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ART. I.-1. The Works of Sir Walter Raleigh, Kt. Now first Collected. To which are prefixed the Lives of the Author by OLDYS and BIRCH. 8 vols. 8vo. Oxford: 1829.
2. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Raleigh; with some Account of the Period in which he lived. By Mrs A. T. THOMSON. 8vo. London: 1830.
3. The Life of Sir Walter Raleigh; founded on authentic and original Documents, some of them never before published. With a vindication of his Character from the attacks of Hume and other Writers. By PATRICK FRASER TYTLER, Esq., F.R.S. and F.S.A. Second Edition. 12mo. Edinburgh: 1833. 4. Lives of the British Admirals. (Vol. 4th. Sir Walter Raleigh.) By ROBERT SOUTHEY, LL.D. 12mo. London: 1837. 5. The Court of King James the First. By DR GODFREY GOODMAN, Bishop of Gloucester. Now first published from the original Manuscript, by JOHN BREWER, M.A., of Queen's College, Oxford. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1839.
THE name of Sir Walter Raleigh is unquestionably one of the most renowned and attractive, and in some respects the most remarkable in English story. He acted a part in all the various functions of public life, military, naval, and civil; and was illustrious in all. He was a projector on the grandest scale, an improver of naval architecture, a founder of colonies, a promoter of distant commerce. As the introducer or disseminator VOL. LXXI. NO. CXLIII.
of two important articles of subsistence and luxury," he in a vast degree contributed to augment the food, and to modify the habits of all the nations of Europe. His fortunes were alike remarkable for enviable success and pitiable reverses. Raised to eminent station through the favour of the greatest female sovereign of England, he perished on the scaffold through the dislike and cowardly policy of the meanest of her kings. To crown all, his fame in letters, particularly as the author of that memorable work with which his prison hours enriched the world,' placed his name in glorious association with those of Bacon and Hooker, as it otherwise was with those of Essex and Vere, of Hawkins and Drake.
The appearance, within the last ten years, of a uniform edition of his extensive works, and of three different histories of his life, seems to show that the public interest in regard to him has not abated; and, at the same time, to make a call for critical examination which has too long, perhaps, been overlooked. Some recent publications, connected with the same era, and presenting farther information respecting Raleigh, have forcibly recalled our thoughts to the works alluded to; and, if our notice of them comes somewhat late, the delay has at any rate enabled us to survey them from a more commanding point of view than could have been attained at any earlier date. In now proceeding to consider them, we are sorry to be obliged to say, that a life of Raleigh, written upon sound principles, and possessing all the attainable information, is still a desideratum; as is an edition of his works, in which the authenticity of every piece has been thoroughly sifted, the objects and character of each adequately explained, and the whole arranged with the requisite care. We are not without the hope of being able, in the course of this article, to furnish some information, calculated to aid the labours of any one who, either as biographer or editor, may be induced to make another attempt to supply desiderata so much to be regretted. If we should be successful in this, we shall hope to be excused for the length to which we mean to extend our observations; especially when it is considered, that there are manuscript materials of very considerable value unknown to, or untouched by his biographers; that all the more important and interesting transactions and occurrences of his life are involved in obscurity, or perplexed with doubt; that his views, in his greatest undertakings, are liable to question; and that the usual tendency of biographers to easy faith and
*Potatoes and Tobacco.
indiscriminate praise has in his case been carried to the greatest
The early biographical publications of Naunton, Prince, Fuller, Wood, and Aubery, contain some valuable notices of Raleigh; but the first account of his life that was given to the world upon. an extended and elaborate plan, was that by Mr Oldys; originally published alongst with a new edition, being the eleventh of his great work, which appeared in 1733. Prior to this performance, there appeared successively two detached lives by two obscure writers, named Shirley and Theobalds. Oldys's work has not, even at the present day, any thing in the line of biographical writing of superior merit, in as far as merit can be derived from careful and extensive research. It is rich in curious information; and refers to a greater number of rare tracts, than any other piece of biography in our language. But with these recommendations its merits cease. The style is feeble and uncouth, as well as affected; and the author's judgment never once exercises itself in any rational or independent estimate of the actions and conduct he narrates, however questionable or censurable. Gibbon has truly characterised it when he describes it, with reference to these defects, as a servile panegyric, or a flat ' apology.'
