Westward Ho!

by Charles Kingsley

Start Free Trial

"More Ways Of Killing A Cat Than Choking Her With Cream"

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Context: Besides his religious tracts, the Rev. Charles Kingsley wrote three historical novels: Hypatia (1853), Westward Ho!, and Hereward the Wake (1866) about Anglo-Saxon courage against the conquering Normans. The breezy tale of Westward Ho! is the most interesting of the trio. Against the background of Elizabethan adventure on the sea, the author defends the principles of the nineteenth century Broad Church movement for which he jousted against Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801–1890). The great character of Salvation Yeo contrasts with the Spanish-American Jesuits and inquisitors. Most of Kingsley's local color came from Hakluyt's Voyages, and while there are occasions where his lack of sea knowledge caused slips, most critics believe that Kingsley expressed well the feelings of the age of Good Queen Bess. In the story, Amyas Leigh, his brother Frank, and villainous Cousin Eustace are brought up in Bideford, along with Rose Salterne, the Mayor's daughter. The boys go to sea, around the world with Sir Francis Drake. Following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, among the Spanish prisoners brought to the village to await ransom money is the nobleman Guzmán de Soto. When Rose later disappears, the young men suspect that the ransomed Spaniard has abducted her. So in a ship The Rose they sail Westward Ho! to La Guayra, Venezuela, where Guzmán has been sent as Governor. Roman Catholic Eustace warns the Spaniards, so a Spanish vessel is waiting their arrival. As for the colloquial phrase, though the proverbial cat has nine lives, there are many ways of killing it. "Care killed a cat" and "Cat killed by kindness," come to mind, as well as "Skinning the cat," and this method, the most inappropriate of all. Here is Kingsley's account of the sea fight:

Bang went one of the Spaniard's bow guns, and the shot went wide. Then another and another, while the men [of Amyas] fidgeted about, looking at the priming of their muskets, and loosened their arrows in the sheaf.
"Lie down, men, and sing a psalm. When I want you, I'll call you. Closer still, if you can, helmsman, and we will try a short ship against a long one. We can sail two points nearer the wind than he."
As Amyas had calculated, the Spaniard would gladly enough have stood across the Rose's bow, but, knowing the English readiness, dare not for fear of being raked; so her only plan, if she did not intend to shoot past her foe down to leeward, was to put her head close to the wind, and wait for her on the same tack.
Amyas laughed to himself. "Hold on yet awhile. More ways of killing a cat than choking her with cream. Drew, there, are your men ready?"
"Ay, ay, sir!" and on they went, closing fast with the Spaniard, till within a pistol-shot.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

"The Way Of All Flesh"