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The vast tract in the north-east of the southern continent of America which is now divided between Venezuela and three European powers, was known in the sixteenth century by the name of Guiana.  Of this district the three territories now styled English, Dutch, and French Guiana respectively form but an insignificant coast-line, actually lying outside the vague eastern limit of the traditional empire of Guiana.  As early as 1539 a brother of the great Pizarro had returned to Peru with a legend of a prince of Guiana whose body was smeared with turpentine and then blown upon with gold dust, so that he strode naked among his people like a majestic golden statue.  This prince was El Dorado, the Gilded One.  But as time went on this title was transferred from the monarch to his kingdom, or rather to a central lake hemmed in by golden mountains in the heart of Guiana.  Spanish and German adventurers made effort after effort to reach this laguna, starting now from Peru, now from Quito, now from Trinidad, but they never found it:  little advance was made in knowledge or authority, nor did Spain raise any definite pretensions to Guiana, although her provinces hemmed it in upon three sides.

There is no doubt that Raleigh, who followed with the closest attention the nascent geographical literature of his time, read the successive accounts which the Spaniards and Germans gave of their explorations in South America.  But it was not until 1594 that he seems to have been specially attracted to Guiana.  At every part of his career it was ‘hatred of the tyrannous prosperity’ of Spain which excited him to action.  Early in 1594 Captain George Popham, sailing apparently in one of Raleigh’s vessels, captured at sea and brought to the latter certain letters sent home to the King of Spain announcing that on April 23, 1593, at a place called Warismero, on the Orinoco, Antonio de Berreo, the Governor of Trinidad, had annexed Guiana to the dominions of his Catholic Majesty, under the name of El Nuevo Dorado.  In these same letters various reports of the country and its inhabitants were repeated, that the chiefs danced with their naked bodies gleaming with gold dust, and with golden eagles dangling from their breasts and great pearls from their ears, that there were rich mines of diamonds and of gold, that the innocent people were longing to exchange their jewels for jews-harps.  Raleigh was aroused at once, less by the splendours of the description than by the fact that this unknown country, with its mysterious possibilities, had been impudently added to the plunder of Spain.  He immediately fitted out a ship, and sent Captain Jacob Whiddon, an old servant of his, to act as a pioneer, and get what knowledge he could of Guiana.  Whiddon went to Trinidad, saw Berreo, was put off by him with various treacherous excuses, and returned to England in the winter of 1594 with but a scanty stock of fresh information.  It was enough, however, to encourage Raleigh to start for Guiana without delay.

On December 26 he writes:  ’This wind breaks my heart.  That which should carry me hence now stays me here, and holds seven ships in the river of Thames.  As soon as God sends them hither I will not lose one hour of time.’  On January 2, 1595, he is still at Sherborne, ’only gazing for a wind to carry me to my destiny.’  At last, on February 6 he sailed away from Plymouth, not with seven, but with five ships, together with small craft for ascending rivers.  What the number of his crew was, he nowhere states.  The section of them which he took up to the Orinoco he describes as ’a handful of men, being in all about a hundred gentlemen; soldiers, rowers, boat-keepers, boys, and all sorts.’  Sir Robert Cecil was to have adventured his own ship, the ‘Lion’s Whelp,’ and for her Raleigh waited seven or eight days among the Canaries, but she did not arrive.  On the 17th they captured at Fuerteventura two ships, Spanish and Flemish, and stocked their own vessels with wine from the latter.

They then sailed on into the west, and on March 22 arrived on the south side of Trinidad, casting anchor on the north shore of the Serpent’s Mouth.  Raleigh personally explored the southern and western coasts of the island in a small boat, while the ships kept to the channel.  He was amazed to find oysters in the brackish creeks hanging to the branches of the mangrove trees at low water, and he examined also the now famous liquid pitch of Trinidad.  Twenty years afterwards, in writing The History of the World, we find his memory still dwelling on these natural wonders.  At the first settlement the English fleet came to, Port of Spain, they traded with the Spanish colonists, and Raleigh endeavoured to find out what he could, which was but little, about Guiana.  He pretended that he was asking merely out of curiosity, and was on his way to his own colony of Virginia.

