Home > 225 Years Ago: April - June 1776

225 Years Ago: April - June 1776


At the beginning of April, 1776 Captain James Cook, was preparing the Resolution for a voyage to discover "the North-West Passage to the northward of California". On the 2nd he wrote to the Navy Board asking for his ship to be supplied with 100 kersey jackets, 60 kersey waistcoats, 40 pairs of kersey breeches, 120 linsey waistcoats, 140 linsey drawers, 440 checkt shirts, 100 pair checkt draws, 400 frocks, 700 pairs of trowsers, 500 pairs of stockings, 80 worsted caps, 340 Dutch caps and 800 pairs of shoes.


Boswell’s And Johnson’s Views On Cook

Also that day James Boswell, Dr. Johnson’s biographer, met Cook and his wife at a dinner given by Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal Society. He recorded that the host described the captain as "a plain, sensible man with an uncommon attention to veracity". Sir John told Cook that Lord Monboddo had told him that Monboddo was very pleased to hear that Cook claimed to have seen a nation of men like monkeys. Cook denied speaking in such terms: " ‘No’, said he, ‘I did not say they were like monkeys. I said their faces put me in mind of monkeys.’ " Boswell considered the distinction "very fine but sufficiently perceptible" and in his discussions with Cook found he "did not try to make theories out of what he had seen to confound virtue and vice." Hawkesworth, editor of Cook’s First Voyage journal, however, had drawn "a general conclusion from a particular fact, and would take as a fact what they had only heard." Cook told Boswell that Omai had beged him to carry back "port wine, which he loved the best of any liquor, and gunpowder." Cook would not let him have the latter, and continued "for some time after Omai’s return home he would be a man of great consequence, as having so many wonders to tell". Yet Omai "would not foresee that when he had told all he had to tell, he would sink into his former state, and then he would wish to go to England again". Cook, therefore, intended to leave the coast before Omai "had time to be dissatisfied at home". Boswell found it curious "to see Cook, a grave steady man, and his wife, a decent plump Englishwoman, and think that he was preparing to sail round the world."

The next day Boswell visited Dr Johnson. "I gave him an account of Captain Cook, and told him I felt, while I was with the Captain, an inclination to make the voyage. ‘Why, so one does,’ said the Doctor, ‘till one considers how very little one learns.’ I said I was certain a great part of what we are told by the travellers to the South Sea Islands must be conjecture, because they cannot know language enough to understand so much as they tell."

On the 6th Granville Sharp wrote in his note book that "Omai was so taken up with engagements that I could have no more opportunity of giving him lessons, which were but fifteen in all." He had taught his pupil the use of English letters and made him sound "every combination of vowels and consonants that letters are capable of".

Three days later the Victualling Board ordered that 20 firkins of butter be put into tight casks and they be filled up with strong pickle, "such method having in Cook’s former voyage been found to keep the butter good to the last".


Sandwich, Cook and Forster Agreement


On 13th Lord Sandwich (head of the Admiralty), summoned Cook and Johann Forster (the scientist on Cook’s Second Voyage) to the Admiralty. In the presence of Stephens, the Admiralty Secretary, they signed an agreement. According to its terms Cook’s volume would contain "nautical observations" and ethnographical descriptions, and Forster’s work natural history, ethnological and linguistic observations and his "philosophical remarks". Forster was free to superintend the printing of his own work but the Admiralty reserved the right to decide on how the costly plates would be distributed between the two works. Forster was to get proofs of Cook’s volume so that he could translate the whole work into French and German. Both writers were enjoined to "aid and assist each other, in whatever may contribuite to render the work compleat".

On 18th Boswell dined at the Mitre Tavern with Sir John Pringle, Dr Solander, Joseph Banks and others of the Royal Society. He sat next to Cook who "candidly confessed… that he and his companions who visited the South Sea Islands could not be certain of any information they got, or supposed they got, except as to objects falling under the observation of the senses; their knowledge of the language was so imperfect they required the aid of their senses, and anything which they learnt about religion, government, or traditions might be quite erroneous." Four days later Boswell visited Cook at Mile End. They took tea in the garden and a blackbird sang.

The next day William Anderson, surgeon’s mate on the Resolution, submitted to the Royal Society "An Account of Some Poisonous Fish in the South Seas." It was printed in the society’s Philosophical Transactions, vol. LXVI, pp. 544-52, later in the year. It refers to the sickness suffered from the fish eaten at Malekula, New Hebrides in 1774.


Webber becomes the Artist for the Voyage


According to John Webber 1751-1793: Pacific voyager and landscape artist. Landschaftsmaler und Südseefahrer mit Captain Cook by William Hauptmann, published by the Kunstmuseum, Bern and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 1966, the Royal Academy of Arts held its annual exhibition, which went on for about a month. John Webber showed three paintings, his first participation in a public exhibition: a portrait of an unnamed artist and two views of the countryside near Paris. None of these paintings achieved critical success of note, but the portrait in particular attracted the attention of Daniel Solander, who was searching for a painter to accompany Cook. Solander went to Webber’s house at 4 Down Street, Piccadilly, London where he apparently saw other works in landscape which must have confirmed his opinion of Webber’s excellence. He proposed Webber’s participation as chief draughtsman. On 24th the Admiralty wrote to Cook "Whereas we have engaged Mr John Webber Draughtsman and Landskip Painter to proceed in His Majesty’s Sloop under your Command on her her present intended Voyage, in order to make Drawings and Paintings of places in the Countries you may touch at in the course of the said Voyage as may be proper to give a more perfect Idea thereof than can be formed by written descriptions only" Webber’s was to be paid 100 guineas a year.


Nelson becomes the Botanist for the Voyage


Joseph Banks (gentleman and naturalist on Cook’s First Voyage) was looking for someone to send to the Pacific to bring back specimens for his growing herbarium. On 24 April James Lee, nurseryman of Hammersmith near London recommended David Nelson who "understands something of botany, but does not pretend to have much knowledge of it".

Two days later Nelson "Receivd of Master Joseph Banks Esq’re the Sum of twelve pounds twelve Shillings on account of wages commencing this day" under the terms of an agreement of the same date. For the sum of £35 a year Nelson agreed "that I will sail with Capt. Clerke on board his Majesties ship Discovery & that I will under Capt. Clerkes orders collect & preserve all such plants & Seeds of plants as I shall be able to find in all such places as the ship may touch at also that I will take & preserve as many insects as I shall be able & that I will send back or on my return give to Jos. Banks Esq’re my employer all & every one of such plants seeds & insects as I shall collect not retaining to my self or disposing of to any other person any of the Same". He could have had only a few weeks of tuition in botany and entomology at Banks’ house in New Burlington Street before he set sail from the Thames.


Cook’s Journal of the Second Voyage

Also that day Cook wrote to Douglas, "I have had a little Conversation with Mr Strahan about my journal, he has promised to give it all the assistance in his Power. G. Campbell will look over the Nautical part & Sr Hugh Palliser has also promised to give his assistance. I have divided it into Books and Chap. takeing the former Voyages and Lord Ansons for my guidance, but submit the whole to your better judgement, with full hopes that you will make such alterations, as you may see necessary."

Two days later Cook wrote to Douglas, "Last night I was favoured with your agreeable letter, and have sent my servant for the Books as you disired. I am sorry Captain Furneaux’s journal has given you so much trouble, I am in some measure in fault for not looking over the Copy before it was put into your hands. If it is equally convenient to you I should be glad to put of waiting upon you till next Saturday, when I will bring the whole Manuscript with me, to let you see how I have divided it into Books & Chapters. By that time, I may have the Introduction ready for you to look over; I may also know my Lord Sandwich’s opinion on Mr Forster’s works, a part of which is in his Lordship’s hands". The last was the first two chapters in 62 pages of manuscript entitled "An Account of a Voyage round the World in the Years 1772-1775 by John Reinhold Forster LL.D. & F.R. & A.S." and covered the period 11 June to 30 October 1772. Michael Hoare in his book The Tactless Philosopher: Johann Reinhold Forster, 1729 - 1798, published by Hawthorn Press in 1976, says that there appears to have been an earlier draft of 284 pages entitled "General observations on natural history, made during the expedition for 1772 to 1775, by John Reinhold Forster F.R.S., and George Forster". It was sold in London in 1930 and disappeared from sight.

On 29th Cook wrote to the Admiralty Secretary "I applyed to the Principal Officers of the Ordnance for 10 Additional Half Barrels of Corn’d Powder, and two glazed: the latter not cloging, or fouling the Muskets so much as the former, may be of great use to us on many occasions… Please to move their Lordships to Order her this additional supply." The Admiralty made the order the same day.


Cook’s Family


Hugh, the last child and fifth son of James and Elizabeth Cook was born in May. His elder brothers James and Nathaniel were still alive, but three siblings had died in infancy: Elizabeth, Joseph and George.

On 2nd Sandwich decided that Forster’s draft was a "narrative" and not the agreed "philosophical observations", so requested Richard Owen Cambridge, a poet and well-known literary figure, correct the manuscript. Daines Barrington, who acted as an intermediary between Sandwich and Forster, also disagreed strongly with Forster over the freezing of sea-water.

The next day the Victualling Board ordered, in response to a request from Cook, two puncheons of double proof spirits for preserving animals.

On 7th Forster let it be known that he was not prepared to demean himself as an author. The proposed corrections were arbitrary and unreasonable and his manuscript was likely to be "castrated".

The same day Charles Clerke in command of the Discovery wrote to the Admiralty Secretary that David Markham and William Morris, currently on the Lion, who were long known to him, were very desirous of sailing with him. He had "propos’d to Mr Pickersgill to give him two men in their lieu which he very readily came into" and asked for the Admiralty’s sanction for the exchange. Richard Pickersgill had sailed on both the First and Second Voyages and was appointed to command the Lyon earlier in the month.

First Survey of the Third Voyage


Six days later Clerke wrote to the Admiralty Secretary that the Discovery had left Deptford and anchored in Galleons Reach to take in guns, etc. The first survey of the voyage was carried out by William Bayly of the Discovery. "In the Afternoon went on shore at Eariff [Erith] in company with the Three Lieutenants of the Resolution & measured the distance between the Landing place at the sign of the Crown at Eariff to the Mortes [Mortar] Tavern near the Entrance of Woolwich warren… to decide a wager between Lord Sandwich on one part & Lord Mulgrave & Mr Banks on the other". Erith lies downstream of Woolwich on the same side of the River Thames.

On 24th Jean Baptiste Le Roy, a French academic, successfully proposed Johann Forster as a corresponding member of the Académie des Sciences, Paris.


Cook Sits for His Portrait

Dance             portrait of Cook Also that day Cook wrote to Joseph Banks from Mile End. "Capt. Cook presents his compliments to Mr Banks, thanks him for his kind congratulations and for the Drawing of the New Zealand spruce. he will speak to Lord Sandwich to have it engraved… Cap. Cook intends to be at the west end of the Town tomorrow Morning, and thinks he could spare a few hours before dinner to sit for Mr Dance, and will call upon him for that purpose about 11 or 12 oClock." The painting by Nathaniel Dance has become the most reproduced portrait of Cook.


He went on referring to an incident before the Second Voyage. "The Stove which was in the Resolution was bought of Mr Stephens, in, or near the Poultry on the side of the street next the River. It was supplyed by the Navy office, and when the Cabbin was reduced at Sheerness, it was returned into the Store there, where probably it is now."


