State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 41 Autumn 1988


Imaginary Voyages

It was suggested, in the light of Ptolemy and later medieval geographers, that if a ship sailed far enough south it would reach landfall. This was in spite of Francis Drake's reports to the contrary that no vast continent existed below the straits of Magellan, as Magellan himself had supposed. It had certainly not been the intention of Drake to either prove or disprove the existence of a Great South Land — he had merely been driven by a gale to 57 degrees south. The islands that he did discover, and which he named the Elizabethides, are now believed to be part of the Tierra del Fuego group. Yet these and other discoveries, which were thought to be projections of a southern continent, only served to heighten the belief in a Great South Land. Likewise Captain Davis, who promoted the search for a southern continent to the west of Chile; ‘Davis Land’ was to become synonymous with Terra Australis incognita.
Not until Cook's second voyage, in 1772–75, was the belief in a great southern continent finally laid to rest. Yet this did not put an end to the production of imaginary voyages with their setting in an unknown south land; Restif de la Bretonne's La découverte australe, one of the strangest of imaginary voyages set in a utopian south land, was published as late as 1781. It would seem then that, despite the knowledge of the Australian coastline and the refutation of a Great South Land, increased exploration had the effect of diminishing expectations but not the continued imagining of Terra Australis incognita. The reality, of course, was that all that remained of the Great South Land was Terra Australis cognita.
Seventeenth and eighteenth century exploration was responsible for three broad kinds of travel literature: genuine travel accounts; imaginary or extraordinary voyages; and a third group which might be termed travel liars, or pseudo travellers, whose intention it was to deceive.
This second group, imaginary voyages, were to become almost as popular in their day as authentic travel accounts. The genre included works of a realistic, philosophical, utopian and fantastic nature and, while not generally written to deceive, they have, in a few notable cases, done just that. For instance, it is difficult to comprehend anyone believing in the fantastic tales of Rudolf Raspe's Baron Munchausen, Peter Wilkin's flying men, or Cyrano de Bergerac's trips to the moon powered by bottles of morning dew. On the other hand, an

Victorin taking his flight. From Restif de La Bretonne's La découverte Australe par un hommevolant.

