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List Of Contents | Contents of Captain John Smith by, Charles Dudley Warner
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never saw the light.  He was evidently fond of the sea, and we may
say the title of Admiral came naturally to him, since he used it in
the title-page to his "Description of New England," published in
1616, although it was not till 1617 that the commissioners at
Plymouth agreed to bestow upon him the title of "Admiral of that

In 1630 he published " The True Travels, Adventures and Observations
of Captain John Smith, in Europe, Asia, Affrica and America, from
1593 to 1629.  Together with a Continuation of his General History of
Virginia, Summer Isles, New England, and their proceedings since 1624
to this present 1629: as also of the new Plantations of the great
River of the Amazons, the Isles of St.  Christopher, Mevis and
Barbadoes in the West Indies."  In the dedication to William, Earl of
Pembroke, and Robert, Earl of Lindsay, he says it was written at the
request of Sir Robert Cotton, the learned antiquarian, and he the
more willingly satisfies this noble desire because, as he says, "they
have acted my fatal tragedies on the stage, and racked my relations
at their pleasure.  To prevent, therefore, all future misprisions, I
have compiled this true discourse.  Envy hath taxed me to have writ
too much, and done too little; but that such should know how little,
I esteem them, I have writ this more for the satisfaction of my
friends, and all generous and well-disposed readers: To speak only of
myself were intolerable ingratitude: because, having had many co-
partners with me, I cannot make a Monument for myself, and leave them
unburied in the fields, whose lives begot me the title of Soldier,
for as they were companions with me in my dangers, so shall they be
partakers with me in this Tombe."  In the same dedication he spoke of
his "Sea Grammar" caused to be printed by his worthy friend Sir
Samuel Saltonstall.

This volume, like all others Smith published, is accompanied by a
great number of swollen panegyrics in verse, showing that the writers
had been favored with the perusal of the volume before it was
published.  Valor, piety, virtue, learning, wit, are by them ascribed
to the "great Smith," who is easily the wonder and paragon of his.
age.  All of them are stuffed with the affected conceits fashionable
at the time.  One of the most pedantic of these was addressed to him
by Samuel Purchas when the "General Historie " was written.

The portrait of Smith which occupies a corner in the Map of Virginia
has in the oval the date, "AEta 37, A. 16l6," and round the rim the
inscription: " Portraictuer of Captaine John Smith, Admirall of New
England," and under it these lines engraved:

       "These are the Lines that show thy face: but those
       That show thy Grace and Glory brighter bee:
       Thy Faire Discoveries and Fowle-Overthrowes
       Of Salvages, much Civilized by thee
       Best shew thy Spirit; and to it Glory Wyn;
       So, thou art Brasse without, but Golde within,
       If so, in Brasse (too soft smiths Acts to beare)
       I fix thy Fame to make Brasse steele outweare.

Thine as thou art Virtues

In this engraving Smith is clad in armor, with a high starched
collar, and full beard and mustache formally cut.  His right hand
rests on his hip, and his left grasps the handle of his sword.  The
face is open and pleasing and full of decision.

This "true discourse" contains the wild romance with which this
volume opens, and is pieced out with recapitulations of his former
writings and exploits, compilations from others' relations, and
general comments.  We have given from it the story of his early life,
because there is absolutely no other account of that part of his
career.  We may assume that up to his going to Virginia he did lead a
life of reckless adventure and hardship, often in want of a decent
suit of clothes and of "regular meals."  That he took some part in
the wars in Hungary is probable, notwithstanding his romancing
narrative, and he may have been captured by the Turks.  But his
account of the wars there, and of the political complications, we
suspect are cribbed from the old chronicles, probably from the
Italian, while his vague descriptions of the lands and people in
Turkey and "Tartaria" are evidently taken from the narratives of
other travelers.  It seems to me that the whole of his story of his
oriental captivity lacks the note of personal experience.  If it were
not for the "patent" of Sigismund (which is only produced and
certified twenty years after it is dated), the whole Transylvania
legend would appear entirely apocryphal.

