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jectures appear ridiculous." Hist, of the World. B. 2. Chap.
23. Sect. 4. Oxf. Ed. Vol. iv. p. 683.

We know that Ralegh was of a respectable family in Dev-
onshire, which at the time of his birth was greatly reduced
in circumstances. It is among the pleasing facts of his life
that he was ever strongly attached to the scenes of his child-
hood, and endeavoured, in the midst of his ambitious engage-
ments, to purchase the humble residence of his youth. He
was at Oxford for a year or two, and leaving it, without ob-
taining a degree, we next find him in France, where he spent
some years with a party of English who went over to assist
the Protestants. In 1575, he continued his military course,
in the Netherlands, and his passion for a sea-life does not
appear till he was about twenty-eight, when he accompanied
his half-brother. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, upon his first unsuc-
cessful voyage to North America. From this time to the
death of Elizabeth, a period of about twenty-three years, Ra-
legh was almost constantly in action and in court favor. It
was the golden time of his life, if we are to esteem that such
which is crowded with business, animation, public distinction,
reverses, triumphs, and in which every power is bent to the
utmost for great achievements as a public man in war and
peace. Oldys says, that '* a warlike reign was of greater
safety to him, and a peaceful one proved his destruction.'*
This is a lively comment upon the active, sanguine temper of
his hero, and upon the withering, pusillanimous policy of
James. Elizabeth could favor the boldest spirits, for she
knew how to control them.

As some may have regarded Ralegh chiefly as a roan of
pleasure, taste, and fashion, a lover of letters and chivalry,
and a happy enthusiast and dreamer, we shall, at the risk of
being tedious, name some of his places and employments, to
give them an idea of what he was as a matter of fact or busi-
ness man.

And first of his adventures upon the ocean. These were
sometimes very successful ones against the enemy for prizes,
but they were chiefly for discovery, and for planting colo-
nies, and opening new paths for trade. Several expeditions
he merely fitted out or patronized, and it was in this way
thai his name is connected with the discovery of Davis's
Straits, and with the settlement of the American colony to

VOL. I. NO. II. 17



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186 Thomson's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. [Feb*

which the virgin queen was pleased to give a name. He set
out twice with Sir Humphrey Gilbert on his voyages to New-
foundland, in 1579 and 1583, and went twice in expeditions
of his own to Guiana, in 1595 and 1617. His name is dis-
tinguished in naval warfare. He was one of a council of war
to prepare against the celebrated Spanish invasion in 1588 ;
and, according to Oidys, when the enemy was on the coast,
Ralegh becoming impatient of his command on shore, where
his precautions were admirable, joined the English fleet witb
a gallant company of nobles and gentlemen, and rendered
signal service in the discomfiture of the unwieldy Armada.
He was with Howard and Essex in the successful expedition
against Cadiz in 1596, and commanded the van which was
to enter the harbour. In 1597, he was rear admiral under
Essex in the Island voyage, and gave ojSence to that noble-
man by getting possession of Fayal, on his own responsibility,
in the absence of the commander-in-chief.

Ralegh's expeditions to this country were not planned or
conducted at all in the spirit in which New England was vis-
ited by the Pilgrims a few years after his death. They were
for discovery, and for the acquisition of private fortunes, and
to obtain new territories for an easily spared population, and
open new fields for national and individual enterprise. They
show a great deal of public spirit mingled with merely per-
sonal or selfish purposes ; and they show further the abun-
dant energy and resources of the adventurers. The govern-
ment was cautious and frugal, and fully employed at home.
The queen would grant a patent to individuals for enterprises,
discoveries, and settlements, any where, so long as a Christian
or a friendly power was not interfered with, and assume as
little responsibility as an ojIBcer of the customs in granting a
clearance. The adventurers were in general to furnish ships
and money, bear the whole risk, enjoy the excitement of
danger, discovery, and conquest, get spoil and fame, and
bring new possessions to the crown. It was indeed a most
encouraging reign to men of fiery spirits who could supply
and depend on themselves ; and Ralegh's virtues might well
be deemed unfashionable and expose him to peril in that of
the unwarlike James. The old spirit of chivalry seemed now
to be turned to the ocean, and men still went abroad upon
adventures, trusting to their own valor.

