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learnt to distinguish from historic truth, and he came back with magnified impressions of all he saw, and credulous belief of all he was told. Thus provided, he compiled his narrative from recollection, for the amusement and instruction of those who relished only miraculous legends, and would have been impatient at the obtrusion of the uninteresting details of statistical observation, or scientific views of man or nature.
Travels were, in such times, therefore, related as history was fabricated. The real facts, where they were suffered to appear through the veil of fiction, served only as a frame-work for inventive ornament; and if, in either one or the other, truth has by any accident been preserved, we are generally indebted to any thing rather than a disposition in the author to place it before us in its naked reality. Not that we would ascribe any thing like wilful falsehood to many of these worthies, or insinuate, for a moment, that deception was intended by such men as Marco Polo, or Mandeville. For we think, on the contrary, the world has been much too critical and hasty in its decisions on the veracity, and even the judgment, of these travellers. Their works appear under every disadvantage of mis-translation into foreign tongues, mistakes in copies, abridgements, and interpolations; and yet, nevertheless, we shall have occasion to remark, with relation particularly to the author whose work is before us, that what is told by them on their own evidence of inspection or information on the spot, is commonly perfectly correct, and judiciously narrated. The bad name which such writers have unjustly acquired, is owing to the same causes which procured them the equally ill-judged admiration of the readers of their day ; namely, the amazing credulity of their contemporaries, and the little pains which have since been taken to separate the matter of lightly-received hearsay from that of experiment and personal observation : which are blended together more from want of judgment, than of honesty or veracity.
Defective as they may be, these publications at all events excited curiosity, if they could not gratify rational inquiry. Traveller upon traveller, in rapid succession, visited foreign climes ; commercial advantages were noticed, and the spirit of enterprize which they aroused created a demand for similar information. The reign of deception, at length, gradually declined and fell; and that of useful investigation quickly sprung up in its place.
The first efforts of European inquiry were all directed towards the East. All Christians bowed in spirit, as well as body, towards that sacred quarter of the globe, which dwelt in their deepest and holiest affection; which offered, too, to the mercenary, the brightest prospects of pecuniary advantage; so that its riches dazzled the eyes of the worldly-minded, at the same time that its connection with the records of revealed truth inshrined it in the heart of the devotee. In the mean time, however, Europe continued, for a long period, lamentably deficient in acquaintance with its own immediate geography. The chronicles of all parts are full of the most egregious and palpable blunders with regard to countries even immediately neighbouring to those of the authors, and this to such an extent as often to render them completely unintelligible. We are even told of the worthy monks of Tournay seeking in vain, for two years, the Abbey of Ferrieres, during the eleventh century; and with such a fact before us, we shall not be inclined to rate very highly the famous maps of Charlemagne, engraved on silver platters, which probably, if they had survived, like that of Turin, published by Passini, would be equally decisive, not of the knowledge, but of the utter ignorance of the age. It certainly was not till the commercial spirit of the free towns of Germany, the Italian republics, England, and Holland, had imperceptibly arisen, and diffused itself very widely, that this ignorance was, to any considerable degree, removed. Asiatic geography and statistics had made a much earlier progress. The Arabians had, of course, been most accurate and detailed in their accounts of their own immediate domain; the Crusaders had traversed the same quarter repeatedly ; the fleets of Venice, Genoa, and Florence, had profited by the opportunity to engage in extensive commerce, and though prevented, by the ruling dynasty of Egypt, from pursuing the trade to India by the Red Sea, they opened an avenue to its treasures from the Black Sea, and organized a traffic, by means of caravans, to China and Hindostan, which lasted more than two hundred years. In addition to the crusades, the ravages of the Mogul Tartars, which put not only Asia, but Poland, Silesia, and Hungary, in consternation, led to an acquaintance with the remotest parts of the East. The Roman Pontiffs sought by missionaries to avert the storm; and these apostles traced the course which Christian merchants followed beyond the Black Sea and the Caspian. The boundaries of knowledge were extended, and the missionary long served as a channel of communication between the two continents. Even in the fourteenth century, we find an European bishop at Pekin. St. Louis sought to enter into a political connexion with the Mogul Chan, in 1253; and Henry III., of Castile, with Timur, in 1394. • In the thirteenth century appeared Vincentius Belovacensis (de Beauvais), who wrote the Bibliotheca Mundi ; and Roger Bacon, in his Opus Majus, gave an accurate and judicious account of Europe, Asia, and Africa ; and pointed, with the finger of prophecy, to the probability of the existence of that western world which, two hundred years afterwards, was discovered by Columbus. These are, however, but meagre materials;
and there is no reason to believe that the works of Pliny and Ptolemy, or the Itinerary of Antoninus, were consulted to any useful purpose, till a much later period. The only sure foundation for accurate knowledge must be laid on actual observation and experience; and we shall now briefly notice the principal European travellers preceding and contemporary with Mandeville; whence we shall proceed to the more immediate consideration of the work which has given occasion to these remarks.
The two first of these adventurers are Jews,-a people to whom it is not usual to acknowledge much literary obligation, although, under the liberal toleration and patronage of the Moorish dynasties of Bagdad and Spain, they attained no inconsiderable eminence. Moses Petachia travelled, about the year 1187, through Poland to Tartary, and thence through various Asiatic countries to Jerusalem; and about the same period appeared the work ascribed to Benjamin Ben Jona, commonly called Benjamin of Tudela, who is represented to have been a native of Navarre, and a student of Cordova, “ Laus non ultima sabbatariorum.” His journey purports to have extended by the way of Constantinople, through Antioch to Jerusalem; thence to Tadmor, and the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris. Bagdad was then under the government of the Abassides, to whose toleration of the Jews our traveller bears ample testimony. His course thence lay through Persia ; and he returned by the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to Egypt and Sicily. His book is open to much observation, and we may possibly devote ourselves hereafter to a minute consideration of it. At present, we can only observe, that though it no doubt added to the existing stock of knowledge, considerable uncertainty necessarily arises as to the authenticity of the narration, and its claim to rank higher than a fair compilation, from the best authorities, for popular use amongst the Spanish Hebrews. The principal charges of fable and exaggeration seem to attach to the author's magnificent report of the numbers and importance of his countrymen, wherever he went. Of the influence of this work, and the variety of translations of it which appeared in Spain, we have had occasion to speak in another place. Arius Montanus was the author of one; and the copy now before us contains the Hebrew text, and the version of Constantine L'Empereur, whom Dr. Aikin, by a strange anachronism, calls the Emperor Constantine. The translator laments the corrupt state of the text, and the ravages which time had made in this relic, which he characterizes as
“ Donum nobile !! sed malignus ævi
Dens arroserat: optimamque partem, VOL. III. PART II.
Intervalla viæ, situmque terræ,
Delibaverat integro labori." The monks now take the lead in foreign adventure. Bonaventura Broccardus, a Westphalian monk, travelled, in 1222, to Palestine ; and, on his return, wrote his Descriptio Terræ Sancta, which was long in high repute. Ascelin, a Dominican, wrote an account of his mission (in 1254) from Innocent IV. to the Cham of Tartary, of which little remains. Carpini, an Italian, and Rubruqius (Ruisbrook), a Brabanter, went on similar expeditions in the same century; and have left, on the whole, as accurate and faithful accounts of their observations as could be expected from the age. Hayton, an Armenian prince, assuming the habit of a monk, arrived in France in the year 1307; and there dictated his Historia Orientalis, which is to be found in Purchas, and contains a very creditable and useful description of the principal Asiatic states, and a considerable portion of the history of the Mogul sovereigns.