While Raleigh was anchored off Port of Spain, he found that Berreo, the Governor, had privately sent for reinforcements to Marguerita and Cumana, meaning to attack him suddenly.  At the same time the Indians came secretly aboard the English ships with terrible complaints of Spanish cruelty.  Berreo was keeping the ancient chiefs of the island in prison, and had the singular foible of amusing himself at intervals by basting their bare limbs with broiling bacon.  These considerations determined Raleigh to take the initiative.  That same evening he marched his men up the country to the new capital of the island, St. Joseph, which they easily stormed, and in it they captured Berreo.  Raleigh found five poor roasted chieftains hanging in irons at the point of death, and at their instance he set St. Joseph on fire.  That very day two more English ships, the ‘Lion’s Whelp’ and the ‘Galleys,’ arrived at Port of Spain, and Raleigh was easily master of the situation.

Berreo seems to have submitted with considerable tact.  He insinuated himself into Raleigh’s confidence, and, like the familiar poet in Shakespeare’s sonnet, ‘nightly gulled him with intelligence.’  His original idea probably was that by inflaming Raleigh’s imagination with the wonders of Guiana, he would be the more likely to plunge to his own destruction into the fatal swamps of the Orinoco.  It is curious to find even Raleigh, who was eminently humane in his own dealings with the Indians, speaking in these terms of such a cruel scoundrel as Berreo, ’a gentleman well descended, very valiant and liberal, and a gentleman of great assuredness, and of a great heart:  I used him according to his estate and worth in all things I could, according to the small means I had.’  Berreo showed him a copy he held of a journal kept by a certain Juan Martinez, who professed to have penetrated as far as Manoa, the capital of Guiana.  This narrative was very shortly afterwards exposed as ‘an invention of the fat friars of Puerto Rico,’ but Raleigh believed it, and it greatly encouraged him.  When Berreo realised that he certainly meant to attempt the expedition, his tone altered, and he ’was stricken into a great melancholy and sadness, using all the arguments he could to dissuade me, and also assuring the gentlemen of my company that it would be labour lost,’ but all in vain.

The first thing to be done was to cross the Serpent’s Mouth, and to ascend one of the streams of the great delta.  Raleigh sent Captain Whiddon to explore the southern coast, and determined from his report to take the Capuri, or, as it is now called, the Macareo branch, which lies directly under the western extremity of Trinidad.  After an unsuccessful effort here, he started farther west, on the Cano Manamo, which he calls the River of the Red Cross.  He found it exceedingly difficult to enter, owing to the sudden rise and fall of the flood in the river, and the violence of the current.  At last they started, passing up the river on the tide, and anchoring in the ebb, and in this way went slowly onward.  The vessels which carried them were little fitted for such a task.  Raleigh had had an old galley furnished with benches to row upon, and so far cut down that she drew but five feet of water; he had also a barge, two wherries, and a ship’s boat, and in this miserable fleet, leaving his large vessels behind him in the Gulf of Paria, he accomplished his perilous and painful voyage to the Orinoco and back, with one hundred persons and their provisions.  Of the misery of these four hundred miles he gives a graphic account: 

We were all driven to lie in the rain and weather, in the open air, in the burning sun, and upon the hard boards, and to dress our meat, and to carry all manner of furniture, wherewith [the boats] were so pestered and unsavoury, that what with victuals being most fish, with the wet clothes of so many men thrust together, and the heat of the sun, I will undertake there was never any prison in England that could be found more unsavoury and loathsome, especially to myself, who had for many years before been dieted and cared for in a sort far different.

On the third day, as they were ascending the river, the galley stuck so fast that they thought their expedition would have ended there; but after casting out all her ballast, and after much tugging and hauling to and fro, they got off in twelve hours.  When they had ascended beyond the limit of the tide, the violence of the current became a very serious difficulty, and at the end of the seventh day the crews began to despair, the temperature being extremely hot, and the thick foliage of the Ita-palms on either side of the river excluding every breath of air.  Day by day the Indian pilots assured them that the next night should be the last.  Raleigh had to harangue his men to prevent mutiny, for now their provisions also were exhausted.  He told them that if they returned through that deadly swamp they must die of starvation, and that the world would laugh their memory to scorn.

Presently things grew a little better.  They found wholesome fruits on the banks, and now that the streams were purer they caught fish.  Not knowing what they saw, they marvelled at the ’birds of all colours, some carnation, orange tawny,’ which was Raleigh’s own colour, ’purple, green, watchet and of all other sorts both simple and mixed, as it was unto us a great good passing of the time to behold them, besides the relief we found by killing some store of them with our fowling pieces.’  These savannahs are full of birds, and the brilliant macaws which excited Raleigh’s admiration make an excellent stew, with the flavour, according to Sir Robert Schomburgk, of hare soup.  Their pilot now persuaded them to anchor the galley in the main river, and come with him up a creek, on the right hand, which would bring them to a town.  On this wild-goose chase they ascended the side-stream for forty miles; it was probably the Cucuina, which was simply winding back with them towards the Gulf of Paria.  They felt that the Indian was tricking them, but about midnight, while they were talking of hanging him, they saw a light and heard the baying of dogs.  They had found an Indian village, and here they rested well, and had plenty of food and drink.  Upon this new river they were charmed to see the deer come feeding down to the water’s brink, and Raleigh describes the scene as though it reminded him of his own park at Sherborne.  They were alarmed at the crowds of alligators, and one handsome young negro, who leaped into the river from the galley, was instantly devoured in Raleigh’s sight.

Next day they regained the great river, and their anxious comrades in the ‘Lion’s Whelp.’  They passed on together, and were fortunate enough to meet with four Indian canoes laden with excellent bread.  The Indians ran away and left their possessions, and Raleigh’s dreams of mineral wealth were excited by the discovery of what he took to be a ’refiner’s basket, for I found in it his quicksilver, saltpetre, and divers things for the trial of metals, and also the dust of such ore as he had refined.’  He was minded to stay here and dig for gold, but was prevented by a phenomenon which he mentions incidentally, but which has done much to prove the reality of his narrative.  He says that all the little creeks which ran towards the Orinoco ’were raised with such speed, as if we waded them over the shoes in the morning outward, we were covered to the shoulders homeward the very same day.’  Sir R. Schomburgk found exactly the same to be the case when he explored Guiana in 1843.

They pushed on therefore along the dreary river, and on the fifteenth day had the joy of seeing straight before them far away the peaks of Peluca and Paisapa, the summits of the Imataca mountains which divide the Orinoco from the Essequibo.  The same evening, favoured by a strong northerly wind, they came in sight of the great Orinoco itself, and anchored in it a little to the east of the present settlement of San Rafael de Barrancas.  Their spirits were high again.  They feasted on the eggs of the freshwater turtles which they found in thousands on the sandy islands, and they gazed with rapture on the mountains to the south of them which rose out of the very heart of Guiana.  A friendly chieftain carried them off to his village, where, to preserve the delightful spelling of the age, ’some of our captaines garoused of his wine till they were reasonable pleasant,’ this wine being probably the cassivi or fermented juice of the sweet potato.  It redounds to Raleigh’s especial credit that in an age when great license was customary in dealing with savages, he strictly prohibited his men, under threat of punishment by death, from insulting the Indian women.  His just admiration of the fair Caribs, however, was quite enthusiastic: 

The casique that was a stranger had his wife staying at the port where we anchored, and in all my life I have seldom seen a better-favoured woman.  She was of good stature, with black eyes, fat of body, of an excellent countenance, and taking great pride therein.  I have seen a lady in England so like her, as but for the difference of colour I would have sworn might have been the same.

