Preface D

Stage 3-4

by William Dampier Icon

From Captain Tristian, Dampier was transferred to another Frenchman, Captain Archemboe (probably Archambaut) but soon grew “weary of living with the French.”

Their sailors were “the saddest creatures that ever I was among.”

By insistence, he compelled Captain Wright to add him with other English to his crew.

The cruise in the Caribbean Sea described in Chapter 3, though it brought the pirates little profit, gave Dampier plenty of time for his favourite studies and observations. He was at the island of Aves little more than a year after the disaster to Count d’Estree’s fleet (February 1681) which he describes from hearsay. Off the Caracas coast he and 20 others took one of the ships and their share of the spoil and sailed off to Virginia. He does not specify the cause of the defection or the intention in choosing that destination. Of his 13 months’ stay there he says no more than that he fell into troubles of some sort.


In August 1683, he again joins the buccaneers in the Revenge, Captain Cook.

The cruise was a long one round the Horn and up the Pacific coast as described in Chapters 4 to 9. The course taken was to the Cape Verde Islands and Sierra Leone. Here the buccaneers boarded and took a fine Danish vessel, the Bachelor’s Delight, 36 guns, to which Cook transferred his crew. It was an act of piracy so flagrant, committed against a friendly nation, without such shadow of excuse as was deemed to justify harms to Spain, that Dampier is evidently ashamed to mention it. Cowley relates the incident without compunction.

Dampier sailed with Cook till his death at Cape Blanco in June 1684, thereafter with his successor, Captain Davis. On the Bachelor’s Delight he found “the men more under command than I have ever seen privateers, yet I could not expect to find them at a minute’s call.”

This is the only indication Dampier gives of his rating and Mr. Masefield suggests with some probability that he was second master or master’s mate under Ambrosia Cowley.* Cook was joined (March 1684) by Captain Eaton in the Nicholas, and in October, at Plata, by Captain Swan in the Cygnet.

*Footnote: William Ambrosia Cowley was master and pilot of the Revenge and sailed in her and the Bachelor’s Delight until the parting of Captains Davis and Eaton (September 1684). He joined Eaton and reached England by way of the East Indies in October 1686, having deserted Eaton at the Philippines. He published his narrative Captain Cowley’s Voyage round the World in 1699 (see further Masefield Volume 1 page 532). The book is interesting on some points of detail, but untrustworthy.) Swan’s case was a pitiful one: the Cygnet, fitted out by London merchants for lawful trade, had met Captain Peter Harris and a party of buccaneers at Nicoya with a considerable booty in hand. Swan’s men, with whom he had already had difficulties at the straits, were now seduced, and he was compelled to turn pirate. He was no backslider, however–it was by his order that Payta was burned to the ground in default of ransom (Chapter 6). Nevertheless his deflection from the path of virtue and duty weighed heavily on his mind. In a letter from Panama to a friend, quoted by Mr. Masefield, he asks him to assure his employers that “I do all I can to preserve their interests and that what I do now I could in no wise prevent. So desire them to do what they can with the King for me, for as soon as I can I shall deliver myself to the King’s justice.” His view now was that if the buccaneers were backed by the government “the King might make this whole kingdom of Peru tributary to him in two years’ time.” As he wrote the attack on the Lima fleet was impending, and he adds in a message to his wife, “I shall, with God’s help, do things which (were it with my Prince’s leave) would make her a lady: but now I cannot tell but it may bring me to a halter.” His end is told in Chapter 16.

The climax of this cruise was to have been the capture of the fleet carrying treasure from Lima to Panama. Davis and Swan had now (May 1685) been joined by Captains Townley and Harris, and by a French contingent under Captain Gronet. The growth of the piratical movement is seen in the numbers given by Dampier. The buccaneers had ten sail (six ships and four tenders, etc.) carrying no less than 960 men. They had, however, only 52 guns, these being in Davis’s and Swan’s ships. The Spaniards on the other hand had 14 sail, six of them “of good force,” with 174 guns in all. Everything went against the pirates. While they had the weather-gage Gronet failed them: the Spaniards by a ruse obtained the weather-gage, and a running fight round the bay ensued, from which the assailants were glad to escape. In the event of success there would have been no booty of plate, that having been already landed at Lavelia in view of a probable attack.*

