Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Second Charter of the Virginia Company -- May 23, 1609

The Virginia Company of London, also known as "The London Company," was formally established by James I's royal charter, granted April 10, 1606. The plan in 1606 was to fund voyages to establish, supply, and resupply colonial outposts in North America. and to seek return through agriculture export, trade, [plunder], and discovery of mineral riches. The main venture became the Jamestown Colony (founded May 24, 1607).

The first few years at Jamestown were extremely difficult. Attrition to disease and hardship was steady and there were no profits to speak of. But it was deemed a national necessity to not let the venture flounder. As we still hear today, some things are too important to allow to fail.

By the spring of 1609 a new scheme was evolved to emphasize the profit potential and draw in a large group of wealthy investors as well as merchant-class men with a few pounds to risk. The Second Virginia Charter of May 23, 1609, created a joint stock company -- a group-invested business enterprise. Apparently, the buy-in price in May 1609 was £12 10s per share. Funds were managed by Treasurer of the Virginia Company Sir Thomas Smith.

The Virgina Company was not alone in the new world. It was in direct competition with the Plymouth Company, which had similar goals and corresponding rights.

At that point in time "Virgina" extended from the 34th parallel -- Cape Fear [North Carolina] -- all the way to the 41st parallel (Long Island). On the earliest English maps of the region, Virginia comprised all land north of Spanish Florida and south of "The Maine" or, essentially, the entire present-day US east coast minus FL and ME.

The first Plymouth colony was a failure. Their Popham Colony only lasted a year and, by 1609, the company was caput, leaving more territory available for the Virginia Company.

Jamestown and Virginia did not start showing any profits until about 1612, from improved tobacco exports, but the total debt of the Company and Colony mounted every year and the investors did not get the returns they were promised in 1609. In 1624 England took over Virginia from private company to Royal Colony, property of the crown.

Many familiar names are seen on the May 23, 1609, Charter.
Here are some notable names, many who who have already been mentioned on this chononology/blog.

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke
Henry, Earl of Lincoln
Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery
Sir Henry Nevil
Sir Thomas Smith
Sir Anthony Cope
Sir Horatio Vere
Sir Thomas Gates
Sir Henry Carey
Sir Walter Cope
Sir Francis Wolley
Sir Francis Bacon
Sir George Somers
Sir Dudley Digges

The charter also names its ruling council, which I quote in full:

"...AND further, We ESTABLISH and ORDAIN, That Henry Earl of Southampton, William Earl of Pembroke, Henry Earl of Lincoln, Thomas, Earl of Exeter, Robert, Lord Viscount Lisle, Lord Theophilus Howard, James, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lord Edward Zouche, Thomas Lord Lawarr, William, Lord Mounteagle, Edmund, Lord Sheffield, Gray, Lord Chandois, John, Lord Stanhope, George, Lord Carew, Sir Humfrey Weld, Lord Mayor of London, Sir Edward Cecil, Sir William Wade, Sir Henry Nevil, Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Oliver Cromwell, Sir Peter Manwood, Sir Thomas Challoner, Sir Henry Hobert, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir George Coppin, Sir John Scot, Sir Henry Carey, Sir Robert Drury, Sir Horatio Vere, Sir Edward Conway, Sir Maurice Berkeley, Sir Thomas Gates, Sir Michael Sandys, Sir Robert Mansell, Sir John Trevor, Sir Amias Preston, Sir William Godolphin, Sir Walter Cope, Sir Robert Killigrew, Sir Henry Fanshaw, Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir John Watts, Sir Henry Montague, Sir William Homney, Sir Thomas Roe, Sir Baptist Hicks, Sir Richard Williamson, Sir Stephen Poole, Sir Dudley Digges, Christopher Brooke, Esq. John Eldred, and Jolm Wolstenholme shall be our Council for the said Company of Adventurers and Planters, in Virginia. AND the said Thomas Smith, We Do ORDAIN to be Treasurer of the said Company; which Treasurer shall have Authority to give Order for the Warning of the Council, and summoning the Company to their Courts and Meetings."

In the above, it has to be considered a remarkable coincidence that Henry Wriothesley and William Herbert are the first named Councillors, and each is a prime candidate for "Mr. WH."

Note also Sir William Homney -- yet another Mr WH!

The Booty (as promised)

"And we do also of our special Grace, certain Knowledge, and mere Motion, give, grant and confirm, unto the said Treasurer and Company, and their Successors, under the Reservations, Limitations, and. Declarations hereafter expressed, all those Lands, Countries, and Territories, situate, lying, and being in that Part of America, called Virginia, from the Point of Land, called Cape or Point Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Northward, two hundred miles, and from the said Point of Cape Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Southward, two hundred Miles, and all that Space and Circuit of Land, lying from the Sea Coast of the Precinct aforesaid, up into the Land throughout from Sea to Sea, West and Northwest; And also all the Islands lying within one hundred Miles along the Coast of both Seas of the Precinct aforesaid; Together with all the Soils, Grounds, Havens, and Ports, Mines, as well Royal Mines of Gold and Silver, as other Minerals, Pearls, and precious Stones, Quarries, Woods, Rivers, Waters, Fishings, Commodities, Jurisdictions, Royalties, Privileges, Franchises, and Preheminences within the said Territories, and the Precincts thereof, whatsoever, and thereto, and thereabouts both by Sea and Land, being, or in any sort belonging or appertaining, and which We, by our Letters Patents, may or can grant, in as ample Manner and Sort, as We, or any our noble Progenitors, have heretofore granted to any Company, Body Politic or Corporate, or to any Adventurer or Adventurers, Undertaker or Undertakers of any Discoveries, Plantations, or Traffic, of, in, or into any Foreign Parts whatsoever, and in as large and ample Manner, as if the same were herein particularly mentioned and expressed; To HAVE AND TO HOLD, possess and enjoy, all and singular the said Lands, Countries and Territories, with all and singular other the Premises heretofore by these Presents granted, or mentioned to be granted to them, the said Treasurer and Company, their Successors and Assigns forever To the sole and proper Use of them, the said Treasurer and Company, their Successors and Assigns forever; To BE HOLDEN of Us, our Heirs and Successors, as of our Manor of East-Greenwich, in free and common Soccage, and not in Capite; YIELDING and PAYING therefore, to Us, our Heirs and Successors, the fifth Part only of all Ore of Gold and Silver, that from Time to Time, and at all Times hereafter, shall be there gotten, had, or obtained, for all Manner of Services."

Royal Signoff and Date

"Although express Mention of true yearly Value or Certainty of the Premisses, or any of then), or of any other Gifts or Grants by Us, or any of our Progenitors or Predecessors to the aforesaid Treasurer and Company heretofore made in these Presents, is not made; Or any Act, Statute, Ordinance, Provision, Proclamation, or Restraint' to the contrary hereof had, made, ordained, or provided, or any other Thing, Cause, or Matter whatsoever in any wise notwithstanding. IN WITNESS whereof, We have caused these our Letters to be made Patent. Witness ourself at Westminster, the 23d Day of May, in the seventh Year of our Reign of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the * * *

The full charter is here:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Public Reception of Shake-Speares Sonnets 1609 (Sonnets Part Three)

This may surprise you, but there isn't a single extant record of any contemporary critical response to the appearance of Shake-Speares Sonnets in May 1609. Nor any for the rest of 1609 or for decades to follow. This is odd for several reasons. For one, Shakespeare's other books of poetry, Venus & Adonis 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece 1594 had both gone to multiple editions by 1609. They were steady bestsellers. Surely there should have been a ready and appreciative market for the Sonnets. Additionally, there are perhaps a dozen authentic contemporary allusions to the V&A and Lucrece poems in printed works and diaries of the time. Yet, nothing similar exists for the Sonnets.

The only scrap that serves as even an acknowledgement that the Sonnets were available in 1609 is a back-of-an-envelope notation found among the Edward Alleyn papers. Dated June 19, 1609, in an ad-hoc list of items under the heading “Howshold Stuff” a copy of “Shaksper sonets fivepence" was noted. At best, this stands as the single surviving evidence that someone bought the Sonnets in 1609. At worst it is a forgery. You see, the envelope in question was discovered by John Payne Collier, who was notorious for forging allusions to Shakespeare on convenient blank pages of Elizabethan miscellany. Modern scholars consider Collier' s discovery (of Allyn’s alleged chit) to be an out-and-out fraud. The spellings are suspect. The handwriting is quite unlike the abundant examples of Alleyn’s pen. Moreover Alleyn, who did keep expense records, always labeled then "Howshold" or "Howshold charges." The phrase, “Howshold Stuff” seems borrowed from the induction of The Taming of the Shrew! The Sonnets appear to have slipped by unremarked.

