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Raleigh By Edmund Gosse Characters: 34751

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

A slight anecdote, which is connected with the month of January 1598, must not be omitted here. It gives us an impression of the personal habits of Raleigh at this stage of his career. It was the custom of the Queen to go to bed early, and one winter's evening the Earl of Southampton, Raleigh, and a man named Parker were playing the game of primero in the Presence Chamber, after her Majesty had retired. They laughed and talked rather loudly, upon which Ambrose Willoughby, the Esquire of the Body, came out and desired them not to make so much noise. Raleigh pocketed his money, and went off, but Southampton resented the interference, and in the scuffle that ensued Willoughby pulled out a handful of those marjoram-coloured curls that Shakespeare praised.

It is not easy to see why it was, that in the obscure year 1598, while the star of Essex was setting, that of his natural rival did not burn more brightly. But although now, and for the brief remainder of Elizabeth's life, Raleigh was nominally in favour, the saturnine old woman had no longer any tenderness for her Captain of the Guard. Her old love, her old friendship, had quite passed away. There was no longer any excuse for excluding from her presence so valuable a soldier and so wise a courtier, but her pulses had ceased to thrill at his coming. If Essex had been half so courteous, half so assiduous as Raleigh, she would have opened her arms to him, but she had offended Essex past forgiveness, and his tongue held no parley with her. It must have been in Raleigh's presence-for he it is who has recorded it in the grave pages of his Prerogative of Parliament-that Essex told the Queen 'that her conditions were as crooked as her carcass,' a terrible speech which, as Raleigh says, 'cost him his head.' This was perhaps a little later, in 1600. In 1598 these cruel squabbles were already making life at Court a misery. The Queen kept Raleigh by her, but would give him nothing. In January he applied for the post of Vice-chamberlain, but without success. The new earl, Lord Nottingham, could theatrically wipe the dust from Raleigh's shoes with his cloak, but when Raleigh himself desired to be made a peer, in the spring of 1598, he was met with a direct refusal. He would fain have been Lord Deputy in Ireland, but the Queen declined to spare him. On the last day of August he was in the very act of being sworn on the Privy Council, but at the final moment Cecil frustrated this by saying that if he were made a councillor, he must resign his Captainship of the Guard to Sir George Carew. This was, as Cecil was aware, too great a sacrifice to be thought of, and the hero of Cadiz and Fayal, foiled on every hand, had to submit to remain plain Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight.

As the breach grew between Essex and the Queen, the temper of the former grew more surly. He dropped the semblance of civility to Raleigh. In his Apothegms, Lord Bacon has preserved an amusing anecdote of November 17, 1598. On this day, which was the Queen's sixty-fifth birthday, the leading courtiers, as usual, tilted in the ring in honour of their Liege; the custom of this piece of mock chivalry demanded that each knight should be disguised. It was, however, known that Sir Walter Raleigh would ride in his own uniform of orange tawny medley, trimmed with black budge of lamb's wool. Essex, to vex him, came to the lists with a body-guard of two thousand retainers all dressed in orange tawny, so that Raleigh and his men should seem a fragment of the great Essex following. The story goes on to show that Essex digged a pit and fell into it himself; but enough has been said to prove his malignant intention. We have little else but anecdotes with which to fill up the gap in Raleigh's career between December 1597 and March 1600. This was an exceedingly quiet period in his life, during which we have to fancy him growing more and more at enmity with Essex, and more and more intimate with Cobham.

In September 1598, an unexpected ally, the Duke of Finland, urged Raleigh to undertake once more his attempt to colonise Guiana, and offered twelve ships as his own contingent. Two months later we find that the hint has been taken, and that Sir John Gilbert is 'preparing with all speed to make a voyage to Guiana.' It is said, moreover, that 'he intendeth to inhabit it with English people.' He never started, however, and Raleigh, referring long afterwards to the events of these years, said that though Cecil seemed to encourage him in his West Indian projects, yet that when it came to the point he always, as Raleigh quaintly put it, retired into his back-shop. Meanwhile, the interest felt in Raleigh's narrative was increasing, and in 1599 the well-known geographer Levinus Hulsius brought out in Nuremburg a Latin translation of the Discovery, with five curious plates, including one of the city of Manoa, and another of the Ewaipanoma, or men without heads. The German version of the book and its English reprint in Hakluyt's Navigations belong to the same year. Also in 1599, the Discovery was reproduced in Latin, German, and French by De Bry in the eighth part of his celebrated Collectiones Peregrinationum. This year, then, in which we hardly hear otherwise of Raleigh, marked the height of his success as a geographical writer. So absolutely is the veil drawn over his personal history at this time that the only facts we possess are, that on November 4 Raleigh was lying sick of an ague, and that on December 13 he was still ill.