A new biography of Raleigh was one of the early literary projects of this celebrated writer; but which he, after a good deal of enquiry and hesitation, ultimately abandoned, from finding such a want of information, as well regarding some of the most important parts of his public, as regarding the whole of his private life. Details concerning the latter are still nearly as scanty as ever; but some new and valuable materials for the illustration of the former have, from time to time, been brought to light, both from national and private repositories. Dr Birch availed himself of such additions as had then appeared, particularly of the anecdotes contained in the Sidney and Bacon Papers, in the brief account of Raleigh with which he prefaced a collection of his miscellaneous writings, published in 1751. In other respects, this piece was a mere abridgement of the voluminous performance of Oldys, without any marked superiority either in respect of judgment or style. These two lives, either from ignorance of their literary character and defects, or a singular destitution of biographical resources, have been prefixed, without alteration or emendation, to the
* Such considerations can but rarely concur to induce us to depart from the practice, favourable to variety, which we have generally followed, and to which we are determined to adhere.
edition of Raleigh's works published by the Directors of the Clarendon Press.
After the lapse of more than half a century from Dr Birch's publication, Mr Cayley produced a life of Raleigh, which, judging from its bulk, (two volumes octavo,) might well be expected to furnish some important additions to his history; but its size is found to arise from its being interlarded with republications of all those pieces, in which either Raleigh himself, or others employed by him, were narrators;-on the ridiculous pretext that they form parts of his history, for which the reader ought not to be sent to any other quarter. The work is not, however, without value; for it contains some original papers of considerable importance as materials for history. His own use of them, and of the other publications connected with his subject that had appeared in the preceding half century, was by no means skilful; and his narrative, in other respects, is in no degree superior to those which preceded it.
It is not therefore surprising, that in a period of so much literary activity, a subject so inviting as the life of Raleigh should be resumed; but were it not that it also is a period in which books are produced, not so much in consequence of any inborn whisperings of independent ambition, as for the purpose of aiding those literary projects to which the ingenuity of publishers so largely gives rise, we certainly should have been greatly surprised to see three new lives so executed as to leave the subject as open as before to farther competition. The details into which we propose to enter, will enable our readers to judge whether this is a just opinion; but before proceeding further, we shall make one or two general remarks on these publications; leaving particular observations to the sequel of our enquiries.
The first in the order of time is that of Mrs Thomson, a lady honourably distinguished for her love of historical pursuits. All we mean to say of her present attempt is, that it is written in a good spirit; and that her industry in collecting materials is favourably evinced in an appendix, which contains several letters of importance never before published.
Mr Tytler's work was undertaken mainly, as he says, to defend Raleigh against the imputations cast upon him by Hume and others; particularly with respect to Guiana, the conspiracy of which he was accused, and his general character; and if extreme unwillingness to see or to allow any blemishes in the conduct of his hero, and an unvarying strain of eulogy, make a consummate biographer, it cannot be denied that the claim to that distinction is by him made good. In point of composition, his narrative is clear and pleasing; but though illustrated with
some new information gleaned from the public archives, its merits in this respect are by no means so high as the pretensions put forth in the title-page and preface had led us to expect.
Dr Southey's performance forms only one of a collection of Lives of the British Admirals,' contributed to an extensive and useful encyclopædical miscellany; but it is compiled upon a scale of sufficient extent for separate publication. That it would have been a far more perfect production, had it been prompted by his own selection of the subject, we cannot for a moment doubt; but as it stands, it is a piece of mere taskwork, executed by a practised and skilful artist no doubt, but with that economy of labour and thought which may be generally expected to characterise such undertakings. His extensive acquaintance with Spanish literature has, however, enabled him, at little cost, to diversify his narrative with a few illustrations derived from the Spanish historians of America; and it is only in that respect that his work has any pretensions to novelty; for he has evidently contented himself with the materials nearest at hand, and made no attempt whatever either to correct or to amplify the existing stock of information by any researches amongst unpublished documents. In one respect Dr Southey differs materially from all the other biographers of Raleigh-namely, in the freedom of his strictures upon his hero's conduct; but these, though in general substantially just, are expressed in a tone which savours more of the acrid temperament of the censor, than of the judicial dignity of the his
Raleigh was born in the year 1552, at a place called Hayes, in the parish of Budley, in Devonshire. His father, a gentleman of ancient lineage but small fortune, had been thrice married, and Walter was the second son of the last of these marriages. Of his early life and education, all that we know is, that he was entered a commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, where he remained two or three years, and greatly distinguished himself; being, according to Wood, 'esteemed a worthy proficient in oratory and philosophy.' He quitted the university, however, on the very first opening that presented itself to an active life. Queen Elizabeth had authorized the formation of a company of a hundred gentlemen volunteers, to serve in France, in aid of the Huguenots in their memorable struggle for religious liberty; and of this distinguished body of British youths Raleigh was enrolled a member, and proceeded with it to France, under its commander, Henry Champernon, who was his near relation. There he served for five years, and was engaged in some of the greatest battles of that memorable period; upon which he made and treasured up sundry observations, showing his genius for the