"Hottentot": The Emergence of an Early Modern Racist Epithet.
The role "difference" plays in the construction of race in early modern England is complex as well as obvious. The obvious hardly needs to be stated: it is only natural that early modern English travelers saw varieties of skin color, language, customs, clothing, and diet as ways to mark difference. Recognition of difference in any of the above-mentioned categories did not always automatically transform into value judgments or rankings of racial and/or ethnic identities in comparison to one's own, but it generally did. Above all, skin color became one of the most important difference markers for race. The early modern construction of race was a process that came to depend on the recording of differences, be they real or imagined, and on the acceptance of impressions, data, and arguments we now call racist in order to serve or rationalize colonialism and slavery.
In discussions of race, the idea of difference factors as a mode of constructing individual and collective identities. Such constructions develop concepts of identity formation that depend upon what Hayden White calls the technique of "ostensive self-definition by negation."
in times of sociocultural stress, when the need for positive
self-definition asserts itself but no compelling criterion of
self-identification appears, it is always possible to say something like:
"I may not know the precise content of my own felt humanity, but I am most
certainly not like that," and simply point to something in the landscape
that is manifestly different from oneself.(3)
As crucial as difference is in such contexts, what is often ignored in discussions of race is an acknowledgment that lurking somewhere within difference is the potential for sameness. Early modern representations of the people of the Cape often reveal both the English preference for difference and their fear of sameness.
It is especially remarkable that the early modern construction of the people of the Cape played such a crucial role in the formation of the English consciousness of self/nation and "other." The successive councils of Elizabeth, James VI, and Charles I, as well as of the earliest governors of the English East India Company, exhibited little, if any, colonial interest in the southern region of Africa. Indeed, they gave no orders to claim the Cape as an English possession when they easily could have. Yet despite the fact that the Cape Colony did not become a "British" colonial territory until the early nineteenth century, English interest in the people there was keen and complicated from almost the first moment of contact in 1591. The body of this essay explores how early modern contact with the people of the Cape challenged deeply held English values as well as certain preconceptions and judgments about Africa and Africans to such an extent that the English reacted by separating them from the human race almost altogether.
Once English sailors began to use the Cape as a refreshment station on their voyages to and from the East, the region and the people of the Cape disturbed English confidence in what had been their privileged geographical texts. Many scholars have discussed how the early modern English reliance on classical geographies, be they set in their original languages or in the popular vernacular translations that became especially popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, helped to create a bias against Africa and Africans.(4) Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English translations of Pliny provide an excellent example of why English readers would not have been predisposed to see the people of the Cape in any sort of favorable or neutral way. Natural History came to life in English in 1556, with A Summary of the Antiquities and Wonders of the World. Thomas Hacket published new editions in 1585 and 1587, and Philemon Holland produced three more editions of Pliny's work in 1601, 1634, and 1635. Also, Pliny's work was a source for the chapter on the Ethiope in Boemus's Omnium Gentium Mores, and as Margaret Hodgen has shown, it was popular all over Europe, with twenty-three new editions or reissues in five languages between 1536 and 1611.(5)
In England, Boemus's work found its way into English in William Prat's Description of the Country of Africa (1554), in William Waterman's The Fardle of Facions (1555), and in Edward Aston's The Manners, Lawes, and Customs of All Nations (1611). Waterman's translation includes the following representation of what Boemus (and Pliny, of course) imagined as the inhabitants of the southernmost section of Africa.
The laste of all the Affriens Southewarde, are the Ichthiophagi. A people
borderying upon the Troglodites, in the Goulfe called Sinus Arabicus:
whiche under the shape of man, live the life of beastes. They goe
naked all their life tyme, and make copte of their wives and their children
in commune. They knowe none other kindes of pleasure, or displeasure,
but like unto beastes, such as they fiele: neither have they any
respecte to vertue, or vice, or any discernying betwirte good or badde.
They have little Cabanes not farre from the Sea, upon the clieves side:
where nature hath made great cases, diepe into the grounde, the hollowe
Edward Aston's early-seventeenth-century translation, The Manners and Customs of All Nations (1611), includes the same kind of depiction.(7) That these texts had great influence, even on authors of travel narratives, suggests the early modern English need to privilege a literary legacy of traditional fictions even in the face of contravening evidence.
From the fantastical and anxious descriptions of the area's people and landscape included in the classical works as well as from the reports of early-sixteenth-century Portuguese expeditions that met with disaster at the Cape, English sailors and readers expected to find barbarians and a dangerous wasteland at the Cape. This is confirmed by Thomas Stevens's 1579 letter to his father, written from Goa and published in Richard Hakluyt's The Principal Navigations (1598-1600). Stevens, the first Englishman to go to India, never set foot on land at the Cape, but from his vantage point of "no more than five miles from the Cape," he reports the following:
there we stood as utterly cast away: for under us were rocks of maine
stone so sharpe, and cutting, that no ancre could hold the ship, the
shore so evill, that nothing could land, and the land itselfe so full of
Tigers, and people that are savage, and killers of all strangers, that we
had no hope of life nor comfort, but onely in God and a good
An indication of the admiration and authority early modern English readers and writers gave to the classical authors can be seen in Thomas Herbert's Some Yeares Travel into Divers Part of Africa and Asia the Great (1634, 1638, 1665, 1677). He quotes Pliny, Solinus, Aristotle, and other classical authors throughout his section on Africa, and in relation to his representation of the people of the Cape, Herbert mistakenly adopted Pliny's use of the word troglodites to refer to them.(9)
As Emily C. Bartels and Richard Helgerson have recently argued, Richard Hakluyt's intention to celebrate and glorify England partially determined the editorial decisions he made for his Principal Navigations. The inclusion, for example, of Drake's "The Two Famous Voyages" certainly testifies to this desire. This narrative challenged traditional conceptions of the Cape in a revolutionary way. England's master sailor proclaimed it "a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth" (3:742).(10) The "fair" Cape rescued many English sailors from the deathly grip of scurvy and other illnesses picked up and/or exacerbated by a several-months-long sea journey, and other Englishmen besides Drake were generous with their praise for the region. Patrick Copland, chaplain of an English East India fleet in 1612-14, employed language befitting a man of his profession: "The Bay of Soldania and all about the Cape is so healtfull [sic] and fruitfull as might grow a Paradise of the World; it well agrees with English bodies; for all but one in twentie dayes recovered as at the first day they set forth."(11) Such generous statements about the place were not followed by similar comments about the people. Indeed, many of the earliest English visitors to the Cape judged the people to be unworthy and undeserving of the land.
The English desire to construct their trading partners at the Cape negatively is evident in the persistent topos of difference in their written descriptions of them. It was important to the English to maintain a narrative fiction of their own society as Europe's finest. In this narrative, their use of language testified to their intellectual abilities, and their customs, particularly those related to dress, diet, and social behavior, were proof of their civility and their developed talents for cultivating and creating products given to them by God and nature. Early English visitors to the Cape preferred to see only differences between themselves and the people who lived at the Cape. What was spoken by the people of the Cape, the English refused to recognize as language; what was worn, they could not consider as clothing; what was danced and sung to, they did not see as worthy of religion; and the food or shelter that sustained existence, they could not judge according to its appropriateness. The Standish-Croft journal kept on a voyage begun in 1612 provides a good example:
the Counttrey being firtille ground and pleasantt and a counttrey verie
temperatt but the people bruitt and sauadg, without Religion, without
languag, without Lawes or government, without manners or humanittie,
and last of all withoutt apparell, for they go naked saue onelie a ppees
of a Sheepes Skyn to cover their Members that in my opinion yt is a
greatt pittie that such creattures as they bee should injoy so sweett
The strategy to see difference and to separate the people of the Cape from their rich landscape accomplished two objectives at once. Firstly, it provided a way to consider the trusted geographical sources as still more correct than incorrect in the face of new evidence. Secondly, and most obviously, it established English superiority over the people of the Cape.
English awareness of the people of the Cape also challenged them to revisit the theories that sought to explain how and why there were different human skin colors. Sixteenth-century debates about skin color were often highly charged, but they remained largely unresolved. Interestingly, the people of the Cape came to occupy an important place for the next two centuries in the debate about skin color. For example, they play a central role in the discussion of it in The History and Description of Africa (1600), where it is located in one of the sections that John Pory added to Leo Africanus's text.
The people of this place called in the Arabian toong Cafri, Cafres, or
Cafates, that is to say, lawlessee or outlawes, are for the most part
exceeding blacke of colour, which very thing may be a sufficient argument,
that the sunne is not the sole or chiefe cause of their blacknes;
for in divers other countries where the heate thereof is farre more
scorching and intolerable, there are tawnie, browne, yellowish, ash
coloured, and white people; so that the cause thereof seemeth rather
to be of an hereditarie qualitie transfused from the parents, than the
intemperature of an hot climate, though it also may be some furtherance
Kim Hall argues convincingly that this section and other editorial intrusions reveal Pory's own "anxiety about difference" and his strategy to "protect the unwary reader from the narrator."(14)
The majority of early modern English representations of the people of the Cape depict them as "black" and often call them "Negroes," but their skin color was not automatically a negative issue.(15) For example, a representation, dating from the initial landing in 1591, refers to the people of the Cape as "blacke salvages, very brutish," but English navigator John Davis, who served on a 1598 Dutch expedition and later worked for the English East India Company, made no judgment in his representation of their skin color: "The people are not circumcised, their colour is Olive blacke, blacker than the Brasilians, their haire curled and blacke as the Negroes of Angola."(16) One anonymous hand on the first English expedition sponsored by the English East India Company recorded the people of the Cape as being "of a tawnie colour,"(17) but another on the same expedition saw them as "blacke."(18) Yet, a representation written during the Sir Edward Michelbourne-led expedition in 1605 asserted the people of the Cape to be "a most savage and beastly people as ever I thinke God created" without any reference to their skin color at all.(19)
The different editions of Thomas Herbert's Some Yeares Travels into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique (1634, 1638, 1665, 1677) illustrate how discussions of skin color and character merged into a racist construction of race during the seventeenth century. In the first edition, Herbert writes that the people of the Cape are of a "swarthy darke colour," but this phrase is changed in the second edition to read, "their color is ugly black, [sic] are strongly limbd, desperate, crafty, and injurious."(20) The third and fourth editions present a completely different description, reporting that "the Natives being propagated from Cham [sic], both in their Visages and Natures, seem to inherit his Malediction, their stature is but indifferent, their coller olevaster, or that sort of black we see the American that live under the Aequator; their faces be very thin, their body as to limbs well proportioned."(21) Herbert's employment of George Best's widely accepted theory is indicative of two extremely important trends in early modern England; namely, it shows the public's attraction to what James Walvin calls "biblical explanation" as well the cultural acceptance of a negative reading of blackness.(22) Walvin contends that "the power of an alleged biblical explanation--however imperfect, garbled or distorted that explanation might be--was a potent force in a post-Reformation society where preaching and biblical exegesis took place in the contemporary vernacular."(23) Indeed, early modern England was eager to accept Best's theory. In a fascinating essay, Benjamin Braude points out that English (and European) acceptance of what has been called the "Curse of Ham" is based on a misinterpretation of Mandeville's Travels that amounted to a mistaken and "willfull Africanization of Ham," and he suggests that Purchas's acceptance of it in Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas His Pilgrims (1625-26) demonstrates how slavery "started to make it credible."(24)
That Herbert's text returns to this mid-sixteenth-century theory as he revisits his own prose in the last quarter of the seventeenth century suggests how skin color began to dominate in the modern racist construction of race. According to Philip Curtin, the Restoration and eighteenth century mark the time when "culture prejudice ... slid off easily toward color prejudice."(25) Ironically, many travelers at this time described the skin color of the people of the Cape in relation to whiteness and compared it with English and European skin tones. Indeed, the confusion over the skin color of the people of the Cape would be one of the reasons for their racial classification as Hottentot rather than "Negro." Evidence of this can be found in John Maxwell's "An Account of the Cape of Good Hope," read to the members of the Royal Society on 18 and 25 June 1707.
The Hottentots, Natives of the Place, are a Race of Men distinct both
from the Negroes and European Whites, for their Hair is Woolly, Short
and Frizled, their Noses fiat, and their Lips thick, but their Skin is
naturally as White as ours, as appear'd by a Hottentot Child brought up
by the Dutch in their Fort here.(26)
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, however, some in England began to regard them again as Negroes.(27) For example, Oliver Goldsmith wrote in his A History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774): "The fourth striking variety in the human species, is to be found among the Negroes of Africa. This gloomy race of mankind is found to blacken all the southern parts of Africa, from eighteen degrees north of the line, to its extreme termination, at the Cape of Good Hope. I know it is said, that the Caffres, who inhabit the southern extremity of that large continent, are not to be ranked among the Negroe race; however, the difference between them, in point of color and features, is so small, that they may very easily be grouped in this general picture."(28)
Another crucial factor besides blackness (or black skin color) that carried negative weight in England during the early modern period was an association with the Irish. English contact with the people of the Cape occurred at a crucial time in England's attempts to pacify and to squash rebellion in Ireland, and evidence suggests that this historical coincidence placed the people of the Cape, in the collective English imagination, alongside the native Irish as a beastly society. There is great resemblance between late-sixteenth-and early-seventeenth-century English representations of the native Irish and the people of the Cape, and, in some cases, the association between the two is made quite directly.(29) Once again Thomas Herbert can be our source. He found similarities, for example, between the native Irish language and that of the people of the Cape: "their pronunciation is like the Irish: their customs not much unlike the rude ones of antique times."(30) In the 1638 second edition, Herbert revised this passage about the language of the people of the Cape to lay the groundwork for an even more damning assertion about their sexual practices: "Their language is apishly sounded (with whom tis thought they mixe unnaturally) ... being voyced like the Irish.(31)
Clothing also served as a point of comparison. For the English, the mantle became a signifier of native Irish otherness. For example, in Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland, Irenius says that it was "a fit house for an outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel, and an apt cloak for a thief." Interestingly, when Eudox and Irenius debate the origins of the mantle, Irenius maintains that Africans have adopted it: "the Africans succeeding, yet finding the like necessity of that garment."(32) The male figure in Herbert's drawing is wearing something extremely reminiscent of an Irish mantle. Additionally, certain body parts of the people of the Cape were also described in the same way as those of the native Irish. Herbert's female figure is depicted as a sort of she-devil nursing a child over her shoulder. His prose explanation, "The women give their Infants sucke as they hang on their backes, the uberous dugge stretched over her shoulder," is very reminiscent of a like-minded assertion about "meere Irish" women made by Fynes Moryson, who reports that the women "have very great Dugges, some so big as they give their Children suck over theire shoulders."(33)
Perhaps the long unrest in Ireland necessitated that the English construct another race that was, literally and figuratively, beyond the pale as an outlaw race. Quite possibly, the idea of the people of the Cape offered the English a less threatening "primitiveness" to contemplate. In the early modern English mind, geography determined that the idea of human progress or development did not have to be granted to the people of the Cape. On the other hand, the problems the English had in Ireland, especially with subduing the rebellious native and Anglo-Irish populations, were particularly unsettling because the English thought them to be groups that had degenerated from a higher European state to an almost beastly one. Since the English considered these groups as races coming from within their own family, the evident degeneration or rejection of values they considered essential to their own sense of racial and cultural superiority was deeply upsetting to them. Debora Shuger points out that pro-English authors often decried the native Irish and the Anglo-Irish as especially threatening because they manifested little, if any, sense of civility, and civility was an especially treasured value of the early modern English.(34) It is interesting, therefore, that the English often applied the same standards to the people of the Cape as they did to the Irish (and thus themselves).
The English were quick to use what they saw as a lack of civility on the part of the people of the Cape to the English who stopped there as proof that the society was barbaric, beastlike, and, thus, very different from themselves. A pamphlet detailing the 1604 English East India Company expedition led by Henry Middleton shows how the English would record the incivility of the Cape society.(35) So many sailors were sick with scurvy that, contrary to the orders issued to him, Middleton ordered his ships to stop at the Cape for refreshment. Middleton himself led a party of men ashore on 18 July 1604. Some of his men began to set up tents while others went to where "the Negroes had their houses" to bargain for beef and sheep. The description works hard to establish Middleton's evident civility in opposition to the rudeness of the people of the Cape.
Our Generall and the captains went to barter with them for small peeces
of Iron, and bought some 12. sheep, and more would have sold us, till
that they saw us begin to set up our tents, which as it seemed, was to
their disliking; for that incontinent they pulled downe their houses,
and made them fast upon their Beasts backes, and did drive away; yet
all meanes possible was sought to drawe them to sell us more: but in
no case they would abide any longer with us, but drove away with all
the speed they might. It lay in the generals power to have taken them
all from them, as some counselled him to doe, but he in no case would
give eare thereunto; but let them depart, not doubting but that they
would returne again, seeing we offered them no wrong, when it was in
our powers to dispossesse them of all their cattell.
After the sick men were brought ashore, Middleton again tried to bargain with the people of the Cape for "fresh victuals, but the people of the countrey seeing so many in company fled." Middleton then ordered his company to stand still, and he sent four men forward to the Cape people with a bottle of wine, other food, a "taber," and a pipe. The people of the Cape "seeing no more in company came to them, and did eate, drinke, and daunce with them so they seeing with what kindes they were used, tooke hart unto them and came along with our Generall to our tents, where they had many toyes bestowed upon them."
After this encounter, trading increased substantially. On 26 July, the people of the Cape brought the English forty-four sheep, and over the next five days brought them more than two hundred sheep and some cattle, yet the narrative does not compliment the people of the Cape for being civil hosts. By August, the English needed additional food, and so Middleton ordered a dozen men to go out in a trading party. They returned with only two sheep, which caused Middleton concern. When he asked the Purser of the Hector, who was in charge of the party, why they returned with so few cattle, the Purser maintained that he had paid for more, but the Cape people snatched the cattle back. In response to this, Middleton planned an ambush against them. He and 120 of his men would hide in the woods while the Purser's team of men would engage the people of the Cape in negotiations once again. On a prearranged signal from the English traders, Middleton and his troop would come forward and drive the people of the Cape away. The plan went awry, however, because three armed sailors who had "tast of a bottell of wine they carried for their captaine" became separated from the company. When the unarmed English traders came into the kraal to begin the faux negotiations, the sailors were somehow discovered, and a scuffle ensued.
Middleton and his party came out from their hiding places to "rescew his men," but one man was wounded. The narrative reports the people of the Cape as taking "to their heeles and al the cattel before them, as fast as they could drive to the mountaines." Remarkably, the subsequent sentence literally and figuratively depicts the English sailors as riding over an inferior society: "Our men, as then, having the raines in their owne handes, pursued after them in such scattering manner, that if the people of the countrey had been men of any resolution, they might have cut off most of them." Strikingly, the conclusion of this section insists on adding that the English were able to secure some livestock despite the fact that they were in retreat. Such a "victory" should demonstrate to the readers the power and moral superiority of the English force over the local inhabitants.
English confidence about their own racial and cultural superiority over the people of the Cape seems to have grown in direct proportion to their demonization and categorization of them as a beastly society. This "truth" became evident to them partly because of a story or myth--for that is how it should be regarded--of the man called "Cory." Cory exemplifies the kind of evidence the English created and used to prove that the people of the Cape were not capable of being "civilized."(36) According to available records, Cory arrived in England in September 1613, having been carried there on the East India Company's Hector, captained by Gabriel Towerson.(37) Another man from the Cape was seized along with him, but he died before the ship arrived in England. Cory was kept at the house of Sir Thomas Smith, then the head of the English East India Company, from September 1613 to March 1614. He was returned to the Cape of Good Hope in June 1614, sailing from England in early March on the New Year's Gift, the flagship of an English East India Company expedition led by Nicholas Downton. This is the extent of the information that can be regarded as certain.
Early modern English readers could find references to Cory in only two published works, the third and fourth editions of Purchas His Pilgrimage (1617, 1626) and in the extracts of Nicholas Downton's journal included in Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625). The first printed account of Cory in Purchas His Pilgrimage is noteworthy for its brevity. Significantly, it does not include any mention or description of Cory's residence in London, but it does depict him as being helpful to the English after his return home.
The Hector brought thence one of these Salvages, called Cory, which
was carried againe, and there landed by the Newyeeres-gift, June 21.
1614. in his Cooper Armour, but returned not to them whiles the Shippes
continued in the Roade, but at their returnes in March was twelvemonth
after, hee came, and was ready to [do?] any service, in helping
them with Beeves and Sheepe.(38)
The subsequent representation of Cory in Downton's journal, which was included in Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625), is similarly brief, but there is a striking change.
In this later source, Cory is unhelpful to the English sailors. It records that on 18 June 1614, "the Saldanian departed from us, carrying with him his Copper Armour and Javelin, with all things belonging to him, promising to come againe to us the third day after, but he never came againe."(39) A letter Downton wrote to the home office of the English East India Company confirms the published journal account. More importantly, it also suggests the English emotional investment in Cory: "For Cory, soone after our comeing thither, we in hope of his better performance and nothing doubting of his love I lett him goe awaye with his rich armour and all his wealth in the companie of his freindes; but what become of him after we know nor neither could ever understand."(40) The remarkable diction testifies to the falsely placed English confidence in Cory's "love" for them and any material objects they gave him.
Cory's homecoming was described even more emotionally in a letter written by Thomas Elkington, also on the expedition. There he records his opinion that Cory and all the people of the Cape of Good Hope should be regarded as "ingratefull dogges":
Wee landed ther the Saldanian ... but after he once gott ashore with
such things as your Worships bestowed on hym wee could never see
hym more; so doe greatly fear he mought be cause of our worser intertaynment,
for which he had no ocation given, being all the voyadge
more kindly used then he any waies could deserve, but being ingratefull
dogges all of them not better to be expected; and would have bynn
much better for us and such as shall come hereafter yf he never had
seene Ingland, which your Worships hearafter may please to give order
Interestingly, Elkington's representation is not the only one that would use the dog metaphor. The English tendency to interpret Cory's absence from them as a sort of betrayal not only ensured the construction of the people of the Cape as humanity's most irrecoverable and beastly society, but, as we shall see, it helped to shape the figurative levels of meaning subsequently associated with Hottentot in English domestic discourse.
The most descriptive version of Cory's story, and the one that came to be accepted as historical "truth," did not actually appear in published form until Edward Terry's A Voyage to East-India (1655). On its most superficial level, Terry's work records the experiences he had as a chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe and his delegation sent by King James to the court of Jehangir, the mogul emperor of Hindustan.(42) It shows him to be more negative about the people of the Cape than he was about any other indigenous society encountered on the voyage: "but the Sun shines not upon a people in the whole world more barbarous than those which possess it; Beasts in the skins of men, rather than men in the skins of beasts, as may appear by their ignorance, habit, language, diet, with other things, which make them most brutish."(43) The volume combines Terry's travel narrative with his own philosophical, religious, and political reflections concerning the present state of England and, by implication, the Civil War. These digressions make it clear that Terry hopes his work would instruct and reform his readership in regard to England's collective falling away from monarchy and Christianity. His use of the Cory story, in particular, proves Cory's and the people of the Cape's usefulness for political allegory.
The reflection immediately preceding his first discussion of Cory presents the conclusion the readers should draw from the story that would follow:
Me thinks when I have seriously considered, the Dresses, the Habitations,
and the Diet of this people, with other things, and how these
beasts of Mankind live all like Brutes, nay worse, I have thought that if
they had the accommodations we enjoy (to make our lives more comfortable)
by good dwelling, warm clothing, sweet lodging, and wholesome
food, they would be abundantly pleased with such a change of
their condition; For as Love proceeds from Knowledge, and liking, and
we can neither love nor like any thing we cannot know: so when we
come to a sensible understanding of things wee knew not before; when
the Belly teaches, and the Back instructs, a man would believe that
these should work some strong convictions.(43) (19-20)
Terry then begins what he calls a "short story," describing Cory's residence at Sir Thomas Smith's house in London. (It is doubtful that Terry ever saw Cory in London, nor was he present at the Cape when Cory was returned home.)(44)
Terry tries to control the reader's response throughout the representation by inserting phrases that imply how differently an English person would have reacted under the same circumstances.
he had good diet, good clothes, good lodging, with all other fitting
accommodations; now one would think that this wretch might have
conceived his present, compared with his former condition, as Heaven
upon earth, but he did not so, though he had to his good entertainment
made for him a Chain of bright Brass, an Armour, Breast, Back, and
Headpiece, with a Buckler all of Brass, his beloved Metal; yet all this
contented him not; for never any seemed to be more weary of ill usage,
than he was of Courtesies; none ever more desirous to return home to
his Countrey than he: For when he had learned a little of our Language,
he would daily lie upon the ground, and cry very often thus in broken
English, Cooree home go, Souldania go, home go; And not long after,
when he had his desire, and was returned home, he had no sonner set
footing on his own shore, but presently he threw away his Clothes, his
Linnen, with all over Covering, and got his sheeps skins upon his back,
guts about his neck, and such a perfum'd Cap (as before we named)
upon his head; by whom that Proverb mentioned, 2 Pet 2.22. was literally
fulfill'd, Canis ad vomitum; The dog is return'd to his vomit, and
the swine to his wallowing in the mire.(21)
Terry's strategic employment of a biblical citation, one that includes the degrading metaphors of the dog and the pig, effectively exiles the people of the Cape from the human race.
The most dubious and unreliable moments in Terry's narrative are when he "recounts" a conversation he says he had with Cory: "It was here that I asked Cooree who was their God? he lifting up his hands answered thus, in his bad English, England God, great God; Souldania no God" (23). It seems odd that Cory apparently gained additional skill in English after his return to the Cape, but, of course, the point Terry wrote the section to make is contained in the long reflection it prompted. First, and briefly, Terry considers the people of the Cape:
Now if any one desire to know under whose Command these brutes
live or whether they have any Superiority & Subordination amongst
themselves, or whether they live with their females in common, with
many other questions that might be put, I am not able to satisfie
He very quickly, however, moves the discussion to his real subjects, his own head and heart as well as "his" England, when he congratulates himself on his good fortune in contradistinction to the pitiable; and unenlightened world around him.
But this I look upon as a great happiness not to be born one of them
and as great nay a far greater misery to fall from the loyns of Civill &
Christian Parents, and after to degenerate into all brutishness as very
many doe, qui Gentes agrunt sub nomine Christianorum; the thing
which Tertullian did most sadly bewail in many of his time, who did
act Atheisme under the Name of Christianity, and did even shame Religion
by their light and loose possessing of it. When Anacharis the
Philosopher was sometime unbraided with this, that he was a Scythian
by birth he presently returned this quick and smart answer until him
that cast that in his teeth; Mihi quidem patria dedecus, tu autem Patriae,
my Country indeed is some disparagement to me, but thou art a
disgrace to thy Country, as there be many thousands more beside, who
are very burdens to the good Places that give them Breath and Bread.
Alas, Turkie, and Barbary, and these Africans, with many millions more
in that part of the world & in America, and in Asia, I and in Europe
too, would wring their hands into peeces, if they were truly sensible of
their condition, because they know so little. (24)
The "they" in the reflection's last sentence is very suggestive. It has a powerful resonance and possible connection to those English citizens who fought against the royalist forces during the Civil War. Terry concludes this section with a prophetic warning that would make sense only to a Christian audience, and it might very well have carried special meaning to his English audience.
And so shall infinite numbers more one day born in the visible Church
of God, in the valley of visions, Es. 22.1. have in their very hearts
broken into shivers, because they knew so much, or might have known so
much, and have known and done so little; for without all doubt, the
day will one day come, when they who have sinned against the strongest
means of Grace and Salvation shall feel the heaviest miserie, when
their means to know God, in his will revealed in his Word, shall be put
in one Balance, and their improvement of this means by their Practice
in the other, and if there have not bin some good proportion betwixt
these two, manifested in their lives, what hath been wanting in their
Practice shall be made up in their Punishment. (23-24)
With his sermon delivered, Terry returns to his narration, but not to offer more descriptions of the place and its people. In fact, he never returns to the story of Cory. Instead he prefers to close the Cape interlude by making a connection between the sinners he contemplated in the reflection and some English criminals who had been banished to the region. Terry devotes four pages to recount an experiment conducted in 1614, which saw the delivery to the Cape of ten English convicts sentenced to death. It is remark.. able that the lengthy allegorical tale he relates here is far longer than his actual description of the Cape people, nor should it be overlooked that Terry makes a point of mentioning that the criminals who returned to England were hanged for committing another crime. In this way, he underscores the meaning of his pointed political reflection.
Although Terry dropped Cory's story when it no longer served his allegorical purpose, it was what other English authors and editors remembered. Indeed, they rushed to steal it, suggesting its great appeal to the collective English imagination. Peter Heylyn, for example, borrowed the story for the second edition of Cosmography, published in 1657. Significantly, Heylyn's passage asserts that Cory helped English sailors, albeit at a higher price.
I have heard that some of our English ships in their return from the
East-Indies, seized on two Savages, living near this Bay, whom they
brought on ship boord, with an intent to carry them into England, to
the end that having learned the English tongue, we might be more
particularly informed by them of the Estate and Affairs of this Countrey.
One of these who was called Coore, being brought to London (for the
other died upon the way) was dieted and cloathed according to the
English fashion, gratified also with brasse Rings, Beads and such other
things, by which they thought they might most gain upon him to affect
the change of his condition. But home, is home, though it be but
homely, as the saying is. For this poor wretch having learned so much
English, as to bemoan his own misfortunes, would throw himself upon
the ground, and cry out with great anguish, and vexation of spirit, Coore
home go, Soldania go, Coree home go, out of which unquietnesse of
humour, when they could not get him, they sent him back in the next
ships which were bound for the Indies. After which time, as oft as he
saw any ship with English colours, he would very joyfully make toward
the Bay with Guts and Garbage hanging about his neck (as their custome
is) and readily perform all good Offices towards them; yet so that it was
found withall; that by discovering to the Natives how low esteem the
English had of Brasse and Iron, they thenceforth raised the value of
those richer Metals, which formerly they had parted with for such sorry
trifles, as have been spoken of before.(45)
This account of Cory would appear in all subsequent reissues and or new editions of Cosmography (1665, 1666-67, 1669, 1670, 1674, 1677, 1682). Moreover, its appearance in Cosmography guaranteed that other Restoration and eighteenth-century travel collections, geography books and encyclopedias of knowledge would also include representations of Cory. Indeed, during the Restoration and the first half of the eighteenth century, versions of the Cory story appeared in Samuel Clark's A New Description of the World (1689, 1708, 1712); John Harris's Navigantium atque Itinerantium (1705); Thomas Astley's A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1745-47); and Thomas Salmon's Modern History (vol. 5, 1755).
Even more remarkably, versions of the Cory story were repeated in travel narratives that did not make any claim to have seen him. Thomas Herbert mentioned "Cory" in the third and fourth editions of his Some Yeares Travels into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique (1665, 1677), but he gave the story a much "happier" ending for the English. He depicts Cory as being successfully "civilized," only to be murdered by his uncivilized countrymen at his return. Interestingly, Herbert inserts his representation of Cory in a paragraph with an anti-Dutch thrust.
An example we have in Cory, a Savage brought thence into England in
the year 1614. where being civilized, he returned in a few years after
to his Country, where to express how nobly he had been treated, entring
the Woods in a copper gilt armour; whether in revenge of his departure,
or to be possest of so great a treasure, is not known; but instead of a
kind reception which he thought he should have had, they butchered
There is no textual precedent for Herbert's version, and while later British texts made allowances for it, the Terry-Heylyn representation was the most copied one. Another retelling of the Cory story appeared in Alexander Hamilton's travel narrative A New Account of the East Indies (1727, 1737). Cory lived in the nation's memory into the nineteenth century. It might well be his specter we find in Maria Edgeworth's novel Leonora (1806), where one character says to another about a third: "It is lost labor to civilize him, for sooner or later he will hottentot again."(47)
The value of examining these early representations is that they show us the process by which race began to be constructed in early modern England. This process produced two interdependent narratives: the story of the people of the Cape, and a later development of this story which foregrounded the relationship between the Cape people and the English and England. These narratives connect in increasingly complex ways. In the simple story, the descriptions of the Cape people were not, at first, racist. However, as the concept of difference developed around the image and idea of the Hottentot, both the people and the word began to signify a racist ideology that stabilized the more crucial and complex fictions of England and of a superior English race. Ultimately, the demonization of the people who came to be called Hottentot, whether they lived in southern Africa or in Britain, helped to legitimate the xenophobia of the nation, and serves as a screen through which we may identify a newly emergent racist ethos in modern British political discourse.
(1.) I discuss this phenomenon in my essay "What They Are, Who We Are: Representations of the `Hottentot' in Eighteenth-Century Britain," Eighteenth-Century Life 17 (November 1993): 14-39 as well as in my forthcoming book on British representations of the Hottentot.
(2.) John Ovington, Voyage to Suratt (1696), 489.
(3.) Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) 151.
(4.) See, for example, Eldred D. Jones, The Elizabethan Image of Africa (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1971); and Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan, "Before Othello: Elizabethan Representations of Sub-Saharan Africans, "William and Mary Quarterly, 3d. ser., 54, no. 1 (January 1997), 19-44.
(5.) Margaret Hodgen, Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964), 132-33.
(6.) William Waterman, The Fardle of Facions (1555; reprint, Amsterdam and New York: De Capo Press, 1970), chap. 6, n.pa.
(7.) Aston's translation of the section reads: "The last people, and the utmost towards the South bee the Ichthiophagi, which inhabite in the gulph of Arabia, upon the frontiers of the Trogloditae, these carry the shape of men, but live like beasts: they be very barbarous and go naked all their lives long, using both wives and daughters common like beasts: they be neither touched with any feeling of pleasure or griefe, other then what is naturall: Neido the [sic] discerne any difference betwixt good and bad, honesty and dishonesty." See his This Manners and Customs of All Nations (1611), 48-49.
(8.) Richard Hakluyt, The Principle Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nations (London, 1598-1600), 2:100.
(9.) Interestingly, Herbert's citations from classical sources would increase with each subsequent edition. In relation to a name for the people of the Cape, only Herbert's fourth edition (1677) employed a form of the word Hottentot. This is indicative of how Herbert revised his narrative over time. The first time Hottentot appeared in print in England was in 1670.
(10.) See Emily C. Bartels, "Imperalist Beginnings: Richard Hakluyt and the Construction of Africa, Criticism 34, no. 4 (fall 1992): 517-38; and chap. 4 of Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, 3:742.
(11.) Patrick Copland, quoted in R. Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck: Callers at South Africa from 1488 to 1652 (Cape Town: C. Struik, 1967), 59.
(12.) Standish Croft Journal, in Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck, 57-58.
(13.) The History and Description of Africa. Written by al-Hassan Ibn-Mohammed Al-Wezaz Al-fasi, ... but Better Known as Leo Africanus. Done into English by John Pory, 3 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1896), 3, 68.
(14.) Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 30-31.
(15.) Alden T. Vaughan and Virgnia Mason Vaughan believe that Elizabethan era representations of "black" African societies have a negativity that distinguishes them from European depictions of New World "otherness." See "Before Othello," 19-44.
(16.) The Voyages and Works of John Davis, the Navigator, ed. Albert Hastings Markham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1880), 135.
(17.) The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster to Brazil and the East Indies, 1591-1603, ed. Sir William Foster (London: Hakluyt Society, 1940), 3. An account of this journey appeared in the second edition of Hakluyt's Principal Navigations. The account from the second journey is also printed in the Foster edition (81).
(18.) A True and Large Discourse of the Voyage of 20 April 1601, London, 1603. Account is published in Foster's Voyages of Sir James Lancaster, 123.
(19.) Edward Michelbourne, quoted in Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck, 32.
(20.) Thomas Herbert, Some Yeares Travels into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique (London, 1638 and 1638), 14 and 16.
(21.) Herbert, Some Yeares Travels, 1665 ed. 17.
(22.) In Best's The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher (1578) he maintains the Bible proves that blackness is a punishment from God, a sign of the "natural infection" in the blood of the first "Ethiopians," and consequently, "the whole progenie of them descended are still polluted with the same blot of infection.
(23.) James Walvin, England, Slaves, and Freedom, 1776-1838 (University: University of Mississippi Press, 1986), 73.
(24.) Benjamin Braude, "The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods," William and Mary Quarterly,, 3d. ser. 54, no. 1 (January 1997): 103-42 and 138.
(25.) Curtin makes this point in The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780-1850 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), 30. Also, see Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze's introduction to Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997) where he calls the period the "Racist Enlightenment" (1) as well as my own "What They Are, Who We Are." Many recent discussions of race also identify the Restoration and eighteenth century as being the crucial period in the construction of race.
(26.) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 25 (1706-7): 2424.
(27.) Ethnographically speaking, the people of the Cape of Good Hope are more correctly referred to as the Cape Khoikhoi (also spelled Khoekhoe). They are considered as part of the Khoisan societies of southern Africa. See Alan Barnard's Hunters and Herders of Southern Africa: A Comparative Ethnography of the Khoisan Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
(28.) Oliver Goldsmith, An History of the Earth and Animated Nature (London, 1774), 2:226.
