« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ART. III.-State Papers relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, anno 1588. Edited by JOHN KNOX LAUGHTON, M.A., R.N. Printed for the Navy Records Society. 2 vols. London: 1894.
HESE volumes compose the first publication of a society. which has undertaken a task in the prosecution of which it deserves to be encouraged by every patriotic British subject. The Navy Records Society, as we learn from its prospectus, has been established for the purpose of printing rare or unpublished works of naval interest, and aims at rendering accessible the sources of our naval history. The general indifference of English historical writers, especially those of our own age, to naval affairs has aroused the astonishment of foreigners. It may be stated with confidence that in no maritime country in the world has less attention been paid to the naval side of the national history than in our own. This has not been always, if ever, due to a want of sympathy with the actors in the great maritime drama which has for its dénouement the British Empire as we now see it. The illustrious writer whose loss we are still mourning-Professor J. A. Froude-was not only an enthusiastic admirer of the deeds of English seamen : he was also passionately attached to the sea, and had no mean practical knowlege of seamanship himself. More than any other Englishman he has spread abroad amongst his countrymen a knowledge of the deeds of the Elizabethan seamen, amongst whom were the men whose share in the great events of 1588 is described, in many cases by themselves, in these two volumes. Whatever charges of inaccuracy or want of precision may be made against him, no one can deny that he used his admirable power of dramatic presentation to make these worthies live again for his contemporaries, and that his inimitably pellucid style reached no higher point than when it was employed in narrating or commenting on their exploits.
Notwithstanding this, our naval history has not received, at the hands of our own fellow-subjects at least, the treatment to which its importance entitles it, and which, as we believe the contents of these volumes will go far to prove, its intrinsic interest would justify. It is a really surprising fact that no one has yet been found to give us a continuation of the work of Sir Harris Nicolas. This being so, we hail
This is said in no disparagement of the work of such writers as Mr. Oppenheim and others, whose occasional papers are of great value.
with especial pleasure the appearance of this Navy Records Society publication. The guise in which it appears is decidedly attractive. The binding is neat and appropriate. The printing and paper are admirable; and we hope that we are right in inferring from the excellence of both that the funds of the Society are in a satisfactory condition. But this is a work which has strong claims on public support, and for the sum of one guinea the subscribers will receive two highly interesting volumes annually.
Of the manner in which Professor Laughton has performed his editorial work we must speak at greater length. The Professor's unrivalled knowledge of naval history, and his considerable experience of naval life, qualify him especially for the task of editing the memorials of one of the most momentous periods in the annals of our fleet. High expectations were formed of the manner in which be would acquit himself, and they have not been disappointed. Mere editing— in the sense of preparing transcripts of old documents for the press and appending short comments to them-was but a small part of his labour. The book as it stands is largely his own production. The documents which it contains had to be selected from a great mass of official papers, and the task of selecting them must have been a more difficult and onerous one than that of editing' the selection when made. Opinions may differ as to the inclusion or omission of one document or another; but we anticipate a very general acceptance of the conclusion that, taken as a whole, no better selection could have been made. Where there is disagreement as to the importance of any particular paper, we think it nearly certain that no one would be more readily taken as arbiter than Professor Laughton. The notes of the editor leave nothing to be desired. They are never too long; they contain interesting, and quite sufficient, biographical information about the persons whose names occur in the text; and they explain with clearness the meaning of rare words and archaic phrases. After repeated examinations of every State paper in the two volumes, we feel bound to say that we are unable to point out any passage on which an additional note would be desirable.
The part of the work which is most likely to be frequently perused from beginning to end is the Introduction, seventysix pages in length, prefixed to the State papers. This not only contains a succinct and careful history of the Armada campaign, expanded from a former lecture of Professor Laughton's at the Royal Institution: it comprises also
discussions of such important subjects as the real causes of the war between Spain and England, the truth of the charges of mischievous parsimony so often brought against Elizabeth, the treatment of English residents in the Spanish dominions, and the relative effective strength of the contending fleets. On all of these Professor Laughton has thrown new light, and after a candid examination of his statements it will not be easy to maintain that the opinions hitherto received are justified. To these matters we shall return in the course of our notice of the more interesting of the State papers. The latter part of the second volume is taken up with a series of valuable appendices, amongst which the editor, with admirable judgement, has included a translation of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia's Relation, or report of the Armada's proceedings during the campaign in the English Channel and North Sea. The reader can therefore compare the Spanish with the English accounts of the operations.
The documents now published cover almost exactly a year. The earliest date given is December 21, 1587, attached to Howard's commission; and the latest is December 27, 1588-both dates being Old Style, which, as is generally known, continued in use in England till the middle of the last century. Amongst the documents are letters from Howard, H. Seymour, Drake, J. Hawkyns, Wynter, and other admirals and captains, to the Queen, to the Council, to Burghley, to Walsyngham, and to each other. Here and there we find a letter of Burghley's; memoranda for the conduct of business noted down by him; maxims to be observed by the statesmen of a country threatened by a formidable enemy-a valuable lesson for English statesmen in our own day; verification, or, more correctly, re-computation of accounts by the Lord Treasurer's own hand. Reports on the condition of Her Majesty's ships; statements of the steps taken to supply the fleet with victuals, stores, and ammunition; letters from private persons offering advice to the authorities, as private persons are still fond of doing, and ending, as such letters generally end now, in imperfectly disguised requests for some good thing;' inventories of stores found in captured ships; translations of letters of Spanish prisoners, are amongst the contents of the two volumes. The mere enumeration shows how many things worth reading they contain.
The document which comes first in order is, for several reasons, invested with a special interest. It is printed from a manuscript in the British Museum (Cotton, Julius, F. x. ff.
111-117), and to it the editor appends the following footnote:
'The MS. has nothing externally to indicate its origin; internally, there is much in favour of the opinion that it is official; and it does not seem improbable that it was drawn up under Howard's authority, as "the more particular relation" with which he proposed "at better leisure to supplement "the brief abstract of accidents" sent to Walsyngham on August 7. It must, however, be remembered that this is only conjecture, and that the relation has not the authority of an authenticated document. Still, none of the statements in it are contradicted by other papers of greater value; and most of them are directly corroborated, often in the very words.'
The recent history of this document bears in it convincing testimony not only to the care and caution, but also to the perspicacity, of Professor Laughton as an editor. The first volume was given to the public some weeks before the second. The 'Relation' at once attracted attention, and the similarity between it and A Discourse concerning the Spanish Fleet,' printed by Ryther in 1590, was pointed out, it being suggested that both may have been translations from the Italian of Petruccio Ubaldino. Ryther's Discourse' was admittedly such, because added to its title are the words, 'Written in Italian by Petruccio Ubaldini, Citizen of Florence, and translated for A. Ryther.' All uncertainty as to the origin of the 'Relation' has now been removed. In Appendix H (vol. ii.) the editor informs us that Ubaldino's MS. has been found in the British Museum (O. R. 14, A x.); and we are given a translation of the dedication, which is to Howard himself. It begins :
Your Lordship's own relation of what happened against the enemy's fleet in these seas, first written in English, now returns to you in Italian, to the end that the abundant content won for the English nation by the happy success of those days may also bear witness to other nations, in a language which they understand, of the valour and conduct of your Lordship," &c.
The official character and high authority of the Relation' are now conclusively established, and the conjecture modestly put forward by the editor in the early part of vol. i. is fully borne out.
Often as it has been told, there is good reason for once more repeating the history of the Armada campaign. It is still believed by many people that the Armada was in reality defeated by bad weather; and on this belief is founded the demand, so often put forward by Lord Wolseley and others, that we should not trust to our fleet to keep off invasion.
When people give themselves up to an extreme opinion, it is useless to put before them evidence to show that they are wrong-Non ragioniam di lor! There must be many educated Englishmen who still think that when the odds 'against us were most terrible' Providence came to our help by sending a storm, but whose spirit is sufficiently judicial to incline them to accept as truth what is proved by abundant and irrefragable testimony. To these we may appeal. The summer, it is true, had been a stormy one. Lord Henry Seymour, less accustomed to rough weather than Drake, Hawkyns, Frobiser, and other sea-dogs,' says so several times.
'Such summer season saw I never the like; for what for storms and variable, unsettled winds, the same unsettleth and altereth our determinations for lying on the other coast' (July 12, Seymour to Walsyngham).
'I find no manner of difference between winter and summer, saving that the days be now longer' (July 18, Seymour to Walsyngham). Towards the end of July the weather mended, and there was a fine interval of more than a week, which exactly covered the time from the first contact between Howard's fleet and the Armada off Plymouth till the Spaniards had got as far north as the latitude of Newcastle in their flight. As a matter of fact, the wind throughout this period was generally most annoyingly light. Even on the night of SundayMonday (July to), after the first action, the wind, though it had freshened, was not strong enough to prevent the English from using their ships' open boats. Open boats, indeed, were used-and often by both sides-from the first appearance of the Armada in the Channel till the day before it was last seen from Howard's fleet-a sure proof that the weather was moderate. The councils held would have been impossible had it not been practicable to go from ship to ship by boat.
Information concerning the weather will be found in a very careful account of the Armada catastrophe written, not by an Englishman, be it noted, but by an American, Mr. W. F. Tilton, and published in German. This work, which is to be followed by a fuller History of the Armada, was composed by Mr. Tilton as his inaugural dissertation for the degree of Ph.D. in the University of Freiburg. It is
* Froude ('Hist.' xii. 406) says, 'less than a week of calm and sunshine;' but calm and sunshine are not essential to make what seamen consider fine weather.