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by Richard Willes, gentleman, on the North-West passage. It was originally published in an edition, that Willes put forth in 1577, of Richard Eden's Decades, and forms part of an article therein, which Hakluyt has strangely mangled, addressed to Lady Warwick, daughter of the Earl of Bedford. It was drawn up, as we shall have occasion to show, for the use of Sir Martin Frobisher. In this tract Willes combats the various arguments urged at that time against the practicability of the enterprise; and his statement of one of the objections advanced, furnishes an all important glimpse at the map of Cabot. In the following passage (3 Hakluyt, p. 25), the enemies of the enterprise are supposed to say:
Well, grant the West Indies not to continue continent unto the Pole. Grant there be a passage between these two lands; let the gulf lie nearer us than commonly in Cardes we find it, namely, between 61 and 64 degrees north, as Gemma Frisius, in his maps and globes, imagineth it, and so left by our countryman, Sebastian Cabot, in his Table, which the Earl of Bedford hath at Cheynies;* let the way be void of all difficulties, yet, &c. &c."
And, again, Willes, speaking in his own person, says (3 Hakluyt, p. 26):
“For that Caboto was not only a skilful seaman but a long traveller, and such a one as entered personally that straight, sent by King Henry VII. to make this aforesaid discovery as in his own Discourse of Navigation you may read in his Card, drawn with his own hand, that the mouth of the North Western Straight lieth near the 318 meridian, between 61 and 64 degrees in the elevation, continuing the same breadth about ten degrees West, where it openeth southerly more and more."
It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that, until a comparatively recent period, longitude was measured, universally from Ferro, once supposed to be the most western part of the World; and that the computation of degrees from that point proceeded first over the old World, and thus made its journey of 360 degrees. Adding together, then, the 42 degrees which complete the circuit, and the distance between Ferro and Greenwich, we have within a few minutes, 60° west from Greenwich as the longitude named; and if we note
* On application in the proper quarter, it has been ascertained that this Document cannot, after diligent search, be found.
on a modern map, where that degree of longitude crosses Labrador, it will be seen how little allowance is necessary for the 66 about 318,” which Willes, somewhat vaguely, states as the commencement of the strait. He probably judged by the eye of that fact, and of the distance at which the strait began to open southerly."
A pause was, designedly, made in the midst of Willes's statement in order to separate what refers to Cabot's Map from his own speculations. The paragraph quoted concludes thus :
“Where it openeth southerly more and more until it come under the tropic of Cancer, and so runneth into Mar del Sur, at the least 18 degrees more in breadth there, than it was where it first began; otherwise, I could as well imagine this passage to be more unlikely than the voyage to Moscovia, and more impossible than it, for the far situation and continuance thereof in the frosty clime.”
That Cabot represented the strait as continuing in the degree mentioned, or as presenting a southern route, is incredible, because we know that he was finally arrested at 67 degrees and-a-half whilst struggling onward. But the object of Willes was to meet the objection of those who contended that even supposing a passage could be found so far to the North yet the perils of the navigation must render it useless for the purposes of commerce. He represents them as saying (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 25): “If
passage be, it lieth subject unto ice and snow for the most part of the year. Before the sun hath warmed the air and dissolved the ice each one well knoweth that there can be no sailing. The ice once broken, through the continual abode the sun maketh a certain season in those parts, how shall it be possible for so weak a vessel, as a ship is, to hold out amid whole islands, as it were, of ice continually beating on each side, and at the mouth of that gulf issuing down furiously from the North, &c."
Willes, therefore, artfully concedes, as has been seen, the force of the objection, but attempts to elude it by adverting to the form of the Bay, and arguing that the break to the South held out the prospect of a safer route. In this effort he derived important assistance from the maps of Gemma
Frisius and Tramezine, both of which are yet extant, and
be advantageously contrasted with that of more recent maps. Thus, on the one found in Purchas (vol. iii. p. 852), the 318th degree of longitude passes through nearly the middle of the 6 Fretum Hudson.” In the “Voyages from Asia to America, for completing the discoveries of the North-West Coast of America,” published at London, in 1764, with a translation of S. Muller's Tract, as to the Russian discoveries, there is a map by “ Thomas Jefferys, Geographer to his Majesty,” taken from that published by the Royal Academy of Sciences at St Petersburg. The old mode of computation is observed, and the 318th degree of longitude does not touch Labrador, but passes to the eastward of it.
Such is the evidence which exists to establish the fact assumed as the title of this chapter. There remains one obvious and striking consideration. Had Cabot been disposed to fabricate a tale to excite the wonder of his contemporaries, not only were the means of detection abundant, but he assuredly, would not have limited himself to 67 degrees anda-half. To a people familiar with the navigation to Iceland, Norway, &c., there was nothing marvellous in his representation ; nay, Zeigler, as we have seen, will not believe that great mountains of ice could have been encountered in that latitude. It is only by knowing the navigation of the Strait,
and Bay, and northern channel, that we can appreciate the difficulties he had to overcome, and the dauntless intrepidity that found a new impulse in perils before which his terrified companions gave way.
FIRST WORK OF HAKLUYT-MAPS AND DISCOURSES LEFT BY SEBASTIAN
CABOT AT HIS DEATH READY FOR PUBLICATION.
An early work of Hakluyt, to which frequent reference will be made, contains a great deal of curious information, not to be found elsewhere, and is exceedingly important as a check on his subsequent volumes. It furnishes, moreover, honourable evidence of the zeal with which he sought to advance, on every occasion, the interests of navigation and discovery. The following is its title :
“Divers voyages touching the discoverie of America and the Islands adjacent unto the same, made first of all by an Englishman, and afterwards by the Frenchmen and Britons : and certain notes of advertisements, for observations necessary for such as shall hereafter make the like attempt, with two mappes annexed hereunto, for the plainer understanding of the whole matter. Imprinted at London, for Thomas Woodcock, dwelling in Paule's Churchyard, at the signe of the Black Beare, 1582."
A reference will be found to it in the margin of p. 174. vol. iii. of Hakluyt's larger work. Dr Didbin, in his Library Companion (2d ed. p. 392), says, “I know of no other copy than that in the collection of my neighbour, Henry Jadis, Esq., who would brave all intervening perils between Indus and the Pole, to possess himself of any rarity connected with
There is a copy in the Library of the British
* It may be inferred that we are not quite such enthusiasts as the gentleman referred to; those who are will find amongst the Harleian MSS. (No. 288, Art. 111) a very curious autograph letter from Hakluyt, dated Paris, July 1588, relative to an overture from France.