Thursday, June 13, 2013

"A Brave Vessel" by Hobson Woodward (2006)

Here is a story which I apparently missed, and it’s a good one. One evening in 1611, Richard Strachey was sitting in a theater in England watching a play by William Shakespeare, a new one called “The Tempest”, when he began to recognize portions of the dialogue as being overly familiar. It should not have come as such a surprise, as Mr. Strachey had written those same words; or at least ones very close to it; when he had written home during a voyage to rescue the colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, about 2 years earlier. He had also written about his experiences for a few small publications, which had undoubtedly crossed the eyes of the Great Bard.

Although Shakespeare’s play is an allegorical one, the island depicted in it is decidedly based upon the real island of Bermuda, the place Mr. Strachey found himself stranded when his vessel broke apart in a storm while headed to Jamestown. From that island the survivors were able to reach Virginia and in some measure keep the colony alive during the first few winters.

The Sea Venture was one of nine ships which set sail on a voyage to establish connections between Jamestown and England. During the voyage across, every obstacle that could befall a ship and her crew was visited upon these nine vessels. The Sea Venture, with a compliment of 153, all survived and found them- selves aground in Bermuda. From there, going directly west, they could make landfall near the colony of Jamestown. But first they would have to survive themselves, as well as repair their ship.

Author Hobson Woodson really got my attention with this story, which was unfamiliar to me. It delivers just the right hint of scandal, without compromising the accuracy of the real history. Had the Sea Venture failed in her mission, the history of the colonization of America might well have been written differently than it turned out. 

The book was released in 2006, and it sits in the “stacks”, apparently seldom read, of my local library. This is what I love most about libraries. You can wander the aisles and sometimes there is nothing there at all. But then; on another visit; a book which you passed by hundreds of times, catches your eye. 

And, for some odd reason or another; perhaps the cover, or the weather; you pick it up and take it home. That’s when you find something which enriches your life with some new found knowledge, seemingly unimportant in the past, but which you just couldn't live without knowing about now.

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