A New Voyage Round the World

William Dampier

Bibliography Texts
Table of Contents
  Online Editor's Notes
N. M. Penzer's Preface
Sir Albert Gray's Introduction
Authors's Preface
Author's Introduction
1Return Out of the South Seas
2From the South to North Sea
3Cruising with the Privateers
4To the Isle of John Fernando
5Departure from John Fernando
Galápagos Islands
6Depart from Amapalla
7Leave the Isle of Plata
8Set Out from Tobago
9Set Out from Guatulco
10Departure from Cape Corrientes
11To Mindanao
12Of the Isle of Mindanao
13Coasting Along the Isle of Mindanao
14Depart from the River of Mindinao
15Leave Pulo Condore
16Depart from the Bashee Islands
17Leaving New Holland
18The Author Puts to Sea
19Departure from Bencouli
20Inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope

Text is from the 1927 Argonaut Press reprint edition, which is in turn taken from the 1729 edition published by James Knapton. Tables revised as required for HTML presentation. Table of Contents gives abbreviated chapter titles, with complete title given at the head of each chapter, with spelling and style irregularities as seen in the 1729 edition. Spelling and style within text has been edited to modern style, but will be returned to original style as time permits. The date (year only) which appears at the top of each printed page is displayed here following each chapter number, and also at the point in the text where it changes.

Table of Contents:  Highlighted background  indicates chapters on current page.


After reading Sir Albert Gray's excellent Introduction to this edition of Dampier's New Voyage round the World, I was at once convinced that nothing remained to be said except from the bibliographical side.

At the very outset of my researches I was faced with a mass of contradictory and incorrect references—the work of past cataloguers for whom the intricacies of the numerous issues and editions had proved too complicated. Even now I cannot state with absolute certainty that the results of my work have produced a bibliography of Dampier's works complete in every detail. At the same time, it is gratifying to know that the Library of the British Museum has accepted it, and has found it necessary to revise in toto the pages of the General Catalogue containing the Dampier entries. Although the Bodleian does not possess copies of all the various editions, the librarian tells me that those they have confirm my statements.

After his return to England in 1691 Dampier must have prepared his manuscript for the press during the intervals between the numerous short voyages he made in the next half dozen years.

The New Voyage appeared in 1697 and was an immediate success, a second edition following the same year. A third edition was published in 1698. Both these later editions had partially embodied an “errata” sheet which was affixed to the end of the first edition. Dampier's publisher, James Knapton, encouraged by the success of the work, demanded more material for a further volume. This consisted of A Supplement to the Voyage round the World, together with the Voyages to Campeachy and the Discourse on the Trade Winds. It was issued in 1699 under the general title of Voyages and Discoveries, and bore the imprint “Vol. II.” With it a fourth edition of the New Voyage appeared, also dated 1699. It had been more carefully revised, and the complete “errata” sheet from the first edition had been embodied.[1]

  1. E.g. the “errata” sheet tells us that on page 501 “Malucca” should read “Malacca.” In spite of the 2nd and 3rd editions being “corrected,” we find this unchanged till the 4th edition of 1699.

It now bore the imprint “Vol. I” on the title page. An Index (unpaginated) to both volumes appeared in Vol. II.

This year (1699) was a great publishing year for Knapton, for beside the Dampier volumes he had also issued Lionel Wafer's New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America and William Hacke's Collection of Original Voyages, which consisted of Cowley's Voyage round the Globe, Sharp's Journey over the Isthmus of Darien, [1] Wood's Magellan and Roberts' Levant. As we shall see shortly, all these were to be incorporated in a later edition of “Dampier's Voyages.”

  1. Sharp's Voyages and Adventures in the South Sea had already appeared in 1684.§

§ The actual title of the 1684 edition was The Voyages and Adventures of Capt. Barth. Sharp and others, in the South Sea: Being a Journal of the same. … The William Hacke entry on the Notes page has a few more details on this.

Now, although the 1699 edition of Dampier can be correctly described as a two-volume work, each volume was reprinted as occasion demanded.[1]

  1. This is proved by the “advertisements” at the end of the other volumes published by Knapton in 1699.

The New Voyage, in reality, still remained an individual work. Thus the 5th edition appeared in 1703, and the 6th in 1717.

Meanwhile the Voyages and Discoveries had reached its 2nd edition in 1700 and 3rd in 1705. But with the 5th edition of the New Voyage in 1703 appeared the 1st edition of Dampier's third volume, the Voyage to New Holland. It proved a success, although it took six years to be exhausted. The 2nd edition appeared in 1709, and with it was also issued the 1st edition of the Continuation of the New Voyage.

