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A Voyage to Virginia in 1609

Two Narratives: Strachey's "True Reportory" and Jourdain's Discovery of the Bermudas

William Strachey and Silvester Jourdain. Edited by Louis B. Wright. Foreword by Alden T. Vaughan

Publication Year: 2013

To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, the University of Virginia Press reissues its first-ever publication. The volume’s two accounts of the 1609 wreck of a Jamestown-bound ship offer a gripping sea adventure from the earliest days of American colonization, but the dramatic events’ even greater claim to fame is for serving as the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s last major work, The Tempest.

William Strachey was one of six hundred passengers sailing to Jamestown as part of the largest expedition yet to Virginia. A mere week from their destination, the fleet’s flagship, Sea Venture, met a tropical storm and wrecked on one of the islands of Bermuda. Strachey’s story might have ended there, but the castaways survived on the tropical island for eleven months and—in an act of almost incomprehensible resourcefulness—used local cedarwood, along with the wreckage of their own ship, to construct two seaworthy boats and continue successfully on their voyage.

Strachey’s frankness about his fellow travelers, mutinies on the island, and the wretched condition in which they finally found Jamestown kept his document from being officially published initially, but it circulated privately in London, where one of its early readers was William Shakespeare. The second narrative in this volume, by Strachey’s shipmate Silvester Jourdain, covers the same episode but includes many fascinating details that Strachey’s does not, including some that made their way into The Tempest.

Presented with modern spelling and punctuation, this great maritime drama and unforgettable firsthand look at the profound struggle to colonize America offers today’s reader the raw material that inspired Shakespeare’s masterpiece.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

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Foreword to the Second Edition

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pp. vii-xiv

This book's two narratives, both written in 1610 but the longer one not published until 1625, describe the Sea Venture's battering by a hurricane in the summer of 1609, its eventual crash near the Bermuda Islands, and the arrival in Virginia ten months later of nearly all the original passengers and crew. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

The two works reprinted here, inaugurating a projected series of contemporary narratives relating to the settlement of Virginia, have been much discussed as sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Both William Strachey and Silvester Jourdain were passengers on the ill-fated "Sea Venture," which wrecked in 1609 within sight of one of the Bermuda Islands ...

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pp. xvii-xxviii

When William Shakespeare sat down to write The Tempest he had fresh in his memory a vivid description of a hurricane and shipwreck from the pen of a passenger on the ill-fated ship, the "Sea Venture," l that foundered, en route to Virginia, in a tropical storm off the Bermuda Islands on July 28, 1609. ...

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pp. 3-34

Excellent lady, Know that upon Friday late in the evening we brake ground out of the sound of Plymouth, our whole fleet then consisting of seven good ships and two pinnaces, all which from the said second of June unto the twenty-third of July kept in friendly consort together, not a whole watch at any time losing the sight each of other. ...

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pp. 35-58

So soon as we were a little settled after our landing, with all the conveniency we might and as the place and our many wants would give us leave, we made up our longboat (as Your Ladyship hath heard) in fashion of a pinnace, fitting her with a little deck, made of the hatches of our ruined ship, ...

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pp. 59-83

From this time we only awaited a favorable westerly wind to carry us forth, which longer than usual now kept at the east and southeast, the way which we were to go. The tenth of May early, Sir George Somers and Captain Newport went off with their longboats and with two canoes buoyed the channel ...

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pp. 84-102

Upon His Lordship's landing at the south gate of the palisade (which looks into the river), our governor caused his company in arms to stand in order and make a guard. It pleased him that I should bear his colors for that time. His Lordship, landing, fell upon his knees and before us all made a long and silent prayer to himself, ...

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A Discovery of the Bermudas, Otherwise Called the Isle of Devils

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pp. 103-116

Being in [a] ship called the "Sea Venture," with Sir Thomas Gates our governor, Sir George Somers, and Captain Newport, three most worthy, honored gentlemen (whose valor and fortitude the world must needs take notice of, and that in most honorable designs) bound for Virginia, in the height of 30 degrees of northerly latitude or thereabouts ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813934693
E-ISBN-10: 0813934699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813934662
Print-ISBN-10: 0813934664

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: second edition

OCLC Number: 844940516
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Voyage to Virginia in 1609

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bermuda Islands -- History -- 17th century.
  • Sea Venture (Ship).
  • Shipwrecks -- Bermuda Islands.
  • Bermuda Islands -- Discovery and exploration -- British -- Early works to 1800.
  • Virginia -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
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