« AnteriorContinuar »
train of hair growing backward between their shoulders,” which, he continues, “though it may be thought a mere fable, yet, for mine own part, I am resolved it is true, because every child in the provinces of Arromaia and Cameri affirms the same." Whatever may be thought of the credulity, or, as some would say, the falsehood manifested in these and other marvellous extracts, which may be abundantly gleaned from his account of Guiana, it is certain that not only preceding but subsequent travellers in that country have brought back as wonderful accounts of what they had seen; and some of the latter commend, in very high terms, the “effectual and faithful account” given by Raleigh. Such is the innate disposition of the human mind to magnify imperfectly known and distant objects. Raleigh's representations failed indeed to engage the queen in his scheme for conquering Guiana, but the intrepidity and skill which he had displayed in his voyage to that country served to reinstate him in the favour of his royal mistress, who again appointed him third in command in her last naval undertaking against the Spaniards. The Island-voyage,' as it was called, though well concerted, was totally unsuccessful, as far as regarded its main object, and led to a serious misunderstanding betwixt Sir Walter and the earl of Essex, whilst it seriously diminished the popularity of both. The death of the lord-treasurer, Burleigh, deprived Essex of his best and most powerful friend, and enabled Raleigh more effectually to displace his rival in the good graces of the queen. In 1600, he received a substantial proof of his royal mistress's favour, in his appointment to the governorship of Jersey. On the apprehension of Essex, it was expected by some that Raleigh would use his influence with the
procure the pardon of his rival ; but it does not appear that he made any attempt of the kind, and on the supposed fact of his neutrality in the case, a strong charge of malignity towards Essex has been preferred against him, although, as his latest biographer well remarks, " for omissions of a virtuous act, no public man, in those days of peril, could, however, with propriety, be censured. Every favoured courtier had his foes, who might give an invidious colouring to any behest, however innocent. Elizabeth was arbitrary, almost despotic, and, in her seasons of irritation, neutrality was the only safe course. • Blessed are they,' said an eye-witness of her court, that can be away, and live contented.' Such, probably, was the pervading sentiment of all who viewed closely the cares and heart-rending vicissitudes of that chequered scene." In his defence, Essex endeavoured to implicate Cobham, Cecil, and Raleigh. To this charge the two former personally replied; but Raleigh intrusted the defence of his own conduct to Francis, Lord Bacon. It is difficult wholly to acquit Raleigh of all the charges which have been brought against bim in the affair of Essex ; it is certain that he, as well as the queen, never regained the popular favour after the execution of that unfortunate nobleman. During the latter years of Elizabeth's reign, Raleigh appears to have affected a life of retirement, employing himself in various literary labours, and cultivating the acquaintance of the poets, wits, and scholars of the age, among whom were Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Jonson, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, and Donne.
The accession of James to the throne prepared the way for the down. fal of Raleigh. He was at first graciously treated by the king, but was
soon deprived of his office of captain of the guard, and ultimately dismissed from court. Such unworthy treatment was keenly felt by the high-spirited Raleigh, who, in the height of his chagrin and indignation, allowed his better judgment to become so far obscured as to become a party in the wild and unintelligible conspiracy for altering the succession to the crown, historically known by the name of “ Raleigh's plot,” although the actual extent of Raleigh's participation in it is by no means clear. Accused by the wretched Cobham of having been the prime instigator in this singular piece of treason, Raleigh was committed to the tower, and, in the bitterness of his spirit, attempted to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the breast with a knife. Happily for his own reputation, the wound was not dangerous. On the 17th of Nov., 1603, Raleigh s trial commenced at Winchester, whither the court had retired to avoid the plague then ravaging the metropolis. The indictment charged him with having conspired to dethrone the king, to stir up sedition, to introduce the Romish religion, and to procure a foreign invasion of the kingdom. It further charged him with having composed a book against the king's title, and instigated the lady Arabella Stuart to write three letters to foreign princes, with the view of persuading them to support her title. Sir Edward Coke, as attorneygeneral, headed the prosecution, and the subservient jury returned a verdict of guilty, although the only fact proved against him was his having listened to proposals made by Cobham of a bribe from Spain, if he would further the peace between that power and England,-a proposal to which he had only replied, “ When I see the money, I will tell you more.” Raleigh