Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/227

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for Virginia on 10 May 1610. They arrived at James Town on the 23rd. Somers stayed only till 7 June, when he embarked on the James river, intending to return to England. But before he reached the open sea he met his fellow-voyager, Thomas West, third lord De la Warr, who induced him to turn back with him to James Town. On 19 June he cheerfully offered to revisit the Bermudas, in order to procure a supply of fish and hogs for the wellnigh starving settlement in Virginia (Lefroy, i. 10–11). Sir Samuel Argall [q. v.] joined him in a second ship, but a storm soon separated them, and Somers reached the Bermudas alone early in November. There he died on the 9th of the month of a ‘surfeit of eating of a pig’ (Howes, Chronicle, 1631). His heart was buried in the land on which the town of St. George now stands, and a wooden cross was placed above the spot (W. F. Williams, Hist. and Statistical Account of the Bermudas, p. 16; John Smith, Hist. of Virginia, bk. iii. pp. 118–19). Matthew Somers, a nephew, who was with him, brought his body to England, where it was buried with military honours in the church at Whitchurch in Dorset. His property included, besides a house and lands (Berne Manor) at Whitchurch and three messuages in Lyme Regis, the manor of ‘Upwey alias Waybay House.’ All his real estate he left to Matthew Somers, though Nicholas Somers, a cousin, was stated to be heir-at-law, and Sir George was survived by his wife Joanna. The will was proved by a brother John on 24 Nov. 1612.

Many accounts of Somers's shipwreck and life in the Bermudas were published by his companions (see below). The narrative of one of them, Silvester Jourdain [q. v.], is believed to have suggested to Shakespeare the setting of the ‘Tempest’ (cf. E. D. Neill, Early Settlement of Virginia and Virginiola, as noticed by Poets and Players, 1878). Matthew Somers left only three men in the Bermudas when he started with his uncle's remains for England. The three men found a quantity of ambergris, and news of the discovery increased the repute of the islands. In 1612 the Virginia Company sent representatives to re-examine them, and finally leased them in 1615 to a new company, called the Somers' Islands Company. Sir George's nephew Matthew thereupon petitioned the crown for compensation, asserting that his interests were prejudiced by the formation of the new company. His petition was rejected as vexatious (Neill, Virginia Company of London, pp. 53 seq.).

A portrait of Somers by Van Somer belongs to Miss Bellamy of Plymouth, a collateral descendant. An engraving from it appeared in Lefroy's ‘Historye of the Bermudaes or Summer Islands’ (Hakluyt Soc. 1882).

[A Discovery of the Bermudas, by Silvester Jourdain [q. v.], 1610, reissued, with another dedication, by W. C. in 1613 as A Plaine Description; R. Rich's Lost Flock Triumphant, 1610; Strachey's Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates from the Islands of the Bermudas, in Purchas his Pilgrimes, 1625, iv. 1733–42; Lefroy's Memorials of the Bermudas and History of the Bermudas (Hakluyt Soc.), 1882; Hutchinson's Dorset, ii. 253; Roberts's Hist. and Antiquities of Lyme Regis 1834, pp. 264–71; Lediard's Naval Hist. i. 301, ii. 423, 430; Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. x. 39; Doyle's English Colonies in America; Brown's Genesis of the United States; cp. arts. Gates, Sir Thomas; Jourdain, Silvester; and Newport, Christopher.]

S. L.

SOMERS or SOMMERS, JOHN, Lord Somers (1651–1716), lord chancellor of England, came of a family belonging to the rank of small landed gentry, which seated at Clifton, Severn Stoke, Worcestershire, and appears to have early conformed, as it afterwards steadfastly adhered, to the reformed faith. Its consequence was enhanced towards the end of the sixteenth century by the acquisition of the dissolved nunnery of Whiteladies, Claines, near Worcester, which Richard Somers or Sommers, as the name was popularly spelt, grandfather of the lord chancellor, settled on his daughter Mary upon her marriage with Richard Blurdon, a Worcester clothier. The lord chancellor's father, John Somers, an attorney, fought on the side of the parliament during the civil war, throve in his profession on the restoration of tranquillity, inherited the Clifton estate, and, dying in January 1680–1, was buried in Severn Stoke church, where his widow (Catherine, youngest daughter of John Severne of Powyck, Worcestershire) was also interred on 16 March 1709–10. Besides his son John he left two daughters: (1) Mary, born 1653, married Charles Cocks, M.P. for Worcester 1694–5, and afterwards for Droitwich, whose son-in-law was Philip Yorke (Lord-chancellor Hardwicke) [q. v.], and whose grandson Sir Charles Cocks, bart., was created, 17 May 1784, Baron Somers of Evesham; (2) Elizabeth, born 1655, married Sir Joseph Jekyll [q. v.], master of the rolls.

John Somers, the future chancellor, who was born at Whiteladies, Claines, near Wor-