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by  |  14-Apr-2014 07:41

It was Hakluyt who gathered together in his Principal navigations, voiages, [traffiques,] and discoueries of the English nation (first published in 1589 and again in expanded form in 1598-1600) the corpus of writing left by the first English explorers, traders and diplomats for, as he further remarked, “I meddle in this worke with the Navigations onely of our owne nation”.The accounts, beginning with that of Richard Chancellor, who survived the ill-fated expedition led by Sir Hugh Willoughby to make his way from the White Sea to Moscow for a momentous audience with Ivan IV in 1553, also include the several journeys that took Anthony Jenkinson down the Volga to Astrakhan and into Persia from 1557, as well as later embassies sent by Queen Elizabeth that produced the poetic epistles of George Turbervile, accompanying ambassador Thomas Randolph in 1568, with their characterization of the Muscovites as “a people passing rude, to vice vile inclin’d”, and the no less damning appraisal by Giles Fletcher in his Of the Russe commonwealth (1591) that the Muscovy Company, fearing it would harm the all important trading privileges, scrambled to suppress and Hakluyt was careful to edit (as he had also done with Turbervile).James Stewart played the adult Bailey who is contemplating suicide until an angel visits him and shows him how good deeds he had performed as a child had helped make the world a better place. The scene called for Warner's character to slap the boy.

II It was an interest that was to quicken once more, when it became known that Peter I, reigning alone since 1696, intended to travel to the West.

After a period of some fifteen years from the beginning of his joint rule to the departure in 1697 of the Great Embassy, during which the translation of a French Jesuit’s account of extensive travels that took him through Muscovy to the frontiers of China was the sole offering to the English public (B1), a flurry of publications between 1698 and c.1705 reflected something of the excitement that preceded the Tsar’s arrival, continued during his stay, and never really abated, despite the deterioration of relations in the last decade of his reign.

It was to a non-English source, however, that Turbervile had reverently referred at the end of his third epistle, advising his addressee Parker “if thou list to know the Russes well,/ To Sigismundus book repair, who all the trueth can tell”.

The renowned Austrian diplomat and scholar Freiherr Sigmund von Herberstein’s Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii, published in Vienna in 1549 and pre-dating the English “discovery”, informed Turbervile and Fletcher and many others who knew it in its Latin original (for only in the mid-nineteenth century was an English version available).

Even at that late date it may nonetheless be considered as the first such publication by a British diplomat under the Romanovs.

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