The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 1. The Earliest Adventures
It is an accident of geography which gives American readers a valid claim upon Humphrey Gilbert and his precursors and successors who told their straightforward tales for Hakluyt or for the booksellers who issued the scores of thin pamphlets in which Londoners first read about the trans-Atlantic voyage. These were in their day only a few among the many pamphlets which entertained the frequenters of St. Paul’s churchyard with experiences in odd corners of the Mediterranean or of the Indian Ocean, or along the Arctic route to Central Asia. They all shared in developing the British Empire and English literature. Martin Frobisher and North-West-Foxe beyond the polar circle, Thomas Hariot inside the Carolina sandspits, and Sir Richard Hawkins in the Gulf of Mexico are by this chance of geography given a place at the beginning of the annals of American literature, instead of sharing the scant notice allotted to their equally deserving contemporaries whom fate led elsewhere. The same fate sent Francis Drake to sojourn for a time on the California coast, and it likewise set in motion the economic and political forces which two centuries later transferred this region into the keeping of the English race, thereby adding the great circumnavigator to the American roll.