Oddly, there was no second edition in this format. Perhaps the Sonnet craze was over, or the profound sadness of the Sonnets turned readers off. Yet a big reception was anticipated by publisher Thorpe who used two different sets of booksellers (as evidenced by the title pages of the two variant editions of 1609) to make the product easily available.

There is at least one bit of early criticism of the 1609 Sonnets that survives, though the comment cannot be accurately dated. It could have been a century later. In a copy of the Sonnets quarto once held by the Rosenbach Library/Museum in Philadelphia there is a handwritten annotation following Sonnet 154. It reads, “What a heap of wretched Infidel stuff.” The word "Infidel" is capitalized and double inked. It is thought that this unknown critic found the poems scandalously homoerotic.

My colleague, Marty Hyatt, informs me that the former Rosenbach copy of the Sonnets is now held by the Bodmer Foundation Library in Geneva. Here's a photo of Marianne Faithfull examining the unique copy.

And the next version of the Sonnets to appear, in 1640, was mangled in John Benson’s version of Poems written by Wil. Shake-Speare, Gent. Benson put the sonnets in a strange new sequence and altered a few of the love references to a boy or man. Some think Benson did this to obscure a story that was being told in the original sequence.

Edward Alleyn was the leader of the Lord Admiral's Men for many years. In the early 1590s he played the title role in Titus Andronicus. Alleyn is also thought to have played Hamlet in a 1594 performance that is recorded but remains off-the-radar in standard Shakespeare studies.

Alleyn's father-in-law was Philip Henslowe, the famous Elizabethan theatrical producer. Alleyn kept a voluminous diary and records, and yet, rather amazingly, he never mentions William Shakespeare the playwright. This glaring omission was probably the motivation for Collier’s fraudulent notation. Collier liked to try to fill in these mysterious gaps in the historical record.

copyright 2009 Robert Sean Brazil

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sonnets Part Two -- Who was Master WH?

Over the years many theories have been advanced as to the identity of "Mr. W.H." In early modern usage, "Mr." was "master" not "mister."

The following list covers some, but not all, of the WH theories.

1. Early naiveté - Mr WH is Mr WH --- it doesn’t matter who he was.

2. WH as William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who would be a co-sponsor of the Shakespeare Folio in 1623. This identification has been defended by E.K. Chambers and Dover Wilson. One of the arguments often raised in all WH theories is that the dedicatee, WH, is the same person as the man who is encouraged to overcome reluctance and get married --- as featured in the first 17 sonnets.

Defenders of the William Herbert theory, though usually Stratfordians, inadvertently bump into the Oxford theory when they offer, as demonstration, the fact that William Herbert was engaged to Bridget Vere in 1597. This match was favored by Lord Burghley (Bridget’s grandfather), the 17th Earl of Oxford (Bridget’s father), and Mary Herbert, Countess Pembroke (W. Herbert’s mother). Nevertheless, William Herbert procrastinated and wormed his way out of the marriage. The Stratfordians have proposed that Mary Herbert hired Shakespeare to write sonnets to convince her son to marry. Oxfordians need not make that extra supposition. Instead, the 17-sonnet sequence may have been from a father of the bride to a potential (and wealthy) son-in-law.

