Soon after Mr. Edwards’s death several letters passed between Park and Sir William Young, now Governor of Tobago, upon a subject immediately connected with the question, considered in the memoir, relative to the assistance afforded by Mr. Edwards in preparing Park’s travels for the press. Copies of these letters having been transmitted to the editor by Park’s family, he thinks it right on the present occasion to lay them before the public; remarking at the same time that, after due consideration of their contents, he continues to be of the opinion which he has expressed in the text.
The occasion of this correspondence appears to have been as follows. Mr. Edwards was engaged, at the time of his death, in preparing for the press an enlarged and corrected edition of his History of the West Indies; but as he did not live to complete it, his friend Sir William Young superintended the publication of the work, and added a short preface; in which, speaking of Mr. Edwards’s literary merits, he mentioned “the judicious compilation and elegant recital of the travels of Mungo Park”. This produced a letter of expostulation from Park to Sir William Young, of which either no copy was kept, or it has been since lost or mislaid; but the nature of its contents will be seen from the sequel of the correspondence.
Sir William Young to Mr. Park.
59 Harley-street, November 9th, 1803.
“The day before yesterday I received your letter dated so far back as August 25th. It appears to have been put into the London post, addressed to my clerk’s lodgings, only last week, and reached me in the country November the 7th. I am thus particular as to dates, as I could not bear the imputation of having so long neglected the due acknowledgment of a letter from one whom I so highly esteem and respect. In regard to the question you state, I understood from the late Mr. Edwards, that he assisted in the general arrangement of the materials you supplied, as Dr. Hawkesworth did, in the case of a voyage by the great navigator Captain Cooke; and that the previous Account or Summary of your Travels delivered into the African Association was written by him; to which your fuller Account of your Travels in detail was subsequent. The word “author,” I believe, does not occur in the passage you refer to; and if the words “compilation and recital” seem to bear any application beyond the prospectus before adverted to, or in any way to trench on your just pretensions as a writer, I truly lament the inaccuracy, and will take the most immediate means of rectifying the error, which circumstances may place within my reach; either by present correction or on a new edition of the work. My situation as Secretary of the African Association furnishes me with documents from which I have learned so highly to appreciate your character and to entertain so grateful a sense of your public services, that it would be painful in me, in the smallest degree to have stated any thing that might be so construed as to affect your just literary pretensions; although it is difficult to add to the just and high reputation you held independently, from the fortitude, discretion, and resource so eminently shewn in your distinguished and successful enterprise.”
Mr. Park to Sir William Young.
Fowlshiels, 14th May, 1804.
“I perceive by your letter, that you meant the words ‘compilation’ and ‘recital,’ to refer entirely to the Abridgment of my Travels, which was written for the perusal of the gentlemen of the African Association, by Mr. Edwards, their Secretary.
“A printed copy of this Abridgment was delivered to each of the gentlemen at their annual meeting, but I believe it was never publicly sold. The greater number of readers are therefore but slightly acquainted with it; and to such, the words above-mentioned will naturally convey a very different meaning. Having thus explained myself to you, I hope you will see the propriety of correcting the passage above-mentioned as soon as possible. I must therefore request you will permit me to insert your letter in any of the periodical publications, or favour me with a correction of the passage, as you may think proper.”
Extract from a letter of Sir William Young to Mr. Park
May 25, 1804.
“The letter which I wrote on the subject of the publication of your travels in Africa, is perfectly at your service to make any use of, which you may think proper. No measure can be more satisfactory and agreeable to myself, than that which may most fully render justice to your high and well earned reputation in every point of view.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12