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The young earl was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, under the tutorage of the famous John Whitgift, afterwards primate of England, and soon exhibited a more than common attachment to the study of the mathematics. To his proficiency, indeed, in this pursuit, we may attribute that fondness for navigation and nautical science and adventure on which his subsequent celebrity was built.
On the 24th of June, 1577, he married the lady to whom he had been affianced in his childhood, the lady Margaret Russel, third daughter and youngest child of Francis second earl of Bedford; a connexion which, having been projected from motives of mere family convenience, and afterwards carried into effect without in any degree consulting the inclinations of the parties immediately concerned, was, like most bargains of this kind, productive of little else than mutual indifference and disappointment.
It was probably owing to this want of domestic comfort, combined with his taste for maritime enterprise, that induced him to commence that series of voyages which has given immortality to his name. It was a taste also, which if not absolutely, with
regard to himself, generated, was, at least, fostered and inflamed by the spirit of the times; for the Spariards were at this period fitting out thatArmada which they fondly flattered themselves was destined for the conquest of England, and it became of course the policy of Elizabeth and her ministers to encourage every effort which might diminish the resources and impede the preparations of the enemy.
There was, unfortunately, in the estimation of the earl of Cumberland, another powerful motive for these daring expeditions ; for being in the habit of seeking all his gratifications from home, and in the eye of the public, he was almost necessarily led into habits of profusion and extravagance, and, as a usual result, into great pecuniary embarrassments, from which he trusted to be liberated by the predatory warfare he was about to commence against Spain.
Thus instigated, at the age of twenty-eight, and in the year 1586, he equipped at his own expense a small fleet of three ships and a pinnace, with orders to cruise against and plunder the Spanish settlements in the South Sea. That he did not himself take the command of this first expedition may be attributed to the seductions of the court
of Elizabeth ; for being a man of great personal accomplishments, and without a rival in all the chivalric exercises of the joust and tournament, he had attracted the notice and the admiration of the queen ; a triumph which was not hastily to be relinquished, and which in the eye of a young man devoted to the romantic gallantry of the age appeared to be the summit of glory.
He was, however, soon called to another and more serious field of action ; for in 1588 he was one of the first among the brave who flew to oppose the Spanish Armada, then advancing to invade England. He commanded on that memorable occasion the Elizabeth Bonaventure, and, it is said, greatly distinguished himself, especially in the last engagement with the Spaniards near Calais.
Having been disappointed in the issue of the first voyage which he had projected, and which had failed in reaching according, to his directions, the South Sea, he determined on conducting a second himself; and the queen, grateful for his services, furnished him with a ship from the royal navy. He set sail in October, 1588, but this voyage proved much more disastrous than the former; for he was in a very early stage of it disabled and driven back
by a violent storm, and prevented reaching the Spanish coasts. Yet not discouraged, he undertook a third expedition the year following, still patronised by her majesty, who gave him the Victory for his flag-ship, in addition to three vessels of
In this attempt he succeeded not only in enriching himself and his crews by many captures, but in greatly interrupting the intercourse of Spain with her colonies, and in taking the strong town of Fiall in the Azores. He had, however, after having been severely wounded in one of his actions with the Spaniards, very nearly suffered death from thirst in sight of his native coast, which, owing to violent storms and contrary winds, he vainly endeavoured to reach. Of the great extremity to which he was reduced on this occasion by the want of fresh water, a melancholy and very interesting picture has been drawn by one of the sufferers, Ed. ward Wright, and who had accompanied the expedition as a mathematician, of very superior skill.
“ Soon after,” he relates, “ the wind came about to the eastward, so that we could not fetch any
. part of England. And hereupon also our allowance of drink, which was scant enough before, was yet more scanted, because of the scarcity thereof in
the ship. So that now a man was allowed but half a pint at a meal, and that many times cold water, and scarce sweet. Notwithstanding, this was an happy estate in comparison of that which followed : for from half a pint we came to a quarter, and that lasted not long neither; so that by reason of this great scarcity of drink, and contrariety of wind, we thought to put into Ireland, there to relieve our wants. But when we came near thither, we were driven so far to lee-ward, that we could fetch no part of Ireland. In the meantime we were allowed every man three or four spoons full of vinegar to drink at a meal: for other drink we had none, saving only at two or three meals, when we had instead hereof as much wine, which was wringed out of wine-lees that remained. With this hard fare (for by reason of our great want of drink we durst eat but very little), we continued for the space of a fortnight or thereabouts : saving that now and then we feasted for it in the meantime; and that was when there fell any hail or rain: the hail-stones we gathered up and did eat them more pleasantly than if they had been the sweetest comfits in the world. The rain drops were so carefully saved, that so near as we could, not one was lost in