George Sandys

A Relation of a journey begun An: Dom: 1610.(3rd edn, London, 1627)

(Private donation, 1838)

George Sandys (1578-1644) was the seventh and youngest son of Edward Sandys, Archbishop of York from 1576 to 1588. In May 1610, partly to escape legal complications resulting from a failed marriage, he embarked on a journey which was to take him from Venice to Constantinople (though avoiding mainland Greece), and from there, in January 1611, to Egypt and the Holy Land. He returned via Malta, Sicily, Naples and Rome, probably reaching England in the spring of 1612. A Relation of a Journey begun An: Dom: 1610. Foure Bookes. Containing a description of the Turkish Empire, of Aegypt, of the Holy Land, of the Remote Parts of Italy, and Ilands adioyning was dedicated to Prince Charles (later King Charles I) and published in London in 1615. A second edition appeared in 1621 and a third in 1627; further editions followed in 1637, 1652 and 1673.


Sandys, in common with other travel writers of his day, used his account to display his knowledge of Classical literature, history and myth. In Book I he recounted his journey as far as Constantinople, and his stay there. Here on pages 24 ans 25 he describes the Hellespont, of which he supplies a map viewed from the European shore, with the 'Thracian Chersonesus' in the foreground and the 'Seate of Old Troy' and 'Mount Ida' in the distance on the Asiatic side. 

Mention of the Hellespont gives him the chance to recall the story of Helle, the death of Hecuba and the 'vnfortunate loue of Hero and Leander, drowned in the vncompassionate surges'. He then refers to Xerxes' bridging of the stretch of water, enlivening his account with quotations from Lucan and Juvenal, of which he supplies a translation in his text and the Latin in the margin. Thus Lucan 2. 672-6 and 679:  

Fame sings how Xerxes upon Neptune's Brine

Erected wayes: that by a bridge durst ioyne

Europe to Asia; Sestos to Abydos:

Who on the fretfull Hellespontus goes.

Now dreading Zephyrus, nor Eurus raves;

The high towers tremble on the wrathfull Waves.

and Juvenal 10, 180-1 and 185-6, with a pungent comment of his own in between:

Who scourg'd the East and North-east winds: till then

Neuer so seru'd; not in Aeolian den.

O the dog-like rage and arrogant folly of idiots advanced to empire! 

But how return'd? Dismaid, through bloud-stained seas

With one boate, stopt by floting carcasses.

After his return, Sandys became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King James I. He then turned to colonial enterprise, and from 1621 spent some ten years in Virginia. he is also renowned for his translation of Ovid'sMetamorphoses, of which the first five books were published in 1621, and the whole in 1626.

The Roderic Bowen Library and Archives' copy of the third edition of A Relation of a Journey begun An: Dom: 1610  is incomplete, lacking pp. 145-66 and 253-309; an inscription removed in rebinding recorded that it was presented to the then St. David's College in 1838 by a student, Edward George Browne, who had purchased it at the sale of the property of the Revd. Thomas M.Davies, Vicar of Llanfihangel Ystrad, in 1832.

See further: J.Haynes, The Humanist as Traveller: George Sandys's Relation of a Journey begun An: Dom: 1610(Rutherford, NJ, 1986)