Robert Seall, “Commendation of … Thomas Stutely”

Robert Seall, “A Commendation of the Adventerus Viage of the Wurthy Captain M. Thomas Stutely Esquyer and Others Towards the Land Called Terra Florida

(Huntington Library)

(Huntington Library)

Registered and printed around July of 1563, this English broadside ballad is the only work attributed to the author, Robert Seall, and it focuses on Thomas Stukeley. A man steeped in controversy since birth, Stukeley (Stucley, Stukely, Stutely–scholars have collected up to 24 spellings) was rumored to be a bastard child of Henry VIII and led a long life of piracy. The ballad was a public relations move to improve Stukeley’s image after a long life of alleged piracy and his revealing plans of an Anglo-Huguenot venture to la Florida to a Spanish ambassador in London. The Catholic Spanish despised the French Protestant Huguenots (or Calvinists) and fought often to the death over land and religion.

In 1562 the English watched as Ribaut went to Florida. England set up a joint venture between Stukeley and Ribaut; however, Stukeley did not reach Florida on the Stukeley-Ribaut joint venture due to Stukeley’s revelation to the ambassador. Despite this, Stukeley still desired to start a colonization effort and gain riches; the ballad is propaganda to support him in his endeavor. He never made it, instead, Stukeley discovered that privateering was a more profitable adventure than fighting against Native Americans, French, and Spanish for a backwater land.

Although no one is specified, the poem refers to people who  would scoff and ridicule Stukeley for trying to take on an adventure so bold as to colonize Florida. The ballad is a retort to their scoffing, even to the extent of comparing Stukeley to Columbus and how he was “unwise.” Despite the doubters Stukeley left with five ships in the summer of 1563 to colonize Florida.

Instead of being a bold founder like Aeneas, the fabled founder of Rome, as Seall eloquently wrote in his ballad of Stukeley’s future colonization efforts, Stukeley took the more infamous route and became a privateer. Yet, Stukeley’s literary story does not end there, as there have been numerous references to Stukeley in literature and plays of the time.

Michael Sadler, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Further Reading

Firth, C. H. (ed.). An American Garland, being a Collection of Ballads Relating to America. Oxford: Blackwell, 1915.

Johnson, Richard. Life and death of famous Thomas Stukely; The life and death of the famous Thomas Stukely, an English gallant in the time of Queen Elizabeth …. 

Peele, George. The Battle of Alcazar [1578].

Seall, Robert. A co[m]mendation of the adue[n]terus viage of the wurthy Captain. M. Thomas Stutely Esquyer and others, towards the land called Terra florida (1563).

Tazón, Juan E. The Life and Times of Thomas Stukeley (c. 1525-1578). London: Ashgate, 2003.


If Fortunes force procure,

The valiant noble hart:

In travail, pain and daungers great,

In warres to have his part.


If losse of goods insue,

Through valiant enterprise:

Or for slaknes, or the foresight,

Of diligent advise.


Yet of his wurthy praise,

I can not speak tomiche [too much]:

Who ventreth bothe his goods and life,

His Contrey to enriche.


The worldly wise doo muse,

And also doo invay:

At noble harts when that their welths,

Doo fall unto decay.


As now of late I knew,

And saw the evidence:

Of one whose part it was to shew,

The like experience.


A noble hart in deed,

And wurthy great renowne:

Whose fortune was not to remain,

In Cittie nor in Towne.


A yung Eneas[1] bolde,

With hart and courage stout:

Whose enterprise was only pight [organized],

Straunge things to bring about.


And though that all men seemd,

His dooings to deride:

Yet this his fact he would not leve,

Nor throwe it so a side.


But stil he dooth procure,

With boldned hart and minde:

That thing whiche erst he had assayd,

By travail now to finde.


Into a land unknowne,

To win hym wurthy fame:

As exequies[2] and memory,

Of his moste noble name.


Whiche if it fall to his lot,

With fortunes helping hand:

He may wel make a lawhing stock,

Of them whiche him withstand.


Sume terme it Stolida [Obtuse],

And Sordida it name:

And to be plain, they doo it mock,

As at a foolishe game.


If reasons sence be cause,

Of this forespoken talke:

Or fayned folly be the ground

Why mennes tungs thus doo walke.


Then might it seem to me,

The Frenches labour lost:

Their careful pain and travail eke,

That they therein have cost.


The cronicles also,

Whiche only seem as trew:

And writ by them that of that place,

Before did take the vew.


The Spaniards eke doo shew,

And verify the same:

To be described as a thing

Deserving suche a name.


The Portingales [Portuguese] doo say,

The crownacles [chronicles] be just:

And all that travaild have that coste:

The same confes it must.


If that in times before,

Through talkes men have refraind:

Whiche for the love of travail sore,

Their harts have long been paind.


Columbus as I reed,

The space of many yeeres:

Was counted as unwise also,

As in writers appeeres.


His ernest sute denied,

Yet in the finall ende:

His wurds & deeds did seem at length,

On reason to depend.


The like assay in hand,

He did at last procure:

Whose life and lucky viages,

Good fortune did assure.


At thend in savety home,

At length he did retourn:

And quenched all their mocking harts

Whiche erst did seem to burn.


For fire of force must needs,

Declare his burning heat:

Though for a time in smothering smoke

It seemes itself to beat.


So talk of tungs may not,

By smothering through be tame:

But bursting out at length wil turn

Into a firye flame.


And then, the mallice gon,

The fire falleth down:

And quenched quite, as by this man,

Which was of great renowne.


Now Stuetly hoice thy sail,

Thy wisshed land to finde:

And never doo regard vain talke,

For wurds they are but winde.


And in reproof of all,

I wil not once refrain:

With prayer for to wish that thou,

Maist safely come again.


And that sum frute at length,

By travail thou maist finde:

With riches for to satisfy,

Thy manly modest minde.

[1] Aeneas, the fabled founder of Rome.

[2] funereal rites.

[3] Sordid, moraly distasteful; note the feminized construction.