Written, as appears from the title page, of which I give a copy on page 173, by Hakluyt at the request of Mr. Walter Raleigh, it must, according to the same authority, have been composed between the 17th of April and the middle of September 1584, the former being the date of sailing of Raleigh’s two ships there mentioned and the latter the date of their return.
He now decided to seek Guiana and its fairyland of gold. A small vessel was sent in advance, under command of Raleigh’s friend, Jacob Whiddon, to feel the way and explore the mouth of the Orinoco, which was deemed to be the gateway to the golden realm. Whiddon stopped at Trinidad, and found Berreo, then its governor, very kindly and cordial. Whiddon’s report made Raleigh more eager than ever.
The title-page itself must have been added afterwards, as it speaks of “Mr. Walter Raghly, nowe knight,” and the 21st chapter of the Discourse seemes to have been added at the same time. Its object was evidently to urge Elizabeth to support Raleigh’s adventure, in which he was then embarked under a patent granted him on 25th March 1584.
And now Raleigh’s misfortunes culminated. He had been sentenced to death for treason in 1603, but had been reprieved. The king had him arrested again on the old charge, and the king of Spain demanded that he should be punished for the attack on St. Thomas in times of peace.
These were taken also, twenty hogsheads of them. About two months out from Plymouth the hills of Trinidad were sighted, and Raleigh’s eyes rested for the first time on the shores of that New World in which he had so long taken a warm interest. Governor Berreo tried to treat Raleigh as he had done his agent, forbidding any of the Indians to go on his ships on peril of death.
His release from prison had been gained by bribery and the promise to open a rich mine of gold in Guiana, but the expedition proved a failure. There was a sharp fight with a party of Spaniards at St. Thomas, in which Raleigh’s son was killed. As for the gold mine, it could not be found, and the expedition was forced to return with none of the hoped-for wealth to show.