Westward Ho! Study Guide

by Charles Kingsley
for Year 8

Study Guide by Anne White

For parents only: "25-Minute Version" of the book!


Westward Ho! is about love, hate, honour, and vengeance. It's also about 16th century religion, colonization, and warfare. The novel covers a very packed thirteen years in the life of one Amyas Leigh, who goes out questing for adventure, treasure and for the honour of Queen Elizabeth. In between the first and second chapters, he manages to sail around the world with Francis Drake, but that doesn't seem half as difficult or as dangerous as some of his later adventures. He fights Spanish invaders in Ireland, travels to Newfoundland with the Humphrey Gilbert expedition, and hunts down spies and rebels. He also wants to save a girl named Rose, who--you might not be expecting this--isn't his sweetheart. Rose, in fact, can't seem to commit to anyone, so the local admirers make a pact that they'll do the honourable thing and let her make up her own mind. Unfortunately, Rose repays them by falling for a manipulative Spaniard and then eloping to South America with him. Even worse, Rose, as a Protestant, has sailed into the dragon's den of the Spanish Inquisition. Can the Brotherhood find her and bring her home before it's too late?

And if you thought that was the end of the story, there is still the Spanish Armada to fight.

Kingsley wrote, "It is in memory of these men, their voyages and their battles, their faith and their valor, their heroic lives and no less heroic deaths, that I write this book; and if now and then I shall seem to warm into a style somewhat too stilted and pompous, let me be excused for my subject's sake, fit rather to have been sung than said, and to have proclaimed to all true English hearts, not as a novel but as an epic (which some man may yet gird himself to write), the same great message which the songs of Troy, and the Persian wars, and the trophies of Marathon and Salamis, spoke to the hearts of all true Greeks of old."

Charles Kingsley's Views on Things

Charles Kingsley never manages to keep his views on anything to himself. If you've read his other books, you will know that, although he was a Christian pastor (and writer and naturalist and professor), he had strong prejudices about. Jews, Roman Catholics (particularly Jesuits), Anabaptists, Irish people, Africans, and natives of any kind (although he didn't think European colonizers should mistreat native people or sell them for slaves). He loved his homeland, his queen, and his Protestant faith, and couldn't see how anybody or anything else could measure up; to be an Englishman was the best thing in the world. However, out of all his books so far that I've read, this one--strangely enough, since its plot hangs so much on religious and international tension--seems, in some ways, less racist. Maybe it's because a lot of the strife is between the Spanish and the English, which seems to be as much political as it is religious or racial. Or maybe it is because--without giving away the ending of the book--some of the hate is eventually acknowledged to be wrong.

However, there are still at least a few places in the book that will make us cringe a bit, or a lot. One general problem is that "the negroes" and "the Indians" are hardly ever given the respect of having actual names, even when they are friendly; there's an obvious distancing. Christianity is presented with a sense that it is owned by the English, a means of civilizing native tribes and making them more English.

There are also parts of the book that may cause offense to tender hearts and young minds--in other words, there is some violence, both what happens to the characters and in the stories they tell; and there is some implied adultery, particularly in the long story that Salvation Yeo tells about his voyage with John Oxenham. His story seems to foreshadow later books by Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad; it's quite dark and disturbing. Year Eights reading the book to themselves may feel just as stranded in that long chapter as Salvation Yeo does in the jungle. Best advice: read through his story quickly, not worrying about all the details of the various attacks and escapes. Some of it does turn out to be important later on, but you can always check back when you get there.

Geography and Dialect

The first part of this book is set in the English county of Devon, in southwest England, which is the only county to have both a north and south coast. It is known as a very seafaring place; Plymouth is on the south coast.

"Leafy Devon is the beauty of the western counties. It has a blue sea margin north and south, bordered with cliffs, which on the south coast are often of pink and grey marble. Trees fringe the coast almost to the water�s edge, and the very cliffs are hung with creepers.

"Much of central Devon is breezy moorland, bleak and barren enough; and there is another stretch of moor towards the north; but spurs from these high moors reach the coast, both north and south, and between these spurs are deep, shadowy combes, the valleys of the sparkling moorland streams.

"The villages nestle in these combes; and very pretty a Devon village is, with its narrow, steep lanes, bordered by high hedges, and its snug-looking cottages, with thatched roofs and rosy walls of cob. Cob is made of the reddish mud of the district mixed with pebbles or straw. The villages often lie among great orchards of apple trees, and myrtle grows freely about the cottage doors." (from Charlotte Mason's geography textbook)

Several of the Devon characters speak in the West Country dialect, particularly Rose's "friend" Lucy Passmore. They often use the word "mun" as an all-purpose pronoun; it can mean it, him, or them.

El Dorado

The legendary "Lost City of Gold", also known as Manoa, has fascinated explorers since the days of the Spanish conquistadors.

Historical Incidents

This book is so full of real people and real events that it is sometimes difficult to tell which are true and which are fictional. Many of the explorers referred to, their adventures and their deaths, are commonly covered in geography courses. The Spanish Inquisition, by the time of this book, had been in place for a hundred years and would continue for over two hundred more. The English battle with the Spanish Armada has been well described by many writers, including David Howarth, whose 1981 book The Voyage of the Armada: The Spanish Story is on the Year Eight booklist.

