CHAPTER I. Account of Captain Cook, previous to his first Voyage round the World.
Captain James Cook had no claim to distinction on account of the lustre of his birth, or the dignity of his ancestors. His father, James Cook, who from his dialect is supposed to have been a Northumbrian, was in the humble station of a servant in husbandry, and married a woman of the same rank with himself, whose Christian name was Grace. Both of them were noted in their neighbourhood for their honesty, sobriety, and diligence. They first lived at a village called Morton, and then removed to Marton, another village in the North-riding of Yorkshire, situated in the high road from Gisborough, in Cleveland, to Stockton upon Tees, in the county of Durham, at the distance of six miles from each of these towns. At Morton, Captain Cook was born, on the 27th of October, 1728; and, agreeably to the custom of the vicar of the parish, whose practice it was to baptize infants soon after their birth, he was baptized on the 3rd of November following. He was one of nine children, all of whom are now dead, excepting a daughter, who married a fisherman at Redcar. The first rudiments of young Cook's education were received by him at Marton, where he was taught to read by dame Walker, the schoolmistress of the village. When he was eight years of age, his father, in consequence of the character he had obtained for industry, frugality, and skill in husbandry, had a little promotion bestowed upon him, which was that of being appointed head-servant, or hind, to a farm belonging to the late Thomas Skottow, Esq. called Airy Holme, near Great Ayton. To this place, therefore, he removed with his family; and his son James, at Mr. Skottow's expense, was put to a day-school in Ayton, where he was instructed in writing, and in a few of the first rules of arithmetic.
[Footnote 1: The mud house in which Captain Cook drew his first
breath is pulled down, and no vestiges of it are now remaining.]
[Footnote 2: This is the name which, in that part of the country,
is given to the head-servant, or bailiff, of a farm.]
[Footnote 3: Mr. Cook, senior, spent the close of his life with
his daughter, at Redcar, and is supposed to have been about
eighty-five years of age when he died.]
Before he was thirteen years of age, he was bound an apprentice to Mr. William Sanderson, a haberdasher, or shopkeeper, at Straiths, a considerable fishing town, about ten miles north of Whitby. This employment, however, was very unsuitable to young Cook's disposition. The sea was the object of his inclination; and his passion for it could not avoid being strengthened by the situation of the town in which he was placed, and the manner of life of the persons with whom he must frequently converse. Some disagreement having happened between him and his master, he obtained his discharge, and soon after bound himself for seven years to Messrs. John and Henry Walker, of Whitby, Quakers by religious profession, and principal owners of the ship Freelove, and of another vessel, both of which were constantly employed in the coal trade. The greatest part of his apprenticeship was spent on board the Freelove. After he was out of his time, he continued to serve in the coal and other branches of trade (though chiefly in the former) in the capacity of a common sailor; till, at length, he was raised to be mate of one of Mr. John Walker's ships. During this period it is not recollected that he exhibited anything very peculiar, either in his abilities or his conduct; though there can be no doubt but that he had gained a considerable degree of knowledge in the practical part of navigation, and that his attentive and sagacious mind was laying up a store of observations, which would be useful to him in future life.
In the spring of the year 1755, when hostilities broke out between England and France, and there was a hot press for seamen, Mr. Cook happened to be in the river Thames with the ship to which he belonged. At first he concealed himself, to avoid being pressed; but reflecting, that it might be difficult, notwithstanding all his vigilance, to elude discovery or escape pursuit, he determined, upon farther consideration, to enter voluntarily into his majesty's service, and to take his future fortune in the royal navy. Perhaps he had some presage in his own mind, that by his activity and exertions he might rise considerably above his present situation. Accordingly, he went to a rendezvous at Wapping, and entered with an officer of the Eagle man of war, a ship of sixty guns, at that time commanded by Captain Hamer. To this ship Captain (afterward Sir Hugh) Palliser was appointed, in the month of October, 1755; and when he took the command, found in her James Cook, whom he soon distinguished to be an able, active, and diligent seaman. All the officers spoke highly in his favour, and the Captain was so well pleased with his behaviour, that he gave him every encouragement which lay in his power.