Chapter 1: The Bounds Of Albion With The Sundrie Commodities Thereof, And Of The Great Infirmities That Fall Vnto The People There For Their Intemperancie, And Finallie Of The Religion Vsed There In Old Time.
THE Ile of Albion conteineth in the whole circumference, 2 M. miles, hauing in length
700, & in bredth s00, as appéereth well by the coast therof that dooth lie ouer against
France where it is broadest, and from whence it gathereth narrower and narrower, till it
come to the vtter marches & last bounds of England and Scotland. For betwixt the Mule
of Gallowaie that is on the west side ouer against the Irish seas, and saint Ebbes head, that
lieth vpon the Germane ocean toward the east, are scarselie 130 miles, and thencefoorth
it groweth smaller and smaller till it touch vpon the north seas, where it is not aboue thirtie
miles, as I noted before in the description of Britaine.
This Ile is replenished with pleople, horsses, and all other kind of cattell and come in
most abundant maner, except it be in such places where as God of his singular goodnesse
hath otherwise indued the soile with rich mines of gold, siluer, tin, brasse, copper, and
quicksiluer, which for the most part are so plentifull, that they suffice not onlie for the necessaries of the whole Iland, but also of sundrie regions that are situated round about it, if
the inhabitants were skilfull and painefull to deale withall accordinglie. But the abundance
of all other things requisite for the vse of men, that is found generallie in our Iland, maketh
the people lesse carefull of these commodities, and more giuen to idlenesse. For beside
the great plentie of those things which heauen and earth doo minister, as grasse, come and
cattell, foules of sundrie kinds, there is such store of fish in all parties of our seas, especiallie
towards the north, that the same would suffice to féed and susteine all the people of the
Iland, if there were none other commodities to be found within the same.
For the inhabitants of all countries that border vpon vs, as France, Flanders, Zealand,
Holland, and a great part of Germanie (especiallie those which lie néere vnto the coast)
doo saile hither with great numbers of vessels dailie to fish vpon our coasts, and buy such
as we haue alreadie caught, not onlie for their owne vse, but also for the Lenton prouision
of such nations as lie vpon the Leuant seas, where they sell the same at their owne wils,
with very spéedie vtterance. Manie other rich and pretious commodities are to be gotten
in the said He, whereof the aforenamed nations doo make no small account, beside these
common things. What shall I saie of our woolles, which are in so high estimation in allDionysius Alexandrinus saith that the wool of Britaine is often spun so fine that it is in manner comparable to the spiders draught.
lands, bicause of their necessarie vses, and whereof a great part is so fine and soft, that of
it are made the costlie skarlets, pliant gloues, and manie other grained and delicate clothes,
of which I thought good to make this mention, bicause the report thereof is not yet made
common and generallie knowne to all men.
Certes this I dare boldlie affirme, that if the kingdoms of Britaine had such grace giuen
them from aboue, as that they might once liue in vnitie, or by any meanes be brought
vnder the subiection of one prince, they should yer long féele such a sauour in this amitie,
that they would not onelie liue franklie of their own, without any forren purchase of things,
but also resist all outward inuasion, with small trauell and lesse dammage. For as touching
their persons, and likewise their notable wits, apt both for the atteining of learning and
knowledge of handicrafts, they are inferiour to no other nation. Therevnto we find them
to be couragious and hardie, offering themselues often vnto the vttermost perils with great
assurance, so that a man may pronounce nothing to be ouerhard or past their power to performe, if they would giue themselues to liue temperatelie, and follow their predecessors in
moderation of diet.
Therefore it is (as I thinke) that almightie God in his prouident disposition of all things,
hath ordeined their grounds (otherwise plentifullie indued with all kinds of commodities) to
be destitute and void of wine; as foreseeing that the said liquor, which bringeth greatest
benefit into other countries, would grow in the end to be most pernicious & noisome to
them. For they are giuen to such vnnaturall rauening and greedie desire of forreine things
(whilest they contemne or not regard their owne) that they cannot refraine the immoderate
vse of wine, and excesse vsed in drinking of the same: insomuch that we may see diuerse
to be ouertaken and haunted, not onelie with sundrie kinds of grieuous maladies common
to vs and them of the maine, but also manie other which they haue not, neither be anie
thing at all acquainted with, as experience dailie teacheth.
Some by long sicknesse and languishing gréefes doo grow into such deformitie onelie
through excessiue feeding, and greedie abuse of wine, that if you knew them when they
were children & yoong men, you shall hardlie remember them when they be old and aged;
and that which more is, in comparison of other that liue more soberlie, you will hardlie
thinke them to be borne in the lie, but rather suppose them to be changelings and monsters,
brought out of other countries to gaze and looke vpon: diuerse of them through the
continuall vse of wine are molested in their age, with phreneticall pangs and passions.
Seldome also shall you sée those that are giuen much vnto wine and such welfare, to become parents of manie children, sith their naturall moisture and generatiue force is much
abated, if not altogither extinguished by such immoderate diet.
But to returne to our purpose, the Albanes or Britains, as Cæsar in his commentaries,
and Tacitus in his annales doo report, were very religious, after the maner of religion vsed
in old time. For in those daies the priesrs of Britaine named Druides, were expert both
in naturall and morall philosophie, and from thence came the first professors of that sect and
opinion into France. The principall seat of their priests was in the Ile of Man, which was
reputed at that season for the welspring and fountaine of all learning and knowledge, and
after that their priests were once conuerted to the catholike faith, they perseuered in the same
with great constancie, without anie note of heresie.