British and Irish Literature Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh)
by
Carlo M. Bajetta
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0110

Introduction

Agnes Latham once wrote that everything Ralegh (b. 1554–d. 1618) did “seems to have been tainted by a curious impermanence, to have had something sketchy and amateurish about it. Not one of his Virginian expeditions succeeded, and his schemes for Guiana came to nothing. His history was never finished and his poetry is lost” (see Latham 1951, cited under Editions: Poetry, xi). Notwithstanding this—or perhaps precisely because of this—Ralegh’s figure has always attracted historians, literary critics, writers and politicians, as one can easily see from the Biographies section. Once Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite and the “best hated man” in the kingdom, almost paradoxically he came to be regarded over the centuries as the epitome of the Renaissance man, the champion of parliamentary freedom and, quite predictably, the perfect test case for new historicist methods of scholarly enquiry (see, for example, Greenblatt 1973). It is little surprise that, at the end of the 19th century, one of the most distinguished Ralegh biographers, William Stebbing, could already observe that “students of Ralegh’s career cannot complain of a dearth of materials” (see Stebbing 1891, cited under Biographies, vii). Anyone writing these days could now perhaps complain that the wealth of materials is almost overwhelming. Modern Ralegh scholars, however, are blessed with the existence of detailed Bibliographies from the 16th to the late 20th centuries. While the aim of this essay is not that of duplicating existing information, many items cited in these books are mentioned here as well, as they represent significant contributions that one should not ignore and that are frequently good starting points for research and study. Even a casual glance at the entries below, however, will show that some curious gaps and some degrees of “curious impermanence” are still present in contemporary Ralegh scholarship. What appears to be a limited collaboration between historians and literary scholars has frequently thwarted attempts to do justice to this almost iconic figure in both popular and “highbrow” British and American culture. One example will probably suffice: no modern complete edition of his oeuvre has been published since the Oxford Works of Sir Walter Ralegh in 1829. More work on Ralegh is certainly needed. It is hoped that the present bibliography may be of use to scholars who intend to pursue such a task—and that it will also help students and Ralegh enthusiasts to keep enlarging our understanding of this remarkable writer and man of action.

General Reference Works and Data Resources

Some of the items in this section will be of significant use for scholars as well as for students who need either to access collections of sources (such as Brushfield 1896–1907, also included in the vast online repository, The Internet Archive), view contemporary artwork (see e.g. the National Portrait Gallery website), or contextualize Ralegh’s life and writings within the general framework of Elizabethan and Jacobean textual practices. Beal 1980 and May and Ringler 2004 in fact are not only indispensable for locating original documents, but also provide important information as to the physical embodiment of Ralegh’s poems and prose writings. Marotti 1995 and Woudhuysen 1996 provide insightful analyses of the transmission of these texts, as well as of the literary tradition of the period. For details on Ralegh’s works in print, one should also turn to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), an online scholarly resource that merges and updates data from catalogs of books printed prior to 1801.

Bibliographies

As stated under General Reference Works and Data Resources, some earlier bibliographies may be consulted to explore specific topics related to Ralegh’s life and works and the scholarship published up to the mid-1980s. Brushfield 1908, while clearly outdated, provides extensive commentaries on early publications, and can still be useful when used alongside more recent scholarship. For a concise but informative article one should turn to Mills 1985. Armitage 1987 is the most complete bibliography up to the early 21st century (see Armitage 2013 for an update). Its initial section, however, does not supply a detailed analysis of the early publications by, or connected with, Ralegh, and it should be consulted in tandem with the ESTC. Both Mills 1986 and Armitage 1987 mention the bibliographical essays that have helped them shape their own work, such as Tonkin 1971. The latter, as well as other publications dealing with a limited time span, may be quite useful for scholars interested in the history of Ralegh criticism. The only essay in analytical bibliography mentioned in this section, Racin 1964, is a detailed analysis of the early Editions of The History of the World. While clearly addressing a scholarly public, it presents a fine assessment of the typographical evidence concerning the publication of Ralegh’s magnum opus, and can still help readers to find their way through the numerous reprints of this important volume.

  • Armitage, Christopher M. Sir Walter Ralegh, an Annotated Bibliography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

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    Published for America’s Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee, this work includes a section (chapter 1, pp. 1–28) on “published works written by or attributed to Ralegh.” The other six excellent chapters provide about 1800 titles of secondary sources organized by topic (e.g., “Ralegh in Biography,” “Ralegh in Literature, Music and the Visual Arts”) with concise descriptions for each item.

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  • Armitage, Christopher M. “Sir Walter Ralegh Bibliography (1986–2010).” In Literary and Visual Ralegh. Edited by Christopher Armitage. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2013.

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    Lists (rather unfortunately, in alphabetical order) a large number of publications (with one exception, only in English) not included in Armitage 1987.

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  • Brushfield, Thomas N. A Bibliography of Sir Walter Ralegh, Knt. Exeter, UK: Commin, 1908.

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    Particularly useful in order to find information on the reception of Ralegh’s works in the late 19th century. A reprint was published in 1972 (New York: Lemma), but the original edition is conveniently available via The Internet Archive.

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  • Mills, Jerry Leath. “Recent Studies in Ralegh.” English Literary Renaissance 15.2 (1985): 225–244.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.1985.tb00886.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mostly focused on scholarship published between the 1930s and the date of its publication, this article offers perceptive comments and competent summaries on books and articles published until then.

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  • Mills, Jerry Leath. Sir Walter Ralegh: a Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986.

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    Although limited to the period 1901–1984, this book is much in the style of the article published by Mills in 1985: a reliable and readable source of information.

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  • Racin, John. “The Early Editions of Sir Walter Ralegh’s The History of the World.” Studies in Bibliography 17 (1964): 199–209.

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    Corrects the errors in Brushfield 1908 (replicated in various sources, including, for example, Wallace 1959; see Biographies) and supplies a thorough bibliographical analysis of Ralegh’s work. As Racin cogently demonstrates, the only substantive early edition of The History of the World is the one printed by William Stansby in London in 1614; the second and third editions (London: Stansby, 1617, and London: Jaggard, 1621) are unrevised reprints of no authority.

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  • Tonkin, Humphrey. Sir Walter Ralegh, 1900–1968. Elizabethan Bibliographies Supplements 17. London: Nether, 1971.

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    Part of the glorious series Elizabethan Bibliographies, this book lists more than eight hundred titles and can be an important source for the history of Ralegh criticism until the late 1960s.

