Richard Hakluyt

Richard Hakluyt

Hakluyt, Richard, 1552?-1616, English geographer. He graduated in 1574 from Oxford, where he later lectured on geography. A passionate interest in the history of discovery led him to collect and publish narratives of voyages and travels. He was active in promoting English discovery and colonization, especially in North America. His chief work, called by J. A. Froude "the prose epic of the English nation," is The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffics, and Discoveries of the English Nation (3 vol., 1598-1600), an enlargement of a one-volume version (1589). Other publications include Divers Voyages touching the Discovery of America and the Islands Adjacent (1582) and an account of the discoveries of Hernando De Soto under the title Virginia Richly Valued (1609). Manuscripts left at his death were included by Samuel Purchas in his Pilgrims (4 folios, 1625); others are preserved at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The publication of narratives of early explorations has been continued by the Hakluyt Society, founded in 1846.

See The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts (1935, repr. 1967).

Richard Hakluyt (, or ) (c. 1552 or 1553 – 23 November 1616) was an English writer. He is principally remembered for his efforts in promoting and supporting the settlement of North America by the English through his works, notably Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America (1582) and The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation (1598–1600).

Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, between 1583 and 1588 Hakluyt was chaplain and secretary to Sir Edward Stafford, English ambassador at the French court. An ordained priest, Hakluyt held important positions at Bristol Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and was personal chaplain to Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, principal Secretary of State to Elizabeth I and James I. He was the chief promoter of a petition to James I for letters patent to colonize Virginia, which were granted to the London Company and Plymouth Company (referred to collectively as the Virginia Company) in 1606.

Family, early life and education

The Hakluyts were of Welsh extraction, rather than Dutch as is often wrongly suggested; according to antiquary John Leland the family took its name from the forest of Cluyd in Radnorshire. They appear to have settled in Herefordshire in England around the 13th century. The family established itself at Yatton, two miles (3.2 km) southeast of Leominster, and must have ranked amongst the principal landowners of the county. A person named Hugo Hakelute, who may have been an ancestor or relative of Richard Hakluyt, was elected Member of Parliament for the borough of Yatton in 1304 or 1305, and between the 14th and 16th centuries five individuals surnamed "de Hackluit" or "Hackluit" were Sheriffs of Herefordshire. A man named Walter Hakelut was knighted in the 34th year of Edward I (1305), and in 1349 Thomas Hakeluyt was chancellor of the diocese of Hereford. Records also show that a Thomas Hakeluytt was in the wardship of Henry VIII (reigned 1509–1547) and Edward VI (reigned 1547–1553).

Richard Hakluyt, the second of four sons, was either born in Hereford in the county of Herefordshire around 1552, or in or near London around 1553. Hakluyt's father, also named Richard Hakluyt, was a member of the Worshipful Company of Skinners whose members dealt in skins and furs. He died in 1557 when his son was aged about five years, and his wife Margery followed soon after. Hakluyt's cousin, also named Richard Hakluyt, of the Middle Temple, became his guardian.

While a Queen's Scholar at Westminster School, Hakluyt visited his guardian whose conversation, illustrated by "certain bookes of cosmographie, an universall mappe, and the Bible", made Hakluyt resolve to "prosecute that knowledge, and kind of literature". Entering Christ Church, Oxford, in 1570 with financial support from the Skinners' Company, "his exercises of duty first performed", he set out to read all the printed or written voyages and discoveries that he could find. He took his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) on 19 February 1574, and shortly after taking his Master of Arts (M.A.) on 27 June 1577, began giving public lectures in geography. He was the first to show "both the old imperfectly composed and the new lately reformed mappes, globes, spheares, and other instruments of this art". Hakluyt held on to his studentship at Christ Church between 1577 and 1586, although after 1583 he was no longer resident in Oxford.

Hakluyt was ordained in 1578, and that same year he received a "pension" from the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers to study divinity. The pension would have lapsed in 1583, but William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, intervened to have the pension continued until 1586 to aid Hakluyt's geographical research.

At the English Embassy in Paris

According to one source, Hakluyt's first publication was A Shorte and Briefe Narration of the Two Nauigations and Discoueries to the Northwest Partes Called Newe Fraunce (1580), a translation of Bref Récit et Succincte Narration de la Navigation Faite en MDXXXV et MDXXXVI by French navigator Jacques Cartier, which was a description of his second voyage to Canada in 1535–1536. However, this seems to be an error as the British Library's copy of this work indicates it was translated from an Italian version into English by John Florio. If that is correct, then Hakluyt's first publication was one that he wrote himself, Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America and the Ilands Adjacent unto the Same, Made First of all by our Englishmen and Afterwards by the Frenchmen and Britons (1582).

