Early Tudor Drama: Medwall, the Rastells, Heywood, and the More Circle

By A. W. Reed | Go to book overview

RASTELL: APPENDIX I
JOHN RASTELL'S VOYAGE IN THE YEAR 1517

But they that were the venturers
Have cause to curse their maryners
Fals of promys and dissemblers
That falsly them betrayed.
-- Rastell Play of The Four Elements.

THAT a voyage had been attempted in or about the year 1517 is indicated by a passage in Eden's dedicatory preface to Münster Cosmographie ( 1553), when he says that to meet death in such attempts is more honourable than to die in soft beds at home among the tears of women. "Whiche manlye courage, yf it had not been wanting in other in these our dayes, at suche time as our soveryin Lord of noble memori King Henry the VIII about the same yere of his raygne (Anno VIII = 1516-17) furnished and sent forth certen shippes under the governaunce of Sebastian Cabot yet living and one Sir Thomas Perte (sic) whose faynt heart was the cause that the viage took none effect. . . ."

Sir Thomas Sperte was signing indentures on 10th July, 1517, with the Lord Admiral, Thomas, Earl of Surrey, on his appointment to the office of "balastyng of shippes in the Thames"1; but as I read the case, I see no need to correct Eden's reference, although it is obvious that Surrey himself was opposed to sending any part of his fleet across the Atlantic when it might be needed in the Channel.2 Sperte, Master of the Henri Grace à Dieu, was one of Henry's leading master mariners. The several mutinous mariners, who are mentioned in the law-suit, and the vessels, the Barbara and Mary Barking, are frequently met with in the naval records of the period. Cabot, however, I believe to have been innocent, and he is not referred to in the

____________________
1

R.O., A/cs. Excheqr Q.R., 57-17.

2

This in spite of the fact that Surrey may have been one of Rastell's sureties.

-187-

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