Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A BOOK is a wonderful gift, often because of unexpected things to which it leads. Georgina, a dear English friend, gifted us with a book that, according to its cover blurb, is “a compendium of facts and anecdotes that offers an exciting new kind of guide to England.”


I Never Knew That About England, by Christopher Winn, Ebury Press, 2005. Part of a series, it’s listed at and

Georgina couldn’t have known how personal a gift this book turned out to be. We met her parents, when Georgina was about five, through Innes Ireland (, Georgina’s mother was Innes’s secretary and another reason our visits to England were so pleasurable. And Innes, in turn, knew James Clavell, author of Shōgun.


Shōgun: A Novel of Japan, by James Clavell, two vols., Antheneum, 1975. Both and list it.

By chance, I happened to open I Never Knew That About England to what struck me as an odd illustration, that of Osaka Castle.


Osaka Castle, Japan. Image from Winn’s book.

Then I learned about the castle’s tie to England, the town of Gillingham, Kent, about 40 miles east-southeast of London. A “smart stone clock tower,” the books describes, is raised there in the memory of Will Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan and the inspiration for James Clavell’s novel.


Will Adams, 1564-1620, English pilot and navigator, traveled to Japan and became the first westerner to be made a samurai.

Will Adams, prototype for the main character in Shōgun, was born in Gillingham in 1564. He became an accomplished ship’s pilot and navigator serving in the Royal Navy under Sir Francis Drake.


A Dutch fleet, with Adams as pilot of the Liefde, endeavored to explore the Far East, 1598. Engraving c. 17th Century.

In 1598, Will set out as the pilot of six Dutch ships intent on exploring the Far East. Only one reached Japan, in 1600, with Adams and 23 crew members the only survivors who were initially imprisoned in Osaka Castle.


Adams meets Tokugawa Ieyasu. An idealized depiction, 1707.

Their fortunes varied, though Will soon gained the confidence of Japan’s first shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu ( In fact, Will became known as Anjin-Sama (honorable pilot).


Anjin-Sama is buried in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture.

Together with the memorial in Gillingham, England, there are others in Nagasaki, Japan, where Will Adams is buried; in the town of Itō, on Japan’s Izu Peninsula; and in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi, where he had a townhouse in a neighborhood that’s now named Anjin-Chō in his honor. I’ve paid homage to the one in Itō, a strikingly modern memorial (

Georgina’s gift book opens easily to another page, this one concerning Berkshire, no surprise because she and her family live there. Indeed, Georgina offered a personal inscription.


Sandleford Priory is the home of “The Bluestockings.” Image from Winn’s book.

What was originally a 13th-Century Augustine priory evolved into the country house of Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800). She hosted her lady friends with regular literary meetings in which well-known thinkers and writers were invited to speak.

One of these was publisher Dr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, who became a favorite known for his wit. Impecunious and unable to afford formal black stockings, de rigueur for the day, Dr. Stillingfleet was allowed to attend in informal day wear, which included blue worsted stockings.


Benjamin Stillingfleet, 1701-1771, botanist, translator, author, publisher. His impecunious nature gave us the word “bluestocking.”

The term “bluestocking” came to refer to any informal gathering that emphasized conversation over mere fashion. Today, it appears in other languages as well: German  Blaustrumpf, Dutch blauwkous, French bas-bleu. It has evolved to describe any learned woman—just like Georgina, who attended Sandleford Priory, now St. Gabriel’s girls school. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

2 comments on “ABOUT ENGLAND

  1. William Rabel
    July 27, 2013

    Dennis –
    My ancestor, W. H. Whitfield, was a New England whaler. In 1841 he rescued a shipwrecked Japanese sailor and took him and his four companions to Honolulu.

    Manjiro, who was by now around the age of 18, was brought to Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1843. He was enrolled in a private school by Capt. Whitfield. Over the next eight years, he served on a whaling ship, prospected for gold in California, and prepared for his return to Japan.

    On his return to Japan, he was imprisoned and brutally ‘debriefed’. After Perry’s visit, his status was raised, and he spent many years as a naval instructor, translator, writer and consultant. The book of his travels is “Voyager to Destiny”, by Emily Warriner, published in 1956.

    • simanaitissays
      July 27, 2013

      Hi, Bill, Fascinating. Thanks for your reply. Yet another book that would be fun to read. Cordially, Dennis

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