Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Upon the subjugation of the principal rebels, Raleigh returned to England in 1582, and was very favourably received at court, uniting as he did to a claim for distinguished public services, the attractions of a noble figure and well-endowed mind. His graces and accomplishments pleased the maiden queen,' and by one adroit act of gallantry, he effectually established himself in her favour, if not her confidence. Meeting the queen near a marshy spot, and observing her majesty hesitating to proceed, Raleigh instantly spread his rich cloak on the groun: for a footcloth to his royal mistress,—a compliment which Elizabeth was fully able to feel and appreciate. Having ventured to write upon a window, which the queen could not fail to pass, this line, “ Fain would I climb, but yet I fear to fall," Elizabeth is said, upon observing it, to have instantly written beneath it, “ If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all."

In 1583, Raleigh was employed by the queen to attend Simier, the agent of the duke of Anjou, at that time aspiring to the honour of her hand, and afterwards to attend the duke to Antwerp. But we find him soon after engaging in a second voyage to Newfoundland, in conjunction with Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The ship, however, in which Raleigh sailed from Plymouth had not been many days at sea before a contagious fever broke out amongst the crew, and the vessel was obliged to return to harbour, whilst Sir Humphrey, with the rest of the fleet, pursued their course to Newfoundland, and planted the first British colony there. Raleigh's attention was still turned to maritime discovery ; and, at his own risk, he fitted out two vessels, which he despatched by the Canaries and West Indies, and which, after a voyage of more than two months, reached the gulf of Florida, and took possession of the country now called Virginia and Carolina, in the name of the queen of England. The first expedition which Raleigh undertook in person to Virginia was rewarded by knighthood. Shortly afterwards, we find Raleigh engaged with the celebrated Davis, and others, in an association for the discovery of the north-west passsge.

In 1584, Raleigh was chosen to represent the county of Devon in parliament; and subsequently obtained, with other privileges, a grant of twelve thousand acres of the forfeited lands in Cork and Waterford. He was now in the hey-day of prosperity ; but he did not give way to indolence, or luxurious habits of any kind. His application to study was intense; to reading he is said to have assigned four hours ; to sleep five only; to relaxation, two, and the remainder of the day to business. It was an honourable trait in Sir Walter's character, that he was ever ready to patronize merit in others, and that he sought not to monopolize the knowledge which his talents and industry enabled him to acquire. He supported Morgeres, an eminent French painter, during his residence in England, for the purpose of making maps and drawings of Florida. He was the friend and patron of Richard Hakluyt, and assisted that industrious compiler in forming and publishing his collection of English voyages. He received Thomas Herriot, an ingenious mathematician, into his house, and paid him a yearly salary for instructions in mathematical science; and, with a view to promote the circulation of knowledge, he set up an office of inquiry to which the industrious and curious in every department of science or art might apply for information of every species.

His natural love of enterprize, animated by the fresh fame of Hawkins and of Drake, incited Raleigh to repeat his expeditions of discovery : but his schemes were conceived on too magnificent a scale for his own resources, and met with little patronage from Elizabeth, whose attention was indeed drawn to objects nearer home and of more pressing emer. gency. Having signalized himself against the Spanish armada, and in assisting Don Antonio, king of Portugal, against the king of Spain, we find him visiting Ireland, and inducing the poet Spencer to repair to the English court. In 1590, he collected, chiefly at his own expense, a fleet of thirteen vessels, with which, having been joined by two of the queen's men-of-war, he undertook a successful cruise against the Spaniards in the West Indies. We next find him devoting himself to the civil interests of his country, and gaining a purer and more imperishable renown in the senate than in the field. To the encroaching spirit of the established clergy he opposed his influence in many cases; and when Udall was capitally convicted of a libel on the queen's majesty in his • Demonstration of Discipline,' a reprieve and subsequently a commutation of sentence was obtained for the unfortunate man at the intercession of Raleigh. He also zealously exerted himself in opposing the arbitrary laws enacted against the Brownists, the Catholics, and other sectarians, upon the score of religious principles, for which con. duct the cry of Atheist, accompanied with various other insinuations, was raised against him by the high church party.

In 1533, Raleigh married Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of the ladies of the bed-chamber, whose fair fame had already lain under impeachment on his account. Their union, however, though marked by vicissitudes, was cheered by their uninterrupted aifection. In 1596, Raleigh, though still in disgrace as a courtier, on account of his intrigue with the above lady, was appointed third in command of the fleet sent to the coast of Spain to anticipate a threatened second armada. In this service he highly distinguished himself, but gained little more than wounds and honour. On his return to England, he projected an expedition to Guiana, “ that mighty rich and beautiful empire," and to " that great and golden city which the Spaniards call El Dorado." At his own charge he prepared a squadron of five ships, and, in 1595, sailed from Plymouth. His expedition, however, resulted in little else than a more extensive investigation of the country than had hitherto been made ; but his sanguine temperament and lively fancy led him to pen such a description of his researches in Guiana as almost entitles us to call in question his veracity. Thus, alluding to the mineral productions of Guiana, he thus expresses himself in the narrative of his voyage:

-“ For the rest, which myself have seen, I will promise those things that follow, and know to be true. Those who are desirous to discover and to see many nations may be satisfied within this river (Oronooko), which bringeth forth so many arms and branches, leading to several countries and provinces about 2,000 miles east and west, and 800 miles north and south, and of these the most rich either in gold or in other merchandises. The common soldier shall here fight for gold, and pay himself instead of pence, with plates of half a foot broad, whereas he breaketh his bones in other wars for provant and penury."

He tells us also of a tribe in Guiana “having their eyes in their shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts, and a long

« AnteriorContinuar »