(29.) See, for example, Nicholas Canny, The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland: A Pattern Established, 1565-1576 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976), and Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World, 1650-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988); David Quinn, The Elizabethans and the Irish (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966); Jeep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 1986) and "Wildness, Wilderness, and Ireland: Medieval and Early-Modern Patterns in the Demarcation of Civility," Journal of the History of Ideas 56, no. 1 (January 1995); 25-39; Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, "Dismantling Irena: The Sexualizing of Ireland in Early Modern England," in Nationalisms and Sexualities, ed. Andrew Parker, Mary Russo, Doris Sommer, and Patrician Yaeger, 157-71 (London and New York: Routledge, 1992).
(30.) Sir Thoams Herbert, A Relation of Some Yeares Travaile (London, 1634), 16. Interestingly; the first edition of his narrative was published six years after his own voyage and the year after the first printed edition of Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland (1633).
(31.) Herbert, A Relation 1638, ed. 18.
(32.) Edmund Spenser, A Present View of the State of Ireland, ed. W. L. Renwick (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 51.
(33.) Herbert, A Relation, 17, and Moryson, from unpublished chapters of his Itinerary (1617), printed in Shakespeare's Europe: A Survey of the Condition of Europe at the end of the 16th century, 2d. ed. introduction and biographical account by Charles Hughes (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967), 485.
(34.) Shuger uses Irish tracts to argue that the "organizing polarity" of Tudor/ Stuart critiques of artistocratic warrior society was civility versus barbarism, and that the Irish were regarded as northern European barbarians. See "Irishmen, Aristocrats, and Other White Barbarians," Renaissance Quarterly 50 (1997): 494-525.
(35.) The Last East-India Voyage (London, 1606). The title page and a note to the reader makes clear that Walter Burre arranged for the publication of the narrative. In his note he says that the man who began the narrative died during the journey, but Burre promises that the continuation of it is accurate. Middleton's expedition returned in May 1606. Burre worked quickly to get the text ready, and it was entered on the Stationers' Company's Register on 20 May 1606 (STC #17869 or 7456). All quotations from the narrative come from the microfilm (Early English Texts, STC 1, reel 218). The page signatures of the section of the narrative devoted to the stop at the Cape are faulty. The section begins on B4 and continues to C3. The pamphlet is reprinted for the first time in its entirety in The Voyage of Sir Henry Middleton to the Moluccas, edited with an introduction by Sir William Foster (London: Hakluyt Society, 1943). Foster's introduction is especially informative. Although there is no room to do so in this essay, I hope to work out in greater detail elsewhere how moments in this narrative find resonance in early-seventeenth-century English drama. An obvious example that comes to mind is the drunken behavior of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban in The Tempest 3.2.
(36.) How he received the name Cory is a matter of debate. Early accounts maintain that Cory was his name, but this is doubtful. See Hans Werener Debrunner, Presence and Prestige: Africans in Europe (Basel: Afrika Bibliograhien, 1979), 58. That the English thought the people of the Cape beyond recovery sets them in stark contrast to the English construction of native American societies. In this regard, the English story of Pocahontas provides us with a neat opposite to the Cory story. It is an understatement to say that when she and other Virginia Algonquians were in London in 1616-17, they made a far different impression on the English than did Cory. For an interesting reading of the Pocahontas story, see chapter 2 of Kathleen M. Brown's Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1996).
(37.) The minutes of the English East India Company are not extant for the period from 1610 to 1613, which makes it difficult to reconstruct the orders and events surrounding the actual capture and abduction of the man who became known as Cory.
(38.) Samuel Purchas, Purchas His Pilgrimage (London, 1617), 867. The account of Cory in Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625) also does not mention his stay in London. Many unpublished representations and letters written to the governors of the English East India Company mention him after his return to the Cape.
(39.) Nicholas Downton, quoted in Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck, 66.
(41.) Thomas Elkington, quoted in Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck, 67.
(42.) Terry explains that after the delegation's return to England in 1619, he wrote his narrative and presented it in manuscript form to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1622. It appears to have circulated in that form. Purchas, for example;, included sections of Terry's narrative in Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625), although the excerpts did not feature any descriptions or reflections about Cory or the Cape of Good Hope.
(43.) Edward Terry, A Voyage to East-India (London, 1655), 16. Subsequent quotes from this edition will be noted in the text. A version of Terry's narrative, reduced by the deletion of all the reflections, appeared in 1665 as an afterword to The Travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle. It is curious that the full original text reappeared in 1777, especially since eighteenth-century printers did not usually reprint works after such a long period of time. This edition provides no explanation as to its existence.
(44.) Terry was most likely residing in Oxford when "Cory" was in London. Moreover, he makes no claim to having seen Cory in London. I question the story's reliability, but the point is that the English found a way to use it, whatever its derivation.
(45.) Peter Heylyn, Cosmography (London, 1657), 994.
(46.) Herbert, A Relation (1665, ed.) p. 20.
(47.) Maria Edgeworth, Leonora, cited in the OED definition of Hottentot (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), 5:414.
LINDA E. MERIANS is Associate Professor of English at La Salle University and editor of The Secret Malady: Venereal Disease in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France. Her forthcoming book examines social and rhetorical strategies for constructing the "Hottentot" in early modern Britain.
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|Author:||MERIANS, LINDA E.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1998|
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