"Left to the world without a Maister": Sir Walter Ralegh's The History of the World as a public text

Beer, Anna R
Studies in Philology. Chapel Hill: Fall 1994. Vol. 91, Iss. 4;  pg. 432

Abstract (Article Summary)

Scholars believe that almost all of the works by Sir Walter Ralegh during the period between his imprisonment in 1603 and the death of Prince Henry in 1612 were related to the prince in some way. It is argued that the importance of their relationship has been overstated and that Ralegh's brief invocations of the prince within his text "The History of the World" should be read as a literary strategy rather than as a key to the work's structure and purpose.

Full Text (13969   words)

Copyright University of North Carolina Press Fall 1994

ALMOST all of the works written by Sir Walter Ralegh during the period between his imprisonment in 1603 and the death of Prince Henry in 1612 have been related by scholars to the prince in some way. Henry has been seen as the inspiration for a series of political and naval tracts, culminating in the monumental The History of the World, published in 1614. Characteristic of these interpretations is an assumption that Henry admired Ralegh and therefore solicited advice from him.(1) Their natural conclusion is that the death of the prince was disastrous for Ralegh's fortunes. These ideas underpin the most influential modern reading of The History, which describes Prince Henry as the work's original patron and argues that his death led to a loss of control over the narrative and thus prompted its abrupt ending.(2) The focus upon the connection between Henry and Ralegh reflects the concerns of new historicist literary criticism and revisionist political analysis, which seek to understand both literary texts and political life through the analysis of patronage relationships and thus construct, implicitly or explicitly, a model of literary production and political action that has at its heart the distribution of power from above. This article seeks to challenge this model, to direct attention away from Prince Henry and courtly patronage relationships, and instead to focus upon The History of the World as a public text.

It is not surprising that the prince has been at the center of recent analyses of The History. Ralegh inscribes him in the text as the "Maister" of the work, and hints that the prince requested that extra material be inserted:

Among the grosest, the vnsutable diuision of the bookes, I could not know how to excuse, had I not beene directed to inlarge the building after the foundation was laid, and the first part finished. (sig. E3r)(3)

From this allusion has grown the idea, erroneous but still current, that Henry delayed the publication of the work in order to add his own personal corrections.(4) He has also been described as a supportive patron, working for Ralegh's release, and thus the most important audience for The History, a view most recently rehearsed by Annabel Patterson and Steven May.(5)

Part three of this article will offer an alternative way of reading The History, one which seeks to move beyond an interpretation based upon the exigencies of the patronage system. First, however, my concern is to challenge some of the assumptions upon which previous readings have been based by means of a sceptical reassessment of the historical and bibliographical evidence concerning the prince and Ralegh. I argue that the importance of the relationship, in both political and literary terms, has been overstated and that Ralegh's brief invocations of the prince within his text should be read as a literary strategy rather than as a key to the work's structure and purpose. It will be demonstrated that Ralegh's pursuit of Henry's patronage was just one political strategy amongst others during this period, and, moreover, despite a number of reported expressions of support from the prince, it was not particularly successful.


Ralegh's actions during the early years of his imprisonment suggest that, at first, despite the knowledge of an unrevoked death sentence, he understood neither the serious nature of his predicament nor the strength of King James's hostility, perhaps because of the transitory nature of his disgraces under Queen Elizabeth.(6) Well into 1606 he still expected an imminent release.(7) In August of that year, however, his hopes were not improved when a supporter, Queen Anne's brother, Christian IV of Denmark, refused to intercede on his behalf.(8)

This disappointment marked the beginning of a period in which Ralegh actively attempted to gain his release from the Tower, and over the following years he focused his attentions on two areas. One was the projected colonization of Guiana: the lengthy negotiations, which were to culminate in the abortive voyage of 1617, began in 1607. Also in 1607 Ralegh took up his second project, the resumption of his writing career, concentrating on prose works, primarily of advice. As was the case throughout his life, it was political aspiration that motivated him to write.(9)

It was at this time that Ralegh began to look towards the young Prince Henry as a potential patron. In this he was not alone: there is no doubt that Henry came of age as a literary and a political patron in the years after 1607, and a number of people who were closely associated with Ralegh sought and gained patronage during this period.(10) Ralegh's search for favor has, however, been consistently inflated into a special relationship between the prince and the prisoner, a relationship supposedly reflected in the works written for Henry.

The textual evidence for such a special friendship is open to question. To begin with, two of the works which have been used by critics in their arguments are now known not to be by Ralegh: The Maxims of State and Cabiner-Council can thus be excluded from the argument.(11) This leaves Of the Art of War by Sea, a letter on shipbuilding, two tracts concerning marriages, Observations on the Navy, and, of course, The History of the World. Evidence concerning at least two of these texts challenges the assumption that Henry was Ralegh's sole inspirational patron during this period and that his death therefore marked an end to Ralegh's attempts to re-enter the system of literary clientage.

