Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation
By Richard Hakluyt (c. 1553–1616)
Preacher, and sometime Student of Christ Church in Oxford (1598).

¶ A preface to the Reader as touching the principal Voyages and discourses in this first part.

HAVING for the benefit and honour of my country zealously bestowed so many years, so much travail and cost, to bring antiquities smothered and buried in dark silence, to light, and to preserve certain memorable exploits of late years by our English nation achieved, from the greedy and devouring jaws of oblivion; to gather likewise, and as it were to incorporate into one body the torn and scattered limbs of our ancient and late navigations by sea, our voyages by land, and traffiques of merchandise by both; and having (so much as in me lieth) restored each particular member, being before displaced, to their true joints and ligaments; I mean, by the help of Geography and Chronology (which I may call the Sun and the Moon, the right eye and the left of all history) referred each particular relation to the due time and place; I do this second time (friendly Reader, if not to satisfy, yet at least for the present, to allay and hold in suspense thine expectation) presume to offer unto thy view this first part of my threefold discourse. For the bringing of which into homely and rough-hewen shape, which here thou seest; what restless nights, what painful days, what heat, what cold I have endured; how many long and chargeable journeys I have travelled; how many famous libraries I have searched into; what variety of ancient and modern writers I have perused; what a number of old records, patents, privileges, letters, &c., I have redeemed from obscurity and perishing; into how manifold acquaintance I have entered; what expenses I have not spared; and yet what fair opportunities of private gain, preferment, and ease I have neglected; albeit thyself canst hardly imagine, yet I by daily experience do find and feel, and some of my entire friends can sufficiently testify. Howbeit (as I told thee at the first) the honour and benefit of this common weal wherein I live and breathe, hath made all difficulties seem easy, all pains and industry pleasant, and all expenses of light value and moment unto me.
  For (to contain myself only within the bounds of this present discourse, and in the midst thereof to begin) will it not in all posterity be as great a renown unto our English nation, to have been the first discoverers of a sea beyond the North cape (never certainly known before) and of a convenient passage into the huge Empire of Russia by the bay of S. Nicholas and the river Duina; as for the Portugales to have found a sea beyond the cape of Buona Esperanza, and so consequently a passage by sea into the East Indies; or for the Italians and Spaniards to have discovered unknown lands so many hundred leagues westward and southwestward of the Straits of Gibraltar, and of the pillars of Hercules? Be it granted that the renowned Portugale Vasques de Gama traversed the main ocean southward of Africk; did not Richard Chanceler and his mates perform the like northward of Europe? Suppose that Columbus, that noble and high-spirited Genuois, escried unknown lands to the westward of Europe and Africk; did not the valiant English knight Sir Hugh Willoughby, did not the famous pilots Stephen Burrough, Arthur Pet, and Charles Jackman, accost Nova Zembla, Colgoieve, and Vaigatz to the north of Europe and Asia? Howbeit you will say perhaps, not with the like golden success, not with such deductions of colonies, nor attaining of conquests. True it is that our success hath not been correspondent unto theirs: yet in this our attempt the uncertainty of finding was far greater, and the difficulty and danger of searching was no whit less. For hath not Herodotus (a man for his time, most skilful and judicial in cosmography, who writ above 2000 years ago) in his 4th book called Melpomene, signified unto the Portugales in plain terms; that Africk, except the small Isthmus between the Arabian gulf and the Mediterran sea, was on all sides environed with the Ocean? And for the further confirmation thereof, doth he not make mention of one Neco an Ægyptian King, who (for trial’s sake) sent a fleet of Phœnicians down the Red Sea; who setting forth in Autumn and sailing southward till they had the Sun at noontide upon their starboard (that is to say, having crossed the Equinoctial and the southern tropic) after a long navigation, directed their course to the north, and in the space of three years environed all Africk, passing home through the Gaditan straits, and arriving in Ægypt? And doth not Pliny tell them that noble Hanno, in the flourishing time and estate of Carthage, sailed from Gades in Spain to the coast of Arabia Felix, and put down his whole journal in writing? Doth he not make mention that in the time of Augustus Cæsar, the wrack of certain Spanish ships was found floating in the Arabian gulf? And, not to be over tedious in alleging of testimonies, doth not Strabo in the second book of his geography, together with Cornelius Nepos and Pliny in the place before-named, agree all in one, that one Eudoxius, fleeing from king Lathyrus, and valing 1 down the Arabian bay, sailed along, doubled the southern point of Africk, and at length arrived at Gades? And what should I speak of the Spaniards? Was not divine Plato (who lived so many ages ago, and plainly described their West Indies under the name of Atlantis) was not he (I say) instead of a Cosmographer unto them? Were not those Carthaginians mentioned by Aristotle lib. de admirabil. auscult. 