Cannon Family, the
Journey to Boulogne
When Alexander the Great was gazetted commander-in-chief of
the Macedonian forces, and was concocting the eighteen manœuvres
at the Horse-guards of that celebrated country; when he was about
fighting Darius, Xerxes, and Porus; when Cæsar was invading Gaul
and Britain; when the Benedictine monks were compiling "L'Art de
verifier les dates;" when Sterne was writing Tristram Shandy; when
Burton was anatomizing melancholy; when the companions of Columbus
were puzzling their brains to find out how an egg could stand
on end; when Mrs. Glass was concocting her cookery-book, and
Bayle his dictionary; their minds were as smooth and as calm as a
fish-pond, a milk-bowl, a butter-boat, an oil-cruet, compared with the
speculative and prospective anxieties of all the Cannons as they were
rattled on towards Dover, on their way to the land of promise, where
milk and honey were to be found flowing,—longevity in apothecaries'
shops,—modesty purchased at milliners' counters,—and decorum
taught by opera-dancers. In these Utopian dreams, England was
considered an uninhabitable region of fogs, mists, tyranny, corruption,
consumption, and chilblains; the fate of Nineveh was denounced
on London,—the modern Babylon; and, had it been burning
from Chelsea bun-house to Aldgate pump, and from the Elephant
and Castle to the Wheatsheaf at Paddington, the Cannons would
not have dared to cast "a lingering look behind them" without
dreading the lot of the Lots.
After their due share of impositions, thanks and curses, maledictions
or valedictions, as they had been "genteel" or "shabby"
with waiters, chambermaids, boots, porters, postilions, and hostlers
on the road, the party arrived at Dover, and of course "put up," or
rather, were "put down," at the Ship. But here fresh reasons
for abhorring England were in store. When the waiters saw the arms
of the Cannons on their panels, and the dragon, and the motto
"Crepo," they all crowded round the travellers; but, like many
apparently good things in this world, the inside of the fruit did
not appear as attractive as its external bloom; and as the Cannons
tumbled out, or jumped out, or rolled out, or staggered out of their
vehicles, with all sorts of parcels and bundles, in brown and whity-brown
paper, and pocket-handkerchiefs of silk and of cotton, without
any of those neat and elegant cases containing all sorts of necessary
articles for travellers in health or in sickness, and which form an
invariable part of fashionable travellers' luggage, the waiters and the
lookers-on seemed to consider the Cannons with looks that, without
much knowledge of physiognomy, might have been interpreted
"These people have no business here." They were reluctantly shown
into a parlour, and to bed-rooms at the top of the house, with the
usual formal apology, "Sorry, ma'am, we can't afford better accommodation;
our house is quite full: the Duke of Scratchenburg and his
suet is just come over from Germany, and the Prince of Hesse Humbuginstein
is hourly looked for. Coming—going—coming—oh, Lord,
what a life! going—going directly!"
The Cannons were hungry; dinner was ordered immediately. Now
it was the height of presumption—nay, of impudence—on the part of
a hungry citizen, without courier or valet de chambre, or supporters
to his arms, to make use of such an aristocratic adverb. Immediately
implies servitude, slavery, servility, at the nod of a master,—ay, and
of an accidental master, an interloper in command. Is a free-born
Englishman to run helter-skelter up and down stairs at the risk of
breaking his neck, to hurry the cook, to expose himself to a forfeit of
one shilling (not being a gentleman) by swearing and cursing in the
teeth of the 19 Geo. 2. c. 21, when the cook tells the officious waiter
not to bother him, or, if the weather is hot and the fire is fierce, bids
him, by a natural association of ideas, to go to h—; and all this because
an ex-tallow-chandler is hungry, and wants an immediate dinner!
Forbid it, glorious constitution! forbid it, bill of rights!
Old Commodus Cannon pulled the bell until the rope remained in
his hand unconnected with its usual companion; for be it known for
the information of impatient voyagers, that in modest apartments the
said ropes are only attached by slender ties, which give way when
vigorously jerked, that servants may not be disturbed. At last a
waiter, bearing in his knitted brows the apprehension of a miserable
shilling "tip" on departure, came in to inform the party that dinner
would be served as soon as possible, but that the Duke of Scratchenburg
and Prince Hesse Humbuginstein's dinners busied every hand
in the house; but, if the gentlemen chose, there was a hot joint serving
up in the coffee-room.