In the middle of March 1600 Sir Walter and Lady Raleigh left Durham House for Sherborne, taking with them, as a playmate for their son Walter, Sir Robert Cecil's eldest son, William, afterwards the second Earl of Salisbury. On the way down to Dorsetshire, they stopped at Sion House as the guests of the 'Wizard' Earl of Northumberland, a life-long friend of Raleigh's, and presently to be his most intelligent fellow-prisoner in the Tower. From Sherborne, Raleigh wrote on the 6th of April saying frankly that if her Majesty persisted in excluding him from every sort of preferment, 'I must begin to keep sheep betime.' He hinted in the same letter that he would accept the Governorship of Jersey, which was expected to fall vacant. The friendship with Lord Cobham has now become quite ardent, and Lady Raleigh vies with her husband in urging him to pay Sherborne a visit. Later on in April the Raleighs went to Bath apparently for no other reason than to meet Cobham there. Here is a curious note from Raleigh to the most dangerous of his associates, written from Bath on April 29, 1600:

Here we attend you and have done this sevennight, and we still mourn your absence, the rather because we fear that your mind is changed. I pray let us hear from you at least, for if you come not we will go hereby home, and make but short tarrying here. My wife will despair ever to see you in these parts, if your Lordship come not now. We can but long for you and wish you as our own lives whatsoever.

Your Lordship's everest faithful, to honour you most,

W. Ralegh.

Raleigh's absence from Court was so lengthy, that it was whispered in the early summer that he was in disgrace, that the Queen had called him 'something worse than cat or dog,' namely, 'fox.' The absurdity of this was proved early in July by his being hurriedly called to town to accompany Cobham and Northumberland on their brief and fruitless visit to Ostend. The friends started from Sandwich on July 11, and were received in the Low Countries by Lord Grey; they were entertained at Ostend with extraordinary respect, but they gained nothing of political or diplomatic value. Affairs in Ireland, connected with the Spanish invasion, occupied Raleigh's mind and pen during this autumn, but he paid no visit to his Munster estates. There were plots and counterplots developing in various parts of these islands in the autumn of 1600, but with none of these subterranean activities is Raleigh for the present to be identified.

When Sir Anthony Paulet died, on August 26, 1600, Raleigh had the satisfaction of succeeding him in the Governorship of Jersey. He had asked for the reversion of this post, and none could be found more appropriate to his powers or circumstances. It gave him once more the opportunity to cultivate his restless energy, to fly hither and thither by sea and land, and to harry the English Channel for Spaniards as a terrier watches a haystack for rats. Weymouth, which was the English postal port for Jersey, was also the natural harbour of Sherborne, and Raleigh had been accustomed, as it was, to keep more than one vessel there. The appointment in Jersey was combined with a gift of the manor of St. Germain in that island, but the Queen thought it right, in consideration of this present, to strike off three hundred pounds from the Governor's salary. Cecil was Raleigh's guest at Sherborne when the appointment was made, and Raleigh waited until he left before starting for his new charge; all this time young William Cecil continued at Sherborne for his health. At last, late in September, Sir Walter and Lady Raleigh went down to Weymouth, and took with them their little son Walter, now about six years old. The day was very fine, and the mother and son saw the new Governor on board his ship. He was kept at sea forty-eight hours by contrary winds, but reached Jersey at last on an October morning.

