Read CHAPTER VIII. - IN THE TOWER of Raleigh , free online book, by Andrew Lang., on

It is no longer possible for us to follow the personal life of Raleigh as we have hitherto been doing, step by step.  In the deep monotony of confinement, twelve years passed over him without leaving any marks of months or days upon his chronicle of patience.  A hopeless prisoner ceases to take any interest in the passage of time, and Raleigh’s few letters from the Tower are almost all of them undated.  His comfort had its vicissitudes; he was now tormented, now indulged.  A whisper from the outer world would now give him back a gleam of hope, now a harsh answer would complete again the darkness of his hopelessness.  He was vexed with ill-health, and yet from the age of fifty-one to that of sixty-three the inherent vigour of his constitution, and his invincible desire to live, were unabated.  From all his pains and sorrows he took refuge, as so many have done before him, in the one unfailing Nepenthe, the consolatory self-forgetfulness of literature.  It was in the Tower that the main bulk of his voluminous writings were produced.

He was confined in the upper story of what was called the Garden Tower, now the Bloody Tower, and not, as is so often said, in the White Tower, so that the little cell with a dim arched light, the Chapel Crypt off Queen Elizabeth’s Armoury, which used to be pointed out to visitors as the dungeon in which Raleigh wrote The History of the World, never, in all probability, heard the sound of his footsteps.  It is a myth that he was confined at all in such a dungeon as this.  According to Mr. Loftie, his apartments were those immediately above the principal gate to the Inner Ward, and had, besides a window looking westward out of the Tower, an entrance to themselves at a higher level, the level of the Lieutenant’s and Constable’s lodgings.  They probably opened directly into a garden which has since been partly built over.

Raleigh was comfortably lodged; it was Sir William Waad’s complaint that the rooms were too spacious.  Lady Raleigh and her son shared them with him for a considerable time, and Sir Walter was never without three personal servants.  He was poor, in comparison with his former opulent estate, but he was never in want.  Sherborne just sufficed for six years to supply such needs as presented themselves to a prisoner.  His personal expenses in the Tower slightly exceeded 200_l._, or 1,000_l._ of our money; there was left a narrow margin for Lady Raleigh.  The months of January and February 1604 were spent in trying to make the best terms possible for his wife and son.  In a letter to the Lords of the Council, Raleigh mentions that he has lost 3,000_l._ (or 15,000_l._ in Victorian money) a year by being deprived of his five main sources of income, namely the Governorship of Jersey, the Patent of the Wine Office, the Wardenship of the Stannaries, the Rangership of Gillingham Forest, and the Lieutenancy of Portland Castle.  He besought that he might not be reduced to utter beggary, and he did his best to retain the Duchy of Cornwall and his estates at Sherborne.  The former, as he might have supposed, could not be left in the charge of a prisoner.  It was given to a friend, to the Earl of Pembroke, and Raleigh showed a dangerous obstinacy in refusing to give up the Seal of the Duchy direct to the Earl; he was presently induced to resign it into Cecil’s hands, and then nothing but Sherborne remained.  His debts were 3,000_l._ His rich collections of plate and tapestry had been confiscated or stolen.  If the King permitted Sherborne also to be taken, it would be impossible to meet the exorbitant charges of the Lieutenant, and under these circumstances it is only too probable that Raleigh might have been obliged to crouch in the traditional dungeon ten feet by eight feet.  The retention of Sherborne, then, meant comfort and the status of a gentleman.  It is therefore of the highest interest to us to see what had become of Sherborne.

We have seen that up to the date of the trial Cecil held at bay the Scottish jackals who went prowling round the rich Dorsetshire manor; and when the trial was over, Cecil, as Lady Raleigh said, ’hath been our only comfort in our lamentable misfortune.’  As soon as Raleigh was condemned, commissioners hastened down to Sherborne and began to prepare the division of the prize.  They sold the cattle, and began to root up the copses.  They made considerable progress in dismantling the house itself.  Raleigh appealed to the Lords of the Council, and Cecil sent down two trustees, who, in February 1604, put a sudden stop to all this havoc, and sent the commissioners about their business.  Of the latter, one was the infamous Meeres, Raleigh’s former bailiff, and this fact was particularly galling to Raleigh.  On July 30 in the same year, Sherborne Castle and the surrounding manors were conveyed to Sir Alexander Brett and others in trust for Lady Raleigh and her son Walter, Sir Walter nominally forfeiting the life interest in the estates which he had reserved to himself in the conveyance of 1602.  On the moneys collected by these trustees Lady Raleigh supported herself and her husband also.  She was not turned out of the castle at first.  Twice at least in 1605 we find her there, on the second occasion causing all the armour to be scoured.  Some persons afterwards considered that this act was connected with Gunpowder Plot, others maintained that it was merely due to the fact that the armour was rusty.  The great point is that she was still mistress of Sherborne.  Lord Justice Popham, however, as early as 1604, pronounced Raleigh’s act of conveyance invalid, and in 1608 negotiations began for a ‘purchase,’ or rather a confiscation of Sherborne to the King.  To this we shall presently return.  In the meanwhile Captain Keymis acted as warden of Sherborne Castle.