experienced deceiver like Defoe was to fool almost everyone with his armchair traveller Captain Singleton; it is with good reason that Defoe's A new voyage round the world is politely referred to as an apocryphal voyage.
Such travel books of varying veracity abounded in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The differences were marginal. Late in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ travellers were still reporting giant Patagonians, 8–10 feet tall. Why then shouldn't Gulliver's midgets likewise be believed? Particularly when the author of the preface to Gulliver's Travels speaks of his cousin Sympson's [i.e. William Symson?]
debt to cousin Dampier's A new voyage round the world.
Imaginary voyages are often classified into types. First there is the ‘fantastic’ voyage, in which the only limit placed upon the narrative is the writer's imagination. Next there is the more ‘realistic’ voyage which, by a ‘stretch of the imagination’, might be true. (These ‘realistic’ imaginary voyages made use of conventional forms of travel, provided biographical information, details of geographical locations etc.). Then there is the satirical or allegorical narrative describing a voyage to an ideal commonwealth, utopia, or merely to an appropriate setting in which to air non-conformist ideas.
These divisions are, of course, not mutually exclusive. Cyrano de Bergerac's voyages, for instance, were as much fantastic as they were satirical. Imaginary voyages proved a convenient form with which to attack governments, religions and customs; particularly in France, where a lack of intellectual freedom prevailed. This accounts in part for the bibliographical puzzles that are associated with much seventeenth and eighteenth century imaginary voyage literature. Anonymous, vague, or fictitious authors, as well as false imprints, abound.
The earliest imaginary utopia, or rather dystopia, set in Terra Australis incognita, is Bishop Hall's Mundus alter et idem. The protagonist traveller Mercurius Britannicus' society is far from ideal. Hall's Terra Australis incognita is intended to satirize perfect moral commonwealths. By satirizing the status quo in England, Hall presents a vision whereby the English Renaissance will ultimately produce a degenerate society that is simply up-sidedown: another world and yet the same. But while Hall does not yearn for a past golden age, nor an age of innocence, he does nevertheless believe that present Renaissance England is the equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Hall is at once seeking moderation in all things and is attempting to demolish man's pride in himself and his accomplishments.
The map, by accomplished engraver Pieter van der Keere, in the 1643 edition of Mundus shows a deliberately exaggerated southern continent, thereby satirizing the contemporary view of an immense South Land.
The first edition, which appeared anonymously with a fictitious Frankfurt imprint, is now generally believed to have been printed in London by H. Lownes in 1605. Many issues of this edition bear a manuscript alteration in which the name ‘Alberico Gentili’, in the line ‘Quid Alberico Gentili a Gynaecopolitis factum fuerit’, has been crossed out and the word ‘mihi’ [i.e. my] inserted. (‘What to me by the womenfolk was done’). This has led to the reasoned, although now discredited, argument by the Australian bibliographer E.A. Petherick that the Italian refugee, Alberico Gentili, is the actual author of Mundus.
Hall's Mundus was originally written in Latin. The first edition in English, entitled The discovery of a new world or A description of the South Indies. Hetherto vnknowne. By an English Mercury, translated by John Healey, was published in 1609. What is often referred to as the second English edition is the anonymous The travels of Don Francisco de Quevedo, through Terra Australis incognita, published in London in 1684. Erroneously attributed to Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas it is, in fact, a pirated adaption of Hall's Mundus. It pretends to be a translation of an old tattered Spanish manuscript, in which all that remained of the author's name was Don Q-; that is, as the Preface says, either Don Quevedo or Don Quixote. It is, in reality, a poor Grub Street edition.
Curiously, Hall's Mundus is mentioned in a legitimate cosmographie published in 1657. Peter Heylyn's Cosmographie in fours bookes, in its enlarged second edition, contains An appendix to the former work endeavouring a discovery of the unknown parts of the world, especially of Terra Australis incognita, dated 1656. Heylyn postulates that the southern continent must be as large as all the continents north of the equator, i.e. Europe, Asia, Africa. Heylyn's vision of Terra Australis, free from winters and supplying all wants, is clearly utopian. The Appendix contains a special section devoted to Tierra del Fuego, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Mundus alter et idem (‘a witty and ingenious invention of a learned prelate’), Utopia (‘discovered’ by Sir Thomas More), New Atlantis (‘discovered’ by Sir Francis Bacon), Faerie Land, the Painters Wives Island, Lords of Chivalrie, and the New world in the moon (Bishop John Wilkins).
Another English ‘voyage’ is The Isle of Pines, or, A late discovery of a fourth island near Terra Australis incognita, by Henry Cornelius van Sloetten, actually written by Henry Neville, but also variously ascribed to George Pine and Cornelius van Sloetten. (Sloetten was certainly the author of another piece on the same subject). It is often viewed as the first Robinsonade prior to Defoe's work. After the inevitable shipwreck, the hero George Pine, along with four women, is cast away on an island near the coast of Terra Australis incognita. Here he bravely sets to a vigorous pattern of polygamous sexual activity which, in fifty nine years, witnesses the growth of a community numbering 1,789. However, the paradise originally encountered
by George, with its rapidly increasing population, is now falling into disorder.
The classic imaginary voyage to Terra Australis incognita is Gabriel Foigny's La Terra australe connue. It is written in the ‘realistic’ style; meaning that despite tales of unicorns, camels with cavities instead of humps, red, green, yellow and blue sheep, giant birds and hermaphrodites, we must take into account the knowledge of the author's contemporaries. For instance, being carried off in the talons of a giant bird would appear to us today as utterly fantastic. The idea of giant flying birds, however, persisted well into the seventeenth century. (An engraving of Magellan passing through the Pacific, in De Bry's Long and short voyages, includes a giant bird flying off with an elephant in its claws).
Foigny's Terra Australis, about 3,000 leagues in length and 400 or 500 leagues in breadth, contains about ‘fourscore and 16 millions’ of inabitants and

World map. From Joseph Hall's Mundus alter et idem.

