LONDON (AP) – “Fish for dinner.”

Not surprising for a sailor, perhaps, but the laconic observations of George Hodge, who went to sea in 1790, have stirred interest in his native land.

Hodge’s self-illustrated journal, recording an adventurous life as a sailor and a prisoner of the French during the Napoleonic Wars, is being offered at auction Saturday by Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The auctioneer estimates the journal, a rare record of the life of an ordinary sailor, will fetch US$35,000 to US$50,000.

The sale has been previewed in lengthy, illustrated articles in British newspapers, including the Daily Mail and Friday’s edition of The Daily Telegraph.

Born in Tynemouth in northeastern England, Hodge first served as a cabin boy on coal vessels working between the northeast and London.

On a trip to a Russian port in 1794 he was captured by the French, then released. In 1797 he was captured again, again released, only to be press-ganged into service on HMS Lancaster, serving nine years. He ended his career in 1815 in the merchant marine.

The journal includes several vivid but primitive watercolors, including a self-portrait which shows Hodge as a man with bushy sideburns but a clean-shaven chin. Other illustrations show a couple dancing, opposite the text of sea shanties he learned; King Neptune and his court of mermaids; a picture of HMS Tremendous after it lost its mast in a storm; and a portrait of HMS Mary in dry-dock in South Shields near Hodge’s native Tynemouth.

Hodge’s journal betrays his lack of learning. The first page declares, “George Hodge his Book Consisting of Difrint ports & ships that I have sailed in since the year 1790.”

On Dec. 26, 1812, when Hodge was serving on HMS Marlborough, records a melacholy incident, according to the newspaper reports.

“A fresh breeze a strange sail in sight,” he wrote. “Empl painting quarterdeck. Fell from the for top mast Mathew Donelson and was drownded.”

Another entry reads: “July 19 light breeze at 5am picked up body of John Carter and buried him on the Isle of White” (Wight).

The journal is among more than 600 items from the collection of the late J. Welles Henderson, founder of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, who died last year.


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