Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v1.djvu/28

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2
Travellers and Explorers

with experiences in odd corners of the Mediterranean or of the Indian Ocean, or along the Arctic route to Central Asia. They all shared in developing the British Empire and English literature. Martin Frobisher and North-West-Foxe beyond the polar circle, Thomas Harlot inside the Carolina sandspits, and Sir Richard Hawkins in the Gulf of Mexico are by this chance of geography given a place at the beginning of the annals of American literature, instead of sharing the scant notice allotted to their equally deserving contemporaries whom fate led elsewhere. The same fate sent Francis Drake to sojourn for a time on the California coast, and it likewise set in motion the economic and political forces which two centuries later transferred this region into the keeping of the English race, thereby adding the great circumnavigator to the American roll. Later came one whom Americans have adopted as a folk hero, Captain John Smith.[1] He risked his life with equal abandon in Flanders and Turkey and Potowatomy's land, but Virginia claims him as her own. He may have been, as it was once the fashion to proclaim, an inordinate liar, but whatever the historians say, the certain fact is that what he wrote was read in his own day and has ever since been read by thousands who have identified him with the first English colony.

"And this is as much as my memory can call to mind worthie of note; which I have purposely collected, to satisfie my friends of the true worth and qualitie of Virginia." So John Smith wrote at the end of his "Description" of that colony published in 1612.


Yet some bad natures will not sticke to slander the Countrey, that will slovenly spit at all things, especially in company where they can find none to contradict them. Who though they were scarse ever 10 miles from James Town, or at the most but at the falles; yet holding it a great disgrace that amongst so much action, their actions were nothing, exclaime of all things, though they never adventured to knowe any thing; nor ever did any thing but devoure the fruits of other mens labours. Being for most part of such tender educations and small experience in martiall accidents, because they found not English cities, nor such faire houses, nor at their

  1. See also Book I, Chap. II.