Maggs Bros Ltd

A Letter from Mr. Dalrymple to Dr. Hawkesworth, occasioned by Some groundless and illiberal Imputations in his Account of the late Voyages to the South.

DALRYMPLE Alexander (1773.)

£45000.00  [First Edition]

Please contact us in advance if you would like to view this book at our Curzon Street shop.

First edition, 2nd issue with folding chart. 4to. Modern red morocco, gilt titling to spine. [2], [1]-35, [1]blank (missing the half-title and final blank leaf)pp. London, J. Nourse, T. Payne, Brotherton and Sewell, B. White, J. Robson, P. Elmsly, T. Davies and S. Leacroft,

When the official account of Cook’s first voyage was published in 1773 its editor, John Hawkesworth, was subject to a wave of public criticism. Alexander Dalrymple was "the most uncompromising" (ODNB) of those critics and this very rare pamphlet represents his first attack on Hawkesworth’s efforts.  

While other readers had been offended by Hawkeworth’s descriptions of South Sea Islander sexual mores and confused by his decision to adopt one narrative voice (melding that of the Captains with his own), Dalrymple was eager to contest the accuracy and validity of Hawkesworth’s record of the voyage.  

Dalrymple, arguably more than any other man, was in a position to make such criticisms. On the publication of his An Account of the Discoveries Made in the South Pacifick Ocean Previous to 1764 (1767) he had become the acknowledged authority on South Sea exploration. Indeed, he was deemed to be so knowledgeable on the subject that "he became the Royal Society’s candidate to lead the transit of Venus expedition. After a misunderstanding between the Royal Society and the Admiralty in April 1768 over the command of the chosen ship, Dalrymple declined to take second place in the expedition under a sea officer, and James Cook was subsequently appointed both commander and Royal Society observer" (ODNB).  

Due to this prehistory there existed the popular opinion that Dalrymple’s pamphlet was actually a veiled assault on Cook, who, as a national hero, could not be directly challenged. This view has now been largely discredited, and the pamphlet clearly shows that Hawkesworth was the intended subject of Dalrymple’s complaints. Dalrymple had expected to find himself favourably referenced in Hawkesworth’s text and credited for the usefulness of his research but found such attributions lacking: "… I find myself attacked by implication, (Vol. 3. P. 478 and 479) as having misrepresented the Spanish and Dutch Voyages to support my own ill-grounded conjectures; you have indeed passed over in silence whatever you thought could do me any credit" (page [1]). He gives numerous examples of this ‘passing over in silence’, such as when Hawkesworth failed to include Cook’s use of the Torres Strait on his route home, a passage that Dalrymple had unearthed from Spanish documents captured in the Philippines in 1762.  

Alongside the settling of personal scores, Dalrymple’s pamphlet details numerous instances in which Hawkeworth’s narrative contradicted the charts. The seriousness and credibility of such objections led to the necessity of a rebuttal from Hawkesworth, published as the preface to the second edition of his book. In it, he made no attempt to placate his accuser, and in reply to Dalrymple’s calls of wilful suppression, he simply said that such a thing was impossible, "as I never read his book" (page [2] of preface). A significantly less robust piece of writing than Dalrymple’s, it perhaps speaks of Hawkesworth’s exhaustion at the dismantling of his reputation. It was still enough to further enrage Dalrymple, who set about writing a second attack. This, however, would not reach its target as Hawkesworth died in November 1773 (just three and a half months after writing his preface to the 2nd edition), supposedly of the stress caused by the aforementioned damage to his person. It eventually appeared in print sometime that year, but it is believed that it was not intended for publication.  

ESTC lists 24 holdings of the pamphlet, 8 in the UK, 1 other copy in Europe, 7 in North America, 5 in Australia and 3 in New Zealand. OCLC shows that only 9 of the institutions mention the folding chart, present with this copy. The pamphlet rarely appears at auction, the last to do so (also a 2nd issue with folding chart) sold for £52,500 at Sotheby’s (27 March 2014, The Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, Part I).

Stock Code: 221252