Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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to impugn his opinions."


His second reason is that there was a Unicornes home founde
upon the coaste of Tartaria, which could not come (saide he)
thither by any other meanes then with the Tides, through some
fret in the North east of Mare Glaciale, there being no Uriicortie
in any parte of Asia, saving in India and Cataia : which reason
(in my simple judgement) forceth as little.

Chapter X. — Advantages of the North-West passage.
Proximity ; no offence to others ; " the onely way for
our princes to preserve ye welth of all the East partes
(as they tearme them) of the worlde, which is infinite."

Also we might inhabite some parte of those Countreys, and
settle there suche needie people of our Countrie, which now
trouble the common welth, and through want here at home, are
inforced to commit outragious offences, whereby they are dayly
consumed with the Gallowes. . . .

the king of Portugal would not have given to the Emperour such
summes of money for egges in mooneshine. . . .

and thereby the Spaniards and Portingals, with their great charges,
should but beate the bushe and other men catche the birds.

[Marginal note. "Why the king of Spaine and Portingal
would not perseuer in this discouerie."]

[Example of Columbus.] . . . had neither seene America
or any other of the Hands about it . . . but onely comforted
himself with this hope, that the land had a beginninge where the
sea had an ending.

The " Discourse " is again referred to as a " simple " one,
and the writer promises another on Navigation, in which
new inventions are to be described. This, as I have
said before, was the author's method of " advertising "
his work, and the inventive mind is another indication
of his personality. From other similar examples, how-
ever, it is more than probable that these announcements
only related to ideas and projects germinating in the
author's mind, and not destined to be completed.

Desiring you to accept in good part this briefe and simple
discourse, written in hast ... I will at more leasure make you
partaker of another simple discourse of Nauigation, wherein I
have not a little trauelled. . . .


And therein I haue deuised to amende the errours of
usuall sea cardes, whose comon fault is to make the degrees of
longitude, in euerie latitude, of one like bignes. . . .

And haue also devised therein a Spherical instrument,
with a compass of variation, for the perfect knowing of the
longitude. . . .

And a precise order to prick the sea carde, together with
certaine infallible rules for the shortening of any discoverie.

The writer concludes in the " grand style " in which
it was Bacon's habit to bring to a close his treatises.
The passage is well known to all the admirers of Gilbert,
who will probably resent the suggestion that he did not
write it. It is not, however, usually given to men of
action to describe what they do in an attractive form in
writing, and Gilbert's performance is not made less by
the fact that he was not an exception in this respect to
the general rule. The evident purpose of the writer of
the treatise was to awaken interest in oversea enterprise,
and it is in accordance with experience that this should
be done more efifectively by a practised writer than by a
man whose business it was to conduct the work. The
passage is as follows :

And therefore to glue me leaue without offence alwayes to
liue and die in this minde. That he is not worthie to live at
all, that for feare, or daunger of death, shunneth his countrey
service, and his owne honour : seeing death is inevitable, and
the fame of vertue immortall. Wherefore in this behalfe, Mutare
vel timere sperno.

We come now to a book of a most extraordinary
character, for in it some of the most famous sea-rovers
and military captains of the Elizabethan age appear as
poets, or at least as writers of verse. The following is
the list, as the names appear in a copy of the book in
the British Museum ^ :

Sir William Pelham.
Sir Francis Drake.
John Hawkins.
Captain Bingham.

' C. 32, c. 12.


Captain Frobisher.

Captain Cliester.

Matthew Roydon.

Anthony Parkhurst.

Arthur Hawkins.

John Achelley, Cyttyzen and Marchantailour of London.

The book is described on the title-page as — '

A true Reporte of the late Discoueries and possession, taken
in the right of the Crowne of Englande of the New-found
Landes : by that valiaunt and worthye Gentlemen, Sir Humfrey
Gilbert, Knight.

Wherein is also breefely sette downe her highnesse lawful!
Tytle thereunto, and the great and manifolde Commodities that
is likely to grow thereby, to the whole Realme in generall, and
to the Aduenturers in particular. Together with the easines and
shortnes of the Voyage. . . . 1583.

The " Report," without the preliminary matter, is
included in Hakluyt's Voyages, and is well known as one
of the two accounts (the other being by Hayes) of Sir
Humphrey Gilbert's last voyage, when he was lost at sea
in returning from Newfoundland in 1583.^

It is preceded in the book by a letter addressed to
Sir Francis Walsingham, in which the writer apologises
for his incapacity and solicits favour : " From my lodging
in Oxforde, the tweluth of Nouember. Your Honours
poore Scholler, in all service to use. G. P."

Obviously the initials were intended to be taken for
those of Sir George Peckham, who was one of the
" adventurers " in the expedition, but they are no more
proof that they were really his initials, and that he was
the author of the book, than the " E. S.," " Ed. Sp.," and
many other initials used at this time in a similar way, are
conclusive evidence that they belong, in that connection,
to the person whom they appear to represent. All that
can be said is that the reading public is intended to
suppose that they are an indication of authorship, and
that the author wishes to keep his name out of print.

' It is headed in Hakluyt (1589), "Written by Sir George Peckham,
knight, the chiefe aduenturer and furtherer of Sir Humfrey Gilbertes voyage
to Newfoundland."


There can be no doubt, in my opinion, that the real
author is the author of the " Discourse of a Discoverie
for a new passage to Cataia," with which we have been
dealing. In the following remarks (accompanied, in
accordance with the method which I have followed, by
illustrative extracts) I shall endeavour to justify this

Following the introductory epistle come a series of
ten poems, purporting to be written by the persons in
the list given above, proclaiming the benefits to be
expected for the country in general and the individual in
particular by the colonisation of Newfoundland, and
calling upon the youth of the country to put aside fear
and sloth and join the " adventurers." Each poem is
supposed to be in character, but they are all not only in
precisely the same vein, but unmistakably — at least in
my judgment — in the same style, the differences of
metre, etc., being only superficial, and artfully devised to
keep up the pretence. The metres adopted are, by
design, those in vogue with the ordinary versifiers of the

The first poem is headed " Sir William Pelham
Knight, in commendation of the discourse following."
It contains four stanzas, of which I quote two as a
specimen :

\st stanza :

Like as the Fishes, breeding in the deepe,

Through all the Ocean are allowed to raung :
Nor forst in any certaine boundes to keepe.
But as their motions carry them to chaung.
To men like libertie, dooth reason giue :
In choice of soile, through all the world to hue.

Last stanza :

Then Em^land thrust among them for a share

Since title just, and right is wholie thine :
And as I trust the sequell shall declare,

Our lucke no worse, than theirs before hath beene.
For where the attempt on vertue dooth depend :
No doubt but God, will bless it in the ende.

William Pelham.


Sir William Pelham was presumably in England at
that time, having retired from service in Ireland, where
he was acting as Governor, on the arrival of Lord Grey in
I 580. He is best known in connection with the Desmond
rebellion of 1579-80.

The second poem is headed " Sir Fraunces Drake in
commendation of this Treatise." It consists of 14 lines,
contrived to appeal to adventure and hope of gain, and
is in the popular metre described in the " Notes of
Instruction " as " poulters measure." The following will
suffice as a specimen :

Who seekes by worthie deedes, to gaine renowme for hire :

Whose hart, whose hand, whose purse is prest, to purchase his

If anie such there bee, that thirsteth after Fame :
Lo, heere a meane, to winne himselfe an everlasting name.
Who seekes, by gaine and wealth, t'advaunce his house and blood :
Whose care is great, whose toile no lesse, whose hope is all for


• •■••••

So that, for each degree, this Treatise dooth unfolde :
The path to Fame, the proofe of Zeale, and way to purchase golde.

Fraunces Drake.

The third poem is headed " M. John Hawkins, his
opinion of this intended Voyage." It consists of 28 lines,
of which the following are specimens :

If zeale to God, or countries care, with private gaines accesse.
Might serve for spurs unto th'attempt this pamphlet doth expresse.

So England that is pestered nowe and choakt through want of

Shall finde a soile where roome enough, and perfect doth abound.

[Examples of colonisation from Greece and Rome follow.]

But Rome and Athens nor the rest were never pestered so,
As England where no roome remaines, her dwellers to bestow,

The yssue of your good intent, undoubted will appeare.
Both gratious in the sight of God, and full of honour heere.

John Hawkins.


