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SIR WALTER RALEIGH.
From Raleigh's Birth to his Settlement of Virginia.
Birth of Raleigh-Early Education—Sent to Oriel College,
Oxford-Passes over to the War in France-State of that Kingdom-His Return to England—Goes to the Netherlands -Serves as a Volunteer under Sir John Norris-His Enthusiasm for Navigation-Embarks in the Expedition of his Brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, to America--Its Failure Raleigh engages in the War in Ireland—State of that Country -His eminent Services there—He returns to EnglandCourt of Queen Elizabeth-Character of Burleigh_Of Leicester-Of Sussex-Of Sir Philip Sidney–First Introduction to the Queen-Dispute with Lord Grey-Increases in Favour at Court—Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Second Voyage of Discovery-Raleigh's deep Interest in it-Its disastrous Issue -Raleigh perseveres in his Schemes-He fits out two Ships
— The Voyage Discovery of the Island Wokokon and Coast of North Carolina-Return to England–The Queen calls the Country Virginia–Raleigh knighted—He sends a Fleet to Virginia under Sir Richard Grenville-Settlement of Virginia -Difficulties of the infant Colony-Introduction of Tobacco into England by Raleigh-Raleigh's Irish Estate-Spenser the Poet-Raleigh sends a new Fleet under Governor White
to Virginia. Few subjects of biography present greater attractions than the life of Sir Walter RALEIGH. As a statesman, a soldier, a navigator, and a writer of original and varied genius, he is connected with all that is interesting in
perhaps the most interesting period of English history,the reign of Elizabeth ; and so much was he the child of enterprise and the sport of vicissitude, that he who sits down to write his life, finds himself, without departing from the severe simplicity of truth, surrounded with lights almost as glowing as those of romance.
The family of Raleigh was one of ancient gentility, though neither rich nor noble. His father was Walter Raleigh, Esq. of Fardel, in Devonshire, a gentleman who in the reign of Mary had gained considerable distinction as a naval officer. * His third wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Philip Champernon and widow of Otho Gilbert, Esq. of Compton, in the county of Devon, was Raleigh's mother. She was in all probability a woman of talent, as by her first marriage she gave birth to Sir John, Sir Humphrey, and Sir Adrian Gilbert,—all men of eminence, knighted for their public services by Queen Elizabeth.
Walter Raleigh, the youngest of two sons by this union, was born in the year 1552, at Hayes, a pleasant farm in the parish of East Badleigh, Devonshire, situated three or four miles from the coast,--a circumstance which, combined with his father's occupation, may have given him that early passion for maritime enterprise which afterwards distinguished him. It certain he was much attached to the spot, as we find him in the days of his greatness endeavouring to purchase it, “ from the natural disposition he had to the place, being born in that house.” The same year in which he first saw
* Raleigh's father having been a sea-captain is a fact hitherto unknown. I discovered it very recently in examining some documents in the State-paper Office.-See MS., State-paper Office, entitled “ Names of certain Gentlemen appointed to be captains of certain Ships ; and Queen Mary's letter to them. 25th April 1558.”—Orig.
† Original letter of 'Raleigh to Mr Duke, Works, vol. viii. p. 744. The edition of Raleigh's Works referred to throughout this Life, is that in eight volumes printed at Oxford University Press, 1029. The first volume contains the Lives of Raleigh the light closed the brief but hopeful reign of Edward VI.; and it was a happy circumstance, that during the domination of Mary he was still a boy, and secluded in the retirement of his father's country-seat, where he received, either from a domestic tutor or in some school in the neighbourhood, the rudiments of his education. When still very young he was sent to Oriel College, Oxford, where his ready wit and precocity of genius were such, that they have been deemed worthy of commemoration by his illustrious contemporary Lord Bacon.* He exhibited at the same time a restless ambition, which prompted him to seek distinction rather in the stirring scenes of the world than the cloistered solitude of a college ; and this natural inclination to adventure was fostered by the study of books relating to the conquests of the Spaniards in the New World,-a species of rearling which was the delight of his early years, and undoubtedly gave a colour to the whole tenor of his life.
His stay at Oxford, therefore, was short; and in 1569 he seized the opportunity of the civil wars in France, between the Huguenots and the Roman Catholics, to visit that kingdom, and commence his military education. A more excellent school could not have been selected ; and in adopting this step young Raleigh was sure of the approbation of Elizabeth : for this great queen, although, to use the words of Camden, her hands were full of disorders at home, was not wanting either in commiseration or relief to the persecuted Protestants of France. She not only exhorted other princes to lend them assistance, but advanced a considerable sum to the Queen of Navarre, and gave permission to Henry Champernon, Raleigh's near kinsman, to raise a troop of a hundred gentlemen volunteers, with which he passed over to the continent. They were, according to the description in De Thou,
a gallant company, nobly mounted and accoutred, having on their colours the motto, Finem det mihi Virtus ;” and many of them rose afterwards to eminence. But the most noted of them all was Walter Raleigh.*
by Oldys and Birch ; and the quotations from these taken from it.
Apothegms, No. 66.
The historian might have added, that a more important or arduous period could hardly have been selected, in the history of France, for a young man to enter into public life. It was the crisis when the Protestants under the Prince of Condé and the Admiral Coligni, two of the greatest men of modern times, had risen in defence of their religious liberty against the tyranny of the Romanists. In the very year when Raleigh joined the army was fought the battle of Jarnac, so disastrous to the Huguenots, in which Condé, having been made prisoner, was murdered in cold blood. About the same time the Prince of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV., commenced his military career under the care of the veteran Coligni.
Of Raleigh's personal adventures in this army no account has been preserved either by himself or others. But in his History of the World, written during his long imprisonment in the Tower, he alludes in more than one place to his French campaign. Speaking of the dangers of intrusting equal power to the commanders of an army, who seldom possess equal courage and judgment,
I remember it well,” says he, “ that when the Prince of Condé was slain, after the battle of Jarnac, the Protestants did greatly bewail the loss of the said prince, in respect of his religion, person, and birth ; yet, comforting themselves, they thought it rather an advancement than a hinderance to their affairs; for so much did the valour of the one (Condé) outreach the advisedness of the other (Coligni), as whatsoever the admiral intended to win by attending the advantage, the prince adventured to lose by being over confident in his own courage.” + In this sentence, the style of its commencement, “ I remember it well,” creates a presumption that Raleigh was present in the battle.
* Thuani Hist. b. 46, chap. ii. Camden, Annal. Reg. Elis. ad Ann. 1569. “ Admodum adolescens, jam primum fatis Nonstratris.”
+ Raleigh's Works, vol. vi pp. 157, 158.
Not long after this occurred the disastrous defeat of the admiral at Moncontour, on which occasion the victorious army was commanded by the Duke of Anjou, afterwards Henry III. It appears from Raleigh's own account, that having shared in the perils of this contest, he retired with Count Ludowick of Nassau, who, by his ability in conducting the retreat, saved one-half of the Protestant force, then broken and disbanded,“ of which,” says he, “ myself was an eyewitness, and one of them that had cause to thank him for it.” *
There is yet another allusion in his History to the scene of his military education. “ I saw," he observes, “ in the third civil war in France, certain caves in Languedoc, which had but one entrance and that very narrow, cut out in the midway of high rocks, which we knew not how to enter by any ladder or engine, till at last by certain bundles of lighted straw let down by an iron chain, with a weighty stone in the midst, those that defended it were so smothered, that they rendered themselves with their plate, money, and other goods therein hidden.” +
It seems certain, from a passage quoted by Oldys, that Raleigh remained in France till after the death of Charles IX. This would make the period of his stay upwards of six years,—a circumstance which will account for a considerable chasm in all the memoirs of his life. During this time, we may presume, to use the words of the same author, that “ he was initiated in those accomplishments, both civil and military, through the language and politeness of the people, as well as their warlike and ministerial affairs, whereof he afterwards gave such manifold proofs.”+
The era was indeed remarkable for great changes, and not less so for men eminent in the arts of peace, of civil government, and of elegant literature, as well as in war. If it was the age of Condé and Coligni, it produced also the Chancellor de l'Hôpital, the President De Thou, Ronsard, and Muretus; and before leaving France, when
* Raleigh’s Works, vol. vi. p. 211. + Ibid. vol. v. p. 355. # Oldys's Life, pp. 16, 17.