« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of more recent date. Be it so; yet I may be permitted to say, that much still remained to be discovered and told; in point of fact, in all the scenes, the acts, and adventures of this extraordinary man, the first Englishman that circumnavigated the globe, or, as one of his historians says, the first "who ploughed a furrow round the world," we have nothing, or next to nothing, published of his own writing, not even a common sea-journal, with the exception of a few sentences in his third voyage, revised by himself; yet how much is discovered of the real character of a man from his epistolary correspondence! The difficulty was, where to look for it? Obviously in the public depositories of the records of the kingdom, and accordingly to these I made application.
In the first instance, I received a most ready permission, by the kindness of Sir James Graham, to have free access to the State Paper Office, where I was well assured there would be found something to my purpose; and also in the numerous collections of manuscripts in the British Museum. From these sources I calculated on receiving much additional and unpublished information; and by the obliging assistance of Sir Henry Ellis, in the latter, and of Messrs. Lechmere and Lemon, in the former, (as also from Mr. Thorpe, who obligingly took the trouble to collate my copies with the almost illegible manuscripts,) so far from being disappointed, I
have obtained numbers of autograph letters, not only of Sir Francis Drake, but also of the Lord High Admiral, the Earl of Effingham, more particularly those relating to the Spanish Armada, miscalled "the Invincible;" together with many other documents connected with the public transactions of Sir Francis Drake.
My next application was to Sir Francis Palgrave, who says there is nothing at the Tower, so early as the reign of Elizabeth, among the Admiralty Papers, but thinks there may be something in the Rolls'-House relating to payments, but observes that the search would be laborious, as there are no indexes.
From the Bodleian Library the answer was, nothing new to interest a biographer of the gallant Sir Francis Drake.
In the Ashmolean Museum there are a few notices, but only such as have already appeared in print.
At the Magdalen College, Cambridge, there are numerous and voluminous documents collected or composed by Mr. Pepys, chiefly relating to naval matters, but little or nothing has been found concerning Drake.
To Mr. Bolton Corney, a private gentleman of great literary acquirements and research, I am highly indebted for the loan of several valuable and rare tracts, besides detached notes of information
on points connected with my subject, for which I am desirous of thus publicly acknowledging my sincere thanks, more especially for the ready and willing manner in which they were communicated.
There is still, however, a remarkable deficiency of materials, of a private or domestic nature; and as the family may be considered extinct, or at least only continued in the female line, there is but little hope that any such are likely hereafter to be forthcoming.
I have not however failed to apply to every quarter wherein any information was in the least likely to be procured. To Sir Thos. Trayton Fuller Eliott Drake, Bart., the nephew (I believe) of the late Lord Heathfield, to whose property he has succeeded, with a patent from the King to take the names of Eliott and Drake, after that of Fuller, and to bear the arms of Drake, I made application. His reply was that he had nothing whatever but some relics that were given to Drake by Queen Elizabeth, an account of which has been published.
As Sir Francis Drake was much in communication with the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, and had frequent correspondence with him, I applied through a friend of the Marquis of Salisbury to have access to the Burleigh Papers, at Hatfield House, or to know what was the nature or extent of the documents relating to Drake. The reply was that it would be a long time before the catalogue was
finished, and that his Lordship must decline to let any person have unlimited access to the papers (which was not exactly asked), but as soon as they are completely arranged, his Lordship would let me know how far he could contribute to my object.
My next application was to the Marquis of Exeter, who was supposed as likely to be in possession of documents connected with Drake or his family; his reply was that he had sent all his papers to Lord Salisbury. Thus then these memorials, whatever they may be, are and have been closed up for two centuries and a half, since the death of this extraordinary man, as it were in a mare clausum, in or out of which he, when living, never suffered himself to be confined or excluded.
In speaking of the too common practice of hoarding up manuscripts, and more particularly such as relate to history, where they remain unread and unseen, a writer in a popular journal observes, "though approaching tender ground, the interests of history, nevertheless, incline us to ask, whether the possessors of important historical documents act wisely in concealing them from the sight, not merely of the curious, but of the learned? For any useful purpose, these treasures might almost as well be destroyed. To hoard, and neither to enjoy ourselves, nor permit others to enjoy, however odious in the instance of wealth, is far more reprehensible with
regard to information; and we confess we feel little respect for the mind or disposition of him, who, by placing a seal on the true sources of knowledge, allows error to be perpetuated in the national annals."*
In transcribing the autograph letters of the Lord High Admiral and of Sir Francis Drake, I have as much as possible rigidly adhered to the phraseology and the spelling, which can scarcely be called systematic orthography, the same words being frequently written differently, at different times, and in the same letter. I thought it best to give a fac-simile to all of these documents, without any change, with the exception only of the writing, which is inimitably obscure, and so difficult to read, that a good deal of practice is necessary to be able to do even that, as will appear by inspecting the letter, which is a lithographic fac-simile of that of Drake, printed in page 300, and which is a correct specimen of his usual hand-writing, and among the best, that is, the most legible, I could find.
* Quarterly Review.