Sir Walter Raleigh was an explorer, a politician, a historian, a soldier, a sailor, and a poet. He was born at Hayes, Devonshire in 1552 (Compton's Encyclopedia. 91). The year of his birth is somewhat in question. Some believe he was born in 1554 (Poetry Criticism. 200).
He entered Oriel College, Oxford in 1568, but te next year he left to join the Huguenot Army in France. Sir Raleigh gained the recognition of Queen Elizabeth I after his heroic efforts in the suppression of the Irish rebellion in Cork. The story was that he won the Queens favor by throwing his expensive velvet cloak on a mud puddle and allowing the queen to walk on it so she did not get her shoes wet (Compton's Encyclopedia. 90).
Sir Raleigh was said to be a handsome and witty man, with country manners and imposing personality. He was a proud man. Queen Elizabeth granted him many favors during her reign. He always fulfilled his responsibilities in an excellent manner. His greatest claim to fame was his efforts to colonize the new world. His position at court gave him an opportunity to push this great project, but the queen would not permit him to lead any colonizing expeditions in person.
To Sir Walter Raleigh the vision of a new England beyond the sea had an irresistible appeal. Sir Walter Raleigh was tireless in his effort to settle English people in America. He sent out one expedition after another. The area explored by his expedition in 1584 was given the name Virginia in honor of the "virgin queen," as Queen Elizabeth was called.
Three settlements were made on the island off North Carolina, but none survived. Sir Raleigh's work did pave the way for later settlements. His crew brought back tobacco and potatoes from the new world. He popularized smoking and created a demand for the tobacco leaf. This become a profitable crop in the colonies. He was in Ireland when he introduced the potato in 1592 (Compton's Encyclopedia.
91). Sir Walter Raleigh encountered the queens' anger when she discovered he had secretly married Queen Elizabeth's maid of honor (Agnes. 145). They both were immediately imprisoned in the Tower of London. Sir Raleigh's sense of lose and anger about this incident were expressed in his peon, "The Ocean to Cynthia." In less than a year the queen's need for Sir Raleigh's services to stop the Spanish piracy led to his release.
He eventually regained his post as captain of the Guard, but the intimate royal access that he once enjoyed was never regained. In 1596, Sir Raleigh undertook an expedition to Guiana. Upon his return he published, "The Discovery of Guiana," an account of the wealth and potential of this area. This gave him broad acceptance among Elizabethan intellectuals. (web 2).
Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 and King James I inherited the throne. King James did not trust Sir Walter Raleigh because of his role in the execution of Essex and because of their conflicting views toward Spain and Catholicism. Hostility between the two men led to a change of conspiracy against Sir Raleigh who was accused of plotting against the king. He was sentenced to death. King James later commented sentence to life in prison. He was sent to the Tower of London where he remained for the next thirteen years.
Most of he time of his imprisonment his wife and son were allowed to live with him. He was visited by many great scholars and poets (Compton's Encyclopedia. 29) during his imprisonment he became close friends with Prince Henry who was King James's on. For Prince Henry, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote the book, History of the World. The first volume, published in 1614, only went to 130 B. C.
Prince Henry tried to persuade his father to free Sir Raleigh but was not successful. Prince Henry died in 1614 (Reference Guide to English Literature. 1119) In 1616, Sir Raleigh persuaded King James to release him and lead an expedition to the Orinoco River and bring back some of the gold that he claimed to have discovered. The king agreed to release him but not to pardon him. The king ordered him not to engaged in combat with the Spaniards. When in Guiana, Sir Raleigh disobeyed the king and engaged in combat with the Spaniards Sir Raleigh's son was killed as were many men on both sides (Compton's Encyclopedia.
146) the expedition was a disaster. Not only did Sir Raleigh lose his son, disobeyed the king, but also failed to find the riches he had promised the king. During the expedition, Sir Raleigh contracted a tropical disease and almost attempted to flee to France, but was stopped and arrested. King James invoked the death sentence of 1603 (web 1) it was believed that the death sentence was invoked, primarily, to appease the Spanish (Compton's Encyclopedia. 146) on October 29, 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh was executed by beheading.
Before his execution, Sir Raleigh asked to see the axe and was supposed to have said, "This is sharp medicine, but is it a physi an for all diseases?" His death took an air of martyrdom (Agnes. 146) he was cheerful to the end (Compton's Encyclopedia. 92) I was a common practice, at that time, for the head of the executed to be embalmed and presented to the wife of the executed his wife is said to have carried his head with her until she died twenty-nine yeas later at the age of eight er- two. Upon her death the head was finally buried with the body of Sir Walter at St. Margaret's at Westminster (web 1) Sir Walter Raleigh was, above all, valued as a man of action. His writings were almost always a by product of his life.
He wrote because he felt he had something to say. Some critics believe that many of this writings were based on his imagination and that he distorted the truth (Agnes. 145). One example was "The Discovery of Guiana." the riches that he supposedly found never materialized. His poetry has survived only in stray pieces (Agnes. 146).
It was often found in anthologies and common place book of the time. He jealously preserved his anonymity. He always worked to appear as a gentleman with "mind above money." He adored Queen Elizabeth I. He addressed her personally and privately in a platonic manner. She inspired much of his writings, but these were not subjects for book stalls. In spite of Sir Walter Raleigh's flamboyant manner, critics often think of him as a private person.
Many biographic have attempted to solve the ruddle of his personality and its enduring fascination (Agnes. 147). Sir Walter Raleigh followed the Elizabethan courtly convention of privately circulations his poetry. Much of his verse was lost until four fragments of "The Ocean to Cynthia" were found in Lord Salisbury's library at Hatfield in 1870. This led scholars to believe that this had been a long epic poem in twenty-two parts, thought some scholars have doubted the existence of this work. "The Ocean to Cynthia" was addressed to Queen Elizabeth and reflects his standing in her favor at the time.
Poetry was Sir Raleigh's method in a attempt to appease the queen after her discovery of his secret marriage. This poem was also an expression of frustration and anger at his imprisonment for having married Elizabeth Throckmorton (Poetry Criticism. 200). Sir Walter Raleigh is best remembered for the following works of poetry"The Ocean to Cynthia" probably publish in 1592. "The Works of Sir Walter Raleigh" in eight volumes consisted of essays, letters, and poetry that was not published until 1829. "The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh," published in 1929.
Other major include an essay published in 1591, entitled, "A report of the Truth of the Fight About the Iles of Scored, this Last Summer," Betwixt the Revenge, One of her Majesties Ships, And an Armada of the King of Spain." he published a travel essay in 1596, entitled, "the Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana." Also in 1596, he wrote another essay entitled "a Relation of Cadiz Action." This was not published until 1628. In 1602, he wrote an essay he called "Of A War with Spain and Our Protecting the Netherlands." during the years 1603-1605, he wrote, "Sir Walter Raleigh's introduction to his Somme to Posterity." this was first published in 1632. THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, one of his major works, was written while imprisoned in the Tower of London and completed in 1614. In 1615, he wrote an assay entitled, "The Prerogative of Parliaments in England." This essay was first published in 1700. "Sir Walter Raleigh's Sceptic" was an essay published in 1651. "Three Discoveries of Sir Walter Raleigh" was published in 1702.
Much of Sir Walter Raleigh's work was written while he was in prison. Since much of his work was not published until years after his death it is quite possible that much of his writings have been lost and may never be found (Poetry Criticism. 200). During Sir Walter Raleigh's thirteen year imprisonment in the Tower of London he wrote the first volume of "History of the World." It gave an account of the world's history, as he knew it, up to 130 B. C.
this book was primarily, written for Prince Henry, son of King James. Prince Henry had become close friends with Sir Raleigh and had tried to talk his father into giving Sir Raleigh his Freedom (Compton's Encyclopedia. 92) Raleigh's interest in religion, politics, geography and philosophy are all reflected in this great book. He was speculative in his wisdom and tried tp learn all he could from all he met (Agnes. 208). 1.
Lathan, Agnes M. C. , "Sir Walter Raleigh," British Writers, Mc Millan, Canada, Inc. 1979. 2.
"Many Sided Raleigh and His Vision," Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, 1958 3. Poetry Criticism. Farmington Hills, MI. Gale Group, Inc.
2001 4. Reference Guide to English Literature, 2 nd Edition. St. James Press. Chicago, IL. 1991 5.
"Sir Walter Raleigh as Poet and Philosopher," Essays on Shakespeare and Other Elizabethans. Yale University Press. 1948 6. Barnes and Noble 7. web.