Home  »  Volume IV: English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON  »  § 5. Sir Hugh Willoughby; Sebastian Cabot

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

IV. The Literature of the Sea

§ 5. Sir Hugh Willoughby; Sebastian Cabot

With the writings of Richard Eden, we reach the great age of maritime discovery, though still the stream of literature is small and intermittent. Two years before he published or wrote, Sir Hugh Willoughby, with the object of reaching Cathay, had sailed, in 1553, upon that voyage to the north-east in which he perished. Hakluyt has preserved the records of that great effort, and he presents to us the striking picture of Sebastian Cabot, as “governour of the mysterie and companie of the Marchants adventurers,” laying down his wise ordinances and instructions for the intended voyage. The captain-general, the pilot-major (who was Richard Chancellor), the masters, merchants and other officers were to be

  • so knit and accorded in unitie, love, conformitie, and obedience in everie degree on all sides, that no dissention, variance or contention may rise or spring betwixt them and the mariners of this companie to the damage or hindrance of the voyage.
  • Regulations were laid down for the discipline and conduct of the fleet, and, in relation to the records of adventure, merchants and other skilful persons were to put into writing daily their observations of navigation, of day and night, lands, tides, elements, altitude of the sun, course of the moon and stars and other matters, and these were afterwards to be collated, discussed and placed upon record. Again, it was ordered that the liveries in apparel given to the mariners were to be kept by the merchants and not to be worn except by order of the captain when he should see cause to muster or show his men in good array, for the adornment and honour of the voyage, and then they were again to be delivered to the keeping of the merchants.

    Willoughby perished, but Clement Adams wrote in Latin an account of the navigation, which was conducted by Richard Chancellor, and Hakluyt has given a translation. Amongst other things he tells how Henry Sidney came down to the ships and eloquently addressed the masters before they departed from the Thames. He contrasted the hard life of the seaman, and its dangers and uncertainties with the quiet life at home. He spoke of the duty of keeping unruly mariners in good order and obedience, and concluded by saying,

  • With how many cares shall he trouble and vex himself? with how many troubles shall he break himself? and how many disquietings shall he be forced to sustain? We shall keep on our coasts and country; he shall seek strange and unknown regions.