Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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He had a most remarkeable aspect, an exceeding high forehead,
long-faced, and sour eie-liddid, a kind of pigge-eie.

This can be seen in the full-length portrait reproduced in
Edwards's Life giving him a somewhat forbidding appear-
ance. See also the portrait at the beginning of Hannah's
volume. Other accounts confirm the statement about his
pride, and the correspondence shows evidence of it. For
this and other reasons Ralegh was a very unpopular man,
except among the west country men, especially the seamen,
who were devoted to him as a leader, and it was not
until after his death, and owing to the way in which he
met it, that his real greatness of mind was generally
appreciated. Aubrey quotes an epitaph of eight lines
made on him, two of which run :

Hee living was belov'd of none.
Yet in his death all did him moane.

And in the margin: " Horat. ep. i, lib. 2: — Extinctus
amabitur idem."

The following account of him from Naunton's portrait-
gallery of Queen Elizabeth's favourites^ is also interesting :

Sir Walter Raivleigh was one, that (it seems) Fortune had
picked out of purpose, of whom to make an example, or to use
as her Tennis-Bail, thereby to shew what she could doe ; for she
tost him up of nothing, and too and fro to greatnesse, and from
thence down to a little more than to that wherein she found him,

1 Fragtnenta Regalia.


(a bare Gentleman). Not that he was lesse, for he was well
descended, and of good alliance, but poor in his beginnings.

• •■•••■

He had in the outward man a good presence, in a handsome
and well compacted person, a strong naturall wit, and a better
judgement, with a bold and plausible tongue, whereby he could
set out his parts to the best advantage ; and to these he had the
adjuncts of some generall Learning, which by diligence he en-
forced to a great augmentation, and perfection ; for he was an
indefatigable Reader, whether by Sea or Land, and none of the
least observers both of men and the times ; and I am confident,
that among the second causes of his growth, that variance between
him and my Lord Grey^ in his descent into Ireland, was a
principall ; for it drew them both over the Councell Table, there
to plead their cause, where (what advantage he had in the cause,
I know not) but he had much better in the telling of his tale ;
and so much that the Queen and the Lords took no slight mark
of the man, and his parts ; for from thence he came to be known,
and to have access to the Queen and the Lords. . . . But true
it is, he had gotten the Queens ear in a trice, and she began to
be taken with his elocution, and loved to hear his reasons to her
demands : and the truth is, she took him for a kind of Oracle
which netled them all. . . .

Evidence of Ralegh's power with the Queen in Irish
business, of his reputation for arrogance and selfish
ambition, and of the intrigues and jealousies of the
Court, appears in a letter from Mountjoy to the Queen
written from Ireland in 1600, after he had been sent
there against Tyrone on the failure of Essex.^

Lord Mountjoy to Queen Elizabeth

And lastly for the interpretation of my proceedings, which
may turn both good and ill success to my ruin ; what shall I look
for when I know this employment of me is by a private man that
never knew what it was to divide public and honorable ends from
his own, propounded and labored to you (without any respect to
your public service), the more eagerly, by my ruins to rise to his
long expected fortune? Wherein by reason of the experience I
have heard your Majesty holds him to have in that country, he
is like to become my judge, and is already so proud of this plot

> Printed in Goodman's Court of Kitti; James (cd. Brewer), ii. 27.


that he cannot keep himself from bragging of it. But since I
dare not presume to trouble you with all my reasons, these being
only but lights of them, I humbly desire your Majesty, before
you resolve herein, that as it only belongs unto you to be the
supreme, you will make yourself only my judge herein. . . .

The following is the Queen's reply :

The Queen to Lord ^fountjoy

O what malincholy humour hath exhaled up to your brayne,
from a fuU-fraughted hart, that should breede such doubt bred
upon no cause geven by us at all, never having pronounced any
syllable whereon such a work should be framed. There is no
louder tromp that may sound out your praise, your hazard, your
care, your luck, then we haue blasted in all our court and else-
where in deed. Well, I will attribute it to God's good Provi-
dence for you, that (leste all these glories might elevate you to
much) he hath suffred (though not made) such a scruple, to
keepe you under his rod, who best knowes that wee all have
more neede of bittes than spurres. Thus, Valeant ista amara I
ad Tartaros eat nulancholia ! — your Souveraine, E. R,

Endorsed — "^ copy of her Majesty s iettre, lest you can not
reade it.^' ^ Then, in Lord Mountjoy's own hand, " Receaved at
Acbrahen [Ardbraken] the — off Jaunar}', in a packet from Mr.
Secretary " [Cecil].

On Ralegh's relations with the Oueen, or indeed with
her other most intimate favourites, Seymour, Leicester,
Hatton and Essex, it is impossible to pronounce. Men
in great position, especially those who have risen to it,
are usually subject, more or less, to scandal, and some
writers are naturally malicious. In the case of Ralegh
it is difficult to account for the lavish grants which were
made to him on a favourable interpretation of the Queen's
affection, and there are not wanting statements incrimi-
nating Elizabeth from the time of Seymour onwards.
On the other hand, Sir John Harington (the younger),
her godson and evidently one of her most privileged
courtiers, declares emphatically that there was no ground
for these rumours.' Bacon's evidence appears to be to

1 " The words in italics are cautious Mr. Secretary's." — Ed.
- Nu^ae Antiquae.


the same effect, but being couched, as always with him
when speaking of Queen EHzabeth, in the language of
romance, it is unsafe to draw inferences of fact from his
testimony. What he says on the subject is in Latin, of
which the following is a translation :

Some of the graver sort may perhaps exaggerate Queen
Elizabeth's lighter qualities because she suffered herself to be
honoured and caressed and celebrated and extolled with the
name of Love ; and wished it and continued it beyond the
suitability of her age. If, however, you take these things in
a more indulgent spirit, they may not even be without some
admiration, because such things are commonly found in our
fabulous narratives, of a Queen in the Islands of Bliss, with her
hall and her institutes, who receives the administrations of Love,
but prohibits its licentiousness. If you judge them more severely,
still they have this admirable circumstance, that gratifications of
this sort did not much hurt her reputation, and not at all her
majesty ; nor ever relaxed her government ; nor were any notable
impediment in her State affairs. ... In short this Princess was
certainly good and moral, and she also wished to appear so ; she
hated vice, and it was her ambition to shine by good arts.

The coarse familiarities of speech and behaviour in
which Elizabeth at times indulged might be sufficient to
account for these rumours, and, in the case of the young
Earl of Essex, the age and loneliness of the Queen may
have found solace in his company. Her feelings towards
him seem to have been of more than usual tenderness,
which ended, if contemporary accounts may be believed,
in regrets which accompanied her to her grave. " After
the blow given," writes Osborne, " the Queen fell into
a deep melancholy whereof she died not long after." ^
The strange poem. The Phoenix and Tuj'tle, published as
Shakespeare's, but more resembling Roydon's elegy, seems
to refer to this affection. The Queen's love, however, for
Ralegh was of a less tragic order. As we have seen, he
came over from Ireland at the close of 1581, where he
was serving as a captain in the operations against the

' Traditional Memories. Tliis account is discredilcd by some modern
writers, but, tlioiit^h it evidently contains some exaggeration, there is other
contemporary evidence in a similar sense.


Earl of Desmond, and was taken into the Queen's
confidence, to some extent supplanting his former patron,
the Earl of Leicester. Thereafter he seems to have
become her most trusted adviser on Irish affairs. The
writer, however, of the article on Ralegh in the Dictionary
of National Biography observes that '' such service does
not account for the numerous appointments and grants
which, within a few years, raised him from the position
of a poor gentleman -adventurer to one of the most
wealthy of the courtiers." In 1583 he was granted the
monopoly of wine licences; in 1584 he was knighted;
in 1585 he was made Warden of the Stanneries ; in 1586
an enormous tract of country in Cork, Waterford and
Tipperary was made over to him, and he was made
captain of the Queen's Guard; in 1587 he was granted
estates in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire,
forfeited by Babington and his fellow-conspirators.

Elizabeth Throgmorton was the daughter of Sir
Nicholas Throgmorton, some time the Queen's ambassador
in France. When Ralegh's courtship began (which
Edwards puts as either late in 1591 or early in 1592 —
the same period, it will be observed, as that inferred from
the poems for the supposed courtship of his wife by
Spenser) he was engaged, with Lord Thomas Howard
on the preparations for the expedition against Spain
which resulted in the capture of the great carrack, the
Madre de Dios, in the summer of 1592. Ralegh appears
to have adventured a very large sum of money in this
enterprise, and the Queen (who provided two ships out
of thirteen), the Earl of Cumberland, and others were
joint-adventurers. Ralegh was to have had the principal
command, but so great was the Queen's attachment and
her dislike of allowing her favourites to absent themselves
from her Court and expose themselves to risk, that she
made him promise that he would only take the fleet out
to sea "some fifty or three score leagues," and then
" persuade the companies to follow Sir Martin Frobisher "
and himself return home.

The following letter from Ralegh to Robert Cecil,


dated lOth March 1592, contains the account of this,
and the first allusion to reports about his marriage :

To Sir Robert Cecil, 10th March 1592

[As printed by Murdin, from the original]

Sir — I receved your letters this present day at Chattame,
concerninge the wages of the mariners and others. For myne
own part, I am very willing to enter bonde, as yow perswaded
me, so as the Privey Scale be first sent for my injoyinge the
third ; but I pray consider that I have layd all that I am worth,
and must do, ere I depart on this voyage. If it fall not out
well, I can but loose all ; and if nothinge be remayning,
wherewith shall I pay the wages ? Besides, her Majestie told
mee hersealf that shee was contented to paye her part, and my
Lord Admirall his, and I should but discharge for myne own
shipps. And farther, I have promised her Majestie, that if I
can perswade the Cumpanies to follow sir Marten Furbresher,
I will without fail returne ; and bringe them but into the sea
but sume fifty or thriscore leagues, for which purpose my Lord
Admirall hath lent me the Disdayne ; which to do her Majestie
many tymes, with great grace, bedd mee remember, and sent
mee the same message by Will. Killegrewe, which, God
willinge, if I can perswade the Cumpanies, I meane to performe ;
though I dare not be acknown thereof to any creature. But,
Sir, for mee then to be bounde for so great a sume, uppon the
hope of another man's fortune, I will be loth ; and besids, if I
weare able, I see no privy scale for my thirds. I mean not to
cume away, as they say I will, for feare of a marriage, and I
know not what. If any such thing weare, I would have imparted
it unto yoursealf before any man livinge ; and, therefore, I pray
believe it not, and I beseich yow to suppress, what you can, any
such mallicious report. For I protest before God, ther is none
on the face of the yearth, that I would be fastned unto. And
so in hast I take my leve of your Honor. From Chattame, the
loth of March. — Your's ever to be cummanded,

W. Ralegh.^

Edwards relates that the departure of the fleet was
delayed for three months at least, during which Ralegh
was continually running to and fro between his ships and
the Court, and that when a change of wind at length

' Edwards, Life, ii. 44.


allowed him fairly to set sail, and get out to sea, he was
followed by Sir Martin Frobisher with peremptory orders
that the Admiral should resign his post to Frobisher,
jointly with Sir John Borough, and return forthwith to
the Court/ Edwards says that Ralegh's "crime" was
now {i.e. late in May or early in June) fully known to
the Queen, and seems to suppose that the recall was on
that ground.^ It is possible, however, that the Queen
did not find out about Ralegh's relations with Elizabeth
Throgmorton until he returned, and the reference to the
incident in the poem " Cynthia " supports, for what it may
be worth, this view :

To seek new worlds for gold, for praise, for glory,

To try desire, to try love severed far.
When I was gone, she sent her memory,

More strong than were ten thousand ships of war ;

To call me back, to leave great honour's thought,
To leave my friends, my fortune, my attempt ;

To leave the purpose I so long had sought.

To hold both cares and comforts in contempt.^

Be that as it may, when Elizabeth discovered the
state of affairs between Ralegh and her maid of honour,
which, in any case, was not later than June 1592, she
committed them both to the Tower. During the early
period of his imprisonment Ralegh affected an almost
frenzied distress at the separation from his royal mistress.
He had, of course, many enemies at Court and much to
apprehend from the loss of the Queen's favour, and it
seems clear that the extravagance of his behaviour was
mainly an artifice to win back the Queen. He had
recourse to a somewhat similar piece of play-acting
when under arrest on his return from Guiana in 16 17.
The crude and fantastic letter of flattery addressed to
Cecil from the Tower in July 1592, which was, of
course, intended to be shown to the Queen, was evidently
also part of this scheme. So too, in my opinion, were
certain of the very beautiful poems — in marked contrast,

' Cf. Hakluyt, vol. vii. 105-10S ; and Purchas, vol. xvi. 13-17 (Hakl. Soc).
'^ Edwards, Life, i. 147. ^ Hannah, Courtly /'oets, p. 34.


in this respect, with the letter — of which I regard Bacon
as the author. In these Ralegh is represented as deeply
in love with the Queen, as pining in utter desolation at
the loss of her affection, his youth wasted in the pursuit
of a hopeless passion and his life ruined. The facts were
quite different. Ralegh in 1592 was in the fulness of
his manhood, and in love with his wife, whom he married
probably on his release from the Tower at the end of
that year, or possibly secretly before his imprisonment.
We shall come presently to the poems, and in the
meantime I give Ralegh's letter from the Tower :

To Sir Robert Cecily from the Tower, July 1592
[As printed by Murdin, from the original.]

Sir — I pray be a mean to her Majesty for the signing of the
bills for the Gards' coats, which are to be made now for the
Prograsse, and which the Cleark of the Cheeck hath importunde
me to write for.

My heart was never broken till this day, that I hear the
Queen goes away so far of, whom I have followed so many years
with so great love and desire, in so many journeys, and am now
left behind her, in a dark prison all alone. While she was yet
nire at hand, that I might hear of her once in two or three dayes,
my sorrows were the less : but even now my heart is cast into
the depth of all misery. I, that was wont to behold her riding
like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus, the
gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure cheeks, like a
nymph ; sometime siting in the shade like a Goddess ; sometime
singing like an angell ; sometime playing like Orpheus. Behold
the sorrow of this world ! Once amiss, hath bereaved me of all.
O Glory, that only shineth in misfortune, what is becum of thy
assurance ? All wounds have skares, but that of fantasie ; all
affections their relenting, but that of womankind. Who is the
judge of friendship, but adversity? or when is grace witnessed,
but in offences ? There were no divinety, but by reason of
compassion ; for revenges are brutish and mortall. All those
times past, — the loves, the sythes, the sorrows, the desires, can
they not way down one frail misfortune ? Cannot one dropp of
gall be hidden in so great heaps of sweetness ? I may then con-
clude, Spes et fortu7ia, valete. She is gone, in whom I trusted,
and of me hath not one thought of mercy, nor any respect of that
that was. Do with me now, therefore, what you list. I am more


weary of life then they are desirous 1 should perish ; which if it
had been for her, as it is by her, I had been too happily born. —
Yours, not worthy any name or title, W. R.^

Addressed : To my honorable friend. Sir
Robert Cecill, Knight, of Her Majesty's
most honorable Privy Councell.

Ralegh was not precluded from communicating with
his friends during his detention at this time (see, for
instance, p. 446, 7iote), and the suggestion which I have
to make at this point is that this letter has been con-
structed out of some draft framed by Bacon for the
purpose of winning back the Queen. The letter employs
the language of some of the poems ; it has the cadences
of some of the fanciful writings such as the Arcadia and
the Court Devices ; and the letters, admittedly written by
Bacon for Essex when he was in disfavour, furnish a
parallel, the style being adapted in each case to the
circumstances and character of the man.

It is important in connection with this inquiry to note
the relations of Ralegh and his wife. If Ralegh was
attached to his wife the poem to " Cynthia " is insincere
from beginning to end. The same is true of the
exquisite poem, " As you came from the holy land Of
Walsinghame," ^ which has the appearance of being a sort
of conversion into verse of the ridiculous and (rightly
considered) abominable letter to Cecil above quoted. It
can hardly be doubted that Ralegh was devoted to the
Queen as a subject, but it is impossible to suppose that
he can have composed these beautiful love poems unless
he was either a consummate literary artist (of which there
is no trace in his letters or character), or at least was not
insincere in the passion which they express. For there
evidently is some sincerity of motive, from whatever
source derived, running through these poems. But in my
belief it is wrapped up in the story of another man, who
is making use of the theme handled as a means of self-
expression, dramatically. If, on the other hand, the

