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30. The Real and the Unreal in Tudor Travel Writing

Mary C. Fuller


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But it were to be wished, that none would write histories with so great a desire of setting foorth nouelties & strange things, that they feare not, in that regard to broch any fabulous & old – wiues toyes, & so to defile pure gold with filthy mire.       “A briefe commentarie of the true estate of Island,” in Hakluyt, Principal Navigations (1600) Over the course of the Tudor period – from 1485 to 1603 – English travel writing changed a great deal, as the conditions of travel itself changed. Accounts of travel to the Americas register these changes in the most striking form. John Cabot's American landfall of 1497 generated no surviving narrative, and few documents of any kind; voyages west from Bristol during the reign of Henry VII similarly left almost no written traces. By 1624 (to take the example of a single book), John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Iles amounted to 248 pages, and it was issued 6 times between 1624 and 1632. Smith's was of course only one of his numerous publications on North America, Smith only one of many writers publishing on Virginia, and Virginia only one of the many distant sites of English contact and presence which, by 1624, were generating an ever – growing literature. As the incidence of travel to distant places (not only the Americas) rose, travel narratives were enlisted to practical ends; readers ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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