As soon as the warm weather closed in, in the summer of 1604, the malaria in the Tower began to affect Raleigh’s health.  As he tells Cecil, now Lord Cranborne, in a most dolorous letter, he was withering in body and mind.  The plague had come close to him, his son having lain a fortnight with only a paper wall between him and a woman whose child was dying of that terrible complaint.  Lady Raleigh, at last, had been able to bear the terror of infection no longer, and had departed with little Walter.  Raleigh thereupon, in a fit of extreme dejection, ’presumed to tell their Lordships of his miserable estate, daily in danger of death by the palsy, nightly of suffocation by wasted and obstructed lungs.’  He entreated to be removed to more wholesome lodgings.  His prayer was not answered.  Earlier in the year he had indeed enjoyed a short excursion from the Tower.  At Easter the King had come to attend a bull-baiting on Tower Hill, and Raleigh was hastily removed to the Fleet prison beforehand, lest the etiquette of such occasions should oblige James, against his inclination, to give obnoxious prisoners their liberty.  Raleigh was one of five persons so hurried to the Fleet on March 25:  on the next day the King came, and ’caused all the prisons of the Tower to be opened, and all the persons then within them to be released.’  After the bull-baiting was over, the excepted prisoners were quietly brought back again.  This little change was all the variety that Raleigh enjoyed until he left for Guiana in 1617.

When it transpired in 1605 that through, as it appears, the negligence of the copying clerk, the conveyance by which Raleigh thought that he had secured Sherborne to his son was null and void, he had to suffer from a vindictive attack from his wife herself.  She, poor woman, had now for nearly two years bustled hither and thither, intriguing in not always the most judicious manner for her family, but never resting, never leaving a stone unturned which might lead to their restitution.  The sudden discovery that the lawyers had found a flaw in the conveyance was more than her overstrung nerves could endure, and in a fit of temper she attacked her husband, and rushed about the town denouncing him.  Raleigh, in deepest depression of mind and body, wrote to Cecil, who had now taken another upward step in the hierarchy of James’s protean House of Lords, and who was Earl of Salisbury henceforward: 

Of the true cause of my importunities, one is, that I am every second or third night in danger either of sudden death, or of the loss of my limbs or sense, being sometimes two hours without feeling or motion of my hand and whole arm.  I complain not of it.  I know it vain, for there is none that hath compassion thereof.  The other, that I shall be made more than weary of my life by her crying and bewailing, who will return in post when she hears of your Lordship’s departure, and nothing done.  She hath already brought her eldest son in one hand, and her sucking child [Carew Raleigh, born in the winter of 1604] in another, crying out of her and their destruction; charging me with unnatural negligence, and that having provided for my own life, I am without sense and compassion of theirs.  These torments, added to my desolate life ­receiving nothing but torments, and where I should look for some comfort, together with the consideration of my cruel destiny, my days and times worn out in trouble and imprisonment ­is sufficient either utterly to distract me, or to make me curse the time that ever I was born into the world, and had a being.

Things were not commonly in so bad a way as this, we may be sure.  Raleigh, who did nothing by halves, was not accustomed to underrate his own misfortunes.  His health was uncertain, indeed, and it was still worse in 1606; but his condition otherwise was not so deplorable as this letter would tend to prove.  Poor Lady Raleigh soon recovered her equanimity, and the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir George Harvey, indulged Raleigh in a variety of ways.  He frequently invited him to his table; and finding that the prisoner was engaged in various chemical experiments, he lent him his private garden to set up his still in.  In one of Raleigh’s few letters of this period, we get a delightful little vignette.  Raleigh is busy working in the garden, and, the pale being down, the charming young Lady Effingham, his old friend Nottingham’s daughter, strolls by along the terrace on the arm of the Countess of Beaumont.  The ladies lean over the paling, and watch the picturesque old magician poring over his crucibles, his face lighted up with the flames from his furnace.  They fall a chatting with him, and Lady Effingham coaxes him to spare her a little of that famous balsam which he brought back from Guiana.  He tells her that he has none prepared, but that he will send her some by their common friend Captain Whitlock, and presently he does so.  A captivity which admitted such communications with the outer world as this, could not but have had its alleviations.