admitted that some conversation had passed between him and Cobham on the subject of a bribe from Spain to promote a peace between the two countries, but denied that he had ever connected himself with the Spanish faction. Presumptions," he said, “must proceed from precedent or subsequent facts. I, that have always condemned the Spanish faction, methinks it a strange thing that now I should affect it !” He entreated them to produce the only witness against him : “ Let Lord Cobham be sent for," he said, “Call my accuser before my face, and I have done! Charge him on his soul, and on his allegiance to the king ; and, if he affirm it, let me be taken to be guilty.” On the jury returning a verdict of guilty, Raleigh calnıly observed, “ They must do as they are directed I” Sentence of death, with confiscation of property, was passed against him, but was not carried into immediate execution ; meanwhile he was remanded back to the tower. In this situation Raleigh amused himself with the study of chemistry, and with music and painting, beside employing himself in his great work, the “History of the World,' perhaps the most extraordinary literary work ever accomplished in such circumstances. In his scientific and literary pursuits, he found a: oung and liberal patron in Prince Henry of Wales, the heir apparent tu the throne, who obtained access to him in the tower, and who was heard to observe, that “ but his father would keep such a bird in such a cage.” At his earnest solicitation, his wife and son were allowed to reside with him, and in 1604, his younger son was born in the Tower, and christened Carewprobably in honour of Lord Carew, a relative and friend of his father's. Though his estates in general were preserved to him, yet the rapacity of Car, earl of Somerset, the king's minion, deprived him of his fine
manor of Sherborne, upon the plea of a Raw in his prior conveyance of it to his son.
At last, on the 17th of March, 1615, after twelve years confinement, Sir Walter obtained his liberation through the mediation of Villiers, the new favourite, whose good offices he purchased for the sum of fifteen hundred pounds. He now revived his Guiana project, but the period was most inauspicious, on account of the Spanish influence over the king and court. The king not only withheld his countenance from the undertaking, but even communicated the particulars of Raleigl's project to the Spanish ambassador. Raleigh embarked his whole fortunes and those of his wife in this expedition, and through the mediation of Sir Ralph Winwood obtained a commission constituting him admiral of the fleet, and authorizing him to found a settlement in Guiana, with the necessary powers for that purpose. On the 28th of March, 1618, Raleigh's fleet sailed down the Thames, having on board his eldest son, a captain, and hundred volunteers, eighty of whom were gentlemen by birth, but many of them of disreputable character. After encountering many difficulties, the expedition reached the continent of South America in November. He immediately despatched the most interprizing of his followers up the Oronooko river, where they were attacked by the Spaniards, who had been already apprised of their approach by intelligence from England. In the first action the Spaniards were driven out of their new town of St Thomas, but young Raleigh was killed. After an absence of two months, the exploring party rejoined Raleigh at Punto de Gallo, and a scene of mutual recrimination took place betwixt Captain Keymis and his principal, immediately after which the former, retiring to his cabin, shot himself through the ribs, and stabbed himself to the heart. It was now determined in a council of war to return to Newfoundland to repair and clean the ship ; but on arriving at that island—a mutiny having broken out amongst his men-Raleigh instantly sailed for England. Spanish influence, however, had already ruined Raleigh's cause with the king, in so much so that, some weeks previous to his landing in England, a proclamation was issued against him, declaring the king's utter dislike and detestation of the violences and excesses said to have been committed upon the territories of his dear brother of Spain, and requiring all persons who could supply information upon the subject to repair to the privy council to make known their whole knowledge and understanding concerning the same. Raleigh, on arriving at Plymouth, was informed of the royal proclamation, but, conscious of his integrity, sent his sails ashore, moored his ship, and set out for London. Before reaching Ashburton, a town twenty miles from Plymouth, he was arrested by Sir Lewis Stukley, who carried hiin back to Plymouth. Here a plan was laid for enablir.g him to make his escape to France, and might have been carried into execution, had not Sir Walter himself ultimately determined on rejecting it. On being conducted to the metropolis, and learning from his friends and acquaintances the extent of the toils in which the machinations of his enemies had involved him, he entered into a fresh project for making his escape from the country, in which he was encouraged by the perfidious Stukley, with the express intention of betraying him to his enemies, a design in which he succeeded too well, the party being seized at Greenwich by the emissaries of Stukley, on the 10th of August, 1618.
