Sidney and Raleigh

THE characteristic of a good prose style is, that, while it mirrors or embodies the mind that uses it, it also gives pleasure in itself. The quality which decides on its fulfilment of these conditions is commonly called taste.

Though taste is properly under law, and should, if pressed, give reasons for its decisions, many of its most authoritative judgments come from taste deciding by instinct, or insight, rather than taste deciding by rule. Indeed, the fine feeling of the beauty, melody, fitness, and vitality of words is often wanting in men who are dexterous in the application of the principles of style; and some of the most philosophic treatises on æsthetics betray a lack of that deep internal sense which directly perceives the objects and qualities whose validity it is the office of the understanding laboriously to demonstrate.

But whether we judge of style by our perceptions or by principles, we all feel that there is a distinction between persons who write books, and writers whose books belong to literature. There is something in the mere wording of a description of a triviality of dress or manner, by Addison or Steele, which gives greater mental delight than the description of a campaign or a revolution by Alison. The principle that style is thus a vital element in the expression of thought and emotion, that it not only measures the quality and quantity of the mind it conveys, but has a charm in itself, makes the task of an historian of literature less difficult than it at first appears. Among the prose-writers of the Age of Elizabeth we accordingly do not include all who wrote in prose, but those in whom prose composition was laboring to fulfil the conditions of art. In many cases this endeavor resulted in the substitution of artifice for art; and the bond which connects the invisible thought with the visible word, and through which the word is surcharged with the life of the thought, being thus severed, the effect was to produce a factitious dignity, sweetness, and elegance by mental sleight of hand, and tricks of modulation and antithesis.

In one of the earliest prose-writers of the reign of Elizabeth, John Lylye, we perceive how easily the demand in the cultivated classes for what is fine in diction may degenerate into admiration of what is superfine ; how elegant imbecility may pass itself off for elegance ; and how hypocrisy and grimace may become a fashion in that high society which constitutes itself the arbiter of taste. Lylye, a scholar of some beauty, and more ingenuity, of fancy, was especially calculated to corrupt a language whose rude masculine vigor was beginning to be softened into harmony and elegance ; for he was one of those effeminate spirits whose felicity it is to be born affected, and who can violate general nature without doing injustice to their own. The Court of Elizabeth, full of highly educated men and women, were greatly pleased with the fopperies of diction and sentiment, the dainty verbal confectionery of his so-called classic plays ; and they seem to have been entirely carried away by his prose romance of “ Euphues and his England,” first published in 1579. Here persons of fashion might congratulate themselves that they could find a language which was not spoken by the vulgar. The nation, Sir Henry Blunt tells us, were in debt to him for a new English which he taught them ; “ all our ladies were his scholars ” ; and that beauty in court was disregarded “who could not parley Euphuism, that is to say, who was unable to converse in that pure and reformed English.” Those who have studied the jargon of Holofernes in Shakespeare’s “ Love’s Labor ’s Lost,” of Fastidious Brisk in Ben Jonson’s “ Every Man out of his Humour,” and, later still, of Sir Piercie Shafton, in Scott’s novel of “ The Monastery,” can form some idea of this “pure and reformed English,” the peculiarities of which have been happily characterized to consist in “pedantic and far-fetched allusion, elaborate induectness, a cloying smoothness and monotony of diction,” and great fertility in “alliteration and punning.” Even when Lylye seems really sweet, elegant, and eloquent, he evinces a natural suspicion of the graces of nature, and contrives to divorce his rhetoric from all sincerity of utterance. There is something pietty and puerile even in his expression of heroism ; and to say a good thing in a way it ought not to be said was to realize his highest idea of art. His attitude towards what was natural had a touch of that condescending commiseration which Column’s perfumed, embroidered, and mannered coxcomb extended to the blooming country girl he stooped to admire : “Ah, my dear! Nature is very well, for she made you ; but then Nature could not have made me ! ”

This infection of the superfine in composition was felt even by writers for the multitude ; and in the romances of Greene and Lodge we have euphuism as an affectation of an affectation. Even their habits of vulgar dissipation could not altogether keep them loyal to the comparative purity of the vulgar language. The fashion subtly affected even the style of Sidney, conscious as he was of its more obvious fooleries; and to this day every man who has anything of the coxcomb in his brain, who desires a dress for his thought more splendid than his thought, slides naturally into euphuism.