Raleigh wrote home to his wife that he never saw a pleasanter island than Jersey, but protested that it was not in value the very third part of what had been reported. One of his first visits was to the castle of Mont Orgueil, which had been rebuilt seven years before. His intention had been to destroy it, but he was so much struck with its stately architecture and commanding position that he determined to spare it, and in fact he told off a detachment of his men then and there to guard it. Raleigh's work in Jersey was considerable. While he remained governor, he established a trade between the island and Newfoundland, undertook to register real property according to a definite system, abolished the unpopular compulsory service of the Corps de Garde, and lightened in many directions the fiscal burdens which previous governors had laid on the population. Raleigh's beneficent rule in Jersey lasted just three years.

While he was absent on this his first visit to the island, Lady Raleigh at Sherborne received news from Cecil of the partial destruction of Durham House by a fire, which had broken out in the old stables. None of the Raleigh valuables were injured, but Lady Raleigh suggests that it is high time something were definitely settled about property in this 'rotten house,' which Sir Walter was constantly repairing and improving without possessing any proper lease of it. As a matter of fact, when the crash came, Durham House was the first of his losses. Early in November 1600, Raleigh was in Cornwall, improving the condition of the tin-workers, and going through his duties in the Stannaries Court of Lostwithiel. We find him protecting private enterprise on Roborough Down against the borough of Plymouth, which desired to stop the tin-works, and the year closes with his activities on behalf of the 'establishment of good laws among tinners.'

The first two months of 1601 were occupied with the picturesque tragedy of Essex's trial and execution. It seems that Raleigh was at last provoked into open enmity by the taunts and threats of the Lord Marshal. Among the strange acts of Essex, none had been more strange than his extraordinary way of complaining, like a child, of anyone who might displease him. In his letter to the Queen on June 25, 1599, he openly named Raleigh and Cobham as his enemies and the enemies of England; not reflecting that both of these personages were in the Queen's confidence, and that he was out of it. We may presume that it was more than Raleigh could bear to be shown a letter addressed to the Queen in which Essex deliberately accused him of 'wishing the ill success of your Majesty's most important action, the decay of your greatest strength, and the destruction of your faithfullest servants.' There were some things Raleigh could not forgive, and the accusation that he favoured Spain was one of these. Shut up among his creatures in his house in the Strand, and refused all communication with Elizabeth, Essex thought no accusation too libellous to spread against the trio who held the royal ear, against Raleigh, Cecil, and Cobham, whose daggers, he said, were thirsting for his blood.

It was probably in the summer of 1600 that Raleigh wrote the curious letter of advice to Cecil which forms the only evidence we possess that he had definitely come to the decision that Essex must die. His language admits of no doubt of his intention. He says:

If you take it for a good counsel to relent towards this tyrant, you will repent it when it shall be too late. His malice is fixed, and will not evaporate by any of your mild courses. For he will ascribe the alteration to her Majesty's pusillanimity and not to your good nature, knowing that you work but upon her humour, and not out of any love towards him. The less you make him, the less he shall be able to harm you and yours; and if her Majesty's favour fail him, he will again decline to a common person. For after-revenges, fear them not, for your own father was esteemed to be the contriver of Norfolk's ruin, yet his son followeth your father's son and loveth him.

This advice has been stigmatised as worse than ungenerous. It was, at all events, extremely to the point, and it may be suggested that for Raleigh and Cecil the time for showing generosity to Essex was past. They took no overt steps, however, but it is plain that they kept themselves informed of the mad meetings that went on in Essex House. On the morning before the insurrection was to break out, February 18, 1601, Raleigh sent a note to his kinsman, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who was one of Essex's men, to come down to Durham House to speak with him. Gorges, startled at the message, consulted Essex, who advised him to say that he would meet Raleigh, not at Durham House, but half-way, on the river. Raleigh assented to this, and came alone, while Gorges, with two other gentlemen, met him. Raleigh told his cousin that a warrant was out to seize him, and advised him to leave London at once for Plymouth. Gorges said it was too late, and a long conversation ensued, in the course of which a boat was seen to glide away from Essex stairs and to approach them. Upon this Gorges pushed Raleigh's boat away, and bid him hasten home. As he rowed off towards Durham House, four shots from the second boat missed him; it had been manned by Sir Christopher Blount, who, with three or four servants of Essex, had come out to capture or else kill Raleigh.

For this treason Blount asked and obtained Raleigh's pardon a few days later, on the scaffold. At the last moment of his life, Essex also had desired to speak with Raleigh, having already solemnly retracted the accusations he had made against him; but it is said that this message of peace was not conveyed to Raleigh until it was too late. According to Raleigh's own account, he had been standing near the scaffold, on purpose to see whether Essex would address him, and had retired because he was not spoken to. His words in 1618 were these:

It is said I was a persecutor of my Lord of Essex; that I puffed out tobacco in disdain when he was on the scaffold. But I take God to witness I shed tears for him when he died. I confess I was of a contrary faction, but I knew he was a noble gentleman. Those that set me up against him, did afterwards set themselves against me.

Raleigh was accused of barbarity by the adherents of Essex, but there is nothing to rebut the testimony of one of his own greatest enemies, Blount, who confessed, a few minutes before he died, that he did not believe Sir Walter Raleigh intended to assassinate the Earl, nor that Essex himself feared it, 'only it was a word cast out to colour other matters.' We are told that Raleigh suffered from a profound melancholy as he was rowed back from the Tower to Durham House after the execution of Essex, and that it was afterwards believed that he was visited at that time by a presentiment of his own dreadful end.

During the summer of 1601, Raleigh became involved in a vexatious quarrel between certain of his own Dorsetshire servants. The man Meeres, whom he had appointed as bailiff of the Sherborne estates nine years before, after doing trusty service to his master, had gradually become aggressive and mutinous. He disliked the presence of Adrian Gilbert, Raleigh's brother, who had been made Constable of Sherborne Castle, and who overlooked Meeres on all occasions. There began to be constant petty quarrels between the bailiff of the manor and the constable of the castle, and when Raleigh at last dismissed the former bailiff and appointed another, Meeres put himself under the protection of an old enemy of Raleigh's, Lord Thomas Howard, now Lord Howard of Bindon, and refused to quit. In the month of August, Meeres audaciously arrested the rival bailiff, whereupon Raleigh had Meeres himself put in the stocks in the market-place of Sherborne. The town took Raleigh's side, and when Meeres was release

d, the people riotously accompanied him to his house, with derisive cries. When Raleigh was afterward attainted, Meeres took all the revenge he could, and succeeded in making himself not a little offensive to Lady Raleigh. Sir Walter Raleigh's letters testify to the great annoyance this man gave him. It appears that Meeres' wife, 'a broken piece, but too good for such a knave,' was a kinswoman of Lady Essex, and the most curious point is that Raleigh thought that Meeres was trained to forge his handwriting. He tells Cecil:

The Earl did not make show to like Meeres, nor admit him to his presence, but it was thought that secretly he meant to have used him for some mischief against me; and, if Essex had prevailed, he had been used as the counterfeiter, for he writes my hand so perfectly that I cannot any way discern the difference.[7]

Meeres was ready in the law, and during the month of September sent twenty-six subp?nas down to Sherborne. But on October 3 he was subdued for the time being, and wrote to Cecil from his prison in the Gatehouse that he was very sorry for what he had said so 'furiously and foolishly' about Sir Walter Raleigh, and begged for a merciful consideration of it. He was pardoned, but he proved a troublesome scoundrel then and afterwards.

