The European Sun: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, University of Strathclyde, 1993

By Graham Caie; Roderick J. Lyall et al. | Go to book overview

DAVID REID


45. What William Lithgow was Doing Abroad:
The Rare Adventures and Painfull
Peregrinations

In 1609 William Lithgow set out on foot on the first of his peregrinations. This took him through France to Italy, and from there to the Turkish Empire, Greece, Constantinople, Cyprus, the Holy Land, Egypt, and so back to Britain, where he presented King James, Queen Anne and Prince Charles with curios from his travels. His account of this journey came out in 1614, A Discourse of a Peregrination in Europe, Asia and Afrike. Within a year of his return, he left court and was off again through Italy, this time to Malta, Tunis, Algiers and Fez, where with a Frenchman he was tempted to walk to Ethiopia through the Sahara. The Frenchman fell ill and had to turn back, the guide deserted, and after wandering through sands full of serpents and ‘interlarded with Rockey-heights, faced with Caues and Dens, the verie habitacle of Wilde beasts… especiallie Iackals, Beares and Boares and sometimes Cymbers, Tygers and Leopards,’ he and his dragoman ran out of food and water and were ‘forced to relye vpon Tobacco, and to drinke our own wayning piss’ for seven days (p.375).1 Finally his dragoman had enough and forced Lithgow to retire in a northeasterly direction, steering by his compass, to Tunis. From there, Lithgow set out through Sicily and Italy on a tour of Eastern Europe, returning again from this excursion to King James with gifts and tales. After that he set out again for Ethiopia, this time taking in Ireland and Spain first. In Malaga, however, he was arrested as a spy. The governor feared that the English fleet intended to sack the town (not surprisingly in view of Spanish experience of English fleets) and had Lithgow tortured in secret by water, the rack and vermin. Lithgow did not confess to any designs and the danger from the fleet was discovered to be imaginary, but he was handed over to the Inquisition anyway as a heretic, from whose attentions he was delivered by chance. This time Lithgow returned to King James on a litter. For six years he tried to obtain redress from the Spaniards, was promised much, but obtained nothing, except imprisonment in the Marshalsea for getting into a fight with the Spanish Ambassador, Gondomar. James ‘of matchlesse memory; who sometimes (besides my souereign), in some respect,…. was a father to me’ (p. 489), died in 1625. Charles’s Parliament of 1626 broke up without a hearing of his suit. And Lithgow returned to Scotland, where he continued his travels. He wrote, but never published, Lithgow’s Survey of Scotland. Of his Scottish travels we have only the short, but eulogistic, sketch added to the much expanded 1632 edition of his book,

1 All citations to the Peregrinations arc to William Lithgow The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of Long Nineteene Yeares Travayles from Scotland to the Most Famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Africa (London, 1632).

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