Page images

tial mind to resist. But, notwithstanding the credit which is unquestionably due to his testimony, we cannot, though greatly shaken, give up our own contrary convictions. The improbability of the conduct ascribed to Raleigh is so very strong the supposition of it so revolting, from its gross inconsistency with every marked act of his public life, and the prosecution of his favourite designs that we feel ourselves constrained to resist the belief of his direct participation in any plot, depending for success on Spanish agency-even when we place before our eyes, and in the clearest light, the proofs of his great discontent and suspicious intrigues; and give all due weight to the observation of Mr Hallam, that he never showed a discretion bearing the least proportion to his genius.' In the melancholy letter to his wife, written in the intention to destroy himself, all the overwhelming emotions of that dark hour could not withdraw his mind from the thought of the amazement it would occasion amongst some of his followers then abroad, to hear that he was accused of being Spanish!' The ascendency, in such circumstances, of such a feeling, would have shaken our belief, supposing it had been different from what it ever has been on this part of the case.

[ocr errors]

But we fairly admit that a great part of history might be set aside, were such evidence as that furnished by Beaumont to be discarded. We do not, however, by any means entirely discard his authority. We, on the contrary, go a great way alongst with him; for we are thoroughly convinced that Raleigh must have been aware of Cobham's treason; and we think it farther likely that he may have indulged his own discontent, and mayhap encouraged the schemes of the other, by descanting on the means by which the new settlement might be disturbed, and their enemies humbled. We have not been able to peruse Beaumont's despatches, and to consider their contents in connexion with the facts disclosed in La Renzi's examination, and with the admissions made by Raleigh himself, without coming to this conclusion. The presumption of his entire ignorance of Cobham's criminal intrigues, arising from his having voluntarily advised Cecil to question La Renzi-the proceeding which first instigated Cobham to accuse him-must be viewed as more than balanced by the contrary and stronger presumption founded on his secret warning to Cobham, in case he should be examined. Nothing urged at his trial made so strong an impression against him as this fact.

*Const. Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 483.

[ocr errors]

A privy councillor who was present, did tell me,' says Bishop Goodman, that, if he had been one of the jury, he would have found him guilty only for the sending of that one note; for he did not think that such a wise man would have 'sent, at such a time and upon such an occasion, a note to Cobham, if there had not been something amiss.'* We must observe further, that his poignant feelings in recalling, in his letter to the King, the circumstance of his having listened only' to Cobham, can hardly be ascribed to the mere offer of a pension from Spain. The facts disclosed in Beaumont's despatches, may enable us to form some judgment as to the degree in which the political morality of the day was likely to be shocked by such an offer. Four months have elapsed,' says this ambassador,† 'since the pensions and presents which his Majesty determined to bestow here were resolved upon; and yet the execution has been delayed, to my disgrace and the prejudice of his Majesty's ser'vice. This is greatly to the advantage of the Spanish ambassador, who has both authority and means to offer ten to one, and knows how to profit by it!' Raleigh, it is true, refers only to the offer of a pension; but as he knew it could be proved that he was present when letters passed between Cobham and Aremberg; and as Beaumont's despatches make it quite certain that these letters contained treasonable matter-we are strongly inclined to ascribe his uneasy emotions to his conscious recollection of these facts. But, whatever there may be in this supposition, it would be a violation of all probable reasoning applicable to human conduct, to hold that two persons so intimately connected as Raleigh and Cobham, could meet privately, when letters were to be received from and others returned to the Flemish ambassador, without any communing taking place as to the nature of so remarkable a correspondence. Viewing the facts detailed by Beaumont, it surely would be far more rational to conclude that Raleigh was wholly guiltythat is, a direct participator in the designs of Cobham and

[ocr errors]

*Memoirs, vol. i. p. 65. The same impression was produced upon the writer of a letter in Sir Toby Matthews's Collection, who also was present at the trial, (p. 282.)

+ Dép. 10th August 1603.

There is a curious and pointed corroboration in Bishop Goodman's Memoirs. The Spaniard,' says he, was free of his coin, and spared no rewards for purchasing the peace. One told me that he himself had paid three thousand pounds to one man only for furthering the peace.'

Brooke-than that he was wholly innocent; that is, wholly uninformed of the nature and objects of the intercourse with Aremberg. To make out this, it must be shown that Cobham carefully concealed its nature from Raleigh, though constantly present, and the only one whose presence was allowed when it was in progress a conclusion palpably absurd.

Upon the supposition, then, that Raleigh, though not an actual or intended participator, was yet well aware of the nature of the correspondence-the most favourable conclusion for him that the facts will allow-what, it may be asked, could be his object in making himself privy to it, and thereby so far committing himself? All that is known of his character leads to the conclusion that he did propose to himself some ulterior design, by which that knowledge might be turned to account. The thought, that the golden vision of El Dorado was again uppermost in his mind, and that his intention was to possess himself of the means of revisiting Guiana, has frequently occurred to us; but there was another course, which even Cobham's stolidity appears to have divined, and which more than one of his contemporaries believed to be that which he really intended to follow. Aubery assures us, that he was informed by an intimate friend of the Lord Treasurer Southampton, that Raleigh's intention really was to inveigle Cobham to Jersey, and then, having got both him and his Spanish treasure in his power, to make terms with the King; and Bishop Goodman expresses himself confidently to the same purpose-averring that it was his full intent to discover the plot.' It was said of Raleigh by one who knew him well, 'that he desired to seem to be able to sway all men's fanciesall men's courses;'‡ and perhaps it was this notion of his being able to sway' others to his own ends, that here entangled him in a net of his own spreading, and implicated him in treasons from which he flattered himself that his superior dexterity would keep him free.

