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Mile End


Waiting for Recognition

The lieutenant with no public following, meanwhile, having bid his crew farewell at voyage end, had retired quietly to his home at Number 7 Assembly Row in Mile End (in the present East London). His wife and two children needed him. Nathaniel and James, two intrepid sailors who had risen out of the waves by magic to be listed as able-bodied seamen on their father's muster books, were ages seven and eight, safe in their mother's kitchen. Mrs. Cook met her husband with the news that their child Elizabeth had died three months before he reached England. Of his home life no record survives.

The end of the long voyage meant an accumulation of paperwork to finish - reports to make, accounts to balance, letters to write. Cook was not at all certain of what the Admiralty thought of his performance. We may surmise he had little inclination to read the papers and contemplate Banks's rising star. While he was becoming reacquainted with his family, a few miles away the Admiralty was already looking over the first of his reports he had assembled even as Endeavour was working up the Thames. He had conscientiously itemized the surviving ship's company and the remaining food supplies, reported on the azimuth compass, on the health of the crew. Sauerkraut came in for praise although malt was the best medicine he knew for fighting scurvy. As for the ship: "Condition of the Bark: Foul." Of course, the most important of his documents were his journal and charts, and his covering letter achieved a proper mix of deference and self-assurance toward his betters.2


I flatter my self that the Latter will be found sufficient to convey a Tolerable knowledge of the Places they are intended to illustrate, & that the discoveries we have made, tho' not great, will Apologize for the length of the Voyage.

At Mile End, Cook was gradually disengaging himself from the first voyage. He filled out the pay books and sent them in; the sailors were waiting for their wages. A sad letter from George Monkhouse, father of William and Jonathan, needed a reply. The personal effects of the two dead sailors were valued at £229, and Cook would be pleased to help in settling their affairs. News came that Endeavour would be sent out as a supply ship under a new command to the Falkland islands in the vicinity of Cape Horn. A long printed form on her sailing qualities arrived in the mail to be filled out. She made eight knots before the wind, he wrote, improving on her speed; no sea could hurt her while lying to under a main course; and she steered well.

Cook made his recommendations for promotions, and the list shows careful thought for the future of those who had sailed with him. His clerk Richard Orton wanted a job in the customs house, Richard Pickersgill deserved to be a lieutenant, a gunner's warrant would be fine for Francis Wilkinson, servant John Edgecomb was ready for something better, Richard Hutchins would be glad to stay with Endeavour, and although Isaac Smith and Isaac Manley were still too young for anything, they had behaved themselves and should be kept in mind.

The pile of curiosities brought back from the South Seas had to be sorted, many kept for his wife Elizabeth, the rest listed and crated for shipment to the Admiralty - the sundry adzes, breastplates, canoe paddles, feather cloaks, fishhooks, and weapons. Cook was just another sea captain tending to his affairs and hoping for another ship, even though it seemed he was not yet through with Endeavour.

On August 2 the Admiralty Secretary sent Cook the letter he was waiting for. "I have the pleasure to acquaint you that their Lordships extremely well approve the whole of your proceedings..." The private statement was hardly a match for public fame, but as the summer progressed it gradually became clear that their Lordships would be advised not to be through with him. In due course he heard that he would be promoted to the rank of captain. Curiously the news did not come directly from the Admiralty, but from Joseph Banks. The twenty-eight year-old star with the fist-full of press clippings obviously could walk into government offices whenever he pleased. He promptly passed on the good news by letter to Cook, whom he deeply admired and for whom he likely had put in a good word at the Admiralty. It was an impulsive gesture, letting Cook know, yet affecting and disinterested; Banks's father had died when he was aged eighteen.