They started to ascend the Orinoco, having so little just understanding of the geography of South America that they thought if they could only sail far enough up the river they would come out on the other side of the continent at Quito.  It has been noticed that Raleigh passed close to the Spanish settlement of Guayana Vieja, which Berreo had founded four years before.  Perhaps it was by this time deserted, and Raleigh may really have gone by it without seeing it.  More probably, however, its existence interfered with his theory that all this territory was untouched by Europeans, and therefore open to be annexed in the name of her English Majesty.  Passing up the Orinoco, he came at last to what he calls ‘the port of Morequito,’ where he made some stay, and enjoyed the luxury of pine-apples, which he styles ‘the princess of fruits.’  He was also introduced to that pleasing beast the armadillo, whose powers and functions he a little misunderstood, for he says of it, ’it seemeth to be all barred over with small plates like to a rhinoceros, with a white horn growing in his hinder parts, like unto a hunting horn, which they use to wind instead of a trumpet.’  What Raleigh mistook for a hunting-horn was the stiff tail of the armadillo.  Raleigh warned the peaceful and friendly inhabitants of Morequito against the villanies of Spain, and recommended England to them as a safe protector.  He then pursued his westerly course to an island which he calls Caiama, and which is now named Fajardo, which was the farthest point he reached upon the Orinoco.  This island lies at the mouth of the Caroni, the great southern artery of the watershed, and Raleigh’s final expedition was made up this stream.  He reached the foot of the great cataract, now named Salto Caroni, and his description of this noble natural wonder may be quoted as a favourable instance of his style, and as the crown of his geographical enterprise: 

When we ran to the tops of the first hills of the plains adjoining to the river, we behold that wonderful breach of waters, which ran down Caroli [Caroni]; and might from that mountain see the river how it ran in three parts, above twenty miles off, and there appeared some ten or twelve overfalls in sight, every one as high over the other as a church tower, which fell with that fury that the rebound of waters made it seem as if it had been all covered over with a great shower of rain; and in some places we took it at the first for a smoke that had risen over some great town.  For mine own part, I was well persuaded from thence to have returned, being a very ill footman, but the rest were all so desirous to go near the said strange thunder of waters, that they drew me on by little and little, till we came into the next valley, where we might better discern the same.  I never saw a more beautiful country, nor more lively prospects, hills so raised here and there over the valleys, the river winding into divers branches, the plains adjoining without bush or stubble, all fair green grass, the ground of hard sand easy to march on either for horse or foot, the deer crossing in every path, the birds towards the evening singing on every tree with a thousand several tunes, cranes and herons of white, crimson, and carnation perching on the river’s side, the air fresh with a gentle easterly wind, and every stone that we stooped to take up promised either gold or silver by his complexion.

The last touch spoils an exquisite picture.  It is at once dispiriting to find so intrepid a geographer and so acute a merchant befooled by the madness of gold, and pathetic to know that his hopes in this direction were absolutely unfounded.  The white quartz of Guiana, the ’hard white spar’ which Raleigh describes, confessedly contains gold, although, as far as is at present known, in quantities so small as not to reward working.  Humboldt says that his examination of Guiana gold led him to believe that, ’like tin, it is sometimes disseminated in an almost imperceptible manner in the mass of granite rocks itself, without our being able to admit that there is a ramification and an interlacing of small veins.’  It is plain that Raleigh got hold of unusually rich specimens of the sparse auriferous quartz.  He was accused on his return of having brought his specimens from Africa, but no one suggested that they did not contain gold.  No doubt much of the sparkling dust he saw in the rocks was simply iron pyrites, or some other of the minerals which to this day are known to the wise in California as ‘fool’s gold.’  His expedition had come to America unprovided with tools of any kind, and Raleigh confesses that such specimens of ore as they did not buy from the Indians, they had to tear out with their daggers or with their fingers.