One of the texts, Of the Art of War by Sea, survives in only two manuscript fragments.(12) The work is linked to the prince by Ralegh himself in The History, when he claims that he stopped working on the text when Henry died, and of course offers parallels with the supposed catastrophic effect of Henry's death upon The History itself.(13) But, according to Thomas Wilson, Ralegh intended to revise The Art of War and then to dedicate it to the Duke of Buckingham. The textual history of a tract which is usually entitled Touching a Marriage between Prince Henry of England and a Daughter of Savoy offers further support for the idea that Henry was simply one in a sequence of intended audiences. In many manuscripts the tract is said to concern Prince Charles. One is entitled, for example, A politick Dispute about the Happiest Match for the noble and most hopefull prince Charles. Interestingly, the tract itself describes the prince concerned as eager to marry. Ralegh discourages marriage, partly because children are so expensive, and he goes on to say that he is "exceeding sorry the prince hath not the same desire." This does not correspond with Henry's reputed reluctance to marry and may suggest that Charles was indeed the original subject.(14) A post-Henry dating is thus plausible. What is more likely, however, is that a work written earlier about Prince Henry (the Savoyan marriage negotiations took place in March/April 1611) was appropriated to new circumstances. Whoever the original audience was, the fact that this tract, with its absence of names and its detached style, could have been applied to both princes suggests that claims for a particular or "familiar" tone in Ralegh's Henry-related work are misleading.

A letter to the prince which discusses the best way of building a ship raises different but related problems. Whilst the single manuscript copy begins "Most excellent Prince," the letter is strangely bare of courteous address: there is no flattery, no preamble, no conclusion. The text is simply a list of points about shipbuilding. Comparison of the letter and the Observations on the Navy suggests that the two texts are very closely related, and it is possible that the letter is in fact merely a fragment of the Observations. Even if it is accepted, however, that the letter is a separate document written by Ralegh and addressed to Henry, the specific advice contained in it was ignored by the prince. The methodology of shipbuilding advocated differs from that of the prince's favorite, Phineas Pett, whom Henry vigorously defended against justified and severe criticism during the 1608 investigation into the navy. It was Pett who was commissioned to build Henry's monumental ship, The Destiny, in direct contradiction of Ralegh's advice about the problems associated with large ships. This letter, which has been seen as advice requested by Henry, can be re-evaluated as advice tendered by Ralegh and rejected by the prince. Ralegh's actual influence upon the prince can therefore be shown to be limited.

In only one work from this period, a tract Concerning a Match propounded by the Savoyan, between the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince of Piedmont, do we have evidence that a policy document was requested by the prince. The tract can be dated to 1612, and was addressed to King James.(15) Ralegh opens the paper by writing that "to obey the commandment of my lord the prince, I have sent you my opinion of the match."(16) The existence of this work acts as a reminder that Henry was a powerful and significant source of literary and political patronage and that Ralegh pursued, and at times gained, Henry's political support. Clearly the death of the prince in November 1612 was a disaster for many of the poets who had benefitted from his patronage, and it certainly closed one avenue of help for Ralegh.(17) Henry's formative literary influence and the effect of his death have, however, been overestimated, since the evidence suggests that the majority of the works connected with the prince were unsolicited or ignored advice, or texts which had been or would be reworked for other patrons.

My argument is best illustrated by the textual history of Ralegh's Observations and Notes concerning the Royal Navy and Sea-Service. Until recently, Prince Henry was seen as the original audience of this work, and his death was seen to precipitate its (re)presentation in a different form. The Observations were viewed in tandem with an account of the 1597 Islands Voyage, written by Ralegh's cousin, Sir Arthur Gorges. The two works were said always to appear together, the only exception being when the Observations appeared alongside another work by Gorges, his Observations for a Sea Fight.(18) This bare outline of the work's audiences and transmission history is, however, insufficient in its detail, as has been demonstrated by Suzanne Gossett, in an article where she proves that the Observations originated in 1597-98.(19) It is also in sufficient in its range of vision. Subsequent to the Elizabethan version, the text was revised for at least three further audiences: in manuscript for Prince Henry in 1607, together with the Islands Voyage account; in presentation manuscript form for a selection of interested courtiers after Henry's death (also with the Islands Voyage text); and in print for a public audience in a collection of Raleghana, Judicious and Select Essayes and Observations (1650), in which the Observations appeared alone. A non-courtly audience had been able to read a published version of the Islands Voyage in 1625 in the collection of texts about exploration, Purchas His Pilgrimes.