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Biographies

Historians from all ages seem to have been attracted by Ralegh’s figure, and writers have not been immune to the fascination of Elizabeth’s favorite either. From Anthony à Wood and John Aubrey to G.B. Harrison, A.L. Rowse and D.B. Quinn; from John Milton, Daniel Defoe, Robert Southey to John Buchan, Virginia Woolf, Thom Gunn and, most recently, Ruth Padel, a host of Ralegh scholars and admirers have tried their hand at editing Ralegh’s works and/or at producing essays on his life. It is not surprising, then, that by the end of the 20th century, about eighty full-length biographical studies were already in print. Many of these publications are mentioned in the standard Bibliographies, such as Armitage 1987 and Mills 1986, and this section will present only some of the most representative studies in the field. The accounts presented in some of the volumes listed below clearly reflect the absence of modern scholarly Editions of the letters and poems, which appeared only at the end of the 20th century (see Latham and Youings 1999, Rudick 1999). One should note, however, that some early contributions such as Stebbing 1891 or Edwards 1868 (mentioned in the Editions: Letters section) can still be consulted with profit, given the abundance of sources they refer to. The persistence of the Victorian tendency to see Ralegh as an Elizabethan hero, a brilliant soldier and poet who fell victim to the intrigues of the corrupt Jacobean court, is perhaps epitomized in Thompson 1936. Later works such as Wallace 1959, Rowse 1962 (see Ralegh’s Family and Entourage), and Williams 1988, managed to redefine such a picture in more objective terms. These studies, in fact, restore the image of a man who nourished diverse scholarly and artistic interests throughout his life, and who busily sought favor and glory; certainly, though, they also portray a man who, with equal eagerness, looked for financial rewards—or, at times, merely for a way out of prison. Ample and elegantly written, Trevelyan 2003 and Nicholls and Williams 2011 present the reader with a picture of the man and his era from the vantage point of nearly four centuries of Ralegh historical research and, especially in the latter case, benefit from fresh examinations of manuscript material. These studies prove to what extent Ralegh’s family ties and relations at court were crucial to both making and undoing him, something that should be taken into consideration when analyzing his literary works as well.

  • Nicholls, Mark, and Penry Williams. Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend. London and New York: Continuum, 2011.

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    The best biography to date, and one of the few volumes published since Wallace 1959 to reassess its topic in the light of archival evidence. Informed and legible, it presents a series of hitherto unknown details, especially about the Jacobean phase of Ralegh’s life. A very useful resource for both undergraduates and scholars alike.

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  • Stebbing, William. Sir Walter Ralegh, a Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1891.

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    Undoubtedly the richest study of Ralegh’s life until the dawn of the 20th century, this 500-plus-page volume has been read (and imitated) by many later biographers, and still deserves to be consulted. Both this and the 1899 reissue, which includes a “list of authorities,” are available via The Internet Archive.

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  • Thompson, Edward John. Sir Walter Ralegh: The Last of the Elizabethans. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1936.

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    Sees Ralegh as the last representative of the glorious phase of Elizabeth’s reign. Chapter 9, devoted to the analysis of his literary relations, in particular with Edmund Spenser, should be integrated with Hadfield 2012 and the same scholar’s essay “Edmund Spenser” in Oxford Bibliographies: British and Irish Literature (also see Ralegh’s Family and Entourage).

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  • Trevelyan, Raleigh. Sir Walter Raleigh. London: Penguin, 2003.

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    A lengthy biography which provides helpful notes on events frequently only alluded to in other publications. The discussion of Ralegh’s poetry, unfortunately, is sometimes made problematic by the fact that a number of noncanonical poems are assumed to be authentic.

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  • Wallace, Willard Mosher. Sir Walter Raleigh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959.

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    Solidly based on manuscript evidence and documentary sources (duly acknowledged in the copious footnotes). One of the best accounts until the end of the 20th century, and still to be consulted for scholarly purposes.

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  • Williams, Norman Lloyd. Sir Walter Raleigh. London: Cassell, 1988.

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    First published in 1962, and in need of correction as regards some details of dating and the corpus of Ralegh’s poetry, this fascinating cavalcade through Ralegh’s life and times is still useful for its reprinting of a very large number of the most commonly cited sources, including original documents and near-contemporary anecdotes.

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Editions

While various volumes were already in print in the 18th century, most of Ralegh’s works still await convincing editing. This applies to most of the prose tracts (the first Guiana narratives being a notable exception—see Lorimer 2006), as well as his magnum opus, the History of the World, printed in its entirety only in Works of Sir Walter Ralegh. One should add that, while certainly a major contribution to our understanding of the man and of his writings, Rudick 1999 and Latham and Youings 1999 are in no way, nor were they intended to be, “definitive” editions (see e.g., Rudick 1999, xv). The existence of recently discovered manuscript witnesses and of unrecorded variants in printed volumes, and the lack of a thorough analysis of the handwriting and practices of Ralegh’s scribes (cf. Latham and Youings 1999, lvix), clearly call for substantial revisions to the texts presented in these books. Since no “complete works” other than the 19th-century Oxford edition have been made available to date, detailed notes on what can be considered the most convenient publications to use for each work title are provided in the introductions to the Editions: Prose and Editions: Poetry sections.

Complete and Selected Works

The eight-volume Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, the only (almost) complete edition of Ralegh’s writings published to date, reprinted the 1614 text of The History of the World with a minimum of editorial polishing. The procedure adopted for most of the other texts, however, was less straightforward. Thomas Birch’s Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, Kt., Political, Commercial, and Philosophical (London: R. Dodsley, 1751) served as copy text for the other prose pieces and the letters, and was collated against some unspecified manuscript sources in order to produce a “corrected” text. Similarly, the poems were taken from Samuel Egerton Brydges’s Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh (Lee Priory, UK: Johnson and Warwick, 1814; second edition, London: Longman, 1814) and compared against what were defined as “early manuscript copies,” most of which came from the Oxford libraries. Subsequent “selected” or single-work editions, unfortunately, have not yet provided readers with a corpus of texts which can replace in toto the Oxford volumes.

  • Hammond, Gerald, ed. Sir Walter Ralegh: Selected Writings. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1986.

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    A good classroom text, with sparing endnotes, mostly of a lexical nature. Contains a good portion of the poems (occasionally printed from sources other than those chosen in Latham 1951; see Editions: Poetry), the Revenge tract, the Discovery of Guiana, about a hundred pages from The History of the World, and a handful of letters.

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  • Latham, Agnes Mary Christabel, ed. Sir Walter Ralegh: Selected Prose and Poetry. London: Athlone, 1965.

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    Reprints twenty-three poems from the 1951 edition, together with the Revenge tract, the Discovery of Guiana, and sections from the Preface to the History of the World. Contains some useful textual notes and is arguably the best edition of the Revenge to date.

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  • The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, Kt. 8 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1829.

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    Contains the 18th-century biographies by Willliam Oldys and Thomas Birch, the History of the World in its entirety, and a final volume of miscellanea, including a number of poems (some of which are certainly not authentic) and a large portion of the prose tracts.

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Poetry

A good number of the poems that the compilers of the Oxford 1829 collection reprinted or added to their collection were, unfortunately, not by Ralegh. Hannah 1892 was the first to expose the fallacy of the principles set down by earlier editors such as George Ellis, Arthur Cayley, and Samuel Egerton Brydges, who had included a number of poems—later accepted by the Oxford editors as well—on impressionistic grounds or circular reasoning (see Bajetta 1998, cited under Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry). Latham 1929 was the first edition of the modern era; it was edited afresh from manuscript and early printed sources and provided with a real apparatus criticus and explanatory notes. The revised version of this volume (Latham 1951), added a number of new poems from a conjectural “Ralegh group” found in a 16th-century printed miscellany, The Phoenix’s Nest (1593), which Rudick demonstrated to be mostly unauthentic as early as 1971. Rudick 1999 is still the standard edition for Ralegh’s poems; some minor errors in the transcription of the “Cynthia” [also spelled “Synthia” and “Scinthia”] holographs, however, are corrected in Woudhuysen and Norbrook 2005, and an effective contextualization of the verse translations can be found in Poole and Maule 2001. Padel 2010 does not attempt to bring new evidence on the Ralegh canon, but prints almost all of his most famous verse texts together with some spurious pieces.

