Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Critical Introduction by W. P. Ker
Samuel Purchas (1577?1626)
[Samuel Purchas (1577?1626) of St. Johns College, Cambridge, sometime minister at Estwood in Essex, afterwards parson of St. Martins, near Ludgate, wrote (1) Purchas, his Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages (1613), a careful abstract of histories of travel; (2) Purchas, his Pilgrim: Microcosmus, or the Historie of Man, relating the Wonders of his Generation, Vanities in his Degeneration, Necessity of His Regeneration (1619), a treatise the scope of which is sufficiently indicated by its title; (3) Purchas his Pilgrims (1625), a collection of voyages, including those left unprinted by Hakluyt.]
THE MOST important original work of Purchas is his Pilgrimage. In the Pilgrims, as in Hakluyts voyages, the editor is editor and not author. Microcosmus is a discourse on the infirmities of the human estate, written with some liveliness, yet hardly escaping from the commonplaces of the subject. Purchas his Pilgrimage is a digest of all the accessible information about the inhabitants of different countries and their religions, a successful attempt to bring together and arrange in one large volume the most important observations of voyagers. As an original author, Purchas is more copious than Hakluyt; his style has little of Hakluyts eloquence, but it is generally adequate to the matter. His industry was well bestowed in his History of Religions, and his desultory learning is not unworthy of the approval given by Selden in his preliminary Greek and Latin verses. Four lines of the book stand out from the rest:
In Xaindu did Cublai Can build a stately pallace, encompassing sixteen miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile meddowes, pleasant springs, delightful streams, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure.