Friday, June 16, 2017

Casualties of a Voyage, 1601-3

A casualty list:

“A note of the men’s names deceased out of the Dragon.

1 William Thomson. 2 Job Harket. 3 William Allin.
4 Raphe Arden. 5 Christopher Scot. 6 Edward Major.
7 Thomas May. 8 John Pegoune. 9 John Johnson.
10 Philip Salisbury. 11 Edmund Davies. 12 Richard Joanes.
13 Daniell Richardson. 14 John Clackson.15 Robert Poppe.
16 John Webbe. 17 John Humber. 18 William Burrowes.
19 Mathew Perchet. 20 Edward Keall. 21 Nicholas Williams.
22 Peter Bennet. 23 Leonard Nichols. 24 Robert Dame.
25 John Judson. 26 William Barker. 27 William Barret.
28 William Ridge. 29 Ralphe Salter. 30 Jeremy Gaufe.
31 Henry Thickpenny. 32 Henry Brigges. 33 Rice Williams.
34 Martine Topsaile. 35 M. William Bradbanke 36 Richard Androwes.
37 M. Thomas Pullin preacher. 38 Jeames Fullar. 39 William Winter.
40 William Hall. 41 John Hankin. 42 Richard Exame.
43 Robert Hill. 44 John Woodall. 45 John Jeane.
46 Robert Keachinman. 47 Jeames Caverly. 48 John Hope.
49 John Trincall. 50 John Duke.51 Martaine Cornelison.
52 Launslet Taylor. 53 John Settell. 54 William Burrowes.
55 Percevall Stradling. 56 John Harrice. 57 Frauncis Pormoth.
58 Edward Baddiford. 59 Thomas Price. 60 Phillip Goulding.
61 Roger Morrice. 62 Stephen Burdall. 63 Nicholas Ragwood.
64 George Wattes. 65 Myles Berry. 66 William Mounke.”

The list appears with three others in the last pages of this pamphlet:

A TRUE AND LARGE DISCOURSE OF THE VOYAGE OF THE WHOLE FLEETE OF SHIPS SET forth the 20. of Aprill 1601. by the Governours and Assistants of the East Indian Marchants in London, to the East Indies.

WHEREIN IS SET downe the order and manner of their trafficke, the discription of the Countries, the nature of the people and their language, with the names of all the men dead in the Voyage.
AT LONDON Imprinted for Thomas Thorpe, and are to be solde by William Aspley. 1603.

It’s hard to tell why. The other account of the voyage, A LETTER WRITTEN TO THE RIGHT worshipfull the Governours and Assistants of the East Indian Marchants in London; containing the estate of the East Indian Fleete, with the names of the chiefe men of note dead in the Voyage confined itself, as the title makes clear, to just the chief casualties, as they were seen, the ranking ships officers and merchants on board. The full list in this pamphlet includes two men given the honorific ‘Master’, among the ordinary seamen.

They were all embarked on the boat called ‘The Red Dragon’, previously called ‘The Scourge of Malice’ (by its first owner and commissioner, the Earl of Cumberland, who must have been reading too much 1590’s satire). This is an excellent Wikipedia page:

Bought off the Earl, the ship was re-named for this, the first fleet voyage of the East India Company (1601-3). The Red Dragon was a big ship, 600-900 tons, with 38 guns, much larger than the other main ships making up the fleet sent out, Hector (300 tons, whose crew suffered 37 casualties), Ascension (260 tons, 38 casualties), Susan (240 tons, 39 casualties).

The attrition rate on the flagship was lower, because the Commander of the flagship and the whole fleet, Sir James Lancaster, made his men drink lemon juice daily, so that they did not die of scurvy or suffer fatal debilitation by it leading to death. Lancaster’s report on this success was sent to the Admiralty, and promptly shelved and forgotten.

Lancaster, Sir James (1554/5–1618),

What did they die of, the casualties in this fleet?

Scurvy, dysentery, the calenture, they were lost overboard, or fell fatally, unspecified causes, tropical diseases after reaching their destination (“the countrie is very unwholsome, that almost it may be said of it, as it is said of Malacca, fewe come thether, but eyther loose hide or hayre: heere we lost ten or twelve men out of our ship.”)

