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STRANGE NEWS FROM PLYMOUTH:
oR, A WONDERFUL AND TRAGICAL RELATION of A
VOYAGE FROM THE INDIES;
Where, by extraordinary hardships, and extremities of the late great Frosts, several of the seamen, and others, miserably perished; and, for want of Provision, cast lots for their Lives, and were forced to eat one another; and how a Dutch Merchant eat part of his own Children, and then murdered himself because he would not kill his Wife: With the miraculous preservation of George Carpinger, an English Seaman, and the Dutch Merchant's wife, now a-shore at Plymouth. In a letter to Mr. D. B. of London, Merchant. Quarto, containing eight pages, printed at London for J. Conyers, at the Black Raven in Duck-Lane, 1684.
According to promise in my last, I have inquired into the particulars of that so tragical a relation therein mentioned, the which, without any prologue, I shall lay down in its naked truth, as I had the same from the mouth of the survivors who are now at my house, which, if you please, take as follow:—A gentleman called the Heer van Essell, native of the Low-Countries, having had the education of a merchant at home, was resolved to improve his patrimony in some foreign parts: To which end, being thereunto the more encouraged by the promise of a strict correspondence with several of his country-men, he undertook a voyage to the Indies, whither he arrived about the year 1670. And, by the industrious management of his affairs, increased his estate so considerably, that few men in those parts lived in greater splendor; being thus settled about seven years; afterwards he came acquainted with the daughter of a Dutch merchant of great fortune, a gentle-woman of many worthy accomplishments, and exceeding beautiful. Our merchant, being much taken with her port and beauty, made his addresses to her, and, resolving to change his condition, found her not altogether averse to his happiness; which, by degrees, he raised to consent, and obtained her for his wife, with whom he lived very happily for several years, till he had increased his estate to such a portion, as made him think to return to his own country, where he first drew breath, and had left his relations; communicating which design to his lady, she readily assented to the voyage, and accordingly he made preparation to gather his estate into a bottom, and take leave of the Indies, which in a short time he effected; and being supplied with a vessel that had discharged herself at the said port, he hired the same for Rotterdam, and therein imbarked himself, his wife, two children, and one servant, with all his estate, which amounted to a very considerable cargo, and, in August last, took shipping. The flattering sea, which too often beguiles us to our undoing, promised him for the first two months a very happy voyage, and filled his heart with hopes of touching the shore, the long absence of his friends rendered very desirable to him, and buoyed up with the expectation of a happiness cruel fate had designed to deprive him of, was on a sudden becalmed; insomuch that, for several weeks, they could scarce tell whether they were forwarded a league's space; in which time, of the sixteen seamen and master that was on board, by a disease that increased amongst them, several died, and, by degrees their provision growing short, they were forced to deal the same more sparingly about, hoping, by their care, they might have enough to serve them through their voyage, and made the best way they could to their desired port; yet, such was their misfortune, that they failed of their expectation, and came to see the last of what they had spent, and for four days lived without any sustenance; and, the wind being cross, they could not make land, where they might re. victual, but were forced to keep on their voyage. Their extremity was such, that the two children, not so well able to bear the hard. ships as others, both died, on whose bodies, notwithstanding the tears and intreaties of the merchant and his wife, they were forced to feed; which being in a short time consumed, it came to be considered, having no sight nor hope of any shore, that they must either all of them submit to the fate that threatened them, or contrive some other method to save themselves, which at present they had not the least prospect of, unless, in the common calamity, they consented by lot, or otherwise, to destroy some one in the number to save the rest; which unwillingly they were at length inforced to, and jointly agreed, that, according to the number then on board, they should number so many lots, and on whom number one fell, he should be slain, and number two should be his executioner. Butherea dispute arose, whether the merchant's wife, whose two children had to her great grief been already eaten, in favour to her sex, should not be exempted from the fatallot: some were of opinion she ought, and particularly one George Carpinger, a stout English seaman, used his endeavours to work the company to assent thereunto; but as nothing is so voracious or cruel as the jaws of hunger, on the one hand, or so estimable as life on the other, he could not effect his design; so that, the majority having over-ruled his arguments, they drew in common, and such was their misfortune, that the lot fell on the woman for death, and on her husband for executioner. Miserable was the lamentation of the husband and wife, that so fatala mischance should for ever part them; yet tears and intreaties were ineffectual, so that nothing but submission was left, though the merchant's servant and Carpinger stood resolutely against the rest, and resolved to spare vol. IX. G
them; which the merchant perceiving, and knowing their force was too little to accomplish their wishes, with a settled countenance, spoke to them to the following purport: “Honest friends, for such “ you have approved yourselves to me, you have seen the hardship of • my fate; and, since it is drove to this point, I am resolved never * to be her executioner, who hath been so loving and just a wife to • me; but in her stead am resolved myself to be the sacrifice; and • therefore what I have to say to you is, that you stand her friends, * when I am dead; what is in this vessel does, as you know, belong * to me; spare nothing of it to serve her, and with these notes, if * ever that you arrive at Rotterdam, though all in this cargo be lost, • you shall be plentifully rewarded.”. Which after he had said, and hey with tears had heard, being about to answer him, he drew a pistol from his pocket, which he so unexpectedly discharged, that they had not time to prevent it, and shot himself in the head, of which wound he immediately died. The cry they made at his fall, and the noise of the pistol, were quickly heard by the rest of the ship's crew, which soon called them thither; nor was his wife long absent, who, poor lady, had been preparing herself for her end, which, by this less pleasing disaster, she saw prevented. The tears she shed and extravagancies she acted at so dismal a tragedy, were but needless to recount, since none are so hard-hearted but may in some measure judge: she sounded and almost died with grief, and begged to be her own executioner, but she was too narrowly watched by her servant and Carpinger, to effect so cruel a purpose; their eyes never left her, and their cares were more for her preservation than their own; but in vain was all their watchfulness against the enemy from without, when she harboured in her own breast a foe sufficient to destroy a greater strength than grief had left her; for no intreaties could persuade her to feed on that dear corpse she had so often cherished, but what share thereof, the hardship of her fate allowed her for her food, she embalmed with her tears, and by renewed vows promises to share fortunes with it, and be buried in the same unwonted grave in which that flesh was distributed, she once so much admired; which she had near accomplished, having had no food in that time but two rats, which were fortunately taken, and presented to her by Carpinger, at such time as the fatal lot was to take its second round, in which she was resolved to share, notwithstanding all the intreaties of Carpinger and her servant; and, in short, she had her wish, and drew again a second time her own sentence, which she welcomed more than a bridal day; and, being just ready to yield her throat to the executioner's knife, she had certainly fell, had not Carpinger, with two more, whom he hired, stepped in, and resolutely withstood the execution; upon which quarrel they drew their faulchions, and four persons were slain, amongst whom the faithful servant was one. This was a sufficient morsel for the present, and staid the bloody hunger of the survivors, who were now reduced to five or six persons besides the lady; with the bodies of the slain they were then fed more plenteously than for some months preceding, but such was the rigour of their fate, that, by the unusual diet, most of their men were dead, just as they got sight of the Lands-end of England; and, having but very few hands to work their vessel, they found that, from the dangers they had been so long in, a second threatened them from the severity of the late season, for, the ice being there in very great flakes, they found themselves drove amidst the same towards the shore, from whence they could not disengage the ship; in which time, Carpinger, being a person of a voluble tongue, and formerly well bred at Stepney near London, where his father, captain Carpinger, had long lived, used all the consolation he could, by words or device, to comfort the despairing lady, till, at length, she was prevailed to hearken to him, and give her promise to spare all violence on herself, and wait her better fortune; in this case they lay for six days, till all but two persons, besides themselves, were dead, and these so miserably weak they could not leave their cabbins, so that, being froze in, they could not stir. Carpinger with the lady resolved to venture on the ice, and set forward towards the shore; which she the rather undertook, for that she hoped hereby to find a grave in those waves on which she had lost what she loved above her own preservation. With this resolution, Carpinger, taking charge of the lady, got a plank and a long pole in his hand, and with these left the ship, and, with great danger and difficulty, in six hours got safe to shore, having opportunity only of saving a casket of jewels, which he brought off with him, where, at my own house, the said parties now remain, in reasonable health: and, considering the care and kindness of Carpinger, the lady seems much to favour him, and, when the time of mourning is over, will, undoubtedly, make him happy in her embraces.
You may, according to the credit I have with you, communicate this to the publick, if you think fit; after Easter I intend to see you at London, and, in the mean time, I am
Postscript. I should have given you some account of the ship, called the De Ruyter of Rotterdam, which we see at a distance: but as yet the
frost is so hard we cannot get to her, but have small hopes of preserving her. J. G.
This relation is justified for truth, by us,
- A MAD MARRIAGE, BETWEEN MARY, A SEAMAN'S MISTRESS,
Being a full relation of a cunning Intrigue, carried on and managed by two Women, to hide the discovery of a great Belly, and make the parents of her Sweet-heart provide for the same; for which fact the said parties were both committed; and one of them now remains in the Round-house at Greenwich, the other being bailed out. London, printed by Geo. Croom, at the sign of the Blue Ball in Thames-street, over against Baynard's castle, 1684. Quarto, containing eight pages.
If hath been the policy of the prince of darkness in all ages, when any work of his was to be carried on, which required a more than ordinary cunning, to employ a female craft therein: Nor indeed from his first attempt in that kind, in the betraying our mother Eve,” did he ever find reason to blame his discretion in the said method, since he scarce ever failed thereby of his ends. It was by a Dalilah he betrayed the strongest; by strange women the wisest; by an adulteress the best of men in scripture chronology. Whence it is no wonder, if still he courts them; and every day he shews us what advantage he can make to himself of that subtle sex. A remarkable instance whereof I shall here present you with. At Deptford in the county of Kent, at the sign of the King'sHead, for some time past, as a maid-servant in the house, there hath lived one Mary, who hath pretended herself, in her conversation, reserved and honest enough for one of her age, being thirty or thereabouts, till about seven or eight months past she used ordimarily to keep company with one Charles Parsons, a young man lately gone to sea, with whom she was observed to be somewhat familiar; insomuch that the neighbours looked upon her as either married to him, or at least as free of her favours as if she had; and in a little time her squeamish stomach gave her mistress cause to regard her more narrowly, and began to suspect that her sweetheart had given her a belly full of love, as afterwards it proved but
* This is the 524th Article in the catalogue of Pamphlets in the IHarleian Library. l