Desirous to See the Strange Things of the World: Part Two

horePart Two. [Or start at the beginning.]

Despite the initial excitement, the next part of the voyage seems curiously aimless. Another unspecified amount of time passed, during which there is nothing to indicate the ship moved to a different part of the country, let alone on to another harbor. Dawbeney told Hakluyt that the expedition “grew into great want of victuals” while “lying there.” Where exactly “there” was is not specified. Hungry men began stealing fish from the nest of a nearby osprey. As they grew increasingly desperate, forage parties went ashore and gathered “raw herbes and rootes” for sustenance. According to Dawbeney, even this was not sufficient to relieve the men’s hunger. During one of these foraging expeditions, one “fellowe killed his mate while he stooped to take vp a roote for his reliefe, and cutting out pieces of his bodie whom he had murthered, broyled the same on the coles and greedily deuoured them.” One by one, the foraging party started to dwindle.

The text is vague here, unfortunately, and does not state if this became a party-wide conspiracy or remained an isolated phenomenon. One thing that is clear in this passage is that those left aboard ship were ignorant of the actions taking place ashore, although whether this refers to the cannibalism or the simple fact that people were disappearing is indistinct. Ultimately, the cannibals were discovered when one member of the shipboard group, “driuen with hunger to seeke abroade for reliefe,” came across the scent of cooked meat and followed it to its source.11 An angry scene ensued. The newcomer accused his comrade of hoarding a food source and leaving those aboard ship to starve. Thus pressed, the guilty party “burst out into these wordes: If thou wouldest needes know, the broyled meate that I had was a piece of such a mans buttocke.”12

A sixteenth century depiction of Native American cannibalism.

A sixteenth century depiction of Native American cannibalism.

This startling revelation was brought back to the ship. In another ambiguous passage, the captain (whose name is not given) was informed of what had passed. It is difficult to ascertain here exactly what the previous state of affairs had been (whether those aboard ship had truly known about missing party members or not). The text indicates that the captain may have been told that party members had been disappearing, but that they had been “deuoured with wilde beastes… [or] destroyed by Sauages.”13 With the truth now out, the captain delivered an impassioned oration, condemning the cannibals and declaring that “it had bene better to haue perished in body, and to haue liued euerlastingly, then to haue relieued for a poore time their mortal bodyes, and to bee condemned euerlastingly, both body and soule to the vnquenchable fire of hell.”14

Despite these noble sentiments, morality could not bear the pressure of hunger. As the men continued to starve, they began seriously reconsidering the idea of cannibalism. Ultimately, they decided to cast lots to see who would be killed to save the rest. Obviously, the seamen must have considered the ship to now be unseaworthy, for it does not stand to reason why they did not put to sea and attempt a passage home (or at least to a less barren location). In a classic example of deus ex machina, just as the hungry expedition members had begun the process of determining who would go first, a French vessel, “well furnished with vittaile,” happened to come into the harbor.15 The English fell upon the French and seized their vessel, abandoning both the French sailors and the now unseaworthy Trinity. Thus saved, Hore’s expedition sailed off for England and left the French stranded in Newfoundland.

Here the primary narrator shifts again. The authorship of the following paragraph is ambiguous, but seems more consistent with Thomas Buts’ account than with what Oliver Dawbeney reported. This narrator tells of the wonders of the sea voyage back to England. He seems to have forgotten the alleged hardships of Newfoundland. On the voyage back to England, the ship (or ships; again, there is no mention of whether the two ships rejoined or not) passed icebergs, on which were “haukes and other foules,” as well as “certaine great white foules with red bils and red legs, some what bigger then Herons, which they supposed to be Storkes.”16 This is one of the few parts of the narrative which sound similar to other contemporary accounts – listings (or at least somewhat more detailed descriptions) of flora, fauna, and natural phenomena conveyed in a marveling tone.

Dunster Castle in Somerset, home of Sir John Luttrell. Photo by DaveOnFlickr & used with a Creative Commons License.

Dunster Castle in Somerset, home of Sir John Luttrell. Photo by DaveOnFlickr & used with a Creative Commons License.

The vessel (or vessels) reached England in October 1536, some six months after departing Gravesend. They made landfall in Cornwall, and from there traveled overland back to London, stopping at the castle of Sir John Luttrell, where they were “very friendly entertained.” From there, the party visited the Earl of Bath and progressed from there through Bristol to London. This part of the narrative definitely comes from Buts’ source material, as Buts apparently told Hakluyt that he was “so changed in the voyage with hunger and miserie, that sir William his father17 and my Lady his mother knew him not to be their sonne, vntill they found a secret marke which was a wart vpon one of his knees.”18 As proof of the story’s authenticity, Hakluyt finished the narrative by mentioning that he “rode 200. miles onely to learne the whole trueth of this voyage from [Buts’] own mouth, as being the onely man now aliue that was in this discouerie.”19

[Next chapter]
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Portrait of Sir William Butts, father of Thomas Buts. Portrait by Hans Holbein, 1543.

Portrait of Sir William Butts, father of Thomas Buts. Portrait by Hans Holbein, 1543.

11 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
12 ibid
13 ibid
14 ibid
15 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
16 ibid
17 Thomas Buts’ father was Sir William Butts of Futham, who married Margaret Bacon in 1505. From Jorge Castelli’s excellent online resource for Tudor-era genealogy, “Tudor Place.” [Available online] Argentina [cited: December 2005]; available from http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/WilliamButts.htm18 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
19 ibid

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