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BOOK knowledge of the Latin tongue, the only lanII.
guage in which science was taught at that time, he was instructed in geometry, cosmography, astronomy, and the art of drawing. To these he applied with such ardour and predilection, on account of their connection with navigation, his favourite object, that he advanced with rapid proficiency in the study of them. Thus qualified, he went to sea at the age of fourteen, and began his career on that element which con. ducted him to so much glory. His early voyages were to those ports in the Mediterranean
which his countrymen the Genoefe frequented. :This being a sphere too narrow for his active 1467. mind, he made an excursion to the northern
feas, and visited the coasts of Iceland, to which
sometimes against the Venetians, the rivals of BOOK his country in trade, had acquired both wealth and reputation. With him Columbus continued for several years, no less distinguished for his courage, than for his experience as a sailor. At length, in an obstinate engagement off the coast of Portugal, with some Venetian caravals, returning richly laden from the Low Countries, the vessel on board which he served took fire, together with one of the enemy's ships, to which it was fast grappled. In this dreadful extremity his intrepidity and presence of mind did not forsake him. He threw himself into the fea, laid hold of a floating oar, and by the support of it, and his dexterity in swimming, he reached the shore, though above two leagues distant, and saved a life reserved for great undertakings b.
As soon as he recovered strength for the He enters journey, he repaired to Lisbon, where many of j his countrymen were settled. They soon con- je ceived luch a favourable opinion of his merit, as well as talents, that they warmly folicited him to remain in that kingdom, where his naval skill and experience could not fail of rendering him conspicuous. To every adventurer, ani
• Life of Columbus, c.v,
BOOK mated either with curiosity to visit new coun. 11.
t ries, or with ambition to distinguish himself,
This alliance, instead of detaching him from a
Canaries, the Azores, the settlements in Guinea, BOOK
II. and all the other places which the Portuguese had discovered on the continent of Africa“.
By the experience which Columbus acquired, The efekts
of their disduring such a variety of voyages, to almost coveries ** every part of the globe with which, at that upon him, time, any intercourse was carried on by sea, he was now become one of the most skilful na. vigators in Europe. But, not satisfied with that praise, his ambition aimed at something more. The successful progress of the Portuguese navi. gators had awakened a spirit of curiosity and emulation, which fet every man of science upon examining all the circumstances that led to the discoveries which they had made, or that af. forded a prospect of succeeding in any new and bolder undertaking. The mind of Columbus, naturally inquisitive, capable of deep reflection, and turned to speculations of this kind, was so often employed in revolving the principles upon which the Portuguese had founded their schemes of discovery, and the mode on which they had carried them on, that he gradually began to form an idea of improving upon their plan, and of accomplishing discoveries which hitherto they had attempted in vain,
To find out a passage by sea to the East Indies, was the great object in view at that period. From the time that the Portuguese doubled Cape de Verd, this was the point at which they aimed in all their navigations, and, in comparison with it, all their discoveries in Africa appeared inconsiderable. The fertility and riches of India had been known for many ages; its spices and other valuable commodities were in high request throughout Europe, and the vast wealth of the Venetians arising from their having engrossed this trade, had raised the envy of all nations. But how intent foever the Portuguese were upon discovering a new route to thofe desirable regions, they searched for it only by steering towards the south, in hopes of arriving at India, by tạrning to the east, after they had failed round the farther extremity of Africa. This course was still unknown, and, even if discovered, was of such immense length, that a voyage from Europe to India must have appeared, at that period, an undertaking, extremely arduous, and of very uncertain issue. More than half a century had been employed in advancing from Cape Non to the equator; a much longer space of time might elapfe before the more extensive navigation from that to India could be accomplished. These reflections upon the uncertainty, the