I will try to note sources of information on other events as they come up.

Other Notes

The edition we have spells Sir Walter Raleigh's name as Ralegh. Since Raleigh is the more usual spelling, and it is used in other editions, that's what I will use in these notes.

Note on the title "Don": Students unfamiliar with Spanish may wonder why so many characters have the same first name! "Don" is a title of nobility and respect, used in front of a man's first name.

I have not included ship's vocabulary in the words to look up. Some readers already know what a mizzen-mast is, some want to know, and some don't care. For those that do, I can suggest this webpage.

I have also not taken much notice of the vocabulary for flora and fauna, particularly the South American trees and animals. Some will be self-explanatory, like parrot-fish. Others you may be curious enough to look up.

Chapter 1. How Mr. Oxenham Saw the White Bird

Words to look up: Armada, quay, sack (the drink), rapier, tester (also called a testoon), suit (as in "help him with his suit"), "Tower Hill." "Jack" is a nickname for "John."


"God grant you become a braver man than he! for, as I think, to be bold against the enemy is common to the brutes; but the prerogative of a man is to be bold against himself."

"How, sir?"

"To conquer our own fancies, Amyas, and our own lusts, and our ambition, in the sacred name of duty; this it is to be truly brave, and truly strong; for he who cannot rule himself, how can he rule his crew or his fortunes?"

Narration and Discussion: Kingsley describes a painting of Sir Richard Grenville. Like a police artist, try to reconstruct the "suspect" from his description. Then look up the Wikipedia page for Grenville, where the painting is shown. How did you do?

Mr. Leigh (father of Amyas) refers to his oldest son and calls him Joseph. His son's name is actually Francis or Frank--what does his father mean by calling Frank Joseph and Amyas Benjamin?

Chapter 2. How Amyas Came Home the First Time

Before you read: This chapter jumps ahead five years, to 1580, and a great deal has happened in that time.

In the description of the Leigh family, the people first described are the parents of Mrs. Leigh, so the grandparents of Amyas. Anne Askew was a real person who was horribly tortured and burned for her Protestant faith. The mother of Mrs. Leigh, a Protestant who had married a Catholic, eventually had to "hide for her life" as well, and this had a lifelong impact on their daughter.

Words to look up: jocund, ordnance, burghers, rector, pedagogue, murrain, ochidore, profligacy. "Gloriana" refers to Queen Elizabeth. "Per diem" is Latin for "per day." "Is this hedgebantling to be fathered on you, Mr. Frank?" means, Are you responsible for this awful drivel? "Swan of Avon" refers to Shakespeare. Euphuism means affected (artificial) elegance, particularly in literary style; references to "euphuists" will come up several times in this book.

Copywork: He was one of those men, moreover, who possess almost every gift except the gift of the power to use them; and though a scholar, a courtier, and a soldier, he had found himself, when he was past forty, without settled employment or aim in life, by reason of a certain shyness, pride, or delicate honor (call it which you will), which had always kept him from playing a winning game in that very world after whose prizes he hankered to the last, and on which he revenged himself by continual grumbling. At last, by his good luck, he met with a fair young Miss Foljambe, of Derbyshire, then about Queen Elizabeth's Court . . . [and] they got leave to vanish from the little Babylon at Whitehall, and settle in peace at Burrough. In her he found a treasure, and he knew what he had found.

Narration and Discussion: Why is it such a big day in Bideford? As the flashback begins: what brought Frank home suddenly? Where did Sir Richard send him before he had been home six months? How was it that Amyas did finally get to go to sea?

Draw a picture of Frank as he is described at the celebration pageant.

Chapter 3. Of Two Gentlemen of Wales, and How they Hunted with the Hounds, And Yet Ran with the Deer

Another Leigh character is introduced in this chapter, Cousin Eustace. (Do you think C.S. Lewis might have had him in mind?)

"The penal laws" referred to at the beginning of the chapter were laws against practicing Roman Catholicism. At this time, as the chapter points out, the laws were not enforced to any great extent, unless the person caused other trouble.

Words to look up: ostler, Papist, Jesuit (also Society of Jesus), fetch ("help him out with such a fetch"), tonsure, Reynard. "Cast into the fire to Moloch" is a metaphor for children having been sacrificed to "foreign gods," in this case by being educated (like Eustace) in Catholic seminaries. Bulls and dispensations are church documents and communications.

Copywork: "I have tried to hint to you two opposite sorts of men. The one trying to be good with all his might and main, according to certain approved methods and rules, which he has got by heart; and like a weak oarsman, feeling and fingering his spiritual muscles over all day, to see if they are growing. The other, not even knowing whether he is good or not, but just doing the right thing without thinking about it, as simply as a little child, because the Spirit of God is with him."

Narration and Discussion: What did Amyas mean by "that three-legged fellow?" What are the true identities of Morgan Evans and Evan Morgans, and what are they up to? What else is on Eustace's mind?

Chapter 4. The Two Ways of Being Crost in Love

Words to look up: expedient, reprobate, profligate, malapert, mutch (an item of clothing). "The say" is "the sea." "Crammed up the rubrics" means gave themselves a crash course. "The old man of the seven hills" is the Pope.