  • Hannah, John, ed. The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh: Collected and Authenticated, with Those of Sir Henry Wotton and Other Courtly Poets from 1540 to 1650. London: G. Bell, 1892.

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    The first edition to print the “Cynthia” holographs, even though in a modernized version and from a transcript. The introduction features a critique of the methods hitherto commonly employed to establish the authenticity of “Ralegh’s” poems, which can be of interest to scholars working on the history of textual criticism during this period. The 1910 reprint is available via The Internet Archive (see General Reference Works and Data Resources).

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  • Latham, Agnes Mary Christabel, ed. The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh. London: Constable, 1929.

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    Reexamines the Ralegh canon and prints, in an old-spelling version, the “Cynthia” holographs. Parts of the apparatus and the textual notes are not reproduced in the 1951 edition; scholars working on Ralegh’s text may want to consult both volumes.

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  • Latham, Agnes Mary Christabel, ed. The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951.

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    The standard edition until the end of the 20th century; frequently prints “best texts” and reduces variants to a minimum. Prints a few contemporary appreciations of Ralegh, including Spenser’s dedicatory sonnets from The Faerie Queene.

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  • Padel, Ruth, ed. Sir Walter Ralegh: Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 2010.

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    A volume from the Faber series “poet to poet.” Prints forty texts “by or attributed to” Ralegh, arranging them in an order which the editor hopes can let “them speak to each other,” with a brief introduction. The inclusion of several “Exchanges and Ripostes,”—among which are poems by Queen Elizabeth, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and Edmund Spenser—may serve to contextualize Ralegh’s pieces within the lyric production of the Elizabeth era.

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  • Poole, Adrian, and Jeremy Maule, eds. The Oxford Book of Classical Verse in Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    This reprint of the 1995 edition includes some of the translations from the History of the World, the value of which can certainly be understood better when compared with other contemporary translations of the classics.

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  • Rudick, Michael, ed. The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: a Historical Edition. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Conjunction with Renaissance English Text Society, 1999.

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    A multi-version edition, printing sometimes several texts of the same poem, arranged chronologically. Includes a section of lyrics attributed to Ralegh after his death which may or may not aspire to canonical status, and an appendix with verse testimonials on Ralegh’s later years and on his death.

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  • Woudhuysen, Henry R., and David Norbrook, eds. The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse. London and New York: Penguin, 2005.

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    The only edition containing a correct transcript of The Ocean to Cynthia. A scholarly though accessible volume, organized by topics rather than chronologically, with concise and informative notes and an excellent introduction. Probably the best book for teaching undergraduates.

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Prose

While still an important primary source, Works of Sir Walter Ralegh (see Complete and Selected Works) does not include all of Ralegh’s prose writings. “A Dialogue between a Jesuit and a Recusant” (1611–1612) was printed in Echard 1700 (sigs. 2C4-2F3v), and in subsequent reprints, but has never been published in a modern edition. Some other prose pieces, even if limited in number, have appeared in 20th and 21st century scholarly articles and volumes. Latham 1965 (pp. 72–87) (see Complete and Selected Works) is still the text of choice for A Report of the Truth of the Fight about the Iles of Acores (the “Revenge” pamphlet, published anonymously in 1591). The untitled tract on the succession to the crown which Ralegh wrote (c. 1592–1593) was edited in Lefranc 1960. For The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empyre of Guiana (1595) and the manuscript “Of the Voyage for Guyana,” readers should turn to Lorimer 2006 (Harlow 1928 contains, however, interesting notes). Ralegh’s versions of the Cadiz Raid (called “Narrative of the Action in Cadiz Harbour” in May 1989, cited under General Critical Surveys) is now available in Latham and Youings 1999 (pp. 145–151) (see the Letters section). The untitled tract on the conduct of an offensive war against Spain (1596–1597) was first transcribed in Lefranc 1955. The “Instructions to his Son” (1603–1605) were edited, together with other Renaissance well-known “advices,” in Wright 1962. Fragments from “Of the Art of Warre by Sea” (1608–1609?) are included in Lefranc 1968 (pp. 597–601) (see General Critical Surveys). The texts relating to Ralegh’s second voyage (his Journal and “Apology,” 1617–1618) are printed, with notes and apparatus criticus, in Edwards 1988 (pp. 198–248) preceded by a learned and lively introduction on similar narratives from the period.

  • Echard, Laurence, ed. An Abridgment of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World. 3d ed. London: Matthew Gillyflower, 1700 (ESTC R25041).

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    Still the only source for the complete text of “A Dialogue between a Jesuit and a Recusant,” which the title page states to be “Publish’d by Phillip Raleigh, Esquire, the only grandson to Sir Walter”

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  • Edwards, Philip. Last Voyages: Cavendish, Hudson, Ralegh: The Original Narratives. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

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    A collection of narratives from famous voyagers and explorers of the Elizabethan and Jacobean Age. Presents modernized versions of Ralegh’s Journal of the second voyage to Guiana and of the “Apology” he wrote on his return. The latter text is derived from a collation of the printed, rather than manuscript, witnesses. Certainly the best source available, and a book which makes comfortable reading even for nonspecialists.

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  • Harlow V. T., ed. The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana. London: Argonaut, 1928.

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    The first modern scholarly edition of Ralegh’s Discovery, containing useful notes. Should be consulted together with Lorimer 2006.

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  • Lefranc, Pierre. “Un Inédit de Ralegh sur la conduite de la guerre (1596–1597).” Etudes Anglaises 8 (1955): 193–211.

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    Prints for the first time a tract dealing with the war against Spain, quite probably (see May 1989, cited under General Critical Surveys, p. 61) to be seen in relation to the earlier notes composed by Ralegh in response to Essex’s “Articles” on the same theme.

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  • Lefranc, Pierre. “Un inédit de Ralegh sur la succession.” Etudes Anglaises 13 (1960): 42–46.

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    Announces the discovery of Ralegh’s untitled tract on the succession to the crown, written probably c. 1592–1593. This work is seen here as yet another attempt to placate the Queen after Ralegh’s marriage to Elizabeth Throckmorton.

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  • Lorimer, Joyce, ed. Sir Walter Ralegh’s Discoverie of Guiana. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate for the Hakluyt Society, 2006.

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    Prints, on facing pages, annotated texts of a manuscript fair copy by Ralegh of the Discovery and the printed version. Includes the short memorial “Of the Voyage of Guiana,” and a very useful detailed introduction, in which Lorimer analyzes the genesis of the text and the causes for its revision.

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  • Wright, Louis B., ed. Advice to a Son: Precepts of Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Francis Osborne. Ithaca, NY: Published for the Folger Shakespeare Library by Cornell University Press, 1962.

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    An edition of three famous testamentary notes by eminent figures of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, which contextualizes Ralegh’s “Instructions to his Son” within the Renaissance genre of the “Advice.”

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Letters

While many of Ralegh’s letters have appeared in various publications from Works of Sir Walter Ralegh to Hammond 1986 (see Editions), the only two scholarly collections available to date are the two listed below. One should note, however, that not all of the existing copies of Ralegh’s missives have been collated in these volumes, and some original letters are still unpublished. Edwards 1868 presents the letters with occasional brief introductions for individual items or groups of items, and a lengthy narrative of Ralegh’s life (in Vol. 1). Given the large amount of materials, almost inevitably the transcripts in Latham and Youings 1999 are not immune from error, and scholars should be alert to this fact, especially if working on Ralegh’s idiosyncratic spellings. Some important notes on the corpus and manuscript circulation of Ralegh’s missives are also contained in the introduction to Beal 1980 (see General Reference Works and Data Resources).

  • Edwards, Edward. The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. Based on Contemporary Documents . . . Together with His Letters; Now First Collected. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1868.

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    The second volume presents an edition of 166 letters, and includes an interesting appendix with fourteeen letters by Ralegh’s wife Elizabeth Throckmorton (not included in Latham and Youings 1999). The prefatory notes are still worthy of consideration, as they provide a context on otherwise almost unintelligible materials. Available via The Internet Archive.

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  • Latham, Agnes Mary Christabel, and Joyce A. Youings, eds. The Letters of Sir Walter Ralegh. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1999.

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    This scholarly and handsomely produced edition prints 228 letters, with concise but helpful notes and a detailed introduction. The transcriptions contain occasional minor errors, which should be kept in mind when consulting this volume for scholarly use.

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General Critical Surveys

The notorious problems of authorship which plague the Ralegh canon have not made work easy for critics. A significant number of the books and articles quoted in this and in the section devoted to Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works in fact seem to be affected by the uncertainties regarding the corpus of the authentic pieces. Statements such as those relating to Ralegh’s “Machiavellianism” or general affirmations on details of style, especially with regard to the poetry, should sometimes be taken cum grano salis. Typical in this respect are Edwards 1953 (which accepts the largest part of the poetry canon as established in Edwards 1868; see Editions: Letters) and Lefranc 1968, a book written by the pioneer of modern Ralegh studies. This 700-plus-page book supplies an almost overwhelming amount of data and valuable comments. These should, however, be checked against and integrated with the important corrections contained in May 1989, and the findings of other less-known scholars: Crinò 1963, for example, transcribes some unpublished materials from the Florence archives relating to Ralegh’s brief release from the Tower in 1592, which have frequently been ignored by later studies. An often-quoted volume, Greenblatt 1973, emphasizes the complex interplay of art and life in Ralegh’s existence and writings, together with his penchant for self-dramatizing. While such an interpretation may sometimes obscure the many facets of the character of Elizabeth’s favorite (concisely surveyed also in Latham 1964), this book was the first to rehabilitate some aspects of Ralegh’s style, such as the habit of repetition and self-quotation, which previous publications (including Lefranc 1968) had probably too hastily considered as “lack of poetic vein.” May 1989 is still the standard critical survey and the only book-length complete treatment of both Ralegh’s prose and poetry; the commentary refers mostly to the poetic texts as edited in Michael Rudick’s unpublished PhD dissertation of 1970. May 1999 (discussed in Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry) presents a new edition and an updated commentary of some of the poems.

  • Crinò, Anna M. Sir Walter Ralegh nella letteratura e nella storia. Verona, Italy: Ghidini e Fiorini, 1963.

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    A brief account of Ralegh’s life and works, written with an eye to his European reputation, also containing interesting notes on some of the original documents in foreign archives.

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  • Edwards, Philip. Sir Walter Ralegh. London: Longmans, Green, 1953.

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    This book should be considered a study of Ralegh’s intellectual achievements rather than a classic “literary biography.” Edwards divides the prose writings into two categories, the prose of “action” and that of “reflection.” A long section is devoted to The Ocean to Cynthia.

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  • Greenblatt, Stephen. Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973.

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    A model for many subsequent followers of “new historicism” and an important contribution to Ralegh criticism. The analysis of the poetry is chiefly based on Latham 1951 (see Editions: Poetry) and Lefranc 1968, but contains occasional significant remarks on the canon (see, e.g., the section on the authorship of “The Lie”).

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  • Latham, Agnes M. C. Sir Walter Ralegh. London: Longmans, Green, 1964.

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    A concise but lively pamphlet written for the British Council series “Writers and their Work,” which emphasizes Ralegh’s many roles, stressing the fact that writing was just one aspect of his extraordinarily busy life.

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  • Lefranc, Pierre. Sir Walter Ralegh, écrivain: L’œuvre et les idées. Paris: A. Colin, 1968.

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    Discusses and provides contexts for most of Ralegh’s texts, printing much unpublished material. Some sections (such as, for example, the one devoted to the evidence that the History of the World was dictated) deserve careful reconsideration. Nonetheless, still an important source for Ralegh criticism.

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  • May, Steven W. Sir Walter Ralegh. Twayne’s English Authors Series. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

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    A concise, elegant, and still unrivaled monograph on Ralegh as a writer, which includes a brief biography and a detailed analysis of the canon of his prose and poetry. Can be consulted in tandem with May 1999 (see Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry), which includes a new edition of some of the poems. A must read for Ralegh scholars, but, given its clarity and legibility, also suitable for undergraduates.

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Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works

While few critics have dared to deal with the entire production of Ralegh’s literary genius, a number of studies have analyzed individual works or topics in his oeuvre. Over the last few decades, researchers have been particularly attracted by his Jacobean prose, which has frequently been seen in relation to the change of regime which took place with the accession of James I (see Beer 1996, cited under Legacy); Salas 1996 and Beer 1997 are typical in this respect. The absence of a reliable edition of the poems until Rudick 1999 has generally deterred scholars from writing comprehensive surveys of Ralegh’s poetry; nevertheless, some important contributions for the understanding of substantial parts of his lyrical output have appeared as monographs (a notable example being May 1999, cited under Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry) and in scholarly journals. The arrangement of this section—necessarily, a selection focusing on the late 20th century to the early 21st century—is meant to reflect such a division.

Prose

Providing both a reliable summary of earlier scholarship, and a detailed analysis of contemporary readers’ marginalia to The History of the World as well as of Ralegh’s Tower notebook, Popper 2012 is a very good starting point to understand Ralegh’s prose in the context of contemporary historical theory and practice. On this work, readers should also consult Racin 1974, the only previous monograph on this topic, and Beer 1997, an important study which provides a wealth of information on the reception of Ralegh’s Jacobean works. Beer 2003 provides new details on “A Dialogue Betweene a Counsellor of State and a Justice of Peace” (“The Prerogative of Parliaments in England”), which is here excellently contextualized in a volume entirely devoted to the 1614 Parliament. The implicit criticism of James I’s foreign policy is examined in Salas 1996, an interesting article which can also provide, together with Popper 2012, further bibliographic information on this topic.

  • Beer, Anna R. Sir Walter Ralegh and His Readers in the Seventeenth Century: Speaking to the People. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230371606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that works such as The History of the World and “A Dialogue Between a Counsellor of State and a Justice of Peace” show Ralegh’s move from court service to opposition, which in many respects was also reflected in a move from manuscript to print, and to a decidedly “public” identity. Such a process, which began during Ralegh’s lifetime becomes—Beer argues—clearly discernible and significantly important in the decades following Ralegh’s death.