(Footnote. The failure was attributed to Gronet, and he was cashiered, as Dampier relates at the close of Chapter 7. After a long cruise he fell in with Townley again and with him had better success. They sacked Grenada and Realejo. Subsequently in April 1686 he sacked Guayaquil and took a large booty, but he died of wounds received in the attack. Townley after parting with Gronet attacked and took Lavelia with much spoil, but in August 1686 met his end in an action with Spanish ships in the gulf of Panama. Masefield volume 1 page 538.) The noteworthy events of this cruise, besides captures of casual prizes, are the taking and burning of Payta, and the abortive attempt on Guayaquil (Chapter 6) the taking and burning of Leon in Nicaragua, where was killed an old buccaneer who had fought with Cromwell in Ireland; and the parting of Davis and Swan (Chapter 8). Dampier, “not from any dislike to my old captain but to get some knowledge of the Mexican coast,” joined up with Swan, who was minded to pass over to the East Indies, “which was a way very agreeable to my inclination.” Thus is first inferentially expressed his intention of circumnavigation, more than 6 1/2 years after he set out from England.

(*Footnote. Davis cruised for some time on the Pacific coast, returning with Lionel Wafer by way of the Horn to Virginia, where they settled for about three years. Arrested there for piracy they were sent to London for trial but were acquitted. After some years spent partly in London he returned to Jamaica, and on the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession joined a privateer in raids on the Spanish gold-mines. His account of this adventure is appended to the second edition of Wafer’s book 1704.) FIFTH STAGE.

On breaking with Davis Swan’s chief object in crossing the Pacific (Dampier probably sharing it) was to have done with buccaneering, and by honest trading to reinstate himself in the good graces of his employers. To induce his men to go with him, however, he was obliged to hold out hopes of further piracy in the East Indies. At Guam in the Ladrones he made no attempt to pursue an Acapulco ship, being “now wholly averse to any hostile action.” At Mindanao the party conducted themselves as traders and were hospitably entertained by the sultan. Little trade was available and thoughts were entertained of settling there, the men being now weary lotus-eaters. The six months’ residence at this place led to serious trouble: Swan became brutal and tyrannical towards his men, succumbed to the attractions of the town, and made long absences from his ship. Another mutiny was the result; the majority of the crew seized the ship, left Swan ashore, and sailed off under a new captain–Read. Dampier’s conduct on this occasion exhibits the same aloofness as on other occasions. He took no part in the men’s conspiracy, nor, on the other hand, as it would seem, in the attempt to get Swan aboard. In spite of his better feelings he became a pirate for another 18 months.


The voyage under Captain Read, from the buccaneering point of view, was a complete failure. Though “our business was to pillage,” only two prizes were taken and those of little account. Much sea and land, however, was explored, as is seen by the route–Manila, Pulo Condore, Formosa, Celebes, the north coast of Australia and the Nicobars. Here Dampier ended his buccaneering career of 8 1/2 years. The men had become more and more drunken, quarrelsome, and unruly, and Dampier looked for an opportunity to escape from “this mad crew.”* A canoe was obtained and Dampier, the surgeon, and another Englishman, with a few natives, set out for Achin. In his terror during a storm which threatened to overwhelm their puny craft Dampier “made sad reflections on my former life and looked back with horror and detestation on actions which before I disliked but now I trembled at the remembrance of.” In his escape from the dangers attendant on those actions curiously enough he recognised the protection of Heaven. “I did also call to mind the many miraculous acts of God’s Providence towards me in the whole course of my life.”

(Footnote. See below: “I did ever abhor drunkenness, which now our men that were abroad abandoned themselves wholly to.”) Whatever condemnation may be passed on Dampier’s long association with pirates it must be noted to his credit that during the whole period of this cruise in the archipelago, while his companions were drinking and brawling, he was studiously recording his observations. His six months’ residence at Mindanao provides us with a full description of plant and animal life, as also of the inhabitants, their government, religion, manners, and customs (Chapters 11 and 12). Here too comes on the scene that curious Prince Jeoly, the “painted prince,” whom Dampier brought to England for show and there sold as his only asset.

(*Footnote. Mr. Masefield quotes a broadsheet of the time (Dampier Voyage Volume 1 page 539) from which it appears that the prince was on view at the Blue Boar’s Head in Fleet Street.) SEVENTH STAGE.

From Achin, and for the rest of the circumnavigation, Dampier was for the most part a mere passenger. First a voyage to Tonquin with Captain Welden (July 1688 to April 1689) thence to Malacca and Fort George and back to Achin and Bencoolen, where he was employed as gunner in the English fort for five months. This section of his travels is omitted from the New Voyage and reserved for the Voyage to Tonquin. At Achin, as will be seen in Chapter 18, he learns the further adventures of Captain Read and his crew whom he had deserted at the Nicobars.


