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sex's Queries, touching a probable Invasion : from a MS. of bishop Tanner.
Various Letters; and an Appendix of curious papers relative to sir Walter Ralegh and his times ; together with the two biographical accounts by Oldys and Birch.
L I F E
SIR WALTER RALEGH.
EXPERIENCE and her records have sometimes manifested to us, that as men, renowned for glorious exploits, abound more in some ages than others, according to the genius of the times, or general taste and pursuit of their contemporaries ; so if a martial spirit spring up in the reign of an active and adventurous sovereign, he shall rise into high repute, be much honoured and emulated : as, on the other side, if it is his fortune to live under a prince of a contrary character, his unfashionable virtue, unless it be of a supple nature, and can mould itself to occasions, will become criminal; and his courage, of less security than cowardice.
The worthy, of whose life and fortunes I have been persuaded to attempt a rehearsal, will appear in the following narrative a convincing evidence of this observation. And what renders his story more remarkable is, that though he gave such repeated proofs of a superior conduct, in so many important stations and characters of life; though he was not only master of all the accomplishments requisite to defend a state in war, but to adorn it in peace; and did render himself illustrious, as well by letters in the latter, as he had done by arms in the former condition ; yet that a warlike reign was of greater safety to him, and a peaceful one proved his destruction. I shall not anticipate the causes, but only premise thus much; that whoever can attend to the representation of a brave man wrestling with adversities, and rising higher in the notice and admiration of the world, the more violently he was opposed; whoever is any way concerned to know the effects of those prepossessions which diffident princes may entertain, and the prostitutions to which their sordid instruments may be won; or would be informed, what a pernicious foe in his country an insinuating foreigner may be to those natives who are its real friends; I may recommend him here; and venture to promise a prospect instructive, entertaining, and full of variety.
For though abundance of solid particulars are naturally sunk in the rapid current of time, while many less substantial are floating upon the surface, to the hand of every ordinary memorialist; and though some shining circumstances, in the prosperous part of sir Walter Ralegh's life, have been darkened through envy; as others, in the unfortunate period, through interest, by the age in which he lived; nevertheless, bis single life may perhaps be found more fruitful of memorable incidents, than many histories of entire ages: insomuch as I may be apprehensive, with a late collector of his memoirs, “ that the describing a person of “ so diffusive a praise, so equally great in so many different
parts of life, will be like attempting a landscape from a high hill, where the multiplicity and extent of the pros. pects may rather distract the mind than direct it; and “call for judgment to restrain the fancy, which is apt to “run riot, when employed upon too many objects.” Many guides may indeed appear to lead us through this wilderness; but, numerous as the authors are who mention him, they contain but fragments of his story; divers whereof, hitherto widely dispersed, have escaped, not only our general historians, but the many compilers of distinct pieces on his actions. Even the moderns, who have treated of him with impartiality, have yet been deficient in point of industry, so as to prove no less injurious to his merits, than some who in his own age conspired to depreciate them. Hence the generality, having been too superficial and undigested ; having neither regarded due choice and order of matter, proportion in the parts, or connection of the whole; nor yet