Copywork: Amyas longed that he could write such neat verses, and sing them so sweetly. How he would besiege the ear of Rose Salterne with amorous ditties! But still, he could not be everything; and if he had the bone and muscle of the family, it was but fair that Frank should have the brains and voice; and, after all, he was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and it was just the same as if he himself could do all the fine things which Frank could do; for as long as one of the family won honor, what matter which of them it was? Whereon he shouted through the wall, "Good night, old song-thrush; I suppose I need not pay the musicians."

Narration and Discussion: How do Amyas and his brother Frank show their genuine love for each other?

Chapter 5. Clovelly Court in the Olden Time

Words to look up: cynosure, appellant, bodkin.

The "first battle of Alcasar" is described in Wikipedia under the title "Battle of Alcacer Quibir."

Copywork "For as there is nothing more noble and blessed than to fight in behalf of those whom we love, so to fight in our own private behalf is a thing not to be allowed to a Christian man, unless refusal imports utter loss of life or honour; and even then, it may be (though I would not lay a burden on any man's conscience), it is better not to resist evil, but to overcome it with good."

Narration and Discussion: What were the main topics of conversation at the Cary dinner party?

Chapter 6. The Combes of the Far West

Words to look up: nobles (money), strata, primaeval, bower. Devon dialect words: "Iss" means yes, "roogs" means rogues, "praste" means priest, "marmaiden" means mermaid.

Copywork: And even such are those delightful glens, which cut the high table-land of the confines of Devon and Cornwall, and opening each through its gorge of down and rock, towards the boundless Western Ocean. Each is like the other, and each is like no other English scenery. Each has its upright walls, inland of rich oak-wood, nearer the sea of dark green furze, then of smooth turf, then of weird black cliffs which range out right and left far into the deep sea, in castles, spires, and wings of jagged iron-stone. Each has its narrow strip of fertile meadow, its crystal trout stream winding across and across from one hill-foot to the other; its gray stone mill, with the water sparkling and humming round the dripping wheel; its dark, rock pools above the tide mark, where the salmon-trout gather in from their Atlantic wanderings, after each autumn flood: its ridge of blown sand, bright with golden trefoil and crimson lady's finger; its gray bank of polished pebbles, down which the stream rattles toward the sea below.

Narration and Discussion: Why was Rose so desperate to know whom she should marry? What does the Bible warn about seeking guidance from ungodly sources? (Leviticus 19:31)

Chapter 7. The True and Tragical History of Mr. John Oxenham of Plymouth

Words to look up: adjudged, caravel, swooned, scarpines, arquebus (also spelled arquebuse). New Spain refers here to Mexico. "Lutheran" is used here (especially by the Spanish) to refer to any Protestant. A cacique is a native chief.

Copywork: If any one shall be startled at hearing a fine gentleman and a warrior like Sir Richard quote Scripture, and think Scripture also, they must be referred to the writings of the time; which they may read not without profit to themselves, if they discover therefrom how it was possible then for men of the world to be thoroughly ingrained with the Gospel, and yet to be free from any taint of superstitious fear, or false devoutness. The religion of those days was such as no soldier need have been ashamed of confessing.

SUMMARY OF YEO'S STORY: Yeo tells a very long and involved tale about sailing, capture, and survival. The short version: After winning some treasure, John Oxenham (who seems to have been no better than a pirate) should have ended the run and gotten his men back to safety, but he delays because he has arranged to meet a woman he loves, and she arrives with her little girl. After some time and several complications, Oxenham, Yeo, a man named Penberthy, the woman and the little girl end up tramping through the jungle, but then get caught by the Spanish. By the time this part of the story ends, Penberthy is dead, the woman has committed suicide, Oxenham has been arrested, and the girl has disappeared. Yeo then explains that he was taken in by a native tribe and started a new life there, with a wife and child, but the village was attacked by the Spanish, and he was captured and tortured by the Inquisition, then made to work as a galley slave. He finally escaped and ended up back in England.

Narration and Discussion: How does Sir Richard know right away that Salvation Yeo is an Anabaptist? How do Yeo's religious beliefs seem slightly different from those of the more "mainstream" Protestants? Why has Yeo come to see Sir Richard? What does he want most?

Chapter 8. How the Noble Brotherhood of the Rose was Founded

Words to look up: pedantry, anachronism, coxcomb, malign. Eros means Cupid, son of Venus, represents love. Deus venter means the god of the stomach.

Copywork: Let us rather open our eyes, and see in these old Elizabeth gallants our own ancestors, showing forth with the luxuriant wildness of youth all the virtues which still go to the making of a true Englishman. Let us not only see in their commercial and military daring, in their political astuteness, in their deep reverence for law, and in their solemn sense of the great calling of the English nation, the antitypes or rather the examples of our own: but let us confess that their chivalry is only another garb of that beautiful tenderness and mercy which is now, as it was then, the twin sister of English valor; and even in their extravagant fondness for Continental manners and literature, let us recognize that old Anglo-Norman teachableness and wide-heartedness, which has enabled us to profit by the wisdom and civilization of all ages and of all lands, without prejudice to our own distinctive national character.

