Page:Early English adventurers in the East (1917).djvu/34

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

writhed under them with only occasional opportunities for reprisals. Now that the opening of the seas had given the opportunity of hitting back effectively neither the Government nor the common people was disposed to look too critically upon exploits which, besides paying off old scores, brought a refreshing stream of wealth in their train. So the indignant protests which in due course came from the peninsula were drowned in a chorus of popular acclamation amid which Lancaster retired for a period to the background to enjoy a well earned respite from active command.

Meanwhile, the old idea of commercial expansion in the East was quietly fermenting in the mind of the merchant class, which in the closing years of the sixteenth century had become perhaps more powerful than at any previous period in English history. The formation of the English Turkey Company in 1579 had opened up an avenue of independent trade with the near East, to the immense widening of the knowledge of the countries of Asia.

Constantinople was then one of the principal emporiums of the globe. Into its portals came caravans from all parts of Asia, bearing the products of the looms of Persia, India and China, and the spices of the remoter regions of the Eastern seas. The great world of the Orient, which had hitherto been known in Britain mainly through the refracted medium of Venetian, and Spanish and Portuguese eyes, now became more or less familiar by the direct narratives of Englishmen who had entered the East by its Mediterranean door.

As early as 1583 five Englishmen, Ralph Fitch, James Newberry, J. Eldred, W. Leedes, and J. Story, started out from Tripolis in Syria on a tour in Asia, which even to-day would be considered remarkable. From Tripolis they pro-