"You serued God he set you free": Self, Nation, and Celebration in the Wager-Voyaging Adventure of Richard Ferris
Michael Lee Manous
University of California, Riverside
Michael Lee Manous."'You serued God he set you free': Self, Nation, and Celebration in the Wager-Voyaging Adventure of Richard Ferris". Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 16 (October, 2007) 6.1-25<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-16/manoferr.htm>.
Come olde and young behold and vewe,The people of Bristol gather together to celebrate the symbol of Ferris's triumph, sharing in a holiday mood that is subsequently transferred to London, where, Ferris tells us, "the people greatly reioyced to see us in all places," and, in addition, "the watermen & sundry other haue promised to grace the saide Boate with great melodie, and sundry volleyes of shot" (B2r). By announcing the future continuation of festivities, Ferris not only predicts the resumption of the voyage's holiday and social-gathering function in real life, but he encourages it. Ferris locates his voyage and himself within an imagined community of English spectators and readers, a community that bridges the gap between London and Bristol and ties his newfound fame and wager winnings to a social celebration that extends beyond immediate friends, acquaintances, and calendars.
A thing most rare is to be seene,
A seely Wherry it is most true:
Is come to Towne with sayle of greene.
With Oares cullour of the same,
To happy Ferris worthy fame. (B1v)
[that it] may be a iust occasion to pricke forward other of my natiue cuntrymen to practise an ordinary passage thorough the like dangers in such smal wherry Boates, especially when necessary occasion shall serue, the better to daunt the enemies of this nation, who in such flawes and frets at Sea, dare not hasard their Gallies to go foorth, though they bee of farre greater force to brooke the Seas. (A2v)Ostensibly a narrative of a sportive, money-making publicity stunt involving a rash endeavour to survive physical dangers as they presented themselves along England's unreliable and perilous coastal waters, Ferris's account of his voyage doubles as instruction concerning a more serious confrontation with danger and deformity—that with Spain and Spain's allies, the enemies, it was believed, of God, Queen, and nation. Figuring governmental authority and approval into his quest, Ferris here proceeds to offer fame-worthy, self-initiated action as a source of national identity available both to himself and to "other of my natiue cuntrymen".
But God who neuer faileth those that put their trust in him, sent vs a comfort vnlooked for: for as we rowed to come about by this rocke, suddenly we espyed a plaine and verie easie way for vs to passe on the inner side of the saide rocke, where we went through very pleasantly, and by reason thereof he [the pirate] could not follow vs: thus we escaped safely […]. (B1r)If we allow ourselves to compare this reported incident to what Ferris tells us is his patriotic purpose, we can observe that while the pirate vessel was "of farre greater force to brooke the Seas", it "dare not […] go foorth", Ferris's "smal Wherry" responding to "necessary occasion" to "daunt the enemies" of his wager voyage. Just as the seemingly invincible Armada suffered defeat at the hands of the English navy, so, too, does this pirate suffer defeat, being "soone after taken and brought in at Bristow" (B1r). And, so, too, the message seems to be, will the enemy suffer defeat at the hands of determined and ambitious Englishmen like Ferris—individuals made bold in the belief that they act with the support of both God and queen even as they act on their own initiative.
There was an element of democracy in privateering, strongest at sea, […] present in the preparation of a venture and its winding up, since both were free for all. This was a popular war and privateering was the most popular aspect of it; it canalised the anti-Spanish sentiment present in all classes […]; it gave his chance to any man who wished to wage war on his own account; it was the directest expression of the nation-in-arms. It thus embodied and developed that sense of confidence and pride in mere Englishness so well documented by Hakluyt and so well symbolised by the queen. At least until the civil war men would [… recall] the active unity and common participation of those days. The popular and democratic character of privateering [… included] the crude patriotism of the common man, patriotism mixed with godliness and greed and conscious pride in the deeds of citizens other than 'cavaliers.' (234)While the government's use of privateers certainly enabled "cavaliers" to combine patriotic adventures with the pursuit of plunder, the freedom to do so, as Andrews points out, was not restricted to the elite. "Common" adventurers like Ferris also possessed this freedom, such socially and politically sanctioned mobility making it easier for them to imagine themselves as actors in the war against Spain and Catholicism even as they sought financial rewards—here, in the form of wagers made and a book sold—for their performances. As Richard Helgerson observes in his analysis of Hakluyt's "Discourse on the Strait of Magellan", service to "National interest" was enough at that time to "make profit honorable" (180), and for the privateers and the government and, it seems, the population at large, such service and such seeking—such "godliness and greed"—often went hand in hand.
Sargent combines the values embedded in social gaming with those embedded in the performance of the privateer, implicitly linking the celebration of "wagers […] wonne" to the celebration of "bold" English adventurers defending their nation and their faith with a deed "most rare". As such, he might even be conflating the financial goal of the wager journeyer with the financial goal of the privateer, the term "wagers" serving a double function, denoting actual wagers and, in the spirited context of the stanza, invoking the idea of prizes, the just rewards of daring, victorious adventurers. Sargent further alludes to the recreational premise of the wager journey when he later tells Ferris, "now the game is thine" (B3v), but there is evidence that Ferris did, in fact, pursue his venture in a manner similar to that of the privateer, obtaining loans from creditors to finance both his voyage and the putting out of money, all in the hope of winning "wagers"/prizes and achieving a measure of renown. It is even possible that Ferris was influenced by the example of the privateer and courtier Robert Carey, who, the year before, having put out some money "to go on foot in twelve days to Berwick" (Carey 12), completed a wager-based journey in between his military expeditions abroad. Clearly, there existed, for some, a perceptual correlation between the popular and patriotic ventures of privateers and the entrepreneurial and nationalistic wager voyage of Ferris, and as Sargent's celebratory words would seem to suggest, this correlation lent to Ferris's successful enterprise an element of the heroic, however small or short-lived.
Oh gallant mindes and venturors bold,
That tooke in hand a thing most rare,
Twill make the Spaniardes harts waxe cold,
If that this newes to them prepare,
That three men hath this voyage done,
And thereby wagers great hath wonne. (B3r)
Shall I preferre this [success] to your skill,This assertion of Ferris's essential powerlessness is elsewhere tempered by Sargent's declaration concerning the reason God has sided with the English voyager: "No doubt Ferris God thou didst please, / Both thou and thine which were with thee, / You serued God he set you free" (B2v). By performing in support of England's opposition to a hostile Spain and the advance of bad religion, Ferris, it is believed, performs in support of God, as well. In this dual role, Ferris was "set" free to voyage at sea along the coast of English at his own pace and in the manner that he wished and, in addition, was "set" free from dangers—both physical and spiritual—that posed a threat to him during the course of his travels. In this, it is imagined that Ferris's personal ambitions are somehow consistent with the interests of both God and England, a notion that helps further legitimise Ferris's public-private quest.
No no twas God that did you guide,
For this be sure without his will,
You could not passe each bitter tide. (B3r)
But now we may behold and vewe,Here, the celebration of Ferris's wager voyage doubles as the patriotic celebration of the nation in action. It is now "English hearts" that "are not afrayde" and it is "vs" whose determination will overcome whatever obstacles fall in the way, for, as Ferris's voyage examples, God is on England's side. Ferris's individual achievement and fame is felt to be an achievement and fame that is shared by an entire people, he and his boat-mates embodying the potential of the Protestant English people, generally, to actively contribute to the preservation of nation, monarch, and right religion. In the summer of 1590, patriotism was on the rise, for events in the war were continuing to go England's way. News of these events confirmed for many that the nation's collective effort was receiving God's support and was consistent with God's plan for the world, and Sargent implies that by trusting in "mere Englishness" and in God any English subject could, like Ferris, play an actor's part in this providential and national progress. To the extent that we can take Sargent as an adequate representative of a widespread English patriotism, Ferris's stated assumption that his "natiue cuntrymen" might wish to follow in his footsteps is echoed, in the end, in the proud and confident belief of a people.
That English heartes are not afrayde,
Their Soueraignes foes for to subdue,
No tempest can make vs dismayde.
Let monstrous Papists spit their fill,
Their force is full against Gods will. (B3r).
 See Kemp, Kemps nine daies wonder (1600).
 For more on Moryson's attitude toward the wager journey, see Moryson 1: 425-29.
 Over the past century, only Arthur Freeman has dealt with the subject of Ferris's voyage and his pamphlet at any length; yet, even here, analysis is not the goal, for Freeman's primary focus is to provide a summary of Ferris's voyage and a scattering of related biographical details; see Freeman 168-75. More recent is a one-paragraph synopsis of Ferris's voyage in Pilkinton lxiii. Elsewhere,Ferris's voyage is cited in passing by, among others, Capp 58 and McRae, par. 9.