3. WH as Wriothesley, Henry, the 3rd Earl of Southampton. Two earlier Shakespeare poetry publications, Venus & Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece, were each dedicated to Southampton. This theory has supporters in all the authorship camps. Southampton had also refused a Burghley-engineered marriage with another Vere daughter, Elizabeth, in the early 1590s. If the first 17 sonnets relate to that failed engagement, Oxford again, emerges as a strong candidate. Many readers of the Sonnets see a continuous story throughout all 154 poems; I’m not one of them. Such assumptions force interpretive schemes that can be self-contradicting. For example, most Stratfordian advocates of the Southampton theory (for WH) see Henry Wriothesely as the love-object of Shakespeare’s desire, by assuming that the same man refused a marriage, seduced Shakespeare’s mistress, and then won the Bard’s undying affection. Among Oxfordians there are widely divergent Southampton theories. Joseph Sobran argues that Oxford was in love with the long-haired Southampton. Hank Whittemore presents the notion that Southampton was Oxford’s secret son.

4. In A Life of William Shakespeare, 1898, Sir Sidney Lee introduced a novel approach: WH was William Hall, a Stationer who was known for acquiring manuscripts on the sly, who had apprenticed with Anthony Munday, and who had other associations with George Eld, the printer of the 1609 Sonnets. In 1923, researcher Colonel B.R. Ward in The Mystery of Mr. W.H. amplified Sidney Lee’s theory, suggesting that the dedication’s “W.H. all” gently encodes the dedicatee’s name. Further, a William Hall was found via a marriage license as being resident in Hackney around 1609. It is not impossible that due to his proximity, he acquired a manuscript from the household of the widowed Countess Oxford (Elizabeth Trentham)

5. Oscar Wilde famously advanced the obscure idea of 18th century scholars, Thomas Tyrwhitt and Edmund Malone, that WH must have been one Willie Hughes, a supposed boy actor with whom the Bard was in love. There is no record of such a Willie Hughes; Tyrwhitt and Wilde were taken by the hews-hues puns in the Sonnets.

6. Canadian scholar Leslie Hotson suggested that WH was William Hatcliffe, who at least was a real person, but otherwise an unlikely candidate.

7. WH as a misprint for WS (William Shakespeare). Bertrand Russell, Don Foster, and others promoted this. A similar suggestion is that WH = "William Himself."

It is strange for me to remain undecided on such an important issue. But I find merit in the William Hall, William Herbert, and Henry Wriothesley theories, in that order. Much of ones decision making on this depends on how one interprets the Sonnets. The literary view tends to influence the acceptance or rejection of various possible historical contexts.

Robert Sean Brazil -- copyright 2009

More Sonnets analysis to follow!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shake-Speares Sonnets Registered -- May 20, 1609

On May 20, 1609, a book published as SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was entered in the Stationers' Register. This is essentially the earliest known date involving the publication of one of the most mysterious books in the world, Shakespeare’s 154-sonnet sequence, which was bound with another poem, A Lover's Complaint. There may be as many theories about the Sonnets as there have been analyses of the Sermon on the Mount. We know that Shakespeare's sonnets existed in manuscript form at least eleven years before 1609. Francis Meres' 1598 book, Palladis Tamia, was a compendium of common wisdom and literary critique. In discussing English writers, Meres offered,

"As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras : so the sweet wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honytongued Shakespeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private frinds, &c.”

We have no idea how many sonnets were featured in the privately-circulated edition known by Meres. But the following year, 1599, two of these Shakespearean sonnets (#138 and #144) were printed in an anthology, The Passionate Pilgrim. There is massive debate and disagreement on the question of whether or not the full-sequence of 154 sonnets had been completed by 1598, or whether it was a smaller set. Sonnet 107, with the line “The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured” and mention of “Tyrants crests and tombs of brass,” etc., is thought by many to relate to the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Many readers agree that topical allusions in the Sonnets end in 1603.

At Stationers' Hall, if you were a licensed freeman of the Guild (whether printer, publisher, bookseller, or bureaucrat), one could copyright a book, or manuscript, or even just a book-title, for a sixpence fee. By comparing the surviving entry-book records with extant books one can draw some conclusions about the process, though there are always exceptions. Sometimes manuscripts were registered in advance of publication. Often, the book was printed first, and the actual book was brought in for copyright/registration.