2 their forerunners? And had they not Columbus to stir them up, and prick them forward unto their Western discoveries; yea, to be their chief loads-man 3 and pilot? Sithens therefore these two worthy nations had those bright lamps of learning (I mean the most ancient and best philosophers, historiographers and geographers) to shew them light; and the load-star of experience (to wit those great exploits and voyages laid up in store and recorded) whereby to shape their course: what great attempt might they not presume to undertake? But alas! our English nation, at the first setting forth for their north-eastern discovery, were either altogether destitute of such clear lights and inducements, or if they had any inkling at all, it was as misty as they found the northern seas, and so obscure and ambiguous, that it was meet rather to deter them, than to give them encouragement.  2
  But besides the foresaid uncertainty, into what dangers and difficulties they plunged themselves, Animus meminisse horret, I tremble to recount. For first they were to expose themselves unto the rigour of the stern and uncouth northern seas, and to make trial of the swelling waves and boisterous winds which there commonly do surge and blow: then were they to sail by the ragged and perilous coast of Norway, to frequent the unhaunted shores of Finmark, to double the dreadful and misty North cape, to bear with Willoughbie’s land, to run along within kenning of the countries of Lapland and Corelia, and as it were to open and unlock the sevenfold mouth of Duina. Moreover, in their northeasterly navigations, upon the seas and by the coasts of Condora, Colgoieve, Petzora, Joughoria, Samoedia, Nova Zembla, etc., and their passing and return through the straits of Vaigatz, unto what drifts of snow and mountains of ice even in June, July, and August, unto what hideous overfalls, uncertain currents, dark mists and fogs, and divers other feareful inconveniences they were subject and in danger of, I wish you rather to learn out of the voyages of Sir Hugh Willoughbie, Stephen Burrough, Arthur Pet and the rest, than to expect in this place an endless catalogue thereof. And here by the way I cannot but highly commend the great industry and magnanimity of the Hollanders, who within these few years have discovered to 78. yea (as themselves affirm) to 81. degrees of northerly latitude: yet with this proviso; that our English nation led them the dance, brake the ice before them, and gave them good leave to light their candle at our torch. But now it is high time for us to weigh our anchor, to hoise up our sails, to get clear of these boisterous, frosty, and misty seas, and with all speed to direct our course for the mild, lightsome, temperate, and warm Atlantic Ocean, over which the Spaniards and Portugales have made so many pleasant, prosperous, and golden voyages. And albeit I cannot deny, that both of them in their East and West Indian navigations have endured many tempests, dangers, and shipwracks: yet this dare I boldly affirm; first that a great number of them have satisfied their fame-thirsty and gold-thirsty minds with that reputation and wealth, which made all perils and misadventures seem tolerable unto them; and secondly, that their first attempts (which in this comparison I do only stand upon) were no whit more difficult and dangerous, then ours to the northeast. For admit that the way was much longer, yet was it never barred with ice, mist, or darkness, but was at all seasons of the year open and navigable; yea and that for the most part with fortunate and fit gales of wind. Moreover they had no foreign prince to intercept or molest them, but their own towns, islands, and main lands to succour them. The Spaniards had the Canary Isles; and so had the Portugales the Isles of Açores, of Porto santo, of Madera, of Cape verd, the castle of Mina, the fruitful and profitable Isle of S. Thomas, being all of them conveniently situated, and well fraught with commodities. And had they not continual and yearly trade in some one part or other of Africa, for getting of slaves, for sugar, for elephants’ teeth, grains, silver, gold, and other precious wares, which served as allurements to draw them on by little and little, and as props to stay them from giving over their attempts? But now let us leave them and return home unto ourselves.  3
Note 1. valing, or vailing, = retiring. [back]
Note 2. Aristotle lib. de admirabi. auscult. See note on p. 387. [back]
Note 3. loads-man = steerer (from lead). [back]

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