No one acquainted with Ralegh's career will ascribe his



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1882.] Thomson'i Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. 12T

maritime projects wholly to a selfish principle. They bear
marks of a generous and enlightened patriotism. He assisted
in every way the efforts of others. He encouraged the artist
in drawing maps and plans and sketches ; he aided plantei-s
to settle in new countries, marked out tracks for discovery,
sought the best spots for trade or plantation, patronized the
collector of voyages, pubUshed treatises upon ships, com-
merce, and naval defence, expended immense sums upon the
enterprises which he either conducted himself or entrusted to
others ; and in his long imprisonment he could not forget the
cherished objects of his best days, but he sent to the settlers
in Guiana " every year, or every second year, at his own
charge, to keep them in hope of being relieved." [Ralegh's
Apology, in Birch's Collection. Vol. ii. p. 273.]

A few of his offices and honors at home may be named.
In 1580, he was captain in the forces under Lord Grey in
Ireland, and the narratives of his adventures and services
there are very entertaining, though some instances are given
of his cruelty as well as oi his desperate valor. We find him
often in Parliament, and taking an active and highly mde-
pendent part in many questions affecting the rights of the
subject and general improvement. In 1 587, he was advanced
to the post of captain of the queen's guard, being at the same
time lieutenant-general of Cornwall and warden of the stan-
naries. He was knighted about 1584, and this distinctioti
was no inconsiderable one in Elizabeth's time. Near this pe-
riod, he received from the queen, besides an immense estate
in Ireland, a patent ^' to license the vending of wines through-
out the kingdom, that by the advantages of this he might be
better able to sustain the great charges which his enterprises
of discovery brought upon him." This patent involved him
in an amusing controversy with the University of Cambridge,
which had a licensed vintner of its own and imprisoned
Ralegh's man. Oldys gives the correspondence between
him and the University. [Life, p. 60. Oxf. Ed.]

In 1598 and 1599, he was consulted by government touch-
ing the affairs of Ireland, and sent out with a fleet at a time
when invasion was apprehended from some quarter. And
there appears to have been an intention of sending him to Ire-
land as Lord Deputy ; but he was averse to the office. In
1600, he went with Lord Cobham to Flanders as commis-
moner^ it is said^ to treat with the States concembg peace



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128 Thomson's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. [Feb.

between England and the continental powers. The same
year he was appointed Governor of Jersey ; and here the
patronage and reign of Elizabeth were drawing to a close.

Such were some of the offices and engagements of a busy
life, connected with most of the important events of the pe-
riod, and yet always affording time for philosophy, antiqui-
ties, and letters. The dates we have ventured to give may
be often wrong ; for in the several narratives we have con-
sulted, it was frequently easier to get the history of an afiair
than the time when it occurred ; and sometime, with the
month and day before us, we were at a loss for the year. A
careful chronology and index would have been of great value
in thesC) as they are in all crowded narratives. It may as
well be mentioned here as in another place, that in the vol-
ume under review, some references are made in the body of
the work to documents in the Appendix, which are not to
be found there, that Ralegh is said to have been sixty years
old at the time of his death, instead of sixty-six, ^and, page
66, the first voyage to Guiana is placed after the expedition
to Cadiz.

The details of Sir Walter's active and public engagements
are abundant. It would be gratifying if we had more of his
private hours, of his occupations at his Sherborne and other
estates, of his beautiful familiar letters, of what passed at the
club he instituted at the Mermaid, and in his intercourse
with his friends, the Antiquaries. He is represented by our
author as <^ the gayest member of society, the most loqua-
cious, frolicsome, and frequent attendant upon taverns and
other places of resort then in vogue.'' She, as well as Oldys,
has given a very pleasant account of his visit to Spenser in
1589, at his seat near the MuUa, which ran through his
grounds. Todd says something of this in his life of Spenser ;
and as if there must always be some doubt in every thing that
relates to Ralegh, it is questioned whether this visit to Ire-
land was voluntary and merely to see his estate there and
his valued friend, or whether he retired thither for a time, on
account of some disagreement with Essex. It is enough that
this visit is an evidence of the intimacy between these illus-
trious men, and that it is intimately connected with the pub-
lication of the Faery Queen, a work already begun under the
encouragement of Sir Philip Sidney. Spenser, in his beau-
tiful pastoral of ^' Colin Clout 's come home agam/' corn-



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1833.] Thomson's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. 129

memorates this meeting, and also Sir Walter's poetical talent^
and his services to the poet.