1 Edwards, Life, ii. 51.
2 Hannah, Courtly Poets, p. 80 ; quoted at p. 455 below.


poems really mean what they appear to mean on the
surface, then it is impossible that Ralegh can have been
in love with his wife. But unless he had been, how
could he have written to her on the eve of his expected
execution in 1603, " Remember your poore childe for his
father's sake \i.e. in case of re-marriage, which he considers
would be best for her] that chose you and loved you in
his happiest tymes " ? The days were unscrupulous, and
Ralegh was, no doubt, as unscrupulous as any in carving
his career, but it seems clear that he had great private
virtues, and that he was a man of sincere and genuine
feelings where his affections were placed. The passion
and melancholy which find expression in the poems are
inconsistent with this feature in Ralegh's character and
with his love for his wife, and I find it impossible, on this
ground alone, to believe that he wrote them. I feel
equally sure that he was incapable of writing them,
being in all respects a man of action and only a man of
letters by accident and as a means of relief from the
tragedy of his long imprisonment. There is no room for
doubt that Ralegh loved his wife, and she him, with a
real and constant affection. He frequently refers to her in
his letters to Cecil as " my Bess," and addresses her in his
troubles from Guiana in 16 17 (the year before his execu-
tion) as " Sweet Heart." In a letter of the following year
from St. Christopher's, in which he breaks to her the
news of the death of their son, he writes, " Comfort your
hart (dearest Besse), I shall sorrow for us bothc." But
the letter of 1603 seems conclusive on the point, and,
as it is worth careful perusal, I give extracts from it
as follows :

To his Wife, the night before he expected to be put to
death at Winchester, Dec. 1603

[From a contemporaneous transcript, collated with two others.]

You shall receave, deare wief, my last words in these my last
lynes. My love I send you, that you may keepe it when I am
dead ; and my councell, that you may remember it when I am
noe more. I would not, with my last Will, present you with


sorrowes, deare Besse, Lett them goe to the grave with me, and
be buried in the dust. And, seeing it is not the will of God that
ever I shall see you in this lief, beare my destruccion gentlie and
with a hart like yourself.

First I send you all the thanks my heart cann conceive, or my
penn expresse, for your many troubles and cares taken for me,
which — though they have not taken effect as you wished — yet my
debt is to you never the lesse ; but pay it I never shall in this

• ••••••

Remember your poore childe for his father's sake \i.e. in case
of re-marriage, which he considers would be best for her] that
comforted ^ you and loved you in his happiest tymes. Gett those
letters (if it bee possible) which I writt to the Lords, wherein I
sued for my h'ef, but God knoweth that itt was for you and yours
that I desired it, but itt is true that I disdaine myself for
begging itt. And know itt (deare wief) that your sonne is the
childe of a true man, and who, in his own respect, despiseth
Death, and all his misshapen and ouglie formes.

I cannot wright much. God knowes howe hardlie I stole
this tyme, when all sleep ; and it is tyme to separate my thoughts
from the world. Begg my dead body, which living was denyed
you ; and either lay itt att Sherborne, if the land continue, or
in Exiter church, by my father and mother. I can wright noe
more. Tyme and Death call me awaye.

The everlasting, infinite powerfull, and inscrutable God, that
Almightie God that is goodnes itself, mercy itself, the true lief
and light, keep you and yours, and have mercy on me, and teach
me to forgeve my persecutors and false accusers ; and send us to
meete in His glorious kingdome. My true wief, farewell. Blesse
my poore boye ; pray for me. My true God hold you both in
His armes.

Written with the dyeing hand of sometyme thy husband, but
now (alasse !) overthrowne. — Yours that was ; but nowe not my
owne, W. Ralegh.2

During Ralegh's temporary detention in the Tower in
1592 he was evidently much exercised about his large
interests in Ireland, as the two following letters show.
They are good examples of the directness of Ralegh's
style, and of his energy of character.

* The alternative (and better-known) reading is "that chose you and
loved you," etc. * Edwards, Life, ii. 284.


To Sir Robert Cecil, from the Touier, July 1592
[From the original.]

Sir — I wrat unto your father how I am dealt withall by the
Deputye,^ to whom my disgraces have bynn highly cummended.
Hee supposed a debt of four hundred pounds to the Queen, for
rent, and sent order to the Shiriff to take away all the cattell my
tenants had, and sell them the next day, unless the money weare
payd the same day. All Munster had scarce so mich mony in it ;
and the debt was indeed but fifty marks, which was payde, and

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 38 of 55)