The fascinating story of Inca civilisation was told to our fathers by Dr. Robertson, whose ‘ History of America ‘ appeared in 1778, and to ourselves by Mr. Prescott, whose ‘ Conquest of Peru ‘ was published in 1843. It is assumed that most educated people have read the latter work. But since its publication a great deal of subsequently discovered material has quite altered our view of some things, and thrown entirely new light upon others. Yet Mr. Prescott’s work can never lose its high position as a carefully written and very charming history.
It is now more than sixty years ago since the present writer came under the influence of that fascination, when, as a naval cadet on board H.M.S. Collingwood, the flagship in the Pacific, he first gazed on the land of the Incas. The noble Symondite line-of-battle ship rounded the northern headland of San Lorenzo Island, and made her stately way to her anchorage in Callao roads. I was just fourteen, and under the wing of Lieutenant Peel, aged nineteen (afterwards the gallant Sir William Peel), who was officer of my watch on the forecastle.