1902 Encyclopedia > Richard Hakluyt

Richard Hakluyt
English geographer

HAKLUYT, RICHARD (c. 1553-1616), geographer, was born of good family in or near London about 1553. He was elected " one of her Maiesties scholars at Westminster," and it was while there that the bent of his future studies was determined by a visit to his cousin and namesake, Richard Hakluyt of the Middle Temple. His cousin's discourse, illustrated by " certain bookes of cosmographie, an universall mappe, and the Bible," had such an effect upon Hakluyt's mind that he resolved, if opportunity offered, to " prosecute that knowledge and kind of literature." Entering Christ Church, Oxford, in 1570, "his exercises of duty first performed," he fell to his intended course of reading, and by degrees perused all the printed or written voyages and discoveries that he could find. He took his degree of B.A. in 1573-74, and we learn from the Towneley MSS. that two years later he was selected twice in the same year to receive gifts of money. It is highly probable that, shortly after taking his degree of M.A. (1577), he commenced at Oxford the first public lectures in geography that " shewed both the old imperfectly composed and the new lately reformed mappes, globes, spheares, and other instruments of this art."8

Hakluyt's first published work was his Divers Voyages touching the Discoverie of America (London, 1582, 4to). By reason of his great knowledge of these matters and his acquaintance with " the chiefest captaines at sea, the greatest merchants, and the best mariners of our nation," he was selected in 1583, at the age of thirty, to accompany Sir Edward Stafford, the English ambassador, to Paris in the capacity of chaplain. In accordance with the instructions of Secretary Walsingham, he occupied himself chiefly iu collecting information of the Spanish and French movements, and " making diligent inquirie of such things as might yield any light unto our westerne discoverie in America." The first fruits of Hakluyt's labours in Paris are embodied in the most important production of his that has seen the light in modern times; it is entitled A particuler discourse concerning Westerne discoveries written in the yere 1584, by liicharde Hackluyt of Oxforde, at the requeste and direction of the righte worshipfull Mr Walter Raghly before the comynge home of his twoo baríes. This long-lost MS., after failing to find a resting-place in America, was finally acquired by Sir Thomas Phillipps, and is now the property of Rev. J. E. A. Fenwick of Thirlstane House, Cheltenham. The object of the Discourse was to recommend the enterprise of planting the English race in the unsettled parts of North America. Hakluyt's other works consist mainly of translations and compilations, relieved by his dedications and prefaces, which last, with a few letters, are the only material we possess out of which a biography of him can be framed.

Hakluyt returned to England in 1584, and during his short stay he had the honour of laying before Queen Elizabeth a copy of the Discourse " along with one in Latin upon Aristotle's Politicks," which won for him, two days before his departure again for Paris, the grant of the next vacant prebend at Bristol. In the spring of the following year, feeling anxious about the reversion of the prebend, he again visited England, and exhibited in person, on the 24th May 1585, before the chapterof Bristol cathedral, the queen's mandate for the coveted vacancy already signed and sealed. Before the close of the year the reversion of it fell to him, and in 1586 he was admitted to the prebend, which he held, with his other preferments, till the time of his death.

While in Paris Hakluyt caused to be published the MS. journal of Laudonniére or Histoire notable de la Florida, edited byM. Bassanier (Paris, 1586, 8vo). This was translated by Hakluyt and published in London under the title of A notable historie containing foure voyages made by certayne French Captaynes into Florida (London, 1587, 4to). The same year De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii Decades octo illustrates, labore et industria Richardi Hackluyti, saw the light at Paris. This work contains the exceedingly rare copperplate map dedicated to Hakluyt and signed F. G. (supposed to be Francis Gualle); it is the first on which the name of " Virginia " appears.

In 1588 Hakluyt finally returned to England with Lady Stafford, after a residence in France of nearly five years. In 1589 he published The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (fob, London, 1 vol.). In the preface to this we have the announcement of the intended publication of the first terrestrial globe made in England by Molyneux (see GLOBE). On the 20th April 1590 he was instituted to the rectory of Witheringsett-cum-Brockford, Suffolk. The magnum opus of Hakluyt is The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (fol., London, 1598-1600, 3 vols.). Some few copies contain an exceedingly rare map, the first on the Mercator projection made in England according to the true principles laid down by Edward Wright. Hakluyt's great work, though but little read, has been truly called the " prose epic of the modern English nation." It is an invaluable treasure of material for the history of geographical discovery and colonization, which has secured for its author a lasting reputation for research and industry. In 1601 Hakluyt edited a translation from the Portuguese of Antonio Galvano, The Discoveries of the World (4to, London). On the 4th May 1602 he was installed prebendary of Westminister, and in the following year elected archdeacon of Westminster. In the licence of his second marriage (30th March 1604) he is also described as one of the chaplains of the Savoy, and his will contains a reference to chambers occupied by him there up to the time of his death; in another official document he is styled D.D.8 His last publication was a translation of Fernando de Soto's discoveries in Florida, entitled Virginia richly valued (London, 1609, 4to). This work was intended to encourage the young colony of Virginia, of which Hakluyt was so zealous a promoter, "to whom England is more indebted for its American possession than to any man of that age."*

A number of Hakluyt's MSS., sufficient to form a fourth volume of his collections of 1599-1600, fell into the hands of Samuel Purchas, who inserted them in an abridged form in his Pilgrinies (1625-26, fob). Others are preserved at Oxford (Bib. Bod. MS., Seld. B. 8), which consist chiefly of notes gathered from contemporary authors. Hakluyt died in 1616, and was buried in Westminster Abbey (November 26); by an error in the abbey register it stands under the year 1626. His best monument is the society that flourishes under his name. Founded in 1846 for the purpose of printing rare and unpublished voyages and travels, " it aims at opening by this means an easier access to sources of a branch of knowledge which yields to none in importance, and is superior to most in agreeable variety." The fifty-seven volumes that have been published by the society since its formation have been edited with great discrimination and care, and have come to be regarded as the standard text-books upon their respective subjects. Some are out of print, and others have passed through two editions. The latest volume published is a reissue in a new form of The Hawkins Voyages, the first work published by the society. (c. H. C.)


378-1 The Hakluyts were a family of Welsh extraction, not Dutch as has been supposed. They appear to have settled in Herefordshire as early as the 13th century. The family seat was at Eaton, 2 miles S. E. of Leominster. Hugo Hakelute was returned M. P. for that borough in the 32d parliament of Edward I. ,1304-5. See Return of Members of Parliament, pt. i. p.18.

378-2 "To one Mr Hakeluite, B.A. of Christ Colledge in Oxford, the Mr Hackeluitt, the 4th of June, 2s. 6d." (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th

378-3 That this was not in London is certain, as we know that the first lecture of the kind was delivered in the metropolis on the 4th of November 1588 by Thomas Hood.

378-4 Now first printed from a contemporary MS., with an introduction by Leonard Woods, LL.D., edited by Charles Deane, Collections of Maine Hist. Soc., Camb¡ (Mass.), 1877, 8vo.

379- 1 Supposed to be the "new map" of the Tioelfth Night, act iii., scene 2. See Trans, of New Shakspere Soc., 1877-79, pt. 1, 8vo.

379-2 In 1809-12 was published a new edition of it by "VVoodfall & Evans in 5 vols. The last two contain pieces not comprised in the collection of 1598-1600.

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