William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon did not bring in the Sonnets for copyright registration. He was in Stratford in 1609, involved in country matters, including a long, protracted lawsuit against the tradesman Addenbrooke. Other poets profited from their publications. Even playwrights like Ben Jonson, who may not have owned certain plays after they were sold to the companies, still could sell their poems to publishers without restriction. It is a great unsolved mystery why Shakespeare did not attempt profit from his Sonnet book. Nor did he sue to stop or recall the publication. Furthermore, it is hard to understand why the Stratford man would allow the deeply personal, romantic, and erotic content of the Sonnets, some of which can be read as sexually ambivalent, to appear in print. The dedication mentions that the poet is ever-living. “Ever-living” means deceased—a denizen of eternal heaven. These complications have led careful readers for several centuries to doubt whether the Stratford man could really have been the author. If, however, the Sonnets author was deceased (as was the Earl of Oxford in 1604) we can understand how publishers might have gotten hold of a private manuscript, were able to print it without complaint, and any potential scandal was deflected with the author being dead, as well as veiled behind a brand name.

While many scholars and bibliographers of English Renaissance printing assume that the Sonnets book was printed after the May 20 registration, that date may actually represent the culmination of the printing process, not the outset.

I'm pretty sure that in the case of the Sonnets, the book was printed before May 20.
The entry in the Stationers’ Register reads:

May 20 [1609] "Thomas Thorpe -- Entred for his copie vnder the handes of master WILSON and master LOWNES Warden, a Booke called Shakespeares sonnettes, vj."

When the entry refers to a Book and the title entered by the clerk matches the known book, the printed book may predate the copyright. In a subsequent post I will give examples of Stationers entries that refer to manuscripts and those that indicate a finished book was brought to the Hall. Elizabethan censorship was supposed to be in advance --- a thorough vetting of each potential book. In practice, this was hardly ever done. The cases of censorship we have on record almost always involve the alteration of a previously allowed book, or a recall of extant copies. However, we have copies of even banned books. In 1599 the Bishops order in London called in all books by Nashe and Harvey for destruction. Yet copies of those books still exist.

Since the Sonnets existed in manuscript before 1598 and were already in print by May 20, 1609, it is quite possible that sample copies of the Sonnets could have been seen by elite readers in spring 1609.

Enigmas of the Sonnets include:

1. Who is "Mr. W.H.," the dedicatee, and "onlie begetter" of the Sonnets?
2. Do the Sonnets tell a story of the poet's life experience?
3. If the Sonnets are autobiographical, do all 154 sonnets relate to a single story / motif or to several?
4. If one accepts certain personalities in the sequence, the beloved, the Dark Lady, the rival poet, the "fair youth" or "lovely boy," then the temptation is strong to find real people to fit the templates.

by Robert Sean Brazil copyright 2009

More Sonnets analysis to follow!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Voyage of Robert Harcourt to Guyana in search of gold

Robert Harcourt (c.1574–1631) was an English merchant adventurer who traveled to Guyana in 1609 in search of gold and riches, hoping to succeed where Raleigh and Leigh had failed. He made landfall on May 17, 1609. His 1613 book related his adventure:

Harcourt was from Staffordshire, kin to some historic Harcourts and the Fitzherberts, all traditionally Catholic families. He eventually settled in Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire. Harcourt attended Oxford University and, in 1593, was admitted to the Middle Temple (law school), then dropped off the map for some years. Robert had an early marriage to an Elizabeth Fitzherbert, but they had no children and she died young.

Harcourt’s second wife is more interesting. She was Frances Vere, the daughter of Geoffrey de Vere, who was the fourth son of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford (c. 1488–1539-40). Robert Harcourt and Frances Vere married sometime around 1600.
This Frances, being the 15th Earl's grandaughter, was thus a close cousin to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who was also a grandson to the 15th Earl. Since the Harcourt-Vere marriage preceded the 17th Earl’s death by about four years it is reasonable to surmise that Harcourt met the poetic Earl, who was also interested in voyages of discovery to the New World. Robert and Frances Harcourt had three sons: Simon Harcourt, b. 1601, Francis, b. 1605, and Vere, b. 1606; and three daughters, Jane, Dorothy, and Margaret. By 1609 Harcourt was earning income from ironworks he developed at the manor of Chebsey, Staffordshire.