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  • Beer, Anna R. “Sir Walter Ralegh’s ‘Dialogue Betweene a Counsellor of State and a Justice of Peace.’” In The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives. Edited by S. Clucas and R. Davies, 127–141. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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    Ralegh’s work is here seen as response to the “perceived failure” of the 1614 Parliament. The Dialogue, in fact, engaged with the delicate issues such as royal prerogative and absolutism, taxation and common law, and incarnates a strong defense of “the need for a public sphere characterized by freedom of speech.”

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  • Popper, Nicholas. Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226675022.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of the genesis and reception of Ralegh’s monumental opus, which casts a new light not only on his scholarly techniques and use of historical sources, but also on contemporary readings of this complex and often misunderstood work.

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  • Racin, John. Sir Walter Ralegh as Historian: An Analysis of “The History of the World.” Salzburg: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universität Salzburg, 1974.

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    Contains insightful analyses and an important discussion on the transmission history of Ralegh’s History of the World. Should be consulted together with Popper 2012.

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  • Salas, Charles G. “Ralegh and the Punic Wars.” Journal of the History of Ideas 57.2 (1996): 195–215.

    DOI: 10.1353/jhi.1996.0021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An essay focusing mostly on the description of the struggle between Rome and Carthage in Book V of The History of the World. Salas notes Ralegh’s emphasis on the effects of Providence on the course of the events, and analyzes his comparison of the tactics employed by the English with those of the Carthaginians, pointing out that these pages are a significant, even if oblique, critique of James I’s policy.

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Poetry

While a number of articles written before the 1990s such as Stillman 1987 can supply important appreciations of Ralegh’s lyrics (most of these may be found in Armitage 1987, cited under Bibliographies) (pp. 154–195), much late-20th-century and early-21st-century criticism has tended to focus on philological as well as on aesthetical issues. Many of the studies listed below, in fact, contribute to a reevaluation of the Ralegh canon and of the concrete circumstances of composition of his poems (on which readers can consult Edwards 1974, May 1999, Bajetta 1996, Bajetta 1998, May 1989 and Rudick 1999, the latter two cited under the General Critical Surveys and Editions: Poetry sections, respectively). This is also true of some articles which have focused on individual pieces: the date of Ralegh’s longest poem, “The Ocean to Cynthia,” is discussed in Duncan-Jones 1970 by means of an analysis of both external and internal evidence, while Gibson 1999 identifies for the first time the French and Italian sources for “Farewell false love” as well as pointing to the target of its critique, the Neoplatonic ideal of love. Another feature of recent criticism is the attention to the physical embodiment of Ralegh’s text, which, while present in most of the studies below, has been recently brought to the foreground in Eckhardt 2009.

  • Bajetta, Carlo M. “Ralegh’s Early Poetry and its Metrical Context.” Studies in Philology 93.4 (1996): 390–411.

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    Examines the mise en page of two of Ralegh’s early poems, in which a medial caesura is marked by a comma, and compares this with the theoretical statements and practice of some contemporaries such as George Gascoigne, Thomas Churchyard, and George Whetstone, noting that the environment of the Inns of Court and of Gascoigne’s coterie was the medium through which the young poet, quite probably, received his early training.

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  • Bajetta, Carlo M. Sir Walter Ralegh: poeta di corte elisabettiano. Milan: Mursia, 1998.

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    Discusses the canon and genesis of Ralegh’s poetry, focusing mostly on its Elizabethan phase. The analysis of the contemporary manuscript circulation provides new dates and contexts for some of the lyrics. This book includes a short biography, and a chapter on the criticism up to the late 1990s that may be useful for readers interested in the history of Ralegh criticism.

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  • Duncan-Jones, Katherine. “The Date of Raleigh’s ‘21th: And Last Booke of the Ocean To Scinthia.’” Review of English Studies 21.82 (1970): 143–158.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/XXI.82.143Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reevaluates John Hannah’s theory that this section of Ralegh’s poem was not composed in 1592 but during his second imprisonment in the Tower, possibly between 1603 and 1612. An excellent essay, which still deserves attention and may be useful as a methodological guide for students.

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  • Eckhardt, Joshua. Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199559503.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses (see in particular chapter 2) many of Ralegh’s poems in the context of early-17th-century handwritten English poetry anthologies. Includes a very useful and thorough bibliography of manuscript sources.

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  • Edwards, Philip. “Who Wrote The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage?” English Literary Renaissance 4.1 (1974): 83–97.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.1974.tb01291.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that this poem was quite probably composed by a Catholic, which is clearly an argument against Ralegh’s authorship.

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  • Gibson, Jonathan. “French and Italian Sources for Ralegh’s ‘Farewell False Love.’” Review of English Studies 50.198 (1999): 155–165.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/50.198.155Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies the precedents for Ralegh’s text in parts of two long poems, one by Philippe Desportes, “Contr’amour,” and another sometimes attributed to Egidio da Viterbo or to Giovambattista Lapini, “Là v’é l‘aurora,” to which Desportes’s text is itself indebted. Through the links with these texts, Gibson convincingly shows that “Farewell false love” should be read as a response to Baldassarre Castiglione’s depiction of Neoplatonic love in his Book of the Courtier.

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  • May, Steven W. The Elizabethan Courtier Poets: The Poems and their Contexts. Asheville, NC: Pegasus, 1999.

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    Provides an excellent analysis of Ralegh’s poems in the context of the lyrical production at Court during the reign of Elizabeth. Ralegh is seen, together with his cousin Arthur Gorges and the Earl of Essex, as a “utilitarian” poet, whose lyrics served very concrete, as well as literary, aims. A very useful study for specialists, this book is certainly to be recommended to postgraduate students working on the Elizabethan period.

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  • Stillman, Robert E. “‘Words Cannot Knytt’: Language and Desire in Ralegh’s ‘The Ocean to Cynthia.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 27.1 (1987): 35–51.

    DOI: 10.2307/450639Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that Ralegh’s imprisonment in the Tower in 1592 led him to see the mystification behind the mythology surrounding the queen he once served and worshipped, and that his language betrays his disillusion with a world in which all things decay, including love.

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Selected Historical Topics

Some of the existing Biographies devote considerable space to many of the crucial elements of Ralegh’s life, such as his background and family ties, his early years in Ireland (and his later attempts at an efficient exploitation of his Munster possessions), his coming to Court, his American enterprises, and the complex (and frequently misunderstood) final “Jacobean” phase of his existence. A number of studies, however, can provide additional information on context as well as important details for the study of individual aspects of Ralegh’s multifaceted career.

Adventurer and Colonist in Ireland and the Americas

While the extensive researches of David Beers Quinn have provided scholars with a huge set of documents and with perceptive analyses of the surviving evidence (both textual and archeological) related to America, Ralegh’s dealings in Ireland have been explored in less detail. Together with consulting the bibliography quoted here under Ireland, readers will probably find useful sources of information in some of the studies which analyze the Ralegh-Spenser relationship (quoted under Ralegh’s Family and Entourage).

The Americas

In many respects, Quinn 1973 is a classic, analyzing as it does Ralegh’s long-lasting contribution to early modern (and later) ideologies of British colonialism (on which see also Moran 2006), while Quinn 2010 and Quinn 1985 provide abundant information on the “lost” Roanoke colony. Much of this data has been analyzed also in Kupperman 2007, a concise but very helpful volume which can provide undergraduates with essential information (further summarized in Nicholls and Williams 2011, cited under Biographies). Edwards 1988 and Lorimer 2006 (cited under Editions: Prose) provide annotated texts related to Ralegh’s Guiana journeys, with a useful commentary; on these voyages, Nicholl 1996 provides amusing and instructive reading. In order to get a wider perspective on many topics related to the main theme of this section, readers may also want to turn to the Oxford Bibliographies Atlantic History article “Tudor and Stuart Britain in the Wider World, 1485–1685” by Ken MacMillan.

  • Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

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    A revised version of the original 1984 edition, it discusses the various colonization attempts and the fate of the first English settlers in the New World, who probably adapted to life as Indians. Kupperman argues that, had the flaws in the early plans been properly understood, some of the later errors at Jamestown might have been avoided.

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  • Moran, Michael G. Inventing Virginia: Sir Walter Raleigh and the Rhetoric of Colonization, 1584–1590. Early American Literature and Culture Through the American Renaissance 7. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

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    An analysis of the communicative strategies of the narratives and texts associated with the Roanoke expeditions. Moran significantly emphasizes their instrumental use of rhetoric in order to convey Ralegh’s idea of colonization.

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  • Nicholl, Charles. The Creature in the Map: Sir Walter Ralegh’s Quest for El Dorado. London: Vintage, 1996.

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    Narrates the journey to the “golden city”, which Nicholl undertook in 1995, four centuries after Ralegh’s first South American expedition (significantly, it was originally published as The Creature in the Map: A Journey to El Dorado. London: Cape, 1995). Halfway between scholarship and travelog, this enjoyable volume analyzes Raleigh’s imagery in The Discovery of Guiana and brings to light some interesting evidence as to the details of his enterprise.

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  • Quinn, David Beers. Ralegh and the British Empire. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.

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    Originally published in 1947, it represents Quinn’s influential view of Ralegh as a theorist, rather than a real maker of the modern idea of colonialism. This book emphasizes Ralegh’s “British” enlightened self-interest as the salient element of his enterprises.

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  • Quinn, David B. Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584–1606. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

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    Published for America’s Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee; an elegantly written, legible, and full account (if lengthy, at more than four hundred pages) of the attempts to colonize North America between 1584 and 1590.

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  • Quinn, David B., ed. The Roanoke Voyages, 1584–1590: Documents to Illustrate the English Voyages to North America Under the Patent Granted to Walter Raleigh in 1584. 2 vols. Hakluyt Society, 2nd Ser. 104. London: Ashgate, 2010.

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    Dating back to 1955, this is still the best collection of documents relating to the first attempts to establish a British settlement in “Northern America.” Includes, among other sources, material from Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1589), and a useful descriptive list of John White’s drawings of the first colony.

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Ireland

Ralegh’s activities in Ireland have been discussed in a number of publications by Irish history specialists (see Armitage 1987 and Armitage 2013, quoted under Bibliographies), as well as in most of his modern Biographies. Two well-known publications, Hennessy 2009 and Quinn 1966, may however still be consulted with profit. Canny 1987 is an excellent concise introduction to the theme.

Ralegh, Elizabeth I, James I, and the Court

While readers should certainly turn to May 1999 (mentioned in Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry) to find an elegant and lucid general account of the structure of the Elizabethan court and of the role of poetry and poets therein, other monographs can provide detailed information on specific topics and on some of the most important figures whom Ralegh had to confront almost daily. Studies such as Handover 1959 and Hammer 1999, in fact, can enhance one’s understanding of Elizabethan politics and of daily life ‘in the fast lane’—and consequently of Ralegh’s role at, and attitude to, the Court until 1603 (the dawn of Ralegh’s career is, instead, discussed in May 2008). For the later period Peck 1982 and Croft 2003 can be very useful, the latter especially for nonspecialists. Lyons 2012 is one of the few volumes to deal with the often complex relationship between Ralegh and Elizabeth in a realistic and not idealized way (for a different, earlier view, one can consult Oakeshott 1960). One should note that Covington 2010 lists numerous important sources for the study both of the Queen and of her court, and should be consulted alongside this section.

  • Covington, Sarah. Elizabeth I. In Oxford Bibliographies: Renaissance and Reformation. Edited by Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A key to both essential early sources and recent scholarship on Queen Elizabeth. A very useful starting point for both students and scholars in need of guidance in what Covington picturesquely defines as “the historiographic house of Gloriana.”

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  • Croft, J. Pauline. King James. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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    A concise and elegant overview of the reign of King James in both Scotland and England, which takes into due consideration the impact of modern historical research on the understanding of the period.

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  • Elliott John H., and L. W. B. Brockliss, eds. The World of the Favourite. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

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    A very useful book on the wider context of favourites in the Renaissance.

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  • Hammer, Paul E. J. The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585–1597. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Investigates a crucial period in Essex’s life, the one between his arrival at court in 1585 and his appointment as Earl Marshal at the end of 1597. Can be consulted for a thorough bibliography of printed and manuscript sources.

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  • Handover, Phyllis Margaret. The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563–1604, of Sir Robert Cecil, Later First Earl of Salisbury. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1959.

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    Explores Cecil’s early career, so dissimilar from, but frequently intersecting, that of Ralegh.

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  • Lyons, Mathew. The Favourite: Ralegh and His Queen. London: Constable, 2012.

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    First published as The Favourite: Ambition, Politics and Love: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I’s Court (2009). A knowledgable volume, which reads like a novel, and which not only focuses on Elizabeth’s and Ralegh’s relationship but also examines their early life and the events which shaped their temperaments, often finding interesting similarities.

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  • May, Steven W. “How Ralegh Became a Courtier.” John Donne Journal 27 (2008): 131–140.

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    Discusses the early phases of Ralegh’s career, reassessing the evidence of contemporary sources and emphasizing his competence in Irish affairs.

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  • Oakeshott, Walter. The Queen and the Poet. London: Faber and Faber, 1960.

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    While being a delightful book to read, this account of Ralegh and Elizabeth’s relationship is marred by Oakeshott’s use of numerous noncanonical poems, which provide a key to his narrative. If taken with a grain of salt, it can still offer an interesting reading of Ralegh’s texts.

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  • Peck, Linda Levy. Northampton: Patronage and Policy at the Court of James I. London: Allen & Unwin, 1982.

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    Discusses the figure of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton after the accession of King James—the appointment brought him long sought after favor, and finally allowed him to see the fall of his old enemy, Ralegh.

