Printer Friendly

Defoe and the imagined ecologies of Patagonia.

During the early modern era and well into the nineteenth century, voyages to the Pacific from northwestern Europe were far more difficult and harrowing than those across the Atlantic. As they reached Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, ships and their crews had to navigate some of the most dangerous seas and pounding winds anywhere in the world. (1) In contrast to trans-Atlantic crossings that took less than three months (including the infamous Middle Passage from West Africa to the Caribbean), the voyage around Cape Horn to the Spanish colonies of Chile and Peru, and then--with luck--on to Asia, took years and exposed crews to the threats of storms, shipwreck, scurvy, and mutinies as they traversed a wide variety of ecological zones, from the tropics to the near-polar conditions of the Drake Passage south of Terra del Fuego. Between the equatorial coast of Brazil and the Spanish colonies in Chile there were no European outposts of any size, little wood for repairs, and thousands of miles of uncertain navigation through seas where fifty-to one-hundred-foot waves are the rule rather than the exception. While there is an impressive secondary literature on European ventures into the Pacific during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, I focus in this essay on the largely unknown reaches of Patagonia that fascinated British writers intent on establishing outposts to the south of either the Portuguese colonies in Brazil or the Spanish enclaves of Chiloe and Valdivia in Chile. (2) More specifically, I explore some of the ways that Daniel Defoes last and least-known novel, A New Voyage Round the World (1725), helped to shape, even as it was shaped by, early modern understandings of the southern reaches of South America and, more broadly, a global climatology that depended on complex analogies between known and unknown regions.

A New Voyage, in this regard, has a good deal to teach us about the assumptions, and values that underlie and help to structure perceptions of the global climate in the early eighteenth century, an era before a nascent science of climatology began to emerge. (3) In revisiting this novel, I want to explore how Defoe's depiction of Patagonia sheds light on larger presuppositions about climate. (4) First, A New Voyage reveals some of the ways that the very understanding of "climate" emerges through comparative, or differential, experiences of weather conditions in (by eighteenth-century standards) far-flung corners of the globe. Second, the novel implies that an idealized vision of an abstract or normative "Nature" depends on suppressing local conditions and consequently displacing the historicity of climate. Third, Defoes narrative relies on a chain of analogical substitutions and displacements that seek to normalize alien patterns of wind, precipitation, and temperature. (5) In his novel, the climate of South America is as much felt as it is observed. In some ways, Patagonia--even more than the Caribbean or the monsoon regions of South and Southeast Asia--reflects a widespread cultural desire to project the "normative" climatic conditions of "home" onto the blank spaces on maps of the South Seas. (6)

Before the emergence of a nascent climatological theory at the end of the eighteenth century, global climate tended to be understood as much in terms of the resources that various regions produced as in persistent patterns of winds and ocean currents. Similar topographies lying at similar latitudes, in other words, supposedly were fertile grounds for producing the same kinds of flora, fauna, and minerals. In his account of his three voyages across the Pacific to discover new trading opportunities in Southeast Asia, William Dampier tries to persuade his readers that the sparsely populated rainforests in the New Hebrides can sustain the same kind of intensive agriculture found in the pepper-growing regions of Java and Sumatra or on the nutmeg and clove plantations in the Moluccas. Despite having had to turn back before exploring the interior of New Britain on his second voyage, in his 1709 Continuation of a Voyage to New Holland, Dampier assures his readers that he "could not but hope to meet with some fruitful Lands, Continent or Islands, or both, productive of any of the rich Fruits, Drugs, or Spices (perhaps Minerals also, &c.) that are in other parts of the Torrid Zone, under equal Parallels of Latitude, at least a Soil and Air capable of such, upon transplanting them thither, and Cultivation." (7) His insistence that the indigenous species of these "fruitful Lands" can be inferred from conditions in the Moluccas reveals a principal means of understanding ecoclimatological conditions in the early modern world: the geosymmetrical assumption that similar climates obtain the same across the same latitudes and therefore similar resources either can be found or transplanted across similarly situated regions, countries, and continents. (8) His reasoning about "equal Parallels of Latitude," then, becomes a way to project what he knows (or has read) about soil fertility, demography, agricultural products, and topography from one group of islands onto the imagined ecology of New Britain. Although Dampier found no drugs, fruits, or spices in the New Hebrides, his assessment of the prospects for trade and "Cultivation" subordinates his firsthand experience of struggling through dangerous monsoon regions to an inferential, geosymmetrical logic that the Earth is banded by distinct climatological regions "under equal Parallels of Latitude."

A New Voyage draws on a similar geosymmetrical logic to give voice to the structural faith that we can discover, use, and profit from resources indefinitely without using them up. This anti-ecological ideology assumes that humankind, in the long run, can produce or technologize its way out of economies of scarcity and diminishing returns and, in the process, transform ecologies without degrading them. This systemic belief in an unending, providential store of resources underlies the rationale for British ventures into and across the Pacific from Sir Francis Drake in the 1570s to George Anson during the war of Austrian Succession in the 1740s. For thirty years in his fiction and nonfiction, Defoe argued that the yet-to-be-undiscovered resources in the South Seas "will prove ... infinitely more advantageous to England, than any of our East India Trade." (9) A New Voyage fictionalizes this assertion in ways that blur distinctions between the novel's unnamed narrator-hero and the historical Defoe. After discovering gold-rich coasts east of Australia and embarking on a trans-Pacific voyage to New Spain, the narrator declares that "whoever Sailing over the SouthSeas ... [at] the Latitude of fifty six, to sixty Degrees, shall never fail to discover new Worlds, new Nations, and new inexhaustible Funds of Wealth and Commerce" (131). This faith in the inexhaustibility of wealth and commerce in the Pacific universalizes both the economic and climatological beliefs that Dampier voices: similar latitudes produce similar conditions for growing crops and cultivating the same "Fruits, Drugs [and] Spices." At a time before the warming effects of the Gulf Stream on Britain and northwestern Europe were understood, Defoe uses a range of striking analogies to encourage his readers to imagine the landscapes of Terra Australis Incognita and Patagonia in terms of what he considers the "normative" climate of Great Britain. At "fifty six, to sixty Degrees" south latitude in the Pacific, Britons should find "new Nations" craving the kinds of goods--notably woolens--that Scotland, lying fifty-six to sixty degrees north of the equator, produces. This analogical and inferential understanding of climate serves as a cornerstone of British dreams of settling in a Patagonia imaginatively transformed into a verdant landscape promising "new inexhaustible Funds of Wealth and Commerce."