Early in September 1601, Raleigh came up on business from Bath to London, meaning to return at once, but found himself unexpectedly called upon to stay and fulfil a graceful duty. Henry IV. of France, being at Calais, had sent the Duc de Biron, with a retinue of three hundred persons, to pay a visit of compliment to Elizabeth. It was important that the French favourite should be well received in England, but no one expected him in London, and the Queen was travelling. Sir Arthur Savage and Sir Arthur Gorges were the Duke's very insufficient escort, until Raleigh fortunately made his appearance and did the honours of London in better style. He took the French envoys to Westminster Abbey, and, to their greater satisfaction, to the Bear Garden. The Queen was now staying, as the guest of the Marquis of Winchester, at Basing, and so, on September 9, Raleigh took the Duke and his suite down to the Vine, a house in Hampshire, where he was royally entertained. The Queen visited them here, and on the 12th they all came over to stay with her at Basing Park. By the Queen's desire, Raleigh wrote to Cobham, who had stayed at Bath, to come over to Basing and help to entertain the Frenchmen; he added, that in three or four days the visit would be over, and he and Cobham could go back to Bath together. The letters of Raleigh display an intimate friendship between Lord Cobham and himself which is not to be overlooked in the light of coming events. The French were all dressed in black, a colour Raleigh did not possess in his copious wardrobe, so that he had to order the making of a black taffeta suit in a hurry, to fetch which from London he started back late on Saturday night after bringing the Duke safe down to Basing. It was on the next day, if the French ambassador said true, that he had the astounding conversation with Elizabeth about Essex, at the end of which, after railing against her dead favourite, she opened a casket and produced the very skull of Essex. The subject of the fall of favourites was one in which Biron should have taken the keenest interest. Ten months later he himself, abandoned by his king, came to that frantic death in front of the Bastille which Chapman presented to English readers in the most majestic of his tragedies. The visit to Elizabeth occupies the third act of Byron's Conspiracy, which, published in 1608, contains of course no reference to Raleigh's part on that occasion.

It may be that in the autumn of 1601, James of Scotland first became actively cognisant of Raleigh's existence. Spain was once more giving Elizabeth anxiety, and threatening an invasion which actually took place on September 21, at Kinsale. By means of the spies which he kept in the Channel, Raleigh saw the Spanish fleet advancing, and warned the Government, though his warnings were a little too positive in pointing out Cork and Limerick as the points of attack. Meanwhile, he wrote out for the Queen's perusal a State paper on The Dangers of a Spanish Faction in Scotland. This paper has not been preserved, but the rumour of its contents is supposed to have frightened James in his correspondence with Rome, and to have made him judge it prudent to offer Elizabeth three thousand Scotch troops against the invader. Raleigh's casual remarks with regard to Irish affairs at this critical time, as we find them in his letters to Cecil, are not sympathetic or even humane, and there is at least one passage which looks very much like a licensing of assassination; yet it is certain that Raleigh, surveying from his remote Sherborne that Munster which he knew so well, took in the salient features of the position with extraordinary success. In almost every particular he showed himself a true prophet with regard to the Irish rising of 1601.

In November the Duke of Lennox came somewhat hastily to London from Paris, entrusted with a very delicate diplomatic commission from James of Scotland to Elizabeth. It is certain that he saw Raleigh and Cobham, and that he discussed with them the thorny question of the succession to the English throne. It moreover appears that he found their intentions 'traitorous to the King,' that is to say unfavourable to the candidature of James. The whole incident is exceedingly dark, and the particulars of it rest mainly on a tainted authority, that of Lord Henry Howard. It may be conjectured that what really happened was that the Duke of Lennox, learning that Raleigh was in town, desired Sir Arthur Savage to introduce him; that he then suggested a private conference, which was first refused, then granted, in Cobham's presence, at Durham House; that Raleigh refused King James's offers, and went and told Cecil that he had done so. Cecil, however, chose to believe that Raleigh was keeping something back from him, and his attitude from this moment grows sensibly colder to Raleigh, and he speaks of Raleigh's 'ingratitude,' though it is not plain what he should have been grateful for to Cecil.

It was now thirteen years since Raleigh had abandoned the hope of colonising Virginia, though his thoughts had often reverted to that savage country, of which he was the nominal liege lord. In 1602 he made a final effort to assert his authority there. He sent out a certain Samuel Mace, of whose expedition we know little; and about the same time his nephew, Bartholomew Gilbert, with an experienced mariner, Captain Gosnoll, went to look for the lost colony and city of Raleigh. These latter started in a small barque on March 26, but though they enjoyed an interesting voyage, they never touched Virginia at all. They discovered and named Martha's Vineyard, and some other of the islands in the same group; then, after a pleasant sojourn, they came back to England, and landed at Exmouth on July 23. It was left for another than Raleigh, while he was impoverished and a prisoner in the Tower, to carry out the dream of Virginian settlement. Perhaps the most fortunate thing that could have happened to Raleigh would have been for him to have personally conducted to the West this expedition of 1602. To have been out of England when the Queen died might have saved him from the calumny of treason.