Cannon was outrageous, and swore that he would go to another
"You are perfectly welcome to do so, sir, if you like."
"I'll represent your behaviour to all our friends!" exclaimed Mrs.
"None of our acquaintance shall ever put up in this house," added
"Then, ladies," replied the waiter, with a ludicrous heavy sigh,
"we shall be obliged to shut up shop!"
At last an apology for a dinner was served; beefsteaks, potatoes,
and a gooseberry tart. No oyster sauce!—the last oyster had been
served to his Grace! No fish!—the last turbot had been served to
his Serene Highness!
"Your port wine and your sherry are execrable!"
"His Grace thought them excellent."
Cannon was bubbling over, but he philosophized over a glass of
punch; and his family comforted themselves, over a cup of tea, with
the thoughts of their speedy departure from "horrible England."
Peter Cannon complained in the coffee-room of the treatment they
had experienced, and he felt not a little annoyed when his interlocutor,
a perfect stranger, observed that "they would have been much
more comfortable had they put up at a second or third-rate hotel."
They seemed created for wanton insult. Cornelius Cannon strolled
out to inquire if there was anything to be seen in Dover; an insolent
groom told him that, if he would go up to the Castle, he might see
"a rum cannon" that carried a ball to Calais. Had he been a gentleman,
Cornelius must have called him out, for he fancied that the
term "rum cannon" had been a personality.
The next morning the packet was to sail. Here again fresh outrages
were heaped upon them. They were asked for the keys of
their trunks, to be examined at the custom-house!
"Why, what the deuce do they fancy I can have to export?" exclaimed
"Why, sir, perhaps it might be some machinery."
There was something wantonly offensive in the insinuation that
a man like Mr. Commodus Cannon should smuggle out a steam-engine,
an improved loom, or a paper-mill, in his luggage! What
could have been the cause of all these indignities? Simply this, as it
was subsequently discovered: Sam Surly, being hungry, and not over
nice, despite a brown and gold-laced red-collared livery, and military
cockade, had gone to the tap to enjoy a pull of half-and-half; and,
unaccustomed to travel, had gone into the kitchen for some "victuals,"
instead of joining the board of the other under-gentlemen in
the house. On the other hand, Sukey Simper, both for the sake of
comfort and economy, had brought with her a bottle of rum, and some
loaf-sugar wrapped up in brown paper, and, having been shown to her
attic quarters, forthwith prepared a potation to refresh herself after
her journey: neither being aware that it is part and parcel of a servant's
duty in a respectable family to run up a heavy score at their
master's expense. Now, Sam Surly had also picked up an old
Yorkshire acquaintance, with whom he repaired to another eating-house,
where, over a bowl of generous humpty-dumpty, Sam was
prevailed upon to take charge of a small parcel of little articles for a
present at Boulogne, and, to avoid paying freight, he was recommended
to conceal the said trifles in his capacious corduroy unmentionables.
As Messrs. Cannons were perambulating the streets of Dover, they
observed sundry gentlemen, some of them lords, wearing sailors'
jackets and hats, and they therefore determined to turn out in a marine
costume; for which purpose they hied to a Jew slop-seller for
their outfit. Mr. Cannon, senior, donned a pea-coatie, with a pair of
ample blue trousers, and a glazed hat with a jaunty riband; while his
sons soon strutted about the town in yacht-club uniforms, with their
hands knowingly thrust in the pockets of their jackets, resplendent
with anchored buttons. They felt satisfied that they had produced
"the desired effect," for every one stared at them as they stalked
along in "rank entire," Commodus Cannon leading the van, and the
ladies—enraptured at the appearance of the male part of the family—bringing
up the rear. They were certainly annoyed by the impertinent
observations of the vulgar people, boys and girls, who, with
the usual English bad taste, did not know better,—who would titter,
and exclaim, "I say, there goes the horse-marines!"
"No, no," cried another; "it's the famous Sea Cook and his sons
wot uncovered the Sandwich Islands!"