It has been customary of late, in reaction against the defamation of Raleigh in the eighteenth century, to protest that gold was not his chief aim in the Guiana enterprise, but that his main wish, under cover of the search for gold, was to form a South American colony for England, and to open out the west to general commerce.  With every wish to hold this view, I am unable to do so in the face of the existing evidence.  More humane, more intelligent than any of the adventurers who had preceded him, it yet does not seem that Raleigh was less insanely bitten with the gold fever than any of them.  He saw the fleets of Spain return to Europe year after year laden with precious metals from Mexico, and he exaggerated, as all men of his age did, the power of this tide of gold.  He conceived that no one would stem the dangerous influence of Spain until the stream of wealth was diverted or divided.  He says in the most direct language that it is not the trade of Spain, her exports of wines and Seville oranges and other legitimate produce, that threatens shipwreck to us all; ’it is his Indian gold that endangereth and disturbeth all the nations of Europe; it purchased intelligence, creepeth into councils, and setteth bound loyalty at liberty in the greatest monarchies of Europe.’  In Raleigh’s exploration of Guiana, his steadfast hope, the hope which led him patiently through so many hardships, was that he might secure for Elizabeth a vast auriferous colony, the proceeds of which might rival the revenues of Mexico and Peru.  But we must not make the mistake of supposing him to have been so wise before his time as to perceive that the real wealth which might paralyse a selfish power like that of Spain would consist in the cereals and other products which such a colony might learn to export.

Resting among the friendly Indians in the heart of the strange country to which he had penetrated, Raleigh became in many ways the victim of his ignorance and his pardonable credulity.  Not only was he gulled with diamonds and sapphires that were really rock-crystals, but he was made to believe that there existed west of the Orinoco a tribe of Indians whose eyes were in their shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts.  He does not pretend that he saw such folks, however, or that he enjoyed the advantage of conversing with any of the Ewaipanoma, or men without heads, or of that other tribe, ’who have eminent heads like dogs, and live all the day-time in the sea, and speak the Carib language.’  Of all these he speaks from modest hearsay, and less confidently than Othello did to Desdemona.  It is true that he relates marvellous and fabulous things, but it is no less than just to distinguish very carefully between what he repeats and what he reports.  For the former we have to take the evidence of his interpreters, who but dimly understood what the Indians told them, and Raleigh cannot be held personally responsible; for the latter, the testimony of all later explorers, especially Humboldt and Schomburgk, is that Raleigh’s narrative, where he does not fall into obvious and easily intelligible error, is remarkably clear and simple, and full of internal evidence of its genuineness.

They had now been absent from their ships for nearly a month, and Raleigh began to give up all hope of being able on this occasion to reach the city of Manoa.  The fury of the Orinoco began to alarm them; they did not know what might happen in a country subject to such sudden and phenomenal floods.  Tropical rains fell with terrific violence, and the men would get wetted to the skin ten times a day.  It was cold, it was windy, and to push on farther seemed perfectly hopeless.  Raleigh therefore determined to return, and they glided down the vast river at a rapid pace, without need of sail or oar.  At Morequito, Raleigh sent for the old Indian chief, Topiawari, who had been so friendly to him before, and had a solemn interview with him.  He took him into his tent, and shutting out all other persons but the interpreter, he told him that Spain was the enemy of Guiana, and urged him to become the ally of England.  He promised to aid him against the Epuremi, a native race which had oppressed him, if Topiawari would in his turn act in Guiana for the Queen of England.  To this the old man and his followers warmly assented, urging Raleigh to push on, if not for Manoa, at least for Macureguarai, a rich city full of statues of gold, that was but four days’ journey farther on.  This, Raleigh, in consideration of the sufferings of his followers, declined to do, but he consented to an odd exchange of hostages, and promised the following year to make a better equipped expedition to Manoa.  He carried off with him the son of Topiawari, and he left behind at Morequito a boy called Hugh Goodwin.  To keep this boy company, a young man named Francis Sparrey volunteered to stay also; he was a person of some education, who had served with Captain Gifford.  Goodwin had a fancy for learning the Indian language, and when Raleigh found him at Caliana twenty-two years later, he had almost forgotten his English.  He was at last devoured by a jaguar.  Sparrey, who ’could describe a country with his pen,’ was captured by the Spaniards, taken to Spain, and after long sufferings escaped to England, where he published an account of Guiana in 1602.  Sparrey is chiefly remembered by his own account of how he purchased eight young women, the eldest but eighteen years of age, for a red-hafted knife, which in England had cost him but a halfpenny.  This was not the sort of trade which Raleigh left him behind to encourage.

