it. In a word, his
intelligence on general subjects was such as might justly render him the
subject of remark on board a ship. Although much of his after-life was
thrown away, portions of it passed in improvement; leaving Ned, at this
moment, a man of quick apprehension, considerable knowledge, and of
singularly shrewd comments. If to this be added the sound and accurate
moral principles that now appear to govern both his acts and his opinions,
we find a man every way entitled to speak for himself; the want of the
habit of communicating his thoughts to the public, alone excepted.

In this book, the writer has endeavoured to adhere as closely to the very
language of his subject, as circumstances will at all allow; and in many
places he feels confident that no art of his own could, in any respect,
improve it.

It is probable that a good deal of distrust will exist on the subject of
the individual whom Ned supposes to have been one of his god-fathers. On
this head the writer can only say, that the account which Myers has given
in this work, is substantially the same as that which he gave the editor
nearly forty years ago, at an age and under circumstances that forbid the
idea of any intentional deception. The account is confirmed by his sister,
who is the oldest of the two children, and who retains a distinct
recollection of the prince, as indeed does Ned himself. The writer
supposes these deserted orphans to have been born out of wedlock--though
he has no direct proof to this effect--and there is nothing singular in
the circumstance of a man of the highest rank, that of a sovereign
excepted, appearing at the font in behalf of the child of a dependant. A
member of the royal family, indeed, might be expected to do this, to
favour one widely separated from him by birth and station, sooner than to
oblige a noble, who might possibly presume on the condescension.

It remains only to renew the declaration, that every part of this
narrative is supposed to be true. The memory of Ned may occasionally fail
him; and, as for his opinions, they doubtless are sometimes erroneous; but
the writer has the fullest conviction that it is the intention of the Old
Salt to relate nothing that he does hot believe to have occurred, or to
express an unjust sentiment. On the subject of his reformation, so far as
"the tree is to be known by its fruits" it is entirely sincere; the
language, deportment, habits, and consistency of this well-meaning tar,
being those of a cheerful and confiding Christian, without the smallest
disposition to cant or exaggeration. In this particular, he is a living
proof of the efficacy of faith, and of the power of the Holy Spirit to
enlighten the darkest understanding, and to quicken the most apathetic
conscience.

James Fenimore Cooper

Sorry, no summary available yet.