On 13 February 1609, via the patronage of his strongest supporter at court, young Prince Henry Stuart, Robert Harcourt along with ‘”freinds and Associats’” were granted a commission to pursue “many and sundrie longe journeys by Sea and Shippinge unto the South parte of America … knowne by the name of Guiana” [PRO, C66/1986].
Robert Harcourt set sail for Guyana in April 1609 with crew of 30 Englishmen and two Guyanese, (one who had been brought to England by Raleigh, another by Leigh). He kept a ship’s log/diary, which was published as a book in 1613. This is how we know the date of his arrival. Robert Harcourt made landfall at the mouth of the Wiapoco Rover on May 17, 1609.

His record relates:

“When wee came to the latitude of two degrees and a halfe, we anchored in a goodly bay, by certaine Islands, called Carripapoory I did at that time forbeare to make particular discovery of this coast, intending (if God spare me life) to make a perfect discovery of the famous river of Amazones, and of her seuerall branches, and countries bordering upon it, and of all this tract of land from the Amazones, unto the river of Wiapoco, which containeth many goodly Provinces, and Signiories, which are in this discourse, but briefely mentioned: For at this time I purpose onely to prosecute my first proiect, which hastened mee vnto another place. From hence I stood along the coast, and the seventeenth of May, I came to anchor in the Bay of Wiapoco: where the Indians came off unto vs in two or three Canoes, as well to learne of what Nation wee were, as also to trade with vs…”

Harcourt arrived in the rainy season and had to wait a few months before continuing inland.
In July 1609 Harcourt and an inland chief ventured forth “in search of those Golden Mountaines, promised unto us before the beginning of our voyage.” However, no city of gold, or even goldmines were found. Facing potential mutiny among his men, Harcourt sent them all out to look for other commodities of value. Harcourt then decided, in August, to return to England. He left his brother, Michael, and a Captain Edward Harvey to command the 30 men left behind. After some mishaps, Harcourt arrived back in Bristol on December 17, 1609.

On August 28, 1613, King James granted Harcourt and descendants all the land between two key rivers in South America, nowadays comprising French Guiana, Suriname, and British Guiana: "betweene the Ryver of Amazones [Amazon] and the Ryver of Dessequebe [Essequibo]." The Harcourts were never able to make good on the grant, however!

Harcourt’s book is called: A relation of a voyage to Guiana: Describing the climat, scituation, fertilitie, prouisions and commodities of that country, containing seuen prouinces, and other signiories within that territory: together, with the manners, customes, behauiors, and dispositions of the people. Performed by Robert Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt Esquire. The pattent for the plantation of which country, his Maiestie hath granted to the said Robert Harcourt vnder the Great Seale. At London : Printed by Iohn Beale, for W. Welby, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Churchyard at the signe of the Swan, 1613.

Harcourt’s final voyage was 20 years after the first, arriving in Guyana in February 1629. Searches for gold and jewels were again fruitless. Robert Harcourt died on May 20, 1631, and was buried there, along the river


There is apparently a painting of Robert Harcourt by Marcus Gheerardts, who also painted the Earl of Oxford, Essex, and other Court notables. I have not yet been able to trace the location of the painting to its present location. There is also a line-drawing of Harcourt, based on the painting, that appeared in a later reprint of his book. I will try to get that.


An odd coincidence

There’s apparently only two places in the world named “Hackney” (there may be others but I haven’t found them yet).
One is in the north of London, and was the final home of the 17th Earl of Oxford during the years 1593-1604. The other Hackney is in Guyana. I have not been able to discover how that Hackney, Guyana, got its name, but Harcourt’s presence in that country is the only credible explanation. In the map section below notice the names of towns to the north of Georgetown: Hackney, Marlborough, Bounty Hall. None of these names were present on Raleigh’s earlier map of the region. In the absence of further data, I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that Harcourt named Hackney, Guyana, in honor of his cousin in-law. The fact that he named one of his sons “Vere Harcourt” lends credibility to the postulate.


Original copies of Harcourt’s book are rare and valuable.
Here’s a copy that sold for $ $25,602!

Robert Sean Brazil c. 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Stationers’ Company and the Virginia Company

The 1609 push for investors, sponsors, and financial “adventurers” brought in participation from aristocrats, businessmen, and even the trade guilds. The Worshipful Company of Stationers, on May 10, 1609, invested 125 pounds towards the efforts of the Virginia Plantation. Their buy-in entitled them to a proportionate share of any profits ("scale") from the agricultural output of the plantations and any discovered precious metals, etc. The wording also implies that they would own a share of any plundered commodities as well.

