Dating William STRACHEY’S ‘A TRUE REPORTORY OF THE WRACKE AND REDEMPTION OF SIR THOMAS GATES’:
A comparative textual study
In their article published in the September 2007, Review of English Studies, Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky claim that a letter written by William Strachey drew on several sources published after its putative composition date of 15 July 1610, and was completed at least 2 years later, too late to be used by Shakespeare as a source for The Tempest. But a close textual comparison between the letter, the published sources and other contemporary documents, including a relatively newly discovered draft of the Strachey letter, demonstrates the primacy of Strachey’s letter and confirms its use as a source in the Virginia Company tract published in November 1610, therefore preserving its accessibility as a source for Shakespeare.
For their kind suggestions during the writing of this article, I thank Jacqueline Foertsch, David Kathman, Lynne Kositsky, Irvin Matus, Tom Veal and especially Alden T. Vaughan.
The Review of English Studies, New Series © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press 2009; all rights reserved doi:10.1093/res/hgp107
In the summer of 1609, the Virginia Company of London sent nine ships to re-supply its ﬂedging hard-luck Jamestown colony in Virginia. The ﬂeet ran into a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic and the ﬂagship Sea Venture, carrying the colony's new governor, Sir Thomas Gates, became separated from the ﬂeet and was presumed lost by those who weathered the storm and made it to Virginia. But Gates and all 150 passengers and crew members had actually been shipwrecked on the uninhabited island of Bermuda.
During the next ten months they managed not only to survive, but also to build two new vessels and complete the journey to Virginia. When they ﬁnally arrived at Jamestown in May 1610, they found the colony in total collapse, suffering from famine and Indian attacks that had reduced the 600 colonists to fewer than 70. Gates ordered the surviving colonists into the ships to sail home. However, they met with a new supply ﬂeet before clearing the Chesapeake Bay, and so they turned back to renew the ultimately successful colony. The survival and escape to safety of Gates' colonists and the deliverance of the Jamestown colony galvanised London when the news reached England in September 1610.