12 JANUARY 1850, Page 17

STRACHEY'S VIRGINIA BRITANNIA. * Tim present volume of the Hakluyt Society

is not perhaps so generally interesting as most of its predecessors, but in a literary point of view it is as curious as any.. Although "William Stra- chey, Gent., the first Secretary of the Colony," derived a good deal of matter from his own observation, he deals not at all in narrative or adventure, and little in the direct presentation of personal expe- rience. The first book of his Historie of Travaile is a description of the geographical features of Virginia, and its political divisions (if the word political can be applied. to savage tribes); an account of its natural productions, and the manners, customs, religion, insti- tutions, and character of the natives, with some incidental notices of the proceedings of the colonists, and of the actions of men who are famous in the early history of the colony. The second book appears to be part of an historical summary of the discovery and colonization of British North America, from the voyages of the Cabots to the writer's own time. It breaks off with the abandon- ment of the first attempt to found a colony in New Fngland, near the river Penobscot, in 1607-8; and as it now stands would seem to have more properly formed an introduction than a sequel to the description of Virginia. It is a mere compilation, and, rather brief and jejune.

Although this work has remained in manuscript (at Oxford and the British Museum) until now, Strachey appears to have been a person of some colonial activity in his own day, as well as a writer upon the subject. So little is known of him, however, that the in- dustry of his editor, Mr. Major, has been unable to glean sufficient materials on which to found a biographical notice. The place and tirae of his birth and death are unknown, as well as what family- he belonged to ; which seems singular, as we learn from his dedi- cation (to Bacon) that he was a member of Gray's Inn, where some such particulars are usually entered. He was a man of very quaint and. curious scholarship, especially as regards geography, history, and the law of nations as then understood : he was also learned in Latin and Greek, so much so as to argue an university education ; but Mr. Major has doubtless searched the books of Oxford and Cambridge as well us of Gray's Inn. By profession Strachey was a lawyer ; his turn seems to have been for out-of-the-way learning and pedantic casuistry ; Destiny, as clearly made him an adven- turer. The allusions an his book prove him to have been in Frarke and the Levant ; and if the records of the original Turkey Com- pany are still in being, some biographical particulars might pee- siblybe found there. The inference is clear that he had:been in the vv est Indies ; probable that he had visited Spain, Italy, and Germany ; he speaks from actual knowledge of the size of the bears of " Muscovia and Tartaria,"—which, however, a travel- ler like himself might have observed in collections. In 1610 he went to Virginia, as secretary to Lord Delaware ; the expedition arriving just in time to prevent the abandonment of the settle- ment. He seems to have remained there till 1612; and on his re- turn he engaged in the business of colonization, of which this volume was one fruit : but of his subsequent career, or of the time or place of his death, no memorial, as Mr. Major tells us is known.

The attraction of the book is derived from circumstances in the life and character of the author. His description of the physical features and divisions of Virginia as they were nearly two cen-

, • The Historic of Tmvaile into Virginia Britannia; expressing the Cosmographie and Commodities of the Country, together with the Manners and Customes of the People. Gathered and observed as well by those who went first thither as collected by William Strachey, Gent., the First Secretary of the Colony. Now first edited from the Original Manuscript, in the British Museum, by H. R. Major, Esq., of the British Museum. Printed for the Hakluyt Society.

turies and a half ago, in the style of the age and with the illustra- tion of Captain Smith's map, have indeed an interest ; though it

will be stronger in Virginia, than in England. The in- cidental indications of colo 1. struggles and management in those times, with passing remarks on names that are now the property of romantic history, have also attraction ; but the true interest of the book arises (as is usually the case) from the writer's mind. His ex- perience leads him into a frequent and not injudicious comparison of the people and productions of Virginia with those of other coun- tries; his scholarship is shown in illustrations drawn from a wide range of reading,—pedantic, and presented digressively, but strik- ing in itself, and not more pedantic than was the fashion of his day. The great quality of the book, however, is its earnestness and reality. Although there is a deal that to us seems needless, it was not so to the author and his age. Much of his learning may be false in itself, and his arguments (with our lights) unfounded; but the author firmly believed what he urged, ill grounded, not to say absurd, as some of it now appears ; and in this faith conaista the author's strength. To those who are curious in considering cha- racter, William Strachey exhibits in remarkable combination the learned and practical character of the Elizabethan age.

