Raleigh, Walter, Sir

Raleigh, Walter, Sir the distinguished English soldier, navigator, and writer of the Elizabethan age, deserves a place here on account of his contributions to sacred song. He was born at Haves, near the coast of Devonshire, in 1552, and was educated at Oriel College, Oxford. In 1569 — about a year after graduation he entered the volunteer corps which, under Champernon, went to France to fight for the Huguenots. Subsequently he fought, under the prince of Orange, in the Netherlands, against the Spanish. In 1579 he made his first venture in navigation, which through life continued, at intervals, to attract him. He then sailed, in conjunction with his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, with the purpose of founding a colony in North America. But the expedition proved unsuccessful; and during the year following he held a captain's commission in Ireland, where, in operations against the rebels, he distinguished himself by his courage and conduct. He attracted the notice of queen Elizabeth; and, for some years afterwards, he was constant in his attendance upon the queen, who distinguished him by employing him, from time to time, in various delicate offices of trust, and by substantial marks of her favor. The spirit of enterprise was. however, restless in the man, and in 1584, a patent having been granted him to take possession of lands to be discovered by him on the continent of North America, he fitted out two ships at his own expense, and shortly achieved the discovery and occupation of the territory known as Virginia — a name chosen as containing an allusion to the "virgin queen" herself. Elizabeth also conferred on Raleigh the honor of knighthood. If we except the questionable benefit — with which his name remains connectedof the introduction of tobacco into Europe, no immediate good came of the colony; and, after some years of struggle, during which he sent out several auxiliary expeditions, he was forced to relinquish his connection with it. In 1587-88, the country being menaced by a Spanish invasion, Raleigh was actively and responsibly occupied in organizing a resistance, and held command of the queen's forces in Cornwall. In the latter year he shared, with new access of honor, in the series of actions which ended in the defeat and dispersion of the great Armada, and was thanked and rewarded for his services. His private marriage with Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the queen's maids of honor, incurred her Majesty's severe displeasure, and he was banished from court. He now recurred to those schemes of conquest and adventure in the New World which formed one main dream of his life, and in 1595 headed an expedition to Guiana, having for its object the discovery of the fabled El Dorado, a city of gold and gems, the existence of which in these regions was then generally believed in. Of this brilliant but fruitless adventure, on returning, he published an account. Having regained the royal favor, he was made, in 1596, admiral in the expedition against Cadiz, commanded by Howard and the earl of Essex, and was admittedly the main instrument of its success. Also, in the year following, he took part in the attack on the Azores made by the same commanders. In the court intrigues which ended in the downfall of the earl of Essex, he, after this, became deeply involved; and certain points of his conduct — as, notably, the sale of his good offices with the queen in behalf of such of the earl's adherents as would buy them-though easily regarded by the current morality of the time, have fixed somewhat of a stain on a fame otherwise so splendid. With the death of Elizabeth, in 1603, ends his brilliant and successful career. lier successor, James, from the first regarded him with suspicion and dislike. He had, besides, made powerful enemies; and, when accused of complicity in a plot against the king, though no jot of evidence of his being any way concerned in it was produced at his trial, a verdict was readily procured finding him guilty of high-treason. The language of the prosecutor, attorney-general Coke, was outrageously abusive. He called Raleigh "a damnable atheist," "a spider of hell," a "viperous traitor," etc. Sentence of death was passed, but James did not venture to execute him; and he was sent to the Tower, where, for thirteen years, he remained a prisoner, his estates being confiscated, and made over to the king's favorite, Carr, subsequently earl of Somerset. During his imprisonment, Raleigh devoted himself to literary and scientific pursuits, his chief monument in this kind being his History of the World, a noble fragment, still notable to the student as one of the finest models of quaint and stately old English style. Certain of his poetical pieces, giving hint of a genius at once elegant and sententious, also continue to be esteemed. In 1615 he procured his release, and once more sailed for Guiana. The expedition, from which great results were expected, failed miserably. He himself, in consequence of severe illness, was unable to accompany it inland; and nothing but disaster ensued. To add to his grief and disappointment, his eldest and favorite son was killed in the storming of the Spanish town of St. Thomas. He returned to England, broken in spirit and in fortunes, only to die. On the morning of Oct. 29, 1618, he was infamously executed, nominally on the sentence passed on him sixteen years before, but really, there is reason to suppose, in base compliance, on James's part, with the urgencies of the king of Spain, who resented his persistent hostility. Raleigh was a man of noble presence, of versatile and commanding genius, unquestionably one of the most splendid figures in a time unusually prolific of all splendid developments of humanity. In the art and finesse of the courtier, the politic wisdom of the statesman, and the skilful daring of the warrior, he was almost alike pre-eminent. The moral elevation of the man shone out eminently in the darkness which beset his later fortunes; and the calm and manly dignity with which he fronted adverse fate conciliated even those whom his haughtiness in prosperity had offended. Raleigh's Life has been written by Oldys, Cayley (Lond. 1806, 2 vols.), and P. F. Tytler (Edin. 1833). His poems were collected and published by Sir E. Brydges (Lond. 1814); his Miscellaneous Writings, by Dr. Birch (1751, 2 vols.); and his Complete Works, at Oxford (1829, 8 vols.).

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.