This close link between the Stationers and the Virginia Company adds to our understanding of the hand-in-hand relationship between the two entities. In 1609 the Virginia
Company needed the participation of the publishers to produce the required propaganda pamphlets. The Stationers were also securing a foothold into the New World, which would, no doubt, soon be a growing market for books, in addition to earning returns on risk. We also may have here a path of interaction by which an early proof of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, either emerging from the Stationers' vaults or men of the Virginia Company, may have changed hands. As we will see in an upcoming entry, Men of the Virginia Company included William Herbert Earl of Pembroke and Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, two of the leading contenders for the mysterious “Mr. WH.” General Horatio Vere was also a prominent member of the Virginia Company. The signer of the document below, Richard Atkinson, was the Clerk of the Virginia Company in 1609.

From the Stationers’ records:

"Here followeth the copy of the bill of Adventure under Scale, to the Stationers Company.

"Whereas the Master and keepers or Wardens and Comonalty of the Mysterie or Art of Stacioner of the city of London have paid in ready money to Sir Thomas Smythe Knight, Treasurer for Virginia the sum of one Hundred & twenty ffive pounds for their adventure towards the said Voyage. It is agreed that for the same they the said Master and keepers or Wardens and their successors (for the time being) shall have ratably according to their
adventures their full part of all such lands, tenements and hereditaments as shall from time to time be there recovered, planted and inhabited: And of all such mines & minerals of Gold Silver & other metalls or treasure, pearls, precious stones or any other Kind of Wares or merchandise, comodities or proffitte whatsoever which shall be obtained or gotten in the said Voyage according to the porcion of money by them imployed to that use
in as ample manner as any other adventurer therein shall receive for the like sum."
Written this 10th daye of Maye 1609. Richard Atkinson"


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Conversion of the Native Virginians – A sign of 'end times' – and that’s a good thing?

George Benson (c.1568-1648) was another preacher loosely associated with the Virginia Company enterprise. Like Robert Gray, almost nothing is known about him. His single book is A Sermon preached at Paules Crosse the Seaventh of May MDCIX. London, 1609. In this sermon of May 7, 1609, Benson adds another tweak to the growing list of proposed reasons to emigrate, colonize, and evangelize the New World. Benson cites Revelation from the New Testament in claiming that the conversion of the American Indians is a sign of the end of the world, and kingdom come! And that’s supposedly a good thing. Here’s what Benson said:

“These signs are past and gone: when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turned into blood, we cannot tell: but for the publication of the Gospel over the world, it may be proved by many instances. One most pregnant, most fresh, is that of Virginia which now (by God grace) through our English shall hear news of Christ, the gospel of Christ shall be published, no doubt the sound of the preachers will go out into that corner of the world, and make it as a well watered garden. There were a people of the like quality (with the natural inhabitants of Virginia) poor and naked things, (I call them so, the more to indeare your affections) when they were conquered, there was that cruelty used unto them, that scandal was given unto the name of Christ, the name of Christianity grew odious unto them, by reason of that cruelty they would let it have no room in their thoughts. I hope our English are of that metall that having in their hands the key of the kingdom of God, they will not keep those weake ones out, but rather make way for the Gospel (as I hope they may) by their gentle & humane dealing.”

Again we encounter a historical phenomenon that has a modern echo. Benson warns that if the English conquer the world with cruelty, and without true Christian compassion, that such colonialism would bring scandal to the name of Christ. Today, the issue is inhumane treatment of state prisoners. In the USA, these might be suspected Muslim terrorists, or even suspected Christian-Identity “Liberty movement” American citizens. Bottom line, don’t bring the gospel with force and violence, and don’t impose “democracy” with the tools of fascism!

Just a thought.