As they passed down the Orinoco, they visited a lake where Raleigh saw that extraordinary creature the manatee, half cow, half whale; and a little lower they saw the column of white spray, rising like the tower of a church, over the huge cascades of the crystal mountains of Roraima.  At the village of a chieftain within earshot of those thundering waters, they witnessed one of the wild drinking feasts of the Indians, who were ’all as drunk as beggars, the pots walking from one to another without rest.’  Next day, the contingent led by Captain Keymis found them, and to celebrate the meeting of friends, they passed over to the island of Assapana, now called Yayo, in the middle of the Orinoco, and they enjoyed a feast of the flesh of armadillos.  On the following day, increased cold and violent thunderstorms reminded them that the autumn was far spent, and they determined to return as quickly as possible to the sea.  Their pilots told them, however, that it was out of the question to try to descend the River of the Red Cross, which they had ascended, as the current would baffle them; and therefore they attempted what is now called the Macareo channel, farther east.  Raleigh names this stream the Capuri.

They had no further adventures until they reached the sea; but as they emerged into the Serpent’s Mouth, a great storm attacked them.  They ran before night close under shore with their small boats, and brought the galley as near as they could.  The latter, however, very nearly sank, and Raleigh was puzzled what to do.  A bar of sand ran across the mouth of the river, covered by only six feet of water, and the galley drew five.  The longer he hesitated, the worse the weather grew, and therefore he finally took Captain Gifford into his own barge, and thrust out to sea, leaving the galley anchored by the shore.  ’So being all very sober and melancholy, one faintly cheering another to show courage, it pleased God that the next day, about nine of the clock, we descried the island of Trinidad, and steering for the nearest part of it, we kept the shore till we came to Curiapan, where we found our ships at anchor, than which there was never to us a more joyful sight.’

In spite of the hardships of the journey, the constant wettings, the bad water and insufficient food, the lodging in the open air every night, he had only lost a single man, the young negro who was snapped up by the alligator at the mouth of the Cucuina.  At the coast there are dangerous miasmata which often prove fatal to Europeans, but the interior of this part of South America is reported by later travellers to be no less wholesome than Raleigh found it.

During Raleigh’s absence his fleet had not lain idle at Trinidad.  Captain Amyas Preston, whom he had left in charge, determined to take the initiative against the Spanish forces which Berreo had summoned to his help.  With four ships Preston began to harry the coast of Venezuela.  On May 21 he appeared before the important town of Cumana, but was persuaded to spare it from sack upon payment of a large sum by the inhabitants.  Captain Preston landed part of his crew here, and they crossed the country westward to Caracas, which they plundered and burned.  The fleet proceeded to Coro, in New Granada, which they treated in the same way.  When they returned is uncertain, but Raleigh found them at Curiapan when he came back to Trinidad, and with them he coasted once more the northern shore of South America.  He burned Cumana, but was disappointed in his hopes of plunder, for he says, ’In the port towns of the province of Vensuello [Venezuela] we found not the value of one real of plate.’  The fact was that the repeated voyages of the English captains ­and Drake was immediately to follow in Raleigh’s steps ­had made the inhabitants of these northern cities exceedingly wary.  The precious products were either stored in the hills, or shipped off to Spain without loss of time.

Raleigh’s return to England was performed without any publicity.  He stole home so quietly that some people declared that he had been all the time snug in some Cornish haven.  His biographers, including Mr. Edwards, have dated his return in August, being led away by a statement of Davis’s, manifestly inaccurately dated, that Raleigh and Preston were sailing off the coast of Cuba in July.  This is incompatible with Raleigh’s fear of the rapid approach of winter while he was still in Guiana.  It would also be difficult to account for the entire absence of reference to him in England before the winter.  It is more likely that he found his way back into Falmouth or Dartmouth towards the end of October 1595.  On November 10, he wrote to Cecil, plainly smarting under the neglect which he had received.  He thought that coming from the west, with an empire in his hand as a gift for Elizabeth, the Queen would take him into favour again, but he was mistaken.  He writes to Cecil nominally to offer his services against a rumoured fleet of Spain, but really to feel the ground about Guiana, and the interest which the Government might take in it.  ’What becomes of Guiana I much desire to hear, whether it pass for a history or a fable.  I hear Mr. Dudley [Sir Robert Dudley] and others are sending thither; if it be so, farewell all good from thence.  For although myself, like a cockscomb, did rather prefer the future in respect of others, and rather sought to win the kings to her Majesty’s service than to sack them, I know what others will do when those kings shall come singly into their hands.’

Meanwhile he had been writing an account of his travels, and on November 13, 1595, he sent a copy of this in manuscript to Cecil, no doubt in hope that it might be shown to Elizabeth.  In the interesting letter which accompanied this manuscript he inclosed a map of Guiana, long supposed to have been lost, which was found by Mr. St. John in the archives of Simancas, signed with Raleigh’s name, and in perfect condition.  It is evident that Raleigh could hardly endure the disappointment of repulse.  He says, ’I know the like fortune was never offered to any Christian prince,’ and losing his balance altogether in his extravagant pertinacity, he declares to Cecil that the city of Manoa contains stores of golden statues, not one of which can be worth less than 100,000_l._ If the English Government will not prosecute the enterprise that he has sketched out, Spain and France will shortly do so, and Raleigh, in the face of such apathy, ’concludes that we are cursed of God.’  Amid all this excitement, it is pleasant to find him remembering to be humane, and begging Cecil to impress the Queen with the need of ‘not soiling this enterprise’ with cruelty; nor permitting any to proceed to Guiana whose object shall only be to plunder the Indians.  He sends Cecil an amethyst ‘with a strange blush of carnation,’ and another stone, which ’if it be no diamond, yet exceeds any diamond in beauty.’

Raleigh now determined to appeal to the public at large, and towards Christmas 1595 he published his famous volume, which bears the date 1596, and is entitled, after the leisurely fashion of the age, The Discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana, with a Relation of the Great and Golden City of Manoa, which the Spaniards call El Dorado, and the Provinces of Emeria, Arromaia, Amapaia, and other Countries, with their Rivers, adjoining.  Of this volume two editions appeared in 1596, it was presently translated into Latin and published in Germany, and in short gained a reputation throughout Europe.  There can be no doubt that Raleigh’s outspoken hatred of Spain, expressed in this printed form, from which there could be no escape on the ground of mere hearsay, was the final word of his challenge to that Power.  From this time forth Raleigh was an enemy which Spain could not even pretend to ignore.

The Discovery of Guiana was dedicated to the Lord Admiral Howard and to Sir Robert Cecil, with a reference to the support which the author had found in their love ‘in the darkest shadow of adversity.’  There was probably some courtly exaggeration, mingled with self-interest, in the gratitude expressed to Cecil.  Already the relation of this cold-blooded statesman to the impulsive Raleigh becomes a crux to the biographers of the latter.  Cecil’s letters to his father from Devonshire on the matter of the Indian carracks in 1592 are incompatible with Raleigh’s outspoken thanks to Cecil for the trial of his love when Raleigh was bereft of all but malice and revenge, unless we suppose that these letters represented what Burghley would like to hear rather than what Robert Cecil actually felt.  In 1596 Burghley, in extreme old age, was a factor no longer to be taken into much consideration.  Moreover, Lady Raleigh had some hold of relationship or old friendship on Cecil, the exact nature of which it is not easy to understand.  At all events, as long as Raleigh could hold the favour of Cecil, the ear of her Majesty was not absolutely closed to him.

The Discovery possesses a value which is neither biographical nor geographical.  It holds a very prominent place in the prose literature of the age.  During the five years which had elapsed since Raleigh’s last publication, English literature had been undergoing a marvellous development, and he who read everything and sympathised with every intellectual movement could not but be influenced by what had been written.  During those five years, Marlowe’s wonderful career had been wound up like a melodrama.  Shakespeare had come forward as a poet.  A new epoch in sound English prose had been inaugurated by Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity.  Bacon was circulating the earliest of his Essays.  What these giants of our language were doing for their own departments of prose and verse, Raleigh did for the literature of travel.  Among the volumes of navigations, voyages, and discoveries, which were poured out so freely in this part of the reign of Elizabeth, most of them now only remembered because they were reprinted in the collections of Hakluyt and Purchas, this book of Raleigh’s takes easily the foremost position.  In comparison with the bluff and dull narratives of the other discoverers, whose chief charm is their naïveté, the Discovery of Guiana has all the grace and fullness of deliberate composition, of fine literary art, and as it was the first excellent piece of sustained travellers’ prose, so it remained long without a second in our literature.  The brief examples which it has alone been possible to give in this biography, may be enough to attract readers to its harmonious and glowing pages.

Among the many allusions found to this book in contemporary records, perhaps the most curious is an epic poem on Guiana, published almost immediately by George Chapman, who gave his enthusiastic approval to Raleigh’s scheme.  It is the misfortune of Chapman’s style that in his grotesque arrogance he disdained to be lucid, and this poem is full of tantalising hints, which the biographer of Raleigh longs to use, but dares not, from their obscurity.  These stately verses are plain enough, but show that Chapman was not familiar with the counsels of Elizabeth: 

    Then in the Thespiads’ bright prophetic font,
    Methinks I see our Liege rise from her throne,
    Her ears and thoughts in steep amaze erect,
    At the most rare endeavour of her power;
    And now she blesses with her wonted graces
    The industrious knight, the soul of this exploit,
    Dismissing him to convoy of his stars: 

Chapman was quite misinformed; and to what event he now proceeds to refer, it would be hard to say: 

    And now for love and honour of his wrath,
    Our twice-born nobles bring him, bridegroom like,
    That is espoused for virtue to his love,
    With feasts and music ravishing the air,
    To his Argolian fleet; where round about
    His bating colours English valour swarms
    In haste, as if Guianian Orenoque
    With his full waters fell upon our shore.

Early in 1596, Raleigh sent Captain Lawrence Keymis, who had been with him the year before, on a second voyage to Guiana.  He did not come home rich, but he did the special thing he was enjoined to do ­that is to say, he explored the coast of South America from the mouth of the Orinoco to that of the Amazon.  About the same time Raleigh drew up the very remarkable paper, not printed until 1843, entitled Of the Voyage for Guiana.  In this essay he first makes use of those copious quotations from Scripture which later on became so characteristic of his writing.  His hopes of interesting the English Government in Guiana were finally frustrated by the excitement of the Cadiz expedition, and by the melancholy fate of Sir Francis Drake.  It is said that during this winter he lived in great magnificence at Durham House, but this statement seems improbable.  All the letters of Raleigh’s now in existence, belonging to this period, are dated from Sherborne.