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Ralegh’s Family and Entourage

Details as to Ralegh’s early life and relatives are available in Nicholls and Williams 2011 and in Lyons 2012 (mentioned respectively in the Biographies and Ralegh, Elizabeth I, James I, and the Court sections), but many volumes provide key elements for an understanding of Ralegh’s formative years and later life. Ralegh’s family ties, which he often put to good use, are explored in Chidsey 1932 and Rowse 2013. Bess Throckmorton and her family are the subject of Rowse 1962 and Beer 2003, the latter a volume that presents hitherto unknown facts about Ralegh’s wife. Shirley 1983, a biography of Ralegh’s collaborator and friend Thomas Harriot, also casts light on other important friendships and business relations with such people as Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, the painter John White, and Ralph Lane (the latter two both members of the first Virginia exploration crew). While Ralegh’s literary relations are frequently dealt with in the standard biographies, readers may want to turn to specific monographs and studies such as Gibson 1998 and Austen 2008. On Spenser in particular, Hadfield 2012 and Oram, et al. 2001 can be very important sources of information. For a full bibliography see Andrew Hadfield’s entry “Edmund Spenser” in Oxford Bibliographies: British and Irish Literature. A useful source of information is also Wayne Erickson, “Spenser and Ralegh,” in Armitage 2013 (cited under Bibliographies) (pp. 89–99).

  • Austen, Gillian. George Gascoigne. Woodbridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2008.

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    By now the standard biography of Gascoigne, whose influence on Ralegh and his contemporaries has been often underrated.

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  • Beer, Anna R. My Just Desire: The Life of Bess Ralegh, Wife to Sir Walter. New York: Ballantine, 2003.

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    A monograph which finally does justice to Elizabeth Throckmorton-Ralegh, seen here as a complex and commanding figure who had a significant influence on her husband.

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  • Chidsey, D. B. Sir Humphrey Gilbert: Elizabeth’s Racketeer. New York: Harper, 1932.

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    Includes important information on Ralegh’s cousin and on his large family ties, which probably provided Ralegh with his entry at court and furnished him with allies and collaborators for many of his enterprises.

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  • Gibson, Jonathan R. D. “Sir Arthur Gorges (1557–1625) and the Patronage System.” PhD diss., University of London, 1998.

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    The best account up to date of the life and works of Ralegh’s cousin and friend, and a mine of interesting information on manuscript sources.

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  • Hadfield, Andrew. Edmund Spenser: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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    A magisterially written revisionist biography, which sees Spenser as a severe critic of the Elizabethan establishment and argues that Spenser’s literary relationship with Ralegh was, quite probably, just limited to a short period. A must-read for any postgraduate student.

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  • Oram, William A., Michael Rudick, et al. “Spenser and Ralegh: Four Papers in Exchange.” Spenser Studies 15 (2001): 165–204.

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    Featuring essays by William A. Oram (“What did Spenser Really Think of Sir Walter Ralegh When He Published the First Installment of The Faerie Queene?”), Wayne Erickson (“Spenser Reads Ralegh’s Poetry in(to) the 1590 Faerie Queene”), Jerome S. Dees, (“Colin Clout and the Shepherd of the Ocean”) and a concluding commentary on the three essays by Michael Rudick.

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  • Rowse, Alfred Leslie. Ralegh and the Throckmortons. London: Macmillan, 1962.

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    Based on the discovery of the diary of Sir Arthur Throckmorton, son of the Elizabethan diplomat Sir Nicholas, it provides important details both on the family Ralegh married into and on his secret matrimony to Arthur’s sister, Elizabeth. This was the first publication to provide new elements on Ralegh’s 1592 conviction and to reveal the existence of a first child (who died in infancy), Damerei. (US edition: Sir Walter Ralegh, His Family and Private Life. New York: Harper and Row, 1962).

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  • Rowse, Alfred Leslie. Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge. London: Faber & Faber, 2013.

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    This reprint of Rowse’s first full-length published historical monograph (1937) narrates the life and death of Grenville, Ralegh’s cousin and a hero of the Battle of Flores, discussing his relationship with Ralegh and their dealings with the Irish and American colonies.

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  • Shirley, John William. Thomas Harriot: A Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

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    Discusses Harriot’s lifelong ties with Ralegh, from his employment as Ralegh’s cartographer during the first Virginia expedition to his note-taking of Ralegh’s last words on the scaffold.

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Ideology

Ralegh’s ideas, beliefs, and ideals have been investigated in various publications, including, most notably, Lefranc 1968 and Greenblatt 1973 (see General Critical Surveys). These studies, in fact, managed to put into perspective what had so far been two rather popular and long-lasting critical trends, which will be labeled here as the “Machiavellian” and “School of night” theories. The precursor of the former was certainly Kempner 1928, a volume which, unfortunately, takes as authentic some later spurious prose works, but which enjoyed significant reputation until well into the mid-20th century. Praz 1929 is symptomatic in this respect, and constitutes an interesting via media which many later scholars chose to follow. Acheson 1903 was the first to identify Ralegh’s circle (in Acheson’s book, a “school of night” whose “spokesman” was the poet George Chapman) as the target of Shakespeare’s satire in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Some influential editions of the play, such as the one in the original Cambridge series, built upon this theory, which was further elaborated in 1936, when Bradbrook 2011 appeared for the first time. It took the lucid critique elaborated in Strathmann 1951 and Lefranc’s later detailed survey of evidence to put an end to the habit of quoting Ralegh and “his group of followers” when glossing Act IV, Scene 3, 252–254 of Shakespeare’s play. Racin 1974 (cited under Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Prose) contributed to a radical reinterpretation of Ralegh’s views on history; one may note, however, that Praz 1929 had already dismissed any simplistic parallelism between Machiavelli and the author of The History of the World. Profiting also from Racin’s findings, Popper 2012 (see, again, Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Prose) provides an up-to-date analysis of Ralegh’s idea of history and of the role of the historian. Hiscock 2007 offers both a concise synthesis of earlier studies on the topic and a survey of ancient and Renaissance views of memory and of how these affected Ralegh’s thinking.

  • Acheson, Arthur. Shakespeare and the Rival Poet. London and New York: John Lane, 1903.

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    Identifies Chapman as the “Rival poet”, and discusses in chapter 2 how Chapman, Ralegh, and others are all seen as the group of scholars satirized in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. Available via The Internet Archive.

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  • Bradbrook, M. C. The School of Night: A Study in the Literary Relationships of Sir Walter Raleigh. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    First printed in 1936, this book still enjoys popularity, as witnessed by the Cambridge reprint. While its central argument is disproved by Strathmann 1951, some sections of it still prove lively and enjoyable, and an interesting survey of contemporary thought.

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  • Hiscock, Andrew. “Walter Ralegh and the Arts of Memory.” Literature Compass 4.4 (2007): 1030–1058.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2007.00463.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Ralegh was deeply interested in memory, seen as a strategic resource with which to formulate identity, analyze personal and social history, and even “reconfigure the possibilities of human epistemology.” An engaging study that can be read with profit by postgraduate students working on either Ralegh or on the more general theme of Renaissance thinking.

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  • Kempner, Nadja. Raleghs staatstheoretische Schriften: Eine Einführung des Machiavellismus in England. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1928.

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    Traces the influence of Aristotle, Jean Bodin and Niccolò Machiavelli on Ralegh, arguing strongly for a significant presence of the ideas of the Italian thinker in the works of the former favorite of Elizabeth (including some spurious prose pieces such the Cabinet Council). While outdated, this is still the only book-length attempt at an analysis of the links between Ralegh and the political theories of these thinkers.

