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The interesting Letters on Iceland, published by the Archbishop Von Troil, had inspired me at an early age with an ardent desire to visit that most singular country, to see its volcanic mountains and its boiling springs, unequalled by any in the known world. The small degree of intercourse, however, that existed between England and so obscure a part of the globe, and, what appeared a still greater impediment, the unfriendly disposition exhibited by the Danish government towards our nation, scarcely allowed even an hope to be entertained that an opportunity of gratifying such a wish would present itself,
till, in the spring of the year 1809, Sir Joseph
Banks most unexpectedly proposed to me, as a compensation for my not having it in
my power, during that season, to put in execution a projected voyage to a tropical climate, that I should take my passage in a merchant-ship, then expected to leave England in the space of three days, and spend my summer in Iceland. To this I most readily and thankfully acceded; and, having made such preparations as the shortness of the notice would allow, I repaired to Gravesend and was on board the Margaret and Anne at the time appointed.
The unfortunate accident, which has deprived me of nearly the whole of the fruits of this excursion, and has obliged me to rely, in no small degree, upon my memory, needs not here to be detailed, it will find its place in the narrative of the voyage; suffice it now to observe, that the only things rescued from the flames were, a portion of my journal, containing little more than the occurrences of the first four weeks of my stay on the island, and an Icelandic lady's wedding-dress, which was saved by the extraordinary exertions of the steward of the ship. Of the rest of my manuscripts and collections, including plants, books, drawings, mi
nerals, and other subjects of natural history, nothing could be preserved.
With the slender materials that remained to me, I should not have ventured upon committing the following Recollections to paper, even as they were originally intended, merely for the perusal of some of my friends, but at the solicitation of the most valued of those friends. It is to Mr. Dawson Turner, of Yarmouth, that these sheets owe their existence.
To Sir Joseph Banks, besides being honored with his counsel and assistance preparatory to the undertaking of the voyage, I am indebted for the truly hospitable entertainment that I experienced from the inhabitants of Iceland, who felt, I am sure, a real pleasure and satisfaction in having it in their power to offer their services and to pay every possible attention to a stranger, visiting their country with an introduction from their great and generous benefactor. Not, however, satisfied with this, on my return to England, no sooner did Sir Joseph learn that I was preparing my Recollections of Iceland for the press, than he most liberally offered me the use of his own manuscript journal, and various other papers and documents relative to the island, together with the magnificent drawings of the scenery, dresses of the inhabitants, &c, which were made by the artists who attended him on his voyage thither, in 1772. From the former of these valuable collections I have extracted such parts as were not noticed by Von Troil; and, from reduced copies of a few of the latter, have been made the engravings that accompany these volumes. These are, indeed, upon too small a scale to give an adequate idea of the originals, which would do honor to a large and copious history of Iceland; but parvum parva decent, and they are well suited both to the size and pretensions of the book they are designed to illustrate.