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sailed three score leagues farther than I designed at my departure. I have been in 73 degrees, and found the sea all open, with forty leagues between land and land. The passage is most probable, the execution easy, as at our meeting you shall fully know.”* He had entered Baffin's Bay, from whence, through Lancaster Sound, we may say with him, the passage is most probable, and the execution easy, and we have little doubt will be proved practicably ere long with certainty and safety. Davis, in the following letter to Sir F. Walsingham, is strong in this opinion:
“Right Honorable most dutyfully craving pardon for this my rashe boldnes I am herby according to my duty to signyfy vnto your Honor that the North west Passage is a matter nothing doubtfull but at any tyme almost to be passed, the sea navigable, voyd of yse, the ayre tollerable, and the waters very depe. I have also fownd an yle of very grete quantytie not in any globe or map dyscrybed yelding a sufficient trade of furse and lether, and although this passage hathe bine supposed very impossible yeat through God's mercy I am in experience an ey wyttnes to the contrary, yea in the most desperate clymats which by Gods help I wylle very shortly most at large revele unto your Honor so sone as I can possible take order for my maryners and shippinge. Thus depending upon your Honors good favor I most humbly commytt you to God this third of October “ Your Honors for ever most dutyfull
“ John Davys.” †
* Hakluyt. † Lansdown MSS., 46, British Museum, Art. 21 Orig.
SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT.
1578 To 1584.
SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT was descended from an ancient and honourable family in Devonshire. His mother, becoming a widow, married Walter Raleigh, Esq., from which marriage was born the celebrated Sir Walter Raleigh, who consequently became half-brother to Sir Humphrey. The latter was educated at Eton, from whence he went to Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a gentleman of very considerable talents in the various branches of literature and science. On leaving Oxford he went over to Ireland, and became President of Munster; and in 1570 received the honour of knighthood. He excelled in mathematics, geography, and hydrography, which were his favourite studies. It was probably his attachment to the last two that induced him, in the year 1578, to make a voyage to Newfoundland; the same year in which Frobisher accomplished his third voyage. On his return with increased reputation, his talents, aided by powerful interest at Court, procured from the Queen letters patent, granting him authority to undertake north-western discoveries, and to possess such lands as were unsettled by Christian princes, or their subjects. This grant, by the terms of the patent, was made perpetual ; but, by a special clause, was to become void, in case possession and occupation were not taken within six years from the date of the patent.
In a former attempt he had succeeded in getting up a small squadron; but the subscribers became discontented, and quarrelled among themselves; thereupon Sir Humphrey and his brother-in-law, Raleigh, with a few friends, hastily put to sea; but a gale of wind coming on, in which one of the ships foundered, the rest were glad to return to port.* He tried to get up a second squadron, but, finding his friends not quite so sanguine as himself, was unable to succeed at that time. However, in the year before the expiration of his patent, namely, in 1583, he had prepared a small squadron, and was soon ready to set sail for the northern parts of America and Newfoundland; and in order to avail himself of the full benefit of his patent, he had sold his estate, to give confidence to the undertakers of the voyage. In the same year, Queen Elizabeth was pleased to grant another patent to his
younger brother, Adrian Gilbert, of Sandridge, in the county of Devon, and his associates, conferring on them the privilege of making discoveries
of a passage to China and the Molucca Islands, either by the north-west, north-east, or the north. This association was incorporated by the name of “The Colleagues of the Fellowship for the Discoverie of the North-West Passage.”
Sir Humphrey, as before mentioned, was the author of a long discourse, which broached many ingenious remarks at a time when all was conjecture; and these were of a nature generally to fall in with the received opinions among mercantile men, who had speculated on the feasibility of a north-west passage round the northern parts of North America, which gave his name considerable influence. His mind, however, was now turned towards the colonization of Newfoundland, and he made preparations accordingly. The squadron of Sir Humphrey consisted of five ships, the largest of 200 and the smallest of 10 tons, namely, the Delight, Sir Humphrey, General; the Raleigh, Captain Butler, ViceAdmiral; the Golden Hind, Captain Hayes; the Swallow, Captain Brown; the Squirrel, of 10 tons, William Andrews, Captain. In these ships were embarked about 260 men, including shipwrights, smiths, masons, and carpenters, besides mineralogists and refiners; and, says Mr. Hayes, the writer of the expedition, “ for the solace of our people, and allurement of the savages, we were provided with musicke of good varietie ; not omitting the least toyes, as morris-dancers, hobby-horses, and many like conceits to delight the savage people, whom we intended to winne by all faire meanes
The fleet left Plymouth the 11th of June, 1583, and on the 13th the Raleigh, of all the ships in the fleet, under pretence of illness of her captain, and many of the crew, deserted the rest and returned to Plymouth, where it was conjectured to have been done with some evil design. The rest pursued their voyage, and ere long found mountains of ice in lat. 60° N., driving about on the sea, and on the 3rd of July fell in with the land. It is mentioned that, on entering the harbour of St. John, in Newfoundland, the General and his people were entertained with great profusion by some English merchants, at a place called the Garden, where nothing appeared but nature without art;" such as roses and raspberries growing wild in every place. It is not a little curious that at this early period not only English merchants, but, as the writer observes, “the Portugals and French chiefly have a notable trade of fishing on the Newfoundland bank, where there are sometimes more than a hundred sail of ships.”+
The General caused formal possession to be taken, in the Queen's name (in presence of the English and foreigners assembled), of the harbour and two hundred leagues on every side of it, and
* Hakluyt, from Hayes' account. + Hakluyt.