See The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts (1935, repr. 1967).
(born circa 1552, London, Eng.?—died Nov. 23, 1616, England) British geographer. A clergyman, he gave public lectures and became the first professor of modern geography at the University of Oxford. He became acquainted with the most important sea captains and merchants of England and took on the role of publicist for explorers. In 1583 he was sent to Paris as chaplain to the English ambassador and also served as an intelligence officer, collecting information on the Canadian fur trade and on other overseas enterprises. His major publication, The principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English nation (1589), described the early English voyages to North America. After 1600 he advised Elizabeth I on colonial affairs, and in 1612 he became a charter member of the Northwest Passage Company.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.