His eventful voyage now draws to a close (Chapters 19 and 20). Getting a passage from Bencoolen in the Defence, Captain Heath, Dampier arrived in the Downs on 16 September 1691, 12 1/2 years since he had left England. All buccaneer’s visions of a home-coming with ample booty in bar gold or pieces-of-eight had vanished, and he landed with no more marketable commodities than a tattooed native.


On his return to England Dampier was 39 years of age. Further great voyages were in store for him, each of which would require its own commentary. None, however, has been so attractive to the reading public as the New Voyage, it may be because the other expeditions, though comprising exploits and adventure, are hardly so attractive to law-abiding citizens as those to which additional zest is provided by contempt of law.

For six years nothing is known of Dampier’s life except that he was at Corunna in 1694, probably in a merchant ship. It is likely that he made other such voyages: in the intervals he was preparing his New Voyage for publication early in 1697. Its immediate success obtained for him an appointment at the customs house as land-carriage man, and in June of that year he was examined before the Council of Trade and Plantation with respect to possible settlements on the Isthmus of Darien. Early in 1698 he was again examined before the council with regard to an expedition against the pirates to the east of the Cape of Good Hope. His advice may have been sought partly on account of his piratical experience and partly because his book had shown that he had little heart in the business.


He now submitted to the government proposals for a new voyage of exploration to New Holland, which were accepted. He was appointed captain of the Roebuck, 21 guns, his first command, at the age of 47. He tells the story of his cruise in his Voyage to New Holland, published in two parts, 1703 and 1709. The expedition went awry from the first and for divers causes. His ship was unseaworthy for a long voyage, and he quarrelled with his men, especially with his lieutenant, Fisher, whom he put in irons and handed over as a prisoner to the Portuguese governor at Bahia. At Shark’s Bay, in Western Australia, scurvy and the lack of water and provisions broke his spirit and he turned homewards. After touching at Timor, Batavia, and the Cape he got his crazy vessel as far as Ascension where she foundered. There he got a passage in a man-of-war to Barbados and so home in a merchantman. From the point of view of exploration the voyage was no great success: he might have anticipated Cook, Furneaux, and Flinders, and he touched only the barren coast of Western Australia.* His failure was largely due to his employers, who gave him an unseaworthy and badly provisioned ship, and to his mutinous crew. It would be unjust to attribute the failure to his incompetency as a leader of men: all that is to be said is that in the conditions he did not succeed as such.

(Footnote. His name has, however, been rightly honoured in Australasia. There is the Dampier Strait at the west end of New Guinea and also a Dampier Island. Western Australia gives his name to a district and an archipelago: New South Wales to a county.) On his return he had to meet not only adverse criticism on his failure as an explorer, but also a court martial at the instance of Lieutenant Fisher. He was found guilty of “very hard and cruel usage towards Lieutenant Fisher,” for which the court held there were no grounds. He was fined all his pay and declared to be “not a fit person to be employed as commander of any of His Majesty’s ships.” We cannot question the judgment of a court the principal members of which were Sir George Rooke and Sir Cloudesley Shovell. It was one which in our time, when public opinion upholds legal decisions and requires governments to respect them, would be the end of an officer’s career. It was not so in Dampier’s case. We need not here consider whether the government disagreed with the judgment or merely disregarded it, because the War of the Spanish Succession had now broken out and Dampier’s buccaneering experience was wanted on behalf of the country. Private owners fitted out two privateers, the St. George and the Fame, Dampier being appointed to the former as commander. Ten months after the court martial he had an audience of the Queen to whom he was introduced by the Lord High Admiral, and kissed hands on his mission.

(*Footnote. That is his pay as captain: his pay as land-carriage man at the customs was by special order paid to him during his absence and went to the support of his wife.) THE ST. GEORGE VOYAGE.

The only account we possess of this privateering voyage is that of William Funnell, who was rated mate of the St. George, as he himself claims, or as steward according to Dampier. Funnell is a dull and malicious reporter and is not to be trusted when he deals with Dampier’s motives and conduct. Trouble began at the start, Captain Pulling in the Fame deserting him in the Downs. His place was taken at Kinsale (August 1703) by Captain Pickering in the Cinque Ports. On the Brazilian coast Pickering died and was succeeded by his lieutenant, Stradling. More quarrelling ensued, enhanced by the hardships of the passage round the Horn. Dissension between Stradling and his men led to the marooning of Alexander Selkirk on Juan Fernandez. The failure to take two enemy ships led to further recriminations and desertions. Dampier quarrelled with Stradling and left him at Tobago: he quarrelled also with his own mate, Clipperton, who went off with 21 men in a prize bark. After another failure to capture a Manila bark, he was deserted by Funnell and 34 men. His ship, being unseaworthy, was abandoned, and with his now reduced crew of about 30, in a prize brigantine, he crossed the Pacific to a Dutch island where they were imprisoned. Dampier did not reach England till the close of 1707. So began, continued and ended in disaster his second voyage of circumnavigation. Meanwhile Funnell had already published his damaging book.* Dampier would perhaps have written the story of the voyage himself but, being already engaged to go to sea, he contented himself with publishing his Vindication in language strangely different from that of the New Voyage. Mr. Masefield describes it as “angry and incoherent,” but it may fairly be regarded as being no more than a collection of notes jotted down in indignation and hot haste, preparatory to a more reasoned vindication later.**