Thus, it was not until 1709 that all Dampier's volumes had appeared, and although librarians often speak of the “three volume Dampier,” they must remember that each volume bore a different date and each date represented a different edition of that volume. Thus, there was no “three volume Dampier” in the generally-accepted meaning of the term, and nothing could prevent such a set being made up of any odd editions. In fact, this is, to a large extent, exactly what happened, and one will find a 1st edition of the New Voyage bound up conformably with, say, a 2nd edition of Voyages and Discoveries and a mixed edition of the two parts of New Holland.

We now come to the four-volume edition of 1729, of which the present work forms a reprint of Volume 1.

Knapton conceived the idea of issuing all his “explorer” volumes in one collection. Accordingly, he first reprinted the three volumes of Dampier's Voyages (omitting the dedication in Volume 1). The New Voyage was called “Seventh edition corrected,” and Voyages and Discoveries was the fourth edition (though unnamed as such). Volume 3 consisted of the New Holland voyage followed by a reprint of Wafer's Voyages [sic, New Voyage]. Both parts of the New Holland voyage now appeared for the first time in continuous pagination.[1] Wafer's Voyages [sic] formed the 3rd edition, as the first had appeared in 1699 and the 2nd in 1704. Volume 4 contained the voyages of Funnell, Cowley, Sharp, Wood, and Roberts.

  1. They were reprinted as one narrative in Harris' Collection of Voyages (Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca), 1744.

We have already noted the previous issue of the four latter voyages, and Funnell's Voyage round the World, which was an account of Dampier's St. George voyage, had been published by Knapton in 1707.

With regard to the manuscript copy of Dampier's New Voyage (Sloane Manuscripts 3236) little need be said here, as Sir Albert Gray has treated it in the conclusion of his Introduction. I would merely note that the brief passage referring to New Holland was printed in Early Voyages to Terra Australis, Hakluyt Society, 1859, pp. 108 to 111. The volume also reprinted those portions of the printed edition of the New Voyage to New Holland which contained direct reference to Australia.

It would be superfluous to mention all the reprints of Dampier's Voyages after 1729. I would, therefore, merely draw attention to the “Collections of Voyages,” in which Dampier's Voyages, and those of Funnell, Cowley, &c., appeared.

Harris. 1744 to 1748. Volume 1. Dampier, Funnell, Cowley.
Allgemeine Historie. 1747 to 1777. Volume 12. Dampier, Wood. (Cowley's Voyage appeared in Volume 18.)
Callander. 1766 to 1768. Volume 2. Dampier, Sharp, Cowley, Wafer. (Funnell's Voyage appeared in Volume 3.)
New Collection. 1767. Volume 3, page 608. Dampier.
World Displayed. 1767 to 1768. Volume 6, page 609. Dampier.
[David Henry.] English Navigators. 1774. Volume 1. Dampier, Cowley.
Pinkerton. 1808 to 1814. Volume 11. Dampier.
Kerr. 1811 to 1824. Volume 10. Dampier, Funnell, Cowley.
Laharpe. 1816. Volume 15. Dampier.

The following table shows, at a glance, the correlation of the different editions of the works which constitute “Dampier's Voyages.”

 New Voyage
Round the World
Voyages and
Voyage to New Holland
Part IPart II
16971st & 2nd

1927. N. M. PENZER. §

§ Norman Mosley Penzer, FRGS, 1892-1960.


Life Before the New Voyage
His First Circumnavigation
First Stage
Second Stage
Third Stage
Fourth Stage
Fifth Stage
Sixth Stage
Seventh Stage
Eighth Stage
Dampier's Subsequent Life
The Roebuck Voyage
The St. George Voyage
The Duke and Dutchess Voyage
Dampier the Man
The Text of the New Voyage

Dampier's New Voyage on its publication won immediate success, and has ever since maintained its place in the front rank among the most notable records of maritime adventure. It stands midway between the epic tales of Hakluyt and the official narratives of the world voyages of Anson and Cook. As a record of buccaneering it comes between the applauded filibustering of Hawkins and Drake and the condemned piracy of the eighteenth century. The stories of the buccaneers are on the verge of romance. On an episode in the life of one of them Defoe founded one of the great romances of all time—“a most circumstantial and elaborate lie,” as Leslie Stephen calls it, “for which we are all grateful.” No buccaneer's story has had anything like the popularity of Robinson Crusoe: but it may be noted that when Defoe essayed to tell lying tales of pirates such as Captain Avery, founded on Dampier and other writers of fact, the subsequent popularity has been with the true story.