is situated between South America and South Africa. Foigny's ‘Australians’ have abolished sexual relations altogether. The fact that they are of both sexes, or hermaphrodites, is also of little concern to Foigny's Jacques Sadeur who, apart from having the misfortune of being shipwrecked in every sea voyage he undertakes, was also born an hermaphrodite. He is therefore accepted by the community when found naked after yet another calamity at sea.
La Terre Australe was first published in 1676 at Geneva with a false imprint of Vannes, in France. Foigny was eventually jailed for his ‘extravagances, falsehoods, and even dangerous, infamous and blasphemous things’. His life makes fascinating reading. Originally a defrocked priest from France, Foigny fled to Geneva where, after seducing several servant girls and breaking a promise of marriage in favour of a widow with a bad reputation, he
was expelled, and afterwards became a master at Lausanne. Here, Foigny proved equally unpopular and soon provided the opportunity to be removed from his post for drunkedness, apparently after vomiting in front of the communion table while conducting a service.
Of particular interest in the English edition is that John Dunton, its translator and publisher, anglicises the name ‘Terre Australis’ into Australia, and the inhabitants into Australians. Purchas had also used the name earlier when his publisher misprinted the word Australia. Later writers, including Hawkesworth, adopted and repeated this wrong spelling which by now, of course, is in general use.
Denis Vairasse d'Allais' Histoire des Sevarambes, of which the first two volumes appeared in English in 1675 as History of the Sevarites or Sevarambi, and the subsequent five volumes in French, published in Paris from 1677 to 1679, has the distinction of being associated with a ‘fantastic’ work and simultaneously being mistaken for an authentic travel account. A reviewer in the Journal des Sçcavans failed to realise that the voyage was fictional; and, in 1727, an English translation of Sevarambes was published as volume three of Gulliver's Travels (Swift's book had appeared the previous year in two volumes).
Although authorship of the work is no longer disputed, it has been variously ascribed in the past to Isaac Vossius, Pierre Bayle, Maurice Ashley and Algernon Sidney. However, the dedications in the French volumes are signed ‘D.V.D.E.L.; that is, Denis Vairasse d'Allais En Languedoc.
The preface to Sevarambes draws a careful distinction between the work at hand and imaginary voyages and Utopias. The documents were entrusted to the editor (i.e. Vairasse) by Captain Siden on his death-bed. Before publishing the journals, however, the editor investigates their authenticity and, sure enough, there are plenty of witnesses to assure him that Captain Siden's account is a veritable one. Siden is, of course, an anagram for Denis and similarly Sevarias, the law-giver of the Sevarambians, is an anagram of Vairasse.
Captain Siden, after the predictable shipwreck, finds himself and his companions in a Pacific Terra Australis. While awaiting relief from Batavia, the incidents that occur following the shipwreck bear a remarkable similarity to those actually experienced by Commander Francois Pelsaert off the West Australia coast with the mutinous Jerome Cornelis.
A longing to bring his wife and children from Holland (regardless of the fact that, in Sevarambe, he has acquired three wives and sixteen children)

‘Quevedo's travell's’. From The travels of Don Francisco de Quevedo, through Terra Australis incognita.

sees Captain Siden return to his homeland, thereby enabling the secret of this paradise to be told in a death-bed confession back in Europe. Perhaps more than any other work, the Histoire des Sevarambes is an obvious fore-runner to Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
Jonathan Swift constantly utilizes those known aspects of Terra Australis gleaned from Dampier's A new voyage round the world. When Gulliver is voyaging back from Brobdingnag, mention is made of the coast of New Holland, and then of keeping a course ‘west-south-west, and then south-southwest till we doubled the Cape of Good Hope’. Again, after having left Houyhnhnm-Land, Gulliver ‘arrives at New Holland, hoping to settle there’. Swift made use of a geographical region that was both unexplored and away from the major European trade routes. Gulliver states that he was driven by a storm to a latitude of 30 degrees south, to the northwest of Van Diemen's Land. It is argued that typographical errors in the first edition of Gulliver's Travels are responsible for the island of Lilliput being situated within Australia. The point is that Swift is ridiculing the forms of conventional travel literature. Terra Australis is used as an image both of fantasy and reality. Swift was also taking advantage of the popularity of discovery and travel literature. Rumours of undiscovered lands to the west and south of the Pacific were commonplace when Gulliver was released.
As in Hall's Mundus, Swift employs the devices of satire and allegory. Man appears as disgusting, ridiculous and stupid. It is possible that Mundus was, in fact, known to Swift. A friend and associate
of Swift, Dr. William King, had translated the first six chapters of Mundus into English in 1711. (Published in Henry Morley's Ideal Commonwealths in 1896). So it is entirely possible that Mundus provided a source for Gulliver's Travels.
Tyssot de Patot's Voyages et avantures de Jaques Massé is situated in a South Land 60 degrees longitude and 44 degrees latitude, placing it somewhere off Chile. As in Foigny, Jaques also arrives in the earthly paradise entirely naked. Unlike Foigny's Terre Australis, which is completely flat, Tyssot De Patot's land is mountainous and has a population of 8,323,000; the size of this population being kept under control by a series of epidemics of smallpox. Unlike Vairasse's Sevarinde, monogamy is the norm, except for the King and his governors. Natural religion and hedonism prevail, and Jaques is constantly placed in the position of having to defend Christianity. The priests, for example, are unable to see why Jaques continues to say grace before his meals when they themselves do not do so and yet receive the same nourishment.

From Zaccaria Seriman's Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle Terre incognite Australi.

Clearly, one of Patot's aims was to attack Christianity using the imaginary voyage as a convenient vehicle. Certainly Jaques Massé achieved a reputation as an anti-religious tract, which explains in part the publication of five editions, each with an imprint of 1710, though none having been printed in that year. By pre-dating the work, the publisher had a greater chance of avoiding prohibition by attempting to show that the work had ‘already’ been accepted.
Miscellanea Aurea, or, The golden medley (London, 1720), written chiefly by Thomas Killigrew the Younger, contains an essay, signed Maurice (or Morris on the title page) and ascribed to Charles Gildon, entitled A description of New Athens in Terra Australis incognita. New Athens, where Maurice is marooned for twenty years, has impassable mountains which separate those who have been banished from the paradise beyond. Because his baggage contains so many works of classical literature, however, the judges allow Maurice to pass into New Athens, where he quickly ingratiates
himself with the New Athenians by helping them to repel the barbarous invaders from the South Pole. New Athens contains no lawyers, attorneys, pettifoggers, solicitors, bailiffs, and the like; and probably, as a result, no poverty either.
An anonymous work Relation d'un voyage du Pole Arctique, au Pole Antarctique par le centre du monde, first published in Amsterdam in 1721, bears an obvious relation to Ludvig Holberg's Nicolai Klimii, although Pole Antarctique predates Holberg by twenty years. Both are subterranean voyages. The traveller in Pole Antarctique, on a voyage from Amsterdam to Greenland, is sucked into a giant whirlpool and re-appears in the southern continent.
Another anonymous Amsterdam imprint, signed simply ‘Robertson’, is Voyage de Robertson, aux Terres Australes. It is sometimes attributed to Louise Sébastien-Mercier, who was responsible for writing a Utopian work set in the year 2,500. The author claims to have sailed to South America with Francis Drake and, when to the west of Chile, to have discovered a new continent. Ordered by Drake to reconnoitre the new land, Robertson becomes lost during a storm and finds Australia instead. In reality an attack on the French government, the narrative is supposed to have inspired William Penn to found an ideal settlement in North America.
Zaccaria Seriman's Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle Terre incognite Australi, first published in Venice in 1749, purports to be an account of the voyage of an Englishman, named Henry Wanton, to the unknown land of Australia, as well as to two other unknown countries named Scimie and Cinocefali. The four volume Spanish edition, published in Madrid in 1778, states that the work was translated ‘idioma ingles al italiano’, and from the Italian into Spanish by Joaquin de Guzmán y Manrique. The English original is certainly a fiction and the inference is that Joaquin de Guzmán y Manrique is himself the ‘faker’ of the third and fourth volumes of the Spanish edition. The engraved illustrations show Seriman's Australia to be very much like a Renaissance Planet of the Apes.
Whether imaginary voyages using the unknown South Land as a setting were Utopian, didactic, fantastic or realistic, the common element amongst them was that none intended to deceive, and that, at least in part, the voyage attempted was by conventional means. Granted that no writer of imaginary voyages entitled their work as such; it was generally taken for granted that they were Fictitious. Purely didactic and philosophic works with Australia as a setting would alone fill an anthology, and are best left as the subject for another essay.

From Zaccaria Seriman's Viages de Enrique Wanton a las Tierras incognitas Australes.