Ideas of geosymmetry are based ultimately on theological assumptions and values. In an era long before climate could be interpreted through the scientific analysis of proxy data, Defoe and his contemporaries perceived climatic variations through the theological lens of the expulsion from Eden, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, or the fall from the Golden Age in pagan contexts. (10) If twenty-first-century climatology uses increasingly sophisticated technologies to extend, through time and space, our observational and experiential authority, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers perceived climate through both its somatic effects--notably, the devastating effects of tropical diseases--and the products that fired Dampier's and Defoes imaginations. (11) Disease, inclement weather, failed harvests, and scarcity are the four horsemen of premodern climatological apocalypse.

For early-modern writers like John Milton, both the instability of local climates and the variety of climates recorded in the voyage collections of Richard Hakluyt and Samuel Purchas could be interpreted only as a consequence of human sin. In Genesis the Earth itself suffers humankind's fate when Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of Knowledge: "cursed be the ground for thy sake," says God when he boots them out of Eden. In Book Ten of Paradise Lost, the fall is marked by the abrupt end of a previously endless spring. Milton speculates that God
      bid his Angels turne ascanse
   The Poles of Earth twice ten degrees and more
   From the Suns Axle; they with labour push'd
   Oblique the Centric Globe ...
   ... to bring in change
   Of Seasons to each Clime; else had the Spring
   Perpetual smil'd on Earth with vernant Flours,
   Equal in Days and Nights ... (12)


Milton describes an unpredictable and demonized nature as a mark of the fall not only into postlapsarian history but also into the extremes of the seasons: the Angels literally push the earth into its obliquity, the twenty-four degrees of deviation in its angle of rotation, and thus end the "Spring / Perpetual" that Milton erroneously believes would be a consequence of a perpendicular rotational axis. (13) Pristine nature--that is, the ideal climatic stability of an eternal spring and abundant harvests--ends at the Gates of Eden. In place of a preternaturally benign climate, humankind is confronted by the pervasive weather patterns of Britain during the Little Ice Age: unpredictable weather and the violent storms that signified Gods displeasure with a sinful nation. (14)

In the fallen world of Defoes writing on weather, "normative" means our intuitive inferences of what climate conditions "should" be--that is, an experiential sense that, over time, weather patterns will revert to an inferential statistical mean. In a climatologically uncertain world, ongoing anxieties about this consensual reversion to a mean lead to compulsive efforts to reassure ourselves that weather will revert to, or continue in, more or less predictable patterns. Samuel Johnson put it this way in the Idler, "when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know." (15) This "first talk" is always self-confirming because it reinforces a collective experience that today's weather must be either a deviation from or a demonstration of a socio-climatological stability. In other words, Johnsons meteorologically inclined Englishmen reassert their beliefs in inferential chains of self-identity by repeatedly reorienting themselves to a "normative" climatology. In unfamiliar regions, this need to reassure ourselves about normative conditions can become all the more pressing. Because, in the eighteenth century, climate correlates to a national or theological sense of virtue, the very uncertainty of alien climates fosters the need to project idealized versions of British climatic conditions onto the unknown. The Patagonia that fascinates Defoe is just such a climatic projection, derived in part from the various firsthand accounts he has read.

In borrowing the title A New Voyage Round the World from William Dampier's 1697 account of his first circumnavigation, Defoe's novel fictionalizes a two-hundred-year literary tradition that harks back to Antonio Pigafetta's harrowing account of Magellan's circumnavigation in the early sixteenth century. (16) At the beginning of A New Voyage, Defoe disparages such logbook-like accounts of voyages to the Pacific for their "want of story," and promises his readers a tale of circumnavigation "perfectly new in its form" (4); nonetheless, he poaches from, mimics, and recasts the narrative strategies that he borrows from these works. Throughout A New Voyage, the narrator pinpoints the location of his ships and the imaginary lands they discover by specifying coordinates for latitude and longitude--including descriptions of storms, contrary winds, and headings; "varying our Course Easterly, we ran, with a fair fresh Gale at N. W. and by W. for seven Days more; in all which Times, we saw nothing but the open Sea, every Way; and making an Observation, found we had pass'd the Southern Tropick, and that we were in the Latitude of six and twenty Degrees and thirteen Minutes; after which, we continued our Course Southerly for several Days more; 'till we found by another Observation, that we were in two and thirty Degrees, and twenty Minutes" (106-7). This strategy seems less a case of self-conscious parody than a bid for a kind of narrative authority based on observational verisimilitude: the steady "Gale" that takes the ships south of "the Southern Tropick" becomes a way for Defoe to redirect the reader's attention--and the logic of colonial expansion--away from the tropics, where British colonists died in droves, to a temperate, "normative" climate that awaits the crew in Chile and Patagonia.

In sifting through a variety of sources on Patagonia, Defoe fictionalizes the arguments that he, among others, had been making since the 1690s for British ventures into the South Seas--arguments that had remained comparatively unchanged since Drake's time. British ships would sail around Cape Horn and into the Pacific in order to raid Spanish shipping along the west coast of South America. In addition to disrupting supply chains and commandeering gold and silver bound for Asia, the British would trade clandestinely in Chile and Peru, even as they fomented rebellion against the Spanish among indigenous peoples. (17) More importantly for Defoe than for many other South Seas adventurers, these expeditions would scout for likely locations for new British colonies; and then sail across the Pacific to discover new lands full of eager customers for British wool. The bullion the ships had seized in New Spain would allow them to trade with the Chinese and Southeast Asians for silks, spices, tea, and other goods, before finally returning to England with huge profits and valuable commercial reconnaissance. (18)

As Defoe's title suggests, however, A New Voyage Round the World, by a Course Never Sailed Before reverses the route of previous circumnavigations by having the unnamed narrator and his crew sail east from the Cape of Good Hope to trade directly with the Spanish in the Philippines. Bypassing the factories and trading routes of the East India Company, whose charter prohibited (at least in theory) noncompany ships from trading in Southeast Asia, India, and China, Defoe's hero and his crew reap a tenfold return on their initial investment in Manila by undercutting the Spanish monopoly on the importation of European goods to the colony. The ships then set sail with 100,000 [pounds sterling] worth of silk, porcelain, tea, and spices for Chile. In the middle third of A New Voyage, Defoe imagines an economic basis for the kinds of fantastic profits promised by the South Sea Company before it collapsed in 1721. On newly discovered islands in the Pacific, Defoe rehearses the ultimate colonial fantasy of trading trinkets to indigenous peoples for gold--in effect, fictionally realizing the South Sea Company's dream of getting something for nothing. (19) While he spends some time describing the colonial potential of these "new Worlds," the voyage's ultimate destination is South America.

In complex ways, Defoes vision of Patagonia, like his perception of the Far East, underpins an ideology of trade predicated on a logic of the "infinite" exploitability of resources. "Infinite" is Defoe's favorite adjective to describe the resources and profits of the South Seas, as his comments in various numbers of A Review of the State of the English Nation in 1711 at-test. In promoting the new South Sea Company as a means to horn in on or circumvent the lucrative Franco-Spanish trade in South America, Defoe makes a series of interlocking claims: the "mighty Circulation of Commerce ... is infinitely Gainful as well to Old-Spain, as to all the rest of Europe"; the trade between New Spain and Old is "infinitely Profitable" (8:42, June 30, 1711); the King of France finds his trade to New Spain during the war "infinitely Advantageous" (8:45, July 7, 1711); should England seize some ports in New Spain, they will prove "Fruitful of infinite Advantages" (8:47, July 12, 1711). Defoe characterizes the Bill to charter the South Sea Company as "a Proposal to Supplant the French in the South-Seas, and make that Profit [Britain's] own ... that such a Trade may be settled to infinite Advantage, is no more a Question to me, than it is, Whether there is Silver at Potosi, or Gold at Chili" (8:49, July 17, 1711). More than a decade later, the collapse of the South Sea Company hardly dampens Defoes enthusiasm; although A New Voyage describes a fictional, one-shot venture in 1713-15, the novelist suggests that the seemingly unending sources of wealth in Patagonia will justify both the future expenses of British ventures into the South Seas and the validity of the economic values and assumptions that he articulated in the Review. At the same time, Defoe's favorite adjectives, "infinite" and "inexhaustible" imply that these enormous profits to investors and tremendous benefits to the nation rest on the ecoclimatological assumptions that the soil quality, precipitation patterns, wildlife populations, crop yields, and disease vectors in undiscovered or little-known regions can be reliably predicted by their latitude.

While most critics and historians of European ventures into the Pacific tend to focus on encounters in Polynesia and the Far East, Patagonia serves two crucial and imaginary roles in British narratives of the South Seas; these roles distinguish it, in some important ways, from visions of Terra Australis Incognita, the southern continent that supposedly lay somewhere east of New Zealand. (20) Like Terra Australis, Patagonia east of the Andes offered the prospect of seemingly inexhaustible supplies of natural resources--gold, silver, farmland, and livestock--that lay beyond the regions of Spanish conquest and aspiration. But along the coast of southern Chile and in the western foothills of the Andes, the British thought they could harness indigenous resistance to the Spanish. In this region, mercantile expansion takes precedence over fantasies of natives trading trinkets for gold (a persistent trope in eighteenth-century writing about the indigenous populations of Africa and Polynesia). (21) The presence of the Araucana (or Mapuche) in Southern Chile effectively bifurcated the kinds of imaginative projections that Defoe, and other Britons, could impose on South America: if Patagonia east of the Andes offered the prospect of British agricultural settlements, southern Chile could be imagined as the site of Anglo-Aracaunan resistance to--or circumvention of--Spanish rule; as future allies, the Araucana would trade willingly with the British and help them exploit an illicit trade with the restive colonial populations in Chile, chafing under Spanish imperial authority. In different ways, both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America allowed Defoe to project onto Patagonia idealized versions of almost prelapsarian conditions that further a kind of climatic colonialism.

Since the publication of Alonso de Ercilla y Zuniga's sixteenth-century epic poem, the fierce resistance of the Araucans to the Spanish had stoked British plans to further their own mercantile ends by seeking an alliance with these heroicized figures against the colonial Chilean authorities. (22) In his account of his 1669-71 voyage to Chile, the British naval commander John Narbrough reports that the Spanish tell me they have much Gold here at Baldavia [i.e., Valdivia], and that the Natives do much hinder their getting of it; for they are at cruel Wars with them ... the Natives are very cruel and barbarous; if they take a Spaniard they cut off his Head, and carry it away on their Lanees end ... These Spaniards say, that the Indians are tall Men, and of a Gigantick stature and extreamly Valiant, and that they fight on Horseback, eight and ten thousand Men in Arms, and well disciplin'd. The Indians have much Gold; and their Weapons are long Lances, and Bows, and Arrows, and Swords, and some Musquets, which they have taken from the Spaniards, and know how to use them in Service; taking also Ammunition, &c. (23)

Narbroughs description of the Araucana Indians captures a sense of the threat they posed to the Spanish, and hints at the complex interactions--illicit and semisanctioned--that characterized the Andean contact zone during the period. (24) Much of his intelligence confirms the reports reaching Britain in the seventeenth century about abundant gold in Chile, natives in arms against Spanish authorities, and potential opportunities for British traders to undercut the steep prices that "All Commodities of European Workmanship" command in the colony (110). Unlike earlier British ventures to the South Seas, Narbrough returned to England without attempting to cross the Pacific because his orders were to gather geographical and commercial intelligence about New Spain, stir resistance among the Araucans, and (of course) secure gold to fund Britain's wars against the Dutch. Although he returned without much in the way of bullion, his vision of a lucrative trade to the region anticipates the logic voiced by Defoe's fictional narrator in A New Voyage. Because "the Spaniards have but little knowledge of the Land all along [the Chilean coast] to the Southward, from Baldavia to the Streights Mouth" (92), Narbrough is confident that "the most advantageous Trade in the World, might be made in these parts ... for the People which inhabit there are very desirous of a Trade" (110). This kind of projective fantasy is endemic in the literature of the South Seas: without the prospect of the Araucans as military allies and trading partners, the immense profits that Narbrough and Defoe envision can be secured only through privateering.

In the Review in 1711, Defoe hammers home some of the key points he found in Narbrough's report to attract investors to the South Sea Company. He insists that the Spanish have neither the inclination nor the energy to settle the coast of southern Chile and Patagonia: "there is Room enough on the Western Coast of America, call'd the South Seas," he asserts, "for us to Fix, Plant, Settle, and Establish a Flourishing Trade, without Injuring, Encroaching on, or perhaps in the least Invading the Property or Commerce of the Spaniards." (25) A critical aspect of this reassurance is climatological. With help from his ghostwriter, Narbrough reproduces an edenic vision of a Pacific Paradise that, imagistically and historically, harks back to Drakes New Albion, if not to biblical ideals of a prelapsarian climate. He reports that the Spaniards consider the coastal islands in the Chiloe Archipelago "the finest Country in the whole World, [where] the People live with the greatest Luxury of any on the Earth; they enjoy their Health with so much delight, and have so much Wealth and Felicity, that they compare the Land to Paradise, abounding above other Countries with all the Delights for Mankind" (96). Even though Narbrough often is singled out in Defoe's writings for failing to capitalize on the promise of this "Wealth and Felicity," the narrator of A New Voyage seizes on this description and embellishes it. With its temperate climate, the Chilean coast south of Valdivia offers an implied alternative to British colonies in North America that were expensive to provision, operate, defend, and supply with slaves. Defoe's narrator finds the Country [Chiloe] not only fruitful in the Soil, but wonderful temperate and agreeable in its Climate. The Air, though hot, according to the proper Latitude, yet that Heat so moderated by the cool Breezes from the Mountains, that it was rather equal to the plain Countries in other Parts of the World, in the Latitude of Fifty, than to a Climate in Thirty-eight to Forty Degrees.

This gave the Inhabitants the Advantages not only of pleasant and agreeable living but also of a particular Fertility, which hot Climates are not blessed with, especially as to Corn, the most necessary of all Productions, such as Wheat, I mean European Wheat, or English Wheat, which grew here as well as kindly, as in England-, which in Peru and the Isthmus of America, will by no means thrive for want of Moisture and Cold. (190)

This passage reveals the interlocking assumptions about climate that seemed second nature to Defoe and his British readers. "Pleasant and agreeable living" is possible only north (or south) of the tropics and far removed from the heat and the diseases that were endemic between thirty-eight and forty degrees north latitude--that is, in the climate of the Virginia colony. (26) Significantly, the "particular Fertility" of Chiloe, moderated by winds from the mountains, is ideal for growing "English Wheat." Rather than the plantation cash crops harvested by slaves in the equatorial regions of South and Central America, wheat becomes an agro-climatological marker for a "wonderful temperate and agreeable climate" and, by the novel s inferential logic, a similarly temperate sociopolitical environment. As in Crusoe's bread-baking on his island, wheat becomes emblematic of British (particularly Whiggish) visions of prosperous agriculture, freedom-loving farmers, economic self-sufficiency, and the profits that can be made by trade with those tropical regions that cannot grow this "most necessary of all" crops. Because the heat of Chiloe is moderated by winds off the Andes, Defoe can modify the kind of latitudinal logic that characterizes Dampier's narratives. The narrator insists, earlier in A New Voyage, that undiscovered "new Nations" in the southwestern Pacific, lying at "the Latitude of fifty six, to sixty Degrees," will be willing and lucrative trade partners for the British because he can project onto this unexplored region an image--at once climatological and political--of an antipodean Scotland. The climatological familiarity of wheat-growing Chiloe becomes a strategy for Defoe to counter the disorientation, in time and space, of transoceanic voyages across the Pacific. "English Wheat" anchors his readers to a normative sense of climate and offers them the hope that the failed promise of the South Sea Company can be transformed into "new Worlds" of commercial opportunity.

While Narbrough emphasizes the productivity of the "mighty good Land" lying between the "barren" foothills of the Andes "and the Sea-Shore" (92), Tierra del Fuego, the land along the Straits of Magellan, and the eastern coast of Patagonia represents a different set of conceptual challenges for him and, in A New Voyage, for Defoe. Near the end of the novel the hero's ships reach Port Desire at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Magellan, having sailed south of Tierra del Fuego, through the Drake Passage from west to east. Although the narrator mocks the idea of navigating the Straits (and Narbrough's efforts to map it), the sailors nonetheless are happy to find a Post, or Cross, erected by Sir John Narborough, with a Plate of Copper nailed to it, and an Inscription, signifying, That he had taken Possession of that Country in the Name of King Charles II. Our Men raised a Shout for Joy that they were in their own King's Dominions, or, as they said, in their own Country; and, indeed, excepting that it was not inhabited by Englishmen, and cultivated, planted, and inclosed, after the English Manner, I never saw a Country in the World so like England. (226)

Although Narbrough did carve a memorial on an old Spanish marker, his quixotic gesture of colonial possession was ignored in both England and Spain. Yet in this strange intertextual moment, Defoe resurrects Narbrough's voyage to legitimate his own climatological fantasy.

In the embellished version of Narbrough's logbook that appeared in An Account of Several Late Voyages and Discoveries to the South and North in 1694, Defoe found a precedent for his narrators assertion that, on the windswept Atlantic coast of Patagonia, he had come upon "a Country ... so like England." Although Narbrough's map labels the area "A Grass land [with] no Timber and little fresh water',' the published version anglicizes the landscape in ways that anticipate Defoe's description:

in all the Land there are Plains and grassy Meadows: here wants only Wood to build with; if that were here, it would be as good a Land as any part of America, for the Country is very healthy ... no manner of Snake or venomous Creature have I seen in this Country; ... no wild Beast of prey or any other thing to annoy the Inhabitants, but Cold and Hunger: Here lies a large Country, open to receive any Inhabitants from forein Parts, and large enough to satisfie the Undertakers: The Land would produce European Grain, if planted here, and breed Cattle. (55-56)

The ecology of the region near what seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Englishmen called Port Desire was far less hospitable than Narbrough indicates. Rio Gallegos, the city of 100,000 some thirty-five miles north of where Narbrough landed, was founded only in 1885. (27) While its mean summer temperatures are roughly those of central England, the region is classified as a "cold desert climate" under the standard Koppen-Geiger system, and Rio Gallegos is one of the windiest cities on earth (winds of thirty miles per hour are common, and hurricane-force winds occur approximately twenty times a year). It is also prone to subfreezing cold snaps year round, and has an average annual rainfall of less than ten inches. Sheep constitute the major industry of the region, as they do in the Falklands that lie due east.

The kernel for the climatological fantasy that Narbrough's text promotes lies in his observation that "it would be as good a Land as any part of America, for the Country is very healthy." For Narborough, his ghostwriter, and Defoe, the latitudes at the tip of South America provoke such optimism because sailors there do not succumb to the tropical and semitropical diseases, notably malaria and yellow fever, that devastated European and indigenous populations in North America, the Caribbean, Brazil, and South and Southeast Asia. (28) In this context, Patagonia seemingly offers a bioclimatological alternative to military adventurism against Spanish colonies in Mexico, Central America, Peru, and the Philippines. Because the health of the (imaginary) colonial body overrides otherwise daunting problems--the lack of wood for building, cold, and hunger--the inhospitable coast above the Straits of Magellan can be imagined as a kind of epidemiologically benign version of England that seemingly invites colonization, cultivation, and enclosure. Rio Gallegos becomes a kind of embryonic England--an analogical displacement that seemingly takes precedence over the fact that this region in 1725 has no Englishmen, no crops, no wood, and no boundary markers.

As a critical aspect of Defoes vision of a Patagonia ripe for British settlement, agriculture, and trade, A New Voyage depopulates the interior of South America. Where Narbrough describes indigenous armies of eight to ten thousand men, "well-disciplind," with captured horses, livestock, and muskets hemming the Spanish in to a few small enclaves on the Chilean coast, Defoe reduces the indigenous population to scattered villages in the foothills of the Andes and to a few helpful informants, Araucana Indians living along the border regions of the Spanish colony and effectively beyond its control. (29) These men convince the narrator that the Andes can be traversed easily and that gold and fertile land are plentiful on its eastern slopes. With this intelligence in hand, Defoes hero leaves his Spanish hosts and dispatches a reconnaissance party of fifty men to trek from Chile across the continent to Port St. Julian on the Atlantic seaboard where they rendezvous with the ships that sail uneventfully around Cape Horn. The land party treks across the gold-laden Andes, marches over verdant plains, and then rafts down a river transsecting Patagonia to the Atlantic coast, where they are reunited with their shipmates for the voyage back to England. During their travels, they glimpse a handful of people at a distance but meet none of them. Patagonia is as pristine as it is abundant in gold, wildlife, and water.

As fanciful as this journey seems, Defoe draws from different sources to promote his vision of a bucolic interior for his fictionalized Patagonia. In 1711, Defoe wrote to Robert Harley arguing that a trans-Andean journey could be accomplished in about eight days. (30) In the novel, this route is imagined as a series of intersecting "Passages found by the Vales among the Mountains, where, with several fetching Compasses and Windings, partly on the Hills, and partly in the Valleys, Men went, with a great deal of Ease and Safety" (153). In imagining this route, Defoe relies, in part, on the account (translated into English in 1698), of the Frenchman Acarete du Biscay, who describes his sixty-three-day journey from Buenos Ares to Potosi in 1658. Travelling up the Rio de la Plata and then along an overland route dotted by Spanish outposts, du Biscay minimizes the dangers and difficulties of travelling along a frontier more than a thousand miles north of the fictional route Defoe imagines across Patagonia. (31) Defoe was not alone in daydreaming about trans-Patagonian routes. Maps of the interior of South America, from Herman Molls 1701 atlas to Emanuel Bowen Compleat System of Geography almost a half century later, showed one river or another flowing from the Andes southeast into the Atlantic just north of the Straits of Magellan. (32) In some respects, Defoe seems to borrow the topography and climate of northern Argentina that du Biscay describes and bestows an anglicized version of them on the interior of Patagonia.

Once they stroll through the "fetching Compasses and Windings" to reach the eastern foothills of the Andes, the explorers find both abundant gold and a land that, the narrator claims, "resembled ... the County of Dorsetshire, and the Downs about Salisbury, only, not lying so high from the Surface of the Water, and the Soil being a good fruitful dark Mould" (254). This kind of analogical displacement--Dorsetshire in Patagonia--is essential to reimagining the regions ecology, including its wildlife. On these "Downs" the explorers find "a greater Quantity of Deer than they had seen in all their Journey, which they often had the good luck to kill for their Supply of Food, the Creatures not being so shy and wild, as they had found farther within the Country" (254). In an important sense, the comparative tameness of the guanacos becomes a kind of providential token for the success of future colonization; these herds exist in a benign ecological context. While Narbrough writes that he encountered no venomous snakes or large predators in his very limited forays westward from the Atlantic coast, Defoe offers a quasi-naturalistic explanation for the vast size of the guanaco herds: "in all this Journey, ... [the explorers] saw neither Wolf or Fox, Bear or Lyon, or, indeed, any other ravenous Creature, which they had least reason to be shy or afraid of, or which, indeed, were frightful to the Deer; and this, perhaps, may be the Reason, why the Number of those Creatures is so great" (254). Without predators, the "deer" multiply into a potential food source that seems inexhaustible, apparently waiting for future British colonists to cull their herds, domesticate them, and begin producing the meat and hides essential to jumpstarting a colonial economy.

The problems of securing food and water were critical to long-distance oceanic travel, and British ventures into the Pacific depended on finding potable water and replenishing food stocks. No matter how much fresh food was provisioned along the way, scurvy was endemic in efforts to round Cape Horn and cross the Pacific: during his circumnavigation in the 1740s, Anson lost well over three-quarters of his original crew of 1800 men to scurvy and tropical fevers. (33) At Port Desire, Defoe's narrator solves this problem by "victual[ing] our Ships with a new kind of Food; for we loaded ourselves with Seals, of which here are an infinite Number, and which we salted and eat, and our Men liked them wonderfully for a while" (254). Although Narbrough's crew managed to stave off scurvy by finding edible greens and wild onions, Defoe focuses on sources of meat as a kind of analogical extension of what, in the eighteenth century, would have been considered a solid and prosperous diet. When the sailors tire of salted seal, they find that "Penguins are a very wholesome Diet, and very pleasant, especially when a little salted" (254). Like the guanaco in the interior of Patagonia, the penguins have no fear of humans and consequently "are so easily kill'd, and are found in such vast Multitudes ... that our Men loaded the Long-boat with them twice in one Day, and we reckoned there were no less than Seven thousand in the Boat each Time" (254). Defoe's inspiration for reimagining the indigenous ecology of the Patagonian coast as a kind of assembly line for killing, salting, and storing exotic meat can be found in Richard Hakluyts account of the failed second circumnavigation of Thomas Cavendish in 1593. The pilot for the small flotilla of ships, John Davis, captaining his own vessel, became separated from the rest of the fleet; one ship had sunk and two, including Cavendish's flagship, had been forced to turn back before rounding Cape Horn. Davis barely escaped sinking on the southwest coast of Chile, and returned to the Atlantic through the Straits of Magellan. Nursing his scorbutic sailors back to health near Port St. Julian, Davis had 20,000 penguins slaughtered, dried, and salted for the voyage back to England, although only 14,000 could be crammed into the hold. (34) If Defoe's salted penguins conveniently replace the salted beef, goat, and mutton that the ships earlier had loaded at every provisioning stop, real and imagined, from Madagascar to Chile, they also stand emblematically for the willful optimism and selective memory that characterized British plans for colonizing Patagonia. (35)

As Davis's ship sailed up the coast of Brazil, the "dried Penguins began to corrupt and there bred in the[m] a most lothsome and ugly worme of an inch long" that "did so mightily increase and devoure our victuals that there was ... no hope how we should avoide famine, but be devoured of these wicked creatures." The "wormejs] also destroyed the sailors "clothes, boots, shooes, hats, shirts, stockings: and ... did so eat the timbers as that we greatly feared they would undoe us by gnawing through the ships side." (36) Presumably, Davis conflates two kinds of verminous threats: the dreaded shipworm, teredo navalis (actually a species of vermiform clam) that destroyed wood, and larvae from various insects that devastated food stores. (37) The shipworms that turned his vessel into a barely floating carcass by the time it (and its few surviving sailors) returned to England represent precisely the kinds of contingencies that Defoe's novel displaces into visions of a providential ecology. If Patagonia lacks the "wonderful temperate and agreeable ... Climate" that allows the Spanish in Chile to grow "English Wheat" (190), Defoe imagines compensatory bounties of deer, seals, penguins, and "Hares and Wild-Fowl ... in Abundance" (254). In this respect, the regions largely unknown ecology is transformed into a kind of sacrificial economy in which guanacos, seals, and penguins become emblems of the providential sanction as well as the economic viability for imagined British colonization. Like Dampier, who assures his readers that New Guinea will yield the same spices as the Moluccas, Defoe imagines a Patagonian ecology at fifty-one degrees south latitude that is predicated on chains of analogical reasoning that are both self-perpetuating and self-confirming.

It would be a mistake, however, to consign Narbrough to a footnote, skip over the recent scholarship on the Mapuche tribes of southern Chile, and treat A New Voyage as simply a colonial fantasy festooned with dubious climatological assumptions. In 1902, in a letter sent to his mother in Utah from Cholila at the eastern foothills of the Andes, Robert Leroy Parker describes northern Patagonia in terms that Defoe would have found congenial:

I have never seen finer grass country, and lots of it[,] hundreds and hundreds of miles that is unsettled and comparatively unknown, and ... good agricultural country, all kinds of small grain and vegetables grow without Irrigation.... All the land east of here is prairie and deserts, very good for [live] stock, but for farming it would have to be irrigated, but there is plenty of good land along the mountains for all the people that will be here in the next hundred years. (38)

Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, usually is not cited as an environmental writer, but his letter suggests both the promises and challenges that Patagonia still posed two centuries after Defoe. However rich the landscape, Butch Cassidys ranching career in South America ended a few years later when he, Etta Place, and Henry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) returned to bank robbing before they were either killed or vanished into myth. Defoes Patagonia is a kind of prescient dream vision of what Butch Cassidy describes, an idealized landscape "that is unsettled and comparatively unknown," ripe for colonization if its blank spaces can be filled by imaginary ecologies that extend, analogically across space and time, the normative climatological conditions of "home."

If we try to fit A New Voyage into a the tradition of the "realistic" English novel in the eighteenth century, we have to buy into the ecological fantasies--temperate climate, banished vermin--that underlie Defoes construction of Crusoe's island. (39) Even then, A New Voyage, with its hollowing out of a Crusoean moral subjectivity, seems to remain forever a speck on the horizon, with no port of call. But if we consider this strange tale of a voyage in 1713-15 as an alternative history of what a South Sea venture might have been, Defoe's final novel becomes a kind of eerily prescient anticipation of one of the important genres--alternative history--of twentieth- and twenty-first-century science fiction. While many mainstream literary critics and writers still regard science fiction with the distaste they might reserve for a diet of salted penguin, it is only in the work of contemporary authors like Kim Stanley Robinson that we have begun to confront the prospect of a global climate that resists historical analogy and questions the belief that "new Worlds" await our traditional strategies of environmental exploitation. In this context, A New Voyage gives voice to some of the fictions that we still tell ourselves in the hopes that we will have a climatological future to inhabit.

University of Illinois

NOTES

(1) See the popular history by Dallas Murphy, Rounding the Horn: Being a Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--A Deck's Eye View of Cape Horn (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

(2) On eighteenth-century voyages to the Pacific, see Philip Edwards, The Story of the Voyage: Sea-Narratives in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge U. Press, 1994); Glyndwr Williams, The Great South Sea: English Voyages and Encounters 1570-1750 (Yale U. Press, 1997); Jonathan Lamb, Preserving the Self in the South Seas, 1680-1840 (U. of Chicago Press, 2001); and John Gascoigne, Encountering the Pacific in the Age of Enlightenment (Cambridge U. Press, 2014).

(3) See Richard Grove, "The East India Company, the Raj, and the El Nino: The Critical Role Played by the Colonial Scientists in Establishing the Mechanisms of Global Climate Teleconnections 1770-1930," in Vinita Damodaran, Grove, and Satpal Sangwan, eds., Nature and the Orient: The Environmental History of South and Southeast Asia (Oxford U. Press, 1998), 301-23; and Gillen D'Arcy Wood, Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World (Princeton U. Press, 2014).

(4) For my earlier treatment that emphasizes Defoes perception of the Pacific, see Robert Markley, The Far East and the English Imagination, 1600-1730 (Cambridge U. Press, 2006), 210-40.

(5) On analogy, see Ronald Schleifer, Modernism and Time: The Logic of Abundance in Literature, Science, and Culture, 1880-1930 (Cambridge U. Press, 2000), 13-15.

(6) On perceptions of the tropics in the eighteenth century, see Felicity Nussbaum, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1995); Srinivas Aravamudan, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (Duke U. Press, 1999), 29-70; Beth Fowkes Tobin, Colonizing Nature: The Tropics in British Arts and Letters, 1760-1820 (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); and Matthew Mulcahy, Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783

(Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2006). On the monsoonal regions of Asia, see Robert Markley, "Monsoon Cultures: Climate and Acculturation in Alexander Hamilton's A New Account of the East-Indies," New Literary History 38 (2007): 527-50.

(7) William Dampier, A Voyage to New Holland, & c. in the Year 1699, 2nd ed. (London: Printed for W. Botham for James Knapton, 1709), 3:3.

(8) On the idea that Southeast Asian spices grew, or could be grown, in Patagonia, see Catherine E. Burdick, "Patagonian Cinnamon and Pepper: Blending Geography in Alonso de Ovalle's Tabula Geographica Regni Chile (1646)," Imago Mundi 66 (2014): 196-212, and Robert Markley, "Global Analogies: Cosmology, Geosymmetry and Skepticism in Some Works of Aphra Behn," in David Burchell and Juliet Cummins, eds., Science, Literature, and Rhetoric in Early Modern England (London: Ashgate, 2007), 189-212.

(9) Daniel Defoe, A New Voyage Round the World, ed. John McVeagh (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009), 130. All quotations are from this edition.

(10) In the twenty-first century, we have come to understand climatology as a dynamic and consensual knowledge about scientific interpretations of a wide range of proxy data: ice cores from Greenland, tree rings, sediment layers in mud and swamps, patterns of coral growth, and so on, that can be analyzed to reveal signs of long-term variability based on specific chemical signatures, pollen samples, and gas bubbles trapped in ice. On the significance of climate change for biological and cultural evolution, see H. H. Lamb, Climate History and the Modern World, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1995); Brian Fagan, Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations (New York: Basic Books, 1999); Brian Fagan, The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (New York: Basic Books, 2004); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge U. Press, 2005); Eugene Linden, The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006); and David Collings, Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change (New York: Open Humanities Press, 2014).

(11) I discuss the displacement of observational authority in climate science in "Time," in Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, vol. 1, ed. Tom Cohen (New York: Open Humanities Press, 2012, 43-64).

(12) John Milton, Paradise Lost (London: S. Simmons, 1674), 10:668-71, 678-80.

(13) Percy Bysshe Shelley makes a similar assumption in his poem Queen Mab: see Eric Gidal, "'O happy Earth! reality of Heaven!': Melancholy and Utopia in Romantic Climatology," Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies 8.2 (2008): 74-101.

(14) See Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 (New York: Basic Books, 2000); Robert Markley, '"Casualties and Disasters': Defoe and the Interpretation of Climactic Instability," Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies 8.2 (2008): 102-24; and Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Air's Appearance: Literary Atmosphere in British Fiction, 1660-1794 (U. of Chicago Press, 2012).