It has been supposed that Raleigh was a complete loser by these vain expeditions. But a passage in a letter of August 21, 1602, shows us that this was not the fact. He says: 'Neither of them spake with the people,' that is, with the lost Virginian colonists, 'but I do send both the barques away again, having saved the charge in sassafras wood.' From the same letter we find that Gilbert and Gosnoll went off without Raleigh's leave, though in his ship and at his expense, and the latter therefore prays that his nephew may be stripped of his rich store of sassafras and cedar wood, partly in chastisement, but more for fear of overstocking the London market. He throws Gilbert over, and speaks angrily of him not as a kinsman, but as 'my Lord Cobham's man;' then relents in a postscript-'all is confiscate, but he shall have his part again.'

Raleigh was feeble in health and irritable in temper all this time. Lady Raleigh, with a woman's instinct, tried to curb his ambition, and tie him down to Sherborne. 'My wife says that every day this place amends, and London, to her, grows worse and worse.' Meanwhile, there is really not an atom of evidence to show that Raleigh was engaged in any political intrigue. He spent the summer and autumn of 1602, when he was not at Sherborne, in going through the round of his duties. All the month of July he spent in Jersey, 'walking in the wilderness,' as he says, hearing from no one, and troubled in mind by vague rumours, blown over to him from Normandy, of the disgrace of the Duc de Biron. He is also 'much pestered with the coming of many Norman gentlemen, but cannot prevent it.' On August 9, he left Jersey, in his ship the 'Antelope,' fearing if he stayed any longer to exhaust her English stores, and get no more 'in this poor island.' On landing at Weymouth on the 12th, he wrote inviting Cecil and Northumberland to meet him at Bath. He was justly exasperated to find that during his absence Lord Howard of Bindon had once more taken up the wicked steward, Meeres, and persuaded Sir William Peryam, the Chief Baron of the Exchequer, to try the suit again. Raleigh complains to Cecil:

I never busied myself with the Lord Viscount's [Lord Bindon's] wealth, nor of his extortions, nor poisoning of his wife, as is here avowed, have I spoken. I have foreborne ... but I will not endure wrong at so peevish a fool's hands any longer. I will rather lose my life, and I think that my Lord Puritan Peryam doth think that the Queen shall have more use of rogues and villains than of men, or else he would not, at Bindon's instances, have yielded to try actions against me being out of the land.

The vexation was a real one, but this is the language of a petulant invalid, of a man to whom the grasshopper has become a burden. We are therefore not surprised to find him at Bath on September 15, so ill that he can barely write a note to Cecil warning him of the approach of a Spanish fleet, the news of which has just reached him from Jersey. He grew little better at Bath, and in October we find him again at Sherborne, in very low spirits, sending by Cobham to the Queen a stone which Bartholomew Gilbert had brought from America, and which Raleigh took to be a diamond. Immediately after this, he set out on what he calls his 'miserable journey into Cornwall,' no other than his customary autumn circuit through the Stannary Courts. Once he had enjoyed these bracing rides over the moors, but his animal spirits were subdued, and the cold mosses, the streams to be forded, the dripping October woods, and the chilly granite judgment-seat itself, had lost their attraction for his aching joints. In November, however, he is back at Sherborne, restored to health, and intending to linger in Dorsetshire as long as he can, 'except there be cause to hasten me up.'

Meanwhile he had paid a brief visit to London, and had spoken with the Queen, as it would appear, for the last time. Cecil, who was also present, has recorded in a letter of November 4 this interview, which took place the previous day. On this last occasion Elizabeth sought Raleigh's advice on her Irish policy. The President of Munster had reported that he had seen fit to 'kill and hang divers poor men, women, and children appertaining' to Cormac MacDermod McCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, and to burn all his castles and villages from Carrigrohan to Inchigeelagh. Cecil was inclined to think that severity had been pushed too far, and that the wretched Cormac might be left in peace. But Elizabeth had long been accustomed to turn to Raleigh for advice on her Irish policy. He gave, as usual, his unflinching constant counsel for drastic severity. He 'very earnestly moved her Majesty of all others to reject Cormac MacDermod, first, because his country was worth her keeping, secondly, because he lived so under the eye of the State that, whensoever she would, it was in her power to suppress him.' This last, one would think, might have been an argument for mercy. The Queen instructed Cecil to tell Sir George Carew, that whatever pardon was extended to others, none might be shown to Cormac.