The name of Sir Philip Sidney stands in the English imagination for more than his writings, more than his actions, more than his character, — for more, we had almost said, than the qualities of soul. The English race, compound of Saxon and Norman, has been fertile in great generals, great statesmen, great poets, great heroes, saints, and martyrs, but it has not been fertile in great gentlemen; and Mr. Bull, plethoric with power, but scant in courtesy, recognizes, with mingled feelings of surprise and delight, his great ornamental production in Sidney. He does not read the sonnets or the Arcadia of his cherished darling; he long left to an accomplished American lady the grateful task of writing an adequate biography of the phenomenon ; but he gazes with a certain pathetic wonder on the one renowned gentleman of his illustrious house ; speculates curiously how he came into the family; and would perhaps rather part with Shakespeare and Milton, with Bacon and Locke, with Burieigh and Somers, with Marlborough and Wellington, with Latimer and Ridley, than with this chivalrous youth, whose “high-erected thoughts” were “sealed in a heart of courtesy.” It is not for superior moral or mental qualities that he especially prizes his favorite, for he has had children who have exceeded Sidney in both ; but he feels that in Philip alone has equal genius and goodness been expressed in behavior.

Sidney was born on the 29th of November, 1554. His father was Sir Henry Sidney, a statesman of ability and integrity. His mother was Mary, sister of Robert Dudley, afterwards Earl of Leicester. No care was spared in the harmonious development of his powers, physical, mental, and moral ; and his instructors were fortunate in a pupil blessed, not only with the love of knowledge, but with the love of that virtue which he considered the proper end of knowledge. He was intended for public life ; and. leaving the university at the age of seventeen, he shortly after was sent abroad to study the languages, observe the manners, and mingle in me society of the Continent. He went nowhere that he did not win the hearts of those with whom he associated. Scholars, philosophers, artists, and men of letters, all were charmed with the ingenuous and high-spirited English youth, who visited foreign countries, not like the majority of his young countrymen, to partake of their dissipations and become initiated in their vices, but to fill and enlarge his understanding, and ennoble his soul. Hubert Languet, a scholar of whom it is recorded “that he lived as the best of men should die,” was especially captivated by Philip, became through life his adviser and friend, and said, “ That day on which I first beheld him, with my eyes shone propitious to me !

After about three years’ absence Sidney returned to England variously accomplished beyond any man of his years : brave, honorable, and just ; ambitious of political, of military, of literary distinction, and with powerful connections, competent, it might be supposed, to aid him in any public career on which his energies should be concentrated. But his very perfections seem to have stood in the way ot his advancement. Such a combination of the scholar, the poet, and the knighterrant, one so full of learning, of lofty imagination, of chivalrous sentiment, was too precious as a courtier to be employed as a man of affairs; and Elizabeth admired, petted, praised, but hesitated to promote him. So fine an ornament of the nation could not be spared for its defence. Even his uncle Leicester, all-powerful as he seemed, failed in his attempts to aid the kinsman who was perhaps the only man that could rouse in his dark and scheming soul the feeling of affection. Sidney, who did not lack the knowledge— I had almost said the conceit—of his own merits, and whose temper was naturally impetuous, was far from being contented with the lot which was to make him the “ mirror of courtesy,”the observed and loved of all beholders, the Beau Brummel of the Age ot Elizabeth, but which was to shut him out from the nobler ambitions of his manly and ardent nature, and prevent his taking that part which, both as a Protestant and patriot, he ached to perform in the stirring contests and enterprises of the time. Still, he submitted and waited ; and the result is, that the incidents of the career of this man, born a hero and educated a statesman, were ludicrously disproportioned to his own expectations and to his fame. In 1576 he was sent on an ornamental embassy to the Emperor of Germany. Soon after his return he successfully vindicated his father, who was Governor of Ireland, from some aspersions which had excited the anger of Elizabeth ; and threatened his father’s secretary, whom he suspected of opening his own letters to Sir Henry, that he would thrust his dagger into him if the treachery was repeated ; “ and trust to it,”he adds, “ I speak it in earnest.” He wrote a bold letter to the Queen, against her projected matrimonial alliance with the little French duke, on whose villanous person, and still more villanous soul, this “imperial votaress,” so long walking the earth

“ In maiden meditation, fancy free,”

had pretended to fix her virgin affections. He was shortly after, while playing tennis, called a puppy by the Earl of Oxford ; and it is a curious illustration of the aristocratic temper of the times, that our Philip, who saw no obstacles in the way of thrusting his dagger, without the form of duel, into the suspected heart of his father’s secretary, could not force this haughty and insolent Earl to accept his challenge ; and the Queen put an end to the quarrel by informing him that there, was a great difference in degree between earls and private gentlemen, and that princes were bound to support the nobility, and to insist on their being treated with proper respect.