(*Footnote. Funnell by his references in his preface to the popularity of Dampier’s previous work evidently intended to forestall Dampier by passing off his book as another Dampier voyage.) (**Footnote. Funnell’s Voyage round the World was published in 1707. Dampier got home later in that year and left again with Woodes Rogers 2 August 1708. Some of Funnell’s passages relating to Dampier and the Vindication, also the Answers to the Vindication, by John Welbe, a midshipman on board Captain Dampier’s ship, are set out in Mr. Masefield’s admirable edition of the Voyages, Volume 2 pages 576 to 593. Welbe’s answers are spiteful and probably in great part untrue. As Mr. Masefield points out he contradicts them in a material particular in a subsequent letter of 1722 preserved in the Townshend manuscripts.) THE DUKE AND DUTCHESS VOYAGE.

When Dampier returned from his second voyage as captain the merchants of Bristol were already organising a privateering expedition to the Pacific under Captain Woodes Rogers, and the honourable office of pilot was offered to Dampier. Of all his voyages this was probably the happiest to himself. The expedition was lawful and gave him no qualms of conscience; he was free from the cares and responsibilities of supreme command; he served under one of the most competent captains of the time, and his experience and ability as a navigator, as well as his wise counsel, enabled him to contribute largely to the success of the venture. The two vessels were the Duke and Dutchess, Dampier sailing on the former with Rogers. In the list of officers he is described as “William Dampier, Pilot for the South Seas, who had been already three times there and twice round the World.” Perhaps profiting by the experience of Dampier’s previous ill-equipped expeditions, the merchants had provided the ships so liberally with provisions and gear that the between decks were badly encumbered, and the ships “altogether in a very unfit state to engage an enemy.” The crews indeed were of the same unpromising material with which Dampier was familiar. About one-third were foreigners, the rest landsmen, “tailors, tinkers, pedlars, fiddlers and hay-makers.” Between Cork, “where our crew were continually marrying,” and the Canaries a dangerous mutiny broke out which Rogers promptly put down, imposing upon a ringleader the indignity of being whipped by a fellow-conspirator. Troubles with the crew were, however, to a large extent obviated by the payment of regular wages: the contract of employment on the St. George had been the vicious one of “no prey, no pay.” Moreover Rogers was wise enough to share his responsibility with his officers, and all questions of importance were referred to committees, Dampier’s name being on nearly every list. Discipline was thus preserved and the cruise resulted in the capture of many prizes and a very large booty, which unhappily did not benefit Dampier, as the distribution was delayed till after his death.*

(Footnote. The booty amounted to about 170,000 pounds, a large share going to Woodes Rogers. He was able to rent the Bahama Islands from the lords proprietors for 21 years and became their governor. See Rogers, W., in the Dictionary of National Biography.) The most interesting feature of this voyage was the rescue of Alexander Selkirk from the island of Juan Fernandez, which the ships might not have hit without Dampier’s knowledge of the winds. The meeting with his countrymen after his desolate life of four years is told by Woodes Rogers with unconscious art, and one cannot help favourably comparing the inarticulate Selkirk with the expansive Ben Gunn of Treasure Island. Dampier took a leading part in the scene; he was able to tell Rogers that Selkirk was the best man in the Cinque Ports, from which he had been marooned; so, says Rogers, “I immediately agreed with him to be a mate on board our ship.”**

(*Footnote. Woodes Rogers published the account of the voyage, A New Cruising Voyage round the World 1712.) (**Footnote. The various lives of Alexander Selkirk are well summarised in the Dictionary of National Biography. It is probable that Selkirk did not alone provide the suggestion of Robinson Crusoe. Defoe had also before him Dampier’s account of the rescue of the marooned Moskito Indian in Chapter 4.) After his return from his last voyage Dampier lived 3 1/2 years more, probably in London, where he died in the parish of St. Stephen, Coleman Street, in March 1715. His will dated 29 November 1714 was proved on 23 March 1715. He described himself as “diseased and weak of body, but of sound and perfect mind,” and left nine-tenths of his property to his cousin, Grace Mercer, the remaining tenth to his brother, George Dampier, of Porton, in the county of somerset. the large share of his property bequeathed to his cousin may indicate that she looked after him in his last years. His wife had probably predeceased him, as she is not mentioned in the will. By a previous will made before 1703 he had left a sum of 200 pounds to his friend, Edward Southwell, to be disposed of as he should think best for his wife’s use. On the starting of the St. George cruise however he was constrained to put that sum into the venture.


