Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hakluyt, Richard

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1248449Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24 — Hakluyt, Richard1890John Knox Laughton

HAKLUYT, RICHARD[1] (1552?–1616), geographer, of a family possibly of Dutch origin, but settled for several centuries in Herefordshire, where the name appears on the list of sheriffs as early as the time of Edward II, was born about 1552 (Chester, London Marriage Licenses), and after an early education at Westminster School, was in 1570 elected to a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. 19 Feb. 1574, and M.A. 27 Jan. 1577. He appears to have taken holy orders at the usual age. While still a boy at Westminster his attention had been turned to geography and the history of discovery. This study he had pursued with avidity while at Oxford, reading, as he tells us himself, ‘whatever printed or written discoveries and voyages I found extant, either in Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portugal, French, or English languages,’ and some time after taking his degree he lectured on these subjects, perhaps at Oxford (Jones, p. 6). He claims to have first shown in these lectures ‘the new, lately reformed maps, globes, spheres, and other instruments of this art, for demonstration in the common schools.’ In 1582 he published his ‘Divers Voyages touching the Discovery of America,’ a work which would seem to have secured for him the patronage of Lord Howard of Effingham, then lord admiral, whose brother-in-law, Sir Edward Stafford, going to France in 1583 as English ambassador, appointed Hakluyt his chaplain.

In Paris he found new opportunities of collecting information as to Spanish and French voyages, ‘making,’ he says, ‘diligent enquiry of such things as might yield any light unto our western discovery in America.’ These researches he embodied in ‘A particular Discourse concerning Western Discoveries,’ written in 1584, but first printed in 1877, in Collections of the Maine Historical Society. A copy of this presented to the queen procured him the reversion of a prebendal stall at Bristol, to which he succeeded in 1586. He remained in Paris, however, for two years longer, and in 1586 interested himself in the publication of the journal of Laudonnière, which he translated and published in London under the title of ‘A notable History, containing four Voyages made by certain French Captains into Florida,’ 1587, 4to; and the same year there was published in Paris ‘De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii, Decades Octo, illustratæ labore et industriâ Ricardi Hakluyti.’ [Translated by Michael Lok, London, 1612, 4to.] In 1588 he returned to England in company with Lady Sheffield, Lord Howard's sister, and in 1589 published ‘The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation made by Sea or over land to the most remote and farthest distant quarters of the earth, at any time within the compass of these 1500 yeares’ [sm. fol. in one vol.], to the ‘burden’ and ‘huge toil’ of which he was, he tells us, incited by hearing and reading while in France, ‘other nations miraculously extolled for their discoveries and notable enterprises by sea, but the English of all others for their sluggish security and continual neglect of the like attempts, either ignominiously reported or exceedingly condemned, and finding few or none of our own men able to reply herein, and not seeing any man to have care to recommend to the world the industrious labours and painful travels of our countrymen.’

This one volume, which was dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham, was the germ, or, as it is commonly called, the first edition, of the much larger and better known work which he published some ten years later, under a title almost identical in its general statement, but differing in the details [3 vols. sm. fol. 1598–1600]. The first volume, published in 1598, contained an account of the expedition to Cadiz in 1596, which, after Essex's disgrace, Hakluyt deemed it advisable, or was directed, to suppress. As the title of this first volume contained the words, ‘and lastly the memorable defeate of the Spanish huge Armada, anno 1588, and the famous victorie atchieved at the citie of Cadiz, 1596, are described,’ this title was cancelled, and for the above sentence was substituted ‘As also the memorable defeat of the Spanish huge Armada, anno 1588.’ This new title-page (having some other minor alterations) bears date 1599, and has given rise to the erroneous notion that there was a second edition of the first volume then published: it is much the more common. Modern editions of Hakluyt's work appeared in 1809 and 1884. A fine reprint (Glasgow, 12 vols. 1903–5) is well illustrated and indexed, and has an essay by Prof. Walter Raleigh.

In April 1590 Hakluyt was appointed rector of Wetheringsett in Suffolk, where he seems to have compiled and arranged his great work. In May 1602 he was appointed prebendary of Westminster, and archdeacon in the following year: in 1604 he was one of the chaplains of the Savoy (Chester). He was still occupied with his geographical studies; in 1601 he is named as advising to ‘set down in writing a note of the principal places in the East Indies where trade is to be had,’ for the use of the committee of the East India Company, and supplied maps (Stevens, Dawn of British Trade to the East Indies, pp. 123, 143). In 1606 he was one of the chief promoters of the petition to the king for patents for the colonisation of Virginia, and was afterwards one of the chief adventurers in the London or South Virginian Company. His last publication was a translation from the Portuguese of the travels and discoveries of Ferdinand de Soto, under the title of ‘Virginia richly valued,’ 1609, 4to. He died on 23 Nov. 1616, and on the 26th was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Hakluyt was twice married, first in or about 1594, and again in March 1604, when he was described in the license as having been a widower about seven years, and as aged about fifty-two (Chester). He left one son, who is said to have squandered his inheritance and to have discredited his name. Mr. Froude has aptly called Hakluyt's ‘Principal Navigations’ ‘the prose epic of the modern English nation,’ ‘an invaluable treasure of material for the history of geography, discovery, and colonisation,’ and a collection of ‘the heroic tales of the exploits of the great men in whom the new era was inaugurated’ (Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects, i. 446). Besides his published works Hakluyt left a large collection of manuscripts, sufficient, it is said, to have formed a fourth volume as large as any of the three of the ‘Principal Navigations.’ Several of these fell into the hands of Purchas, who incorporated them in an abridged form in his ‘Pilgrimes,’ whose engraved title-page opens with the words ‘Hakluytus Postumus;’ others are preserved at Oxford in the Bodleian Library.

[Material for the life of Hakluyt—chiefly derived from the dedications and prefaces to his works, more especially from the dedication to Walsingham of the Principall Navigations of 1589, and of the first volume of the enlarged edition of 1598—is collected in the article by Oldys, in the Biographia Britannica; in the introduction, by J. Winter Jones, to the Hakluyt Society's edition of the Divers Voyages touching the Discovery of America, and in the article by C. H. Coote in the Encyclopædia Britannica. See also Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 186; Fuller's Worthies of England, Herefordshire, and Oxf. Univ. Reg., (Oxf. Hist. Soc.) II. iii. 39, where the name is given with eight different spellings, one of which is Hacklewight.]

J. K. L.

  1. Printed note affixed to page with handwritten asterisk. "See Notes and Queries cxlvi, 335 for details of his ancestry." (Wikisource contributor note)