In his Preface Dampier describes his book as “composed of a mixed relation of places and actions,” a modest and inadequate indication which would hardly be approved by the advertising experts of the present day. The relation of places was, in fact, an extensive contribution to the geographical and ethnographical knowledge of his time. Nor does the description take count of the frequent excursions in the realm of natural history which diversify the main story with detailed accounts of tropical animals and plants, not highly scientific indeed, but accurate for the most part and novel to his readers.

Another more general description is that of the title page, “A voyage round the world.” A reader must presume from such a title some intention of circumnavigation at the start, and some continuous prosecution of the aim. Dampier, however, left England without any purpose of rounding the globe, and apparently had no mind to do so until, after many years of devotion to other pursuits, he found himself already halfway home. His was no single voyage, rather the haphazard resultant of episodical voyages, some only of which were in the line of circumnavigation; in the course of these voyages he must have sailed in a dozen ships, apart from canoes and other boats. He accomplished the grand tour, however, a feat which in his time could with luck have been achieved in two years—it took him twelve and a half.

Many men who recount adventures in which they have borne a part describe fully their own actions and conduct; some with a particularity trying to the reader's patience. Dampier is not one of these. In the New Voyage, which began when he was 27, he says nothing of his previous life and throughout shows a too strict reserve in regard to his share in the events related. To enable readers of the present volume to form some estimate of the man a sketch of his life, however inadequate, has to be provided. The details of his subsequent career, which includes a second circumnavigation and two other notable voyages, would be hardly appropriate here. They will not be touched further than seems necessary for an appraisement of Dampier's conduct and character.


All that is known of Dampier's early life is told by himself in the first chapter of his Voyages to the Bay of Campeachy. He was born in the earlier half of 1652, the son of a farmer at East Coker, near Yeovil. His father died in 1662, and his mother in 1668. His parents had designed him for commercial life; he was sent to school, probably at Yeovil, and attended the Latin class. On the death of his mother his guardians “took other measures” and “removed me from the Latin school to learn writing and arithmetic,” in other words, transferred him to the Modern Side. A year or so later, having had “very early inclinations to see the world,” he was apprenticed to the master of a Weymouth ship and with him made a voyage to France and then to Newfoundland. He was “pinched with the rigour of that cold climate” and set his heart on a long voyage in summer seas. Soon after his return to London his chance came and, now 19 years of age, he embarked on a voyage to Bantam, serving before the mast. Returning home early in 1672, he spent the rest of the year with his brother in Somersetshire.

He soon tired of home life and the Second Dutch War was now afoot. Dampier enlisted and fought under Sir Edward Spragge in his first two engagements. A day or two before the third, in which Sir Edward was killed, he fell sick and after a long illness went home to his brother. There a neighbouring gentleman, Colonel Hillier, made him an offer of employment in the management of his plantation in Jamaica under a Mr. Whalley, and he set forth in the Content of London, working his passage as a seaman, under agreement for his discharge on arrival. This he deemed necessary lest he should be “trepanned and sold as a servant after my arrival in Jamaica.” For six months he worked with Mr. Whalley on the plantation “16-Mile walk,” i.e. from Spanish Town: then took service under Captain Heming on his plantation at St. Ann's, in the north of the island. He soon left an employment in which, as he says, he was clearly out of his element, and spent some months in trading cruises round the island, during which he “came acquainted with all the ports and bays about Jamaica and with their manufactures, as also with the benefit of the land and sea-winds.” He thus early began his habits of close observation of men and nature. Now also began his practice of keeping a journal, which he had omitted in his voyage to Bantam.

Between 1675 and 1678 Dampier spent about two years in cutting and loading log-wood on the Bay of Campeachy, an occupation which he seemed to have enjoyed. The resistance of Spain to foreign intrusion was becoming feeble, and Dampier reckons there were 270 Englishmen engaged in the log-wood trade. “It is not my business,” he adds, “to determine how far we might have a right of cutting wood there.” He did not, however, get rich on it, and at length in straightened circumstances was constrained to take a turn with some privateers along the gulf as far as Vera Cruz. For a short time he resumed work at Campeachy, thence returning to Jamaica and back to London (August 1678). He gave himself only a six months' leave, during which he married Judith[1] —, from the household of the Duke of Grafton (Chapter 4). It does not appear that they had any children, and nothing more is known of the wife till some 25 years later. He had to work for his living and now projected another expedition to Campeachy—“but it proved to be a voyage round the world.”

