1650, Bland set forth from the head of “Appamattuck River” in Virginia in search of the Falls of Blandina. His journey took him across broad stretches of “very rich Champian Land,” “a pleasant Country, of temperate Ayre, and fertile Soyle.” The beauty of the country, the heaps of bones which led the native guides to relate tales of valorous deeds, and the preservation of the party through “information our Guide told us he had from a woman that was his Sweet-heart,” offered opportunities that a later-day reader wishes might have been improved with some of the appreciation of literary possibilities which a Frenchman could hardly have neglected. Bland's narrative goes steadily forward toward the goal and home again, without digression for any merely entertaining purpose from each day's march and the nightly watch against surprise. The natives supplied the picturesque element for most of the writing of colonial times. To them also were due a number of involuntary journeyings, the accounts of which make an important part of American literature. There is nothing in English, or in any other language, that surpasses these narratives of Indian captivities in vividness or in the bare statement of physical suffering and of mental torment. They held the attention of readers who knew the writers, and the stream of successive reprintings is still going on, to supply an unabated demand. The first and the best known of these narratives is that of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. She was the wife of the minister at Lancaster, Massachusetts, where the natives seized her when they burned the town during King Philip's War. The record of her subsequent “Removes” has seldom been equalled as a direct appeal for human sympathy. The hours following her capture may well have been
the dolefullest night that ever my eyes saw. Oh the roaring, and singing, and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell. . . There remained nothing to me but one poor wounded Babe, and it seemed at present worse than death, that it was in such a pitiful condition, bespeaking Compassion, and I had no refreshing for it, nor suitable things to revive it.@1 2d ed. 1682. The date of the first edition is unknown.