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  • Praz, Mario. “Un Machiavellico inglese: Sir Walter Raleigh.” La Cultura 8.1 (1929): 16–27.

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    This article, influenced by Kempner 1928, lucidly identifies Ralegh’s characteristic traits (such as his theatricality) and provides an acute reading of the The History of the World. The latter, in fact, is seen as a work more in the tradition of the fathers of 17th century historiography (such as Daniello Bartoli) than in the spirit of Machiavelli.

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  • Strathmann, Ernest Albert. Sir Walter Ralegh, a Study in Elizabethan Skepticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1951.

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    Brings forth evidence which can help dismiss the “School of Night” theory. This volume is a significant contribution to the understanding of Renaissance thinking, and elegantly portrays Ralegh’s capacity to harmonize orthodoxy, scientific inquiry and modern philosophical thinking.

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Ralegh’s Trials and Execution

Much has been said on Attorney General Edward Coke’s unjust treatment of Ralegh and of his instrumental use of “evidence” at his trial, as well on James I’s unwavering determination to see Ralegh executed. While Nicholls and Williams 2011 (cited under Biographies) (chapters 8–9; 13) provides a superb account of the 1603 arraignment at Winchester and of the 1618 examination before the King’s commissioners (on which see also Harlow 1928, in Editions: Prose, and Nicholls 1995), some other studies present interesting perspectives on these events. Both Sellin 2011 and Dale 2011 bring forward new evidence as to possible “plots” against Ralegh; certainly, as Cunningham 1992 and Nicholls 1995 demonstrate, the accusations, while in theory solidly based on Lord Cobham’s confession, were in fact founded on a mix of calibrated rhetoric and suppositions.

  • Cunningham, Karen. “‘A Spanish Heart in an English Body’: The Ralegh Treason Trial and the Poetics of Proof.” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 22 (1992): 327–351.

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    Examines Coke’s strategies in the proceedings, noting, quite interestingly, that he used the Ralegh trial as a forum for personal propaganda, where he voiced his idea that James I, lineal heir of Edward IV, was the rightful King of England.

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  • Dale, Richard. Who Killed Sir Walter Raleigh? Stroud, UK: History Press, 2011.

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    Chapters 9–11 provide a detailed account and examination of Ralegh’s trial from a legal perspective, arguing that Cecil was the real mastermind of his downfall in 1603.

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  • Nicholls, Mark. “Sir Walter Ralegh’s Treason: A Prosecution Document.” English Historical Review 110 (1995): 902–924.

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    Examines some hitherto unprinted documents related to Ralegh’s “treason” used at the 1603 trial. Should be consulted alongside Nicholls and Williams 2011 (cited under Biographies).

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  • Sellin, Paul R. Treasure, Treason and the Tower: El Dorado and the Murder of Sir Walter Raleigh. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Prints unpublished documents in Swedish archives which suggest a secret agreement between George Villers, Duke of Buckingham, and the King of Sweden to invade the Lower Orinoco region in order to locate and exploit Ralegh’s gold mine near St. Tome.

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Legacy

The considerable manuscript circulation of Ralegh’s poems in the 17th century, the appearance of a large number of 17th and 18th century publications which purported to print works by him (see Beal 1980 and May and Ringler 2004, both cited under General Reference Works and Data Resources, and May 1999, cited under Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Poetry) bear witness to the long-lasting popularity of both his figure and his works well into the age of Milton and Pope. Ralegh’s last words on the scaffold and texts related to his fall were transcribed for almost a century (see Marotti 1995 under General Reference Works and Data Resources and Beer 1996). Beer 1997 (in particular chapters 5–6; see Criticism on Specific Aspects of Ralegh’s Works: Prose) examines the circulation of his works from the 1620s to the 1650s. Hill 2001 shows how influential Ralegh’s thinking was during the English civil war, an influence which was still felt until Defoe (see Defoe 1993). While the 19th century was the age of the first modern biographies and editions of his works (some of which are listed in the Editions and Biographies sections), poets like Tennyson could find inspiration in his prose to compose verse narratives such as “A Ballad of the Fleet,” which was written with Ralegh’s book at hand (see Bajetta 2000). That Ralegh has always been and still is an attractive figure for artists, filmmakers, and poets is probably best shown by Anderson 2013, Padel 2010 (cited under Editions: Poetry), and Westbrook 2013. One hopes that such an interest on the part of modern intellectuals may prove long lasting.

  • Anderson, Susan Campbell. “Where’s Walter? The Screen Incarnations of Sir Walter Ralegh.” In Literary and Visual Ralegh. Edited by Christopher Armitage, 348–376. Manchester, NH: Manchester University Press, 2013.

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    Analyzes the filmic representations of Ralegh since 1925. Includes a filmography of both TV and film productions up to 2011.

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  • Bajetta, Carlo M. “Tennyson and Ralegh’s ‘Revenge.’” RSV: Rivista di Studi Vittoriani 5.10 (2000): 115–138.

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    Examines the manuscript containing the draft of Tennyson’s “The Revenge: a Ballad of the Fleet.” The analysis of this volume shows that Tennyson was busy collecting information on the Elizabethan period at the same time as he was composing this poem, and that he followed Ralegh’s narrative very closely, even in its polemical overtones.

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  • Beer, Anna. “Textual Politics: The Execution of Sir Walter Ralegh.” Modern Philology 94.1 (1996): 19–38.

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    Argues that Ralegh’s final speech—to which the State did not manage to respond adequately—marked the climax of Ralegh’s attempt to find a “public voice,” and that it revealed, in any case, “a weakness in Jacobean statecraft that would be exposed to the full in the decades after the execution” (p. 20).

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  • Defoe, Daniel. La vita e le imprese di Sir Walter Ralegh. Edited and translated by Lidia de Michelis. Palermo, Italy: Sellerio, 1993.

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    An Italian edition of Defoe’s life of Ralegh, with a useful and learned introduction which discusses Ralegh’s legacy in the 18th century.

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  • Fleck, Andrew. “‘At the Time of His Death’: Manuscript Instability and Walter Ralegh’s Performance on the Scaffold.” Journal of British Studies 48.1 (2009): 4–28.

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    Analyzes the contemporary reports of Ralegh’s “speech on the scaffold” and their peculiar transmission, which is of great interest in understanding the extent of the almost immediate (and long-lasting) popularity of Ralegh’s last words. Reprinted and updated as “‘At the Time of His Death’: The Contested Narrative of Sir Walter Ralegh’s Beheading.” In Heads Will Roll: Decapitation in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination. Edited by Larissa Tracy and Jeff Massey, pp. 235–260. Leiden: Brill, 2012).

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  • Hill, Christopher. The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution - Revisited. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    This revised version of the very influential 1965 edition of Hill’s classic sees Ralegh as a free thinker and an author appreciated by many of the leaders of the Revolution, including Eliot and Pym.

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  • Westbrook, Vivienne. “Ralegh’s Image in Art.” In Literary and Visual Ralegh. Edited by Christopher Armitage, 327–347. Manchester, NH: Manchester University Press, 2013.

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    Surveys the ways in which Ralegh has been represented in art, from Hilliard’s miniature (c. 1581–1584) to Millais’s The Boyhood of Ralegh and up to the 21st century, including some famous advertising campaigns, tv and radio shows.

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