  1. Her Christian name appears in a codicil to a revoked will of 1703.


  1. The following writers were comrades of Dampier in parts of the voyage. The extent to which they are more or less synoptical is shown by reference to the chapters of this book.
    1. Basil Ringrose, Part IV of the History of the Buccaneers, Sloane Mss. 3820 (Dampier, Introduction and Chaps. I-III);
    2. Lionel Wafer, New Voyage and Description, &c., 1699 (Dampier, Introduction and Chaps. I-III);
    3. William Ambrosia Cowley, Voyage round the World, 1699 (Dampier Chaps. IV-V);
    4. Bartholomew Sharp, Voyages and Adventures, in the Dampier Voyages, 1727, Sloane Mss. 45, 46B (Dampier, Introduction and Chaps. I-III);
    5. John Cox, An account of our Proceedings, &c., Sloane Mss. 49 (Dampier, Chaps. I-III).)

As has been noted the circumnavigation was a haphazard tour interrupted by digressions as accidental and whimsical as some in the Autobiography of Tristram Shandy. For the convenience of the reader I have divided the whole into eight stages, each of which is a more or less separate cruise, defined by change of direction, ship or captain.


Dampier set out on the memorable adventures recorded in the present volume in an early month of 1679, embarking as a passenger in the Loyal Merchant of London, Captain Knapman. On arrival in Jamaica in April he spent the remainder of the year there. Having bought a small estate in Dorsetshire, he was near returning home to complete the purchase when Mr. Hobby invited him to join in a trading voyage to the Moskito shore, and he “sent the writing of my new purchase” to England by the hands of friends. As fate would have it Mr. Hobby put into Negril Bay at the west end of Jamaica, where a squadron of buccaneers was assembled under Captains John Coxon, Sawkins, Bartholomew Sharp, and other worthies. The temptation which led many an honest man to the buccaneering life could not be resisted. “Mr. Hobby's men all left him to go with them upon an expedition they had contrived, leaving not one with him beside myself.” After three or four days Dampier went too, and no more is heard of Mr. Hobby.


I allow myself at this point, following Shandean precedent, to interpose a digression on buccaneering. Under this polite West Indian synonym for piracy, the profession was at the zenith of its prosperity when Dampier joined in: it had acquired indeed some measure of respectability. Some knowledge of its history in the West Indies, and of the current state of public opinion in regard to it, is needed for understanding how a man of Dampier's character, and many like him, came to be associated with it, untroubled by more than occasional twinges of conscience.

Earlier in the century the hunters of Hispaniola were waging a not unrighteous warfare against Spanish tyranny. From the boucans, frames or hurdles, on which their meat was roasted, they got the name of buccaneers. They obtained the assistance of French and English adventurers, and the war was extended to the sea. With the accession of more and more reckless spirits from Europe whose only object was booty, the local justification was lost, and the buccaneers, whose exploits are told by Esquemeling, Dampier and Burney, and ever since followed with zest and sympathy by boys young and old (including Charles Kingsley) were for the most part pirates.[1]

  1. Some had commissions of various import from French or English authorities. Thus Captain Swan had one from the Duke of York, neither to give offence to the Spaniards nor to receive any affront from them. With this Swan, under plea of such an affront, “thought he had a lawful commission of his own to right himself.” Dampier had not seen the French commissions, but heard that they were “to fish, fowl, and hunt,” and were nominally confined to Hispaniola: the French, nevertheless, “make them a pretence for a general ravage in any part of America, by sea or land.” (Chapter 2.) Captain Cook succeeded to one of these by right of seizing the French Captain Tristian's bark! Most of the buccaneers, however, did not trouble about commissions. In his threatening letter to the president of Panama, Captain Sawkins promised to visit that city when his force was ready, declaring, in language fine enough to glorify a better cause, that he would “bring our commissions on the muzzles of our guns, at which time he should read them as plain as the flame of gunpowder could make them” (Ringrose, Hist. of the Buccaneers, Part IV Chapter VIII).

The glamour which surrounds the buccaneers can be partly accounted for. Their enterprises have seemed to be a continuation of those of Hawkins and Drake, the national heroes of the preceding century, and thus worthy of a measure of their praise.[1]

  1. “The exploits of Drake and Raleigh were imitated, upon a smaller scale indeed, but with equally desperate valour, by small bands of pirates, gathered from all nations, but chiefly French and English.” (Sir W. Scott, Rokeby, Canto 1 Note D). The scale was in fact much larger.

