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Samuel Purchas

SAMUEL PURCHAS, of whom mention has been made in a former article, has composed what he calls—“A Relation of the World, and the Religions observed in all Ages, and Places discovered from the Creation unto this Present.” The title page is very curious, and very long; but, through a mutilation in my copy, I cannot gratify the reader with the whole. The work is written according to the taste of our Royal Pedant: the graces of diction consist in a play upon words—

“Jests for Dutchmen and English Boys.”

The author, on the most serious subjects, indulges his facetious humour: he finds amplification in metaphysical quibbles, and irresistible arguments in puns. It will be necessary to give some instances: and it may not be unpleasing to extract a few sentences, which must have greatly delighted our First James—

“Being, I know not by what naturall inclination, addicted to the studie of Historie, I resolved to turn the pleasures of my studies into studious paines, that others might again, by delightfull studie, turn my paines into their pleasures.”—“I here bring Religion from Paradise to the Ark, and thence follow her round the world.”

The following Apology of the author is curious and ingenious. It should be recollected, that one part of its merit consists in its being prefixed to a Treatise on Geography—

“If any mislike the fulnesse in some places, and the barrennesse of words in others, let them consider, we handle a world where are mountains and vallies, fertile habitations, and sandy deserts; and others steps, whom I follow, hold me sometimes in a narrower way, which elsewhere take more libertie.”

In addressing the Clergy, Purchas thus plays off an argument in a pun, which may raise a smile—

“I subscribe, with hand and practice, to your Liturgie, but not to your Letargie.”

The fourth edition of this System of Geography—a stupendous labour for those times, and which, with Hackluyt’s Voyages, gave birth to the numerous ones we now possess—is dedicated to King Charles the First. From this dedication the present extract may amuse—

“Your Majesties goodnesse hath invited this boldnes, in accepting my late voluminous twinnes of pilgrimes,”—he means, his former two volumes. “Your pietie demands hereditarie respect. Your royall father, the King of Learned, and Learning’s King, manifested so much favour to this work, as to make it ordinarie of his bedchamber. He professed freely, that he had read it seven times; and that he had made the pilgrimes his nightly taske, till God called him by fatall sicknesse to a better pilgrimage, and of a more enduring kingdome. Such a testimonie is a king of testimonies. Although these times seem more to savour of armes than to favour arts, (inter arma silent Musæ) yet our Muse is not of the softer stock, but more masculine, an armed Pallas; not bred in poeticall misterie, but born a real historie, containing actions, factions, and fractions, of religions and states.”

He concludes with this curious wish—“May King James be succeeded, and exceeded, in the greatnesse and vertues of Great Britein’s Great Charles! Amen.”

Such was the incense which, administered to adulated majesty, was probably found not unpleasing.