Still, one cannot help but notice the funny paradox in Benson's logic. It's bad to evangelize by force and violence, but if conversions are done with compassion, then the glorious End of the World is Near!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fear of Infection

Does history repeat itself? Yes, endlessly. Today, anxiety about “foreign infections” causes panics, school closings, and disrupts commerce. The “plague” served a similar societal function 400 years ago. 1609 was a plague year in London; the fear, and the plague itself, affected all strata of society. Back then, the word, “plague” was something of a catch-all. Any epidemic might be called the plague.

On May 6, 1609, Richard Neile (1562-1640) Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster, wrote to Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury, asking to be excused from attending King James on the following day. In the words of the official summary, “Though he and all his people stand without suspicion of infection, yet in the house of one Chaunter, who has his dwelling within the College walls, two young gentlemen who boarded with him are sick; and he is enforced by fear of the inconvenience that might ensue to the 140 or rather 160 children who have daily concourse to the School, to dismiss all the Oppidalls and to send away all the foundation scholars to the College house at Cheswicke, where they shall remain all this summer. He desires to take a week of airing, either at Cheswicke or at Bromeley, before he again attends his Majesty. At Westminster College, May 6, 1609.”

Richard Neile became Royal Chaplain to King James in July1603. On his way to the top, Neile had powerful patrons, chiefly Lord Burghley, to whom he was household chaplain in the 1590s. After Burghley’s death in 1598, Neile continued to serve as household chaplain to his son, Robert Cecil, along with Samuel Harsnet, whose book: A Declaration of egregious Popish Imposture (to with-draw the harts of her Maiesties Subiects from their allegeance, and from the truth of Christian Religion professed in England, under the pretence of casting out deuils. Pracised by Edmunds, alias Weston a Iesuit, and diuers Romish Priests his wicked associates. Whereunto are annexed the Copies of the Confessions, and Examinations of the parties themselves, taken upon oath before her Maiesties Commissioners, for causes Ecclesiasticall, James Roberts, Barbican, 1603) serves as a link between the text of King Lear, and the Hackney household of the 17th Earl of Oxford.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Captain Argall sets sail for Virginia

Captain Samuel Argall (1580-1626) was an English merchant adventurer, naval officer, and agent of the Virginia Company. He was a cousin to Sir Thomas Smith, the scholar, and, at that time, Governor of the Virginia Company. In 1608-1609 word had arrived from the Jamestown Colony that things were not going so well. They needed supplies and more colonists. The entire financial future of the Virginia enterprise hinged on a successful plantation at Jamestown. The failure of Raleigh's Roanoke colony was still a potent memory and warning. Thus, the principal investors in the Virginia Company launched a public relations campaign in the spring of 1609 (as has been documented on this blog) to develop greater interest in investment, and to sign up English men and women to go to Virginia. Several voyages and resupply missions were planned for 1609. Argall's was the first. Captain Samuel Argall and crew set sail from Portsmouth on May 5, 1609. His orders were to sail to Jamestown by way of Barbuda and to deliver sturgeon to the colonists. In an interesting twist that has had vast repercussions in history, Argall disobeyed orders. He decided to take a chance on a different route to the New World. Instead of heading for the tropics and following the trade winds, Argall & Co. tried a new route: first to the Azores, from thence to Bermuda, and then to Virginia. This route sliced off many days of travel and kept English vessels out of the Spanish highway across the Atlantic.

Argall decided not to go fishing for sturgeon before docking at Jamestown. Instead, always the benevolent humanitarian, and finding the Jamestown colonists starving and near death, he sold them the ship's extra biscuits and wine. Then he hurried off to the Carolina Banks and caught a heap of sturgeon. Argall, smartly salvaging his reputation, gave the colonists some of the fish but kept all the caviar for private sale back in London. It's always about the money with these Merchant Adventurers! Argall wasted no time, departing back for England on August 31, 1609.

A few years later, Argall displayed his heroism and forthright dealings when he deviously arranged for the abduction of Pocahontas (1613). Inviting her to tour his vessel, Argall and his men showed their bravery by capturing the unarmed, teenage Indian girl. Pocahontas was later brought back to London where she met King James and Ben Jonson and died of fever and heartbreak just as she was about to leave to return to Virginia (1617).

Detail from The Abduction of Pocahontas by Jean Ferris, c. 1910.
Captain Samuel Argall (left) at Jamestown with Pocahontas as his captive.

By RSB copyright 2009