Sandwich, aged fifty-three, who had become First Lord of the Admiralty in January, apparently had not seen fit to inform Cook even during an interview. A few hours after meeting Sandwich, Cook was in Will's Coffee House writing a graceful note of thanks to Banks. Sandwich "approved of the voyage," he was relieved to remark. Although Cook was fully aware of his lowly origin as he wrote to the lofty Banks, his letter reveals the genuine good will that united them when he added politely: "The reputation I may have acquired on this account by which I shall receive promotion calls to my mind the very great assistance received therein from you, which will ever be remembered with most grateful acknowledgement."3 Cook was recognizing that Banks had been of great help during the voyage itself. Indeed Banks had made far-reaching contributions to his development as a human being. Quite possibly Cook was writing to the one who would become the greatest person he ever met.

Banks was in the good graces of the Admiralty and could transmit an agreeable message to Cook. But he could not present Cook to King George. This Lord Sandwich did on August 14, when Cook showed his journal and charts to the thirty-three year-old monarch, who, taking the measure of this sea captain ten years his senior, presented him with his commission. Although the Admiralty did nothing during those weeks to diminish the praise showering on Banks and Solander from the press, influences behind the scenes were beginning to move in Cook's favor. In Sandwich he had a powerful ally who would promote the second and third voyages.

Buoyed up by his audience with the king, Cook was in the mood to write to his old Whitby friend, the Quaker shipbuilder John Walker. The short note, written with ease and familiarity, is charming for its sudden lack of his usual modesty.


I should have wrote much sooner but have been in expectation for several days past of an Order to make my Voyage Publick. I however have made no great Discoveries yet I have exploar'd more of the Great South Sea than all that have gone before me so much that little remains now to be done to have a thorough knowledge of that part of the Globe.

A sentence or two and he has doubled Cape Horn "without even being once under our close reefed Topsails, however we had no want of wind."4 At the end of August he was given command of the sloop Scorpion for charting the coast of England - rather a come-down for the lieutenant who had charted New Zealand, but at least he had a job.


The Hawkesworth Publication

The "expectation" of which Cook had written was the publication of his journal as the official account of the Endeavour voyage. The arrangements for doing so were hatched early in September 1771 in a meeting at a mansion belonging to Lord Orford in Norfolk between Sandwich and Dr. Charles Burney, who was the friendly and successful church organist and historian of music. Burney's ebullient nineteen year-old daughter, Fannie, considered herself the equal of high society. "His Lordship was speaking of the late voyage round the world and mentioned his having the papers of it in his possession," she wrote. It seems that Sandwich, who in Fanny's opinion knew nothing of "men of learning and merit," was looking for someone to write the voyage, since Cook's prose was in no shape for publication. Because the journals of the circumnavigators John Byron, Samuel Wallis, and Philip Carteret were also to be included, a major publication was in prospect. "My father directly named Dr. Hawkesworth," she continued.5

It is curious to find Lord Sandwich in the company of the virtuous and upright Dr. Burney, and to find Burney allowing his daughter to be in the company of his Lordship. Some years earlier, Sandwich had been a member of a notorious "Hell Fire Club" that met in the ruins of Medmenham Abbey, located upstream from London along the Thames and that was founded in A.D. 1201 by Cistercian monks. Exactly what went on in the Abbey is not entirely clear. If we are to credit the reputations and notorieties of the prolific writer and connoisseur Horace Walpole and the Whig parliamentarian John Wilkes, neither of whom ever had much use for Sandwich, the congenial members arrayed themselves in black robes, frolicked about as monks in the dark of night and disported themselves in revelry. Wilkes himself was a monk, although Walpole, so far as we know, was never honored by an invitation to the sanctuary. The black arts, worship of Satan, mockery of Roman Catholic rituals, and assorted sexual orgies were said to have been among the rites practiced by the votaries of this secret society, which was one of a number of Hell Fire Clubs that flourished in England during the Age of Reason. The motto of these clubs was "Fay ce que vous voudras" - do what you will, and quite possibly Sandwich did.6