For the introduction of much of his learning and his arguments this reason may be alleged : his book was necessarily contro- versial. The settlement of colonies in America was opposed in those days, more vehemently than in ours, with excuses which our days have not when the vast results of the perseverance of Ra- leigh and his successors are seen. One class of these opponents, looking at the failure of the expeditions of Raleigh and several others, pronounced the country unfit for settlement, and urged that such schemes were Utopian and should be abandoned ; 'be- sides which, Spain had a title to the whole of North America. Another class stood up for the rights of the " naturalls," or, as we now phrase it, the aborigines. It was therefore the business of Secretary, Strachey to show, on. one hand, that the country was well qualified for colonization ; that former settlements had failed owing to the misconduct of the settlers; and that the Pope's bull, and the claims of Spain, where she had not discovered and settled, were nothing On the other hand, he had to establish from history and reason, that the advent of a superior people always improved the inferior, and to unfold from religion the great benefit as well as bounden duty of converting heathens to the Christian faith. The following passage may be taken as an example of his general and historical reasoning. "But yet it is injurious to the naturall inhabitants, still saye ours. Where- fore ? It is because yt is,nowe indeede, a most doughtie and mat[er]iall reason, a great piece of injury to bring them (to invert our Fuglish proverb) out of the warme sun, into God's blessing ; to bring them from bodily wants, confusion, misery, and these outward anguishes, to the knowledg of a better practize, and ymproving of those benefitts (to a more and ever during° advan- tage, and to a civiler use) which God bath given unto them, but envolved and hid in the bowells and womb of their land (to them barren and unprofitable, because unknowne) ; nay, to exalt, as I nifty sale' , meere privation to the high- est degree of perfection, by bringing their wretched souks (like Cerberus, from hell) from the chapes of Sathen to the armee and bosome of their Saviour : here is a most impious. pieces of injury. Let me remember what Mr. Simondes, preacher of St. Saviour's, eaith in this behalf : It is as-raueli, saith he, as if a father should be said to offer violence to his child, when' -he beats him to bring him to goodnesse. Had not this violence and this injury bene offred to us by the Romans (as the warlike Scots did the same, likewise, in Caledonia, unto the Picts), even by Julius Cresar himself, then by the em- perour Claudius, who was therefore called Britannicus, and his captains, Au- his Plautius and Vespatian (who tooke in the Isle of Wight); and lastly, by the first lieutenant sent hither, Ostorius Scapula (as writes Tacitus in the lief of Agricola), who reduced the conquered. partes of our barbarous iland into provinces, and established in them colonies of old souldiers ; building caste& and townes, and in every corner teaching us even to lmowe the powerfull discourse of divine reason (which makes us only men, and distinguisheth us from beasts, amongst whome we lived as naked and as beastly as they.) We might yet have lyved overgrowen satyrs, rude and untutred, wan the woodes, dwelling in caves, and hunting for our dynners, as the wild beasts in the forrests for their praye, prostetuting our daughters to straun- gers, sacrificing our children° to idollz, nay, eating our owne childrene, as did the Scots in those dales, as rcciteth Tho. Cogan, bachellor of phisick, in his booke, Be Sanitate.'

The manner in which Mr. Strachey had knocked about the world among people prompt with the hand, had familiarized him with a line of practice which he might not have acquired had he spent all his days in Gray's Inn. His plan was to seize upon the priests, make short work with them, and convert chiefs and people to Chris- tianity after the recipe of the Reverend Mr. Simondes, preacher of St. Saviour's.

Although controversy, in spirit or in form, makes a good portion of the book, there is much of pure description ; which, independently of its own merit, has interest as being one of the few original sketches of the people of America by a competent observer. Of this more direct description we will take a geological passage, exceedingly just and well-reasoned for the age.

"All the low land of South and North Virginia is conjectured to have bene naturally gayned out of the sea; for the sea, through his impetuous and vast revolution, (who knowes not,) savinge upon every coast, in some places Tryns, and in other places looseth ; and we find within the &mires of our rivers, whole bancks of oysters and scallopps, which lye unopened and thick toge- ther, as if there had bene their natural bedd before the sea left them; like- wise the fashion of the earth is in smale risinge mounts, which may well be supposed that the violence of the wynd hath cawsed, by chyving the light sand togither ; moreover, the mould and sword of the earth is not two foot deepe allslongnearethesea; and that whichis, comes only by the grease, and leaves of trees, and such rubbish, rotting upon it in contynuance of time ; for in dining but a fathome or two, we commonly find quick sand. Againe, under the crust of the surfage, we find not any stones nor rocks (except noses the high land), naie in most places to (toward, not so much as a peb- ble-stone, which must proceed through want of tyme, that no duration bath there ben wrought; besides, the water ebbs and flowes well nigh unto the heades of all the rivers, (I meane to the falls, unto the high land,) and the natives :thick now people with us, on this side beneath the said falls, are .00neeaved not .6:shave -inhabited here belowe much more than three-hun- dred years."

The volume is well edited, without overdoing ; and Mrs:Major has enriched it with some clever etchings from publications con- temporary with Straehey, 'which illustrate the persons and houses of the then inhabitants of Virginia.