The exquisitely detailed story of the 17th-century ship that helped inspire Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
In his debut, Woodward, the associate editor of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, recounts the tale of the beleaguered Sea Venture, which set out from England in 1609 for the colony of Jamestown in the New World. One of the passengers was William Strachey, a writer with literary ambitions who kept a detailed account of the trip. Nearly two months into the voyage, a hurricane struck and a massive wave crippled the ship. Unable to continue to Jamestown, the Sea Venture limped to the island of Bermuda. The crew stayed there for several months, subsisting on the sweet waters of the island’s ponds and the meat of birds, wild hogs and giant sea turtles. Some voyagers wished to remain on Bermuda, causing an open revolt. When the remaining crew members were finally able to continue to Jamestown, they found it decimated by starvation. Strachey wrote home about his ordeal, and the story became well-known in England—and served as one of the inspirations for The Tempest, which Strachey had the opportunity to see when he returned home. Woodward extracts a striking richness of imagery from 400-year-old sources—life on Bermuda comes across as strange and beautiful; Jamestown, a hell on earth. The author’s acute sensitivity to the hardships of the settlers will help readers gain a new appreciation for their exceedingly difficult lives.
A skillfully written history of the trials of some the earliest American colonists.