Leaving his business in France unsettled (forever), Smith returned to Plymouth, to find his reputation covered with infamy and his clothes, books, and arms divided among the mutineers of his boat. The chiefest of these he “laid by the heels,” as usual, and the others confessed and told the singular tale we have outlined. It needs no comment, except that Smith had a facility for unlucky adventures unequaled among the uneasy spirits of his age. Yet he was as buoyant as a cork, and emerged from every disaster with more enthusiasm for himself and for new ventures. Among the many glowing tributes to himself in verse that Smith prints with this description is one signed by a soldier, Edw. Robinson, which begins:
“Oft thou hast led, when I
brought up the Rere,
In bloody wars where thousands have been slaine.”
This common soldier, who cannot help breaking out in poetry when he thinks of Smith, is made to say that Smith was his captain “in the fierce wars of Transylvania,” and he apostrophizes him:
“Thou that to passe the worlds
foure parts dost deeme
No more, than ewere to goe to bed or drinke,
And all thou yet hast done thou dost esteeme
“For mee: I not commend
but much admire
Thy England yet unknown to passers by-her,
For it will praise itselfe in spight of me:
Thou, it, it, thou, to all posteritie.”
NEW ENGLAND’S TRIALS
Smith was not cast down by his reverses. No sooner had he laid his latest betrayers by the heels than he set himself resolutely to obtain money and means for establishing a colony in New England, and to this project and the cultivation in England of interest in New England he devoted the rest of his life.
His Map and Description of New England was published in 1616, and he became a colporteur of this, beseeching everywhere a hearing for his noble scheme. It might have been in 1617, while Pocahontas was about to sail for Virginia, or perhaps after her death, that he was again in Plymouth, provided with three good ships, but windbound for three months, so that the season being past, his design was frustrated, and his vessels, without him, made a fishing expedition to Newfoundland.
It must have been in the summer of this year that he was at Plymouth with divers of his personal friends, and only a hundred pounds among them all. He had acquainted the nobility with his projects, and was afraid to see the Prince Royal before he had accomplished anything, “but their great promises were nothing but air to prepare the voyage against the next year.” He spent that summer in the west of England, visiting “Bristol, Exeter, Bastable? Bodman, Perin, Foy, Milborow, Saltash, Dartmouth, Absom, Pattnesse, and the most of the gentry in Cornwall and Devonshire, giving them books and maps,” and inciting them to help his enterprise.