Or they were the victims of the grossest negligence:

“The 27. day being Saterday, the lamentablest accident happened, that happened since wee departed England, and thus it was, Maister Winter the Maisters Mate of the Admiral dying, the rest of the Captaines and Maisters went to his burial and according to the order of the sea, there was 2. or 3. great ordinances discharged at his going a shoare, but the maister Gunner of the Admirall being not so carefull as he should have beene, unfortunately killed Maister Brand Captaine of the Ascention and the Boatswaines mate of the same ship, to the great danger of the Maister, his mate and another Marchant who were hurt and besprinckled with the bloud of these massacred men, so these men going to the buriall of another were themselves carryed to their owne graves.”

The Red Dragon (just) and the Hector survived to take part in the second (with Ascension and Susan) and third voyage. For the third voyage, the Red Dragon was commanded by William Keeling:

So, it was on this big ship that the purported performances of Hamlet and Richard II took place off Sierra Leone and Sumatra in 1607 and 1608.

This yarn about maritime Shakespeare productions has been comprehensively exploded by Jonathan Bate, who shows that ‘Ambrose Guntio’ was beyond all reasonable doubt a mask for the dread name of J P Collier. Collier removed the relevant pages (for the dates) of Keeling’s surviving diary for the voyage, and left in print under the unlikely alias this tasty and poisoned tit-bit for literary scholarship to rejoice over, all the way up to the third edition Arden Hamlet.
Bate, bless him, simply googled the pseudonym to locate other items published as by ‘Ambrose Guntio’, and found comprehensive and convincing overlap with work the forger published under his own name:

But the other way to have thought about it was likelihoods. You might have put on a Hamlet on a Cunard liner, or White Star line ship heading for India. But when every day was a battle with storm-damaged ships for crews debilitated by illness, malnutrition,  and dangerous labour, who was going to have the leisure to cast, distribute parts to, costume, commit to memory and play (or even spectate at) a Hamlet?

No doubt the East India Company did get a little better with more experience. But it’s just laughable to think that participants on a most prosperous and lucky voyage would have spare energy for this kind of nonsense. They had preachers on board too, and this first voyage gives us an instance of the more pious sort of performance they would have considered edifying, and we can imagine that events of this general nature were far more likely to have been conducted on the third voyage than a Shakespeare play:

“Before our departure from hence we had a Sermon and a Communion one a Sunday in the forenoone, and afternoone one of our men which was a Jew, was christened and called John, our Generall being his godfather.”

I still do not understand the full casualty list. The other pamphlet, which has less stress on the deaths and dangers, seems a more official sort of publication. I think women whose husbands had gone to sea were allowed to re-marry after three years with no news, so a list of men who hadn’t come back at all, rather than come back and absconded, would have been useful and humane.

It is delivered without reproaches: the East India Company is not condemned, they are new to this risky game too (they still had to work out that arriving in London with a galleon full of pepper would drive down the price of pepper).

The pamphlet reminds me of Donne’s ‘The Storm’ and ‘The Calm’ (though just how literary those poems look in the comparison), and of The Tempest (“wee continued here two monethes and eight dayes, having for the most part every daye fearefull thunder, raine and lightenning, as the like is not heard in our countrey, for they haue many slaine with the thunder which maketh them make hast to gette home before night. The people are very industrious and take great paines, both in setting of Rice which groweth there in great quantytie, so that there is whole stackes thereof, as also in beating and winnowing the same. They weave such thinges as they weare about their bodyes beeing made of the barke of trees. Their houses are but meane, standing halfe a yarde from the ground and covered with leaues, with a hoale at one ende of the same house to creepe in at on their knees. They love Wine exceedingly, with which they will bee very drunke”).

The things those lost men saw - or if they were unlucky on the way out, almost got to see! Elephants with their boy mahouts, the Sultan of Aceh’s damsels dancing in their bracelets and jewels, even mermaids (“The 13. day we saw two Marmaides, and as we judged them, they were Male and Female, because the Mosse of one of their heads was longer then the other, their heades are very round, and their hinder parts are devided like two legges, they say they are signes of stormy weather; and so we found it”). 

If Henry Thickpenny was one of the few to bear the Thickpenny name, as this site below seems to indicate he may have been, maybe he’d had good value for being a Thickpenny:

And if Methusalem Mountjoy (dead on the Ascention) had only a short life, it was certainly intense. Everybody on this crazily dangerous voyage deserved a monument somewhere, and the printing press of Thomas Thorpe provided it - it would later produce a more famous memorialisation (of sorts), without a name at all.

No comments: