Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe by Richard Hakluyt Review (Little Black Classics #65)


Richard Hakluyt’s The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe collects the two accounts, snappily titled: “The famous voyage of Sir Francis Drake into the South Sea, and there hence about the whole globe of the earth, begun in the year of our Lord 1577.” and “The prosperous voyage of the worshipful Thomas Candish of Trimley in the County of Suffolk Esquire, into the South Sea, and from thence round about the circumference of the whole earth, begun in the year of our Lord 1586, and finished 1588.”

The first thing that strikes the reader about these accounts is how bloody life was on the high seas way back then. Within paragraphs, Drake’s looting and pillaging one Spanish galleon after another and then going mental whenever he encountered a native village on some island – the juxtaposition between Drake’s knighthood and the way he lived couldn’t be more opposite. 

The second thing you’ll notice is how excruciatingly dry Hakluyt’s writing is. He’s describing the life of a pirate with all its attendant madness with the energy and insight you might describe a trip to the supermarket. “Met some natives. Beheaded most of them and torched their huts. Ate an apple. Met some other natives, got drunk and partied with them. Killed some family I think. Saw hundreds of majestic birds. Slaughtered them all and filled the ship’s hold with their corpses. Sneezed.” followed by a list of other foods they picked up. I’m paraphrasing but that’s essentially it the whole time. 

Hakluyt provides no insight into their day to day lives, what they thought or felt, or bring any kind of atmosphere to his accounts. It’s just lists of things they mostly killed/saw. It’s the worst rendering of dramatic subject matter I’ve ever read – it’s so mundane to read, I couldn’t have hated it more. Anthropologists/historians might enjoy this as it’s a first-hand account of these voyages and new cultures but it’s beyond boring for anyone else. 

Judging by these crews’ behaviour though, it’s easy to see why the English were despised for so long - our ancestors were fucking psychos!

The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe

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