At any rate, Sandwich's zeal for the monkish life inevitably waned. Roundabout 1761 he found himself a playmate, one Miss. Martha Ray, whose career as a sixteen year-old salesgirl was exchanged for another, more promising line of work, when the forty-three year-old nobleman strode into the shop where she was waiting on customers. He forthwith brought her out to his Hinchinbroke estate and installed her as his new mistress. No doubt he felt the need of consolation, because he had been separated since 1757 from his wife, by whom he had several children. By all accounts Martha was a lovely ornament, and she must have had some talent. Certainly she had to adjust to a life that for her could only have been difficult. It was a reasonably stable arrangement, for her life in the Sandwich household prevailed for some eighteen years. His Martha accompanied him about town, sang at Christmas oratorios at Hinchinbroke while he pounded the drums, and she bore him five children. Because he always sought to give both sets of offspring an equal upbringing, he was often short of cash.7 Possibly Burney's rectitude was of wide caliber, or possibly Miss. Ray stayed home on the occasion of the Norfolk visit. Be that as it might, Sandwich was consulting with Burney on a question of state policy.

Ever since the arrival of Endeavour the admiralty had been perusing Cook's journal and charts with increasing fascination. The Lords Commissioners quickly saw that information of national importance had come into their hands. At this point they could have kept the documents secret, to be used only by the navy for political ends. The transaction between Sandwich and Burney, however, represented the judgement of the British government that the knowledge gained by the voyages of exploration should not be kept secret, even if foreign adversaries, meaning France and Spain, should profit. Sandwich was prepared to release the documents to private hands for this purpose.

John Hawkesworth, a friend of Charles Burney and a writer of some distinction, seemed an obvious choice for the task. He would know what the public wanted, having collaborated with Dr. Samuel Johnson on various writing projects, and he had contributed to the Gentlemen's Magazine and worked up plays for the actor David Garrich, who might also have recommended him. In order to forestall any other publication on the voyage, the Cook portion of the project would go first.

Before the month was out, in fact, an unauthorized and anonymous account was rushed into the bookstalls where eager buyers snatched it up. The short book might have been the handiwork of the American-born midshipman James Magra; if so, he had been up to another of his tricks. In the event, the popularity of this "catch-penny" foretold a ready market.8

Sandwich handed over to Hawkesworth the journals of both Banks and Cook. Hawkesworth transformed the papers into a lucrative plum by securing an agreement with the well-regarded publisher William Strahan to pay him £6,000 for the deal, and Banks might also have advanced him £1,000. Because Cook's pay for the entire voyage was one hundred guineas, Hawkesworth did rather well. Hawkesworth sat down to work with relish and supreme confidence in his own editing abilities. When his version reached the bookstalls, in 1773, however, Cook would have a good deal of trouble and embarrassment on his hands, and so would Hawkesworth himself, in what became a highly controversial episode in the annals of eighteenth-century publishing.

Back in Mile End the new Captain was flattered to hear that he would be published, even if someone else took the credit. He would write to John Walker again. In a long, leisurely letter dated September 13, Cook beguiled his friend with details of the voyage - of islands and coconuts, "Terrestrial Paridises," of his circumnavigation of New Zealand, how he learned to manage the natives without "takeing away their lives," and he closed by taking Walker into his confidence. "I however expect that my Lords commissioners of the Admiralty will very soon publish the whole Voyage, Charts &c. Another Voyage is thought of, with two ships which if it takes place I beleive the command will be confer'd upon me."10 It appeared that Cook knew something that was not known on New Burlington Street. By that time his Lords Commissioners likely had come upon the last paragraph of his journal in which he had identified the route any new voyage should follow around the world.


...the most feasable Method of making fu[r]ther discoveries in the South Sea is to enter by the way of New Zealand, first touching and refreshing at the Cape of Good Hope, from thence proceed to the Southward of New Holland for Queen Charlottes Sound...leave that place by the latter end of September or beginning of October at farthest, when you would have the whole summer before you...run to the Eastward in as high a Latitude as you please...if after meeting with no Continent,...then haul to the northward and after visiting some of the Islands already discover'd,...thus the discoveries in the South Sea would be compleat.

No high-level decision had yet been taken, but willy-nilly the public talk and official thinking already were converging to make the second voyage almost a foregone conclusion. Cook's days of leisure were almost over. Scorpion would sail without him.

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