A name like “Sir Cloudesley Shovel” is not one you forget easily. Sir Cloudesley was an English admiral who died in 1707. I think I first read about him in The Spectator, by Joseph Addison, but I can’t put my finger on a source just now (I’ve got a fine complete edition from 1880; sadly, it lacks an index).
Anyway, Sir Cloudesley has been haunting my reveries for the past few days ever since I ran across the following anecdote. It popped up in my Google feed; unfortunately, I can’t seem to retrieve my source, so I give a version from The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1823 (Google books here). By way of background: we know that Sir Cloudesley met his death when his ship crashed on the rocks in the
The day before the occurrence of the disaster … a seaman … well acquainted with the navigation of the channel, ventured to represent to the Admiral, that, by the course he was steering, he would inevitably run on Scilly rocks. The Admiral, incensed at this interference, charged him with insubordination, and endeavouring to excite a mutiny in the ship; and in a very summary manner condemned him to be hanged. … Now the same Sir Cloudesley Shovel, who murdered this poor fellow, lost his own life, through neglect of the salutary warning, and has a monument in Westminster Abbey!
Sadly for the sake of art, Wiki reports that there is no evidence for the story from contemporary documents, and goes so far as to suggest that it is “not at all unlikely that a sailor might have debated the vessel's location.”
Wiki is silent on another part of the story—that the sailor was accorded the courtesy, before hanging, of being read a Psalm of his choosing. It is said that he chose the 109th. That would be the one that begins:
Maybe the interesting part of the story is to try to trace the change of sensibility that would have led from “open debate” in the 18th Century, to a memory of mutiny and hanging in the 19th.
Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me:
they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred;
and fought against me without a cause.