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is not a little remarkable that neither his parents nor his birth-place were ever clearly ascertained. In the history of Doncaster it is mentioned, that this town has a not improbable claim to the honour of giving birth to this celebrated naval commander. It states, that his supposed father resided some time at Finningley, about seven miles north-east of Doncaster, and four from Bawtry. It further states, that a Francis Frobisher was mayor of Doncaster in the year 1535, and was probably the father of Martin. Admitting this to be so, and the son to be then in his infancy, he must have been above forty years of age when, in 1576, he first undertook that perilous voyage to discover a north-west passage. This might be so, for he tells us, that the discovery of this passage had engaged his mind for fifteen years, before he could procure the means of undertaking it.
Fuller observes, that the learned Mr. Carpenter, in his Geography, recounts him among the famous men of Devonshire: but, says Fuller, “why should Devonshire, which hath a flock of worthies of her own, take a lamb from another county ?"* However obscure his birth and parentage may have been, his memory would also seem to have been buried with his corpse, for the only record of his death is, that it took place at Plymouth, in consequence of the wound he received before the Spanish fort near Brest; and all that can be found, on inquiry, is,
* Fuller's Worthies.
that, in the register of St. Andrew's parish (1594), the following entry is recorded:—“ 22nd November, Sir Martin Frobisher, knight, being wounded at the fort built against Brest by the Spaniards, deceased at Plymouth this day, whose entrails were here interred, but his corpse was carried hence to be buried in London.”
Neither does it appear at what age, with whom, and in what trade, he first went to sea; but it is said that he early displayed very eminent abilities as a navigator, and it appears that he was courted as such. The Irish Correspondence in the State Paper Office, for 1572, contains a “Declaration,” dated the 4th December in that year, signed by Martin Frobisher, in which he acquaints the government of a singular incident that occurred to him, during his residence at Lambeth. He states that about Bartholomew-tide, one Ralph Whalley called on him at his lodging there, and introduced himself to him as a follower of the Earl of Desmond, an Anglo-Irish nobleman, then imprisoned in the Tower. Under a promise of secrecy, Whalley opened a negotiation with the enterprising mariner, to aid the captive Earl in a meditated escape out of England. It was proposed that Desmond should be carried in an oyster-boat as far as Gravesend, where he was to embark on board a ship to be provided by Frobisher. The reward, held out by Whalley, was a share with him in a vessel of the value of 5001., and a gift
from Desmond of his island of Valentia, on the coast of Derry.*
Owing to some uncertainty as to the Earl's liberation, the affair did not come to any conclusion; but no circumstances are stated that should have induced Frobisher to betray this affair to the government.
Nothing more is heard of Frobisher till the year 1576, when the subject of the north-west passage was revived, and false reports were spread abroad, that a passage had been effected round the northern coast of America to Cathaia and the East Indies. Frobisher, however, had no faith in such reports ; and, from all the information he could collect, was fully persuaded that the voyage was not only feasible, but of easy execution. The friends of Frobisher, however, were by no means so sanguine, nor prepared to enter into this scheme; but such was the conviction on his mind, on long reflection, that, as nature had made a communication between the Southern Atlantic and the Pacific, so the same would be found to exist between the Northern Atlantic and the Pacific. To enable him to establish this opinion, and thus to make his name renowned, he struggled for fifteen years, without being able to procure the means of setting forth an expedition for the purpose:
“ But about this time,” says Camden, “some studious heads, moved with a commendable desire
* MSS., State Paper Office.
to discover the more remote regions of the world, and the secrets of the ocean, put forward some wellmoneyed men, no less desirous to reap profit by it than to find out whether there were any strait in the north part of America, through which men might sail to the rich country of Cathay, and so the wealth of the East and West might be conjoyned by a mutual commerce. Herewith,” he continues, “these moneyed men being persuaded, they fitted out and sent Martin Frobisher with two small barks, the Gabriel of 35, and the Michael of 30 tons, together with a pinnace of 10 tons, on this expedition, in addition to which he obtained the countenance and , assistance of Dudley, Earl of Warwick.”*
On the 8th of May, 1576, the little squadron made sail ; “and,” says the writer of the voyage, “at Deptford we bore down to the court, where we shotte off our ordinance, and made the best show we could. Her Majesty, beholding the same, commended it, and bade us farewell, by shaking her hand at us out of the window. The same night the Secretary Woolly came aborde of us, and declared to the company that her Majesty had appointed him to give them charge to be obedient and diligent to their captains and governors in all things, and wished us happy success." of
On the 11th of July they came in sight of Friesland, in 61° lat., “ rising like pinnacles of steeples,
* Camden. † Hakluyt.
and all covered with snow.” Proceeding northerly among the ice, they entered a strait in lat. 63° 8', to which the geographers of that day very properly gave the name of the first discoverer. Frobisher entered this “great gut, bay, or passage, three-score leagues,” and, stretching along to the westward, he supposed it to be the strait that connected the Atlantic Ocean with what was then called the South Sea, afterwards the Pacific. Here the party discovered at some distance certain things floating, which they took to be porpoises or seals, or some kind of strange fish, but which, on a nearer approach, they discovered, with great surprise, to be human beings in small boats covered with skins. Well may they have been surprised to see, for the first time, creatures so totally different from any hitherto known, “ with long black hair, broad faces and flatte noses, and taunie in colour, wearing seale skins, the women marked in the face with blewe streaks downe the cheekes, and round about the eyes."*
To one man, who came on board, Frobisher gave a bell and knife, and sent him in a boat with five of the crew, with directions to land him on a rock, and not to trust themselves with numbers that were on the shore; but they disobeyed his orders and her Majesty's instructions, were seized by the natives, and none of them heard of more. The people after this became shy; but Frobisher, by ringing and