The letter quoted on the last page evidently belongs to the summer of 1605, when, for a few months, Raleigh was undoubtedly in great discomfort.  On August 15, Sir George Harvey was succeeded by Sir William Waad, who had shown Raleigh great severity before his trial.  He, however, although not well disposed, shrank from actually ill-treating his noble prisoner.  He hinted to Lord Salisbury that he wanted the garden for his own use, and that he thought the paling an insufficient barrier between Raleigh and the world.  Meanwhile Salisbury did not take the hint, and the brick wall Waad wished built up was not begun.  Waad evidently looked upon the chemical experiments with suspicion.  ’Sir Walter Raleigh,’ he wrote, ’hath converted a little hen-house in the garden into a still, where he doth spend his time all the day in his distillations.’  Some of the remedies which the prisoner invented became exceedingly popular.  His ‘lesser cordial’ of strawberry water was extensively used by ladies, and his ‘great cordial,’ which was understand to contain ’whatever is most choice and sovereign in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world,’ continued to be a favourite panacea until the close of the century.

When, in November, Gunpowder Plot was discovered, Sir Walter Raleigh was for a moment suspected.  No evidence was found inculpating him in the slightest degree; but his life was, for the moment at least, made distinctly harder.  When he returned from examination, the wall which Waad had desired to put between the prisoner and the public was in course of construction.  When finished it was not very formidable, for Waad complains that Raleigh was in the habit of standing upon it, in the sight of passers-by.  The increased confinement in the spring of 1606 brought his ill-health to a climax.  He thought he was about to suffer an apoplectic seizure, and he was allowed to take medical advice.  The doctor’s certificate, dated March 26, 1606, is still in existence; it describes his paralytic symptoms, and recommends that Sir Walter Raleigh should be removed from the cold lodging which he was occupying to the ‘little room he hath built in the garden, and joining his still-house,’ which would be warmer.  This seems to have been done, and Raleigh’s health improved.

During the year 1606 various attempts were made to persuade the King to release Raleigh, but in vain.  The Queen had made his acquaintance, and had become his friend, and there was a general hope that when her father, the King of Denmark, came over to see James in the summer, he would plead for Raleigh.  There is reason to believe that if he had done so with success, he would have invited Raleigh to return with him, and to become Admiral of the Danish fleet.  But matters never got so far as this.  James I. had an inkling of what was coming, and he took an early opportunity of saying to Christian IV., ’Promise me that you will be no man’s solicitor.’  In spite of this, before he left England, Christian did ask for Raleigh’s pardon, and was refused.  When he had left England, and all hope was over, in September, Lady Raleigh made her way to Hampton Court, and, pushing her way into the King’s presence, fell on her knees at his feet.  James went by, and neither spoke nor looked at her.  It must have been about this time, or a little later, that Queen Anne brought her unfortunate eldest son Henry to visit Raleigh at the Tower.  Prince Henry, born in 1594, was now only twelve years of age.  His intimacy with Sir Walter Raleigh belongs rather to the years 1610 to 1612.

In February 1607, Raleigh was exposed to some annoyance from Edward Cotterell, the servant who in 1603 had carried his injudicious correspondence with Lord Cobham to and fro.  This man had remained in Lady Raleigh’s service, and attended on her in her little house, opposite her husband’s rooms, on Tower Hill.  He professed to be able to give evidence against his master, but in examination before the Lord Chief Justice nothing intelligible could be extracted from him.  About the same time we find Raleigh, encouraged, it would appear, by the Queen, proposing to Lord Salisbury that he should be allowed to go to Guiana on an expedition for gold.  It is pathetic to read the earnest phrases in which he tries to wheedle out of the cold Minister permission to set out westward once more across the ocean that he loved so much.  He offers, lest he should be looked upon as a runagate, to leave his wife and children behind him as hostages; and the Queen and Lord Salisbury may have the treasure he brings back, if only he may go.  He pleads how rich the land is, and how no one knows the way to it as he does.  We seem to hear the very accents of another weary King of the Sea: 

    ’Tis not too late to seek a newer world;
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars until I die.

Such was Raleigh’s purpose; but it was not that of James and of Salisbury.  On the contrary, he was kept a faster prisoner.  In July 1607, fresh regulations came into force in the Tower, by which at 5 P.M.  Raleigh and his servants had to retire to their own apartments, and Lady Raleigh go back to her house, nor were guests any longer to be admitted in the evening.  Lady Raleigh had particularly offended Sir William Waad by driving into the Tower in her coach.  She was informed that she must do so no more.  It was probably these long quiet evenings which specially predisposed Raleigh to literary composition.  He borrowed books, mainly of an historical character, in all directions.  A letter to Sir Robert Cotton is extant in which he desires the loan of no less than thirteen obscure and bulky historians, and we may imagine his silent evenings spent in poring over the precious manuscripts of the Annals of Tewkesbury and the Chronicle of Evesham.  In this year young Walter Raleigh, now fourteen years of age, proceeded to Oxford, and matriculated at Corpus on October 30, 1607.  His tutors were a certain Hooker, and the brilliant young theologian, Dr. Daniel Featley, afterwards to be famous as a controversial divine.  Throughout the year 1608, Raleigh, buried in his History, makes no sign to us.

Early in 1609, the uncertain tenure of Sherborne, which had vexed Raleigh so much that he declared himself ready to part with the estate in exchange for the pleasure of never hearing of it again, once more came definitely before the notice of the Government.  A proposition had been made to Raleigh to sell his right in it to the King, but he had refused; he said that it belonged to his wife and child, and that ’those that never had a fee-simple could not grant a fee-simple.’  About Christmas 1608 Lady Raleigh brought the matter up again, and leading her sons by the hand she appeared in the Presence Chamber, and besought James to give them a new conveyance, with no flaw in it.  But the King had determined to seize Sherborne, and he told her, ’I maun hae the lond, I maun hae it for Carr.’  It is said that, losing all patience, Elizabeth Raleigh started to her feet, and implored God to punish this robbery of her household.  Sir Walter was more politic, and on January 2, 1609, he wrote a letter to the favourite, imploring him not to covet Sherborne.  It is to be regretted that Raleigh, whose opinion of James’s minions was not on private occasions concealed, should write to Carr of all people in England as ’one whom I know not, but by an honourable fame;’ and that the eloquence of his appeal should be thrown away on such a recipient.  ‘For yourself, Sir,’ he says, ’seeing your day is but now in the dawn, and mine come to the evening, your own virtues and the King’s grace assuring you of many good fortunes and much honour, I beseech you not to begin your first building upon the ruins of the innocent; and that their griefs and sorrows do not attend your first plantation.’  Carr, of course, took no notice whatever, and on the 10th of the same month the estates at Sherborne were bestowed on him.  At Prince Henry’s request the King presently purchased them back again, and gave them to his son, who soon after died.  Mr. Edwards has discovered that Sherborne passed through eight successive changes of ownership before 1617.  To Lady Raleigh and her children the King gave 8,000_l._ as purchase-money of the life security in Sherborne.  The interest on this sum was very irregularly paid, and the Guiana voyage in 1617 swallowed up most of the principal.  Thus the vast and princely fortune of Raleigh melted away like a drift of snow.

In the summer of 1611, Raleigh came into collision with Lord Salisbury and Lord Northampton on some matter at present obscure.  Northampton writes:  ’We had afterwards a bout with Sir Walter Raleigh, in whom we find no change, but the same blindness, pride, and passion that heretofore hath wrought more violently, but never expressed itself in a stranger fashion.’  In consequence of their interview with Raleigh and other prisoners, the Lords recommended that ‘the lawless liberty’ of the Tower should no longer be allowed to cocker and foster exorbitant hopes in the braver sort of captives.  Raleigh was immediately placed under closer restraint, not even being allowed to take his customary walk with his keeper up the hill within the Tower.  His private garden and gallery were taken from him, and his wife was almost entirely excluded from his company.  The final months of Salisbury’s life were unfavourable to Raleigh, and there was no quickening of the old friendship at the last.  When Lord Salisbury died on May 24, 1612, Raleigh wrote this epigram: 

    Here lies Hobinall our pastor whilere,
    That once in a quarter our fleeces did sheer;
    To please us, his cur he kept under clog,
    And was ever after both shepherd and dog;
    For oblation to Pan, his custom was thus,
    He first gave a trifle, then offered up us;
    And through his false worship such power he did gain,
    As kept him on the mountain, and us on the plain.

When these lines were shown to James I. he said he hoped that the man who wrote them would die before he did.

The death of Salisbury encouraged Raleigh once more.  His intimacy with the generous and promising Prince of Wales had quickened his hopes.  During the last months of his life, Henry continually appealed to Raleigh for advice.  The Prince was exceedingly interested in all matters of navigation and shipbuilding, and there exists a letter to him from Raleigh giving him elaborate counsel on the building of a man-of-war, from which we may learn that in the opinion of that practised hand six things were chiefly required in a well-conditioned ship of the period:  ’1, that she be strong built; 2, swift in sail; 3, stout-sided; 4, that her ports be so laid, as she may carry out her guns all weathers; 5, that she hull and try well; 6, that she stay well, when boarding or turning on a wind is required.’  Secure in the interest of the Prince of Wales, and hoping to persuade the Queen to be an adventurer, Raleigh seized the opportunity of the death of Salisbury to communicate his plans for an expedition to Guiana to the Lords of the Council.  He thought he had induced them to promise that Captain Keymis should go, and that if so much as half a ton of gold was brought back, that should buy Raleigh his liberty.  But the negotiations fell through, and Keymis stayed at home.

