Friday, December 17, 2010

JW’s scathing remarks regarding Captain Cook’s Voyages

Fri 17 Dec 1773: Meeting with a celebrated book, a volume of Captain Cook's Voyages, I sat down to read it with huge expectation
--But how was I disappointed! I observed, 1. Things absolutely incredible: "A nation without any curiosity;" and, what is stranger still, (I fear related with no good design,) "without any sense of shame! Men and women coupling together in the face of the sun, and in the sight of scores of people! Men whose skin, cheeks, and lips are white as milk." Hume or Voltaire might believe this; but I cannot. I observed, 2. Things absolutely impossible. To instance in one, for a specimen. A native of Otaheite is said to understand the language of an island eleven hundred degrees [query, miles] distant from it in latitude; besides I know not how many hundreds in longitude! So that I cannot but rank this narrative with that of Robinson Crusoe; and account Tupia to be, in several respects, akin to his man Friday.

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