Fenton, Edward

, an English navigator in the reign of Elizabeth, was descended from an ancient family in Nottinghamshire, where he had some property. This he sold, as did also his brother Geoffrey, being, it is said, more inclined to trust to their abilities, than the slender patrimony descended to them from their ancestors; and they were among the very few of those who take such daring resolutions in their youth, without living to repent of them in their old age. The inclination of Edward leading him to the choice of a military life, he served some time with reputation in Ireland; but upon sir Martin Frobisher’s report of the probability of discovering a northwest passage into the South seas, he resolved to embark with him in his second voyage, and was accordingly appointed captain of the Gabriel, a bark of twenty-five tons, in which he accompanied sir Martin in the summer of 1577, to the straits that now bear his name, but in their return he was separated from him in a storm, and arrived safely at Bristol, in a third expedition, which proved | unsuccessful, he commanded the Judith, one of fifteen sail, and had the title of rear-admiral. The miscarriage of this voyage had not convinced Fenton of the impracticability of the project; he solicited another trial, and it was, after much application, granted him, though the particular object of this voyage is not easily discovered; his instructions from the privy-council, which are still preserved, say, that he should endeavour the discovery of a north-west passage, and yet he is told to go by the Cape of Good Hope to the East Indies, thence to the South seas, and to attempt his return by the supposed north-west passage, and not by any means to think of passing the Straits of Magellan, except in case of absolute necessity. The truth appears to be, he had interest enough to be allowed to try his fortune in the South-seas. He sailed in the spring 1582, with four vessels, and was making to Africa; thence he intended to sail to Brazil, in his course to the straits of Magellan, but having learnt that there was already a strong Spanish fleet there, he put into a Portuguese settlement, where he met with three of the Spanish squadron, gave them battle, and after a severe engagement, sunk their vice-admiral, and returned home in May 1583. Here he was well received, and appointed to the command of a ship sent out against the famous armada in 1588. In some accounts of this action he is said to have commanded the Antelope, in others, the Mary Rose; but his talents and bravery in the action are universally acknowledged, and it is certain he had a very distinguished share in those actions, the fame of which can never be forgotten. Little more is recorded of him, than that he spent the remainder of his days at or near Deptford, where he died in 1603. A monument was erected to his memory in the parish church of Deptford, at the expence of Richard earl of Cork, who had married his niece. According to Fuller, he died within a few days oi' his mistress, queen Elizabeth, and he remarks, “Observe how God set up a generation of military men both by sea and land, which began and expired with the reign of queen Elizabeth, like a suit of clothes made for her, and worn out with her; for providence designing a peaceable prince to succeed her, in whose time martial men would be rendered useless, so ordered the matter, that they all, almost, attended their mistress, before or after, within some short distance, unto her grave.” This, however, was not strictly true, for the | celebrated earl of Nottingham, sir Charles Blount, sir George Carew, sir Walter Raleigh, sir William Monson, sir Robert Mansel, and other great officers by sea and land, survived queen Elizabeth. 1


Biog, Brit. Rees’s Cyclopædia. Fuller’s Worthies.