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Richard Frethorne's Account of His Plight in Virginia



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Richard Frethorne was a colonist who wrote a series of letters to his parents in March and April of 1623, describing his hardships in the new land. This selection is an excerpt from those letters.

Loveing and kind father and mother my most humble duty remembered to you hopeing in God of your good health, as I my selfe am at the makeing hereof, this is to let you understand that I your Child am in a most heavie Case by reason of the nature of the Country is such that is Causeth much sickness...and when wee are sicke there is nothing to Comfort us; for since I came out of the ship, I never at[e] anie thing but pease, and loblollie (that is water gruell)[.] as for deare or venison I never saw anie since I came into this land[.] there is indeed some foule, but Wee are not allowed to goe, and get yt, but must Worke hard both earelie, and late for a messe of water gruell, and a mouthfull of bread, and beife[.] and mouthfull of bread for a pennie loaf must serve for 4 men which is most pitifull if you did knowe as much as I, when people crie out day, and night, Oh that they were in England without their lymbes and would not care to loose anie lymbe to bee in England againe, yea though they beg from doore to doore... I have nothing at all, no not a shirt on my backe, but two Ragges nor no Clothes, but one poore suite, nor but one paire of shooes, but one paire of stockins, but one Capp, but two bands, my Cloke is stollen by one of my owne fellowes, and to his dying hower would not tell mee what he did with it...but I am not halfe a quarter so strong as I was in England, and all is for want of victualls, for I doe protest unto you, that I have eaten more in a day at home then I have allowed me here for a Weeke...

O that you did see may [i.e., my] daylie and hourelie sighes, grones, and teares, and thumpes that I afford mine owne brest, and rue and Curse the time of my birth with holy Job. I thought no head had beene able to hold so much water as hath dailie flow from mine eyes.


Consider These Questions



1. Why do you think Frethorne and his contemporaries were not allowed to hunt fowl? What was the work they might have been doing that prevented them from doing so?

2. What do you think Frethorne's position was in society?

3. Why do you think settlers continued to sail to Virginia?

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