BLTC Press Titles


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The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian


Memoirs of a captivity in Japan, during the years 1811, 1812, and 1813

by Vasiliĭ Mikhaĭlovich Golovnin

Excerpt:

PREFACE.

That the nations of Europe are little acquainted

with Japan, is a fact generally known. There was

indeed a time, when, ignorant of European cupidity,

the Japanese opened their harbours to navigators

from this quarter of the world, and every kind of

information was permitted to be collected; but the

accounts of the country which were then written

are so marked by contradictions, that complete

credibility can, in no respect, be attributed to

them. Besides, so long a period has elapsed since

the Japanese shut their ports against Europeans,

that, according to the natural course of things,

many important changes must have taken place,

and consequently Japan cannot now be what it

then was. The merchants of Holland, who trade to

Nangasaky, though their communications with the

inhabitants are very circumscribed, have doubtless,

from their knowledge of the Japanese language,

had the opportunity of collecting much interesting

information ; but it is well known, that the Dutch

think it necessary to keep secret descriptions and

charts, even of countries with which other and better informed European nations have intercourse, and respecting which those nations freely make known their most circumstantial observations. Hence no account of Japan, to which they are the only European people who have for a long period had admission, is to be expected from them. Information, therefore, on the subject of that country cannot but be interesting to every enlightened mind.

These considerations have induced me to communicate to the world the occurrences which took place during my imprisonment among the Japanese, which perhaps would not otherwise have merited the attention of the public. Whoever reads my Narrative, will perceive how very limited were my means of observing all that is requisite for the description of an extensive, and almost unknown country, and consequently will excuse the brevity of my remarks on a subject, which, treated in detail, might have afforded materials for many volumes.

Had I wished to augment the size of this work, I might easily have made large additions from other books ; but I describe only what came within my own observation and experience, and report 6hly what I saw with my own eyes.

W. G.

OF A

CAPTIVITY IN JAPAN.

CHAPTER I.

In April, 1811,1 had the command of the imperial sloop of war, Diana, which then lay at Kamtschatka,* where I received an order from the minister of the marine, directing me to survey, in the most minute manner, the Southern Kurile and Shantar Islands, f and the coast of Tartary, from latitude 53° 38' north to Okotzk.

* In 1807, the Diana was, by a special order, dispatched under my command on a particular expedition from Cronstadt. The most important object of this expedition was to explore the coast of Eastern Russia, which is so imperfectly known to navigators. In 1809, the Diana arrived at Kamtschatka, and sailed in 1810 to the western coast of North America. I consider it necessary to give an account of these voyages in a separate publication, as a work chiefly composed of nautical and astronomical observations, and other details connected with navigation, could not be interesting to general readers, and would, indeed, be unintelligible to many. The present work is, however, suited to readers of every class, and on account of the novelty of the subject, equally worthy of the curiosity of all.

'f' The latter lie to the south of the main land of Siberia, opposite to the mouth of the river Ud. Respecting their discovery, see Miiller't Samml. Russ. Geschichte, 3r. band. s. 96.

VOL. I. B

The minister's dispatch referred to two papers, containing a copious detail of the instructions I was to follow, which had been forwarded by the Board of Admiralty, at the same time as his order. These papers, however, I did not receive; and according to the arrangements of the post-office, they could not, as will appear from the following explanation, reach Kamtschatka before autumn. In the course of the winter, three posts are dispatched from Okotzk to Kaimtschatka. The last which arrived at Petropaulowskoi (the harbour of St. Peter and St. Paul) on the 20th of April, did not bring me the papers, and consequently they had not reached Okotzk when the post left that place. But as the post departs only once a month from St. Petersburgh for Okotzk, the papers, if brought there by the next arrival, would have to be sent off to me one month after the departure of the third post: this too would be precisely the time when the snow melts, the rivers overflow their banks, and a complete interruption of communication takes place in these countries. It was, besides, impossible, on the re-opening of the navigation, to send the papers by sea from Okotzk, as there was then no vessel in that harbour, all the transports having wintered in Kamtschatka. To obtain the papers in course of the summer, there remained then no other means except that of sailing myself with the sloop to Okotzk. The commander of that harbour, the captain of second


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