Wearied with court life, he now retired to Wilton, the seat of his famous sister, the Countess of Pembroke, and there embodied in his romance of the Arcadia the thoughts, sentiments, and aspirations he could not realize in practice. Campbell has said that Sidney’s life “was poetry expressed in action" ; but up to this time it had been poetry expressed in character, and denied an outlet in action. It now found an outlet in literature. Day after day he wrote under the eye of his beloved sister, with no thought of publication, the pages of this goodly folio. The form of the Arcadia, it must be confessed, is somewhat fantastic, and the story tedious ; but it is still so sound at the core, so pure, strong, and vital in the soul that animates it, and so much inward freshness and beauty are revealed the moment we pierce its outward crust of affectation, that no changes in the fashions of literature have ever been able to dislodge it from its eminence of place. There we may still learn the sweet lore of friendship and love ; there we may still feed the heart’s hunger, equally for scenes of pastoral innocence and heroic daring. A ray of

“The light that never was, on sea or land,”

gleams here and there over its descriptions, and proclaims the poet. The style of the book, in its good elements, was the best prose style which had yet appeared, — vigorous, harmonious, figurative, and condensed. In the characterizations of feminine beauty and excellence Spenser and Shakespeare are anticipated, if not sometimes rivalled. But all these merits are apt to be lost on the modern reader, owing to the fact that, though Sidney’s thoughts were noble and his feelings genuine, his fancy was artificial, and incessantly labored to provide his rhetoric with stilts. It will not trust Nature in her “ homely russet brown,” but bedizens her in court trappings, belaces and embroiders her, is sceptical of everything in sentiment and passion which is easily great, and sometimes so elaborates all life out of expression, that language is converted from the temple of thought into its stately mausoleum. It cannot, we fear, be doubted that Sidney’s court life had made him a little affected and conceited on the surface of his fine nature, if not in its substance. The Arcadia is rich in imagery, but in the same sentence we often find images that glitter like dew-drops followed by images that glitter like icicles ; and there is every evidence that to his taste the icicles were finer than the dew-drops.

It may not here be out of place to say, that though we commonly think of Sidney as beautiful in face no less than in behavior, he was not, in fact, a comely gentleman. Ben Jonson told Drummond that he “ was no pleasant man in countenance, his face being spoiled with pimples, of high blood, and long.”

In 1581 we find Sidney in Parliament. Shortly after he wrote his “Defence of Poesy,” in which, .assuming that the object of knowledge is right action, he attempted to prove the superiority of poetry to all other branches of knowledge, on the ground that, while the other branches merely coldly pointed the way to virtue, poetry enticed, animated, inspired the soul to pursue it. Fine as this defence of poetry is, the best defence of poetry is to write that which is good. In 1583 he was married to the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. As his whole heart and imagination were at this time absorbed by the Stella of his sonnets, the beautiful Penelope Devereux, sister of the Earl of Essex, and as his passion does not appear to have abated after her marriage with Lord Rich, Sidney must be considered to have failed in love as in ambition, marrying the woman he respected, and losing the woman he adored. And it is curious that the woman he did marry, soon after his death, married the Earl of Eseex, brother of the woman he so much desired to marry.

In 1585 the Queen, having decided to assist the United Provinces, in their war against Philip of Spain, with an English army, under the command of Leicester, gratified Sidney’s long thirst for honorable action by appointing him Governor of Flushing. In this post, and as general of cavalry, he did all that valor and sagacity could do to repair the blunders and mischiefs which inevitably resulted from the cowardice, arrogance, knavery, and military impotence of Leicester. On the 22d of September, 1586, in a desperate engagement near Zutphen, he was dangerously wounded in attempting to rescue a friend hemmed in by the enemy ; and, as he was carried bleeding from the field, he performed the crowning act of his life. The cup of water, which his lips ached to touch, but which he passed to the dying soldier with the words, “ Thy necessity is greater than mine,”— this beautiful deed, worth a thousand defences of poetry, will consecrate his memory in the hearts of millions who will never read the Arcadia.

