The narratives of the voyages of the Elizabethan and early Jacobean era have served their turn over the centuries as stirring accounts of the daring of the empire-builders. In this collection of the contemporary accounts of three famous 'last voyages', these writings can be seen as a powerful and special kind of literature, having kinship with the great fictional tragedies of the period. Thomas Cavendish attempted in 1591 to repeat his earlier
triumphant circumnavigation of the globe, but could not get through the Magellan Straits and died at sea, probably by his own hand, on the voyage home. Henry Hudson, making yet another attempt to find
the North-West Passage in 1610-11, was set adrift in the ice by his own crew. Sir Walter Ralegh, released from the Tower, failed to find the Guiana gold in 1617-18 and came home to the executioner's axe. The men who wrote the accounts of these disastrous ventures were the participants themselves: the leaders, the mutineers, young gentlemen, even a poet and a mathematician. Apart from the poet, none were writing for a living, though some of them were writing for their lives, passionately
justifying or exonerating themselves, challenging and contradicting each other. Brought together, their accounts form moving documents of endeavour and defeat in difficult seas and hostile terrain.
All the narratives, given in modern spelling, have been newly re-edited from the original manuscripts or printings, with ample introductions which correct the existing historical record on a number of points, and with full explanatory commentary.
'Philip Edwards' comments on all the narratives ... provide an illuminating portrait of an age of squalid intrigue as well as empire building ... His detached scholarship and presentation of evidence form a valuable corrective to the kind of history which some cynic said was usually written by the winning side.'
'although these accounts have been republished on a number of occasions over the years, their further reproduction here in this very readable form is to be welcomed'
Andrew C.F. David, Mariner's Mirror
'elegant volume ... these texts, edited and annotated with scholarly care, will make rewarding reading for anyone interested in the Elizabethan and Jacobean period of maritime enterprise.'
K.R. Andrews, University of Hull, International Journal of Maritime History
'a fascinating range of material ... this volume will have many readers whose interests are not primarily literary'
'Edwards's introduction and notes are well informed and useful ... this edition should be an essential part of any course teaching the history or literature of this period'
Paul A.S. Harvey, Notes and Queries, March 1991
'assuredly a welcome addition to the growing literature in the field of discovery, exploration, and travel ... Professor Edwards has written an informative introduction to each voyage which provides the historical background and commentary on the narratives. For the scholar, the curious, and for anyone who wishes to broaden his or her knowledge of Elizabethan and Jacobean voyages of discovery and exploration, this book can be recommended without
reservation. Perhaps its publication will encourage others to emulate Professor Edwards' achievement.'
Edward J. Goodman, Terrae Incognitae, Volume XXII, 1990
'Edwards's study is an outstanding contribution to history, and indeed to historical truth ... As a critical edition of documents, this is, in fact, one of the most compacted and well-written books I have ever encountered. Edwards's book is a refreshingly new major contribution to historical knowedge.'
Luca Codignola, Università di Genova, The International History Review, Vol XIII, No.2, May '91
'Edwards edits these materials with care, compressing long, repetitious passages, writing informed introductions, and providing helpful notes.'
T.H. Breen, Northwestern University, Illinois, American Indian Quarterly, Summer 1992