Gilbert, Sir Humphrey

, a brave officer and navigator, was born in 1539, in Devonshire, of an ancient family, and though a second son, inherited a considerable fortune from his father. He was educated at Eton, and afterwards at Oxford, but is not mentioned by Wood, and probably did not remain long there. His destination was the law, for which purpose he was to have been sent to finish his studies in the Temple; but being introduced at court by his aunt, Mrs. Catherine Ashley, then in the queen’s service, he was encouraged to embrace a military | life. Having distinguished himself in several expeditions, particularly in that to Newhaven, in 1563, he was sent over to Ireland to assist in suppressing a rebellion excited by James Fitzmorris; and for his signal services he was made commander in chief and governor of Munster, and knighted by the lord-deputy, sir Henry Sidney, on Jan. 1, 1570, and not by queen Elizabeth in 1577, as Prince asserts. He returned soon after to England, where he married a rich heiress. In 1572 he sailed with a squadron of nine ships, to reinforce colonel Morgan, who at that time meditated the recovery of Flushing; and when he came home he published in 1576, his “Discourse to prove a passage by the North-west to Cathaia, and the East Indies,” Lond. This treatise, which is a masterly performance, is preserved in Hakluyt’s Voyages. The style is superior to most writers of that age, and shows the author to have been a man of considerable reading. The celebrated Frobisher sailed the same year, probably in consequence of this publication. In 1578, sir Humphrey obtained from the queen a very ample patent, empowering him to discover and possess in North America any lands then unsettled. He accordingly sailed to Newfoundland, but soon returned to England without success; yet, in 1583, he embarked a second time with five ships, the largest of which put back on occasion of a contagious distemper on board. Gilbert landed at Newfoundland, Aug. 3, and two days after took possession of the harbour of St. John’s. By virtue of his patent he granted leases to several people; but though none of them remained there at that time, they settled afterwards in consequence of these leases, so that sir Humphrey deserves to be remembered as the real founder of our American possessions. His half-brother, sir Walter Raleigh, was a joint adventurer on this expedition, and upon sir Humphrey’s death took out a patent of the same nature, and sailed to Virginia. On the 20th August in the above year (1583), sir Humphrey put to sea again, on board of a small sloop, for the purpose of exploring the coast. After this he steered homeward in the midst of a tempestuous sea, and on the 9th of September, when his small bark was in the utmost danger of foundering, he was seen by the crew of the other ship sitting in the stern of the vessel, with a book in his hand, and was heard to cry out, “Courage, my lads! we are as sear heaven at sea as at land.” About midnight the bark was | swallowed up by the ocean; the gallant knight and all his men perished with her. He was a man of quick parts, a brave soldier, a good mathematician, and of a very enterprizing genius. He was also remarkable for his eloquent and patriotic speeches both in the English and Irish parliaments. At the close of the work above-mentioned, he speaks of another treatise “On Navigation,” which he intended to publish, but which is probably lost. 1


Biog. Brit. Prince’s Worthies of Devon.—Lloyd’s State Worthies.