The Times, Monday, Mar 05, 1866; pg. 5; Issue 25437; col C


                         A VOICE FROM THE LONDON.

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                        TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

Sir, - For three long and weary days I have waited in anxious expectation to see whether the metropolitan press, and yourself at their head, would editorially notice that remarkable “message from the sea” which appeared in all the journals of Thursday last, and which was so wonderfully preserved to us from the wreck of the London. No sign or sound of comment having yet – so far as I can discover – been made, I feel that any further silence on my part would be in the highest degree culpable. As a near connexion, indeed, of one who not merely went down in the ill-fated ship, but “whose voice, though dead, yet speaketh,” and as having myself both thought much and written carefully upon the destruction of the vessel, I do think that I am entitled to draw attention in the most emphatic manner to one or two of the leading circumstances in this terrible calamity, especially under the new and ghastly light which has just so unexpectedly been thrown upon them. I need scarcely say then, Sir, that I allude to the testimony of my lamented brother-in-law, Mr. H. J. DENIS, for that alone, of all the messages preserved, contains matter of any material interest to the public at large. Before, however, I quote his evidence, I may perhaps be pardoned for endeavouring to enhance its value by referring for a moment to the character of the person who gives it. Mr. H. J. DENIS, as all who knew him will agree, and as this very message amply proves, was a man of no ordinary kind. For many years past he had been accustomed to a variety of travel and adventure. He had visited many remote regions, had lived among savages, and faced the dangers of the chase in South Africa, and, moreover, as the public have lately been informed, was officially declared by the United States’ Government to be the first Englishman who ever grew cotton from free labour in the slave districts on the Mississippi, and that, too, at a time when civil war was still raging on the American continent. Further than this, he was on board the Marco Polo when about four years ago she suddenly, and in the middle of the night, struck an iceberg in the Southern Ocean, 2,000 miles away from land, and when for some hours all on board expected every minute to go down. Upon this trying occasion he evinced extraordinary calmness and presence of mind, and I have frequently heard from his own lips the precautions he adopted with a view to at least temporary preservation. Familiar, then, with peril, acquainted with nautical affairs, and singularly observant of small details, I have a right to assert that his evidence, given as it was in the very jaws of death, is of the utmost importance, and has a claim to the serious consideration of the Board of Trade, even though they may have endorsed and published a formal report. What, then, is his brief but precise language? – “Bay of Biscay, Thursday, 10 o’clock. Ship too heavily laden for its size, and too crank. Windows stove in, and water coming in everywhere. Storm not too violent for a ship in good condition.” Surely, Sir, language like this, coming from such a man at such a time, does not deserve to be slighted as of no account, or to be placed even in the same category as the opinions, scientific soever as they may be, formed by persons far away from the scene of the catastrophe, and when all material proof as to its causes has been for ever removed. And when, Sir, in addition to this, I have to tell you that I had an opportunity of seeing and examining the Quartermaster, DANIELS, on the very day after he had landed – that same man whose evidence was said to be so confused at the inquiry that nothing could be made out of it – and when I am enabled to affirm that nothing could be more clear than the replies he gave to my questions, and that one of the very first statements he made to me was that he felt certain the vessel was too heavily laden from the moment he saw her go down the river; that the consequence of her being so was that she shipped such heavy seas that at last the hatchway of her engine-room was carried away; that the natural result of this was that her engine fires were extinguished by the flood of water which poured in; and that thus not only was the ship rendered a log, but the great means upon which they relied for pumping out the water – viz., their steam power – was unavailable, I do consider, Sir, that I have made out a case which calls for the most serious explanation on the part of her owners. It is said that the bustle and routine of commercial life are apt to deaden the sympathies of the human heart, and even to render callous the instincts of natural affection, but I can scarcely yet think so meanly of our great merchant princes – of those men whose ships are on every sea and who carry our trade to the ends of the earth – as to suppose that they would for the sake of some miserable gain risk invaluable lives, and, so that they may only expedite the transport of their merchandise, care not whether they make parents childless, turn wives into widows, and suffer happy children to become lone and desolate orphans.

          I am, Sir, yours obediently,

              E. GILBERT HIGHTON, M.A.

41, Bedford-square, March 3.