Page images
PDF
EPUB

the king, he was taken up and received judgment to die by virtue of his former sentence. He was accordingly beheaded in the Old Palace Yard, October 29, 1618. Thus fell Sir Walter Raleigh, the ornament of his country, whose whole life was a series of the most brilliant services ; who enlarged commerce and opened new sources of industry; who, by his sword and his

pen

conferred honour on the reign of Elizabeth, and who, by the injustice of his trial, imprisonment, and exe. cution, is the greatest blot in that of her pusillanimous successor.

One of the most prominent qualities in this illustrious man's character, was a bold adventurous spirit. He was superior to fear, and an enemy to inactivity. This spirit very early distinguished him ; and he gives us an account of an adventure in wliich he was engaged when he served as a volunteer in France, at the age of seventeen. The story is as follows: being informed that a party of the enemy had fortified themselves in some caves which had but a narrow entrance cut in the midway of the high rocks, he and his company made an attempt upon the place; but all their efforts proving ineffectual, they had recourse to the expedient of scaling the height, and letting down,' says he, an iron chain, with a weighty stone in the midst, about which were fastened bundles of lighted straw, which nearly smothered. the besieged, and forced them to surrender."

His whole life is a proof of his active mind and undaunted courage. What his ideas were of the superiority of a man of war, may be learnt from an observation contained in his ‘History of the World.'

•The fort St. Philip terrified not us in the year 1596, when we entered the port of Cadiz; neither did the fort at Puntal when we were entered, beat us from our anchoring by it, though it played upon us with four demi-cannons, within point-blank, from six in the morning, till twelve at noon.

To Sir Walter we are indebted for the introduction of tobacco into England, and the smoking of it. This practice soon became quite the fashion even at court, and it is said that the queen would sometimes indulge herself with a pipe. It is, however, certain that several of the nobility and the court ladies too, amused themselves with smoking. A very humorous story is related of Sir Walter, and his servant, soon after the return of the former from his voyage to America.

He used to smoke privately in his study, and when the servant brought him in his tankard of ale and nutmeg, the poor fellow seeing the smoke pouring forth in clouds from his mouth, threw

Oldys's Life of Raleigh.

all

all the contents of the tankard in his face, and ran down stairs, exclaiming that his master was on fire, and before they could get to him, would be burnt to ashes.'.

This simplicity reminds one of the Indians who having taken a quantity of gunpowder, sowed it for grain, with full expectation of reaping a plentiful crop of combustion by the next harvest, whereby they should be enabled to destroy their enemies.

The box in which Raleigh kept his tobacco was carefully preserved, and at last came into the hands of the late Mr. Thoresby, of Leeds. It resembled a modern snuff case, with a cavity for a glass or, metal receiver, big enough to hold a pound of tobacco, the edge at the top being joined to that of the box, by a collar pierced with six or eight holes, for pipes.*

We may be permitted to remark here that the mortal antipathy of king James to tobacco, and his dislike of all persons who made use of it, may have aggravated his enmity to the man who first introduced it into England. The sapient monarch went so far as to write a quarto volume, entitled, A Counterblast to Tobacco, and he even endeavoured to prevent the importation of an article, which proved of so much consequence to his revenue.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The great favour and interest which Raleigh had with queen Elizabeth, induced him to be a frequent suitor to her both for himself and others; one day having told her majesty that he had a favour to beg of her, she said, “When, Sir Walter, will you cease to be a beggar ? To which he answered, When your gracious majesty ceases to be a benefactor.'

That Raleigh was a liberal patron of men of merit, and that he exercised his influence for the purpose of rendering them services, appears from Spenser's dedication to him of his poem, entitled, “Colin Clout's come home again,' in which he acknowledges his obligations to Sir Walter. His exertions also in behalf of John Udal, a puritanical divine, who was prosecuted for publishing a libellous book, bear honourable testimony to the sympathetic feelings and generosity of Raleigh.

In parliament Raleigh was an eloquent and a patriotic speaker. He resisted many dangerous encroachments, and succeeded in removing some oppressive impositions.

But yet the period of his long imprisonment is probably that which displays the greatness of his character in the most brilliant point of view. In the full career of military renown and enterprize, we contemplate the hero with pleasure and admiration, but when we see him as a captive exercised in various literary works, and in laying down plans for the improvement of our great 5

national

[ocr errors]

national bulwark, the navy, our admiration is encreased.

The History of the World' would alone have immortalized his name, and stamped him as one of the best writers in our language; but he exercised himself, when in the Tower, in a variety of pursuits. Among other amusements which engaged his active mind, chemistry seems to have been particularly a favourite with him.This he studied with a view to practical utility.-The result of his researches and experiments was the invention of a cordial, to which extraordinary virtues were attributed, and upon which a treatise was published by a medical man of some consequence in the reign, and by the order of Charles the second. A circumstance, however, more re, markable, attending this medicine, was the following : when Henry, prince of Wales, lay ill, the queen, his mother, sent to Raleigh for some of his cordial, which she had taken herself in a fever, some time before, with success. Sir Walter sent her majesty the medicine, accompanied with a letter, in which he unluckily made use of this expression :- that it would cure the prince or any other, of a fever, except in case of poison.' The prince took the cordial, but died the same evening; and the queen's grief was so acute, that she shewed the letter to the king, and never would be persuaded to her dying day, but that her son was poisoned. This excellent prince entertained a high opinion of Sir Walter, and used to say,

that

« PreviousContinue »