It was in the same spirit of rigour that Raleigh had for two years past advised the retention of the gentle and learned Florence MacCarthy in the Tower, as 'a man reconciled to the Pope, dangerous to the present State, beloved of such as seek the ruin of the realm;' and this at the very time when MacCarthy, trusting in his twenty years' acquaintance with Raleigh, was praying Cecil to let him be his judge. Raleigh little thought that the doors which detained Florence MacCarthy would soon open for a moment to inclose himself, and that in two neighbouring cells through long years of captivity the History of the World would grow beside the growing History of the Early Ages of Ireland.

In this year, 1602, Raleigh parted with his vast Irish estates to Richard Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork, and placed the purchase-money in privateering enterprises. It is known that Cecil had an interest in this fleet of merchantmen, and as late as January 1603 he writes about a cruiser in which Raleigh and he were partners, begging Raleigh, from prudential reasons, to conceal the fact that Cecil was in the adventure. There was no abatement whatever in the friendliness of Cecil's tone to Raleigh, although in his own crafty mind he had decided that the death of the Queen should set the term to Raleigh's prosperity. On March 30, 1603, Elizabeth died, and with her last breath the fortune and even the personal safety of Raleigh expired.

We may pause here a moment to consider what was Raleigh's condition and fame at this critical point in his life. He was over fifty years of age, but in health and spirits much older than his time of life suggested; his energy had shown signs of abatement, and for five years he had done nothing that had drawn public attention strongly to his gifts. If he had died in 1603, unattainted, in peace at Sherborne, it is a question whether he would have attracted the notice of posterity in any very general degree. To close students of the reign of Elizabeth he would still be, as Mr. Gardiner says, 'the man who had more genius than all the Privy Council put together.' But he would not be to us all the embodiment of the spirit of England in the great age of Elizabeth, the foremost man of his time, the figure which takes the same place in the field of action which Shakespeare takes in that of imagination and Bacon in that of thought. For this something more was needed, the long torture of imprisonment, the final crown of judicial martyrdom. The slow tragedy closing on Tower Hill is the necessary complement to his greatness.

All this it is easy to see, but it is more difficult to understand what circumstances brought about a condition of things in which such a tragedy became possible. We must realise that Raleigh was a man of severe speech and reserved manner, not easily moved to be gracious, constantly reproving the sluggish by his rapidity, and galling the dull by his wit. All through his career we find him hard to get on with, proud to his inferiors, still more crabbed to those above him. If policy required that he should use the arts of a diplomatist, he overplayed his part, and stung his rivals to the quick by an obsequiousness in speech to which his eyes and shoulders gave the lie. With all his wealth and influence, he missed the crowning points of his ambition; he never sat in the House of Peers, he never pushed his way to the council board, he never held quite the highest rank in any naval expedition, he never ruled with only the Queen above him even in Ireland. He who of all men hated most and deserved least to be an underling, was forced to play the subordinate all through the most brilliant part of his variegated life of adventure. It was only for a moment, at Cadiz or Fayal, that by a doubtful breach of prerogative he struggled to the surface, to sink again directly the achievement was accomplished. This soured and would probably have paralysed him, but for the noble stimulant of misfortune; and to the temper which this continued disappointment produced, we must look for the cause of his unpopularity.

It is difficult, as we have said, to understand how it was that he had the opportunity to become unpopular. From one of his latest letters in Elizabeth's reign we gather that the tavern-keepers throughout the country considered Raleigh at fault for a tax which was really insisted on by the Queen's rapacity. He prays Cecil to induce Elizabeth to remit it, for, he says, 'I cannot live, nor show my face out of my doors, without it, nor dare ride through the towns where these taverners dwell.' This is the only passage which I can find in his published correspondence which accounts in any degree for the fact that we presently find Raleigh beyond question the best-hated man in England.[8]

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