Sidney lay many days in great agony. The prospect of his death stirred Leicester into unwonted emotion. “ this young man,” he writes, " he was my greatest comfort, next her Majesty, of all the world ; and if I could buy his life with all I have, to my shirt, I would give it.” The account of his death, by his chaplain, is inexpressibly affecting. When the good man, to use his own words, “ proved to him out of the Scriptures, that, though his understanding and senses should fail, yet that faith which he had now could not fail, he did, with a cheerful and smiling countenance, put forth his hand, and slapped me softly on the cheeks. Not long after he lifted up his eyes and hands, uttering these words, ‘ I would not change my joy for the empire of the world.’ .... Having made a comparison of God’s grace now in him, his former virtues seemed to be nothing; for he wholly condemned his former life. ‘All things in it,’he said, ‘have been vain, vain, vain.’ ”

His sufferings were brought to a close on the 17th of October, 1586. Among the throng of testimonials to his excellence called forth by his death, only two were worthy of the occasion. The first was the simple remark of Lord Buckhurst, that “ he hath had as great love in this life, and as many tears for his death, as ever any had.” The second is a stanza from an anonymous poem, usually printed with the elaborate, but cold and pedantic, eulogy of Spenser, whose tears for his friend and patron seemed to freeze in their passage into words. The stanza has been often quoted, but rarely in connection with the person it characterizes : —

“ A Sweet, attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by looks,
Continual comfort in a face,
The lineaments of Gospel Books.”

In passing from Sidney to Raleigh, we pass to a less beautiful and engaging, but far more potent and comprehensive spirit. We despair of doing justice to the various efficiency of this most splendid of adventurers, all of whose talents were abilities, and all of whose abilities were accomplishments ; whose vigorous and elastic nature could adapt itself to all occasions and all pursuits, and who as soldier, sailor, courtier, colonizer, statesman, historian, and poet, seemed specially gifted to do the thing which absorbed him at the moment. Born in 1552, and the son of a Devonshire gentleman of ancient family, straitened income, and numerous children, fortune denied him wealth, only to lavish on him all the powers by which wealth is acquired. In his case, one of the most happily constituted of human intellects was lodged in a physical frame of perfect soundness and strength, so that at all periods of his life, in the phrase of the spiteful and sickly Cecil, he could " toil terribly.” Action, adventure, was the necessity of his being. Imaginative and thoughtful as he was, the vision of imagination, the suggestion of thought, went equally to enlighten and energize his will. Whatever appeared possible to his brain he ached to make actual with his hand. Though distinguished at the university, he left it on the first opportunity for active life presented to him, and at the age of seventeen joined the band of gentleman volunteers who went to France to fight on the Protestant side in the civil war by which that kingdom was convulsed. In this rough work he passed five educating years. Shortly after his return, in 1580, an Irish rebellion broke out ; and Raleigh, as captain of a company of English troops, engaged in the ruthless business of putting it down. A dispute having occurred between him and the Lord Deputy Grey, it was referred to the Council Board in England. Raleigh, determined, if possible, to escape from the squalid, cruel, and disgusting drudgery of an Irish war, exerted every resource of his pliant genius to ingratiate himself with Elizabeth ; and urged his own views with such consummate art that he got, says the chronicler, “the Queen’s ear in a trice.” His graces of person took her fancy, as much as his ready intelligence, his plausible elocution, and his available union of the large conceptions of the statesman with the intrepidity of the soldier, impressed her discerning mind. Here, at least, was a thoroughly able man. The story that he first attracted her regard by casting his rich cloak into a puddle to save the royal feet from contaminating mud, though characteristic, is one of those stories which are too good to be true. His promotion was as rapid as Sidney’s was slow; for he had a mind which, on all occasions, darted at once to the best thing to be done ; and not content with deserving to be advanced, he outwitted all who intrigued against his advancement. He was knighted, made Captain of the Guard, Seneschal of the County of Cornwall, Lord Warden of the Stanneries, and received a large grant of land in Ireland, in less than three years after bis victorious appearance at the Council Board. Though now enabled to gratify those luxurious tastes which poverty had heretofore mortified, and though so susceptible to all that can charm the senses through the imagination, that his friend Spenser described him as a man