Passing from these dark and unsatisfactory scenes, we are now to attend to Raleigh's occupations in the Tower; and to see the activity and ardour, which had hitherto been exercised in court intrigues, warlike enterprises, and grand projects, transferred to

Aubery's Lives, vol. iii. p. 516.-We do not place any strong reliance upon Aubery; but when he refers to respectable names to vouch a not improbable fact, his statements may be viewed as worthy of notice. t Goodman's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 65.

p. 58.

Earl of Northumberland's Letter, in Aiken's Mem. of James, vol. i.

pursuits wholly intellectual; and in which-such was the amazing strength and versatility of his genius-he is allowed, by one of the severest judges of his conduct, to have surpassed the labours even of the most recluse and sedentary lives.'* The history of his captivity is identical with the history of his literary works; for the whole period of its endurance was employed in their composition; and they thus form memorials, of a singularly interesting nature, of this portion of his existence. Independently of the peculiar circumstances in which they were produced, it was to be expected, as a matter of course, that his biographers would fully and carefully examine and characterise them; and this the more, that some decidedly spurious pieces have been conjoined with his name, while the authenticity of others requires to be substantiated. But, strange to say, we have nothing of this sort-nor, if we except a few trivial remarks, any thing critical, in the publications before us. fact, we verily believe, is unparalleled in the history of letters, that, numerous as are the lives of Raleigh, it is only in the antiquated one by Oldys, written above a century ago, that we find any methodical survey of his writings! That survey contains every thing that far-searching industry could accumulate; but being utterly destitute of critical spirit and general intelligence, it is of no value except as a bibliographical account of his different productions. A sketch of his great work, such as may serve to indicate its structure and more remarkable features, joined with a few observations on his miscellaneous pieces, may probably, therefore, be acceptable to those who are unacquainted with his literary achievements.

[ocr errors]


It appears from the very remarkable preface to his History ' of the World,' that, in selecting a subject for his pen, the history of his own country had first presented itself to his thoughts; and, considering the course of his life, it was natural that it should be so; but the advice of some learned friends, joined with the notion that the ancient world would prove a safer field of enquiry, turned his labours in that direction. So vast a project as a universal history of antiquity, undertaken in such circumstances, betokens a consciousness of intellectual power which cannot but excite admiration. Viewed with reference to our vernacular literature, it constitutes an epoch in its historical department; for though Sir Thomas More- the father of English prose't-composed his fragment on the History of 'Richard the Third' a century, and Knolles his History of the

* Hume.

[ocr errors]

† Sir James Mackintosh's Life of More.

Turks' a few years before the appearance of Raleigh's work, it was indisputably the first extensive attempt of its kind in the English language.

Beginning with the Creation, it comprises the history of the first periods of the human race, and of the four vast monarchies successively established under the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans; concluding with the second Macedonian war, when the latter were every where triumphant. In the distribution of its parts, there is no observance of any just proportion. Living at a period when the writings of the Fathers and their commentators furnished the prime objects of attention, and the chief repositories of information,-when to amass their opinions upon any given subject constituted the most approved erudition, he treats at undue length, and invests with undue importance, whatever falls within the sphere of their favourite enquiries. Hence it is, that he allows the history of the people of Israel to occupy the foreground throughout an unreasonable space. Hence, too, it is, that we find him-a courtier and statesman-seriously and earnestly enquiring whether Paradise was seated in a separate creation near the orb of the moon-whether the Tree of Life was the Ficus Indicus-whether the Ark was lighted by a carbuncle-whether the first matter was void of form; and discussing various other similar questions, which, ludicrous as they may seem to us, then possessed an engrossing importance. It is only when he reaches the third of the five books into which the work is divided, and which embraces the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the rise of Philip of Macedon, that he begins to lose sight of Judea, and to disentangle himself from the multitude of theological and scholastic digressions with which the Jewish or scriptural portion is overlaid. That book, in which all the more brilliant portions of Grecian story are surveyed, closes with the death of Epaminondas, whose great character is so finely and graphically portrayed, that we shall extract his delineation of it as a specimen of his excellence in that style of composition. So died Epaminondas, the worthiest man that ever was bred in that nation of Greece, and hardly to be ' matched in any age or country; for he equalled all others in the 'several virtues which in each of them were singular. His justice and sincerity, his temperance, wisdom, and high magnanimity, were noway inferior to his military virtues; in every part whereof he so excelled, that he could not but properly be called a wary, a valiant, a politic, a bountiful, and a provident captain. Neither was his private conversation unanswerable to those high parts which gave him praise abroad; for he was grave, and yet very affable and courteous; resolute in public business, but in his own particular, easy and of much mildness; a lover of his

[ocr errors]



« PreviousContinue »