Hakluyt's Voyages brought him to the notice of Lord Howard of Effingham, and Sir Edward Stafford, Lord Howard's brother-in-law. At the age of 30, being acquainted with "the chiefest captaines at sea, the greatest merchants, and the best mariners of our nation", he was selected as chaplain and secretary to accompany Stafford, now English ambassador at the French court, to Paris in 1583. In accordance with the instructions of Secretary Francis Walsingham, he occupied himself chiefly in collecting information of the Spanish and French movements, and "making diligent inquirie of such things as might yield any light unto our westerne discoverie in America". Although this was his only visit to the Continent in his life, he was angered to hear the limitations of the English in terms of travel being discussed in Paris.

The first-fruits of Hakluyt's labours in Paris were embodied in his important work entitled A Particuler Discourse Concerninge the Greate Necessitie and Manifolde Commodyties That Are Like to Growe to This Realme of Englande by the Westerne Discoueries Lately Attempted, Written in the Yere 1584, which Sir Walter Raleigh commissioned him to prepare. The manuscript, lost for almost 300 years, was published for the first time in 1877. Hakluyt revisited England in 1584, and laid a copy of the Discourse before Elizabeth I (to whom it had been dedicated) together with his analysis in Latin of Aristotle's Politicks. His objective was to recommend the enterprise of planting the English race in the unsettled parts of North America, and thus gain the Queen's support for Raleigh's expedition. In May 1585 when Hakluyt was in Paris with the English Embassy, the Queen granted to him the next prebendal stall at Bristol Cathedral that should become vacant, to which he was admitted in 1585 or 1586 and held with other preferments till his death.

Hakluyt's other works during his time in Paris consisted mainly of translations and compilations, with his own dedications and prefaces. These latter writings, together with a few letters, are the only extant material out of which a biography of him can be framed. Hakluyt interested himself in the publication of the manuscript journal of René de Laudonnière, the Histoire Notable de la Florida in Paris in 1586. The attention that the book excited in Paris encouraged Hakluyt to prepare an English translation and publish it in London under the title A Notable Historie Containing Foure Voyages Made by Certayne French Captaynes unto Florida (1587). The same year, his edition of Peter Martyr d'Anghiera's De Orbe Nouo Decades Octo saw the light at Paris. This work contains an exceedingly-rare copperplate map dedicated to Hakluyt and signed F.G. (supposed to be Francis Gualle); it is the first on which the name "Virginia" appears.

Return to England

In 1588 Hakluyt finally returned to England with Lady Stafford, after a residence in France of nearly five years. In 1589 he published the first edition of his chief work, The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation, using eyewitness accounts as far as possible. In the preface to this he announced the intended publication of the first terrestrial globe made in England by Emery Molyneux. Between 1598 and 1600 appeared the final, reconstructed and greatly-enlarged edition of The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation in three volumes. In the dedication of the second volume (1599) to his patron, Sir Robert Cecil, he strongly urged the minister as to the expediency of colonizing Virginia. A few copies of this monumental work contain a map of great rarity, the first on the Mercator projection made in England according to the true principles laid down by Edward Wright. Hakluyt's great collection has been called "the Prose Epic of the modern English nation" by historian James Anthony Froude.

On 20 April 1590 Hakluyt was instituted to the rectory of Wetheringsett-cum-Brockford, Suffolk, by Lady Stafford, who was Countess of Sheffield in her own right. He held this position until his death, and resided in Wetheringsett through the 1590s and frequently thereafter. In 1601 Hakluyt edited a translation from the Portuguese of Antonio Galvão's The Discoveries of the World. In the same year his name occurs as an adviser to the East India Company, in which capacity he supplied them with maps and informed them as to markets.

Later life

In the late 1590s Hakluyt became the client and personal chaplain of Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Lord Burghley's son, who was to be Hakluyt's most fruitful patron. Hakluyt dedicated to Cecil the second (1599) and third volumes (1600) of the expanded edition of Principal Navigations and also his edition of Galvão's Discoveries (1601). Cecil, who was the principal Secretary of State to Elizabeth I and James I, rewarded him by installing him as prebendary of Westminster Abbey on 4 May 1602. In the following year, he was elected archdeacon of the Abbey.

Hakluyt was married twice, once in or about 1594 and again in 1604. In the licence of Hakluyt's second marriage dated 30 March 1604, he is described as one of the chaplains of the Savoy Hospital; this position was also conferred on him by Cecil. His will refers to chambers occupied by him there up to the time of his death, and in another official document he is styled Doctor of Divinity (D.D.).