“ In whose high thoughts Pleasure had built her

still pleasure, though intensely enjoyed, had no allurements to weaken the insatiable activity of his spirit, or moderate the audacity of his ambition. Patriot as well as courtier, and statesman as well as adventurer, with an intelligence so flexible that it could grasp great designs as easily as it could manage petty intrigues, and stirred with an impatient feeling that he was the ablest man of the nation, in virtue of individualizing most thoroughly the spirit and aspirations of the people and the time, he now engaged in those great maritime enterprises, inseparably associated with his name, to found a colonial empire for England, and to break down the power and humble the pride of Spain. In 1585 he obtained a patent from the Queen “ to appropriate, plant, and govern any territorial possessions he might acquire in the unoccupied portions of North America.” The result was the first settlement of Virginia, which failed from the misconduct of the colonists and the hostility of the Indians. He then engaged extensively in those privateering— those somewhat buccaneering— expeditions against the commerce and colonies of Spain which can be justified on no general principles, but which the instinct of English people, hating Spaniards, hating Popery, and conscious that real war existed under formal peace, both stimulated and sanctioned. Spain, to Raleigh, was a nation to be detested and warred against by every honest Englishman, for — to use his own words — “ her bloody and injurious designs, purposed and practised against Christian princes, over all of whom she seeks unlawful and ungodly rule and empiry,”

In the height of Raleigh’s favor with the Queen the discovery of his intrigue with one of her maids of honor, and subsequent private marriage, brought down on his head the full storm of the royal virago’s wrath. He was deprived of all the offices which gave him admission to her august presence, and imprisoned with his wife in the Tower. Any other man would have been hopelessly ruined ; but by counterfeiting the most romantic despair at the Queen’s displeasure, and by representing his whole misery to proceed from being deprived of the sight of her divine person, he was, in two or three weeks, released from imprisonment. When free, he performed such important parliamentary services that he partially regained her favor, and he managed so well as to induce her to grant him the manor of Sherborne. As this was church property, and as Raleigh was accused by his enemies of being an atheist, the grant occasioned great scandal. His disgrace and imprisonment had filled his rivals with hope. They naturally thought that his offence, which mortified the coquette’s vanity as well as the sovereign’s pride, was of such a nature that even Raleigh’s management could not gloss it over; but now they trembled with apprehensions of his complete restoration to favor. One of them writes: “It is feared of all honest men, that Sir Walter Raleigh shall presently come to court; and yet it is well withstood. God grant him some further resistance, and that place he better deserveth if he had his right.”

Raleigh, unsuccessful in regaining the affection and esteem of his royal mistress, now thought to dazzle her imagination with a shining enterprise. He believed, with millions of others, in the fable of EI Dorado, and conceived it to lie somewhere in Guiana, in the region between the Orinoco and the Amazon. His imagination was fired with the thought of penetrating to the capital city, where the houses were roofed with gold, where the common sand glistened, and the very rocks shone, with the precious deposit. Should he succeed, the consequences would be immense wealth and fame for himself, and immense addition to the power and glory of England ; and as he purposed to induce the native chiefs to swear allegiance to the Queen, and eventually to establish an English colony in the country, he flattered himself, in Mr. Napier’s words, “ that he would be able, by the acquisition of Guiana, vastly to extend the sphere of English industry and commerce, to render London the mart of the choicest productions of the New World, and to annex to the Crown a region which, besides its great colonial recommendations, would enable it to command the chief possessions of its greatest enemy, and from which his principal resources were derived.” Possessed by these kindling ideas, and with the personal magnetism to make them infectious, Raleigh does not seem to have found any difficulty in obtaining money and men to carry them out ; and in February, 1595, with a fleet of five ships, he set out for the land of gold. The enterprise was, of course, unsuccessful, for no El Dorado existed ; but on his return, at the close of the summer, he published his account of " The Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana,” in which the failure of the expedition is recorded in connection with a profession of undisturbed faith in the reality of its object ; and some astounding stories are told concerning which it is now difficult to decide whether they belong to the class of credulous beliefs or deliberate lies. It was his intention to renew the search at once; but the Queen, having by this time nearly forgiven his offence, his ambition was stimulated by objects nearer home, and the quest of El Dorado was postponed to a more convenient season.

In 1596 he won great fame for his intrepidity and skill as Rear Admiral of the fleet which took Cadiz; and in 1597 he further distinguished himself by the capture of Fayal. Restored to his office of Captain of tne Guard, he was again seen by envious rivals in personal attendance on the Queen. Between the court factions of Essex and Cecil he first tried to mediate ; but being hated by Essex, he joined Cecil for the purpose of crushing the enemy of both. The intention of Cecil was to use Raleigh to depress Essex, and then to betray his own instrument. Essex fell; but, as long as Elizabeth lived, Raleigh was safe. Cecil, however, took care to poison in advance the mind of her successor with suspicions of Raleigh ; and, on James’s accession to the throne, Raleigh discovered that he was distrusted, and would probably be disgraced. Such a man was not likely to give up his offices and abdicate his power without a struggle ; and, as he could hope for no favor, he tried the desperate expedient of making himself powerful by making himself feared. In our time he would “have gone into opposition ” ; in the time of James the First “His Majesty’s Opposition” did not exist; and he became connected with a mysterious plot to raise Arabella Stuart to the English throne,—trusting, as we cannot but think, in his own sagacity to avoid the appearance and evidence of treason, and to use the folly of the real conspirators as a means of forcing his claims on the attention of James. In this game, however, Cecil proved himself a more astute and unscrupulous politician than his late accomplice. The plot was discovered ; Raleigh was tried on a charge of treason ; the jury, being managed by the government, found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death. The sentence, however, was so palpably against the law and evidence that it was not executed. By the exceeding grace of the good King, Raleigh was only plundered of his estate, sent to the Tower, and confined there for thirteen years.

The restless activity of his mind now found a vent in experimental science and in literature; and, taking a theme as large as the scope of his own mind, he set himself resolutely to work to write the History of the World. Meanwhile he spared no arts of influence, bribery, and flattery of the King to get his liberty; and at last, in March, 1615, was released, without being pardoned, on his tempting the cupidity of James with circumstantial details of the mineral wealth of Guiana, and by offering to conduct an expedition there to open a gold-mine. With a fleet of thirteen ships he set sail, arrived on the coast in November, and sent a large party up the Orinoco, who, after having attacked and burnt the Spanish town of St. Thomas, — an engagement in which Raleigh’s eldest son lost his life, — returned to their sick and mortified commander with the intelligence that they had failed to discover the mine. The accounts of what afterwards occurred in this ill-fated expedition are so confused and contradictory, that it is difficult to obtain a clear idea of the facts. It is sufficient that Raleigh returned to England, laboring under imputations of falsehood, treachery, and contemplated treason and piracy; and that he there found the Spanish ambassador clamoring in the court of James for his life. His ruin was resolved upon ; and, as he never had been pardoned, it was thought more convenient to execute him on the old sentence than to run the risk of a new trial for his alleged offences since. In other words, it was resolved to use the technicalities of law to violate its essence, and to employ certain legal refinements as instruments of murder. On the 29th of October, 1618, he was accordingly beheaded. His behavior on the scaffold was what might have been expected from the dauntless spirit which, in its experience of nearly the whole circle of human emotions, had never felt the sensation of fear. After vindicating his conduct in a manly and dignified speech to the spectators, he desired the headsman to show him the axe, which not being done at once, he said, " I pray thee let me see it. Dost thou think that I am afraid of it ? ” After he had taken it in his hand, he felt curiously along the edge, and then smilingly remarked to the sheriff: " This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases.’' After he had laid his head on the block, he was requested to turn it on the other side. “ So the heart be right,” he replied, " it is no matter which way the head lieth.” After forgiving the headsman, and praying a few moments, the signal was made, winch not being immediately followed by the stroke, Raleigh said to the executioner: “ Why dost thou not strike ? Strike, man! ” Two strokes of the axe, under which his frame did not shrink or move, severed his head from his body. The immense effusion of blood, in a man of sixty-six, amazed everybody that saw it. "Who would have thought,” King James might have said, with another distinguished ornament of the royal house of Scotland, “that the old man had so much blood in him! ” Yes, blood enough in his veins, and thought enough in his head, and heroism enough in his soul, to have served England for twenty years more, had folly and baseness not otherwise willed it!