Dampier is an attractive character, but do what one will, one cannot make a hero of him. Nor indeed does he seem to be quite in his right place on the roll of Men of Action, with a biography by W. Clark Russell.*

(*Footnote. Dampier, by W. Clark Russell Men of Action Series. The author is strangely inaccurate in some matters. He says it does not appear that Dampier was ever married, and he observes that after the Roebuck voyage Dampier had already twice circumnavigated the globe. The second round was that on which he started in the St. George.) During the whole of the cruises comprised in the New Voyage he served either before the mast or as a subordinate officer, and was never chosen for the command of a ship or an expedition; his advice does not appear to have been asked, and when proffered was seldom followed. He took no leading part in the various mutinies, keeping his mind to himself until he had to take one side or the other. He is once respectfully mentioned as Mr. William Dampier by Cowley, but never once, so far as I have discovered, in the other narratives of Ringrose, Cox or Sharp. His whole time, so far as not interrupted by raids or the quarrels of his rowdy associates, was devoted to close observation of winds and tides, geography, plants and animal life. He was in fact a student carrying for the nonce the fusee and hanger of a buccaneer. In happier days, and with a sounder scientific education, his status in a world cruise might have been that of Darwin on the Beagle.

His first command of a ship at the age of 47 could not have been conferred owing to reputation as a leader of men. The Roebuck expedition was an official voyage of exploration initiated by his own suggestion, and the conduct of it was given to him, there can be little doubt, on the strength of his book, the New Voyage. The lack of success, however attributable to the unseaworthiness and ill-provisioning of the ship, and to the unmanageable crew, was not so damaging to his reputation as an explorer as was the judgment of the court martial to his capacity as a captain. His second chance, as privateersman in the St. George, was equally unfortunate in the result. Here again he had to deal with an unseaworthy ship and dissolute crews. In both these cases he came home without his ship, and had to meet adverse criticism by recriminations. Whatever excuse may be found in the adverse conditions–and there is undoubtedly much–it can hardly be said that Dampier has established a claim to be regarded as a leader of men. His rough experience and scientific attainments no doubt made him a first-rate navigator, but a reputation as an explorer cannot be founded upon a single ineffectual visit to the coasts of Australia.

Dampier’s true distinction seems to me to lie in the scientific and literary merits of his writings. There is scientific research in all his books, notably in his Discourse of Winds, Breezes, Storms, Tides and Currents, a treatise which has preserved its usefulness to the present day. The exciting adventures of his buccaneering life are told in the modest and simple language of his time, which charms us equally in the autobiographical fiction of Swift and Defoe. As Leslie Stephen says of Treasure Island, we throw ourselves into the events, enjoy the thrilling excitement, and do not bother ourselves with questions of psychology. His contributions to nautical science are extolled by those best qualified to judge. I will quote two naval authorities who testify also to the literary charm of the writing. First Captain Burney*: “It is not easy to name another voyager or traveller who has given more useful information to the world; to whom the merchant and mariner are so much indebted; or who has communicated his information in a more unembarrassed and intelligible a manner. And this he has done in a style perfectly unassuming, equally free from affectation and from the most distant appearance of invention.” Admiral Smyth** is equally eulogistic: “The information he affords flows as from a mind which possesses the mastery of its subject, and is desirous to communicate it. He delights and instructs by the truth and discernment with which he narrates the incidents of a peculiar life; and describes the attractive and important realities of nature with a fidelity and sagacity that anticipate the deductions of philosophy. Hence he was the first who discovered and treated of the geological structure of sea coasts; and though the local magnetic attraction in ships had fallen under the notice of seamen, he was among the first to lead the way to its investigation since the facts that ‘stumbled’ him at the Cape of Good Hope, respecting the variations of the compass, excited the mind of Flinders, his ardent admirer, to study the anomaly. His sterling sense enabled him to give the character without the strict forms of science to his faithful delineations and physical suggestions: and inductive enquirers have rarely been so much indebted to any adventurer whose pursuits were so entirely remote from their subjects of speculation.”

(*Footnote. A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean 1803 to 1817.) (*Footnote. United Service Journal 1837 Parts 2 and 3.) Those who have excellently well adjudged Dampier’s merits in science and literature have hardly done justice to his personal character. On the debit side some will reckon the unfortunate court martial, but any good man may, in the stress of difficulties attending a sea-command, exercise undue severity in the maintenance of his authority: and no doubt Lieutenant Fisher was a trying subordinate. The Admiralty do not seem to have taken quite the same view of the case as the court, as they shortly afterwards gave Dampier a privateer’s commission. Then there is the fact that he was a buccaneer. On this point references have already been made to the laxity of public opinion on that subject in his day. It cannot be said that in joining the buccaneers Dampier mistook his vocation. That in modern parlance was research, and he could not in his day have obtained opportunities for research in the distant Caribbean and Pacific Seas except with the buccaneers. He was with them, but hardly one of them. As he was less of a buccaneer, so, as I believe, he was more of a gentleman. I have thus no need to claim or admit that “he was the mildest-mannered man that ever scuttled ship or cut a throat.” There is no evidence that he did either, and one likes to think he did not.

(*Footnote. Mr. Masefield quotes one of Dampier’s marginal notes on the Sloane Manuscript 3236: “I came into these seas this second time more to indulge my curiosity than to get wealth, though I must confess at that time I did think the trade lawful.”) Although he was not an active buccaneer he seems to have done his duty by his associates; at any rate no complaints against him in this respect are recorded. He took his share in their strenuous labour whether afloat or ashore, without mingling in their drinking bouts and quarrels; and all the while he was carefully writing up his journal day by day, and adding to his observations of nature. He affords a bright example of strength of character in the pursuit of knowledge under the most adverse conditions.

What is most conspicuous in Dampier’s writings is his modesty and self-effacement; and I conclude that this, one of the hallmarks of a gentleman, was his demeanour in conversation and society. He unconsciously gives us a glimpse of his character when he tells us in Chapter 3 of the pressing invitation which he had from the captain and lieutenant of a French man-of-war to go back with them to France. Evidently charmed with his conversation, they saw how different a man he was from his ruffian associates. Though engaged in piracy he was always in favour of justice, and thus writes of Captain Davis’s men (he being a Davis man himself) as being “so unreasonable that they would not allow Captain Eaton’s men an equal share with them in what they got” (see below). It is a further tribute to his character that when he was at home he had the patronage and help of Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax, and the friendship of such men as Sir Robert Southwell, a president of the Royal Society, his son Edward Southwell, a Secretary of State for Ireland, and Sir Hans Sloane, who showed his respect for Dampier by having his portrait painted by Thomas Murray*–the face is that of a grave, thoughtful and resolute man. Much the most interesting sidelight on his social quality, however, is thrown by John Evelyn’s record of his dinner with Mr. Pepys on 6 August 1698:

“I dined with Mr. Pepys, where was Captain Dampier, who had been a famous buccaneer, had brought hither the painted prince Job, and printed a relation of his very strange adventure, and his observations. He was now going abroad again by the King’s encouragement, who furnished a ship of 290 tons. He seemed a more modest man than one would imagine by relation of the crew he had assorted with. He brought a map of his observations of the course of the winds in the South Seas, and assured us that the maps hitherto extant were all false as to the Pacific Sea, which he makes on the south of the line, that on the north end running by the coast of Peru being extremely tempestuous.”

(*Footnote. The picture now in the National Portrait Gallery is reproduced here.) It would seem that Evelyn expected to meet a swashbuckler and found a modest and courteous gentleman, with perhaps much to tell of his life’s adventures, but for the moment chiefly concerned with his objection to calling an ocean pacific unless it is so. How pleasant it would have been for any person, however eminent, to have made a fourth at that dinner!


When we come to investigate the text of this delightful book we find some difficulties which have to be met and solved. The story and the scientific observations are undoubtedly Dampier’s, for which he must have the entire credit. It was however charged against him in his own day that the literary style or polish was contributed by some unknown assistant or collaborator. This was believed by Swift, who evidently loved Dampier and was probably much influenced by him in his methods of narration as, indeed, is indicated by his reference to Dampier as Lemuel Gulliver’s cousin. That Dampier had some aid in preparing his work for the press is admitted by himself in the Preface to the Voyage to New Holland. He there refers to the charge that he has “published things digested and drawn up by others,” and he retorts: “I think it so far a diminution to one of my education and employment to have what I write revised and corrected by friends; that on the contrary the best and most eminent authors are not ashamed to own the same thing, and look upon it as an advantage.”