In September 1612, Raleigh was writing the second of his Marriage Discourses, that dealing with the prospects of his best and youngest friend.  A month later that friend fell a victim to his extreme rashness in the neglect of his health.  The illness of the Prince of Wales filled the whole of England with dismay, and when, on November 6, he sank under the attack of typhoid fever, it was felt to be a national misfortune.  On the very morning of his death the Queen sent to Raleigh for his famous cordial, and it was forwarded, with the message that if it was not poison that the Prince was dying of, it must save him.  The Queen herself believed that Raleigh’s cordial had once saved her life; on the other hand, in the preceding August his medicines were vulgarly supposed to have hastened the death of Sir Philip Sidney’s daughter, the Countess of Rutland.  The cordial soothed the Prince’s last agony, and that was all.  Henry had with great difficulty obtained from his father the promise that, as a personal favour to himself, Raleigh should be set at liberty at Christmas 1612.  He died six weeks too soon, and the King contrived to forget his promise.  The feeling of the Prince of Wales towards Raleigh was expressed in a phrase that was often repeated, ’No man but my father would keep such a bird in a cage.’

We learn from Izaak Walton that Ben Jonson was recommended to Raleigh while he was in the Tower, by Camden.  That he helped him in obtaining and arranging material for the History of the World is certain.  In 1613 young Walter Raleigh, having returned to London, and having, in the month of April, killed his man in a duel, went abroad under the charge of Jonson.  They took letters for Prince Maurice of Nassau, and they proceeded to Paris, but we know no more.  It was probably before they started that young Walter wheeled the corpulent poet of the Alchemist into his father’s presence in a barrow, Ben Jonson being utterly overwhelmed with a beaker of that famed canary that he loved too well.  Jonson, on his return from abroad, seems to have superintended the publication of the History of the World in 1614.  A fine copy of verses, printed opposite the frontispiece of that volume, was reprinted among the pieces called Underwoods in the 1641 folio of Ben Jonson’s Works.  These lines have, therefore, ever since been attributed to that poet, but, as it appears to me, rashly.  In the first place, this volume was posthumous; in the second, for no less than twenty-three years Ben Jonson allowed the verses to appear as Raleigh’s without protest; in the third, where they differ from the earlier version it is always to their poetical disadvantage.  They were found, as the editor of 1641 says, amongst Jonson’s papers, and I would suggest, as a new hypothesis, that the less polished draft in the Underwoods is entirely Raleigh’s, having been copied by Jonson verbatim when he was preparing the History of the World for the press, and that the improved expressions in the latter were adopted by Raleigh on suggestion from the superior judgment of Jonson.  The character of the verse is peculiarly that of Raleigh.

It was in 1607, as I have conjectured, that Raleigh first began seriously to collect and arrange materials for the History of the World; in 1614 he presented the first and only volume of this gigantic enterprise to the public.  It was a folio of 1,354 pages, printed very closely, and if reprinted now would fill about thirty-five such volumes as are devised for an ordinary modern novel.  Yet it brought the history of the world no lower down than the conquest of Macedon by Rome, and it is hard to conceive how soon, at this rate of production, Raleigh would have reached his own generation.  He is said to have anticipated that his book would need to consist of not less than four such folios.  In the opening lines he expresses some consciousness of the fact that it was late in life for him, a prisoner of State condemned to death at the King’s pleasure, to undertake so vast a literary adventure.  ’Had it been begotten,’ he confesses, ’with my first dawn of day, when the light of common knowledge began to open itself to my younger years, and before any wound received either from fortune or time, I might yet well have doubted that the darkness of age and death would have covered over both it and me, long before the performance.’  It is greatly to be desired that Raleigh could have been as well advised as his contemporary and possible friend, the Huguenot poet-soldier, Agrippa d’Aubigne, who at the close of a chequered career also prepared a Histoire Universelle, in which he simply told the story of his own political party in France through those stormy years in which he himself had been an actor.  We would gladly exchange all these chronicles of Semiramis and Jehoshaphat for a plain statement of what Raleigh witnessed in the England of Elizabeth.

The student of Raleigh does not, therefore, rise from an examination of his author’s chief contribution to literature without a severe sense of disappointment.  The book is brilliant almost without a rival in its best passages, but these are comparatively few, and they are divided from one another by tracts of pathless desert.  The narrative sometimes descends into a mere slough of barbarous names, a marish of fabulous genealogy, in which the lightest attention must take wings to be supported at all.  For instance, the geographical and historical account of the Ten Tribes occupies a space equivalent to a modern octavo volume of at least four hundred pages, through which, if the conscientious reader would pass ‘treading the crude consistence’ of the matter, ’behoves him now both sail and oar.’  It is not fair to dwell upon the eminent beauties of the History of the World without at the same time acknowledging that the book almost wilfully deprives itself of legitimate value and true human interest by the remoteness of the period which it describes, and by the tiresome pedantry of its method.  It is leisurely to the last excess.  The first chapter, of seven long sections, takes us but to the close of the Creation.  We cannot proceed without knowing what it is that Tostatus affirms of the empyrean heavens, and whether, with Strabo, we may dare assume that they are filled with angels.  To hasten onwards would be impossible, so long as one of the errors of Steuchius Eugubinus remains unconfuted; and even then it is well to pause until we know the opinions of Orpheus and Zoroaster on the matter in hand.  One whole chapter of four sections is dedicated to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the arguments of Goropius Becanus are minutely tested and found wanting.  Goropius Becanus, whom Raleigh is never tired of shaking between his critical teeth, was a learned Jesuit of Antwerp, who proved that Adam and Eve spoke Dutch in Paradise.  It is not until he reaches the Patriarchs that it begins to occur to the historian that at his present rate of progress it will need forty folio volumes, and not four, to complete his labours.  From this point he hastens a little, as the compilers of encyclopaedias do when they have passed the letter B.

With all this, the History of the World is a charming and delightful miscellany, if we do not accept it too seriously.  Often for a score of pages there will be something brilliant, something memorable on every leaf, and there is not a chapter, however arid, without its fine things somewhere.  It is impossible to tell where Raleigh’s pen will take fire.  He is most exquisite and fanciful where his subject is most unhopeful, and, on the other hand, he is likely to disappoint us where we take for granted that he will be fine.  For example, the series of sections on the Terrestrial Paradise are singularly crabbed and dusty in their display of Rabbinical pedantry, and the little touch in praise of Guiana is almost the only one that redeems the general dryness.  It is not mirth, or beauty, or luxury that fires the historian, but death.  Of mortality he has always some rich sententious thing to say, praising ’the workmanship of death, that finishes the sorrowful business of a wretched life.’  So the most celebrated passages of the whole book, and perhaps the finest, are the address to God which opens the History, and the prose hymn in praise of death which closes it.  The entire absence of humour is characteristic, and adds to the difficulty of reading the book straight on.  The story of Periander’s burning the clothes of the women closes with a jest; there is, perhaps, no other occasion on which the solemn historian is detected with a smile upon his lips.

By far the most interesting and readable, part of the History of the World is its preface.  This is a book in itself, and one in which the author condescends to a lively human interest.  We cheerfully pass from Elihu the Buzite, and the conjectures of Adricomius respecting the family of Ram, to the actualities of English and Continental history in the generation immediately preceding that in which Raleigh was writing.  When we consider the position in which the author stood towards James I. and turn to the pages of his Preface, we refuse to believe that it was without design that he expressed himself in language so extraordinary.  It would have been mere levity for a friendless prisoner, ready for the block, to publish this terrible arraignment of the crimes of tyrant kings, unless he had some reason for believing that he could shelter himself successfully under a powerful sympathy.  This sympathy, in the case of Sir Walter Raleigh, could be none other than that of Prince Henry; and it may well have been in the summer of 1612, when, as we know, he was particularly intimate with the Prince and busied in his affairs, that he wrote the Preface.  With long isolation from the world, he had lost touch of public affairs, as The Prerogative of Parliament would alone be sufficient to show.  It is probable that he exaggerated the influence of the young Prince, and estimated too highly the promise of liberty which he had wrung from his father.

It took James some time to discover that this grave Rabbinical miscellany, inspired by Siracides and Goropius Becanus, was not wholesome reading for his subjects.  On January 5, 1615, after the book had been selling slowly, the King gave an order commanding the suppression of the remainder of the edition, giving as his reason that ‘it is too saucy in censuring the acts of kings.’  It is said that some favoured person at Court pushed inquiry further, and extracted from James the explanation that the censure of Henry VIII. was the real cause of the suppression.  Contemporary anecdote, however, has reported that the defamation of the Tudors in the Preface to the History of the World might have passed without reproof, if the King had not discovered in the very body of the book several passages so ambiguously worded that he could not but suspect the writer of intentional satire.  According to this story, he was startled at Raleigh’s account of Naboth’s Vineyard, and scandalised at the description of the impeachment of the Admiral of France; but what finally drew him up, and made him decide that the book must perish, was the character of King Ninias, son of Queen Semiramis.  This passage, then, may serve us as an example of the History of the World

Ninus being the first whom the madness of boundless dominion transported, invaded his neighbour princes, and became victorious over them; a man violent, insolent, and cruel.  Semiramis taking the opportunity, and being more proud, adventurous, and ambitious than her paramour, enlarged the Babylonian empire, and beautified many places therein with buildings unexampled.  But her son having changed nature and condition with his mother, proved no less feminine than she was masculine.  And as wounds and wrongs, by their continual smart, put the patient in mind how to cure the one and revenge the other, so those kings adjoining (whose subjection and calamities incident were but new, and therefore the more grievous) could not sleep, when the advantage was offered by such a successor.  For in regno Babylonico hic parum resplenduit:  ’This king shined little,’ saith Nauclerus of Ninias, ’in the Babylonian kingdom.’  And likely it is, that the necks of mortal men having been never before galled with the yoke of foreign dominion, nor having ever had experience of that most miserable and detested condition of living in slavery; no long descent having as yet invested the Assyrian with a right, nor any other title being for him pretended than a strong hand; the foolish and effeminate son of a tyrannous and hated mother could very ill hold so many great princes and nations his vassals, with a power less mastering, and a mind less industrious, than his father and mother had used before him.

