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Tomb of Mary, the Mother of Washington, Fredericksburg, Va.


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FIRST PERIOD.. 1579-1750.



CAPTAIN John Smith, the first writer of Virginia, was born at Willoughby, England, and led a life of rare and extensive adventure. "Lamenting and repenting," he says, "to have seen so many Christians slaughter one another," in France and the Lowlands, he enlisted in the wars against the Turks. He was captured by them and held prisoner for a year, but escaped and travelled all over Europe. He finally joined the expedition to colonize Virginia, and came over with the first settlers of Jamestown in 1607. His life here is well known; he remained with the colony two years. He afterwards returned to America as Admiral of New England, but did not stay long. He spent the remainder of his life in writing accounts of himself and his travels, and of the colonies in America.

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Captain Smith's style is honest and hearty in tone, picturesque, often amusing, never tiresome. It is involved and ungrammatical at times, but not obscure. The critics have professed to find many inaccuracies of historical statement;

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but the following, from Professor Edward Arber, the editor of the English Reprint of Smith's Works, will acquit him

of this charge:

"Inasmuch as the accuracy of some of Captain Smith's statements has, in this generation, been called in question, it was but our duty to subject every one of the nearly forty thousand lines of this book to a most searching criticism; scanning every assertion of fact most keenly, and making the Text, by the insertion of a multitude of crossreferences, prove or disprove itself.

"The result is perfectly satisfactory. Allowing for a popular style of expression, the Text is homogeneous; and the nine books comprising it, though written under very diverse circumstances, and at intervals over the period of twenty-two years (1608-1630), contain no material contradictions. Inasmuch, therefore, as wherever we can check Smith, we find him both modest and accurate, we are led to think him so, where no such check is possible, as at Nalbrits in the autumn of 1603, and on the Chickahominy in the winter of 1607-'8." See Life, by Simms, by Warner, and by Eggleston in "Pocahontas."


[This extract from his "General Historie" is in the words of a report by "eight gentlemen of the Jamestown Colony." It is corroborated by Captain Smith's letter to the Queen on the occasion of Pocahontas' visit to England after her marriage to Mr. John Rolfe. Matoaka, or Matoax, was her real name in her tribe, but it was considered unlucky to tell it to the English strangers.]

At last they brought him [Smith] to Meronocomoco, where was Powhatan their Emperor. Here more than two hundred of those grim Courtiers stood wondering at him, as he had beene a monster; till Powhatan and his trayne had put themselues in their greatest braveries. Before a fire vpon a seat like a bedstead, he sat covered with a great robe, made of Rarowcun skinnes, and all the tayles hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of 16 or 18 yeares;

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