صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

sometimes fraudulent and intended to raise false expectations. In our account this brevity will be extended, and these frauds whenever they are detected will be exposed; for though we write without intention to injure, we shall not suffer ourselves to be made parties to deceit.

If any author shall transmit a summary of his work, we shall willingly receive it; if any literary anecdote, or curious observation, shall be communicated to us, we will carefully insert it. Many facts are known and forgotten, many observations are made and suppressed; and entertainment and instruction are frequently lost, for want of a repository in which they may be conveniently preserved.

No man can modestly promise what he cannot ascertain : we hope for the praise of knowledge and discernment, but we claim only that of diligence and candour.




NAVIGATION, like other arts, has been per

fected by degrees. It is not easy to conceive that any age or nation was without some vessel, in which rivers might be passed by travellers, or lakes frequented by fishermen ; but we have no knowledge of any ship that could endure the violence of the ocean before the ark of Noah.

As the tradition of the deluge has been transmitted to almost all the nations of the earth, it must be supposed that the memory of the means by which Noah and his family were preserved, would be continued long among their descendants, and that the possibility of passing the seas could never be doubted.

What men know to be practicable, a thousand motives will incite them to try; and there is reason

Y to believe, that from the time that the generations of the post-diluvian race spread to the sea shores, there were always navigators that ventured upon the sea, though, perhaps, not willingly beyond the sight of land.

* A Collection of Voyages and Travels, selected from the writers of all nations, in four small pocket volumes, and published by Newbery; to oblige whom, it is conjectured that Johnson drew up this curious and learned


Of the ancient voyages little certain is known, and it is not necessary to lay before the Reader such conjectures as learned men have offered to the world. The Romans by conquering Carthage, put a stop to great part of the trade of distant nations with one another, and because they thought only on war and conquest, as their empire in. creased, commerce was discouraged ; till under the latter emperors, ships seem to have been of little other use than to transport soldiers.

Navigation could not be carried to any great degree of certainty without the compass, which was unknown to the ancients. The wonderful quality by which a needle or small bar of steel, touched with a loadstone or magnet, and turning freely by equilibration on a point, always preserves the meridian, and directs its two ends north and south, was discovered according to the common opinion in 1299 by John Gola of Amalfi, a town in Italy,

From this time it is reasonable to suppose that navigation made continual, though slow improvements, which the confusion and barbarity of the times, and the want of communication between orders of men so distant as sailors and monks, hindered from being distinctly and successively recorded.

It seems, however, that the sailors still wanted either knowledge or courage, for they continued for two centuries to creep along the coast, and considered every headland as unpassable, which ran far into the sea, and against which the waves broke with uncommon agitation.

The first who is known to have formed the deVOL. II.


sign of new discoveries, or the first who had power to execute his purposes, was Don Henry the fifth, son of John, the first king of Portugal, and Philippina, sister of Henry the fourth of England. Don Henry having attended his father to the conquest of Ceuta, obtained by conversation with the inhabitants of the continent, some accounts of the inte. rior kingdoms and southern coast of Africa; which, though rude and indistinct, were sufficient to raise his curiosity, and convince him, that there were countries yet unknown and worthy of discovery.

He therefore equipped some small vessels, and commanded that they should pass as far as they could along the coast of Africa which looked upon the great Atlantic ocean, the immensity of which struck the gross and unskilful navigators of these times with terror and amazement. He was not able to communicate his own ardour to his seamen, who proceeded very slowly in the new attempt; each was afraid to venture much farther than he that went before him, and ten years were spent before they had advanced beyond cape Bajador, so called from its progression into the ocean, and the circuit by which it must be doubled. The opposition of this promontory to the course of the sea, produced a violent current and high waves, into which they durst not venture, and which they had not yet knowledge enough to avoid by standing off from the land into the open sea.

The prince was desirous to know something of the countries that lay beyond this formidable cape, and sent two commanders, named John Gonzales Zarco, and Tristan Vaz, in 1418, to pass


beyond Badajor, and survey the coast behind it. They were caught by a tempest, which drove them out into the unknown ocean, where they expected to perish by the violence of the wind, or perhaps to wander for ever in the boundless deep. At last, in the midst of their despair, they found a small island, where they sheltered themselves, and which the sense of their deliverance disposed them to call Puerto Santo, or the Holy Haven.

When they returned with an account of this new island, Henry performed a public act of thanks. giving, and sent them again with seeds and cattle; and we are told by the Spanish historian, that they set two rabbits on shore, which increased so much in a few years, that they drove away the inhabitants, by destroying their corn and plants, and were suffered to enjoy the island without opposition.

In the second or third voyage to Puerto Santo for authors do not agree which), a third captain, called Perello, was joined to the two former. As they looked round the island upon the ocean, they saw at a distance something which they took for a cloud, till they perceived that it did not change its place. They directed their course towards it, and, in 1419, discovered another island covered with trees, which they therefore called Madera, or the Isle of Wood.

Madera was given to Vaz or Zarco, who set fire to the woods, which are reported by Souza to have burnt for seven years together, and to have been wasted, till want of wood was the greatest inconveniency of the place. But green wood is not very apt to burn, and the heavy rains which fall in

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »