Sir Walter Raleigh was descended of an ancient family in Devonshire, which was seated in that county before the conquest, and was fourth son of Walter Raleigh, esquire, of Fards, in the parish of Cornwood. He was born in the year 1552 at Hayes, a pleasant farm of his father's in the parish of Budley, in that part of Devonshire bordering Eastward upon the Sea, near where the Ottery discharges itself into the British Channel; he was educated at the university of Oxford, where, according to Dr. Fuller, he became a commoner of Oriel College, as well as Christ Church, and displayed in his early years a great vivacity of genius in his application to his studies. Some have said, that after leaving the university, he settled himself in the Middle-Temple, and studied the law, but this opinion must be erroneous, since he declares afterwards on his trial, that he never read a word of law 'till he was prisoner in the Tower. In 1569, when he was not above 57 years of age, he was one of the select troop of a hundred gentlemen voluntiers, whom Queen Elizabeth permitted Henry Champernon to transport into France, for the assistance of protestant Princes there, but of what service they were, or what was the consequence of the expedition, we have no account. So great a scene of action as the whole kingdom of France was at that period, gave Raleigh an opportunity of acquiring experience, and reading characters, as well as improving himself in the knowledge of languages and manners, and his own History of the World contains some remarks which he then made of the conduct of some great generals there, of which he had himself been witness. After our author's return from France, he embarked in an expedition to the northern parts of America, with Sir Humphry Gilbert, his brother by the mother's side, that gentleman having obtained the Queen's Patent to plant and inhabit such parts of it as were unpossessed by any Prince with whom she was in alliance; but this attempt proved unsuccessful by means of the division which arose amongst the Voluntiers. The next year, 1580, upon the descent of the Spanish and Italian forces in Ireland under the Pope's banner, for the support of the Desmonds in their rebellion in Munster, he had a captain's commission under the lord Grey of Wilton, to whom at that time the famous Spenser was secretary; but the chief services which captain Raleigh performed, were under Thomas earl of Ormond, governor of Munster. He surprized the Irish Kerns at Ramile, and having inclosed them, took every rebel upon the spot, who did not fall in the conflict. Among the prisoners there was one laden with Withies, who being asked, what he intended to have done with them? boldly answered, to have hung up the English Charles; upon which Raleigh ordered him to be immediately dispatched in that manner, and the rest of the robbers and murderers to be punished according to their deserts. The earl of Ormond departing for England in the spring of the year 1581, his government of Munster was given to captain Raleigh; in which he behaved with great vigilance and honour, he fought the Arch rebel Barry at Clove, whom he charged with the utmost bravery, and after a hard struggle, put to flight. In the month of August, 1581, captain John Gouch being appointed Governour of Munster by the Lord Deputy, Raleigh attended him in several journies to settle and compose that country; but the chief place of their residence was Cork, and after Gouch had cut off Sir John Desmond, brother to the earl of Desmond, who was at the head of the rebellion, he left the government of that city to Raleigh, whose company being not long after disbanded upon the reduction of that earl, the slaughter of his brother, and the submission of Barry, he returned to England. The Lord Deputy Grey having resigned the sword in Ireland towards the end of August, 1582, the dispute between him and Raleigh, upon reasons which are variously assigned by different writers, was brought to a hearing before the council table in England, where the latter supported his cause with such abilities as procured him the good opinion both of her Majesty, and the Lords of the Council, and this, added to the patronage of the earl of Leicester, is supposed to be one considerable occasion of his preferment, though it did not immediately take place, nor could the hopes of it restrain him from a second expedition with his brother Sir Humphry Gilbert to Newfoundland, for which he built a ship of 200 tons called The Bark Raleigh, and furnished it compleatly for the voyage, in which he resolved to attend his brother as his Vice-Admiral. That fleet departed from Plymouth the 11th of June, 1583, but after it had been two or three days at sea, a contagious distemper having seized the whole crew of Raleigh's ship, obliged him to return to that port; however by this accident, he escaped the misfortune of that expedition; for after Sir Humphry had taken