"I say, commodore, how are they all in the Fleet?" roared out a
"Poor old gentleman! his eyebrows are worn out, looking out for
squalls through a grating?" said a fourth.
While a boatswain sang out, and whistled in Cannon's ear,
"Yer, yer! man the sides! there's the flying Dutchman coming
"Sing out for Captain Yokell, cockswain!" bellowed an impertinent
Now, strange to say, these observations, which might have offended
some sensitive persons, highly gratified our travellers. They had
already obtained what they so ardently desired—notoriety, and had
a chance of seeing their names in print; for, even when a man is
abused and ridiculed, if it is in print, the sting carries with it its own
antidote. He becomes public property; he is something; "There goes
that confounded ass, Mr. Such-a-one! there goes that rum cove, Mr.
What's-his-name!" Then, if he can but get himself caricatured,
he is a made man. Were it not for the gratification derived from
such publicity, would so many people walk, and talk, and dress, or undress,
in the absurd manner we daily witness in our lounges? A certain
lord was honoured with an hebdomadary flare-up by a certain
weekly paper as regularly as church-bells are rung on the sabbath.
It was expected that his lordship would have purchased the editor's
silence,—absurd expectation! One might as well expect that a jolly
prebend would decline sitting in half-a-dozen stalls at the same time.
No, no; the editor abused on until he was tired of abusing gratis;
when his lordship was so much annoyed that he paid to have scurrilous
articles inserted, forwarded by himself.
Two packets were about starting, a French one and an English
one. The Cannons were resolved to punish their ungrateful countrymen,
and embarked under the colours of France. A numerous
French family were repairing on board; and, as the gentlemen wore
a red riband in their button-holes, our party concluded they were
noblemen. The two families were grouped near each other; and the
French, with their usual condescension, honoured the Cannons with
their countenance, conversing as well as persons scarcely acquainted
with each other's language can conveniently converse.
The morning was fine; but lowering clouds and a white sun would
have induced experienced mariners to expect a fresh breeze. With
great volubility of execrations the Gaul got under weigh, and paddled
on slowly, while the English packet shot by like a dart. The French
captain smiled at this swiftness, and, shrugging up his shoulders, exclaimed,
"Ces Anglais! ça n'a pas d'expérience!—nous verrons tout à
l'heure!" he added, rubbing his hands with delight.
The influence of dress is wonderful. A certain costume seems to
impart to the wearer, ideas pertaining to the class of society which
he then personates. A lawyer's wig and gown make a man fancy
that he could plead, and he regrets that he was not brought up to
the bar. A civilian, who attends a fancy ball in a splendid uniform,
is inspired with courageous ideas, which a free potation of refreshment
fans into a martial ardour. Now the Cannons did truly consider
themselves sailors. The young men walked up and down the
deck boldly, endeavouring to show how they could tread a plank or
a seam on "sea legs" without staggering, although there was no
more motion than under Kew-bridge; and then they would cast a
knowing eye at the compass as they passed the binnacle, to ascertain
if the helmsman steered judiciously, although the compass was as
little known to them as the Koran. Then they would suddenly stop,
and look at the sky; then suck their fingers, and hold them up, to
see which way the wind blew; and, when their cigars were out they
would whistle or hum "Rule Britannia!" or, "You gentlemen of
England, who live at home at ease," while they were lighting other
Old Cannon was equally busy; but he was seated amongst the
ladies, encouraging them against sea-sickness, which he said was all
nonsense, and, if they were very sick, recommended them most particularly
to turn their faces to the wind, and to keep their veils before
them not to see the sea. Then to the French gentlemen he endeavoured
to describe the battles of the Nile and of Trafalgar; and the
Frenchmen of course concluded from his age, language, and appearance,
that he was at least an admiral.