But the most celebrated precursor of Mandeville was Marco Polo, whose travels occupied the last years of the thirteenth century. In him we lose the clerical cast which the works of his monkish predecessors necessarily bear. He was a merchant, journeying for the promotion of commercial interests; and his work long maintained that deserved reputation to which it has been in a great degree restored, by the zeal of modern editors, particularly of Mr. Marsden, who, in 1818, published an edition, with most useful and judicious notes. “He (Marco Polo) was," as a modern writer has justly observed, “a man of observation, of sound judgment, and discretion, and, like 'the father of history,' whom he most resembles, always careful to separate the knowledge acquired by his own experience from that which was communicated to him by others." -Oderick de Portenau, (Porta Naonis,) a traveller of the early part of the fourteenth century, seems to have been much more skilled in the conversion of infidels, than in the arts of composition; but during the same period, Mandeville was pursuing his travels, the result of which is before us; and Balducci Pigolotti was also performing his journey to Pekin. * Of all these travellers,
* Clavigo, who was despatched by Henry IIJ. of Castile, to Timur, about 1400, occupies, of course, a much more advanced period of literature. He was followed over nearly the same ground, during the fifteenth century, by Scheldberger (1430); Paul Toscanella, (1474); Bernard Breydenbach and Hans Tucker (about 1480, to Palestine); and Josaphat Barbaro, in 1494.
Mandeville is by far the most likely to enjoy permanent reputation, at least with English readers ;-—the position he occupies is honourable throughout both to himself and to his country, for he every where maintains the character of a gentleman, a gallant soldier, and devout but candid Christian, journeying, in upright intention, and complete independence, “whither he listeth," to gratify his curiosity, and thirst for information.
" John Mandevil, Knt.," (says Bale, as translated by Hackluyt,)“ born in the town of St. Alban's, was so well given to the study of learning from his childhood, that he seemed to plant a good part of his felicity in the same; for he supposed that the honor of his birth would nothing avail him, except he would render the same more honorable by his knowledge in good letters." His favorite pursuit had been the study of medicine; but in the year 1322, he left his native land, perhaps disgusted with the civil dissentions in which it was involved during the disastrous year which closed the reign of Edward the Second, and set out with the intention of proceeding to the Holy Land,
“ For als moche as the lond beyond the see, that is to seye, the Holy Lond, that men callen the Lond of Promyssioun, or of Beheste, passynge alle othere londes, is the most worthi lond, most excellent, and lady and sovereyn of alle othere londes, and is blessed and halewed of the precyous body and blood of oure Lord Jesu Crist; in the whiche lond it lykede him to take flesche and blood of the Virgin Marie, to envyrone that holy lond with his blessede feet; and there he wolde of his blessednesse enoumbre him in the seyd blessed and gloriouse Virgine Marie, and become man, and worcke many myracles, and preche and teche the feythe and the lawe of Cristene men unto his children; and there it lykede him to suffre many reprevinges and scornes for us; and he that was kyng of hevene, of eyr, of erthe, of see, and of all things that ben conteyned in hem, wolde alle only ben cleped Kyng of that lond, whan he seyde, Rex sum Judeorum.”***** “ And for als moche as it is longe tyme passed, that ther was no generalle passage ne vyage over the see; and many men desiren for to here speke of the Holy Lond, and han thereof gret solace and comfort, I, John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the town of Seynt Albones, passed the see, in the yeer of our Lord Jesu Crist MCCCXXII, in the day of Seynt Michelle; and hidre to have ben longe tyme over the see, and have seyn and gon thorghe mange dyverse londes, and many provynces and kingdomes and iles, and have passed thorghe Tartarye, Percye, Ermonye the litylle and the grete; thorghe Lybye, Caldee, and a gret partie of Ethiope ; thorghe Amazoyne, Inde the lasse and the more, a gret partie; and thorghe out many othere iles, that ben abouten Inde; where dwellen many dyverse folkes, and of dyverse maneres and lawes, and of dyverse schappes of men, Of whiche londes and iles, I schalle speke more pleynly hereaftre.”