Narration and Discussion: How did Jack Brimblecombe end up as one of the "brotherhood?" Do you think he will prove himself worthy?

Chapter 9. How Amyas Kept His Christmas Day

Words to look up: gabions, politic (adjective), abstemious. That accursed Popish rag means the flag of Spain, flying over the fort. Manoa means the fabled lost city of gold (see introductory note on El Dorado).

A little literature: You can read more about Spenser in Marshall's English Literature, or in any book about English literature.

A little history: "After a three-day siege [at Smerwick], commander Di san Giuseppe [called San Josepho in the novel] surrendered on 10 October 1580 [on Christmas Day in the novel]. Grey de Wilton ordered the massacre of the invasion forces, sparing only the commanders . . ." (Wikipedia, "The Second Desmond Rebellion") (very useful article!)

Copywork: "Good heaven! how that brave lad shames me, singing here the hymns which his mother taught him, before the very muzzles of Spanish guns; instead of bewailing unmanly, as I have done, the love which he held, I doubt not, as dear as I did even my Rosalind. This is his welcome to the winter's storm; while I, who dream, forsooth, of heavenly inspiration, can but see therein an image of mine own cowardly despair." OR Battles (as soldiers know, and newspaper editors do not) are usually fought, not as they ought to be fought, but as they can be fought; and while the literary man is laying down the law at his desk as to how many troops should be moved here, and what rivers should be crossed there, and where the cavalry should have been brought up, and when the flank should have been turned, the wretched man who has to do the work finds the matter settled for him by pestilence, want of shoes, empty stomachs, bad roads, heavy rains, hot suns, and a thousand other stern warriors who never show on paper.

Narration and Discussion: Lord Grey says to Raleigh, "[The Queen] will be furious when she hears of this cruelty." Raleigh answers, "Her Majesty shall at least not find me among the number of those who prefer her favour to her safety." What does he mean?

Chapter 10. How the Mayor of Bideford Baited his Hook with His Own Flesh

Words to look up: calumy, unexpugnable, duenna, predilection, monopoly, redolent, unwonted. "A certain human fondness for the carotid artery and the parts adjoining" means he had no wish to get his throat cut. "It befell on this wise" means it happened like this.

Copywork: The Spaniard became soon welcome at every house for many a mile round, and made use of his welcome so freely, and received so much unwonted attention from fair young dames, that his head might have been a little turned, and Rose Salterne have thereby escaped, had not Sir Richard delicately given him to understand that in spite of the free and easy manners of English ladies, brothers were just as jealous, and ladies' honours at least as inexpugnable, as in the land of demureness and duennas. Don Guzman took the hint well enough, and kept on good terms with the country gentlemen as with their daughters; and to tell the truth, the cunning soldier of fortune found his account in being intimate with all the ladies he could, in order to prevent old Salterne from fancying that he had any peculiar predilection for Mistress Rose.

Narration and Discussion: How did Don Guzman win the heart of Rose Salterne? What happened after she refused him? Whose fault was that?

Chapter 11. How Eustace Leigh Met the Pope's Legate

Words to look up: garron, caliver, liegeman, celibate, jerkin, cuirass, imputation. "Thews and sinews" means muscles.

Copywork: This Newfoundland colony, though it was to produce gold, silver, merchandise, and what not, was but a basis of operations, a halfway house from whence to work out the North-West passage to the Indies--that golden dream, as fatal to English valour as the Guiana one to Spanish--and yet hardly, hardly to be regretted, when we remember the seamanship, the science, the chivalry, the heroism, unequalled in the history of the English nation, which it has called forth among those our later Arctic voyagers, who have combined the knight-errantry of the middle age with the practical prudence of the modern, and dared for duty more than Cortez or Pizarro dared for gold.

Narration and Discussion: Sir Walter Raleigh says to himself, "I would be good and great--When will the day come when I shall be content to be good, and yet not great, like this same simple Leigh, toiling on by my side to do his duty, with no more thought for the morrow than the birds of God?" Is it better to be good, or to be great? Can you be both?

Chapter 12. How Bideford Bridge Dined at Annery House

Words to look up: omphalos, cynosure (if you missed it in Chapter 5), sentient

Copywork: Whereon Don Guzman broke out jubilant, like nightingale on bough, with story, and jest, and repartee; and became forthwith the soul of the whole company, and the most charming of all cavaliers. And poor Rose knew that she was the cause of his sudden change of mood, and blamed herself for what she had done, and shuddered and blushed at her own delight, and longed that the feast was over, that she might hurry home and hide herself alone with sweet fancies about a love the reality of which she felt she dared not face.

Narrations: What was the purpose of Don Guzman's story? What effect did it have on the various listeners?

Chapter 13. How the Golden Hind Came Home Again

Words to look up: farthingale. "Cast a nativity" means read a horoscope.

"Armadas" is used here in the plural; an armada, generally, means a fleet of warships. It has already been mentioned several times in the book, but always in reference to The Great Armada of 1588.