A "cat's-paw," as the sailors call it, had now ruffled the surface
of the water, and the vessel commenced heaving; ere
long, most of the passengers assisted the packet in conjugating the
verb "heave;" when, strange to say, the powers of the pea-jacket
and the anchor-buttons were exhausted, and all the Cannons were
drawn out,—a broadside of unutterable misery. Old Cannon
roared out "he was a-dying," and begged they would send for a
doctor; and while he was rolling, and twisting, and twining upon
the deck in agony, the cabin-boy was cleansing him with a wet
swab. As to the Miss Cannons, they were assisted below,—not by
their brothers, who, with dismay in their countenances, were "holding
on" at every thing and every one they could catch, until a sudden
regurgitation made them rush in desperation to the bulwark, with
closed eyes and extended arms. Strange to say, the French gentlemen
were not sick! possibly their red riband was more effectual
than blue jackets; but they indulged their mirth at the expense of
old Cannon, exclaiming,
"Mais, voyez donc, ce pauvre Monsieur de Trafalgar!"
It now was blowing fresh, and, to add to their misery, the paddles,
by some mismanagement of the engineer, got obstructed, and the vessel
was completely water-logged.
The French passengers got frightened, and began shaking old
Cannon, roaring out,
"Monsieur de Trafalgar, à la manœuvre! à la manœuvre!"
"Oh Lord! oh Lord!" exclaimed the old man in a piteous tone,
"are we arrived?"
"No, sare! we sall all arriver down to de bottom. Mon Dieu!
"Monsieur de Trafalgar, you do see! vat is de matter!" exclaimed
a poor Frenchwoman, who had rolled over him.
The captain swore that it all arose from their having an English
steam-engine, which his owner had insisted upon. Fortunately for
the party, there happened to be an English sailor on board, who had
all the while been sleeping on the bows, and who started at the uproar
and the loud curses of the French crew: every one giving an advice
which no one followed and all contradicted. He jumped down
below, and in a few moments all was right again. When he returned
upon deck, the captain, with a smile of importance, observed,
"I do suppose, sare, dat you have been vere long time in France; dat
is de metod of which we do make use in circonstances similar."
"Circumstances similar!" exclaimed Jack, as he thrust a quid in
his cheek, "then, why the h—didn't you do it yourself, you beggar?"
and off he went to roost, as the Frenchman, pale with rage,
muttered a "sacré Godam!"
Soon, however, the harbour of Boulogne was made, and the crowd
of its idle inhabitants were congregated as usual on the pier, to variegate
the sameness of their amusements by the arrival of fresh food
for curiosity and gossip regularly supplied by the packets. Unfortunately
it was low water, and the steamer could not get in; it therefore
became necessary that the passengers should be landed on the
backs of fisherwomen, who are always ready saddled on these occasions
for the carriage of voyagers. Great were the cries and the
shrieks of the Miss Cannons and their mamma when thus mounted;
but old Cannon, recovered from his sickness, seemed quite delighted.
He jumped upon the shoulders of a fat old woman, who staggered
under the weight, with a "'Cré chien, qu'il est lourd!" But Mr. Cannon
was not satisfied with his natural weight, and, wishing to show
the natives that he could ride à l'Anglaise, he stuck his knees in the
sides of his biped steed, and began rising in his saddle, despite the
tottering Boulonnaire, who was roaring out, "'Cré Dieu, Monsieur
l'Anglais! est-ce que vous étes enragé! Nom d'un Dieu! vous
m'ereintes! Ah Jesus, je n'en puis plus!" and, suiting the action
to the word, down she rolled in the mud, pitching her rider head
over heels, amidst convulsive roars of international laughter.
This accident did not halt the cavalcade, and Cannon's affectionate
spouse and children endeavoured in vain to rein in their chargers.
On they trotted until they landed them at the pier, leaving Cannon
in the hands of the fisherwoman, who not only insisted upon her fare
in the most vehement language, but on compensation for the damage
occasioned by her fall, which she justly attributed to his bad riding.
The old gentleman, soused to the skin, was most anxious to reach
some hotel where he could put on dry clothes; but he was in France,—and
plans of comfort are not of easy execution in that land of
freedom. He was stopped with his whole generation at the custom-house,
where fresh annoyances awaited them. It had never occurred
to him that in pacific times a passport was required, and he had
neglected this necessary measure. In vain he roared out that his
name was Cannon. "Were you the pope's park of artillery," replied
the insolent scrivener of the police, "you must be en règle." While
this warm discussion was going on, Commodus heard loud shrieks in
a room into which his wife and daughters had been politely pushed.
He asked for admittance in vain, bawling out that they were the
Miss Cannons. It was indeed his astonished young ladies, whom a
custom-house female official insisted upon searching. Another more
terrific alarm shook his nerves; a terrible fracas took place at the
door, and he thought he heard the voice of Sam Surly cursing the
entire French nation in the most eloquent Yorkshire dialect. Alas!
it was he; but in what a degraded situation,—what a disgraceful
condition for a free-born British yeoman! and yet we are at peace
with the Gaul! Sam was stretched upon the ground, surrounded by
what appeared to Cannon to be soldiers, with drawn swords, threatening
his life, while he was emphatically denouncing their limbs. But, oh,
horror! another soldier was pulling off his corduroys in presence of the
multitude; while another, and another, and another were drawing out
of them about two hundred yards of bobbinet! This operation over,
the douanier proceeded to draw out a specification, or procès verbal,
not only regarding the seizure, but a black eye and a bloody nose that
Sam had inflicted on "des soldats Français," for which his life alone
could atone; but an English gentleman standing by, assured Cannon
that a napoleon would manage these braves, if they had been half
kicked to death. Money settled the business, and all the party proceeded
toward the town, surrounded by a crowd of curious people in
roars of laughter; the male part of the family were swearing most
copiously, the ladies crying most piteously, and Sam Surly offering
to box any one for a pot of porter.
The name of Cannon had passed from mouth to mouth, and had
reached Stubb's corner before the party. This celebrated laboratory
of reputation and crucible of character is simply the front of a circulating
library,—a very emporium of works of fiction. A group of
idlers were, as usual, assembled at this saluting battery, who loaded
so soon as the approach of what a wag called the battering train was
This spot proved to the Cannon family a second baptismal fount,
for, as they passed by, they all received cognominations according to
their external appearance, which ever after have stuck to them.
Commodus Cannon, a short, plump, dapper man, was called the
Mortar; Mrs. Cannon, also of respectable embonpoint, and of a tournure
between an apple dumpling and a raspberry bolster-pudding,
was named the Howitzer; Miss Molly, a tall slight figure, was favoured
with the appellation of the Culverin; Biddy, a squat
cherub-looking girl, was basely named the Pateraro; Lucy, who
had rather a cast in each eye, which had induced the wits of Muckford
to christen her Miss Wednesday (as they pretended that she
looked both ways to Sunday,)—Miss Lucy, those pernicious sponsors
called the Swivel; Kitty, a stout, short, beautiful creature, in whose
form graceful undulations made up for length, they nicknamed the
Carronade. The senior of the junior Cannons was a Short Nine;
George, a Four Pounder; Cornelius, a Cohorn; Peter, a Long Six;
and Oliver, a Pétard, the most horrible and degrading patronymic
that could be bestowed upon any poor traveller in France.
At last, after passing under this volley from Fort Stubb, they all
arrived, more dead than alive, at a hotel. Here, to their additional
comfort, they were informed that half of the ladies' things that had
not been made up were seized, or, in other words, made over to the
douaniers. Exhausted and despairing, they asked for some soup,
expecting a bowl of mock-turtle or of gravy. A potage de vermicelle
was served up, the sight of which was not very encouraging for digestive
organs just recovering from an inverted peristaltic motion.
Cannon tasted it, and swore it was nothing but "hot water and
worms." Miss Molly told him he ought to be ashamed of himself,
before strangers, not to know wermichelly. Cannon swore
lustily that they might swallow the wormy-jelly themselves, and
asked for some other potage. A soupe maigre, made of sorrel and
chervil, followed. Cannon had scarcely tasted the sour mixture,
when he swore he was poisoned with oxalic acid, and roared out for
a doctor, when he was informed to his utter dismay that all the doctors
in the town had struck.
Doctors strike!—never heard of such a thing. To be sure, they
may strike a death-blow now and then; but doctors striking was a
new sort of a conspiracy. The French waiters only shrugged up
their shoulders with a "Que voulez vous, monsieur!" a most tantalizing
reply to a man who cannot get anything that he wants.