Hakluyt was also a leading adventurer of the Charter of the Virginia Company of London as a director thereof in 1589. In 1605 he secured the prospective living of James Town, the intended capital of the intended colony of Virginia. When the colony was at last established in 1607, he supplied this benefice with its chaplain, Robert Hunt. In 1606 he appears as the chief promoter of the petition to James I for letters patent to colonize Virginia, which were granted on 10 April 1606. His last publication was a translation of Hernando de Soto's discoveries in Florida, entitled Virginia Richly Valued, by the Description of the Maine Land of Florida, Her Next Neighbour (1609). This work was intended to encourage the young colony of Virginia; Scottish historian William Robertson wrote of Hakluyt, "England is more indebted for its American possessions than to any man of that age.

In 1591, Hakluyt inherited family property upon the death of his elder brother Thomas; a year later, upon the death of his youngest brother Edmund, he inherited another property which derived from his uncle. In 1612 Hakluyt became a charter member of the North-west Passage Company. By the time of his death, he had amassed a small fortune out of his various emoluments and preferments, of which the last was Gedney Rectory, Lincolnshire, presented to him by his younger brother Oliver in 1612. Unfortunately, his wealth was squandered by his only son.

Hakluyt died on 23 November 1616, probably in London, and was buried on 26 November in Westminster Abbey; by an error in the abbey register his burial is recorded under the year 1626. A number of his manuscripts, sufficient to form a fourth volume of his collections of 1598–1600, fell into the hands of Samuel Purchas, who inserted them in an abridged form in his Pilgrimes (1625–1626). Others, consisting chiefly of notes gathered from contemporary authors, are preserved at the University of Oxford.

Hakluyt is principally remembered for his efforts in promoting and supporting the settlement of North America by the English through his writings. These works were a fertile source of material for William Shakespeare and other authors. Hakluyt also encouraged the production of geographical and historical writings by others. It was at Hakluyt's suggestion that Robert Parke translated Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza's The History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof (1588–1590), John Pory made his version of Leo Africanus's A Geographical Historie of Africa (1600), and P. Erondelle translated Marc Lescarbot's Nova Francia (1609).

The Hakluyt Society was founded in 1846 for printing rare and unpublished accounts of voyages and travels, and continues to publish volumes each year.



  • Hakluyt, Richard (1582). Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America and the Ilands Adjacent unto the Same, Made First of All by Our Englishmen and Afterwards by the Frenchmen and Britons: With Two Mappes Annexed Hereunto. London: [Thomas Dawson] for T. Woodcocke. Quarto. Reprint:
  • Hakluyt, Richard (1584). A Particuler Discourse Concerninge the Greate Necessitie and Manifolde Commodyties That Are Like to Growe to This Realme of Englande by the Westerne Discoueries Lately Attempted, Written in the Yere 1584. [London?]: [s.n.]. Reprints:
    • Hakluyt, Richard; C[harles] Deane (ed.) (1831). A Discourse Concerning Western Planting Written in the Year 1584 (Maine Historical Society. Collections, etc.; 2nd Ser.). Maine: Maine Historical Society.
    • Hakluyt, Richard; David B. Quinn & Alison M. Quinn (eds.) (1993). A Particuler Discourse Concerninge the Greate Necessitie and Manifolde Commodyties that are Like to Growe to this Realme of Englande by the Westerne Discoueries Lately Attempted... (Hakluyt Society; Extra Ser., no. 45). London: Hakluyt Society.
  • Hakluyt, Richard (1589). The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation : Made by Sea or Over Land to the Most Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at Any Time within the Compasse of These 1500 Years : Divided into Three Several Parts According to the Positions of the Regions Whereunto They Were Directed; the First Containing the Personall Travels of the English unto Indæa, Syria, Arabia... the Second, Comprehending the Worthy Discoveries of the English Towards the North and Northeast by Sea, as of Lapland... the Third and Last, Including the English Valiant Attempts in Searching Almost all the Corners of the Vaste and New World of America... Whereunto is Added the Last Most Renowned English Navigation Round About the Whole Globe of the Earth. London: Imprinted by George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, printer to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majestie. Folio. Reprint:
    • Hakluyt, Richard (1965). The Principall Navigations Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation... Imprinted at London, 1589 : A Photo-Lithographic Facsimile with an Introduction by David Beers Quinn and Raleigh Ashlin Skelton and with a New Index by Alison Quinn (Hakluyt Society; Extra Ser., nos. 39a & 39b). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for Hakluyt Society & Peabody Museum of Salem. 2 vols.
  • Hakluyt, Richard (1598–1600). The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Overland... at Any Time Within the Compasse of these 1500 [1600] Yeeres, &c. London: G. Bishop, R. Newberie & R. Barker. 3 vols.; folio. Reprints:

Edited and translated



Further reading



External links

Search another word or see Richard Hakluyton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature