A tour through the whole island of Great Britain, by Daniel Defoe

The Author’s Preface to the Second Volume

THE reception which the first part of this work has met with, has not been so mean as to discourage the performance of the second volume, nor to slacken the diligence in our endeavours to perform it well: It is not an easy thing to travel over a whole kingdom, and in so critical a manner too, as will enable the traveller to give an account of things fit for the use of those that shall come after him.

To describe a country by other mens accounts of it, would soon expose the writer to a discovery of the fraud; and to describe it by survey, requires a preparation too great for any thing but a publick purse, and persons appointed by authority; This was the case in Mr. Cambden’s travelling, by which means he had access to every curiosity, publick and private. But to describe a country by way of journey, in a private capacity, as has been the case here, though it requires a particular application, to what may be learn’d from due enquiry and from conversation, yet it admits not the observer to dwell upon every nicety, to measure the distances, and determine exactly the scite, the dimensions, or the extent of places, or read the histories of them. But it is giving an account by way of essay, or, as the moderns call it, by memoirs of the present state of things, in a familiar manner.

This we have perform’d in the best manner we could, and have taken care to have it come fully up to our proposals. We are not to boast of the performance, but are content to have it compared with any that have gone before it; if it may be done with impartiality and a fair design of determining according to truth: Our manner is plain, and suited to the nature of familiar letters; our relations have no blusters, no rhodomontadoes of our own abilities; but we keep close to the first design of giving, as near as possible, such an account of things, as may entertain the reader, and give him a view of our country, such as may tempt him to travel over it himself, in which case it will be not a little assisting to him, or qualify him to discourse of it, as one that had a tolerable knowledge of it, tho’ he stay’d at home.

As we observed in the first volume, and frequently m this, there will always be something new, for those that come after; and if an account of Great Britain was to be written every year, there would be something found out, which was overlooked before, or something to describe, which had its birth since the former accounts: New foundations are always laying, new buildings always raising, highways repairing, churches and publick buildings erecting, fires and other calamities happening, fortunes of families taking different turns, new trades are every day erected, new projects enterpriz’d, new designs laid; so that as long as England is a trading, improving nation, no perfect description either of the place, the people, or the conditions and state of things can be given.

For example; since the finishing of the last volume, the South Sea Company have engaged in the Greenland Fishery, and have fitted out a fleet of twelve great ships, which they have built new from the stocks, and have made that great wet-dock between Deptford and Redriff, the center of all that commerce and the buildings, the works, and the management, of that they call their cookery; that is, the boyling their blubber into oyl. ’Tis well if they do not make stink enough, and gain too little, especially to the neighbouring places of Deptford and Redriff.

Another article has happened, even between the writing the Appendix to this work, and this Preface; namely, That an Act of Parliament is passing, and will soon, we suppose, be pass’d for making the river Nyne navigable fro Peterborough to Northampton, a work which will be of infinite advantage to the country, because the river pierces so far into the heart of the island, where there is no navigation for between twenty or thirty miles any way:?Tis true, this may be long in doing, it being above fifty miles in length by the river; and they had once before an Act granted for the same thing; yet, ’tis said, they intend now to go about it in good earnest, and that they will be content with performing it piece-meal, that is to say, some and some, that they may see how practicable it may be, and how well it will turn to account.

It is not design’d to make apologies here for the performance; there were so few mistakes in the former volume, that were of any importance, and those few so easily rectify’d, that tho’ this circuit is much greater, and perhaps the variety the greatest of all the three, yet ’tis hop’d there will be so few exceptions, as they may be easily accounted for hereafter.

The saying that Sudbury was not a corporation, when really it was so; that Chelmsford was the first and chief plantation of hops in Essex, when it seems Castle Henningham claims precedence: The debate whether Dunwich has now any trade left, or, whether it be quite devoured of the sea; or whether Woodbridge or Ipswich are the chief ports for exporting Suffolk butter; are all so easily to be rectify’d by any reader, tho’ they are among the chief mistakes of the last volume, that we cannot but hope the candor of the reader will make allowances for it, if such should unavoidably have slipt observation, in this part also, tho’ we hope not.

We have now finish’d the whole south of Trent, which being the most populous part of the country, and infinitely fuller of great towns, of people, and of trade, has also the greatest variety of incidents in its passing over.

But the northern part being also to include Scotland, and being the greatest in extent, will have its beauties, we can assure you; and tho’ the country may in some respects, be called barren, the history of it will not be so.

Scotland will have justice done it, without the flattery and ridiculous encomiums which have already so much exposed two Scotish writers upon that subject.

The great and once wasted countries of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Durham, shall be truly and not slightly describ’d, with their real improvements, without loading our work with fragments of antiquity, and dressing up the wilds of the borders as a paradise, which are indeed but a wilderness.

In the mean time we recommend our performance to the candor of the reader, and whatever may be objected, we doubt not to have obtained the just reputation of having written with impartiality and with truth.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/defoe/daniel/britain/preface2.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 11:43