 Scholarship dealing with the wager journey has largely focused on its three most well-known practitioners: Kemp, Thomas Coryate, and Taylor. A by-no-means complete sampling of such work follows: on Kemp, see Wiles, especially 24-31, as well as Thomas and Palmer; on Coryate, see Strachan, Parr, Barbour 115-45, Ord, and Craik; on Taylor, see note 5, below. Freeman 167-87, Boehrer 13-15, and McRae, pars. 8-12, also deal with the topic of the wager journey. Unfortunately, I have been unable to examine Anthony Parr's upcoming book, Renaissance Mad Voyages.
 More recently, Laurie Ellinghausen has taken up the topic of Taylor's individualism and conservatism, though she does not focus on Taylor's preoccupation with travel. For discussions focused on Taylor's travels, see Wooden; Heal 210-16; Capp 18-28, 34-35, 58-59, and 155-62; and Chandler. Note that Taylor's travel-by-subscription method continued to link him to the travel-wager tradition. For analyses of this method, see Wooden 7-11; Capp 64-66; and Halasz 191-203.
 In this, I agree with the following point made by James P. Bednarz: "Thomas ... seems to idealize festivity so thoroughly that he entirely severs it from direct contact with commerce, and this, I believe, is a mistake" (279).
 Richard Helgerson describes how narratives of overseas voyages like those published by Richard Hakluyt "showed England in action" (152), but he fails to discuss how narratives of voyages in and around England were able, in their own way, to do the same.
 Freeman observes that a sea voyage from London to Bristol is "a passage under normal conditions of about six hundred sea-miles" (169), each nautical mile being equivalent to over 6,000 feet.
 As Freeman notes, "Nothing is especially easy about the task Ferris had volunteered for, despite the constant proximity of a coastline" (169).
 There is no way to tell how many actually wagered with Ferris. In 1618, two wager journeyers—Gervase Markham and Taylor—acquired very dissimilar numbers of "sponsors" for their somewhat similar journeys: thirty-nine for Markham and 1,650 for Taylor (Capp 19-20).
 That Ferris's voyage was undertaken with the hope of profit is somehow not understood by Freeman, who inexplicably suggests that the enterprise was altruistic (186) and "rewarded […] with no more apparently than a rousing welcome and the fame gained" (169).
 Gambling was an undeniable part of the social life of England, directly tying money-making aspirations to communal play.
 Ferris's is one of probably numerous wager journeys that began or took place on traditional holidays. Consider, for instance, the St. James Day Eve voyages by John Taylor and Bernard Calvard in 1619. For Taylor's voyage, see Taylor, Travels 53-60; for Calvard's voyage, see Taylor, Scourge C4v-C5r and compare with letter 333 in Chamberlain 2: 255.
 The holiday-like entertainment Ferris receives in Bristol prefigures Kemp's reception in Norwich, in March 1600 (Kemp C3v-D2r), and Taylor's in Queenborough, in July 1619 (Taylor, Travels 59-60).
 Cf. Pilkinton xlii-xliii, 135.
 Taylor's paper-boat served a somewhat different kind of holiday function in Queenborough, where festive-goers tore the boat to pieces in order to wear it as "reliques in their hats and caps" (Travels 59).
 Ferris returned to London on 8 August 1590. Freeman reports, "The news of their success had in fact out run them, a hastily concocted broadside ballad account (lost) being entered at Stationers' Hall on 7 August, and a similar evocation of the festivities of 4 August at Bristol entered on the tenth" (173).
 Cf. Ellinghausen 152-58, where the relationship between John Taylor's "individualist self" (153) and the book purchasers who validate this "self" is discussed.
 Kemp earns the attention of "diuers knights and Gentlemen" (C3v); Coryate dedicates his Crudities "To the High and Mighty Prince Henry" (1: 1); and Taylor tells us that at the conclusion of his paper-boat voyage, "The Mayor of Quinborough in love affords / To entertaine us, as we had beene lords" (Travels 59).
 While not functioning alike in all cases, hospitality and reciprocity also feature prominently in other wager-journey accounts, Taylor actually emerging as an important figure in Heal's study (210-16).
 Cf. note 5, above.
 The first reference to Ferris in the role of a messenger occurs on 18 June 1580 (Great Britain. Privy 12: 59).