Copywork: "Gold, gold, nothing but gold in every mouth--there it is! Ah! I mind when Plymouth was a quiet little God-fearing place as God could smile upon: but ever since my John, and Sir Francis, and poor Mr. Oxenham found out the way to the Indies, it's been a sad place. Not a sailor's wife but is crying 'Give, give,' like the daughters of the horse-leech; and every woman must drive her husband out across seas to bring her home money to squander on hoods and farthingales, and go mincing with outstretched necks and wanton eyes; and they will soon learn to do worse than that, for the sake of gain."

Narration and Discussion: How does Adrian Gilbert plan to make England rich and great? Why is Mrs. Hawkins not impressed? Why does she later name her son's ship Repentance?

Chapter 14. How Salvation Yeo Slew the King of the Gubbings

Words to look up: Grobian, bivouac, Agnus Dei (the object, referred to here as "one of those Popish Agnuses"). Gubbings (also written gubbins): as Kingsley explains, it means the scraps of fish, but it can also refer to people.

Copywork: Amyas was very angry. He wanted but little more to make him catch Eustace by the shoulders, shake the life out of him, and deliver him into the tender guardianship of Yeo; but he knew that to take him at all was to bring certain death on him, and disgrace on the family; and remembering Frank's conduct on that memorable night at Clovelly, he kept himself down.

"Take me," said Eustace, "if you will, sir. You, who complain of us that we keep no faith with heretics, will perhaps recollect that you asked me into this room as your guest, and that in your good faith I trusted when I entered it."

The argument was a worthless one in law; for Eustace had been a prisoner before he was a guest, and Amyas was guilty of something very like misprision of treason in not handing him over to the nearest justice. However, all he did was, to go to the door, open it, and bowing to his cousin, bid him walk out and go to the devil, since he seemed to have set his mind on ending his days in the company of that personage.

Whereon Eustace vanished.

Narration and Discussion: Amyas says, "If she has found holiness, it matters little to me where she has found it, Master Eustace, but that is the very point that I should be glad to know for certain." What does he mean?

Why does the local justice refuse to do more about the incident with the "Gubbings" than to take down Yeo's statement?

What does Rose's father ask Amyas to do? Why does Amyas hesitate to say yes?

Chapter 15. How Mr John Brimblecombe Understood the Nature of an Oath

Words to look up: premonitory, posse comitatus, augury, plebiscitum, brimstone, gainsay. A plate-fleet is a fleet of ships (usually Spanish) bringing treasure back from the New World.

Moresco Castle on Lundy Island: Kingsley's spelling for Marisco Castle. Photos here.

Copywork: Will knew no answer. To laugh at the poor fellow was easy enough; to deny that he was right, that he was a hero and cavalier, outdoing romance itself in faithfulness, not so easy; and Cary, in the first impulse, wished him at the bottom of the bay for shaming him. Of course, his own plan of letting ill alone was the rational, prudent, irreproachable plan, and just what any gentleman in his senses would have done; but here was a vulgar, fat curate, out of his senses, determined not to let ill alone, but to do something, as Cary felt in his heart, of a far diviner stamp.

Narration and Discussion: How does Jack Brimblecombe demonstrate both faith and love in this chapter?

Chapter 16. The Most Chivalrous Adventure of the Good Ship Rose

Words to look up: declamation, Elysium, degradation

Note: Drake's ship The Pelican was renamed The Golden Hind.

Copywork: "Why, then? Is not the West the land of peace, and the land of dreams? Do not our hearts tell us so each time we look upon the setting sun, and long to float away with him upon the golden-cushioned clouds? They bury men with their faces to the East. I should rather have mine turned to the West, Amyas, when I die; for I cannot but think it some divine instinct which made the ancient poets guess that Elysium lay beneath the setting sun. It is bound up in the heart of man, that longing for the West."

Narration and Discussion: What were some of the preparations that the Brotherhood made in order to go and rescue Rose? Do you think they will be successful?

Chapter 17. How They Came to Barbados, and Found No Men Therein

Words to look up: colibri. Crowned ananas means pineapples.

Copywork: Land! land! land! Yes, there it was, far away to the south and west, beside the setting sun, a long blue bar between the crimson sea and golden sky. Land at last, with fresh streams, and cooling fruits, and free room for cramped and scurvy-weakened limbs. And there, too, might be gold, and gems, and all the wealth of Ind. Who knew? Why not? The old world of fact and prose lay thousands of miles behind them, and before them and around them was the realm of wonder and fable, of boundless hope and possibility. Sick men crawled up out of their stifling hammocks; strong men fell on their knees and gave God thanks; and all eyes and hands were stretched eagerly toward the far blue cloud, fading as the sun sank down, yet rising higher and broader as the ship rushed on before the rich trade-wind, which whispered lovingly round brow and sail, "I am the faithful friend of those who dare!"

Narration and Discussion: Draw your impression of Barbados, as it might have appeared in the sixteenth century.

Chapter 18. How They Took the Pearls at Margarita

Words to look up: shagreened, perturbations, lucidity, caterwauling. "In manas Tuas, Domine" means "Into Thy hands, Lord." Misericordia means mercy. "His nether tackle" means his lower gear (his trousers). Manicheanism: the belief that the spiritual world is good but the physical world is bad; specifically, here, suggesting that God is bad because He created sharks.


Frank. Oh, Jack, Jack, behold how one sin begets another! Just now thou wert but a coward, and now thou art a Manichee. For thou hast imputed to an evil creator that which was formed only for a good end, namely, sharks, which were made on purpose to devour useless carcasses like thine. Moreover, as a brother of the Rose, thou wert bound by the vow of thy brotherhood to have leaped joyfully down that shark's mouth.

Jack. Ay, very likely, if Mistress Rose had been in his stomach; but I wanted to fight Spaniards just then, not to be shark-bitten.

Narration and Discussion: How did Jack Brimblecombe redeem himself (i.e. show greater courage) after the incident with the shark?

Chapter 19. What Befell at La Guayra

Obscure words: "Dor" is not clear, but I think it means a conundrum, riddle, or paradox. "Patararo" is defined in a later chapter as a "brass swivel" or "swivel-gun."

Copywork: "And do you forget, Cary, that the more fair this passing world of time, by so much the more fair is that eternal world, whereof all here is but a shadow and a dream; by so much the more fair is He before whose throne the four mystic beasts, the substantial ideas of Nature and her powers, stand day and night, crying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, Thou hast made all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created!' My friends, if He be so prodigal of His own glory as to have decked these lonely shores, all but unknown since the foundation of the world, with splendors beyond all our dreams, what must be the glory of His face itself!"

Narration and Discussion: What did happen at La Guayra?

Chapter 20. Spanish Bloodhounds and English Mastiffs

Words to look up: galleon, pedantical, despotism, prowess, proselytizing, approbation. Madre Dolorosa means Mother of Sorrows.

Copywork: And now and then an opening in the smoke showed the Spanish captain, in his suit of black steel armor, standing cool and proud, guiding and pointing, careless of the iron hail, but too lofty a gentleman to soil his glove with aught but a knightly sword-hilt: while Amyas and Will, after the fashion of the English gentlemen, had stripped themselves nearly as bare as their own sailors, and were cheering, thrusting, hewing, and hauling, here, there, and everywhere, like any common mariner, and filling them with a spirit of self-respect, fellow-feeling, and personal daring, which the discipline of the Spaniards, more perfect mechanically, but cold and tyrannous, and crushing spiritually, never could bestow. The black-plumed se ñor was obeyed; but the golden-locked Amyas was followed, and would have been followed through the jaws of hell.

Narration and Discussion: Salvation Yeo says, "I thank the Lord, who has given so wise a heart to so young a general." Do you agree? How is Amyas showing wisdom, or not?

Who do you think is the bravest character in this chapter?

Chapter 21. How They Took the Communion Under the Tree at Higuerote

Words to look up: accrue, impregnable, caliver, abattis

Copywork: Flower-gardens at least were there in plenty; for every limb was covered with pendent cactuses, gorgeous orchises, and wild pines; and while one-half the tree was clothed in rich foliage, the other half, utterly leafless, bore on every twig brilliant yellow flowers, around which humming-birds whirred all day long. Parrots peeped in and out of every cranny, while, within the airy woodland, brilliant lizards basked like living gems upon the bark, gaudy finches flitted and chirruped, butterflies of every size and color hovered over the topmost twigs, innumerable insects hummed from morn till eve; and when the sun went down, tree-toads came out to snore and croak till dawn. There was more life round that one tree than in a whole square mile of English soil.

Narration and Discussion: What plans does Amyas make now? (What are the choices?) How does he (again) miss his chance to fight in single combat with Don Guzman?

Chapter 22. The Inquisition in the Indies (a short chapter)

Words to look up: recantation, compunction, chastisement

Copywork: He escaped into the fragrant open air, and the golden tropic moonlight, and a garden which might have served as a model for Eden; but man's hell followed into God's heaven, and still those wails seemed to ring through his ears.

"Oh, misery, misery, misery!" murmured he to himself through grinding teeth; "and I have brought her to this!"

Narration and Discussion: How does Eustace attempt to justify his betrayal of Rose?

Chapter 23. The Banks of the Meta

Words to look up: commonweal, gourmand, superlative, cataract, piragua (pirogue), virago

Copywork: Then, leaping into her tiny piragua, she darted into the wildest whirl of the eddies, shooting along with vigorous strokes, while the English trembled as they saw the frail bark spinning and leaping amid the muzzles of the alligators, and the huge dog-toothed trout: but with the swiftness of an arrow she reached the northern bank, drove her canoe among the bushes, and leaping from it, darted through some narrow opening in the bush, and vanished like a dream.

"What fair virago have you unearthed?" cried Cary, as they toiled up again to the landing-place.

"Beshrew me," quoth Jack, "but we are in the very land of the nymphs, and I shall expect to see Diana herself next, with the moon on her forehead."

Narration and Discussion: Describe the encounter on the river from the point of view of someone (or something) besides the sailors.

Chapter 24. How Amyas Was Tempted of the Devil

Words to look up: cassava, coca, anthropologic, cacophony, propitious, flagellation, curare (poison). "Vanity and vexation of spirit" is a reference to Ecclesiastes 1:14. A piache is a witch doctor or shaman (in a later chapter, Kingsley translates it "conjuror").

Copywork: On its farther side, the crag rose some twenty feet in height, bank upon bank of feathered ferns and cushioned moss, over the rich green beds of which drooped a thousand orchids, scarlet, white, and orange, and made the still pool gorgeous with the reflection of their gorgeousness. At its more quiet outfall, it was half-hidden in huge fantastic leaves and tall flowering stems; but near the waterfall the grassy bank sloped down toward the stream, and there, on palm-leaves strewed upon the turf, beneath the shadow of the crags, lay the two men whom Amyas sought, and whom, now he had found them, he had hardly heart to wake from their delicious dream . . . What was not there which eye or ear could need? And what which palate could need either? For on the rock above, some strange tree, leaning forward, dropped every now and then a luscious apple upon the grass below, and huge wild plantains bent beneath their load of fruit.

Narration and Discussion: Where did the maiden (who suddenly begins to be called Ayacanora) come from, according to the cacique?

Chapter 25. How They Took the Gold-Train

Words to look up: basnet, emaciated, recondite, torpor, compact (noun). Casus belli means Latin for "an act or event that provokes or is used to justify war". "Miserere Domine" means Lord have mercy on me.

Copywork: "Señor," said Jack, "the best way to punish oneself for doing ill, seems to me to go and do good; and the best way to find out whether God means you well, is to find out whether He will help you to do well. If you have wronged Indians in time past, see whether you cannot right them now. If you can, you are safe. For the Lord will not send the devil's servants to do His work."

The old man held down his head.

"Right the Indians? Alas! what is done, is done!"

"Not altogether, señor," said Amyas, "as long as an Indian remains alive in New Granada."

Narration and Discussion: List the five most important events in this chapter.

Chapter 26. How They Took the Great Galleon

Words to look up: bedizened, palliate, perfidious, culverin, phosphorescent, unship. Patararo is defined in the chapter as a brass swivel or swivel-gun. A "san benito" (also spelled sanbenito or sambenito) is a yellow tunic worn by prisoners during the Inquisition.

Copywork: "The Lord has put into our hands a rich prize; and what with the gold which we have already, we are well paid for all our labors. Let us thank Him with fervent hearts as soon as the sun rises; and in the meanwhile, remember all, that whosoever plunders on his private account, robs not the adventurers merely, but the orphan and the widow, which is to rob God; and makes himself partaker of Achan's curse, who hid the wedge of gold, and brought down God's anger on the whole army of Israel. For me, lest you should think me covetous, I could claim my brother's share; but I hereby give it up freely into the common stock, for the use of the whole ship's crew, who have stood by me through weal and woe, as men never stood before, as I believe, by any captain. So, now to prayers, lads, and then to eat our breakfast."

Narration and Discussion: This chapter includes the uncomfortable scene of Amyas formally executing two agents of the Inquisition. Do you think he found this a difficult choice to make? Was it an act of justice, or of personal vengeance?

Chapter 27. How Salvation Yeo Found his Little Maid Again

Words to look up: vehemence, supplicating. I think the phrase "upset all but old Yeo" could mean that it made them all laugh, not that they got angry at her. Quashie (or Quashi) is a Caribbean word for an unsophisticated or gullible black man. (Obviously not a word to be used now, but that's what it meant.) Mutato nomine means the name has been changed; he had taken a song about Sunderland and changed it to Bideford.

Copywork: From that day Ayacanora was a new creature . . . she regained all her former stateliness, and with it a self-restraint, a temperance, a softness which she had never shown before. Her dislike to Cary and Jack vanished. Modest and distant as ever, she now took delight in learning from them about England and English people; and her knowledge of our customs gained much from the somewhat fantastic behaviour which Amyas thought good, for reasons of his own, to assume toward her. He assigned her a handsome cabin to herself, always addressed her as madam, and told Cary, Brimblecombe, and the whole crew that as she was a lady and a Christian, he expected them to behave to her as such.

Narration and Discussion: Kingsley says something controversial here, trying to explain Ayacanora's changed behaviour: "For the mind of the savage, crushed by the sight of the white man's superior skill, and wealth, and wisdom, loses at first its self-respect; while his body, pampered with easily obtained luxuries, instead of having to win the necessaries of life by heavy toil, loses its self-helpfulness; and with self-respect and self-help vanish all the savage virtues, few and flimsy as they are, and the downward road toward begging and stealing, sottishness and idleness, is easy, if not sure." What would you say to Kingsley in response? Are there other explanations for her unpleasant new attitude on board the ship?

Why is Amyas even more bothered now that he knows Ayacanora's true parentage?

Why do you think she has stopped singing?

Chapter 28. How Amyas Came Home the Third Time

Words to look up: profligacy (also in Chapter 2).

Copywork: "You went like a gentleman to seek her, and like a gentleman, as all the world knows, you have done your best, and I thank you: but our account ends there. The treasure is yours, sir; I have enough, and more than enough, and none, God help me, to leave it to, but greedy and needy kin, who will be rather the worse than the better for it. And if I have a claim in law for aught--which I know not, neither shall ever ask--why, if you are not too proud, accept that claim as a plain burgher's thank-offering to you, sir, for a great and a noble love which you and your brother have shown to one who, though I say it, to my shame, was not worthy thereof."

Narration and Discussion: How does Mrs. Leigh react to the news of Frank's death?

What is the legacy of Rose's father? How does this encourage the desire for vengeance that Amyas now feels?

Chapter 29. How the Virginia Fleet Was Stopped at the Queen's Command

Words to look up: jointure, plebiscitum, bilboes. Major domo means someone running the household (chief cook and bottle washer). John Bull is a general term for England and the English people. "Satia te sanguine, quod sitisti" refers, as the chapter says, to the murder of Cyrus by Queen Tomyrus of Scythia.

Copywork: "Ayacanora could understand that: but the almsgiving she could not, till Mrs. Leigh told her, in her simple way, that whosoever gave to the poor, gave to the Great Spirit; for the Great Spirit was in them, and in Ayacanora too, if she would be quiet and listen to him, instead of pouting, and stamping, and doing nothing but what she liked. And the poor child took in that new thought like a child, and worked her fingers to the bone for all the old dames in Northam, and went about with Mrs. Leigh, lovely and beloved, and looked now and then out from under her long black eyelashes to see if she was winning a smile from Amyas. And on the day on which she won one, she was good all day; and on the day on which she did not, she was thoroughly naughty, and would have worn out the patience of any soul less chastened than Mrs. Leigh's."

Narration and Discussion: Amyas seems to be unable to see matters clearly, in more than one area of his life. What advice does his mother give? What is his return argument?

How is Salvation Yeo becoming a less positive influence on Amyas? Has his disappointment over the "maiden" darkened his own view?

Chapter 30. How the Admiral John Hawkins Testified Against Croakers

Words to look up: breakwater, benighted, loquacious, arbiter, punctilios. Muscovado sugar means brown sugar from Barbados.

Copywork: "But, captains and gentlemen, consider well my friend the Port Admiral's advice; and if any man's heart misgives him, let him, for the sake of his country and his queen, have so much government of his tongue to hide his fears in his own bosom, and leave open complaining to ribalds and women. For if the sailor be not cheered by his commander's cheerfulness, how will the ignorant man find comfort in himself? And without faith and hope, how can he fight worthily?"

Narration and Discussion: Why is it so important to the naval commanders that there be no "croakers?" Do you agee wth their literal interpretation of Scripture here? (We will forgive Kingsley's snub towards women.)

Chapter 31. The Great Armada

Before reading: It might be useful, if you haven't done so already, to read at least the first two chapters of David Howarth's Voyage of the Spanish Armada, to get a sense of what was happening on the other side. Kingsley begins the chapter with a note: "I must do my best, rather using, where I can, the words of contemporary authors than my own."

Recalde: Juan Martínez de Recalde, Admiral of the Fleet

Words to look up: accolade, galliasse

Copywork: And so, with variable fortune, the fight thunders on the livelong afternoon, beneath the virgin cliffs of Freshwater; while myriad sea-fowl rise screaming up from every ledge, and spot with their black wings the snow-white wall of chalk; and the lone shepherd hurries down the slopes above to peer over the dizzy edge, and forgets the wheatear fluttering in his snare, while he gazes trembling upon glimpses of tall masts and gorgeous flags, piercing at times the league-broad veil of sulphur-smoke which welters far below.

Narration and Discussion: Write a newspaper account of the battle, or "interview" one of the participants and get his story.

Chapter 32. How Amyas Threw his Sword into the Sea

Words to look up: panacea, prostration

Copywork: "Well, Sir John," said he, "and why not? What better can the Lord do for a man, than take him home when he has done his work? Our captain is wilful and spiteful, and must needs kill his man himself; while for me, I don't care how the Don goes, provided he does go. I owe him no grudge, nor any man. May the Lord give him repentance, and forgive him all his sins: but if I could but see him once safe ashore, as he may be ere nightfall, on the Mortestone or the back of Lundy, I would say, 'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,' even if it were the lightning which was sent to fetch me."

"But, master Yeo, a sudden death?"

"And why not a sudden death, Sir John? Even fools long for a short life and a merry one, and shall not the Lord's people pray for a short death and a merry one? Let it come as it will to old Yeo."

Narration and Discussion: Why does Salvation Yeo now seem to be more at peace? What do you think of "a short death and a merry one?"

Did Amyas get what he wanted?

Chapter 33. How Amyas Let the Apple Fall

Copywork: The whole of his past life rose up before him, as in that strange dream which is said to flash across the imagination of a drowning man; and he saw all the places which he had ever seen, and heard all the words which had ever been spoken to him--till he came to that fairy island on the Meta; and he heard the roar of the cataract once more, and saw the green tops of the palm-trees sleeping in the sunlight far above the spray, and stept amid the smooth palm-trunks across the flower-fringed boulders, and leaped down to the gravel beach beside the pool: and then again rose from the fern-grown rocks the beautiful vision of Ayacanora--Where was she? He had not thought of her till now. How he had wronged her!

Narration and Discussion: What finally opened Amyas's eyes to his love for Ayacanora?

Go back to the copywork for Chapter One. Why was that advice so important in the end?

What advice do you think Amyas would give to young people looking for adventure?

Anne White, 2014

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