It is in passages like this, where we read the satire between the lines, and in those occasional fragments of autobiography to which we have already referred in the course of this narrative, that the secondary charm of the History of the World resides.  It is to these that we turn when we have exhausted our first surprise and delight at the great bursts of poetic eloquence, the long sonorous sentences which break like waves on the shore, when the spirit of the historian is roused by some occasional tempest of reflection.  In either case, the book is essentially one to glean from, not to read with consecutive patience.  Real historical philosophy is absolutely wanting.  The author strives to seem impartial by introducing, in the midst of an account of the slaughter of the Amalekites, a chapter on ’The Instauration of Civility in Europe, and of Prometheus and Atlas;’ but his general notions of history are found to be as rude as his comparative mythology.  He scarcely attempts to sift evidence, and next to Inspiration he knows no guide more trustworthy than Pintus or Haytonus, a Talmudic rabbi or a Jesuit father.  In the midst of his disquisitions, the reward of the continuous reader is to come suddenly upon an unexpected ’as I myself have seen in America,’ or ‘as once befell me also in Ireland.’

Another historical work, the Breviary of the History of England, has been claimed for Sir Walter Raleigh.  This book was first published in 1692, from a manuscript in the possession of Archbishop Sancroft, and, as it would appear, in Raleigh’s handwriting.  Before its publication, however, the Archbishop had noted that ’Samuel Daniel hath inserted into his History of England , almost word for word, both the Introduction and the Life; whence it is that you have sometimes in the margin of my copy a various reading with “D” after it.’  Daniel, a gentle and subservient creature, was the friend of Camden, and a paid servant of Queen Anne, during Raleigh’s imprisonment.  He died a few months after Raleigh’s execution.  It is very likely that he was useful to Raleigh in collecting notes and other material.  It may even have been his work for the interesting prisoner in the Tower that caused Jonson’s jealous dislike of Daniel.  The younger poet’s own account, as Mr. Edwards pointed out, by no means precludes the supposition that he used material put together by another hand.  At the same time Sancroft’s authority cannot be considered final as regards Raleigh’s authorship of the Breviary, for the manuscript did not come into his hands until nineteen years after Raleigh’s death.

No such doubt attaches to the very curious and interesting volume published nominally at Middelburg in 1628, and entitled The Prerogative of Parliament.  This takes the form of a dialogue between a Counsellor of State and a Justice of the Peace.  The dramatic propriety is but poorly sustained, and presently the Justice becomes Raleigh, speaking in his own person.  The book was written in the summer of 1615, a few months after the suppression of the History of the World, and by a curious misconstruction of motive was intended to remove from the King’s mind the unpleasant impression caused by those parables of Ahab and of Ninias.  It had, however, as we shall see, the very opposite result.  The preface to the King expresses an almost servile desire to please:  ’it would be more dog-like than man-like to bite the stone that struck me, to wit the borrowed authority of my sovereign misinformed.’  But Raleigh was curiously misinformed himself regarding the ways and wishes of James.  His dialogue takes for its starting-point the trial of Oliver St. John, who had been Raleigh’s fellow-prisoner in the Tower since April for having with unreasonable brutality protested against the enforced payment of what was called the Benevolence, a supposed free-will offering to the purse of the King.  So ignorant was Raleigh of what was going on in England, that he fancied James to be unaware of the tricks of his ministers; and the argument of The Prerogative of Parliament is to encourage the King to cast aside his evil counsellors, and come face to face with his loyal people.  The student of Mr. Gardiner’s account of the Benevolence will smile to think of the rage with which the King must have received Raleigh’s proffered good advice, and of Raleigh’s stupefaction at learning that his well-meant volume was forbidden to be printed.  His manuscript, prepared for the press, still remains among the State Papers, and it was not until ten years after his death that it was first timidly issued under the imprints of Middelburg and of Hamburg.

Not the least of Raleigh’s chagrins in the Tower must have been the composition of works which he was unable to publish.  It is probable that several of these are still unknown to the world; many were certainly destroyed, some may still be in existence.  During the thirty years which succeeded his execution, there was a considerable demand for scraps of Raleigh’s writing on the part of men who were leaning to the Liberal side.  John Hampden was a collector of Raleigh’s manuscripts, and he is possibly the friend who bequeathed to Milton the manuscript of The Cabinet Council, an important political work of Raleigh’s which the great Puritan poet gave to the world in 1658.  At that time Milton had had the treatise ’many years in my hands, and finding it lately by chance among other books and papers, upon reading thereof I thought it a kind of injury to withhold longer the work of so eminent an author from the public.’ The Cabinet Council is a study in the manner of Macchiavelli.  It treats of the arts of empire and mysteries of State-craft, mainly with regard to the duties of monarchy.  It is remarkable for the extraordinary richness of allusive extracts from the Roman classics, almost every maxim being immediately followed by an apt Latin example.  At the end of the twenty-fourth chapter the author wakes up to the tedious character of this manner of instruction, and the rest of the book is illustrated by historical instances in the English tongue.  The book closes with an exhortation to the reader, who could be no other than Prince Henry, to emulate the conduct of Amurath, King of Turbay, who abandoned worldly glory to embrace a retired life of contemplation. The Cabinet Council must be regarded as a text-book of State-craft, intended in usum Delphini.

Probably earlier in date, and certainly more elegant in literary form, is the treatise entitled A Discourse of War.  This may be recommended to the modern reader as the most generally pleasing of Raleigh’s prose compositions, and the one in which, owing to its modest limits, the peculiarities of his style may be most conveniently studied.  The last passage of the little book forms one of the most charming pages of the literature of that time, and closes with a pathetic and dignified statement of Raleigh’s own attitude towards war.  ’It would be an unspeakable advantage, both to the public and private, if men would consider that great truth, that no man is wise or safe but he that is honest.  All I have designed is peace to my country; and may England enjoy that blessing when I shall have no more proportion in it than what my ashes make.’  There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of these words; yet we must not forget that this pacific light was not that in which Raleigh’s character had presented itself to Robert Cecil or to Elizabeth.

None of Raleigh’s biographers have suggested any employment for his leisure during the year which followed his release from the Tower.  Yet the expressions he used in the preface to his Observations on Trade and Commerce show that it must have been prepared during the year 1616 or 1617:  ‘about fourteen or fifteen years past,’ that is to say in 1602, ’I presented you,’ he says to the King, ’a book of extraordinary importance.’  He complains that this earlier book was suppressed, and hopes for better luck; but the same misfortune, as usual with Raleigh, attended the Observations.  That treatise was an impassioned plea, based upon a survey of the commercial condition of the world, in favour of free trade.  Raleigh looked with grave suspicion on the various duties which were levied, in increasing amount, on foreign goods entering this country, and he entreated James I. to allow him to nominate commissioners to examine into the causes of the depression of trade, and to revise the tariffs on a liberal basis.  It must have seemed to the King that Raleigh wilfully opposed every royal scheme which he examined.  James had been a protectionist all through his reign, and at this very moment was busy in attempting to force the native industries to flourish in spite of foreign competition.  Raleigh’s treatise must have been put into the King’s hands much about the time at which his violent protectionism was threatening to draw England into war with Holland.  Raleigh’s advice seems to us wise and pointed, but to James it can only have appeared wilfully wrong-headed.  The Observations upon Trade disappeared as so many of Raleigh’s manuscripts had disappeared before it, and was only first published in the Remains of 1651.

Of the last three years of Raleigh’s imprisonment in the Tower we know scarcely anything.  On September 27, 1615, a fellow-prisoner in whom Raleigh could not fail to take an interest, Lady Arabella Stuart, died in the Tower.  In December, Raleigh was deprived, by an order in Council, of Arabella’s rich collection of pearls, but how they had come into his possession we cannot guess.  Nor can we date the stroke of apoplexy from which Raleigh suffered about this time.  But relief was now briefly coming.  Two of Raleigh’s worst enemies, Northampton and Somerset, were removed, and in their successors, Winwood and Villiers, Raleigh found listeners more favourable to his projects.  It has been said that he owed his release to bribery, but Mr. Gardiner thinks it needless to suppose this.  Winwood was as cordial a hater of Spain as Raleigh himself; and Villiers, in his political animus against the Somerset faction, would need no bribery.  Sir William St. John was active in bringing Raleigh’s claims before the Court, and the Queen, as ever, used what slender influence she possessed.  Urged on so many sides, James gave way, and on January 30, 1616, signed a warrant for Raleigh’s release from the Tower.  He was to live in his own house, but, with a keeper; he was not to presume to visit the Court, or the Queen’s apartments, nor go to any public assemblies whatever, and his whole attention was to be given to making due preparations for the intended voyage to Guiana.  This warrant, although Raleigh used it to leave his confinement, was only provisional; and was confirmed by a minute of the Privy Council on March 19.  Raleigh took a house in Broad Street, where he spent fourteen months in discreet retirement, and then sailed on his last voyage.