The Resolution and Discovery Move Down River


On 30th Anderson on the Resolution began his journal "In the forenoon weigh’d and work’d down to Long Reach, where we anchor’d before two o clock." According to Cook they "took on bosrd our artillery, Powder Shot and other Ordnance stores." See Cook’s Log page 574, vol. 11, no. 1 (1988) for an article by Paul Capper discussing the difference between nautical and civil time, and page 952, vol. 16, no. 3 (1993) for how it has been handled in this series of articles.

On 1st June Cook wrote to the Admiralty Secretary "as I did not th[i]nk it safe to stop at Galleons Reach with his Majestys Sloop the Resolution under my Command, to take in her Guns and Gunners Stores, I proceeded to Long Reach to take them in there."

Four days later Anderson wrote "In the afternoon our Consort the Adventure came down from Galleons and anchor’d near us." The word Adventure is presumably a slip for Discovery.

On the same day Foster offered his manuscripts to the government for £200. When it was declined he offered that for £1200 he would forego any profits (estimated at £1500). Cook supported this proposal. Sandwich went to the king and secured permission "to proceed with Capt. Cook’s Narrative solely unless he [Forster] submitted to have his Narrative corrected".

Two days later Clerke wrote to the Admiralty Secretary "Please to give directions for my being supply’d with the general printed naval instructions, with the Acts of Parlim’t and statutes".


The Ships are Inspected


The next day Cook wrote "The Earl of Sandwich, Sr Hugh Palliser and others of the Board of Admiralty, paid us the last mark of the extraordinary attention they had alalong paid to this equipment, by coming on board to see that every thing was compleated to their desire." According to William Griffin, cooper, they were "visited by Lord Sandwich & some other Gentlemen to Dinner, when at their departure the yards of the Ship whare manned in Honour of such exalted Visiters." Cook entertained them with food from Messrs Birch, Birch and Co, of 15 Cornhill, London, whose day book records a turbout, trout, lobsters, shrimps, chickens, "raggove mellie", stewed mushrooms, peas, beans, "Spinage Toasts", cauliflowers, "Petit patties", venison, a tart, sweetbreads, biscuits, currant jelly, sauces, "24 French Roles", costing £12 2s.

Clerke wrote "At ½ past 1 Lord Sandwich went on board the Resolution - manned ship and saluted with 17 guns. At 3 His Lordship came on board and enquired if our equipment was just as I would wish; I affirmed him that whatever might be the event of our Endeavours, our equipment was every way adequate to the voyage; at which his Lordship was pleased to express his Satisfaction: Soon afterwards wishing us success he took his leave, when we Saluted with 17 guns".

On 10th Cook wrote "Took on board a Bull, 2 Cows with their Calves & some sheep to carry to Otaheite with a quantity of Hay and Corn for their subsistance. These Cattle were put on board at His Majestys Command and expence with a view of stocking Otaheite and the Neighbouring Islands with these usefull animals".


The Dispute over the Journal Continues


The next day Cook wrote to Douglas "Yesterday Mr Strahan & I went to the Admiralty in order to meet Mr Forster to settle about the Publication, but instead of finding him there, I found a letter from him to me couched in the following terms. That Lord Sandwich had thought proper to interpret the Agreenmint between us, in such a manner, as he thought did not agree with its purport; and as his Lordship on that pretence had excluded him from all particip[a]tion of the Admiralty's assistance, our meeting was thereby rendered unnecessary. I afterwards saw Mr Barrington, who inform'd me the Mr Forster had absolutely refused to make the least alteration in his M.S. What steps my Lord Sandwich will now take I cannot say, but I apprehend I shall have to Publish alone. I do not expect to see his Lordship till Thursday Morning, and perhaps the next day I may leave Town, unless I was sure of seeing you on Saturday or Sunday in that case I would certainly wait a day or two at all events. What Mr Forster intends to do I have not heard, but suppose he will publish as soon as possible, and if so he will get the start of me. He has quite deceived me, I never though[t] he would have separated him self from the Admiralty, but it cannot hurt me & I am only sorry my Lord Sandwich has taken so much trouble to serve an undeserving man."