The fourth poem, " Maister Captaine Bingham, his
commendation uppon this Treatise"; four stanzas, the
last being :

Then launch ye noble youthes into the maine,

No lurking perils lye amidde the way :
Your trauell shal retourne you treble gaine,
And make your names renoumed another day.

For valiaunt mindes, through twentie Seas will roome :
And fish for lucke, while sluggardes lye at home.

Richard Bingham.

This is, no doubt, intended for Captain Richard Bingham
(afterwards Sir Richard Bingham), a soldier and adminis-
trator of great ability and energy. He came with a
detachment of the fleet to Smerwick in 1580, and is
referred to by Camden, after his death in 1599, as a
man who, of all others, had been most successful against
the rebels in Ireland. At the end of 1583 he appears to
have been under orders to operate against pirates in the
narrow seas, with a commission to seize ships of the Dutch
for debts due to the Queen. He was thereafter for many
years in Ireland as Governor of Connaught. An account
of his doings will be found in Bagwell's Ireland under the

Frobisher, the famous navigator, comes next. Accord-
ing to the writer of the article about him in the Dictionary
of National Biography he " was no scholar, as his letters
prove." His poem, written apparently at the age of about
fifty, is limited to six lines and may be given in full :

Maister Captaine Frobisher, in commendation of the voyage

A Pleasunt ayre, a sweete and firtell soile,
A certaine gaine, a never dying praise :
An easie passage, voide of lothsome toile,

Found out by some, and knowen to mee the waies.
All this is there, then who will refraine to trie :
That loues to Hue abroade, or dreades to die.

Martin Frobisher.

I place together examples from the sixth, seventh, eighth
and ninth poems. I do not know who Captain Chester
was ; Matthew Roydon was the author of an elegy on Sir


Philip Sidney, which is included among Spenser's Works ;
Anthony Parkhurst was one of the " adventurers "; ^ Arthur
Hawkins (perhaps a relative of the famous seaman)
appears, from what he has to say, to have been a City

Sixth — " Maister Captaine Chester, his commendation
of this Treatise " (14 lines). Example :

Pinche not for pence to set this action out,
Poundes will returne, thereof be not in doubt.

John Chester.

Seventh — " Matthew Roydon maister of Arte to his
fellowe Student " (supposed to be addressed to the author
— 7 lines) :

To prayse thy booke because I am thy freende,
Though it be common and thy due indeede :

Perhaps it may some daintie eare ofTende,

Reproofe repines that vertue hath her meede.
Yet neuerthelesse how euer thinges succeede,

Sith to no other ende thy booke was made :

All that I wish, is that thou mayest perswade.

Mathew Roydon.

Eighth — " Maister Anthony Parkhurst in commenda-
tion of this Treatise " (4 stanzas). Example :

\st stanza :

Beholde a worke that dooth reueale,

The ready way to welth and fame :
Commodious to the common weale,
And just without impeache of blame.
Which followed as the course doth lie,
May make all Englande thriue thereby.

■i^rd stanza :

Howe happy were our England then,

(Since neither men nor shipping want)
Some good and well disposed men.
Another England there would plant :
And so employ a number there,
Whose persons may be spared heere.

Anthonie Parkhurst.

1 See a letter of his given by Hakluyt dated «« from Bristow the 13
November 1578," containing a glowing account of the resources of New-


Ninth — " Arthur Hawkins in commendation of this
Treatise" (22 lines). Example:

My freendes, if at Th^exckaunge a man shoulde goe and tell,
That such, and such commodities he had to sell
Whereof we stoode in neede and scarcelie to be founde,
Whereby a quicke returne with profit would redounde.
I doubt not ere I past, but you would craue the sight,
Of these commended wares, and buy them if you might.

• •>•••

A bargaine may you haue, 'tis put into your handes.
Of all commodities you haue from other landes.
And at so easie price you can not choose but gaine :
A trifle is the most, together with your paine.
But what is that some sayes ? our Englishmen giues eare,
Onelie to gaine, God shielde it shoulde be true I heare.
If we religious be, lets rigge our shippes with speede,
And carry Christ to these poore souls, that stande in neede.
Why pause yee therevpon ? the fraight will quite the charge,
For what is doone for God, dooth finde rewarde full large.

