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HERE would not, perhaps, be a more pleasant or profitable study, among those which have their principal end in amusement, than that of travels or voyages, if they were writ, as they might be, and ought to be, with a joint view to the entertainment and information of mankind. If the conversation of travellers be so eagerly sought after as it is, we may believe their books will be still more agreeable company, as they will in general be more instructive and more entertaining:
But when I say the conversation of travellers is usually so welcome, I must be understood to mean that only of such as have had good sense enough to apply their peregrinations to a proper use, so as to acquire from them a real and valuable knowledge of men and things; both which are best known by comparison. If the customs and manners of men were every where the same, there would be no office $0 dull as that of a traveller ; for the difference of hills, valleys, rivers ; in short, the various views in which we may see the face of the earth, would scarce afford him a pleasure worthy of his labour and, surely, it would give him very little opportunity of communicating any kind of entertainment or improvement to others.
To make a traveller an agreeable companion to a man of sense, it is necessary, not only that he should have seen much, but that he should have overlooked much of what he hath seen. Nature is not, any more than a great genius, always admirable in her productions, and therefore the traveller, who may be called her commentator, should not expect to find every where subjects worthy of his notice.
It is certain, indeed, that one may be guilty of omission, as well as of the opposite extreme ; but a fault on that side will be more easily pardoned, as it is better to be hungry than surfeited; and to miss your dessert at the table of a man whose gardens abound with the choicest fruits, than to have your taste affronted with every sort of trash that can be picked up at the green-stall or the wheelbarrow.
If we should carry on the analogy between the traveller and the commentator, it is impossible to keep one's eye a moment off from the laborious much-read doctor Zachary Grey, of whose redundant notes on Hudibras I shall only say, that it is, I am confident, the single book extant in which above five hundred authors are quoted, not one of which could be found in the collection of the late doctor Mead.
As there are few things which a traveller is to record, there are fewer on which he is to offer his observations: this is the office of the reader; and it is so pleasant a one, that he seldom chooses to have it taken from him, under the pretence of lending him assistance. Some occasions, indeed, there are, when proper observations are pertinent, and others when they are necessary; but good sense alone must point them out. I shall lay down only one general rule; which I believe to be of universal truth between relater and hearer, as it is between author and reader; this is, that the latter never forgive any observation of the former which doth not convey some knowledge that they are sensible tliey could not possibly have attained of themselves,
But all his pains in collecting knowledge, all his judgment in selecting, and all his art in communicating it, will not suffice, unless he can make himself, in some degree, an agreeable as well as an instructive companion. The highest instruction we can derive from the tedious tale of a dull fellow scarce ever pays us for our attention. There is nothing, I think, half so valuable as knowledge, and yet there is nothing which men will give themselves so little trouble to attain; unless it be, perhaps, that lowest degree of it which is the object of curiosity, and which hath therefore that active passion constantly employed in its service. This, indeed, it is in the power of every traveller to gratify; but it is the leading principle in weak minds only.
Ío render his relation agreeable to the man of sense, it is therefore necessary, that the voyager should possess several eminent and rare talents ; so rare, indeed, that it is almost wonderful to see them ever united in the same person
And if all these talents must concur in the relator, they are certainly in a more eminent degree necessary to the writer; for here the narration admits of higher ornaments of style, and every fact and sentiment offers itself to the fullest and most deliberate examination.
It would appear, therefore, I think, somewhat strange, if such writers as these should be found extremely common; since nature hath been a most parsimonious distributer of her richest talents, and hath seldom bestowed many on the saine person. But, on the other hand, why there should scarce exist a single writer of this kind worthy our regard; and, whilst there is no other branch of history (for this is history) which hath not exercised the greatest pens, why this alone should be overlooked by all men of great genius and erudition, and delivered up to the Goths and Vandals as their lawful property, is altogether as difficult to determine.
And yet that this is the case, with some very few exceptions, is most manifest. Of these I shall willingly admit Burnet and Addison ; if the former was not perhaps to be considered as a political essayist, and the latter as a commentator on the classics, rather than as a writer of travels; which last title, perhaps, they would both of them have been least ambitious to affect.
Indeed, if these two, and two or three more, should be removed from the mass, there would remain such a heap of dulness behind, that the appellation of voyage-writer would not appear very desirable.
I am not here unapprised, that old Homer himself is by some considered as a voyage-writer; and, indeed, the beginning of his Odyssey may be urged to countenance that opinion, which I shall not controvert. But whatever species of writing the Odyssey is of, it is surely at the head of that species, as much as the Iliad is of another ; and so far the excellent Longinus would allow, I believe, at this day.
But, in reality, the Odyssey, the Telemachus, and all of that kind, are to the voyage-writing I here intend, what romance is to true history, the former being the confounder and corrupter of the latter. I am far from supposing that Homer, Hesiod, and the other antient poets and mythologists, had any settled design to pervert and confuse the records of antiquity ; but it is certain they have effected it; and, for my part, I must confess, I should have honoured and loved Homer more had he written a true history of his own times in humble prose than those noble poems that have so justly collected the praise of all ages ; for, though I read these with more admiration and astonishment, I still read Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, with more amusement and more satisfaction.
The original poets were not, however, without excuse. They found the limits of nature too strait for the immensity of their genius, which they had not room to exert without extending fact by fiction ; and tirat especially at a time when the manners of men were too simple to afford that variety which they have since offered in vain to the choice of the meanest writers. In doing this they are again excusable for the manner in which they have done it.
Ut speciosa dehinc miracula promant.
They are not, indeed, so properly said to turn reality into fiction, as fiction into reality. Their paintings are so bold, their colours so strong, that every thing they touch seems to exist in the very manner they represent it; their portraits are so just, and their landscapes so beautiful, that we acknowledge the strokes of nature in both, without inquiring whether nature herself, or her journeyman the poet, formed the first pattern of the piece.
But other writers (I will put Pliny at their head) have no such pretensions to indulgence; they lie for lying sake, or in order insolently to impose the most monstrous improbabilities and absurdities upon their readers on their own authority; treating them as some fathers treat children, and as other fathers do laymen, exacting their belief of whatever they relate, on no other foundation than their own authority, without ever taking the pains of adapting their lies to human credulity, and of calculating them for the meridian of a common understanding; but with as much weakness as wickedness, and with more impudence often than either, they assert facts contrary to the honour of God, to the visible order of the creation, to the known laws of nature, to the histories