The "True Travels" close with a discourse upon the bad life,
qualities, and conditions of pirates.  The most ancient of these was
one Collis, "who most refreshed himself upon the coast of Wales, and
Clinton and Pursser, his companions, who grew famous till Queen
Elizabeth of blessed memory hanged them at Wapping.  The misery of a
Pirate (although many are as sufficient seamen as any) yet in regard
of his superfluity, you shall find it such, that any wise man would
rather live amongst wild beasts, than them; therefore let all
unadvised persons take heed how they entertain that quality; and I
could wish merchants, gentlemen, and all setters-forth of ships not
to be sparing of a competent pay, nor true payment; for neither
soldiers nor seamen can live without means; but necessity will force
them to steal, and when they are once entered into that trade they
are hardly reclaimed."

Smith complains that the play-writers had appropriated his
adventures, but does not say that his own character had been put upon
the stage.  In Ben Jonson's "Staple of News," played in 1625, there
is a reference to Pocahontas in the dialogue that occurs between
Pick-lock and Pennyboy Canter:

Pick. --A tavern's unfit too for a princess.

P.  Cant. --No, I have known a Princess and a great one, Come forth
of a tavern.

Pick. --Not go in Sir, though.

A Cant. --She must go in, if she came forth.  The blessed Pocahontas,
as the historian calls her, And great King's daughter of Virginia,
Hath been in womb of tavern.

The last work of our author was published in 1631, the year of his
death.  Its full title very well describes the contents:
"Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England, or
anywhere.  Or, the Pathway to Experience to erect a Plantation.  With
the yearly proceedings of this country in fishing and planting since
the year 1614 to the year 1630, and their present estate.  Also, how
to prevent the greatest inconvenience by their proceedings in
Virginia, and other plantations by approved examples.  With the
countries armes, a description of the coast, harbours, habitations,
landmarks, latitude and longitude: with the map allowed by our Royall
King Charles."

Smith had become a trifle cynical in regard to the newsmongers of the
day, and quaintly remarks in his address to the reader: "Apelles by
the proportion of a foot could make the whole proportion of a man:
were he now living, he might go to school, for now thousands can by
opinion proportion kingdoms, cities and lordships that never durst
adventure to see them.  Malignancy I expect from these, have lived 10
or 12 years in those actions, and return as wise as they went,
claiming time and experience for their tutor that can neither shift
Sun nor moon, nor say their compass, yet will tell you of more than
all the world betwixt the Exchange, Paul's and Westminster.... and
tell as well what all England is by seeing but Mitford Haven as what
Apelles was by the picture of his great toe."

This is one of Smith's most characteristic productions.  Its material
is ill-arranged, and much of it is obscurely written; it runs
backward and forward along his life, refers constantly to his former
works and repeats them, complains of the want of appreciation of his
services, and makes himself the centre of all the colonizing exploits
of the age.  Yet it is interspersed with strokes of humor and
observations full of good sense.

It opens with the airy remark: "The wars in Europe, Asia and Africa,
taught me how to subdue the wild savages in Virginia and New
England."  He never did subdue the wild savages in New England, and
he never was in any war in Africa, nor in Asia, unless we call his
piratical cruising in the Mediterranean "wars in Asia."

As a Church of England man, Smith is not well pleased with the
occupation of New England by the Puritans, Brownists, and such
"factious humorists" as settled at New Plymouth, although he
acknowledges the wonderful patience with which, in their ignorance
and willfulness, they have endured losses and extremities; but he
hopes better things of the gentlemen who went in 1629 to supply
Endicott at Salem, and were followed the next year by Winthrop.  All
these adventurers have, he says, made use of his "aged endeavors."
It seems presumptuous in them to try to get on with his maps and
descriptions and without him.  They probably had never heard, except
in the title-pages of his works, that he was "Admiral of New

Even as late as this time many supposed New England to be an island,
but Smith again asserts, what he had always maintained--that it was a
part of the continent.  The expedition of Winthrop was scattered by a
storm, and reached Salem with the loss of threescore dead and many
sick, to find as many of the colony dead, and all disconsolate.  Of
the discouraged among them who returned to England Smith says: "Some
could not endure the name of a bishop, others not the sight of a
cross or surplice, others by no means the book of common prayer.
This absolute crew, only of the Elect, holding all (but such as
themselves) reprobates and castaways, now made more haste to return
to Babel, as they termed England, than stay to enjoy the land they
called Canaan."  Somewhat they must say to excuse themselves.
Therefore, "some say they could see no timbers of ten foot diameter,
some the country is all wood; others they drained all the springs and
ponds dry, yet like to famish for want of fresh water; some of the
danger of the ratell-snake."  To compel all the Indians to furnish

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