A. H.

The last poem is headed " lohn Achelley Cyttyzen
and Marchantailour for conclusion " ^ (22 lines). Example :

So shall you harbour in your hartes, the seedes of magnanimitie :
A vertue wherewith all, the Romaines did enlarge their Empery.

lOHN Achelley.

The virtue of " magnanimity " was one on which Bacon
had much to say, both in his acknowledged works and
elsewhere. Compare, for instance, with these lines the
sentence in his Essay, " Of Atheism " : " Never was there
such a State for Magnanimity as Rome." The imperial
and colonising effort which is advocated in a somewhat
crude and popular, or would-be popular, form in these
verses was preached by Bacon all his life, and it is the
same argument, under another form, which appears in his
speech in Parliament on Scottish naturalisation in 1607 •

For greatness (Mr. Speaker) I think a man may speak it
soberly and without bravery, that this Kingdom of England,

^ I can find nothing more about this person, but it is worth noting that a
sonnet purporting to be by " T. Acheicy " appears (with some others) in front
of T. Watson's Passionate Centiirie of Loz<e, 1582, together with a com-
mendatory epistle, in prose, signed "John Lyly."


having Scotland united, Ireland reduced, the sea provinces of the
Low Countries contracted, and shipping maintained, is one of
the greatest monarchies, in forces truly esteemed, that hath been in
the world. . . . And such do I take to be the constitution of this
kingdom, if indeed we shall refer our counsels to greatness and
power, and not quench them too much with considerations of
utility and wealth.

Continuing, he speaks of the pretensions of Spain to
Empire on the strength only of sonrie gold mines, and —

on the other side, that this island of Britanny, seated and manned
as it is, and that hath (I make no question) the best iron in the
world, that is the best soldiers of the world, should think of
nothing but reckonings and audits, and meum and tutim^ and I
cannot tell what. — Spedding, Life, iii. 323 sq.

These poems, though they are not, in my opinion, what
they profess to be, at any rate throw an interesting light
on the feelings and conditions of the age. Their style is
that of the writer of the Discourse itself (including the
mannerism to which I have drawn attention), and the
gist of them is given, in similar phraseology, in a sentence
in which the author explains his object in writing it :

For which purpose [namely, to rouse his fellow-countrymen
"out of that drowsie dreame wherein we all have so long
slumbered "] I have taken upon me to write this simple shorte
treatise. ... I will indeuour my selfe, and doo stande in good
hope (though my skill and knowledge be simple, yet through the
assistaunce of almighty God) to prooue that this voyage, late
enterprised, for trade, traficke and planting, in America, is an
action tending to the lawfuU enlargement of her Maiesties
dominions, commodious to the whole Realme in generall, profit-
able to the aduenturers in particular, beneficial to the Sauages,
and a matter to be attained without any great daunger or
diflScultie. And lastlye (which most of all is) a thing likewise
tending to the honor and glory of almighty God.

The peg on which the writer hangs this Discourse is
the return from Newfoundland of Hayes, captain of one
of the vessels which had accompanied Gilbert, who re-
ported that they had met with bad weather on the way
home, and that they had " by tempestuous weather


separated the one from the other, the 9 September last,"
since which time, adds the writer, " Maister Hay with his
Barke is safelie arrived, but of Sir Humfrey as yet we
heare no certaine newes."

At some time after this Hayes' own account was
written. Presumably it was first circulated in manuscript,
as there is no trace of its publication before it appeared in
Hakluyt's Principall Navigations^ etc., in 1589, under the
following descriptive title :

A Report of the voyage and successe thereof attempted in the
yeere of our lord 1583 by Sir Humfrey Gilbert knight, with
other gentlemen assisting him in that action, . . . written by
M, Edward Haies gentleman, and principall actour in the same
voyage, who alone continued unto the end, and by God's
speciall assistance returned home with his retinue safe and entire.

