DAMPIER (WILLIAM) Autograph letter signed ("Willi Dampyer"), to his employer Colonel William Helyar of East Coker ("Honrd Sir"), written early in his career while helping to manage Helyar's plantation in Jamaica, Jamaica, 13 January 1674[/75]

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Lot 101
DAMPIER (WILLIAM)
Autograph letter signed ("Willi Dampyer"), to his employer Colonel William Helyar of East Coker ("Honrd Sir"), written early in his career while helping to manage Helyar's plantation in Jamaica, Jamaica, 13 January 1674[/75]

Sold for £ 74,500 (US$ 93,448) inc. premium
DAMPIER (WILLIAM)
Autograph letter signed ("Willi Dampyer"), to his employer Colonel William Helyar of East Coker ("Honrd Sir"), written early in his career while helping to manage Helyar's plantation in Jamaica, describing the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself and complaining bitterly of the conduct of Helyar's manager, William Whaley ("...I was so well recieved by Mr. Whaley so wellcume to him soe gratious in his Eyes that I thought my selfe moste happy but this was to sweet to holde for Ever I was nipt in my bud & before I was well awake out of this pleasant dream I found my selfe: like one lead by an Ignis fatuus just ready in his thoughts to enter into his house when the false light leaves him & he findes himselfe either in A great pond of water or falling down sum deep precipice ready to breake his neck. Sir I am sorry I should make A recitall of my adventures heer... so soone as he thought hee had got mee under his lash he thought on nothing but how to abuse me... I can foresee the Custome of the Country will allow you but A small recumpence for all ye expenses & trouble you have ben at: when I parted from Mr. Whaley he imagined I would have gon for England & strived all that hee could to stop me heer I know not his meaning in it but I shrewdly gess hee meant no good towards you if hee dyes I know not who will looke after your concerns... So wishing you may live to finde ye fruits of your Labours & Laying out heer with ye enioyment of your health and prospirity in all your domestick & forraigne Affaires I beg your worships favour to subscribe my selfe Your humble Servant Willi Dampyer"; with an autograph postscript by Whaley himself, to whom the Dampier has entrusted the letter for its delivery to Helyar, headed: "Jamaica, January ye 13 – 1674 Wm Whaley": "Sr/ I might Easely have intercepted this letter but thought it not worth my trouble ther being nothing in it but a parcel of Storey and lyes, and any man may see that it Saviors more of Spight than realety..."), 3 pages, on a single bifolium with uncut deckled edges, watermarked with a design possibly representing spectacles, modern pencil archival dockets: "DD/ WHh 1090 pt 2", folio (310 x 205mm.), Jamaica, 13 January 1674[/75]

Footnotes

  • THE DAMPIER LETTER

    ʻA RECITALL OF MY ADVENTURES HEER' – THE ONLY KNOWN LETTER IN PRIVATE HANDS BY WILLIAM DAMPIER, PIRATE, EXPLORER, TRAVEL WRITER AND THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO SET FOOT IN AUSTRALIA:

    'The pre-Linnean accomplishments of English navigator William Dampier, regarding exploration, natural history, and physical science, have largely been overshadowed in the historical literature by his reputation as a buccaneer. The multidimensional nature of Dampier's contributions is remarkable in light of the social context of his time – the decades surrounding the end of the seventeenth century. He published an early hydrographic thesis based solely on his personal observations. He led the first official British voyage of discovery on board H.M.S Roebuck. He was the first Englishmen to explore Australia, and made the first substantial botanical collections from that continent. He carefully explored and charted parts of western Australia, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Southeast Asia. He was an accomplished travel writer and was truly empirical in his style, publishing three important books describing his explorations and discoveries. In addition, his work had a strong influence on eighteenth century English literature, regarding the works of Swift, Defoe, and possibly Coleridge' (Gary C. Williams, 'William Dampier, Pre-Linnean Explorer, Naturalist, Buccaneer', Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, Volume 55, Supplement II, No. 11, November 19, 2004, p. 146). As a recent biographer observes 'Dampier started out on his travels 100 years before James Cook set out on his famous series of voyages of exploration; and Cook's achievements should be regarded as the apotheosis of the work of scientific exploration begun by Dampier' (Anton Gill, The Devil's Mariner: William Dampier, Pirate and Explorer, 1997, p. 8).

    This famous letter, which has been cited by all recent biographers of Dampier since it came to light among the Helyar Papers in the Somerset Record Office, was written while the young Dampier was employed on the sugar plantation owned by the squire of his local village, East Coker, Colonel William Helyar. Other correspondence concerning, although not by, Dampier remains among the Helyar Papers at Somerset. Apart from this letter, the only ones by him known to have survived are those written to Lord Orford of the Admiralty, held among the Admiralty Papers in the National Archives (TNA: PRO, ADM 106/516, ADM 1/1692). (These consist of some 45 letters and memoranda concerning the Roebuck expedition and its aftermath, nearly all in a secretarial hand and signed.) The only other autograph material of which we are aware is Dampier's journal of his South Seas Voyages held in the British Library, written in a secretarial hand with Dampier's autograph additions (Sloane MS 3236: recently published by Adrian Mitchell, Dampier's Monkey: The South Seas Voyages of William Dampier, 2010).

    Please see the separate catalogue or contact the department for a more detailed description.
Contacts
DAMPIER (WILLIAM) Autograph letter signed ("Willi Dampyer"), to his employer Colonel William Helyar of East Coker ("Honrd Sir"), written early in his career while helping to manage Helyar's plantation in Jamaica, Jamaica, 13 January 1674[/75]
DAMPIER (WILLIAM) Autograph letter signed ("Willi Dampyer"), to his employer Colonel William Helyar of East Coker ("Honrd Sir"), written early in his career while helping to manage Helyar's plantation in Jamaica, Jamaica, 13 January 1674[/75]
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