It is painful that our interest in Ralegh should be inter-
rupted by doubts as to his integrity. Few men have stood
before the world in such broad light, over whom so much of
mystery has been thrown. The charges against him may
have come from his enemies, and they may be vague ; still,
in the fear that all is not right, we are put upon our ingenu-
ity to see if we cannot clear his reputation. If a full life of
him had been written by one decided, plain-spoken foe, we
might have the accusations and their grounds distinctly
before us ; and if they could not be repelled, we should
know at least what allowance to make for the man, and what
deductions from the too partial estimate we had formed of
him. In the volume before us, his avarice and corruption
are spoken of in this rather indeBnite way.

" In a letter which he wrote to the king, Ralegh acknowl-
edged, before his trial, as he had also done to Cecil and the
lords who were appointed to examine him, the only offence
which could justly be laid to his charge, that of listening to the
proposals made by Cobham of a bribe from Spain, althoagh he
declared that he neither believed nor approved it. It is indeed
to be feared, that there was some deviation from the rales of
strict integrity, induced too, probably, by the temptation of
turning his abilities and influence to account ; for a strange
contradiction existed in the character of Ralegh, who, while he
freely promoted, at his own expense, the schemes which he pro-
jected for the extension of British dominion, was clear neither
from the imputation of receiving bribes from his own country-
i^en, nor from the disposition to admit them from foreign states.
Avarice, unguarded by a nice and delicate sense of honor, was
the prevailing vice of the day, and few statesmen were, in those
times, exempt from stains upon their purity of conduct, which
would at present consign persons in similar stations to merited
and irremediable disgrace." p. 173.

His veracity has been assailed for the eloquent fables he
published about the gold of Guiana, in his ^' Voyage of Dis-
covery '' to that country. Our author is not content with
saying, that Ralegh tells what is not true, but charges him
with the intention of taking in adventurers bv his splendid
fictions. The patient and admiring Oldys gives a long ab-
stract of the work, and passages from an heroic poem upon
the subject written^ as he supposes, by George Chapman, and



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130 Thomson's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. [Feb.

adds the favorable opinion of Camden and others. Ralegh, it
seems, tells much truth about the country, and so much the
worse, say his enemies, when he misrepresents, as he must
have known better. Might it not be more charitable to sup-
pose that he described sometimes from report ? His friends
think that the book bears plaFn marks of good faith and sin-
cerity, and some, that it shows too much of imagination and
credulity, and that his interest probably tempted him to ex-
aggerate and color. And yet he was himself so set upon
grasping the visionary gold, that we find him fitting out ves-
sels again and again to his darling Guiana ; and twenty years
afterwards, upon his return from his last and ill-starred expe*-
dition thither, he says, in his " Apology,"

** A strange fancy bad it been in me to have persuaded my
son whom I have lost, and to have persuaded my wife, to have
adventured the eight thousand pound which his Majesty gave
them for Sherborne, and when that was spent, to persuade
my wife to sell her house at Mitcham, in hope of enriching
them by the mines of Guiana ; if I myself had not seen them
with my own eyes. For being old and weakly, thirteen years in
prison, and not used to the air, to travel, and to watching, it
being ten to one that I should ever have returned, and of which
by reason of my violent sickness and the long continuance
thereof, no man had any hope ; what madness could have made
me undertake this journey but the assurance of the mine ? "
Birch's Collection. Vol. ii. p. 270.

