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us : have helped us, if we will look back down our years, far more than we have made use of.
They were men, certainly, very much of our own level : but may we not put that level somewhat too low ? They were certainly not what we are ; for if they had been, they would have done no more than we: but is not a man's real level not what he is, but what he can be, and therefore ought to be? No doubt they were compact of good and evil, just as we : but so was David, no man more; though a more heroical personage (save One) appears not in all human records ; but may not the secret of their success have been, that, on the whole, (though they found it a sore battle,) they refused the evil and chose the good ? It is true, again, that their great deeds may be more or less explained, attributed to laws, rationalized : but is explaining always explaining away? Is it to degrade a thing to attribute it to a law? And do you do anything more by " rationalizing” men's deeds than prove that they were rational men; men who saw certain fixed laws, and obeyed them, and succeeded thereby, according to the Baconian apophthegm, that nature is conquered by obeying her?
But what laws ?
To that question, perhaps, the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews will give the best answer, where it says, that by faith were done all the truly great deeds, and by faith lived all the truly great men, who have ever appeared on earth.
There are, of course, higher and lower degrees of this faith; its object is one more or less worthy : but it is in all cases the belief in certain unseen eternal facts, by keeping true to which a man must in the long run succeed. Must; because he is more or less in harmony with heaven, and earth, and the Maker thereof, and has therefore fighting on his side a great portion of the universe; perhaps the whole; for as he who breaks one commandment of the law is guilty of the whole, because he denies the fount of all law, so he who with his whole soul keeps one commandment of it is likely to be in harmony with the whole, because he testifies of the fount of all law.
We will devote a few pag to the story of an old hero, of a man of like passions with ourselves ; of one who had the most intense and awful sense of the unseen laws, and succeeded mightily thereby ; of one who had hard struggles with a flesh and blood which made him at times forget those laws, and failed mightily thereby : of one whom God so loved that He caused each slightest sin, as with David, to bring its own punishment with it, that while the flesh was delivered over to Satan, the man himself might be saved in the Day of the Lord; of one,
finally, of whom nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand may say,
“I have done worse deeds than he: but I have never done as good ones.”
In a poor farm-house among the pleasant valleys of South Devon, among the white apple-orchards and the rich watermeadows, and the red fallows and red kine, in the year of grace 1552, a boy was born, as beautiful as day, and christened Walter Raleigh. His father was a gentleman of ancient blood : none older in the land : but, impoverished, he had settled down upon the wreck of his estate, in that poor farm-house. No record of him now remains; but he must have been a man worth knowing and worth loving, or he would not have won the wife he did. She was a Champernoun, proudest of Norman squires, and could probably boast of having in her veins the blood of Courtneys, Emperors of Byzant. She had been the wife of the famous knight Sir Otho Gilbert, and lady of Compton Castle, and had borne him three brave sons, John, Humphrey, and Adrian ; all three destined to win knighthood also in due time, and the two latter already giving promises, which they well fulfilled, of becoming most remarkable men of their time. And yet the fair Champernoun, at her husband's death, had chosen to wed Mr. Raleigh, and share life with him in the little farm-house at Hayes. She must have been a grand woman, if the law holds true that great men always have great mothers; an especially grand woman, indeed ; for few can boast of having borne to two different husbands such sons as she bore. No record, as far as we know, remains of her; nor of her boy's early years. One can imagine them, nevertheless.
Just as he awakes to consciousness, the Smithfield fires are extinguished. He can recollect, perhaps, hearing of the burning of the Exeter martyrs ; and he does not forget it; no one forgot or dared forget it in those days. He is brought up in the simple and manly, yet high-bred ways of English gentlemen in the times of an old courtier of the Queen's.” His two elder half-brothers also, living some thirty miles away, in the quaint and gloomy towers of Compton Castle, amid the appleorchards of Torbay, are men as noble as ever formed a young lad's taste. Humphrey and Adrian Gilbert, who afterwards, both of them, rise to knighthood, are—what are they not? soldiers, scholars, Christians, discoverers, and “planters” of foreign lands, geographers, alchemists, miners, Platonical philosophers; many-sided, high-minded men, not without fantastic enthusiasm ; living heroic lives, and destined, one of them, to die a heroic death. From them Raleigh's fancy has been fired, and his appetite for learning quickened, while he is yet a daring
boy, fishing in the gray trout-brooks, or going up with his father to the Dartmoor hills, to hunt the deer with hound and horn, amid the wooded gorges of Holne, or over the dreary downs of Hartland Warren, and the cloud-capt thickets of Cator's Beam, and looking down from thence upon the far blue southern sea, wondering when he shall sail thereon, to fight the Spaniard, and discover, like Columbus, some fairy-land of gold and gems.
For before this boy's mind, as before all intense English minds of that day, rise, from the first, three fixed ideas, which yet are but one—the Pope, the Spaniard, and America.
The first two are the sworn and internecine enemies (whether they pretend a formal peace or not) of Law and Freedom, Bible and Queen, and all that makes an Englishman's life dear to him. Are they not the incarnations of Antichrist ? Their Moloch sacrifices flame through all lands. The earth groans because of them, and refuses to cover the blood of her slain. And America is the new world of boundless wonder and beauty, wealth and fertility, to which these two evil powers arrogate an exclusive and divine right ; and God has delivered it into their hands; and they have done evil therein with all their might, till the story of their greed and cruelty rings through all earth and heaven. Is this the will of God? Will he not avenge for these things, as surely as he is the Lord who executeth justice and judgment in the earth?