Exhibition Items

Hall, Joseph, 1574–1656
Mundus alter et idem, siue Terra Australis ante hac semper incognita longis itineribus peregrini Academici nuperrime lustrata. Auth: Mercuric Britannico. Francofurti [Frankfurt am Main], Apud haeredes Ascanij de Riniasme, [1605?], [i.e. London, H. Lownes, 1605?] (8vo)
VSL holds two copies, each a different reissue. One copy is from the library of E.A. Petherick.
STC 12865.
Hall, Joseph, 1574–1656
Mundus alter et idem, sive Terra Australis antehac semper incognita … Vltraiecti [Utrecht], Apud Joannem à Waesberge, 1643. (12mo)
Later edition with Francis Bacon's New Atlantis and Tommaso Campanula's Civitas Solis.
Bib. Belgica H35.
The Travels of Don Francisco De Quevedo, through Terra Australis incognita … London, Printed for William Grantham …, 1684. (12mo) Wing Q195; Wing (2nd ed.) H422A; Esdaile, A.J.K. Tales, p. 74.
Heylyn, Peter, 1599–1662
An appendix to the former work, endeavouring a discovery of the unknown parts of the world, especially of Terra Australis incognita, or the Southern continent. London, Printed for Henry Seile, 1656. (fol.)
An appendix to Heylyn's Cosmographie. 2nd ed., London, 1657. (Wing H1690).
Neville, Henry, 1620–1694
The Isle of Pines, or, A late discovery of a fourth island near Terra Australis, incognita … London, Printed for Allen Banks and Charles Harper, 1668. (4to)
Ascribed respectively to H. Neville, George Pine, and Cornelius van Sloetten Wing N506.
Foigny, Gabriel De, ca. 1630–1692
Les avantures de Jacques Sadeur dans la decouverte et le voiage de la Terre Australe … A Paris, Chez Claude Barbin …, 1692. (12mo)
First published under title: La Terre Australe connue. A Vannes [i.e. Geneva], Par laques Verneuil ruë S. Gilles, 1676. Sabin 74820.
Foigny, Gabriel De, ca. 1630–1692
A new discovery of Terra Australis, or the Southern world … London, Printed for John Dunton …, 1693. (12mo) Wing F1395; Sabin 74823.
Allais, Denis Vairasse D', ca. 1630–1672
Histoire des Sevarambes, peuples qui habitent une partie du troisiéme continent, communément appellé la Terre Australe … Nouvelle edition, reveuë & corrigée. A Amsterdam, Aux dëpens d'Estienne Roger …, 1716. (12mo)
Robert, W.C.H. Contributions bib. Aust., v. 1, 918.
Allais, Denis Vairasse D', ca. 1630–1672
Historie der Sevarambes, volkeren die een gedeelte van het darde vaste-land bewoonen, gemeenlijk Zuidland genaamd … t'Amsterdam, By Timotheus ten Hoorn, 1682. (4to)
Dutch translation by Godofridus van Broekhuizen. Robert, W.C.H. Contributions bib. Aust., v. 1, 919; Scheepvaart Mus. 287.
Tyssot De Patot, Simon, b. 1655
Voyages et avantures de Jaques Massé. A Bourdeaux [i.e. The Hague?], Chez Jaques L'Aveugle [i.e. T. Johnson?], 1710 [i.e. between 1714 and 1717?] (12mo)
Rosenberg, A. Tyssot de Patot, edition A.
Tyssot De Patot, Simon, b. 1655
Voyages et avantures de Jaques Massé. A Bourdeaux [i.e. Rouen?], Chez Jaques L'Aveugle, 1710 [i.e. not after 1717?] (12mo)
The second of the five editions all dated 1710. None was published in 1710.
Rosenberg, A. Tyssot de Patot, edition B(i)
Tyssot De Patot, Simon, b. 1655
The voyages, travels, and long captivity of James Massey … London, Printed and sold by S. Fisher … also sold by T. Hurst …, 1799. (12mo)
Gildon, Charles, 1665–1724
A description of New Athens in Terra Australis incognita … [in Miscellanea aurea: or the Golden medley. Consisting of … II. The fortunate shipwreck, or A description of New Athens, being an account of the laws, manners, religion, and customs of that country; by Morris Williams, gent. who resided there above twenty years …] London, Printed for A. Bettesworth … and J. Pemberton …, 1720. (8vo)
Morris Williams is a pseudonym for Charles Gildon. Parts of the Miscellanea aurea have been ascribed to Thomas Killigrew. (Gove) Esdaile, A.J.K. Tales, p. 271.
Relation D'Un Voyage Du Pole Arctique au pole Antarctique par le centre du monde … A Paris, Chez Denys Horthemels …, 1723. (12mo)
Le Clerc, C. Bib. Amer. (suppl.) 2932.
Seriman, Zaccaria, 1708–1784
Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle Terre incognita Australi … In Napoli [Naples], Presso Alessio Pellecchia …, 1756. (8vo) Sabin 101250.
Seriman, Zaccaria, 1708–1784
Viages de Enrique Wanton a las Tierras incognitas Australes, y al pais de las Monas … En Madrid, Por Don Antonio de Sancha, 1778. (4to)
Translated into Spanish and continued by G.J. Vaca de Guzmán y Manrique.
Gove, P.B. Imaginary voyage, p. 314–315.
Voyage de Robertson, aux Terres Australes, traduit sur le manuscrit anglois. A Amsterdam, [s.n.], 1767. (12mo)
Anonymous, has been attributed to Louis-Sébastien Mercier.
Robert, W.C.H. Contributions bib. Aust., v. 1, 758; Sabin 71943.
Swift, Jonathan, 1667–1745
Travels into several remote nations of the world … [3rd ed.], London, Printed for Benj. Motte …, 1727. (12mo)
Teerink, H. Swift (2nd ed.) 294. (Item displayed by courtesy Monash University Library)