Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Mystery of John Smith

         Meanwhile, what became of John Smith when he returned to England, horribly wounded from the gunpowder accident in Virginia?
Many scholars have pondered this question. One was Smith’s 19th-century biographer, William Gilmore Sims:
         On the accident:
         “While he [Smith] slept, his powder bag was accidentally fired by one of the crew, and the powder exploding tore and lacerated his body in a most shocking manner.”
         [Shocking, indeed. Maybe the reason Smith never married and never had children.]
         Smith left Virginia in bad shape as well:
          “Famine, in its most horrid forms, assailed them." ”A savage slain and buried was eaten,” and “having eaten him, [the starving colonists] followed up the horrid taste for human food, by preying upon one another.”

         When John Smith finally reached England, says Sims, his wounds were grave, and “his cure was probably a tedious one.”

         For the next five years , of what Smith did in England we know little. He lived in “comparative repose” and no doubt had many “expenses atternding his cure. On this subject we are left wholly to conjecture.”

         Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was Smith’s “best friend,” and Smith may have stayed with him. Smith dedicated his 1612 Map of Virginia to Seymour, who died in 1621. Seymour’s wife was Frances Howard, a great beauty, at 34, two years older than John Smith. Her husband was 37 years older than she. Edward Seymour was 75 in 1612.

         Mystery upon mystery.

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