These are the young boy's thoughts. These were his thoughts for sixty-six eventful years. In whatsoever else he wavered, he never wavered in that creed. He learnt it in his boyhood, while he read Fox's Martyrs beside his mother's knee. He learnt it as a lad, when he saw Hawkins and Drake changed by Spanish tyranny and treachery from peaceful merchantmen into fierce scourges of God. He learnt it scholastically, from fathers and divines, as an Oxford scholar, in days when Oxford was a Protestant indeed, in whom there was no guile. He learnt it when he went over, at seventeen years old, with his gallant kinsman Henry Champernoun, and his band of one hundred gentlemen volunteers, to flesh his maiden sword in behalf of the persecuted French Protestants. He learnt it he listened to the shrieks of the San Bartholomew ; he learnt it as he watched the dragonnades, the tortures, the massacres of the Netherlands, and fought manfully under Norris in behalf of those victims of " the Pope and Spain.” He preached it in far stronger and wiser words than we can express it for him, in that noble tract of 1591, on Sir Richard Grenville's death at the Azores—a Tyrtæan trumpet-blast such as has seldom rung in human ears; he discussed it like a cool statesman in his pam
phlet of 1596, on A War with Spain. He sacrificed for it the last hopes of his old age, the wreck of his fortunes, his just recovered liberty; and he died with the old God's battle-cry upon his lips, when it awoke no response from the hearts of a coward, profligate, and unbelieving generation. This is the background, the key-note of the man's whole life, of which, if we lose the recollection, and content ourselves by slurring it over in the last pages of his biography with some half-sneer about his putting, like the rest of Elizabeth's old admirals, “ the Spaniard, the Pope, and the Devil ” in the same category, we shall understand very little about Raleigh ; though, of course, we shall save ourselves the trouble of pronouncing as to whether the Spaniard and the Pope were really in the same category as the devil ; or, indeed, which might be equally puzzling to a good many historians of the last century and a half, whether there be amy devil at all.
The books which we have chosen to head this review, are all of them more or less good, with one exception, and that is Bishop Goodman's Memoirs, on which much stress has been lately laid, as throwing light on various passages of Raleigh, Essex, Cecil, and James's lives. Having read it carefully, we must say plainly, that we think the book an altogether foolish, pedantic, and untrustworthy book, without any power of insight or gleam of reason, without even the care to be self-consistent; having but one object, the whitewashing James, and every noble lord whom the bishop has ever known ; but in whitewashing each, the poor old flunkey so bespatters all the rest of his pets, that when the work is done, the whole party look, if possible, rather dirtier than before. And so we leave Bishop Goodman.
Mr. Fraser Tytler's book is well known; and it is on the whole a good one ; because he really loves and admires the man of whom he writes : but he is wonderfully careless as to authorities, and too often makes the wish father to the thought-indeed to the fact. Moreover, he has all the usual sentimental cant about Mary Queen of Scots, and all the usual petty and prurient scandal about Elizabeth, which is to us anathema, which prevents his really seeing the time in which Raleigh lived, and the element in which he moved. This sort of talk is happily dying out just now; but no one can approach the history of the Elizabethan age (perhaps of any age) without finding that truth is all but buried under mountains of dirt and chaff-an Augæan stable which, perhaps, will never be swept clean. Yet we have seen, with great delight, several attempts toward removal of the said superstratum of dirt and chaff from the Elizabethan histories, in several articles, all evidently from the same pen, (and that one,
more perfectly master of English prose to our mind than any man living,) in the Westminster Review and Fraser's Magazine.*
Sir Robert Schomburgk's edition of the Guiana Voyage contains an excellent Life of Raleigh, perhaps the best yet written; of which we only complain, when it gives in to the stock-charges against Raleigh, as it were at second hand, and just because they are stock-charges, and because, too, the illustrious editor (unable to conceal his admiration of a discoverer in many points so like himself) takes all through an apologetic tone of * Please don't laugh at me. I daresay it is very foolish ; but I can't help loving the man.”
Mr. Napier's little book is a reprint of two Edinburgh Review articles on Bacon and Raleigh. The first, a learned statement of facts in answer to some unwisdom of a Quarterly reviewer, (as we suspect an Oxford Aristotelian; for we think we do know that sweet Roman hand.”) It is clear, accurate, convinc
ing, complete. There is no more to be said about the matter, lin
save that facts are stubborn things, and velty to not
“ Victrix causa diis placuit, sed victa Şuello!” fry tha in The article on Raleigh is very valuable ; first, because Mr. Mů Napier has had access to many documents unknown to former
biographers; and next, because he clears Raleigh completely 44, from the old imputation of deceit about the Guiana mine, as well
as of other minor charges. With his general opinion of Raleigh's last and fatal Guiana voyage, we have the misfortune to differ from him toto cælo, on the strength of the very documents which he quotes. But Mr. Napier is always careful, always temperate, and always just, except where he, as we think, does not enter into the feelings of the man whom he is analyzing. Let readers buy the book (it will tell them a hundred things they do not know) and be judge between Mr. Napier and us.
In the meanwhile, one cannot help watching with a smile how good old Time's scrubbing brush, which clears away paint and whitewash from church pillars, does the same by such characters as Raleigh’s. After each fresh examination, some fresh count in the hundred-headed indictment breaks down. The truth is, that as people begin to believe more in nobleness, and to gird up their loins to the doing of noble deeds, they discover more nobleness in others. Raleigh's character was in its lowest Nadir in
* We especially entreat readers' attention to two articles in vindication of the morals of Queen Elizabeth, in Fraser's Magazine of 1854; to one in the Westminster of 1854, on Mary Stuart; and one in the same of 1852, on England's Forgotten Worthies.