Hakluyt gives the following descriptive title of this uncommonly curious and interesting narrative: “The voyage of Mr Ralph Fitch, merchant of London, by the way of Tripolis in Syria to Ormus, and so to Goa in the East India, to Cambaia, and all the kingdom, of Zelabdim Echebar the great Mogor, to the mighty river Ganges, and down to Bengala, to Bacola and Chonderi, to Pegu, to Imahay in the kingdom of Siam, and back to Pegu, and from thence to Malacca, Zeilan, Cochin, and all the coast of the East India; begun in the year of our Lord 1583, and ended in 1591: wherein the strange rites, manners, and customs of those people, and the exceeding rich trade and commodities of those countries, are faithfully set down and diligently described, by the foresaid Mr Ralph Fitch.”
Hakluyt has prefaced this journal, by several letters respecting the journey, from Mr Newbery, and one from Mr Fitch, and gives by way of appendix an extract from Linschoten, detailing the imprisonment of the adventurers at Ormus and Goa, and their escape, which happened while he was at Goa, where he seems to have materially contributed to their enlargement from prison. These documents will be found in the sequel to the narrative of Mr Fitch.
It must not however be concealed, that the present journal has a very questionable appearance in regard to its entire authenticity, as it has obviously borrowed liberally from that of Cesar Frederick, already inserted in this work, Vol. VII. p. 142-244. It seems therefore highly probable, that the journal or narrative of Fitch may have fallen into the hand of some ingenious book-maker, who wished to increase its interest by this unjustifiable art. Under these circumstances, we would have been led to reject this article from our collection, were not its general authenticity corroborated by these other documents, and by the journal of John Eldred, who accompanied Newbery and Fitch to Basora. A part of the striking coincidence between the journals of Cesar Frederick and Ralph Fitch might have arisen from their having visited the same places, and nearly by the same route, only at the distance of 20 years; Frederick having commenced his journey in 1563, and Newbery and Fitch theirs in 1588. Some of the resemblances however could only have been occasioned by plagiarism.
It is very difficult to conceive how Fitch, after his imprisonment at Goa, and escape from thence under surety to the Portuguese viceroy, should have ventured in the sequel to visit the Portuguese settlements in Ceylon, Cochin, Calicut, Goa even, Chaul, and Ormuz, on his way home again by Basora, Bagdat, Mosul, &c. to Aleppo and Tripoli. These parts of his journal, and his excursions to the north of Pegu, certainly have a suspicious appearance. It is possible that he may have described these several routes, historically, in his own journal; and that some book-maker, into whose hands his papers may have fallen, chose to give these a more interesting appearance, by making Fitch