The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 7. Pamphlets of the Land Companies
On the North American mainland, settlement followed exploration and colonization. For half a century there was little record of travelling beyond the limits of the outlying pasture lands and adjoining home sites. Occasionally someone bolder than his neighbours pushed a canoe up-stream to the head of navigation, or wandered into the valleys beyond the surrounding ridges, but very rarely were observations or physical experiences committed to paper. The impulse to print the reports of travellers did not come until there was land to be sold. The seventeenth-century promoters of speculation carried on the practice of distributing tracts telling about the property they wished others to buy. The little pamphlets issued by the Virginia Company, by the Massachusetts Agents, by William Penn in German, Dutch, and French as well as in English, by the Scots Proprietors of the Jerseys, and by the Lords of Carolina, are today worth more money than many of the acres that they describe. Most of these early tracts were written by men who had travelled through the regions of which they wrote. Rarely is there any substantial reason for doubting the honesty of what was reported as the result of actual observation. “What I write, is what I have proved,” remarks one of the frankest of these promoters of a New World settlement in which he hoped to make his fortune, Edward Bland, Merchant. On 27 August, 1650, Bland set forth from the head of “Appamattuck River” in Virginia in search of the Falls of Blandina. His journey took him across broad stretches of “very rich Champian Land,” “a pleasant Country, of temperate Ayre, and fertile Soyle.” The beauty of the country, the heaps of bones which led the native guides to relate tales of valorous deeds, and the preservation of the party through “information our Guide told us he had from a woman that was his Sweet-heart,” offered opportunities that a later-day reader wishes might have been improved with some of the appreciation of literary possibilities which a Frenchman could hardly have neglected. Bland’s narrative goes steadily forward toward the goal and home again, without digression for any merely entertaining purpose from each day’s march and the nightly watch against surprise.