It is difficult, if not impossible, now to discover the extent or nature of the assistance which Dampier obtained. The “copy” of the voyage as printed does not appear to exist, and the Sloane Manuscript account of it is in the clear script of a copyist, the marginal notes only being in Dampier’s hand. The manuscript is much shorter than the printed book. It comprises the story of the voyage, but lacks the observations in natural history: on the other hand it includes (1) Wafer’s account (taken “out of his own writing”) of his life among the Indians of the Isthmus, (2) the account of the voyage of captain Swan before he joined Dampier’s party, and (3) the antecedent adventures of Captain Harris, all of which are omitted from the book. A perplexing factor is that the Sloane Manuscript contains in the copyist’s writing the references (A) (B) etc., to the marginal notes afterwards supplied by Dampier. Other marginal notes are added, these indicated by a pointing hand. In some cases the marginal note is incorporated in the book, in others disregarded. Sometimes, too, a jotting from the journal as to an unimportant day’s doing is omitted from the book. In some places the printed book alters the manuscript in a material point.* Thus the manuscript represents only one step in the preparation of the book text. Being in a copyist’s hand, it may be only a fair copy of Dampier’s not always quite legible writing: or it may be a version of his journal with some little polish administered by a literary friend. It is clear that his natural history notes were composed and kept separately from his journal. They comprise observations made at various places and at different and often subsequent periods of his travels: and they are sometimes pitch-forked into the book at odd junctures.

(*Footnote. For instance (see below 30 April 1681) we read “that we might the better work our escape from our enemies.” In the manuscript the words are “that we might the better work our designs on our enemies.”) A NEW VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD. Describing particularly The Isthmus of America, Several Coasts and Islands in the West Indies, the Isles of Cape Verde, the Passage by Tierra del Fuego, the South Sea Coasts of Chile, Peru, and Mexico; the isle of Guam one of the Ladrones, Mindanao, and other Philippine and East India Islands near Cambodia, China, Formosa, Luconia, Celebes, etc. New Holland, Sumatra, Nicobar Isles, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helena. Their Soil, Rivers, Harbours, Plants, Fruits, Animals, and Inhabitants. Their Customs, Religion, Government, Trade, etc. VOLUME 1. By Captain WILLIAM DAMPIER. Illustrated with MAPS and DRAUGHTS. The SEVENTH EDITION, Corrected. LONDON: Printed for JAMES and JOHN KNAPTON, at the Crown in St. Paul’s Churchyard. M DCC XXIX.

DEDICATION. To the Right Honourable Charles Montagu, Esquire; President of the Royal Society, One of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, etc. SIR,

May it please you to pardon the boldness of a stranger to your person, if upon the encouragement of common fame, he presumes so much upon your candour, as to lay before you this account of his travels. As the scene of them is not only remote, but for the most part little frequented also, so there may be some things in them new even to you; and some, possibly, not altogether unuseful to the public: and that just veneration which the world pays, as to your general worth, so especially to that zeal for the advancement of knowledge, and the interest of your country, which you express upon all occasions, gives you a particular right to whatever may any way tend to the promoting these interests, as an offering due to your merit. I have not so much of the vanity of a traveller as to be fond of telling stories, especially of this kind; nor can I think this plain piece of mine deserves a place among your more curious collections: much less have I the arrogance to use your name by way of patronage for the too obvious faults, both of the author and the work. Yet dare I avow, according to my narrow sphere and poor abilities, a hearty zeal for the promoting of useful knowledge, and of anything that may never so remotely tend to my country’s advantage: and I must own an ambition of transmitting to the public through your hands these essays I have made toward those great ends, of which you are so deservedly esteemed the patron. This has been my design in this publication, being desirous to bring in my gleanings here and there in remote regions to that general magazine of the knowledge of foreign parts, which the Royal Society thought you most worthy the custody of, when they chose you for their President: and if in perusing these papers your goodness shall so far distinguish the experience of the author from his faults as to judge him capable of serving his country, either immediately, or by serving you, he will endeavour by some real proofs to show himself,


Your Most Faithful,

Devoted, Humble Servant,

W. Dampier.

PREFACE Before the reader proceed any further in the perusal of this work I must bespeak a little of his patience here to take along with him this short account of it. It is composed of a mixed relation of places and actions in the same order of time in which they occurred: for which end I kept a journal of every day’s observations.

In the description of places, their product, etc., I have endeavoured to give what satisfaction I could to my countrymen; though possibly to the describing several things that may have been much better accounted for by others: choosing to be more particular than might be needful, with respect to the intelligent reader, rather than to omit what I thought might tend to the information of persons no less sensible and inquisitive, though not so learned or experienced. For which reason my chief care has been to be as particular as was consistent with my intended brevity in setting down such observables as I met with. Nor have I given myself any great trouble since my return to compare my discoveries with those of others: the rather because, should it so happen that I have described some places or things which others have done before me, yet in different accounts, even of the same things, it can hardly be but there will be some new light afforded by each of them. But after all, considering that the main of this voyage has its scene laid in long tracts of the remoter parts both of the East and West Indies, some of which very seldom visited by Englishmen, and others as rarely by any Europeans, I may without vanity encourage the reader to expect many things wholly new to him, and many others more fully described than he may have seen elsewhere; for which not only in this voyage, though itself of many years continuance, but also several former long and distant voyages have qualified me.

As for the actions of the company among whom I made the greatest part of this voyage, a thread of which I have carried on through it, it is not to divert the reader with them that I mention them, much less that I take any pleasure in relating them: but for method’s sake, and for the reader’s satisfaction; who could not so well acquiesce in my description of places, etc., without knowing the particular traverses I made among them; nor in these, without an account of the concomitant circumstances: besides, that I would not prejudice the truth and sincerity of my relation, though by omissions only. And as for the traverses themselves, they make for the reader’s advantage, how little soever for mine; since thereby I have been the better enabled to gratify his curiosity; as one who rambles about a country can give usually a better account of it than a carrier who jogs on to his inn without ever going out of his road.

As to my style, it cannot be expected that a seaman should affect politeness; for were I able to do it, yet I think I should be little solicitous about it in a work of this nature. I have frequently indeed divested myself of sea-phrases to gratify the land reader; for which the seamen will hardly forgive me: and yet, possibly, I shall not seem complaisant enough to the other; because I still retain the use of so many sea-terms. I confess I have not been at all scrupulous in this matter, either as to the one or the other of these; for I am persuaded that, if what I say be intelligible, it matters not greatly in what words it is expressed.

For the same reason I have not been curious as to the spelling of the names of places, plants, fruits, animals, etc., which in any of these remoter parts are given at the pleasure of travellers, and vary according to their different humours: neither have I confined myself to such names as are given by learned authors, or so much as enquired after many of them. I write for my countrymen; and have therefore, for the most part, used such names as are familiar to our English seamen, and those of our colonies abroad, yet without neglecting others that occurred. As it might suffice me to have given such names and descriptions as I could I shall leave to those of more leisure and opportunity the trouble of comparing these with those which other authors have assigned.

The reader will find as he goes along some references to an appendix which I once designed to this book; as, to a chapter about the winds in different parts of the world; to a description of the Bay of Campeachy in the West Indies, where I lived long in a former voyage; and to a particular chorographical description of all the South Sea coast of America, partly from a Spanish manuscript, and partly from my own and other travellers’ observations, besides those contained in this book. But such an appendix would have swelled it too unreasonably: and therefore I chose rather to publish it hereafter by itself, as opportunity shall serve. And the same must be said also as to a particular voyage from Achin in the isle of Sumatra, to Tonquin, Malacca, etc., which should have been inserted as part of this general one; but it would have been too long, and therefore, omitting it for the present, I have carried on this, next way from Sumatra to England; and so made the tour of the world correspondent to the title.

For the better apprehending the course of the voyage and the situation of the places mentioned in it I have caused several maps to be engraven, and some particular charts of my own composure. Among them there is in the map of the American Isthmus, a new scheme of the adjoining Bay of Panama and its islands, which to some may seem superfluous after that which Mr. Ringrose has published in the History of the Buccaneers; and which he offers as a very exact chart. I must needs disagree with him in that, and doubt not but this which I here publish will be found more agreeable to that bay, by one who shall have opportunity to examine it; for it is a contraction of a larger map which I took from several stations in the bay itself. The reader may judge how well I was able to do it by my several traverses about it, mentioned in this book; those, particularly, which are described in the 7th chapter, which I have caused to be marked out with a pricked line; as the course of my voyage is generally in all the maps, for the reader’s more easy tracing it.

I have nothing more to add, but that there are here and there some mistakes made as to expression and the like, which will need a favourable correction as they occur upon reading. For instance, the log of wood lying out at some distance from sides of the boats described at Guam, and parallel to their keel, which for distinction’s sake I have called the little boat, might more clearly and properly have been called the side log, or by some such name; for though fashioned at the bottom and ends boatwise, yet is not hollow at top, but solid throughout. In other places also I may not have expressed myself so fully as I ought: but any considerable omission that I shall recollect or be informed of I shall endeavour to make up in those accounts I have yet to publish; and for any faults I leave the reader to the joint use of his judgment and candour.


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