 Ferris was "very violentlie used" on 19 April 1581 (Great Britain. Privy 13: 30-31) and was "assayled and hurt" on 1 November 1591 (22: 52-53).
 Not all that Ferris claimed to do in his capacity as a messenger, however, received governmental support, the State Papers recording on 29 October 1585 a "Note of the overcharge made by Richard Ferrys of 2,664 miles more than he rode, as one of the ordinary messengers of the chamber" (Great Britain, PRO 183: 281).
 Likewise, a Kemp-the-clown persona impacts Kemp's wager-journey account, and a Taylor-the-waterman persona impacts those pamphlets dealing with the wager-based voyages Taylor performed on rivers and/or at sea.
 Freeman incorrectly identifies the Lord Chancellor with William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who was actually the Lord Treasurer at that time (170).
 Ferris's activities are recorded on 1 April 1588, 27 June 1588, 21 August 1588, 30 December 1588, and 14 January 1589. See Great Britain, Privy 16: 16-17, 137-38, 245-46, 418-19, and 17: 24-25.
 Freeman offers: "Perhaps this not unusual mission, thrusting Ferris as it happened into the company of seamen all over the south and west coasts, put him first in mind of the expedition for which he is best remembered" (168-69).
 Ferris's stated goal represents an interpretation of his voyage that, although informed by his professional identification with service to the monarch, is not entirely determined by it.
 In his 1623 sea journey to Salisbury, Taylor likewise arrives at "the Royall fleete […] / Where much good welcome they did afford" (Taylor, Travels 113).
 Freeman refers to "Ferris' sporting voyage in the spirit of post-Armada bravado" (186), but he does so in passing, providing little analysis in support of his claim.
 According to Andrews, "no less than 236 English vessels are known to have been privateering at one time or another during the three years 1589-91," and "it is fair to conclude that at least 300 voyages—a hundred a year—took place" (32-33). Most such voyages embarked from London and "ports westward from Chichester round to Bristol" (34), an area traversed by Ferris in his voyage.
 On 2 August 1591, a year after Ferris's voyage, Ferris had "divers somes of money owing unto him which he is not able to recover", and "his creditours to whom he standeth indebted in great somes of money importune him for satisfaccion […]" (Great Britain, Privy 21: 361). This record, coupled with what Ferris tells us in his pamphlet, suggests that Ferris took out loans to put out money in advance of the completion of his voyage and to finance the construction and painting of his boat, which "was new built" (A3r). Ferris's promotion of his venture must have culminated in debts that were to be paid back upon receipt of his wager winnings. In this scenario, Ferris would have only been able to afford to partake in the typical "putting out" practice by procuring the trust of creditors, which many privateers and merchant adventurers also had to do. Woodbridge notes that gambling in the period was often conceived "in the same conceptual space with various mercantile and proto-capitalistic ventures", including investments in risky voyages abroad (196).
 Moryson reports that the wager-journey performances of commoners grew out of the practice of such performances by courtiers and the social elite (1: 428). Carey's example might have made it easier for Ferris to link wartime efforts to his own distinctive quest for profit and fame. For Carey's adventures at around this time, see Carey 9-22.
 According to Craig Muldrew, "Acting as a witness seems to have been a casual and normal part of daily activity and was one of the duties of neighborliness" (64).
 Helgerson's argument concerning the general movement away from the representation of England as a monarch-centred nation to that of a "land-centered nation" (120) may be relevant, here, as Ferris's narrative presents an England understood not only in relation to its powerful monarch but in relation to its geographical and communal variety—that is, in relation to "seuerall places vpon the coast of England" where "great entertainement" was had (A1r) and, also, to a coastal sea that could, it is suggested, be accessible to "other of my natiue cuntrymen" (A2v).
 At the exact time of Ferris's voyage, Henry IV in France "looked to be upon the eve of decisive success" against his Catholic adversaries (Wernham 183). Of course, the Duke of Parma would rally, producing a stalemate with Henry on 27 August 1590, a few weeks after Ferris's return to London (183-86).
 The government kept Ferris employed at least through 1606, after which any record of Ferris seems to disappear (Freeman 175). During this time, there is no indication that Ferris attempted another wager-journey venture, a fact that may be related to the difficulty he had in collecting from many of those who had lost wagers to him. See note 33, above.
 This last quotation is from Taylor's introduction to his wager-journey pamphlet, The Pennyles Pilgrimage (1618).