National Geographic : 1938 Jul
PILGRIMS STILL STOP AT PLYMOUTH stepped from captain's cabin to mayor's chair without loss of dignity, and even dur ing dangerous voyages dressed like dandies, dined from gold plate, and won respect and friendship by their courtly manners. The proud title of "Sir" sits well on them. "Sir John," "Sir Francis," "Sir Walter," "Sir Humphrey"-history, recording these hon ored names, gave no suggestion of having its tongue in its cheek. One hero of Westward Ho! bore the honest, simple name of John Oxenham. Be fore painting the magnificent mural, "The Discoverer," which graces Hubbard Memo rial Hall at the National Geographic So ciety's Washington, D. C., headquarters, N. C. Wyeth had illustrated an elaborate edition of Kingsley's classic. "Mayhap some of the spirit accumulated during this work carried over into the Bal boa subject. John Oxenham has always, to me, resembled Balboa physically," writes the artist. One sailor from Plymouth clung to the title of Captain. Because he expanded the largest ocean to its proper share of the earth's surface, Captain James Cook is known to GEOGRAPHIC readers as "The Columbus of the Pacific." * Much of my interest in Plymouth's sea rovers was due to the valiant explorers in the stratosphere: Stevens and Anderson.t Of their amazing ascent I knew nothing until in Plymouth one of those separate news posters which carry England's head lines caught my eye. I thought Captain Stevens might like one as a souvenir, and while asking for one I met a Plymouth editor who wrote a splendid biography of Sir John Hawkins and dashes off mystery novels for fun. As we chatted he made Drake and Hawkins, Raleigh and Fro bisher live again. At that time workmen were cleaning the Drake statue, restoring to jerkin, slashed doublet, and hose a silky sheen after a salt spray patina which made the "Dragon's" beard look as if it had barnacles in it (page 75). So I sat there on the Hoe, watching the patriotic explorer being pret tied up-and probably resenting it. Not far from the Drake statue is the * See "The Columbus of the Pacific: Captain James Cook, Foremost British Navigator," in THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1927. See "Exploring the Stratosphere," by Capt. Albert W. Stevens, in THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, October, 1934, and "Man's Farthest Aloft," January, 1936. Armada Memorial, thus facetiously de scribed by William Dean Howells: "On top of this we saw Britannia leading out her lion for a walk: lions become so dyspeptic if kept housed, and not allowed to stretch their legs in the open air." Just as prominent and more vital is the top portion of Smeaton's lighthouse, home from the sea and now a mere view tower, its red and white bulk cut into diamonds by electric-light wires (page 62). The original Eddystone Lighthouse, a wooden structure gilded and carved like a Chinese temple, lasted only four years.§ The second lighthouse defied the sea but yielded to fire. John Smeaton began the third, of Portland stone, in 1756, thus mak ing his structure a geological sister of half of London. Dovetailed to the gneiss ledge, the present Eddystone Light took over the task of serving Channel shipping in 1882 and marks the spot where Drake's little ships worked to windward of the Spanish Armada. MAYOR DRAKE AND RALEIGH, M. P. While waiting for a chance to die at sea, Drake served as Mayor and gave an ade quate water supply to Plymouth before London had one. The Burrator Reservoir fills a picturesque hollow of Dartmoor near Sheeps Tor, and so well chosen was the site that its capacity has been increased to more than a thou sand million gallons. Sir Walter Raleigh, who gave Virginia its name, was a Member of Parliament from Devonshire. Many years later Plymouth elected as the first woman to sit in the House of Commons a daughter of Virginia -Lady Astor. Raleigh was not a complete success as a colonist, but in Parliament he championed free speech, a worthy cause still carried on by the Lady from Virginia. No boat train existed to carry the May flower Pilgrims away from Plymouth Rock. That "stern and rock-bound coast" helped shape America's destiny, before her people pressed on to the conquest of a continent. Where better than in Old Plymouth can a returning visitor savor the Merry England of Drake and Hawkins, Bluff King Hal, and the Good Queen Bess, before going on to Exeter and Winchester, Windsor Castle, and Trafalgar Square? § See "Beacons of the Sea," in THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1913, and "New Safeguards for Ships in Fog and Storm," August, 1936, both by George R. Putnam.