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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1185, p. 94.

January 24, 1863


...And so the far-famed Monitor has gone to the bad! But a few months have passed since the Illustrated London News contained an Engraving of the momentous fight in Hampton Roads, depicting both the Merrimac and the Monitor--the ironclad that destroyed a fleet, and the ironclad that saved one. And now, of the two monsters of the deep--the Federal and Confederate Kilkenny cats--not so much as a tail, by way of vestige, remains. The Merrimac, indeed, committed suicide; but the Monitor was the victim of sudden death. An aqueous apoplexy overtook her off Cape Hatteras; she sprang a leak; pumps were in vain; she became waterlogged, and went down like a stone. We are reminded of the warrior clad in Milan steel, who, as Guicciardini tells us, in one of the Italian civil wars of the middle ages, was ingulfed, horse, iron panoply and all, by mere force of gravitation, in a morass, and was the only man killed in the particular battle in question. There was an English Earl of Sandwich, too, Admiral and General at Sea, who, venturing in a small boat during a naval engagement, was drowned by the weight of his armour.

Old tars of the Benbow school, nay, old landsmen, amateurs of Dibdin's songs, and believers in the sole efficacy of wooden walls, will doubtless rub their hands and chuckle at the catastrophes which have overtaken the two model ironclads of America. The "floating flat-irons," the "hogs in armour," have certainly come to signal grief. Ay, but they were not constructed on the lines of the Warrior or the Gloire; and if the American wise men of Gotham will go to sea in a bowl covered with railway iron, they must expect dangerous squalls. Once upon a time, we saw the late Mr. Tom Barry, clown at Astley's, floating on the bosom of the Thames in a washing-tub drawn by two geese; but the pantomimic navigator would scarcely have ventured upon a trip to the Bay of Biscay in his eccentric craft. After all, the science of naval construction in metal is in its infancy, and will be liable to error and mishap for some time to came. A gentleman calling upon Beau Brummell one morning met his valet coming down stairs with an armful of crumpled white neckcloths. "These are our failures, Sir," the gentleman's gentleman explained, when interrogated. The Beau had only spoilt a couple of dozen cravats before he found one to suit him. In like manner armour-plating in naval architecture must, we suppose, have its "failures" before the golden mean, or the iron one, is found.

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