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That Cabot really took the route of Iceland is very probable. A steady and advantageous commerce had for many years been carried on between Bristol and Iceland, and is referred to in the quaint old poem, called, “ The Policie of keeping the Sea,"
,' reprinted in Hakluyt, (vol. i. p. 2011
“ Of Island to write is little nede,
Save of Stockfish: yet, forsooth indeed,
Seven years before, a treaty had been made with the king of Denmark, securing that privilege. (Selden's Mare clausum lib. 2. c. 32.) The theory in reference to which Cabot had projected the voyage would lead him as far North as possible, and it would be a natural precaution to break the dreary continuity at sea, which had exercised so depressing an influence on the sailors of Columbus, by touching at a point so far on his way and yet so familiarly known. Hudson, it may be remarked, took the same route.
We turn now to the translation of Fumée ; "Il mena avec soy trois cens hommes et print la route d Island au dessus du Cap de Labeur, jusques à ce qui il se trouva à 58 degrez et par dela. Il racomptoit,” &c. Acquainted as we are with the original, it seems difficult to mistake even the French version. Hakluyt, however, had no such previous knowledge, and he confesses (Dedication to Sir Walter Raleigh, vol. iii. p. 301) that he was not a perfect master even of the French language. Obliged thus to grope after a meaning, his version is as follows, (vol. iii. p. 9– “ He carried with him 300 men, and took the way towards Island from beyond the Cape of Labrador, (!) until he found himself in 58o and better. He made relation,” &c. The timid servility with which Hakluyt strove to follow Fumée is apparent even in the structure of the sentences, for it is improbable that two independent versions of Gomara would concur in such a distribution of the original matter.
It is difficult to understand how Hakluyt could consent to put forth such palpable nonsense. He is evidently quite aware that the word “ Island” in the French could mean nothing but Iceland; and, indeed, it is the designation which he himself uniformly employs, particularly at p. 550, &c. of his first volume, where is given at great length—“The true state of Island,” being a translation from a Latin work, entitled, “Brevis Commentarius de Islandia.” Yet with this knowledge, and with all the means of a correct version, he represents Cabot as first reaching America and then proceeding onward to Iceland.
The version of Hakluyt is adopted by every subsequent English writer except LEDIARD, who, in his Naval History, seems to have paused over language seemingly so enigmatical. Not perceiving that a proper name was intended, he asked himself, in vexation, what“ Island” could possibly be meant. Besides, the expression was ungrammatical, for it is not said “an Island,” or “the Island,” but simply, “towards Island.” He therefore ventures on an amendment (p. 88)—“He took the way towards the Islands, (!) from beyond the Cape of Labrador, till he was beyond 58o.” Having made grammar of the passage, he leaves the reader to make sense of it.
Wearisome as the examination may be, we have not yet reached the principal error of Hakluyt in reference to this short passage. It will be noted that the Spanish writer, after saying that Cabot reached the lat. of 58°, adds, “aunque el dize mucho mas contando como avia por el mes de Julio tante frio,” &c. (" although he says much further, relating, how he had in the middle of July, such cold,” &c.) Here, too, Hakluyt might have taken advantage of previous translations. In the Italian version of 1576, it is, “finchesi trovo in 58 gradi benche egli dice di piu et narrava come,” &c.; and in that of 1556, “et fino a mettersi in 58 gradi anchor che lui dice molto piu il quale diceva.” Hakluyt, however, relying on Fumée — "jusques à ce qu'il ce trouva a 58 degrez et par dela,” renders the passage “until he found himself in 58° and better.” Thus the Spanish writer, who had peremptorily fixed the limit of 58°, is made, without qualification, to carry Cabot to an indefinite extent beyond it.*
The true version of the passage, not only renders it harmless, but an auxiliary in establishing the truth. That Gomara should speak slightingly of Cabot was to be expected. His work was published in 1552, not long after our Navigator had quitted the service of Spain, and is dedicated to the Emperor Charles V., whose overtures for the return of Cabot, had been, as will be seen hereafter, rejected. Of the discoveries of Cabot, none, he says, were made for Spain (“ninguno fue por nuestros Reyes”), and we shall have repeated occasion to expose his disparaging comments on every incident of Cabot's life while in the service of that country. He is of little authority, it may be remarked, even with his own countrymen, and is most notorious for having, from a paltry jealousy of foreigners, revived and given currency to the idle tale that Columbus was guided in his great enterprise by the charts of a pilot who died in his house. We know, from Peter Martyr (Dec. 3. cap. 6), that, as early as 1515, the Spaniards were jealous of the reputation of Cabot, then in their service; and Gomara, writing immediately after the deep offence which had been given by the abandonment of the service of Spain, and the slight of the emperor's application, was disposed to yield an eager welcome to every falsehood. With regard to an account, then, from such a quarter, we would attach importance to it only from the presumed acquiescence of Cabot in the representation of a contemporary. Now, so far is this from the fact, the very passage, as at length redeemed from a perversion no less absurd than flagitious, furnishes, in itself, a triumphant proof, that the writer's assertion is in direct conflict with that of the Navigator. The importance of this argument is increased by the consideration that Gomara's work was published two years before Ramusio's third volume in the preface to which appears the
Campbell, in his Lives of the Admirals, changes Hakluyt's phrase into “ somewhat more than fifty-eight degrees,” for which he quotes Gomara.
extract from Cabot's letter. This shews that other means of information, and probably Cabot's map amongst the rest, were before Gomara. All that we care to know, under such circumstances, is the real statement of Cabot; and in answer to that enquiry we have the clear and precise language of his letter to Ramusio.
CABOT PENETRATED INTO HUDSON'S BAY.
On quitting the authorities which have so long been supposed to involve irreconcilable contradictions, the only remaining difficulty is that of selection from the numerous testimonials which, offer as to the real extent of the voyage. A few are referred to which speak in general terms of the latitude reached, before proceeding to such as describe particularly the course pursued.
In De Bry (Grand Voyages iv. p. 69,) is the following passage:
"Sebastianus Gabottus, sumptibus Regis Angliæ, Henrici VII., per septentrionalem plagam ad Cataium penetrare voluit. Ille primus Cuspidem Baccalaos detexit (quam hodie Britones et Nortmanni, nautæ la coste des Molues hoc est Asselorum marinorum oram appellant) atque etiam ulterius usque ad 67 gradum versus polum articum."*
Belle-forest, in his Cosmographie Universelle, which appeared at Paris, in 1576, (tom. ii. p. 2175,) makes the same statement.
In the treatise of Chauveton,“ Du Nouveau Monde," published at Geneva, in 1579, he says, (p. 141,)“ Sebastian Gabotto, entreprit aux despens de Henry VII., Rex d'Angleterre, de cercher quelque passage pour aller en Catay par la Tramontaine, Cestuy la descouvrit la pointe de Baccalaos, (que les mariniers de Bretaigne, et de Normandie appellent La Coste des Molues) et plus haut jusqu'à soixante sept degrez du Pole.”
* « Sebastian Cabot attempted, at the expense of Henry VII., King of England, to find a way by the north to Cataia. He first discovered the point of Baccalaos, which the Breton and Norman sailors now call the Coast of Codfish; and, proceeding, yet further, he reached the latitude of sixty-seven degrees towards the Arctic Pole.”