Raleigh was again consigned to the Tower, and on the 28th of October, was brought before the court of king's bench, where his plea of an inplied pardon in his last commission froni the king was over-ruled. He was told that for the last fifteen years he had been a dead man in the eye of the law, and might at any moment have been led to the scaffold; that new offences had now stirred up his majesty's justice to revive what the law had formerly cast upon him, and that justice must now take its course. Sentence of death was now pronounced against him, but, as a favour, the mode of execution was changed from hanging to that of beheading On the morning of the following day, October 29th, he met his doom in Old Palace yard. “ The time of his execution," says John Aubrey, in one of his letters recently published from the Bodleian library, “ was contrived to be on my Lord Mayor's day, that the pageants and fine shows might draw away the people from beholding the tragedie of one of the gallantest worthies that ever England bred." His behaviour at the scaffold was calm and intrepid even to cheerfulness. Having addressed the spectators, and bidden farewell to the noblemen and other friends who stood around him, he desired the executioner to show him the instrument of destruction.
The man hesitating to comply, Sir Walter said, “ I proythee let me see it: dost thou think that I am afraid of it?" Having passed his finger on the edge of the axe, he returned it, saying to the sheriff, “ This is a sharp medicine, but it is a cure for all diseases." When asked as he laid liis head on the block in which direction he would place it, he calmly answered, by observing, “ that if the heart was right it were no matter which way the head was laid.” By two strokes his head was severed from his body; it was afterwards given to Lady Raleigh, who bequeathed it to her son, Carew, in whose grave it was buried. His body was interred in the church of St Margaret, Westminster. The lines entitled • Raleigh's Epitaph,' were given, according to Archbishop Sanderoft, by Sir Walter to one of his attendants the night before his executivn. They are thus quoted in the Oxford edition of his works :
Even such is time, that takes on trust
The poetical effusion entitled “The Farewell,' which is sometimes said to have been the composition of bis last hours, was in print so early as the year 1608.
li has been justly said of Sir Walter that he was one of the very chief glories of an age crowded with towering spirits.'
Memoirs by Mrs Thomson. — Phillip's State Trials.
Brook, Lord Cobham.
DIED A. D. 1619.
James, at his accession to the throne of England, found his council divided into two factions, mortal enemies to each other. The secretary, Cecil, with his colleagues, formed one of these parties ; the earl of Northumberland, with the lords Gray and Cobham, and Sir Walter Raleigh composed the other. Of these latter
personages, Northumberland paid the most successful court to the new monarch, and might have won his favour, but for the predominating influence of Cecil and his own rashness; but towards Cobham and Raleigh James ever manifested the most rooted dislike. In this situation, Raleigh engaged in the wild plot to raise Arabella Stuart to the throne of England. This unfortunate lady was the daughter and heiress, by a lady of the family of Cavendish, of Charles Stuart, the younger brother of Lord Darnley ; and, in right of her grandmother, Margaret, countess of Lennox, daughter of the queen-dowager of Scotland, and niece of Henry VIII., stood next in succession to the English throne to James and his immediate posterity. Her claims were supported by Pope Clement VII., who aimed at a marriage betwixt Arabella and her brother, Cardinal Farnese, whom he proposed to secularise, in order to enable him to enter into the marriage relation. Cobham opened a negotiation with Aremberg, the ambassador from the Netherlands, the object of wliicka was to obtain the countenance of Spain for Arabella's cause. In the meantime, a subordinate and equally wild plot, to seize the person of the king, was got up under the direction of Sir Griffin Markham, George Brook, the brother of Lord Cobham, and one Watson, a catholic missionary. The Lord Gray of Wilton was also persuaded to engage in Markham's enterprise.
These transactions were soon discovered by Cecil; and Cobham and Gray were, in consequence, arraigued before their peers. Cobham made a full confession of his guilt, but coupled it with the most abject solicitations for mercy; his fellow-prisoner disdained such meanness, and, by his noble bearing, as well as by the candour of his statements, won the esteem of the very judges by whom he was condemned. The other conspirators were likewise placed upon their trial, and sentence of death pronounced against them. But of the lay-conspirators Brook alone was executed. James had resolved to exhibit his royal clemency in union with a fine piece of king-craft on this occasion. We shall give Carlton's relation of this singular transaction :
“ Warrants were signed and sent to Sir Benjamin Tichborne, on Wednesday last at night, for Markham, Grey, and Cobham, who in this order were to take their turns as yesterday, being Friday, about ten of the clock ...... Markham, being brought to the scaffold, was much dismayed, and complained much of his hard hap, to be deluded with hopes, and brought to that place unprepared. One might see in his face the very picture of sorrow; but he seemed not to want resolution ; for a napkin being offered by a friend that stood by to cover his face, he threw it away, saying, he could look upon death without blushing. He took leave of some friends that stood near, and betook