Nicholas Hoskins; 18 August, 1622

Letter to W.P. [from Ferryland]

Published as "A Copy of a Letter from N. H. a Gentleman living at Ferryland in New-found-land, to a worthy friend W. P. of the 18 of August, 1622", in Richard Whitbourne, A Discourse and Discovery of New-found-land (London: 1622). Reprinted in Gillian Cell, ed., Newfoundland Discovered, English Attempts at Colonization, 1610-1630, Hakluyt Society 2nd series, no. 160 (London: Hakluyt Society, ©1982) 101-206; see 204-206. Revised by P.E. Pope.


My humble service remembered, accounting myself bound unto you in a double bond, namely, love and duty, I could not be unmindful to show the same unto you in these rude lines, thereby to acquaint you with our health, the temperature of our country, and the commodities and blessings therein. And first, for the first, concerning our health, there is not any man amongst our company that hath been sick scarcely one day since he came, but hath been able to follow his work. The climate differs but little from England, and I my self felt less cold here this winter than I did in England the winter before, by much. The air is sweeter, for I never smelt any evil savour in the country, nor saw any venomous creature to hurt me. God's blessings upon this land are manifold. As for wood and water, it passeth England: the one most sweet in growing and burning, the other most pleasant to taste, and good to drink. For in the Whitson holidays I (taking with me Master Stoning) did coast some ten miles into the country, westward from our plantation, to make some discovery of the country and to kill a deer [caribou]. And being some 5 miles into the land, where we lodged that night in a wood, we found much champion [open] ground, and good levels of one, two, three, or four hundred acres together; and, at the foot of each mountain and small hill, we always met with a fair fresh river or a sweet brook of running water, whereof we freely drank, and it did quench my thirst as well as any beer, and much refresh us both and never offended our stomachs at all. We travelled three days, but found no deer, save their footings, which came to pass by means of a great fire that had burned the woods a little before, ten miles compass. It began between Fermeuse and Aquafort; it burned a week and then was quenched by a great rain.

I know not who or what he was that gave fire to it, but I think he was a servant hired by the devil to do that wicked deed, who (I do not doubt) will pay him for his work. In the night, the wolves, being near, did something affright us with their howlings but did not hurt us, for we had dogs, fire and sword to welcome them. As for the bears, although there be many, they bear us no ill will, I think, for I have eaten my part of two or three, and taken no hurt by them. Foxes here are many and as subtle as a fox, yet have we cozened many of them of their rich coats, which our worthy Governor keeps carefully, as also of cattagenas [lynx?] and otters, whose coverings we preserve as fitting presents for greater persons. The fowls and birds of the Land [Newfoundland] are partridges, kerlews, fillidayes [?], blackbirds, bullfinches, larks, sparrows, and such like. Those of the sea are goose, ducks of four sorts, capderace [?], teal, snipes, penguins [great auks], murres , hounds [long-tailed ducks], sanderlings, redshanks and others - all very fat, sweet and wholesome. The fowls of prey are tercels [male hawks], gos-hawks, falcons, laners [falcons], sparhawks [sparrowhawks], gripes, ospreys, owls great and small, ravens, gulls, pitterils [pittells?] and some others; and of most of these sorts I have killed many. As for the plenty of codfish, it is well known unto you. Salmons, eels, mackarel, herrings, lance, caplin, dogfish, halibuts, flukes, lobsters, crabs and mussels, all and more than all these are here in great plenty, very good and sweet meat. The wild fruit and berries are small pears, cherries, nuts, raspberries, strawberries, barberries, dewberries, whortleberries, with other, all good to eat. Many fair flowers I have seen here, which I cannot name, although I had learned Gerrard's Herbal by heart. But wild roses are here both red and damask, as fragrant and fair as in England. All our corn [grain] and seeds have prospered well and are already grown almost to perfect maturity. What shall I say? To say that I know not, I dare not. Thus much I know, as an eye witness, and much more good the country doth promise to show me: the which, when I see you, my heart shall command my tongue to certify you. Our Governor's letters (I doubt not) will bring you news at large. I wrote but this in haste, to satisfy myself and show my duty, desiring you to look through it, as through a perspective glass, wherein you may discern afar off what I have seen near hand, and see that your poor well-wishing friend is alive and in good health at Ferryland, who in the lowest step of duty takes his leave, with prayers for your preservation, and will ever remain,

Your servant to be commanded,

Ferryland, 18th
August, 1622.