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gested to his first life-writer the fine romance; which must now be thrown aside among those literary fictions the French distinguish by the softening and yet impudent term of “ Anecdotes hazardées ! ” with which formerly Varillas and his imitators furnished their pages ; lies which looked like facts !
SECRET HISTORY OF SIR WALTER
RAWLEIGH exercised in perfection incompatible talents, and his character connects the opposite extremes of our nature ! His " book of life,” with its incidents of prosperity and adversity, of glory and humiliation, was as chequered as the novelist would desire for a tale of fiction. Yet in this mighty genius there lies an unsuspected disposition, which requires to be demonstrated, before it is possible to conceive its reality. From his earliest days he betrayed the genius of an adventurer, which prevailed in his character to the latest; and it often involved him in the practice of mean artifices and petty deceptions; which appear like folly in the wisdom of a sage; like ineptitude in the profound views of a politician; like cowardice in the magnanimity of a hero; and degrade by their littleness
* Rawleigh, as was practised to a much later period, wrote his name various ways. In the former series of this work I have discovered at least how it was pronounced in his time-thus, Rawly. See in Vol. III. art. “ Orthography of Proper Names."
the grandeur of a character which was closed by a splendid death, worthy the life of the wisest and the greatest of mankind !
The sunshine of his days was in the reign of Elizabeth. From a boy, always dreaming of romantic conquests, for he was born in an age of heroism ; and formed by nature for the chivalric gallantry of the court of a maiden queen, from the moment he with such infinite art cast his rich mantle over the miry spot, his life was a progress of glory. All about Rawleigh was splendid as the dress he wore : his female sovereign, whose eyes loved to dwell on men who might have been fit subjects for “ the Faerie Queen” of Spenser, penurious of reward, only recompensed her favourites by suffering them to make their own fortunes on sea and land; and Elizabeth listened to the glowing projects of her hero, indulging that spirit which could have conquered the world, to have laid the toy at the feet of the sovereign !
This man, this extraordinary being, who was prodigal of his life and fortune on the Spanish main, in the idleness of peace could equally direct his invention to supply the domestic wants of every-day life, in his project of “ an office for address." Nothing was too high for his ambition, nor too humble for his genius. Preeminent as a military and a naval commander, as a statesman and a student, RAWLEIGH was as intent on forming the character of Prince Henry, as that prince was studious of moulding his own aspiring qualities by the genius of the friend whom he contemplated. Yet the active life of RAWLEIGH is not more remarkable than his contemplative one. He may well rank among the founders of our literature ; for composing on a subject exciting little interest, his fine genius has sealed his unfinished volume with immortality. For magnificence of eloquence, and massiveness of thought, we must still dwell on his pages*. Such was the man, who was the adored patron of Spenser; whom Ben Jonson, proud of calling other favourites “his sons," honoured by the title of his “ father;" and who left political instructions which Milton deigned to edit.
* I shall give in the article “ Literary Unions” a curious account how “ Rawleigh's History of the World' was com posed, which has hitherto escaped discovery,
But how has it happened, that of so elevated a character, Gibbon has pronounced that it was
ambiguous,” while it is described by Hume as a great but ill-regulated mind ?”
There was a peculiarity in the character of this eminent man: he practised the cunning of an adventurer; a cunning, most humiliating in the narrative! The great difficulty to overcome in this discovery is, how to account for a sage and a hero acting folly and cowardice, and attempting to obtain by circuitous deception, what it may be supposed so magnanimous a spirit would only deign to possess himself of by direct and open methods.
Since the present article was written, a letter, hitherto unpublished, appears in the recent edition of Shakespeare, which curiously and minutely records one of those artifices of the kind which I am about to narrate at length. When under Elizabeth, RAWLEIGH, was once in confinement, and it appears, that seeing the queen passing by, he was suddenly seized with a strange resolution of combating with the governor and his people; declaring that the mere sight of the queen had made him desperate, as a con