This Report contains the well-known circumstantial
account of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's death by the foundering
of his frigate. It seems certain therefore that, if that
account is genuine, the writer of the first Report must have
been told the news at the time when he was writing. Yet
what he says is that " as yet we heare no certaine newes."
This is further proved by the fact that the writer has got
his other facts from Hayes and that they correspond to
Hayes' subsequent narrative. The question then arises
why, if he knew it, did the first writer suppress the story
about the loss of Gilbert ? The answer, in my belief, is
to be found in his anxiety to keep alive interest in the
Newfoundland project and to stimulate further effort.
Possibly he himself had put money into it, as many others,
including Ralegh, had. He would see at once that the
news of Gilbert's death by drowning would greatly
prejudice the enterprise, against which it is evident, from
the book itself, there were already many objectors in
England. The writer therefore decides to forestall the
bad news by a book setting out, in the most attractive
form he can devise, the case for the new settlement. In
doing so he leaves the fate of Gilbert an open question.
If, on the other hand, what he says is all that Hayes
knew, it necessarily follows that the account of the death



of Gilbert in the " Report " of Hayes, which was written
later, is not genuine.

I am very reluctant to cast doubts on the authenticity
of this famous story, but, on carefully considering it, the
conclusion seems to me almost inevitable that the story is
untrue, and that the object of it was, when the fate of
Gilbert could no longer be regarded as a matter of doubt,
to make his end appear as heroic and edifying as possible.
In this I think the hand of the writer of the earlier Report
appears, and in the general matter, of a religious char-
acter (very well written), the work of Hayes was probably
revised, and perhaps amplified, by Hakluyt. I suspect
that Ralegh also took an interest in the narrative (per-
haps as intermediary) for family reasons, and from his
enthusiasm for, and financial interests in, oversea enterprise.
Hakluyt, in the preface to his volume (first edition), says
that for this part of his book (relating to western naviga-
tion), " besides myne owne extreeme trauaile in the
histories of the Spanyards, my cheefest light hath bene
receiued from Sir John Hawkins, Sir Walter Raleigh, and
my kinesman Master Richard Hakluyt of the middle
Temple." ^ The Report as published by Hakluyt is in
the nature of a tribute to Gilbert's memory, and an appeal
against prevailing prejudices, as well as an account of the
voyage ; and it was evidently prepared for publication
with great care. As regards Captain Hayes, his position
on his return was an unpleasant one. He had got back
without his general, and many people had lost their
money. The wording of the account, which, in the main,
has a thoroughly genuine ring (contrasting markedly, in
this respect, with the worked-up religious sentiment of the
other), seems to show that he felt himself, to some extent,
on his defence. There is what seems to be a strong piece
of evidence that his Report has been touched up, in the
story of the sea-monster, which, in an otherwise eminently
practical and sober narrative, seems much too circumstantial

' An elder cousin of Richard Hakluyt, the collector and producer of the
"Voyages," who, he says, first excited his interest in such things, when, as
a scholar at Westminster, he visited him at his chamber in the Temple.



to be genuine. The object of it appears to have been to
excite wonder and to appeal to the adventurous.

As I have said, we must choose between two alterna-
tives : either the author of the first Report suppressed the
news of Gilbert's death, or the subsequent story of Hayes
is not genuine. It is possible that there is another reason,
of a very cogent character, for inclining to the second
alternative, which I wish now to put in the form of a
question. Could Gilbert's well-known words be heard by
another ship in a storm at sea ? Sailors with experience
of small sailing ships should be able to decide this question ;
and if, as I suspect, the answer is in the negative,^ it seems
to me that, regret it as we may, the case for the second
alternative is made good. In considering this matter the
following points should be borne in mind.

Gilbert was a soldier, and is so referred to by Hayes.
He sailed as " the Generall," just as Essex did in the
expedition to Cadiz in 1596, and again in the "Island
Voyage " of the following year. Being in supreme
command, he exercised his right to give orders as to the
course, just as Essex is reported to have done, against the
advice of one of the " Masters," in returning from the
expedition of 1597. The result in that case was that
some of the ships, including his own, narrowly escaped
destruction on rocks off Cornwall.^ The loss of the Delight
on Gilbert's return voyage, on board which was " the
Admirall," is attributed to a similar cause by the master,
Richard Clarke, who was one of the survivors who found
the land in an open boat, and who wrote a narrative of
their experiences. In the following passage, which I
take from it, the position of " the Generall " is clearly
shown :

The Generall came up in his Frigot and demanded of mee
Richard Clarke master of the Admirall what course was best to
keepe : I said that Westsouthwest was best : . . . The Generall
commanded me to go Westnorthwest. . . . The Generall

• Sir Humphrey Gilbert's "Orders to the Fleet," which Hayes gives,

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 29 of 55)