An English resident in the room explained matters. "We have,
sir," he said, "several British practitioners in this place: many of
them are men of considerable merit; but the learned body have just
been thrown into a revolution by a Scotch physician, a Dr. M'Crusoe.
The usual fee here, is a five-franc piece, or four shillings and twopence
English; a sum so very small that many English are ashamed to
tender it. M'Crusoe therefore proposed to his brethren that they
should claim a higher remuneration."
"Jantlemen," he said, "it's dero-gatory tul the deegnety of a
pheeseecian like huz, who hae received a leeberal eeducation, mare
aspeecially mysel', wha grauduated at Mo-dern Authens, tul accep' sic
a pautry fee as four an' tippence. No maun intertains mare contemp'
for siller than aw do; but the varry least we aught tul expec' is ten
fraunks for day veesits, an' eleven fraunks for nighet calls; fare from
the varry heegh price of oil and caundles, at the varry lowest caulculation,
it costs me mare than ten baubees per noctem to keep my
noghcturnal lamp in pro-per trim. An' aw therefore houp in this
deceesion we wull support each eather ho-nestly and leeberally. Aw
need na remind jantlemen of yere erudeetion of the wee bit deformed
body Æsop's fable, o' the bundle o' stucks, or o' the faucees of the
Ro-man leectors, union cone-stitutes straingth. Therefore aw repeat
it, aw trust ye wull enforce this raigulation like men o' indepaindence,
an' conscious of the deegnity o' science."
All the doctors acquiesced in the expediency of his project, and to
that effect signed a resolution, with which M'Crusoe walked off, and
read the document with a loud and audible voice, as sternly as a magistrate
could read the riot act, at Stubb's corner. The indignation
of the community knew no bounds; their wrath foamed and bubbled
like the falls of Niagara; they swore by the heads of Galen and Esculapius
that they would rather die of the pip, expire in all the agonies
of hepatitis, gastritis, enteritis, and all the itises that were ever
known, than give one centime more than five francs; nay, in their
fury, they swore they would throw themselves into the hands of French
doctors, and swallow a gallon of tisane a day for a fifteen-pence fee;
and hundreds of letters were sent off to Scotland for cheap doctors.
This was what Dr. M'Crusoe wanted: he immediately circulated
himself in every hole and corner to inform the public that,
"In consequence of illeeberality o' ma breethren, under exusting
cercumstaunces, aw feel mysel' called upon by pheelauntropy and humaunity
to tak' whatever ma patients can afford to gie me."
Such was the state of the faculty of Boulogne when Cannon swore
he was poisoned. A French doctor came and ordered him four
grains of tartar emetic in a gallon of hot water; and as French doctors
are very kind and attentive to their patients, acting both as physicians
and nurses, Cannon's attendant had the extreme benevolence
to remain with him until he had not only swallowed, but restored,
every minim of this bounteous potation, which really amounted to the
full capacity that Cannon possessed of containing fluids.
Whether there was anything deleterious or not in the soupe à
l'oreille, it is difficult to say; but the ladies were afflicted all night
with what physicians call tormina, and tenesmus, and intus-susceptio,
and iliac passion, and borborygma in their epigastric and their hypochondriac
regions; for all and several of which, the French doctor
duly irrigated them with hot water and syrup of gum, threatening
them with a cuirasse de sangsues if they were not better in the morning,
as he said that they all laboured under an entero-epiplo-hydromphalo-gastrite:
while poor Cannon, writhing under the effect of l'eau
émétisée was denounced as being threatened with entero-epiplomphale,
entero-merocèle, entero-sarcocèle, and entero-ischiocèle. Sick as they all
were, they looked upon the native practitioner as a very learned man,
and gladly gave thirty sous a head for so much information, when an
impudent English quack would have asked them ten francs for merely
telling them that they had what is vulgarly called the mulligrubs.
After an intolerable night, Morpheus was shedding his poppies over
the exhausted travellers, when they were all roused by the most alarming
cries; and Miss Lucy Cannon and Molly Cannon were dragged
out of their beds by two French gentlemen, who had just jumped out
of theirs, and, clasped in their arms, were forthwith carried out into