True, the enemy in both cases was Spain, and in Dampier's time, despite the friendly policy of James I and Charles I, Spain was still regarded as the national foe. Spanish cruelties to the natives and to honest traders whom they imprisoned rankled in the hearts of Englishmen. There was, however, no national or religious enthusiasm behind the buccaneers, whose operations had a different origin and were instigated solely by motives of plunder. Mr. Andrew Lang's description of the buccaneers[1] as “the most hideously ruthless miscreants that ever disgraced the earth and the sea” is true enough of the leaders of the preceding decades, such as L'Olonnois (French) Bartholomew Portuquez, Roche Braziliano (Dutch) and we may add Henry Morgan (Welsh). Even these villains had their several accounts for settlement with the Spaniards. L'Olonnois had been kidnapped and sold as a slave; Morgan, too, had been sold as a slave; Esquemeling, their historian, had been beaten, tortured and nearly starved to death. The captains whom Dampier served were of a more humane stamp. The change may be seen by a comparison of the original Esquemeling with the supplement of Ringrose and with the stories of Dampier and the others of his time. Though engaged in a lawless war the later captains conducted it more according to the existing laws of war, and they treated their Spanish enemies with respect and occasional chivalry. As for the men comprising the crews they were of no worse class than those who manned the ships of war or merchantmen of the time. They were simply children of fortune, some of good behaviour, some vicious and drunken, a few provided with education,[2] many with none, like the mixed companies who some 60 or 70 years ago crowded to the goldfields of Australia and California.

  1. “Essays in Little”, and Preface to Esquemeling's History of the Buccaneers (Broadway Translations), 1893.
  2. Ringrose, who was one of these, tells us of another, Richard Gopson, who died on the return journey across the Isthmus. He had been apprentice to a druggist in London but “was an ingenious man and a good scholar, and had with him a Greek Testament which he frequently read, and would translate ex tempore into English to such of the company as were disposed to hear him.”

As the enterprises of the buccaneers were lawless, so were the relations of the captains and crews. Readers of this volume will note the fitful allegiance of the captains to the commander-in-chief, and of the crews to the captains. Dissensions led to frequent mutinies and desertions: these however seem to have been treated as no more abnormal than changes of the weather. They were settled without violence, and in most cases amicably, the men following the captains they liked best.

The troubles of Spanish America are rightly traced to the Bull of the Borgia pope who divided the Spanish and Portuguese claims of conquest by lines of longitude, and to the exclusive commercial policy based on that award. The filibustering of the Elizabethan seamen was England's protest against the preposterous claim founded on a papal decree, not sanctioned by more than sparse settlements on the vast coasts of two continents. As Sir Charles Lucas says, the Spaniards “claimed rather than possessed, and did little either in conquest or settlement.”[1]

  1. Hist. Geog. of the Brit. Colonies, West Indies, p. 296.

England's protest brought forth the Spanish Armada; its destruction, however, did not produce a settlement of the international situation in America. More than 80 years later the operations of the buccaneers, insulting to Spain and cruelly destructive of Spanish life and property, impossible as they were for the English government to defend, led to the conclusion of the treaty of 1670. It was a one-sided agreement which protected for England little more than Jamaica, while for Spain the whole of her settlements on both sides of America were to be immune. Exemplifying the foolish ideas of the time in regard to commercial policy it proposed to secure not mutual but exclusive trade. It provided that the subjects of the confederates “shall abstain and forbear to sail and trade in the ports and havens which have fortifications, castles, magazines, or warehouses, and in all places whatever possessed by the other party in the West Indies.” The governors of Jamaica did what they could, without sufficient power to their elbows, to carry the treaty into effect. Some buccaneers were punished, but when Dampier, nine years later, came on the scene, the game was more popular than ever and attracted many hundreds of adventurers from both England and France. At this time the French were more occupied with gaining a footing in Hispaniola, and thus most of the sea work “on the account,” such was the euphemism, was done by the English.[1]

  1. “Nulli melius piraticum exercant quam Angli,” says Scaliger.
    [“None practice piracy better than the English.”]

Trading between nations is a natural propensity, and an exclusive trade agreement was one certain to be resented and disregarded. The Spaniards on their side did little to ease the situation.[1] Englishmen and Frenchmen when they fell into their power were put to death or imprisoned with barbarous severities.[2] They did not on all occasions feel bound to keep their word with heretics. Their oppressive treatment of the natives led many tribes to give active or covert assistance to the intruders. Although at times, as we shall see, they fought with their old valour, in most cases they lived in a state of terror, vacated their towns at the first assault, and were held in contempt by the English freebooters.

  1. Sir Henry Morgan does, however, in 1680 (Cal. S. P. America and W. I.) mention the arrival at Port Royal of a “good English merchantman” which had been trading with the Spaniards on the Main. She reported a friendly reception of herself, but great desolation of the maritime towns through the frequent sacking of the privateers.
  2. See despatch of Sir Thomas Lynch, 26 July, 1683 in Cal. S.P. America and W. I.

Public opinion at home was not seriously adverse to the buccaneers.[1] Morgan, the most notorious professor of the craft, after being alternately commissioned and prosecuted as a privateer, was knighted and appointed lieutenant-governor of Jamaica. Some of Dampier's associates, prosecuted on their return to England on charges of piracy, were acquitted or liberated after short imprisonment. At this time, when larceny of a sheep or ass was punishable with death, the penalty of piracy, under the statute 28 Henry VIII, c. 15, unless accompanied by murder, was only fine and imprisonment.[2] James II had proclaimed a pardon for buccaneers, and the open confession of piracy in Ringrose's and Dampier's narratives created little or no danger of prosecution: there was evidently no fear even of adverse public criticism. In Dampier's case his book opened for him the door of employment under government.

  1. The New Englanders heartily supported buccaneering and throve on it. On 25 Aug. 1684 Governor Cranfield records the arrival at Boston of a French privateer of 35 guns. When she was sighted the Bostonians sent a messenger and a pilot to convoy her into port in defiance of the King's Proclamation, which they tore down. He adds that the pirates were likely to leave the greatest part of their booty behind them (amounting to £700 a man) as they had bought up most of the choice goods in Boston. (Cal. S. P. America and W. I.) Much further evidence is supplied by the official correspondence.
  2. Under the date 20 May 1680 the Council of Jamaica wrote to the commissioners of trade and plantations of the “detestable depredations of some of our nation (who pass for inhabitants of Jamaica) under colour of French commissions,” referring to them as “ravenous vermin.” They suggested that piracy should be punished as felony without benefit of clergy.


The expedition contrived by the pirate leaders was an attack on Portobello, the rich isthmus city near the site of the famous Nombre de Dios.[1] The buccaneer force consisted of nine ships, two of them French, and 477 men. The place was easily taken and, though it had been sacked by Morgan only 11 years ago, the booty gave a dividend of 40 pounds per man. A proposal was now made, on the instigation of friendly Indians, to march across the Isthmus to the city of Santa Maria. The French broke off: they “were not willing to go to Panama, declaring themselves generally against a long march by land.” The force was thus reduced by two ships and 111 men. Two of the captains with a party of seamen were left “to guard our ships in our absence with which we intended to return home.” The expeditionary force of 331 men landed and marched forward in seven companies carrying flags of various colours; “all or most of them were armed with fusee, pistol and hanger.” The adventurous march with this trivial armament was completed in ten days: Santa Maria was taken with no loss of men but produced little or no booty. The force, which had been provided by the Indians with 35 canoes, then got separated and one party appeared off Panama at the island of Perico, where were anchored “five great ships and three pretty big barks.” The buccaneers numbered only 68 men in five canoes: they nevertheless attacked and took the barks after a desperate resistance. An admiral was killed and in one of the barks the Spaniards lost 61 out of 86 men: all but eight of the rest were wounded. The buccaneers' casualties were 18 killed and 22 wounded. It was then found that the five ships were deserted, their crews having been transferred to man the barks; the biggest was La Santissima Trinidad of 400 tons. The freebooters found themselves in possession of more than sufficient shipping to carry them wither they would. The action, however, occasioned a second breach in the brotherhood. Captain Coxon, the commander-in-chief, was charged with backwardness in the engagement, and some “sticked not to defame or brand him with the note of cowardice.” Coxon thereupon withdrew from the fleet taking 70 men with him, and recrossed the Isthmus.[2] The next adventure, an attack on Puebla Nova, was a grievous failure, costing the death of Captain Sawkins, the new commander-in-chief, “a man as stout as could be, and beloved above any other that ever we had amongst us, as he well deserved.”[3] A minority, 63 in number, who so lamented Sawkins that they could not serve his successor Sharp, mutinied and left for the Isthmus in an old ship assigned to them. They had hardly gone when another mutiny broke out. The men on one of the prizes to which Captain Edmund Cook was appointed by Sharp refused to serve under him: Cook joined Sharp's ship and Captain Cox took over the command of the mutinous crew, with the status “as it were of vice-admiral.”

  1. The capture of Portobello is described in the History of the Buccaneers, Part III Chap. XII. The details of other events, shortly summarised by Dampier in his Chapter I, are supplied by Basil Ringrose in Part IV of that History. For this first period my quotations are from Ringrose. Another account of this stage of Dampier's voyage is given by Lionel Wafer, the surgeon, in his New Voyage and Description, who was with him in one ship or another till 25 August, 1685, when Davis and Swan parted company (see Chap. VIII). Wafer's book was not published till after Dampier's in 1699.
  2. Coxon's subsequent career is told by Mr. Masefield (Vol. I, p. 531). He spent the rest of his life in the Caribbean Sea, alternately in piracy and as a government agent in the suppression of piracy. Latterly he went trading with the Moskito Indians and died among them in 1688.
  3. So wrote Ringrose (Sloane Mss. 3820). in his published story (History of the Buccaneers, Part IV) the passage appears thus: “A man who was as valiant and courageous as any could be, and likewise, next to Captain Sharp, the best beloved of our company or the most part thereof.” The discrepancy is thus accounted for. Ringrose returned to England in 1682 and sailed again with Captain Swan in October, 1683. in his absence his manuscript was doctored by Sharp, or his shipmate Hack [sic, Hacke] before its publication in 1685 in the supplement to the History. Sharp perhaps anticipated that Ringrose would never return to confute him; and he did not, being killed in Mexico, as we shall see, in February, 1686.

Off Guiaquil they captured a bark which they sank after replacing from her their rigging damaged in the encounter. A designed attack on Arica failed owing to heavy weather which prevented a landing from the boats. With little difficulty they next captured the city of La Serena, an exploit not even mentioned by Dampier, but described with much zest by Ringrose. The city had no less than seven great churches and each had its organ. The houses had charming gardens and orchards “as well and as neatly furnished as those in England, producing strawberries as big as walnuts and very delicious to the taste.” Sad to relate, owing to the Spaniards' failure to pay the 95,000 pieces-of-eight demanded as ransom, this agreeable city was burned to the ground.

At John Fernando, the most southerly point of the cruise, another mutiny broke out. According to Ringrose there was a division of opinion, some for going home by way of the Straits of Magellan, others for a further cruise on the Pacific coast. Sharp was deposed from his command in favour of Watling. The ships left the island on 14 January 1681, the crews in smouldering discontent. The leaders seem to have thought that the best chance of harmony lay in carrying out a successful coup: a second attack on Arica was accordingly resolved upon. At Iquique Island near that town information for the assault was demanded from four prisoners: that given by one old mestizo was hastily believed to be false, and he was summarily shot. This brutal act raised further dissension and Captain Sharp, in one of his apocryphal additions to Ringrose's text, states that, after a vain protest, he, Pilate-fashion, “took water and washed his hands saying, ‘Gentlemen, I am clear of the blood of this old man: and I will warrant you a hot day for this piece of cruelty whenever we come to fight at Arica!’ ” Ringrose says not a word of this, nor does Sharp himself in his own journal: he probably invented the lie because the attack on Arica in fact turned out a bloody and profitless affair. Captain Watling and both quartermasters—28 men in all—were killed; 18 others desperately wounded, and some, including three surgeons who were drinking instead of fighting or attending the wounded, were taken prisoners. The town was stormed with reckless courage and half taken against a stubborn defence. The Spaniards with superior numbers counter-attacked again and again and finally drove the marauders back to their ships.[1]

  1. Cox attributes the failure at Arica to “having landed on Sunday 30 January, it being the anniversary of King Charles the First and a fatal day for the English to engage on.”

Great expectations were thus disappointed, Arica being the port from which “is fetched all the plate that is carried to Lima, the head city of Peru.” On the death of Watling Sharp resumed the command. Ringrose (as emended by Sharp himself) eulogises this captain as “a man of undaunted courage and of an excellent conduct,” while according to Dampier the company were “not satisfied either with his courage or behaviour.” The opinion of the crews was put to the test by voting at the island of Plata. The majority, including Ringrose, went for Sharp: the minority of 44, including Dampier and Wafer,[1] seceded. At this point Dampier takes up the chronicle, but we part from Ringrose with regret.[2]

  1. Wafer says: “I was of Mr. Dampier's side in that matter and chose to go back to the Isthmus rather than stay under a captain in whom we experienced neither courage nor conduct.” It need not be inferred from this that Dampier took a lead in the mutiny. Wafer's book, published two years later, was addressed to readers presumably acquainted with Dampier's.
  2. His spirited and admirably written narrative shows him to have been a man of education, witness that on an emergency he was able to make shift with Latin for talk with a Spaniard. He went home with Captain Sharp and wrote his story which forms Part IV of the History of the Buccaneers. He came out again with Captain Cook to Virginia, where Dampier joined them. He was killed in an ambush near Santa Pecaque, in Mexico, February, 1686 (Chapter 2).

Now that Dampier tells his story in detail less commentary is needed. In Chapters 1 and 3 he has much to say about the friendly Moskito Indians and their wonderful skill in striking fish, turtle and manatees. On this account they were “esteemed and coveted by all privateers,” and some of them were always part of the ships' complements in the cruises on both sides of the Isthmus: they are the men to whom Dampier frequently refers as “strikers.” In his account of the laborious journey of 23 days over the Isthmus (Chapter 2)—the outward crossing had taken them only ten—the reader will specially note how he preserved his journal in a joint of bamboo, waxed at both ends. The exhausted party were taken on board Captain Tristian's ship on 24 May 1681,[1] and here is concluded the second stage of the voyage round the world. Since Portobello the expedition had been a failure in capture of plate. Other booty had to be discarded for want of neutral ports for its realisation, and Dampier's party brought back little or nothing. It was about 2½ years since he had left London.

  1. Later they were there joined by Lionel Wafer, the surgeon, who had been severely injured by an explosion of powder during the transit, and was left with other stragglers in the charge of friendly Indians, with whom he remained some five months. Wafer, by reason of his medical skill, lived “in great splendour and repute,” and was so “adored” by his hosts that they tattooed him “in yellow, red, and blue, very bright and lovely.” When he rejoined his friends at La Sound's Key he was at first not recognised, and then with hilarity.

Dampier is so reticent about himself that it is difficult to hazard an opinion as to the part he took in this or any other buccaneering cruise. There is nothing to go upon: throughout the voyages of this volume he never commanded a ship nor an expedition: he does not tell us how he was rated, or what part he took in affairs—he gave his advice occasionally, and joined in the mutiny at Plata, intimating, however, that he took no active share in it. Nor does he appear to have been much in the forefront of battle, as Ringrose was. The only friendship he seems to have formed was with Ringrose, whom he called friend and “worthy consort.” He is not even mentioned by Sharp, Cowley, or Cox. His attitude towards the wild men with whom he associated was one of aloofness. His chief concern was the study of geography, the winds and tides, the plants and animals, and keeping his journal posted up.


From Captain Tristian Dampier was transferred to another Frenchman, Captain Archemboe[1] 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.

  1. Probably Archambaut.


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.[1] Cook was joined (March 1684) by Captain Eaton in the Nicholas, and in October, at Plata, by Captain Swan in the Cygnet.

  1. William Ambrosia Cowley was master and pilot of the Revenge and sailed in her and the Batchelor's Delight until the parting of Captains Davis and Eaton (Sept. 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, vol. I, p. 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 (Chap. VI). 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 XVI.

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, &c.) 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.[1]

  1. The failure was attributed to Gronet, and he was cashiered, as Dampier relates at the close of Chap. VII. 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 Guiaquil 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 Aug. 1686 met his end in an action with Spanish ships in the gulf of Panama. (Masefield vol. I, p. 538).

The noteworthy events of this cruise, besides captures of casual prizes, are the taking and burning of Payta, and the abortive attempt on Guiaquil (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[1] (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 6½ years after he set out from England.

  1. 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 goldmines. His account of this adventure is appended to the 2nd edition of Wafer's book, 1704.§

§ The cited account was written by a Mr. Nathaniel Davis, not by Captain Edward Davis, who was illiterate.


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 8½ years. The men had become more and more drunken, quarrelsome, and unruly, and Dampier looked for an opportunity to escape from “this mad crew.”[1] 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.”

  1. Chapter 3: “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 (Chaps. XI and XII). 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.[1]

  1. Mr. Masefield quotes a broadsheet of the time (Dampier Voy. vol. I, p. 539) from which it appears that the Prince was on view at the Blue Boar's Head in Fleet Street.


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—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 XVIII, 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, 12½ 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.

The Roebuck voyage

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.[1] 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.

  1. 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[1] 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.

  1. 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 John Fernando. 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.[1] 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.[2]

  1. 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.
  2. Funnell's Voyage round the World was published in 1707. Dampier got home later in that year and left again with Woodes Rogers 2 Aug. 1708. Some of Funnell's passages relating to Dampier and the Vindicatio, 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, vol. II, pp. 576-93. 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 Mss.

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.[1]

  1. The booty amounted to about £170,000, 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 Dict. Nat. Biog.)

The most interesting feature of this voyage was the rescue of Alexander Selkirk from the island of John Fernando, 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[1] 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.”[2]

  1. Woodes Rogers published the account of the voyage, A New Cruising Voyage round the World, 1712. [sic, A Cruising Voyage …]
  2. The various lives of Alexander Selkirk are well summarised in the Dict. Nat. Biog. 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 IV.

After his return from his last voyage Dampier lived 3½ 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.[1] 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.

  1. 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.

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[1]: “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[2] 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.”

  1. A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean, 1803-17.
  2. United Service Journal, 1837, Parts II and III.

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.[1] 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.

  1. 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” (Chapter 2). 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.”

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) &c., 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.[1] 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.

  1. For instance, on 30 April 1681 (Chapter I) 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.”