The Rhetoric of Suffering: Reading the Book of Job in the Eighteenth Century

By Jonathan Hoeber Lamb | Go to book overview

8
First Persons Singular in the South Pacific

Cook's circumnavigations begin and end in the book of Job. John Hawkesworth, the editor of Cook's journal of the first voyage to the Pacific, cites Job as the authority for his organization of the material. Cook's epitaph at Chalfont St Giles asks the traveller to admire and emulate the man who discovered that there was no Great Southern Continent in the Southern Ocean, a man whose explorations have 'discovered beyond all doubt, that the same Great Being who created the universe by his fiat, by the same ordained our earth to keep a just poise, without a corresponding Southern continent; and it does so! "He stretcheth out the North over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing." Job xxvi. 7'.1 Whether Job is used as an authority for ordering the account or the cartography of a navigation, his presence in a narrative of discovery betokens the tribulations incident not only to the privations and terrors of going where no European has been before, but also to the labour of transmitting a probable report of these sufferings to the audience at home. Of this autoptic exercise, as Anthony Pagden calls it, where the duty devolves on a first person singular of convincing people of the truth of what he alone has seen and felt, Job's complaint is a paradigm. Fernandez de Ovieda justifies his Historia general y naturel de las Indias in the words of Job: 'My lips will speak no evil, nor my tongue any lie'.2

In his compilation of British voyages in the Pacific, John Hawkesworth uses Job to elaborate a distinction between a general and a particular providence.3 He explains that he has neglected to attribute any of the critical escapes from danger that I have recorded, to the particular interposition of Providence' on the grounds that natural laws, the perfect expression of divine will in its ultimate and invisible purposes, are never suspended either to gratify or to punish individuals. He adds: 'Shall we, says Job, "receive good from the hand of God and shall

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1
A copy is on show in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
2
Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World ( New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1993), 61 n. 37.
3
An Account of the Voyages for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, 3 vols. ( London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1773). Although Hawkesworth ghosts, along with Cook's and Banks's, the journals of Commodore Byron and Captains Carteret and Wallis, all of whom preceded Cook into the South Pacific, his treatment of the Endeavour material is the most interesting. Not only was

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