@MHS the electronic newsletter of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Staff Spotlight: Hobson Woodward and the Publication of A Brave Vessel

The staff of the MHS is celebrating the publication of A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest," written by their colleague Hobson Woodward, associate editor for the Adams Papers editorial project.

Hobson did not plan on becoming an independent historian traveling to Bermuda on research or a documentary editor spending his days with the correspondence of America's second president. He originally studied English and philosophy as an undergraduate at Hobart College in upstate New York. An internship in manuscripts processing through the dual-degree program in History and Archives Management at Simmons College brought him to the MHS. During this time he was hired by the Adams Papers as a transcriber. Almost seven years later, Hobson is an essential member of the Adams Papers team, overseeing transcription, supervising production work, and assisting on research for both series--Papers of John Adams and Adams Family Correspondence. He has contributed to six volumes including three from each series.

In between his work with the Adams Papers and an active family life, Hobson managed to travel to London, Bermuda, and Jamestown, Va., to research A Brave Vessel, the true story behind the shipwreck that is thought to have inspired William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. The tale begins in 1609 as aspiring writer William Strachey sets sail from England for the New World aboard the Sea Venture. Caught in a hurricane, the ship separated from its fleet and wrecked on uninhabited Bermuda. Strachey's meticulous account of the wreck, the castaways's time on Bermuda, and their arrival in a devastated Jamestown was read by his contemporaries, apparently including Shakespeare. A Brave Vessel is the fascinating account of a near-miss in the settling of Virginia, the true story behind one of Shakespeare's great plays, and the tragedy of the man who failed as an author but who contributed to the creation of a masterpiece.

A Brave Vessel has already received coverage in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. Hobson will take time from his Adams Papers duties to give a Brown Bag presentation on his book at the MHS on 31 July at 12 p.m. Needless to say, the staff of the MHS is very proud of their colleague's achievement.