This narrative was in print before Smith wrote, and as he was fond of such adventures he may have read it. The incidents are curiously parallel. And all the comment needed upon it is that Smith seems to have been peculiarly subject to such coincidences.
Our author’s selection of a coat of arms, the distinguishing feature of which was “three Turks’ heads,” showed little more originality. It was a common device before his day: on many coats of arms of the Middle Ages and later appear “three Saracens’ heads,” or “three Moors’ heads”—probably most of them had their origin in the Crusades. Smith’s patent to use this charge, which he produced from Sigismund, was dated 1603, but the certificate appended to it by the Garter King at Arms, certifying that it was recorded in the register and office of the heralds, is dated 1625. Whether Smith used it before this latter date we are not told. We do not know why he had not as good right to assume it as anybody.
[Burke’s “Encyclopedia of Heraldry” gives it as granted to Capt. John Smith, of the Smiths of Cruffley, Co. Lancaster, in 1629, and describes it: “Vert, a chev. gu. betw. three Turks’ heads couped ppr. turbaned or. Crest-an Ostrich or, holding in the mouth a horseshoe or.”]
DEATH AND CHARACTER
Hardship and disappointment made our hero prematurely old, but could not conquer his indomitable spirit. The disastrous voyage of June, 1615, when he fell into the hands of the French, is spoken of by the Council for New England in 1622 as “the ruin of that poor gentleman, Captain Smith, who was detained prisoner by them, and forced to suffer many extremities before he got free of his troubles;” but he did not know that he was ruined, and did not for a moment relax his efforts to promote colonization and obtain a command, nor relinquish his superintendence of the Western Continent.
His last days were evidently passed in a struggle for existence, which was not so bitter to him as it might have been to another man, for he was sustained by ever-elating “great expectations.” That he was pinched for means of living, there is no doubt. In 1623 he issued a prospectus of his “General Historie,” in which he said: “These observations are all I have for the expenses of a thousand pounds and the loss of eighteen years’ time, besides all the travels, dangers, miseries and incumbrances for my countries good, I have endured gratis: ....this is composed in less than eighty sheets, besides the three maps, which will stand me near in a hundred pounds, which sum I cannot disburse: nor shall the stationers have the copy for nothing. I therefore, humbly entreat your Honour, either to adventure, or give me what you please towards the impression, and I will be both accountable and thankful.”