Of the charge against him of atheism, skepticism, and de-
ism, we can make nothing. Whether in his early days he
was a free-thinker, or that his philosophical opinions were in
advance of the times, or that he was thought too bold m
applying criticism to parts of the Old Testament, or whether
his kindness and toleration towards dissenters offended the
prelacy, or his abhorrence of Spain, the Jesuits, — the charge
was certainly made, and that is all that we can say of it

Lastly comes the charge of treason, for which, so far as
respects form, he suffered death. Hume says of this affair, that
" every thing still remains mysterious, and history can give
us no clue to unravel it ; " and so it remains now. He bad
incurred enmity about the tragical affair of Essex ; he had
become unpopular; the queen was dead; Cecil, a former
friend and a wily politician, was jealous of him. James, who
had just come to the throne, had heard ill of him, and prob-*



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1832.] Thomsm's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. 131

ably dreaded him as a rival in learnings as well as a mishty
man in politics and war. Strangely enough, he had long
been an intimate of the worthless Lord Cobham ; and at first
from suspicion, and then from Cobham's confessions, subse*
quently retracted, Ralegh, in 1603, was charged with having
taken part in a conspiracy with that lord, and Lord Grey
and others, against the king. Then we have the trial, and
Coke's brutality, and a verdict against him in plain defiance
of all justice. A more atrocious proceeding may not be
found under governments which openly place the will of the
ruler above statutes and forms. To have any just idea of
what we have merely hinted at, the whole history of this
business must be read.

No warrant for execution bsuing against Ralegh, we are
now to follow him to his dungeon. We spoke before of his
most active days as perhaps the golden time of his life.
Some, who contemplate life difierenlly, may think him a far
more interest'mg being during his thirteen years' residence
in the tower, under sentence of death, his estates forfeited,
his magnificent plans of wealth, discovery, and usefulness
erusbed, while his heart still yearned over them ; the rash-
ness and severity which he had shown in his earlier days,
tempered or quite subdued ; his wife and children the com-
panions of his captivity, and the young Prince Henry his
devoted frieod, and the worthy object of his affection and
instruction. Here, we are told in the language of the times,
'^ the door of his chamber being always open all the day
long to the garden, he hath converted a litcle hen-house in
the garden to a still-house, where he doth spend his time all
the day in distillations ; " probably compounding his '^ great
cordial." Here, says Oldys, " we are arrived at that part of
his story, wherein he will appear rather as a collegian than a
captive, a student in a library than a prisoner in the tower/^
mustering all his powers and learning to compose his great
work, the " History of the World." One might dwell long
and profitably upon such an example of self-command, and
steady devotion of his faculties to a great and useful object,
under circumstances that seem just fitted to break down such
an ardent, sanguine temper. It was probably a harder task
for him to compose grave political treatises and elaborate
history in his cell, than for Bunyan to follow out in jail the
spiritual visions that had long filled his mind before his cap-



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132 Thomson's Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. [Feb.

tivity. It is not for any one to measure the uses of trial, of dis-
appointment in the most cherished schemes and of the most
brilliant hopes. Ralegh's character wanted mellowing and
ripening even at fifty, and certainly it gives evidence after-
wards of a moral force and true piety and steady mentai
vigor, of domestic tenderness and a love of what is thoroughly
pacific, that might have been wanting but for the desertioo
of the world, the hatred of rivals, and the silent hours of
bondage.

It may be alleged against Ralegh, that in the Preface to
his " History " and elsewhere, he shows towards James a de-
grading condescension and flattery. Without excusing this
humiliation, we ought to remember that it was an age of ex-
orbitant reverence for thrones and legitimacy ; and the gross-
est adulation was esteemed but a moderate tribute to a mon-
arch, who, according to Blackstone, united in bis person not
only all the claims of dilSerent competitors from the conquest
downwards, but also the right of the Saxon monarchs, which
had been suspended from the conquest till his accession. If
in these days and in our own country we set little by such
considerations, we may find a slight palliation for Ralegh's un-
deserved eulogy of his sovereign, that it was oflfered when
be was in the tower and under sentence of death, and per-
haps in the hope of obtaining from the king's weakness what
he might in vain demand from his sense of justice.

He was released from prison in 1616, while still under sen-
tence of death, and went upon another voyage to Guiana in

1617, with a royal commission as admiral, which Bacon,
then Lord Keeper, solemnly assured him, in order to remove
his doubts and fears, was a sufficient pardon. The expedi-
tion was disastrous, the Spanish government was incensed at
it, and James was alarmed ; and upon Ralegh's return in

1618, he was again committed to the tower, and in two or
three months after suffered death under the old sentence of
1603, which seems to have been kept in reserve for him, if
he should ever give offence. He was probably a victim to
bis own infatuation, and to the ascendency of Spain in the
councils of England ; and the atrocity of his condemnation is
only equalled by that of his execution. We have no room
for the particulars of this impressive and well-remembered
scene. A short passage from his letter to his wife just after
sentence was passed, and the night before he expected to be
put to death, may be a fitting close.



