South Sea

 Music by Phillip’s Dog: Roland Clarke (violin)

 

South Sea

Straight and Skillern’s
A Collection of Two Hundred & Four Favourite Country Dances for 1775

Country dance: Duple minor longways.

A1 1-4 All set twice to partner
5-6 Change places with partner, passing right shoulder
7-8 Loop right into partner’s place
A1 1-4 All set twice to partner
5-6 Change places with partner, passing right shoulder
7-8 Loop right into partner’s place
B1 1-8 1st couple lead down the middle and back, cast  into 2nd place, 2nd couple move up
B2 1-8 Four changes of a circular hey.

Remarkable Occurrences In The South Seas.1

1773 portrait of Joseph Banks by Benjamin West. Usher Art Gallery [Public domain] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_Banks_West.jpg

This portrait of Joseph Banks in 1773 shows him surrounded by artefacts collected in the South Seas.  Banks was the scientist who accompanied Cook on the Endeavour and helped to gather a large amount of zoological, botanical and ethnological material.  Portrait by Benjamin West. Usher Art Gallery [Public domain]

When Cook returned from his first voyage to the South Seas in 1771, he brought an amazing variety of artefacts  that he had collected.  Two years later John Hawkesworth’s official account of this expedition had been published and was to become one of the most successful publications of the 18th century. Cook  returned from his second voyage in July 1775 with even more specimens and public interest was stimulated further 2.  News about the discoveries had generated a fascination with the South Seas, as the Pacific was then commonly known, and there was a hunger for tales of adventure, exotic peoples, and island paradises.

In  1775,  the idea arose of developing a South Seas collection in the British Museum as a major exhibition of the items gathered on Cook’s voyages of discovery 3.  The British Museum had only opened in 1753 and was the first public museum in the world; its South Seas Room proved enormously popular and remained a  leading attraction far into the nineteenth century 4.

This lively curiosity was reflected in the fashionable dances of the day. The South Sea was published in Straight and Skillern’s Collection of Two Hundred & Four Favourite Country Dances for 1775.  Other dances à la mode that year included Transit of Venus, and Island of Love 5.

Music and instructions for South Seas from A Collection of Two Hundred & Four Favourite Country Dances for 1775, Straight and Skillern (1774)

The title South Sea  had been given to a dance published in 1726  – also inspired by voyages to the Pacific.   William Dampier’s  A New Voyage Round the World (1697) and A Voyage to New Holland (1703) with tales of foreign lands and far-off oceans, became best sellers and  inspired Jonathon Swift to write Gulliver’s Travels, and Daniel Defoe, the story of Robinson Crusoe 6. A number of  accounts of Dampier’s voyages in the Pacific were published in the early 1700s prompting the  creation of the dances Dampier (1718), South Sea,  South Sea Ladies, and Batavia (1726) 7.

This depiction shows the intense excitement generated by South Sea Company. Painting by Edward Mathew Ward. Courtesy of Tate Gallery. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:South_Sea_Bubble.jpg

This depiction shows the intense excitement generated by South Sea Company in 1720. Painting by Edward Mathew Ward. Courtesy of Tate Gallery.

These travel journals also stimulated an attraction for the commercial possibilities of developing trade in the South Sea 8.  This lead to the foundation of the speculative South Sea Company, which hoped to establish a lucrative trading empire.    However, shareholders’ expectations  rapidly became over-heated leading to unrealistic valuations of shares.  Inevitably this lead to a financial collapse,  known as the South Sea Bubble, which ruined large numbers of investors.  The company eventually became viable and one of the tangible outcomes was the production of a series of coins – crowns, half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences, minted from Indonesian silver.

James Cook now enters the story: as a young apprentice in Sanderson’s grocery shop in Staithes, a customer pays with a  South Sea Company shilling.  Cook is so captivated by the coin that he takes it from the till, replacing it with a standard coin from his own pocket 9.   (Collingridge, 2003).

Staithes, by Thorpe, Thomas, and Jordison, John. Dedicated to the Right Honorable the Earl of Zetland / Sketched by Tho[ma]s Thorpe, Drawn on Stone by John Jordison (1840).

The village of Staithes where James was engaged as an apprentice grocer in 1745. It was here he saw the South Sea shilling which allegedly excited his desire to voyage the high seas. Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales

Although the accuracy of this story is now thought to be questionable, perhaps there is an element of truth – maybe a South Sea coin did enthrall the young James Cook and spark his the zeal for adventure in the vast unknown seas.

The silver South Sea shilling. James Cook, as a 16 year old shop boy in Staithes, was reportedly intrigued with such a shilling, and immediately resolved to go to sea. Photo courtesy of <a href="https://www.cointalk.com/threads/great-britain-silver-south-sea-company-shilling-of-george-i-1723.286642/">Coin Talk</a>

A silver South Sea shilling. James Cook, as a 16 year old shop boy in Staithes, was reportedly intrigued with such a shilling, and immediately resolved to go to sea.   Photo courtesy of Robertson Shinnick at Coin Talk

References

 

1 A chapter heading from Cook’s Journal.
Cook, J., & Wharton, W. J. L. (1893). Captain Cooks journal during his first voyage round the world made in H. M. Bark Endeavour; 1768-71 : a literal transcription of the original mss. London: Elliot Stock.

2 Hetherington, M. (2009). Discovering Cook’s Collections: UNSW Press.

3 Smith, C. T. (2011). William Dampier and James Cook: Two windows into the British enlightened exploration of the cultures and societies of the pacific.

4 Thomas, S. (2013). The Spectre of Empire in the British Art Museum. Museum History Journal, 6(1), 105-121. doi:10.1179/1936981612Z.0000000007

5 Keller, R. M. (2006). Dance Figures Index: English Country Dances, 1650-1833. from The Colonial Music Institute https://www.cdss.org/elibrary/DFIE/Index.htm

6 Bach, J. (1966). Dampier, William (1651–1715) Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra, ACT: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.

7 Keller, R. M. (2006). Dance Figures Index: English Country Dances, 1650-1833. from The Colonial Music Institute https://www.cdss.org/elibrary/DFIE/Index.htm

8 Dampier, W., & Spencer, J. (2006). A voyage to New Holland : the English voyage of discovery to the South Seas in 1699 (New ed). Stroud, Gloucestershire: Nonsuch.

9 Collingridge, V. (2003). Captain Cook Obsession and Betrayal in the New World. Great Britain: Ebury Press.

9 Coin

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