On the same day the General Evening Post reported that "Omiah, the Otaheitean, took his leave of his Majesty, and this day set out for Portsmouth, where he is to embark on board Capt. Cook’s ship, in order to return home."

Also Cook wrote "Received on board several Astronomical & Nautical Instruments which the Board of Longitude intrusted to me and Mr King my second Lieutenant, we having engaged to that board to make all the necessary Astronomical and Nautical observations that should accrue and to supply the place of an Astronomer which was intended to be sent out in the Ship. They also put on board the same Watch Machine that was out with me last voyage. Another Watch Machine and the same number and sort of Instruments were put on board the Discovery under the care of Mr Wm Baily who was on the late voyage with Captain Furneaux".


Clerke’s Difficulties Continue


On 13th Clerke wrote to the Admiralty Secretary saying the Discovery was ready to proceed to Plymouth but he was detained in London: "some of my own private affairs of the utmost importance to me requiring my attention to them in Town I wou’d be highly oblig’d to their Lordships if I could be indulg’d in attending them and sending the Ship round, under the Command of Lieut Burney." He was so ordered the following day.

The next day Cook wrote to Douglas, "I was with my Lord Sandwich yester Morning, & found that he had not quite given up Dr Forster, but I believe he will be obliged to do it at last. I had some conversation with the Dr last night, and used all the arguments I was master of to persuade him to submit to his Lordship, but to no manner of purpose. The Charts are all finished, but the other Plates I am told, will not be done before Christmas. But if I am to have the whole, the Admiralty I know will forward them as much as possible. I have leave to remain in Town till this matter is settled, and at the desire of Lord Sandwich, shall join Mr Stuart with Mr Strahan to manage the Publication &ca of my Book. It is now with St Hugh Palliser & Capt. Campbell for them to look over the Nautical part. As soon w they have done with it, it shall be put into Mr Strahans hands. My Lord Sandwich gave me a paper concerning Omai, which I have tack'd in its proper place in the 6th book. His Lordship desired that you might see it, & also the Introduction, this shall be sent you to morrow by the Stage, and as to the other, you can at any time look it over at Mr Strahans. I shall take care to get a Compleat list of all the Plates to leave with the Manuscript, & have already made notes where the most of them are to be placed."


The Ships Separate


The next day Anderson on the Resolution wrote "In the forenoon we saild from Long-reach", where they had been provisioned "and in the afternoon anchor’d at the Nore accompanied by our Consort the Discovery." According to Rickman, Second Lieutenant on the Discovery, "our fresh provisions being nearly exhausted, we weighed next day" for Plymouth.

On 16th Cook wrote "The Resolution was ordered to remain at the Nore till I joined her, being at this time in London." Rickman on the Discovery wrote that the ship "came too off Deal, and received in board a great quantity of beef and mutton for the ship#s company, and a boat for the Captain’s use."

Two days later Clerke placed the first notice in the London Chronicle of his assets and liabilities to allow objections to be heard. His ship, according to Rickman, "entered the channel [and] a storm arose, by which we were driven into Portland Roads, where we received considerable damage."

The next day the Victualling Board wrote to Cook "Six half Barrels lined with Tin Foil have been filled with Flour, Malt, Oatmeal, Grotts, Pease and Bread by way of Experiment… to try whether those species will keep longer than usual in Casks so lined".

On 22nd Clerke placed the second notice in the London Chronicle of his assets and liabilities to allow objections to be heard.


Cook Writes Home to Great Ayton


Cook wrote to his friend Commodore Wilson at Great Ayton, "I am at last upon the very point of setting out to join the Resolution at the Nore, and proceed on my voyage, the destination of which you have pretty well conjectured. If I am not so fortunate as to make my passage home by the North Pole, I hope at least to determine, whether it is practicable, or not. From what we yet know, the attempt must be hazardous, and must be made with great caution. I am sorry I cannot furnish you with some New Zealand Flax seed, having not one grain of it left. Indeed, I brought hardly one home with me, but left the most of what I had at the Cape, to try to cultivate it there; for of all that was brought home in my former voyage, I have not heard of a single grain vegetating. It is much to be feared, that this fine plant will never be raised in England.

The journal of my late Voyage, will be published in the course of next winter, and I am to have the sole advantage of the sale. It will want those flourishes which Dr Hawkesworth gave the other, but it will be illustrated and ornamented with about sixty copper plates, which, I am of opinion, will exceed every thing that has been done in a work of this kind; as they are all of them from Drawings made on the spot, by a very able artist. As to the Journal, it must speak for itself. I can only say, that it is my own narrative, and as it was written during the voyage. If you or any of your friends, should want any, care shall be taken that you have of the first impressions. Mrs Cook joins her best respects to you, Mrs Wilson and family".

The next day Cook wrote to Douglas, "It is now Settled that I am to Publish without Mr Forster, and I have taken my measures accordingly. When Captain Campbell has looked over the M.S. it will be put into the hands of Mr Strahan & Mr Sturat to be printed, and I shall hope for the Continuation of your assistance in correcting the press. I know not how to recompence you for the trouble you have had, and will have in this Work. I can only beg that you will except of as many Copies, after it is published, as will serve your self and friends, and I have given directions for you to be furnished with them". John Beaglehole is his edition of The Journals of Captain James Cook, Vol III: The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery, 1776-1780, published 1967, says of Cook’s journal of his Third Voyage, "we may judge that Cook set out deliberately to write a book - or at least an account of the voyage that would need the minimum of editing by another hand, or of rewriting by his own, before it appeared as a book. He was not going to be faced again by the labours that afflicted him after his second voyage in producing something that the ordinary man could read; and it is a far cry indeed from the journal of his first voyage to this sophisticated document. The log entries for the long days at sea are remorselessly compressed to a sentence or two of narrative… the succession of days [is] in civil time".


Cook and Omai Leave London


The next day Cook wrote "At 6 o’clock in the Morning I set out from London in company with Omai, we got to Chatham between 10 & 11 and after dining with Commissioner Proby he very obligingly ordered his yacht to convey us to Sheerness where my boat was waiting to carry us on board." Anderson on the Resolution wrote "In the evening the Captain came on board with O’maee a native of the island Hoa’heine".

On 25th Anderson wrote "A little after noon weigh’d and at night anchor’d between Margate sand and the north Foreland." The next day "Soon after day light weigh’d and about eight in the morning anchor’d in the Downs". Cook "sent a shore for two boats which had been built at Deal for us." Meantime, the Discovery had "arrived at Plymouth" where Rickman observed "a large fleet of men of war and tgransports with troops on board for America… They had been driven in by the stress of weather, several of them much damaged."

The next day Anderson wrote "Steerd westward and a little after noon pass’d Beachy head" on their way to Plymouth.

On 28th Charles Clerke wrote to Joseph Banks and showed his frustration at how slowly the Justices for the County of Surrey, the county in which the King’s Bench Prison lay, agreeing to his release from the debtors prison. He considered absconding, telling Banks "tho’ we cannot help misfortunes we can help deserving them… therefore I’m resolv’d to decamp without beat of drum, and if I can outsail the Israelites get to Sea and make every return in my power." Anderson wrote "In the evening were nearly opposite Torbay."

The next day David Samwell, Surgeon’s first mate on the Resolution, wrote to his friend Matt Gregson, "Omiah is a droll Animal & causes a good deal of Merriment on Board. For my part I live as happy as I cou’d wish only that one’s cut of from the Society of the Dear Girls."

Cook wrote "At 3 PM Anchored in Plymouth Sound where the Discovery had arrived three days before." They arrived on the last day of June, 225 years ago

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1843, volume 24, number 2 (2001).

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