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1882.] Thom8on*8 Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. 138

^ You ^all now receive, my dear wife, mj laBt words itt
these my last lines. My lore I send you, that you may keep it
when I am dead, and my coiuisel ; that you may remember it
when I am no more. I would not, by my will, present yon with
sorrows, dear Bess ; let them go into the grave with me, and
be buried in the dust. And seeing that it is not the will of
God that ever I shall see you more in this life, bear it patiently
and with a heart like 4hyself. Remember your poor child for
his father's sake, who chose you and loved you in his happiest
time. Get those letters, if it be possible, which I writ to the
lords, wherein I sued for my life. God is my witness, it was
for you and yours that I desired life. But it is true that I dis-
dain myself for begging it ; for know it, dear wife, that your
son is the son of a true man, and one who in his own respect
despiseth death, and all his misshapen and ugly forms. I can*
not write much : God he knoweth how hardly I steal this time,
while others sleep ; and it is also high time that I should sepa-
rate my thoughts from the world. Beg my dead body which
living was denied thee ; and either lay it at Sherborne, if the
land continue, or in Exeter church by my father and mother. '*
Birch's Collection of Ralegh's Miscellanies, Vol. ii. pp. 383 -
385.

As these few details and remarks have occupied so much
space, it would be hardly worth while to venture upon an
account, that must be very imperfect, of his writings, which
are of almost every kind, and especially of his great work,
'' that ocean of history," as it has been called, the History of
the World, beginning with the creation and closing with the
cooquest of Macedonia by Paulus ^milius, and treating of
•things both new and old. Such is Ralegh's literary import-
ance, that a complete view of his writings should be given,
or none attempted.

. His life by Oldys, in 1736, is full of curious and entertain-
ing matter, and evidently written by one dewDted to his hero ;
and as it is published, together with Birch's short and excel-
lent narrative (1751) in the recent Oxford edition of Ra-
legh's works, w^ suppose it is still in good repute. Mrs.
Xhomaon's work appeared in 1830. Though not always exact,
it is an entertaining compilation from a great variety of au-
thors. It is written in a very fair spirit, and with a due regard
to moral and religious considerations in settling the character
of a diatiAguisbed public man. Such a life could hardly be
writlep heavily by any one ; and in the hands of Southey,

VOL. I. NO. II. 18



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134 Life of Swedenborg. [Feb.

Irving, or Scott, it would, we think, make as enchaDtiog and
instructive a work, as any that ba5 come from their pens.



Art. VI. — Life of Emanuel Swedenborg, with some Ac-
count xff his Writings^ together with a Brief Notice of
the Rise and Progress of the New Church. Boston.
Allen & Goddard. 1831. 12mo.* pp. 188.

This is a very well arranged account of the life and reli-
gion of the most remarkable pretender in the Christian
church, written by a friend of his cause and for the purpose
of promoting a belief in his supernatural pretensions ; and
therefore partaking of the character of an eulogy. But while
it is adapted to delight and edify the receivers of his faith, it
will be found highly entertaining by all ; and perhaps those
who would see in small compass a statement of the grounds
on which his claims are rested, will find nowhere a more
complete exposition than is here given. In the present uni-
versal agitation of the religious public and action and reac-
tion of sects, it is not strange that this sect of enthusiasts, the
most amiable perhaps which the history of enthusiasm has
known, should share in the general excitement, and be anx-
ious, notwithstanding its professed anti-proselyting spirit, to
draw to itself a fair proportion of the minds which are inquir-
ing after the actual truth. It would not be at all surprising if
its success should be considerable. Many things take place
daily far more astonishing than conversions to Swedenbor-
gianism ; and where a sect can at once exhibit an exemplary
sweetness of deportment, offer gratification to the general
love of the mystical and supernatural, and set forth the life



Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 15 of 54)