(15) Samuel Johnson, The Idler 11 (June 24, 1758).

(16) Antonio Pigafetta, The First Voyage Around the World 1519-22: An Account of Magellan's Expedition, ed. Theodore J. Cachey Jr. (U. of Toronto Press, 2007).

(17) On British smuggling to South America in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, see G. V. Scammell, "A Very Profitable and Advantageous Trade: British Smuggling in the Iberian Americas circa 1500-1750," Itinerario 24 (2000): 135-72.

(18) These objectives remained consistent for more than century. See Glyndwr Williams, The Prize of All the Oceans: The Dramatic True Story of Commodore Anson's Voyage Round the World and How He Seized the Spanish Treasure Galleon (New York: Viking, 1999).

(19) See Markley, Far East and the English Imagination, 219-22.

(20) See Paul Longley Arthur, "Fictions of Encounter: Eighteenth-Century Imaginary Voyages to the Antipodes," The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 49 (2008): 197-210; and David Fausett, Writing the New World: Imaginary Voyages and Utopias of the Great Southern Land (Syracuse U. Press, 1993).

(21) See Jeremy Wear, "'No Dishonour to Be a Pirate': The Problem of Infinite Advantage in Defoe's Captain Singleton," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24 (2012): 569-96.

(22) Erallas La Araucana, published in three separate parts (in 1569, 1578, and 1589), draws on his experiences during efforts by the Spanish to extend their conquests to southern Chile. Although the poem was not translated into English until later in the eighteenth century, it was well regarded as a work of near-contemporary epic verse in Europe. William Hayley included translations (and discussions) of Ercilla's poem in his essay on epic poetry in Poetical Works (Dublin, 1785), 4:153-82. Robert Southey's poem in the Morning Post in 1799, "Song of the Araucans during a Thunder Storm," cast the tribe as "heroic resistors of imperialist violence, a people whose bodily bravery is ... the expression of their self-conscious sense of their political right." See the excellent article by Tim Fulford, "British Romantics and Native Americans: The Araucanians of Chile," Studies in Romanticism 47 (2008): 225-52; quotation on 233. Southey's poem can be found in Robert Southey: Poetical Works, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2004), 5:372-74.

(23) John Narbrough et al, An Account of Several Late Voyages and Discoveries to the South and North (London: Samuel Smith and Benjamin Watford, Printers to the Royal Society, 1694), 90. All citations are from this edition.

(24) On these complex relations, see Alcira Duenas, "Ethnic Power and Identity Formation in Mid-Colonial Andean Writing," Latin American Colonial Review 18 (2009): 407-33; Sergio Serulnikov, "The Politics of Intracommunity: Land Conflict in the Late Colonial Andes," Ethnohistory 55 (2008): 119-52; Andrew Redden, '"Guided by God' beyond the Chilean Frontier: The Travelling Early Modern European Conscience," Renaissance Studies 23 (2009): 486-500; and Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, "The Struggle for Mapuche Shamans' Masculinity: Colonial Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Power in Southern Chile," Ethnohistory 51 (2004): 489-533.

(25) Daniel Defoe, Review of the State of the English Nation (17 July 1711).

(26) See Karen Ordahl Kupperman, "Fear of Hot Climates in the Anglo-American Colonial Experience," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd sen, 41 (1984): 213-40.

(27) On the history of Rio Gallegos in the early twentieth century--its bank was robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it was a site of revolutionary activity during the failed Anarchist uprising in 1920-21--see Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia (1977; repr. London: Penguin, 2003), 90-110.

(28) Robert Markley, '"A Putridness in the Air': Monsoons and Mortality in Seventeenth-Century Bombay," Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies 10.2 (2010): 105-26.

(29) On colonial-indigenous relations along the Southern Andes, see Tom Dillehay and Jose Manuel Zavala, "Compromised Landscapes: The Proto-Panoptic Politics of Colonial Araucanian and Spanish Parlamentos," Colonial Latin American Review 22 (2013): 319-43.

(30) Letter from Daniel Defoe to Robert Harley, July 23, 1711, in Letters of Daniel Defoe, ed. George Healy (Oxford, 1955), 349.

(31) An Account of a Voyage up the River de la Plata and Thence Over Land to Peru, in Voyages and Discoveries in South America (London: S. Buckley, 1698), 19-41.

(32) On Moll's maps, see Burton Fishman, "Defoe, Herman Moll, and the Geography of South America," Huntington Library Quarterly 36 (1973): 227-38; and Emanuel Bowen, A Complete System of Geography, 2 vols. (London: Printed for William Innys et al, 1747).

(33) On scurvy, see Lamb, Preserving the Self in the South Seas, and Williams, The Prize of All the Oceans.

(34) Albert Hastings Markham, ed., The Voyages and Works of John Davis (London: Hakluyt Society, 1880), 122.

(35) See G. MacKaness, ed., Some Proposals for Establishing Colonies in the South Seas (Dubbo, New South Wales: Australian Historical Monographs, 1981).

(36) Markham, Voyages and Works of John Davis, 126. On the threat posed by vermin to food stored for transoceanic voyages, see Lucinda Cole, Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1730 (U. of Michigan Press, 2015).

(37) See J. R. Harris, "Copper and Shipping in the Eighteenth Century," Economic History Review 19 (1966): 550-68.

(38) Quoted in Chatwin, In Patagonia, 43, from a manuscript in the Utah Historical Archives.

(39) On the ecology of Crusoe's island, see Cole, Imperfect Creatures, chap. 5.
COPYRIGHT 2014 University of Iowa
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Daniel Defoe
Author:Markley, Robert
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:30SOU
Date:Jun 22, 2014
Words:8641
Previous Article:Global warming as literary narrative.
Next Article:"Childe Roland to the dark tower came" and the landscapes of the anthropocene.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters