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"But the safe arrival of this company is not more strange and providential, than their feeding and support was beyond all their hope or expectation for they found it the richest, pleasantest, and most healthful place they had ever seen. Being safe on shore, they dispersed themselves, some to search the islands for food and water, and others to get ashore what they could, from the ship. Sir George Somers had not ranged far, before he found such a fishery, that in half an hour he took with a hook and line as many as sufficed the whole company. In some places they were so thick in the coves, and so big, that they were afraid to venture in amongst them.-Two of these rock-fish would have loaded a man, neither could any where be found fatter or more excellent fish than they were. Besides, there were infinite numbers of mullets, pilchards, and other small fry; and by making a fire in the night they would take vast quantities of large craw-fish. As for hogs, they found them in that abundance, that at their first hunting they killed thirty-two. And there were likewise multitudes of excellent birds in their seasons; and the greatest facility to make their cabins with palmeta leaves. This caused them to live in such plenty, ease, and comfort, that many forgot all other places, and never desired to return from thence *."
Such is the narrative collected from authentick papers of those times, and published at Williams
* Ibid. pp. 113, 114.
burg, about sixty years ago, by the historian of Virginia, which I have thought it proper to lay before the reader in the first instance, because it describes this misadventure in a very lively manner, and is extremely well written. But from these facts, it must be acknowledged, no satisfactory and decisive conclusion can be drawn respecting the date of this play, unless it can be shewn that they were known by Shakspeare. I shall therefore proceed to state not only how, but when, he became acquainted with the peculiar circumstances attending this disaster, to which he has alluded in THE TEMPEST; so as by this means, with the aid of other documents, to ascertain precisely the time of its composition.
It has already been mentioned that seven ships of Sir George Somers's fleet got to the place of their destination, Virginia. Having landed about three hundred and fifty persons, they set sail for their own country. Two of them were wrecked and perished on the point of Ushant; and "the rest of the fleet (says a writer of those times) returned to England in 1610, ship after ship, laden with nothing but bad reports and letters of discouragement; and, which added the more to our crosse, they brought us newes, that the ADMIRALSHIP, with the two knights and Captain Newport, were missing, severed in a mightie storme outward, and could not be heard of, which we therefore yeelded as lost for many moneths together; and so that VIRGINE voyage, as I may terme it, which
went out smiling on her lovers with pleasant lookes, after her wearie travailes did thus return with a rent and disfigured face, for which how justly her friends took occasion of sorrow, and others to insult and scoffe, let men of reason judge *
The account of this disaster probably reached England some time in December 1609, and was brought either by Captain Smith, the former Governour of Virginia, who left it at Michaelmas in that year, or by the first of the five ships that arrived in an English port. To dispel the gloom which this ill news spread among the undertakers who had fitted out the fleet, the Council of Virginia very speedily issued out a pamphlet, which was published either in December 1609, or early in January 1609-10, with a view of preventing the bad effects that any exaggerated reports of this calamity might produce.
In this piece, after stating that Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Captain Newport, with seven ships and two pinnaces, sailed from Falmouth on the 8th of June , they add, that "in the height of the Canaries, short of the West-Indies 150 leagues, on St. James's day, a TERRIBLE TEMPEST overtook them, and lasted in extremity fortyeight hours, which scattered the whole fleet, and wherein some of them spent their masts, and others were much distressed." Within three days, (they say in substance) four of the fleet met in consort, and
* The New Life of Virginia, 4to. 1612.
hearing no news of the Admiral, they bore away for the bay of Virginia, and arrived in the King's River on the 11th of August. In eleven days afterwards arrived two more; they having resolved to steer, not for Barwada, (as originally determined in case of separation,) but for that harbour; "which," (say the Council) "doubtless the Admiral himself did not observe, but obeyed his own directions, and is the true or probable cause of his being cast so far into suspicion; where [whereas] perhaps bound in with winde, or perhaps enforced to stay the masting or mending somewhat in his ship, torn or lost in the TEMPEST, we doubt not but by the mercy of GOD hee is safe, with the pinnace * which attended him, and shall both, or are by this time arrived at our colony."
Not long afterwards (this tract informs us) one of the pinnaces arrived in the river or bay of Virginia; making seven out of the nine vessels that had sailed from England. Four hundred persons were landed from the several ships; "who being put ashore without their Governour or any order from him, (all the commissioners and principal persons being aboord him,) no man would acknowledge a superior, nor could from this headlesse and unbridled multitude be any thing expected but disorder and ryot, nor any counsell prevent or foresee the successe of these wayes."
Still further to dispel the gloom which had arisen
*This pinnace, which Mr. Stith calls a small CATCH, was lost.
on this failure, after stating the difficulties the Spaniards had experienced in similar settlements, the Council add,-" But to come hence to our purpose: That which seems to dishearten or shake our first grounds in this supplye, ariseth from two principal sources, of which one was the cause of the other; first, THE TEMPEST; and can any man expect to answer for that? next, the absence of the Governor, (an effect of the former,) for the LOSS OF HIM IS IN SUSPENSE, and much reason of his safetye against some doubt; and the hand of GOD reacheth all the earth."
They further inform the publick, that to redeem the defects and misadventures of the last supply, they had resolved to send forth the Lord De la Ware as Governor, by the last of January [1609-10]*.
* "A true and sincere Declaration of the purpose and ends of the plantation begun in Virginia, of the degrees which it hath received, and meanes by which it hath been advanced; and the resolution and conclusion of his Majesties Council of that Colony, for the constant and patient prosecution thereof, untill by the mercies of God it shall retribute a fruitfull harvest to the kingdom of heaven and this commonwealth. Set forth by the authority of the Governors and Councellors established for that plantation." 4to. 1610. This pamphlet was entered in the Stationers' Regis-. ter by John Stepney on the 14th of December 1609, and was licensed by the Lord De la Ware, Sir Thomas Smith, [the Treasurer of the Company,] Sir Walter Cope, and Mr. Waterson, Warden of the Stationers' Company; and though, according to the custom of booksellers, with a forward aspect it bears the date of 1610, it is clear from this entry and the paragraph here