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Sir Walter Raleigh: Being a True and Vivid Account of the Life and Times of the Explorer, Soldier, Scholar, Poet, and Courtier--The Controversial Hero of the Elizabethian Age Hardcover – January 3, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : Henry Holt and Co.; 1st American Edition (January 3, 2004)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 640 pages
- ISBN-10 : 080507502X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0805075021
- Item Weight : 2.4 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.38 x 2.12 x 9.54 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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She was convinced bread and wine just symbolic.
“Then Katherine Raleigh came (Raleigh’s mother) – as Foxe tells us, a ‘woman of noble wit, and of a good and godly opinion’. She said the creed to Agnes, but when she came to the words ‘He ascended’ told Agnes that ‘God dwelleth not in temples made with hands; and that Sacrament to be nothing else but a remembrance of His blessed Passion’. On her return home Katherine told her husband that she had never heard a woman of such simplicity ‘talk so godly, so sincerely, and so earnestly; insomuch that, if God were not with her, she could not speak such things. To which I am not able to answer her, who can read, and she cannot.’ Soon afterwards Agnes went to the stake, determined on her martyrdom.’’
This slice highlights Trevelyan’s style. Includes not just things directly touching Raleigh, but the wider cultural, political, religious, economic background.
However, he does focus on Raleigh. Offers clear opinions drawn from people who knew him.
“‘He had in the outward man a good presence in a handsome and well-compacted person, a strong natural wit [intelligence] and a better judgement, with a bold and plausible tongue whereby he could set out his parts to the best advantage, and to these he had the adjunct of some general learning which by diligence he enforced to a great augmentation and perfection, for he was an indefatigable reader whether by sea or land, and none of the least observers both of the men and the times … If ever a man drew venture out of necessity, it was he, and therein he was the greatest example of industry.’”
In fact, one consistent comment from almost all, was Raleigh’s pride that turns often to arrogance. He was smarter, read more, studied harder, thought deeper and wrote (poetry and prose) better than everyone else. In fact, his poetry was well known for hundreds of years. Trevelyan presents a detailed portrait of Raleigh - the good, bad, smart, stupid, sincere, phony, mean, kind, etc., etc. . Reader does get the sense he was like most of us — complicated, mixture of very moral acts combined with serious moral failure.
Trevelyan sends many pages on Raleigh’s sponsoring of Virginia and what happened.
“‘The soil is the most plentiful, sweet, fruitful, and wholesome of all the world … we found the people gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age.’”
This was written to inspire English immigrants. One unexpected result was Rousseau’s (and others) conviction that European civilization corrupted human race. This silly belief stills controls much modern thought. Humans are corrupt, regardless of civilization.
One real gem was Raleigh’s poetry. I’m not not a fan of much poetry. Nevertheless, I found Raleigh’s poetry strangely touching . . .
“Like truthless dreams, so are my joys expired,
And past return are all my dandled days;
My love misled, and fancy quite retired,
Of all which past, the sorrow only stays.
My lost delights now clean from sight of land,
Have left me all alone in unknown ways;
My mind to woe, my life in fortune’s hand
Of all which past the sorrow only stays.
As in a country strange without companion,
I only wail the wrong of death’s delays,
Whose sweet spring spent,
whose summer well nigh done,
Of all which past, the sorrow only stays.”
‘Sorrow only stays’! So true. Great!
One serious attack on Raleigh was religious . . .
“The subject of Raleigh’s atheism was not of course to be resisted, and here he involved Northumberland, whom he now described as a ‘fool’. That ‘diabolical triplicity’ who denied the Trinity – Raleigh, Cobham and Northumberland.”
I find this comment intriguing. Here in the 1500’s, doubts about the trinity are surfacing. This attack severely damaged Raleigh’s reputation.
The chapters are titled by year from 1568 - 1618. Lots and lots of detail. Hundreds and hundreds of people introduced, explained, described, analyzed and come to life. Trevelyan easy to read. Work closer to historical novel than school textbook.
Some notable names — Elizabeth I, both Cecils, Shakespeare, Phillip of Spain, Francis Bacon, Edward Coke, Defoe, James of Scotland, Queen Anne, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, etc., etc.. Reader will benefit having some background knowledge of this era.
Trevelyan includes Raleigh’s speech from scaffold minutes before death . . .
“And now I entreat you all to join with me in prayer, that the great God in Heaven, whom I have grievously offended, being a great sinner of a long time and in many kinds, my whole course a course of vanity, a seafaring man, a soldier and a courtier – the temptations of the least of these were able to overthrow a good mind and a good man; that God, I say, will forgive me, and that he will receive me into an everlasting life. So I take my leave of you all, making my peace with God.”
Not the declaration of an atheist.
Trevelyan’s audience seems to be educated British (not American) reader. Assumes knowledge that American reader unlikely to possess. He is a distant descendant of Raleigh. Visited his gave and house in his youth. Provides a connection that American reader doesn’t feel.
Extensive coverage of Raleigh’s political, military, financial, religious, legal, romantic, family and personal life.
Hundreds of references in bibliography (not linked)
Dozen illustrations (linked)
Detailed index (not linked)
But this is a small complaint: In the end, we are left with an extremely well-rounded picture of the man, with his many faults, great daring, immense learning, who fought his way up from the lower ranks of society to be one of the men, at least in England and America, deemed one of history's true greats. It is hard to envision a better and more carefully written biography of Raleigh, barring the discovery of new documents, which may well happen. It's really quite amazing to learn how many documents, previously thought lost, have been discovered in the past 50 years, such as a will of Raleigh's discovered in a privy in the 1950s.
I do have one major complaint: To any lover of literature, to which Trevelyan makes no claim, this book cannot but be a disappointment. Raleigh's poems are printed incomplete, with whole stanzas ripped out for no apparent reason. It's almost enough to make one weep to see how the soaring poem "The Lie" is butchered here.
So, my advice is to have a copy of Raleigh's poems close at hand whilst reading the book. They are too much a part of the man to leave them in the state Trevelyan heedlessly does.
Largely massive research and reporting of that research but little analysis or insight into the personality of Raleigh. Put it down after 175 pages.
I HAVE JUST BEGUN THIS BOOK AND NOW AFTER PAYING FOR IT I CAN'T TRUST ANYTHING THAT IT SAYS IS ACTUALLY FACTUAL!