The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
I. Travellers and Explorers, 15831763
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 2. Captain John Smith
Later came one whom Americans have adopted as a folk hero, Captain John Smith. He risked his life with equal abandon in Flanders and Turkey and Potowatomy’s land, but Virginia claims him as her own. He may have been, as it was once the fashion to proclaim, an inordinate liar, but whatever the historians say, the certain fact is that what he wrote was read in his own day and has ever since been read by thousands who have identified him with the first English colony.
“And this is as much as my memory can call to mind worthie of note; which I have purposely collected, to satisfie my friends of the true worth and qualitie of Virginia.” So John Smith wrote at the end of his “Description” of that colony published in 1612.Yet some bad natures will not sticke to slander the Countrey, that will slovenly spit at all things, especially in company where they can find none to contradict them. Who though they were scarse ever 10 miles from James Town, or at the most but at the falles; yet holding it a great disgrace that amongst so much action, their actions were nothing, exclaime of all things, though they never adventured to knowe any thing; nor ever did any thing but devoure the fruits of other mens labours. Being for most part of such tender educations and small experience in martiall accidents, because they found not English cities, nor such faire houses, nor at their owne wishes any of their accustomed dainties, with feather beds and downe pillowes, Taverness and alehouses in every breathing place, neither such plenty of gold and silver and dissolute liberty as they expected, [they] had little or no care of any thing, but to pamper their bellies, to fly away with our Pinnaces, or procure their means to returne for England. For the Country was to them a miserie, a ruine, a death, a hell, and their reports here, and their owne actions there according.