Halley under saile

On the 27 September 1699, a day after his last letter to the Admiralty, Halley writes again to inform them he is now “under saile” with his well-armed escort, the Fauconberg*, commanded by Captain John Luke.

(Halley to ?Burchett, dated 27 September 1699 from the Downs, National Archives ADM 1/1871)

Honourd Sr

This morning the wind coming up at ESE a fine gale, I am now under saile to the Westwards in Company of the Falcon bird a shipp of good force belonging to the Royall African Company, and I hope this wind may carry us clear of the Channell, in which case I am morally assured of my passage to the Southward. I humbly entreat your Honour will please to afford me your good opinion during my absence, and at my return I am fully perswaded I may be able to answer the expectations of those who perhaps censure the performances of my last voiage without examining all the Circonstances.

I am

Honoured Sr

Your most obedt Servt

Edm. Halley

That final sentence is, to me, typical Halley: he politely asks that Josiah Burchett reserves his judgment of him until he has concluded his second chance to demonstrate what he can do, and he’s very positive about his ability to achieve his goals and prove himself to those who – perhaps unfairly – doubt his suitability for command. There’s nothing sullen or churlish, just a polite request to be allowed to show his capabilities when free of his determinedly obstructive lieutenant.

* This seems to be the ‘standard’ spelling.


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