possession of Newfoundland, in the right of the crown of England, and assigned lands to every man of his company, and sailed three hundred leagues in the voyage home with full hopes of the Queen's assistance to fit out a fleet next year, he unfortunately perished; for venturing rashly in a frigate of but ten tons; he was on the ninth of September that year at midnight swallowed up in an high sea, another vessel suffered the same fate, and even the rest returned not without great hazard and loss: but this ill success could not divert Raleigh from pursuing a scheme of such importance to his country as those discoveries in North America. He drew up an account of the advantage of such a design, and the means of prosecuting it, which he laid before the Queen and Council, who were so well satisfied with the probability of success, that on the 25th of March, 1584, her Majesty granted him letters patent, in favour of his project, containing free liberty to discover such remote heathen and barbarous lands, as were not actually possessed by any Christian prince, nor inhabited by Christian people. Immediately upon this grant, Raleigh chose two able and experienced captains, and furnished them with two vessels fitted out at his own expence, with such expedition that on the 27th of April following they set sail for the West of England, taking their course by the Canary Islands, where they arrived on the 10th of May, towards the West ladies; and that being in those days the best and most frequented rout to America, they passed by the Carribbe Islands in the beginning of June, and reached the Gulph of Florida on the 2d of July, sailing along the shore about one hundred and twenty miles before they could find a convenient harbour. At last they debarked in a very low land, which proved to be an island called Wohoken; and after taking formal possession of the country, they carried on a friendly correspondence with the native Indians, who supplied them with a great variety of fish and venison, and gave them furs, and deerskins in exchange for trifles. Thus encouraged by the natives, eight of the company in a boat, went up the river Occam twenty miles, and next day in the evening they came to an island called Roanah, which was but seven leagues from the place where their ships lay. Here they found the residence of the Indian chief, whose name was Grangainineo, whose house consisted of nine apartments built of Cedar, fortified round with sharp pieces of timber: His wife came out to them, and ordered the people to carry them from the boat on their backs, and shewed them many other civilities. They continued their intercourse with the natives for some time, still viewing the situation of the adjacent country, and after having obtained the best information they could of the number and strength of the Indian nations in that neighbourhood, and of their connexions, alliances, or contests with each other, they returned about the middle of September to England, and made such an advantageous report of the fertility of the soil, and healthiness of the climate, that the Queen favoured the design of settling a colony in that country, to which she was pleased to give the name of Virginia.
About two months after, Raleigh was chosen Knight of the Shire for his county of Devon, and made a considerable figure in parliament, where a bill passed in confirmation of his patent for the discovery of foreign countries. During the course of this sessions, he received the honour of knighthood from her Majesty, a distinction the more honourable to him, as the Queen was extreamly cautious in confering titles; and besides the patent for discoveries, she granted him, about the same time, a power to license the vending of wines throughout the kingdom, which was in all probability very lucrative to him; but it engaged him in a dispute with the university of Cambridge, which had opposed one Keymer, whom he had licensed to sell wine there, contrary to the privileges of that university.
The parliament being prorogued, Raleigh, intent upon planting his new colony in Virginia, set out his own fleet of seven sail for that country, under the command of his cousin Sir Richard Greenville, who after having visited the country, left behind him an hundred and seven persons to settle a colony at Roanah; in his return to England, he took a Spanish prize worth £50000 but this was not the only circumstance of good fortune which happened to Raleigh this year; for the rebellion in Ireland being now suppressed, and the forfeited lands divided into Signiories, among those principally who had been instrumental in the important service of reducing that country; her Majesty granted him one of the largest portions, consisting of twelve thousand acres in the counties of Cork and Waterford, with certain privileges and immunities, upon condition, of planting and improving the same, to which the other grantees were obliged.
In the year 1586 we find our author so highly advanced in the Queen's favour, so extremely popular on account of his patronage of learned men, and the native spirit he exerted in business, that her Majesty made him seneschal in the dutchy of Cornwall. But these distinctions incurred the usual effects of court preferment, and exposed Sir Walter to the envy of those who were much inferior to him in merit; and even the earl of Leicester himself, who had formerly been his great patron, became jealous of him, and sat up in opposition to him, his nephew the young earl of Essex. The Comedians likewise took the liberty to reflect upon Raleigh's power, and influence upon the Queen; which her Majesty resented so highly as to forbid Tarleton, the most celebrated actor of that age, from approaching her presence.
Raleigh, sollicitous for the prosperity of the plantation in Virginia, sent out new supplies from time to time, some of whom were obliged to return home; and the general alarm spread over the nation on account of the Spanish invasion, threw all things into disorder.
About the beginning of the year 1587 he was raised to the dignity of captain of her majesty's guard, which he held together with the place of lord-warden of the Stannaries, and lieutenant-general of the county of Cornwall. From this time till the year 1594 we find Sir Walter continually engaged in projecting new expeditions, sending succours to colonies abroad, or managing affairs in Parliament with consummate address.
In the year 1593, we find Father Parsons the jesuit charging him with no less a crime than atheism, and that he had founded a school in which he taught atheistical principles, and had made a great many young gentlemen converts to them; the most considerable authority to countenance the suspicions of Sir Walter's religion, is that of Archbishop Abbot, who in a letter dated at Lambeth, addressed to Sir Thomas Roe, then an ambassador at the Mogul's court, expressly charges Sir Walter with doubting God's being and omnipotence; but it is highly probable Sir Walter's opinions might be misrepresented by his enemies, or wrong conclusions drawn from those which he maintained; and it would be a shocking injustice to the memory of so great a man to suspect him of irreligion, whole writings contain not the least trace of it, and whose History of the World in particular breathes a strong spirit of real and genuine piety.
In the heighth of his favour with the Queen, he fell under her majesty's displeasure, for being enamoured of Mrs. Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of the Queen's maids of honour, whom he debauched; and such it seems was the chastity of these times, that a frailty of that sort was looked upon as the highest offence. Her Majesty was so exasperated, that she commanded him to be confined several months, and after his enlargement forbid him the court, whence the poor lady was likewise dismissed from her attendance about the maiden queen, who appeared in this case the champion of virginity. Sir Walter soon made her an honourable reparation by marriage, and they were both examples of conjugal affection and fidelity. During the time our author continued under her majesty's displeasure for this offence, he projected the discovery of the rich and extensive empire of Guiana, in the south of America, which the Spaniards had then visited, and to that day had never conquered. For this purpose, having collected informations relating to it, he sent an old officer to take a view of the coast, who returned the year following with a very favourable account of the riches of the country, which he had received from some of the principal Cassiques upon the borders of it. This determined Raleigh's resolution, who provided a squadron of ships at a very great expence, and the lord high admiral Howard, and Sir Robert Cecil conceived so good an opinion of the design, that both concurred in it. He personally engaged in the attempt, and with no great number of ships so far explored the unknown country, that he made greater progress in a few months than the Spaniards had done for many years, and having satisfied himself of the certainty of the gold mines of the country, he returned home with honour and riches the latter end of the summer 1595, and in the year following published in quarto An Account of the Voyage and Discoveries, dedicated to lord admiral Howard and Sir Robert Cecil.
The next year Sir Walter was so far restored to the Queen's favour, that he was engaged in the important and successful expedition to Cadiz, in which the earl of Essex and lord admiral Howard were joint commanders, and Raleigh of the council of war, and one of the admirals. In this, as in all his other expeditions, he behaved with equal conduct and courage. After his return from the successful expedition under the earl of Essex, he promoted a reconciliation between that nobleman and secretary Cecil, in consequence of which he was himself fully reinstated in the Queen's favour, and had the command of captain of the guard restored to him with other marks of her forgiveness.
In 1597 he was employed in the island voyage as rear admiral, the earl of Essex having the chief command, and the lord Thomas Howard the post of vice-admiral. The design of it was to defeat and destroy at Ferol, as well as in the other ports of the enemy, the Spanish fleet intended for a new expedition against England and Ireland; and to seize upon such Indian fleets of treasure, as they should meet with belonging to the king of Spain to conquer, restrain, and garrison, most of the Isles of the Azores, and especially the Terceras. But the success of this expedition did not answer the greatness of the preparations for it; the jealousy of the earl of Essex, the commander, obstructing the services which Sir Walter's abilities might otherwise have performed. In the council of war, which was held before the isle of Flores, it was resolved that the general and Sir Walter should jointly attack the island of Fyal; where the latter waited seven days for his lordship, and hearing nothing of him, called a council of war, in which it was determined that Raleigh should attempt the town himself, which he did with astonishing bravery and success. Essex finding himself deprived of the honour of taking Fyal, was exasperated to such a degree, that he broke some of the officers who had behaved with great gallantry under Raleigh, and some of his sycophants alledged that Raleigh himself deserved to lose his head for breach of articles in landing without his lordships orders. Upon their return to England the earl endeavoured to transfer the miscarriages of the expedition upon Raleigh, and gained to his side the populace, whom Sir Walter never courted, and whose patronage he scorned; but the Queen herself was not well pleased with the earl's conduct, since it was judged he might have done more than he did; and his proceedings against Sir Walter in calling his actions to public question, were highly disapproved.
The next important transaction we find Raleigh engaged in, was in 1601, when the unfortunate earl of Essex, who had calumniated him to the king of Scotland, and endeavoured all he could to shake his interest, was so ill advised by his creatures, as to attempt a public insurrection. Raleigh was active in suppressing it: the earl pretended that the cause of his taking arms was to defend himself against the violence of his personal enemies, the lord Cobham and Raleigh having formed a design of murdering him; tho' on the other hand it is pretty certain, that Sir Ferdinand Gorges, one of the earl's accomplices, afterwards accused Sir Christopher Blount, another of them, for persuading him to kill, or at least apprehend, Sir Walter; which Gorges refusing, Blount discharged four shots after him in a boat. Blount acknowledged this, and at the time of his execution asked Sir Walter forgiveness for it; which he readily granted. — While the earl garisoned his house, Sir Walter was one of those who invested it, and when his lordship was brought to his trial, he with forty of the queen's guard was present upon duty, and was likewise examined with relation to a conference which he had upon the Thames the morning of the insurrection with Sir Ferdinando Gorges. At the execution of Essex, six days after, in the Tower, Raleigh attended, probably in his character of captain of the guard, and stood near the scaffold that he might the better answer if Essex should be desirous of speaking to him, but retired before the earl's execution, because the people seemed to take his appearance there in a wrong light; tho' he afterwards repented of it, as the earl expressed an inclination to see and speak with him before his death, which was in all probability to have asked Raleigh's forgiveness for having traduced, and calumniated him in order to colour his own rash designs.
In 1602 our author sold his estate in Ireland, to Mr. Boyle, afterwards earl of Cork, and about Midsummer he settled his estate of Sherbone on his son Walter, on account of a challenge which he had received from Sir Amias Preston, who had been knighted at Cadiz by the earl of Essex; which challenge Sir Walter intended to accept, and therefore disposed his affairs in proper order. The cause of their quarrel does not appear, but they were afterwards reconciled without proceeding to a duel.
The death of Queen Elizabeth on the 24th of March 1602-03 proved a great misfortune to Raleigh; James her successor having been prejudiced against him by the earl of Essex, who insinuated that Raleigh was no friend to his succession, nor had any regard for his family. And these prejudices were heightened by secretary Cecil in his private correspondence with that pusilanimous, jealous prince, before he ascended the Throne of England, or at least immediately upon that event; for tho' Raleigh and Cecil had united against Essex, yet after the ruin of that earl and his party, their seeming friendship terminated in a mutual struggle for a superiority of power. But there is another important cause of James's disgust to Sir Walter, which is, that he, lord Cobham, and Sir John Fortescue, would have obliged the king to articles before he was admitted to the throne, and that the number of his countrymen should be limitted; which added to the circumstance of Sir Walter's zeal to take off his mother, inspired his majesty with a confirmed aversion to him; and indeed the tragical end of the queen of Scots is, perhaps, the greatest error with which the annals of that glorious reign is stained. Raleigh in vain endeavoured to gain the affection of the new king, which he attempted by transfering on secretary Cecil the blood of the earl of Essex, as well as that of his royal mother; but this attempt to secure the affections of a weak prince, ended in his ruin, for it exasperated Cecil the more against him; and as Sir Walter was of an active martial genius, the king, who was a lover of peace, and a natural coward, was affraid that so military a man would involve him in a war, which he hated above all things in the world. Our author was soon removed from his command as captain of the guard, which was bestowed upon Sir Thomas Erskin, his majesty's favourite as well as countryman , the predecessor to the earl of Mar, whose actions, performed in the year 1715, are recent in every one's memory.
Not long after his majesty's ascending the throne of England, Sir Walter was charged with a plot against the king and royal family; but no clear evidence was ever produced that Raleigh had any concern in it. The plot was to have surprized the king and court, to have created commotions in Scotland, animated the discontented in England, and advanced Arabella Stuart, cousin to the king, to the throne. Arabella was the daughter of lord Charles Stuart, younger brother to Henry lord Darnly, and son to the duke of Lenox. She was afterwards married to William Seymour, son to lord Beauchamp, and grandson to the earl of Hertford; and both were confined for the presumption of marrying without his majesty's consent, from which they made their escape, but were again retaken. Lady Arabella died of grief, and Mr. Seymour lived to be a great favourite with Charles I. Raleigh persisted in avowing his ignorance of the plot, and when he came to his trial, he behaved himself so prudently, and defended himself with so much force, that the minds of the people present, who were at first exasperated against him, were turned from the severest hatred to the tenderest pity. Notwithstanding Sir Walter's proof that he was innocent of any such plot, and that lord Cobham, who had once accused him had recanted, and signed his recantation, nor was produced against him face to face, a pack'd jury brought him in guilty of high treason. Sentence of death being pronounced against him, he humbly requested that the king might be made acquainted with the proof's upon which he was cast. He accompanied the Sheriff to prison with wonderful magnanimity, tho' in a manner suited to his unhappy situation. Raleigh was kept near a month at Winchester in daily expectation of death, and in a very pathetic letter wrote his last words to his wise the night before he expected to suffer, in which he hoped his blood would quench their malice who had murdered him, and prayed God to forgive his persecutors, and accusers. The king signed the warrant for the execution of the lords Cobham and Grey, and Sir Griffin Markham, at Winchester, pretending, says lord Cecil, to forbear Sir Walter for the present, till lord Cobham's death had given some light how far he would make good his accusation. Markham was first brought upon the scaffold, and when he was on his knees, ready to receive the blow of the ax, the groom of the bedchamber produced to the sheriff his majesty's warrant to stop the execution and Markham was told that he must withdraw a while into the hall to be confronted by the Lords. Then Lord Grey was brought forth, and having poured out his prayers and confession, was likewise called aside, and lastly Lord Cobham was exposed in the same manner, and performed his devotions, though we do no find that he said one word of his guilt or innocence, or charged Raleigh with having instigated him; all which circumstances seem more than sufficient to wipe off from the memory of Raleigh the least suspicion of any plot against James's person or government.
He was remanded to the Tower of London with the rest of the prisoners, of whom Markham afterwards obtained his liberty, and travelled abroad. Lord Grey of Wilton died in the Tower; Lord Cobham was confined there many years, during which, it is said, he was examined by the King in relation to Raleigh, and entirely cleared him; he afterwards died in the lowest circumstances of distress.
In February following a grant was made by the King of all the goods and chattels forfeited by Sir Walter's conviction to the trustees of his appointing for the benefit of his creditors, lady and children. After 12 years confinement in the Tower, in March 1615 he was released out of it, by the interposition of the favourite Buckingham; but before he quitted that place he saw the earl of Somerset committed there for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and afterwards condemned, which occasioned Sir Walter to compare his own case with that of the earl's, and to remark, "That the whole History of the World had not the like precedent of a King's prisoner to purchase freedom, and his bosom favourite to have the halter, but in scripture, in the case of Mordecai and Haman;" on hearing which, the King is said to have replied, that Raleigh might die in that deceit, which afterwards proved true, for the king pardoned the infamous Somerset, a murderer, and executed Raleigh, a brave and an honest man, equally to the astonishment of the world. Sir Walter being now at large, had the means of prosecuting his old scheme of settling Guiana, which he had to much at heart, that even during his imprisonment, he held a constant correspondence with that country, sending thither every year, or every fecund year, a ship, to keep the Indians in hopes of being relieved from the tyranny of the Spaniards, who had again encroached upon them, and massacred many, both of the inhabitants and of Raleigh's men. In these ships were brought several natives of the country, with whom he convened in the Tower, and obtained all possible informations concerning it. Upon such informations he offered his scheme for prosecuting his discovery to the court before he undertook it in person; nor were there any doubts either as to the improbability of the design, or its unlawfulness, notwithstanding the peace made with Spain, otherwise the King would not have made such grants as he did, even at that time, which shews that he was then convinced, that Sir Walter had in his first voyage discovered and taken possession of that country for the crown of England, and consequently that his subjects were justly intitled to any benefits that might arise from its discovery, without the least respect to the pretentious at the Spaniards: Besides, when Sir Walter first moved the court upon this subject, the Spanish match was not thought of, and the King's necessities being then very pressing, he may be presumed to have conceived great hopes from that discovery, though he might afterwards change his opinion, when he grew so unreasonably fond of that match.
In 1616, he obtained a royal commission to settle Guiana at the expence of himself and his friends; he was appointed General, and Commander in chief of this enterprize, and Governor of the new country, which he was to fettle with ample authority; a power was granted him too, of exercising martial law in such a manner as the King's Lieutenant General by sea or land, or any Lieutenants of the counties of England had. These powers teem to imply a virtual pardon to Raleigh, and perhaps made him less solicitous for an actual one. Meantime Gondemar the Spanish ambassador, by his address, vivacity, and flattering the humours of James, had gained a great afsendency over him, and began to make a great clamour about Raleigh's preparations, and from that moment formed schemes of destroying him. The whole expence of this expedition was defrayed by Raleigh and his friends; the fleet consisted of about seven sail. On the 17th of November, 1617, they came in sight of Guiana, and soon after to anchor, in five degrees off the river Caliana, where they remained till the 4th of December. Raleigh was received with great joy by the Indians, who not only assisted him with provisions, and every thing else in their power, but offered him the sovereignty of their country if he would settle amongst them, which he declined to accept . His extreme sickness for six weeks prevented him from undertaking the discovery of the mines in person, and was obliged to depute captain Keymis to that service; and accordingly on the 4th of December ordered five small ships to sail into the river Oronoque. When they landed, they found a Spanish garrison between them and the mine, which sallying out unexpectedly, put them in confusion, and gave them battle. In this conflict young Raleigh was killed, and by a fatal mistake, captain Keymis did not prove the mine, but burnt and plundered the Spanish garrison, and found amongst the governor's papers one, which informed him, that Raleigh's expedition had been betrayed, and that he was to be sacrificed to the Spaniards. Upon Keymis's unsuccessful attempt, Raleigh sharply rebuked him for his mistake, and a deviation from his orders, which so much affected that captain, that he shot himself in his own cabbin, and finding the wound not mortal, he finished his design by a long knife with which he stabbed himself to the heart. In this distressful situation Raleigh returned home, and found on his arrival at Plymouth, a declaration published against him at which he took the alarm, and contrived to convey himself out of the kingdom in a vessel hired for that purpose by an old officer of his; but changing his opinion in that respect, he proceeded in his journey to London.