The superabundant physical and mental vitality of this extraordinary man is seen almost equally in his actions and his writings. A courtier, riding abroad with the Queen in his suit of silver armor, or in attendance at her court, dressed, as the antiquary tells us, in “ a white satin doublet all embroidered with white pearls, and a mighty rich chain of great pearls about his neck,” he was still not imprisoned by these magnificent vanities, but could abandon them joyfully to encounter pestilential climates, and lead desperate maritime enterprises. As an orator he was not only powerful in the Commons, but persuasive with individuals. Nobody could resist bis tongue. The Queen, we are told, “was much taken with his elocution, loved to hear his reasons, and took him for a kind of oracle.” To his counsel, more than to any other man’s, England was indebted for the destruction of the Spanish Armada. He spoke and wrote wisely and vigorously on policy and government, on naval architecture and naval tactics. Among his public services we may rank his claim to be considered the introducer into Europe of tobacco and the potato. In political economy, he anticipated the modern doctrine of free trade and freedom of industry ; he first stated also the .theory regarding population which is associated with the name of Malthus ; and, though himself a gold-seeker, he saw clearly that gold had no peculiar preciousness beyond any other commodity, and that it was the value of what a nation derived from its colonies, and not the kind of value, which made colonies important. In intellectual philosophy Dugald Stewart admits that he anticipated his own leading doctrine in respect to “ the fundamental laws of human belief.” His curious and practical intellect, stung by all secrets, showed also an aptitude for the experimental investigation of natural phenomena.

And he was likewise a poet. It was one of his intentions to write an English epic ; but his busy life only allowed him leisure for some miscellaneous pieces. Among these, his sonnet on his friend Spenser’s “ Faery Queene ” would alone be sufficient to demonstrate the depth of his sentiment and the strength of his imagination : —

“ Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay,
Within that Temple where the vestal flame
Was wont to burn ; and passing by that way
To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whose tomb fair Love and fairer Virtue kept,
All suddenly I saw the Faery Queen :;
At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept,
And from thenceforth those Graces were not seen ;
(For they this Queen attended); in whose stead
Oblivion laid him down on Laura’s hearse ;
Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did perse :
Where Homer’s spright did tremble all for grief,
And cursed the access of that celestial thief.”

But his great literary work was his “ History of the World,” written during his imprisonment in the Tower. As might be supposed, his restless, insatiable, capacious, and audacious mind could not be content with the modern practice, even as followed by philosophical historians, of narrating events and elucidating laws. He began with the Creator and the creation, pressing into his service all the theology, the philosophy, and the metaphysics of his time, and boldly grappling with the most insoluble problems, even that of the Divine Essence. Nearly a half of the immense folio is confined to sacred history ; and though the remaining portions, devoted to the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, are commonly considered the most readable, inasmuch as they exhibit Raleigh, the statesman and warrior, sociably treating of statesmen and warriors, — Raleigh, who had lived history, penetrating into the life of historical events, — we must confess to be more attracted by the earlier portions, which show us Raleigh the scholar, philosopher, and divine, in his attempts to probe the deepest secrets of existence, his brain crowded with all the foolish and all the wise sayings of Pagan philosophers and Christian fathers and schoolmen, and throwing his own judgments, with a quaint simplicity and a quaint audacity, into the general mass of theological and philosophical guessing he has accumulated. The style of the book is excellent, — clear, sweet, flexible, straightforward and businesslike, discussing the question of the locality of Paradise as he would have discussed the question of an expedition against Spain at the council-table of Elizabeth. There is an apocryphal story of his having completed another volume of the “ History of the World,”but on learning that his publisher had lost money by the first, he burnt his manuscript, not willing that so good a man should suffer any further harm through him. But the story must be false ; for such tenderness to a publisher is equally against human nature and author nature.

The defect of Raleigh’s character, even when his ends were patriotic and noble, was unscrupulousness, — a flashing impatience with all moral obstacles obtruded in the path of his designs. He had a too confident belief in the resources of his wit and courage, in the infallibility of his insight, foresight, and power of combination, in the unflagging vigor by which he had so often made his will march abreast of his swiftest thought; and in carrying out his projects he sometimes risked his conscience with almost the same joyous recklessness with which he risked his life. The noblest passage in his “ History of the World,” that in which he condenses in the bold and striking image of a majestic tree the power of Rome, has some application to his own splendid rise and terrible fall. “We have left Rome,” he says, “flourishing in the middle of the field, having rooted up or cut down all that kept it from the eyes and admiration of the world. But after some continuance, it shall begin to lose the beauty it had; the storms of ambition shall beat her great boughs and branches one against another; her leaves shall fall off; her limbs wither ; and a rabble of barbarous nations enter the field and cut her down.”