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SARIS, JOHN (d. 1646), merchant and sea-captain, appears to have gone out to the East Indies in 1604 with Sir Henry Middleton [q. v.] In October 1605, when Middleton sailed from Bantam for the homeward voyage, Saris was left there as one of the factors for the East India Company; and there he remained till 1609, when he returned to England. On 18 April 1611 he went out again as captain of the Clove and commander of the eighth voyage, the ships with him being the Hector and the Thomas. After touching at the Cape of Good Hope, and making a tedious voyage through the Mozambique Channel and down the East Coast of Africa, they arrived at Mocha on 16 March 1611–12. At Assab Saris was joined by Middleton, anxious to revenge the indignities which had been offered him in the previous year; but a quarrel between the two—principally, it would seem, on the question of precedence—prevented their obtaining adequate compensation, and in August they separated with an angry feeling towards each other. Saris went to Bantam, where he arrived on 24 Oct.

He had instructions from the governor of the company to endeavour to open a trade with Japan, and was charged with presents and a letter from James I to the emperor. On 14 Jan. 1612–13 he sailed from Bantam in the Clove; and after visiting the Moluccas, where the influence of the Dutch rendered it impossible for him to procure a lading, he anchored on 11 June at Firando, where also the Dutch had a small factory. Here he was joined by William Adams [q. v.], who was sent from Saruga to act as interpreter and conduct him to the emperor's court. Journeying by way of Facata, the Straits of Xemina-seque (Simonoseki), Osaca, and thence to Fushimi (Miaco), they on 6 Sept. reached Suruga, where the court was; ‘a city full as big as London.’ On the 7th the emperor bid Saris welcome of so weary journey, receiving his Majesty's letter from the general by the hands of the secretary (Rundall, p. 66). A few days later Saris journeyed to Quanto (Kyoto), distant some forty-five leagues, to see the emperor's eldest son, and then, returning to the court, he received the emperor's commission and privileges, authorising the agents of the company to reside and trade in any part of Japan. With these he set out again for Firando; and after establishing a factory there under the charge of Richard Cocks, and concluding an agreement with Adams (24 Nov.) to act as a servant of the company, he returned to Bantam, which he reached in the end of December. Towards the middle of February 1613–14 he sailed for England, and anchored at Plymouth on 27 Sept.

The announcement of his arrival reached the court of directors accompanied by charges—apparently anonymous—of his having carried on ‘a great private trade.’ The matter was considered on 30 Sept. and subsequent days, the feeling being that it would be ‘unfitting and dishonourable’ to deal hardly with one who had made so adventurous and successful a voyage. In the beginning of December the Clove came into the river, and the question seems to have been settled by Saris agreeing to sell his goods to the company. A few days later it was reported that Saris had brought home ‘certain lascivious books and pictures,’ and actually had them in the governor's house, where he was staying, ‘to the great scandal of the company, and unbecoming their gravity to permit.’ The objectionable articles were burnt.

In 1616 it was incorrectly reported that Saris was going out again to Japan; but he seems to have been from time to time consulted by the court. The last official mention of him is in 1627, after which he appears to have lived at Fulham, where he died in 1646. It was said in 1616 that he had ‘married Mr. Mexse's daughter in Whitechapel.’ If so, his wife predeceased him without issue. His will in Somerset House (Twisse, 146), dated 18 April 1643, and proved 2 Oct. 1646, makes no mention of wife or child, and leaves the bulk of his property to the children of his brother George, who had died in 1631 (Will, St. John, 89, 102).

[Purchas his Pilgrimes, i. 334–84; Cal. State Papers, East Indies; Rundall's Memorials of the Empire of Japan (Hakluyt Soc).; Diary of Richard Cocks (Hakluyt Soc). Saris's original Journal in the Clove is at the India Office.]

J. K. L.