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discoveries of the Spaniards. Among these were an abstract of the original journal kept by Columbus on his first voyage, and many of his letters.

In the winter of 1825-6, Mr. Irving was invited to Madrid by Mr. Everett, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Court of Spain, for the purpose of translating some of these valuable papers, if, upon examination he should deem it expedient.

He soon discovered that these documents furnished rather "a mass of materials for history, than a history itself,”* and encouraged by the many sources of original and authentic information which were opened to him at Madrid, and by the belief that an ample and complete account of the life and voyages of Columbus, "was a desideratum in literature," he engaged in this work as one 66 more agreeable to himself, and more acceptable to his country, than the translations he had contemplated."

In this change of purpose, we believe the public has been generally gratified. And even after the many accounts we already possess, from the pens of able and eloquent historians, of the discoveries of Columbus, we doubt not that this narrative will be considered as more full, more authentic, more satisfactory than any which has preceded it. The style of this work is chaste and elegant, occasionally elevated and eloquent, the narrative connected, well sustained, and unabated in its interest; the reflections candid and judicious, and the materials collected with diligence, and furnished him almost by fortunate casualties.

The subject is, indeed, worthy of the labours of the most distinguished scholars. History, perhaps, records no one man whose actions have exerted so decided and permanent an influence on the condition of the human race; whose discoveries have given rise to such extraordinary and magnificent events. Even at the present day, we see imperfectly the still increasing effects of this wonderful enterprise. Nor, when we look to its future and remote consequences, can we delineate the scenes that rise in visionary grandeur on the excited mind.

Neither was this one of those fortunate discoveries over which chance may claim her dominion. It was no wandering mariner driven by gales, or swept by currents on an unknown or unlooked-for shore; no adventurer roaming abroad through curiosity or love of spoil, whose success the historian is called upon to commemorate. Columbus had formed in his own mind, through years of observation, reflection and study, a theory of

History of Columbus, preface, p. 6.

the general structure of the surface of the earth; one which, though darkly prefigured in the speculations of ancient science, though mingled occasionally in the dreams of poets and philosophers, was, at the close of the fifteenth century, discredited and ridiculed, and even considered as a religious heresy. He, went a suppliant from court to court, from nation to nation, soliciting the paltry means which were necessary to put to the test his magnificent predictions, his simple yet sublime hypothesis. When at last, in despite of her counsellors, in despite even of her colleague on the throne, Isabella, of Castile, furnished three small vessels, scarcely calculated for a coasting voyage along a tranquil shore, Columbus, abandoning the track of all preceding navigators, quitting the shores and home of civilized man, turned his prow over the wide expanse of unnavigated waters, over the " ocean sea,' as it is termed in his commission, traversed those waves whence it was predicted there could be no return, dragged along a trembling and reluctant crew over billows which no keel before had ploughed, where even the favouring breeze that bore them onwards, became a cause of alarm, as threatening to fulfil each inauspicious prediction, until after a daring and unprecedented voyage, after thirty-three days and nights of anxious and painful vigilance, amidst murmurs and apprehensions, and almost amidst mutiny, he landed his astonished followers on the fair and fertile shores of this western continent.


This was the splendid triumph of science and of courage-a proud trophy to the sagacity and persevering energy of the human understanding-an enterprise which, in the fable-loving days of antiquity, would have caused temples and altars to rise on the summits of each ocean cliff, and have filled heaven with a new race of heroes and demigods. Even if some errors mingled in the calculations of Columbus, if the circumference of the earth greatly exceeded his estimates, if he did not reach, as he expected, those golden realms of Cathay or of Cipango, on which his glowing imagination had so long been accustomed to dwell, his principles were just, and he, at least, proved that the great "ocean sea, was not a boundless and interminable waste, a belt of waters, separating the continent of Europe from other lands equally well calculated for the support, the enjoyment and the abode of man.


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The gradual improvements in the art of navigation during the two centuries that preceded this voyage of Columbus, certainly facilitated the adventures of the seaman. The discovery of the mariner's compass had released the navigator from the shore, and the improvements of the astrolabe, the precursor of the

quadrant, which took place while Columbus was attending on the Court of Spain, enabled him to determine his latitude with much exactness; but no circumstance can prove more strongly the feeble progress in this art, and the feelings of his contemporaries on the daring nature of his attempt, than the fact, that the opinions of Columbus were never concealed nor veiled, his ardent anticipations were never withheld from public scrutiny. He openly avowed and discussed his theory in the circles of experienced navigators, in the camps of ambitious and enterprising soldiers, in the councils of the learned and the wise, he corresponded with men of science, he made application to different governments for assistance in prosecuting his projected discoveries; and yet, in the eighteen or twenty years during which these negotiations were publicly conducted, no individual, we may say no government, was found adventurous enough to undertake with their own means, so hazardous an enterprise. Once, it is said, the king of Portugal was so ungenerous as to send out a vessel for discovery, furnished with the information obtained from Columbus, at the very time his ministers were pretending to negotiate with this gallant seaman, but the commander deterred by the first adverse weather, abandoned the voyage, and returned discouraged, and decrying the visionary scheme of traversing an illimitable ocean.

Even if it should be supposed that, with the improvement of navigation—and the voyages and discoveries of the Portuguese along the Coast of Africa were certainly increasing the skill and the audacity of mariners-this continent would eventually have been discovered, the merits of Columbus will not be diminished. It may be his boast, that in his projected voyage, he was guided by no precedent, he deserted the paths of man, fixed his eyes steadily on the west as on his polar star, and firm amidst all difficulties, varied not his course. If the acci tental discovery of Brazil a few years afterwards, by Pedro Alvarez de Cabral, should be alleged as a proof how rapidly the world was approaching to a knowledge of the western hemisphere, and that accident might have accomplished in a few years, what it is the pride of science now to have performed,* it should, at least, be kept in remembrance, that the very course which Cabral held to avoid the equatorial calms along the Coast of Africa, and by which he was casually led to Brazil, had been taught him by the experience of Columbus. In his voyages to America, the trade winds had been found steady at a certain distance from land, this suggested to Cabral the means of avoiding those calms which had caused so

* Robertson's History of America, v. i. p. 21

much embarrassment to many of the Portuguese commanders, and navigators no longer feared to quit the coasts of the old world and plunge amidst the trackless waves of the once mysterious and dreaded ocean.

From these speculations, however, let us return and accompany our author through some of the interesting scenes of the life of this great discoverer.

Christoforo Colombo, as the name was known in Italy, or Christoval Colon, as he termed himself, when he removed to Spain, was born of poor but reputable parents, in the city of Genoa, in 1435 or 6. His early education was very limited, but he was sent for a short time to Pavia, at that time the great school of Lombardy, where he laid the foundation of his future knowledge.

"Here he studied grammar, and became well acquainted with the Latin tongue. His education, however, was principally directed to those sciences necessary to fit him for maritime life. He was instructed in geometry, geography, astronomy, or, as it was at that time termed, astrology, and navigation.* He had, at a very early age, evinced a strong passion for geographical science, and an irresistible inclination for the sea; and he pursued with ardour, every congenial study.

"In the latter part of his life, when, in consequence of the great events which were brought about by his agency, he looked back upon his career with a solemn and superstitious feeling; he mentions this early determination of his mind as a secret impulse from the Deity, guiding him to the studies, and inspiring him with the inclinations, which should fit him for the high decrees he was chosen to accomplish.t

"In tracing the early history of a man like Columbus, whose actions have had so vast an effect on human affairs, it is interesting to notice how much has been owing to the influence of events, and how much to an inborn propensity of the mind. The most original and inventive genius grows more or less out of the times; and that strong impulse, which Columbus considered as supernatural, is unconsciously produced by the operation of external circumstances. Every now and then, thought takes some sudden and general direction; either revisiting some long neglected region of knowledge, and exploring and re-opening its forgotten paths, or breaking with wonder and delight into some fresh and and untrodden field of discovery. It is then that an ardent and imaginative genius, catching the impulse of the day, outstrips all less gifted contemporaries; takes the lead of the throng by which it was first put in motion; and presses forwards to achievements, which feebler spirits would never have adventured to attempt.

"We find in Columbus, an illustration of this remark. The strong passion for geographical knowledge, which he so early felt, and which gave rise to his after actions, was incident to the age in which he lived. Geographical discovery was the brilliant path of light, which was for

Hist. del Almirante, c. 3.

+ Letter to the Castilian Sovereigns 1505.

ever to distinguish the fifteenth century; the most splendid era of invention in the annals of the world. During the long night of monkish bigotry and false learning, geography, with the other sciences, had been lost to the European nations. Fortunately it had not been lost to mankind. It had taken refuge in the bosom of Africa. While the pedantic schoolmen of the cloisters were wasting time and talent, and confounding erudition by idle reveries, and sophistical dialectics, the Arabian sages, assembled at Sennaar, were taking the measurement of a degree of latitude, and calculating the circumference of the earth, on the vast plains of Mesopotamia.

"True knowledge, thus happily preserved, was now making its way back to Europe." Vol. i. pp. 6-7.

"The knowledge thus reviving, was but limited and imperfect; yet like the return of morning light, it was full of interest and beauty. It seemed to call a new creation into existence, and broke with all the charm of wonder upon imaginative minds. They were surprised at their own ignorance of the world around them. Every step seemed discovery, for every region beyond their native country was in a manner terra in cognita." p. 8.

"In considering his scanty education, it is worthy of notice how little he owed from the very first to adventitious aid; how much to the native energy of his character, and the fertility of his mind. The short time that he remained at Pavia was barely sufficient to give him the rudiments of the necessary sciences; the familiar acquaintance with them, which he evinced in after life, must have been the result of diligent self-schooling and casual hours of study, amidst the cares and vicissitudes of a rugged and wandering life. He was one of those men of strong natural genius, who appear to form themselves; who, from having to contend at their very outset, with privations and impediments, acquire an intrepidity to encounter, and a facility to vanquish difficulties, throughout their career. Such men learn to effect great purposes with small means, supplying this deficiency by the resources of their own energy and invention. This, from his earliest commencement, throughout the whole of his life, was one of the remarkable features in the history of Columbus. In every undertaking, the scantiness and apparent insufficiency of his means enhance the grandeur of his achievements." p. 9.

Columbus left Pavia while very young; he began his seafaring life by his own account at the age of fourteen. From this period until the age of thirty-five, very little has been traced of his history either by his ancient or modern biographers. His second son, who became his biographer, seems to have left his early history purposely obscure. From allusions, in some of the Admiral's own letters, which have recently been discovered, it appears that for some portion of that time, he was in the naval service of Renè, Count of Provence, who was endeavouring to establish his claim to the crown of Naples. During the residue of this period, he was probably engaged in commercial voyages to the Levant, for he had certainly visited that region, or in the

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