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ART. VIII.-1. The Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, based on contem
porary documents, together with his Letters now first collected. By Edward Edwards. 2 vols. London, 1868.
. 2. Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552–1618. By James Augustus
St. John. 2 vols. London, 1868. 3. Lives of Raleigh. By Louise Creighton, London, 1877;
by Edmund Gosse, London, 1886; and others. 4. The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh, now first collected. By
Sir Egerton Brydges, K.J. Private Press of Lee Priory,
1813. 5. Poems by Sir H. Wotton, Sir W. Raleigh, and others.
Edited by J. Hannah, M.A. London, 1845. 6. The Courtly Poets from Raleigh to Montrose.
Edited by J. Hannah, D.C.L., Warden of Trinity College, Glenalmond (late Archdeacon of Lewes). London, 1870. NHE ambition which once stirred the great intelligence of
Gibbon has induced a multitude of both earlier and later writers to offerLives of Raleigh to the public. The series begins with the meritorious biography of Oldys, published more than one hundred and fifty years ago (1736), as a preface to his edition of Raleigh’s ‘History of the World;' an excellent example of the best and most workmanlike method of that age. Among recent Lives, those of Mr. Edwards and Mr. St. John, which came out in the same year, have the merit of presenting us with the results of original researches into the mass of MS. treasures which have been lately laid open to the historical student in great public and private libraries. Many briefer compilers have been successful in giving us fair and readable presentations of Raleigh's full and chequered life. And even weightier than the biographies are the admirable summaries of all the pleas that can be urged in his favour or against him, at the most decisive turning-points in his career, which we owe to the · History' of Mr. S. R. Gardiner, and the • Letters and Life of Lord Bacon,' by Mr. J. Spedding.
But one remarkable defect can be traced in most of the more recent biographies; though at an earlier time, and to the extent of their limited materials, Oldys, Birch (1751), and Cayley (1805), had done their best to avoid it.
While hunting up every scrap of correspondence which could be brought to bear upon their subject, his later biographies, with rare exceptions, have omitted the whole factor of his poetry in judging of his life. Some of them seem to have been scarcely aware of its existence; few, if any, have realized its extent and character.
In a great measure this can be accounted for by a circumstance which has proved little less than a literary calamity. The only complete edition of Raleigh's Works (Oxford, 8 vols., 1829) was put together in so careless and uncritical a fashion, that the Poems, with but few unimportant additions, were a mere reprint of the unsisted farrago, which Sir Egerton Brydges caused to be printed at the Lee Priory Press in 1813–14. That unfortunate collection was both imperfect and redundant; imperfect, as containing, even with the additions of the Oxford reprint, not more than about 470 really authenticated verses, out of about 1557 verses to which Raleigh's claim has now been more or less completely established ; redundant, because the Editor had swept into his net a shoal of adespota, on the purely imaginary evidence of the signature Ignoto, which can be proved (in spite of Warton's unlucky assertion to the contrary) to have meant no more than just exactly what it says, viz. that the Editor of • England's Helicon' and other early Miscellanies did not know the names of the authors of the poems to which they annexed that signature.* Efforts have been made from time to time to correct this evil, and the existence of the larger mass of poetry has been fully recognized of late by Mr. Saintsbury and Mr. Gosse. But with the majority of writers, small detached articles and publications have little chance against the evidence of so-called . Complete Editions' in possession of the field. The result has been that the very best of Raleigh's recent biographers, with one exception, have either neglected his poems altogether, or have drawn their illustrations from pieces, of which there is not a scrap of evidence to prove him the author. Yet competent critics will scarcely dissent from Mr. Saintsbury's judgment, that Raleigh's works in verse, unequal as they are, occasionally touch the loftiest summits of poetry.' |
If we give two or three instances of the neglect that we complain of, it is simply to prove the existence of the fact, and to justify ourselves for trying to remove it, as far as we can. It has unluckily happened that the inaccuracies have often been as bad as the omissions. Thus the most exact of our recent historians (we will inention no names) accepts the unauthorized and false description of Raleigh's strange little poem called his · Pilgrimage,' as having been written, like halfa-dozen things besides, the night before his death,' i.e. in October, 1618; though internal evidence would at once have
* The evidences as to the authorship of pieces in ' Er land's Helicon' are well summed-up in Mr. A. H. Bullen's preface to his reprint of that Miscellany, 1887.
† Saintsbury's • History of Elizabethan Literature,' 1887, p. 212.
suggested that it must have been written in 1603, an inference which has lately been confirmed by the discovery, that it was printed as early as 1604. A massive monumental epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney (died 1586), which was printed anonymously in 1593, and again with Spenser's · Astrophel' in 1595, was quoted expressly under Raleigh's name at a still earlier date (doubtless from a MS. copy) by Sir J. Harington in 1591; and the claim was recognized a little later by Drummond of Hawthornden. Attention has been frequently called to this unimpeachable evidence since the publication of Malone's Shakspeare by Boswell in 1821. Yet two of the most learned recent editors of Spenser's poem still assure us, that the author of that epitaph is unknown. One more example will suffice: a few years ago a leading authority on early English poetry discovered' an anonymous copy of one of Raleigh's most familiar pieces in a well-known Harleian MS., and sent it off to · Notes and Queries' as a new-found treasure,
We may look at Raleigh's character from many sides. He was at once soldier and sailor, adventurer, administrator, courtier, and historian; but to his earlier contemporaries he was above all things a poet. For the proof of this it is not necessary to rely merely on the quaint commendations of Puttenham, Meres, and Bolton, when we ought to know him best as the summer's nightingale' of Spenser, who praises and describes his poetry in some of the finest of his lofty lines. Regretting that so much of that poetry is irretrievably lost ; regretting that so much more is buried beyond all chance of identification among the scattered fragments of the Elizabethan age; we hope to prove, that enough remains to throw a vivid and instructive light upon his character, and to bring out many of its details into clearer aspects. Even now we possess little more than a scanty gleaning from a golden harvest ; not more, as we have said, than about 1557 lines, of which not quite all kave been proved to be genuine. But it shall be our endeavour to show, that these 1557 verses contain a great deal that is remarkable for high and characteristic merit, such as we ought not to be willing to let die.
The watershed of Raleigh's fortunes may be fixed in the year 1592. By that time he had received all the most important of his lucrative and influential appointments. The manor of Sherborne, his · Fortune's Fold,' was granted to him in October 1591. But he had then been for some time a wealthy monopolist and patentee. He was also Captain of the Guard, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, with other offices; the possessor of large estates in Ireland; the holder of great and undefined rights of colonization beyond the Western seas. His prosperity, though not unchecked, had been advancing in the main, in spite of the occasional interruption of a passing cloud. But from that year, his progress was little more than a continuous struggle. His great sin about his marriage was never forgiven by the Queen. The strain and effort lasted amidst new jealousies during the remainder of her reign. It became harder and more hopeless, when he was confronted with open enemies, under the timid and suspicious administration of James. We might naturally expect to find some difference in his poetry, as it falls before or after that eventful year. In point of fact, however, his earliest poems are quite as sombre as his latest. It is difficult to find in them any traces of the buoyancy of youth.
The writer who is commonly quoted as Puttenham declared in 1589 that ‘for ditty and ainorous ode,' he found Raleigh's "vein most lofty, insolent, and passionate.' In 1598, Francis Meres reckoned him among those who were 'most passionate among us to bewail and bemoan the perplexities of love. These terms would be not unsuitable for somewhat melancholy poems. And in fact it is remarkable, that we cannot identify him as the known author of more than one or two of those exquisite lyrics, which were freely passed about in MS. in the days of Elizabeth ; were then gathered into such delightful miscellanies as · England's Helicon’; or were set to music in the song. books from which Mr. A. H. Bullen has lately gathered the contents of three charming volumes. His early poems, so far as we can identify them, are rather grave and sententious than lightsome; and even when they bear, as they often profess to do, on the passion of love, they never lose their sombre and didactic character. The earliest extant of his dated poems is the grave
and measured .censure' (=judgment), in commendation of George Gascoigne's Steel Glass,' prefixed to that piece in 1576, as by • Walter Rawely of the Middle Temple:
'Sweet were the sauce would please each kind of taste.' It consists of three six-lined stanzas, of which the following is the central :
. Though sundry minds in sundry sort do deem,
Yet worthiest wights yield praise for every pain;
Such stately steps as they cannot attain;
A remarkable anticipation at the very outset of the troubles of his life! There is a second piece belonging to the same date, of the same length and character, the authority for which, however, is not so decisive, though the internal evidence is strong in his favour; a piece in the Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576), which in at least one edition bears the signature · W. R.,' though in other editions it is signed with other initials.* It is entitled “No pleasure without pain,' and begins :
•Sweet were the joys that both might like and last.' The following is the third of the three stanzas :
What life were love, if love were free from pain?
But, oh! that pain with pleasure matched should meet!
That sugared sour must sauce the bitter sweet ?
What hap, what heaven, what life's were like to love!' These lines would certainly fall under Meres's description of his poetry, as bewailing and bemoaning the perplexities of love.' We may connect with them a third piece of exactly the same dimensions, entitled, The Excuse; written by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger years.' The evidence of authenticity is in this case unimpeachable ; for besides that it bears Raleigh's full signature in several MS. copies, the closing couplet was expressly cited by Puttenham in 1589 as part of a most excellent ditty written by Sir Walter Raleigh.'t This piece deserves to be quoted at length :
Calling to mind, my eyes went long about
To cause my heart for to forsake my breast,
As who had been such traitors to my rest :
Thinking that he this woe on me had brought,
When of such wars my fancy never thought:
p. 245, and also
* See Mr. J. P. Collier's Bibliographical Catalogue, vol. his reprint of the ‘Paradise of Dainty Devices.'
† Arte of Poesie,' p. 211, Arber's reprint,