Yet thinking it proper to gain time for the appealing his majesty, by the assistance of one Maneuric a French quack, he counterfeited sickness for several days, during which he wrote his apology. However on the 7th of August he arrived at London, where he was confined in his own house; but having still good reasons not to trust himself to the mercy of the court, he formed a design to escape into France, which Sir Lewis Stackley, who was privy to, and encouraged it, discovered, and Sir Walter being seized in a boat upon the river below Woolwich, was a second time, on the 10th of August, committed to the Tower; but tho' his death seemed absolutely determined, yet it seemed difficult to find a method of accomplishing it, since his conduct in the late expedition could not be stretched in law to such a sentence. It was revolved therefore, to sacrifice him to the resentment of Spain, in a manner so shameful, that it has justly exposed the conduct of the court to the indignation of all succeeding ages, and transmitted the pusilanimous monarch with infamy to posterity. They called him down to judgment upon his former sentence passed fifteen years before, which they were not then ashamed to execute. A privy seal was sent to the judges to order immediate execution, on which a conference was held Friday the 24th of Oct. 1688, between all the judges of England, concerning the manner, how prisoners who have been attainted of treason and set at liberty, should be brought to execution. In consequence of their resolution, a privy seal came to the King's-Bench, commanding that court to proceed against Sir Walter according to law, who next day received notice of the council to prepare himself for death and on Wednesday the 28th of that month, at 8 o'clock in the morning, was taken out of bed in the hot fit of an ague, and carried to the King's-Bench, Westminster, where execution was awarded against him. The next morning, the 29th of October, the day of the lord-mayor's inauguration, a solemnity never perhaps attended before with a public execution, Sir Walter was conducted by the sheriffs of Middlesex to the Old Palace Yard in Westminster, where mounting the scaffold, he behaved with the most undaunted spirit, and seeming cheerfulness. The bishop of Salisbury (Tohon) being surprized at the hero's contempt of death, and expostulating with him upon it; he told him plainly that he never feared death, and much less then, for which he blessed God, and as to the manner of it, tho' to others it might seem grievous, yet for himself he had rather die so than in a burning fever. This verses the noble observation of Shakespear, that all heroes have a contempt of death; which he puts in the mouth of Julius Caesar when his friends dissuaded him from going to the Senate-House.
Cowards die many a time before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders, I have heard of yet,
It seems to me most strange, that men should fear,
Seeing that death, the necessary end,
Will come, when it will come.—
Sir Walter eat his breakfast that morning, smoaked his pipe, and made no more of death, than if he had been to take a journey. On the scaffold he convened freely with the Earl of Arundel and others of the nobility, and vindicated himself from two suspicions; the first, of entering into a confederacy with France; the second, of speaking disloyally of his Majesty. He cleared himself likewise of the suspicion of having persecuted the Earl of Essex, or of insulting him at his death. He concluded with desiring the good people to join with him in prayer, to that great God of Heaven, "whom (says he) I have grievously offended, being a man full of vanity, who has lived a sinful life, in such failings as have been most inducing to it: For I have been a soldier, a sailor, and a courtier; which are courses of wickedness and vice." The proclamation being made that all men should depart the scaffold, he prepared himself for death, gave away his hat and cap, and money to some attendants that stood near him. When he took leave of the lords, and other gentlemen that stood near him, he entreated the Lord Arundel to prevail with the King, that no scandalous writings to defame him, should be published after his death; concluding, "I have a long journey to go, and therefore will take my leave." Then having put off his gown and doublet, he called to the executioner to shew him the axe, which not being presently done; he said, "I pray thee let me see it; don't thou think I am afraid of it;" and having it in his hands he felt along the edge of it, and smiling, said to the sheriff; "This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases." The executioner kneeling down and asking him forgiveness, Sir Walter laying his hand upon his shoulder granted it; and being asked which way he would lay himself on the block, he answered, "So the heart be right, it is no matter which way the head lies." His head was struck off at two blows, his body never shrinking nor moving. His head was shewn on each side of the scaffold, and then put into a red leather bag, and with his velvet nightgown thrown over, was afterwards conveyed away in a mourning coach of his lady's. His body was interred in the chancel of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, but his head was long preserved in a case by his widow, who survived him twenty-years.
Thus fell Sir Walter Raleigh in the 66th year of his age, a sacrifice to a contemptible administration, and the resentment of a mean prince: A man of to great abilities, that neither that nor the preceding reign produced his equal. His character was a combination of almost every eminent quality; he was the soldier, statesmen, and scholar united, and had he lived with the heroes of antiquity, he would have made a just parallel to Caesar, and Xenophon, like them being equal master of the sword and the pen. One circumstance must not be omitted, which in a life so full of action as his, is somewhat extraordinary, viz. that whether he was on board his ships upon important and arduous expeditions, busy in court transactions, or pursuing schemes of pleasure, he never failed to dedicate at least four hours every day to study, by which he became to much master of all knowledge, and was enabled, as a poet beautifully expresses it, to enrich the world with his prison-hours. As the sentence of Raleigh blackens but his King, so his memory will he ever dear to the lovers of learning, and of their country and tho' he makes not a very great figure as a poet, having business of greater importance continually upon his hands; yet it would have been an unpardonable negligence to omit him, as he does honour to the list, and deserves all the encomiums an honest mind can give, or the most masterly pen bestow; and it were to be wished some man of eminent talents, whole genius is turned to biography, (of such at present we are not destitute) would undertake the life of this hero, and by mixing pleasiing and natural reflexions with the incidents, as they occur, not a little instruct and delight his countrymen; as Raleigh's life is the amplest field for such an attempt to succeed in.
His works are,
Orders to be observed by the commanders of the fleets and land companies, under the conduct of Sir Walter Raleigh, bound for the South parts of America, given at Plymouth 3d May 1617.
The Dutiful Advice of a Loving Son to his Aged Father.
A Brief Relation of Sir Walter Raleigh's Troubles; with the taking away the lands and castle of Sherburn from him and his heirs, which were granted to the Earl of Bristol.
Maxims of State.
The Prerogatives of Parliament.
The Cabinet Council; containing the Arts of Empires and Mysteries of State.
A Discourse touching a Marriage between Prince Henry of England, and a Daughter of Savoy.
A Discourse touching a War with Spain, and of the Protecting the Netherlands.
A Discourse of the original and Fundamental cause of natural, arbitrary, neccessary, and unnatural War. A Discourse of the inventions of Ships, Anchors, and Compass. Observations concerning the Royal Navy, and Sea service. To Prince Henry.
Observations touching Trade and Commerce with the Hollanders and other Nations.
A Voyage for the Discovery of Guiana.
An Apology for the Voyage to Guiana.
A Letter to Lord Carew touching Guiana.
An Introduction to a Breviary of the History of England; with the Reign of William the Conqueror.
The Seat of Government.
Observations on the Causes of the Magnificence and Opulence of Cities.
Instructions to his Son.
I shall give a specimen of Sir Walter's poetry in a piece called the Vision of the Fairy Queen.
Methought I sawe the grave where Laura lay;
Within that temple, where the vestal flame;
Was wont to burne: and passing by that way,
To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whole tombe fair love, and fairer virtue kept,
All sudddenly I sawe the Fairy Queene:
At whose approach the soul of Petrarche wept
And, from henceforth, those Graces were not scene;
For they this queen attended; in whose steede
Oblivion laid him down in Laura's hearse:
Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And grones of buried ghosts the heavens did perse;
Where Homer's spright did tremble all for griefe,
And curst th' accesse of that celestial thief.
But the most extraordinary work of Sir Walter's is his History of the World, composed in the Tower; it has never been without its admirers; and I than close the account of our author's works, by the observation of the ingenious author of the Rambler upon this history, in a paper in which he treats of English Historians, No. 122. — "Raleigh (says he) is deservedly celebrated for the labour of his researches, and the elegance of his stile; but he has endeavoured to exert his judgment more than his genius, to select facts, rather than adorn them. He has produced a historical dissertation, but has seldom risen to the majesty of history."