In revising this work in 1607, Ralegh was entering a topical debate, since naval corruption was being investigated by a Commission. In a number of passages new to this version, Ralegh presents a pungent attack upon corruption and incompetence.(20) That Ralegh's views on shipbuilding challenged those of Pett was seen above in the discussion of the letter on the same subject. Henry's role as the formative influence is exposed as illusory, but, more importantly, when, after Henry's death, the works were revised once again and Arthur Gorges took on the authorship of both texts, the revised versions contain new rhetorical stances and display new tensions.(21) These developments reflect this version's position on the cusp of a transition from private, courtly communication to public, printed communication which would be the work's next incarnation. First, the genre is politicized. The work is signalled as history, a genre which is both truthful and "profitable...to reforme errors," if not always welcome to those in power. "Art" and "eloquence" are disclaimed in the interests of historical accuracy.(22) Secondly, there is no single patron, a circumstance which is underlined by an attack on the very practice of dedications:

Neither doe I by the dedication thereof to any great personage seeke to insinuate myselfe into publique opinion or grace well knowinge the worke to bee of noe such meritt, and my frostbitten fortunes allreadie to much distasted now to relish those Sunshininge fancies.(23)

The work is dedicated instead to "Noble England: my deare and Natiue Countrey."(24)

The transmission of the two works to a wider public, after Ralegh's death, reveals further developments in presentation. Purchas's 1625 publication of the Islands Voyage omits "The Epistle Dedicatorie," ostensibly for reasons of space. This omission visibly demonstrates the irrelevance of the courtly patronage system and its discourse to the work's new function and audience. The Observations and their preface were also omitted because Purchas thought the texts too dangerous to publish, both for himself and for the country; the work was not fit for "euery vulgar and notelesse eye."(25) In 1650, when the Observations appeared in print in a compilation of Ralegh's political writings, it was the 1607 version, together with its dedication to Henry, which was chosen for printing. This choice served to further reinforce the myth of the special relationship between Ralegh and the prince which was to grow throughout the seventeenth century.(26)

A study of the transmission history of the Observations and Islands Voyage serves to illustrate some wider cultural processes, moving beyond the kind of reading that seeks to locate a text in one historical moment or to link it to one patron. It can be seen that privately communicated manuscript advice to a future monarch emerges, via a number of different forms, as a public printed text in a collection of political commentaries. A work which begins within the court moves steadily outwards from the court to reach new audiences, a movement accompanied by an increasingly self-conscious announcement of ideological distance from that court and its written culture. The process is one of making public that which was private, publication. It is within this conceptual framework that I wish to place The History of the World, Ralegh's public history.

It is important at this point to offer a sceptical reassessment of the evidence which connects Henry with The History itself. When Annabel Patterson writes that Ralegh was only "conceiving" of Henry as "the primary audience," she reveals the limitations of a focus upon him as editor, patron, or reader (129). Ralegh can only "conceive" of Henry as audience because, during much of the time that the work was being written, the prince was dead. All that is clear is that Ralegh is keen for his readers to perceive Henry as the work's original patron. It can be argued that the death of Henry actually provided an opportunity for Ralegh, giving him a chance to create a retrospective special relationship which carried significance in the changing political climate. The prince who, living, had failed to help the imprisoned Ralegh in any material way, was to be more useful to the prisoner in death.(27) The brief invocations of Henry in The History may have provided a semblance of royal protection for his work, but, more importantly, they provided a justification for its publication.(28)

The amount of attention paid to Henry and, most recently, the effect of his death upon the ending of the work, has served to exclude consideration o other, more important, issues. To say that the work "failed as an act of clientage" is to marginalize its status as a best-seller; to ascribe all the work's formal problems (in particular its abrupt ending) to Ralegh's position as a client is too narrow an explanation; and to say that without Henry The History "faltered and petered out" is to dismiss the substantial portion of the work written after his death.(29)

It is not Henry but his public audience that Ralegh addresses in his preface, written in 1614 after the rest of the text had been completed, and to whom he offers, in an admittedly ambiguous way, further volumes:

I doe therefore for-beare to stile my Readers Gentle, Courteous, and Friendly, thereby to beg their good opinions, or to promise a second and third volume (which I also intend) if the first receiue grace and good acceptance. For that which is already done, may be thought enough. (sig. E4v)

In the final lines of The History, Ralegh draws attention to the very title of the work:

Lastly, whereas this Booke, by the title it hath, calles it selfe, The first part of the Generall Historie of the World, implying a Second and Third Volume; which I also intended, and haue hewne out. (B776)(30)

The presentation of a first volume of a work with the promise of further volumes was a standard procedure (one can point to The Faerie Queene or to Samuel Daniel's Brief History of England ). The inconclusive ending of The History is important only because Ralegh makes it so by connecting its form to the dead Prince Henry and his "many other discouragements" (B776).(31) Henry's death does not, therefore, terminate the project as such; it merely provides a coda for its first part.

The following reading of The History seeks to reaffirm the work's status as a public, political act on the part of the imprisoned Ralegh. It will consider three subjects: the circumstances of publication, the political implications of the imprisoned Ralegh's venture into print as an historian, and the ways in which he used the genre of history to promote a particular political agenda to a wide public. These issues will be discussed in discrete but related sections. An introductory section will argue that the very publication of The History of the World late in 1614 should be viewed as a political act, both in terms of Ralegh's individual career and within the larger framework of cultural development.(32) This is followed by an assessment of the significance of the choice of genre and a discussion of Ralegh's methods and messages. My concluding comments consider briefly the state and public responses to The History, in order to establish the nature of the work's political agency.


The History was registered in 1611 to William Stansby (printer) on behalf of Walter Burre (bookseller). The twin processes of printing and writing were to continue for the next three years, the Preface only being written during 1614.(33) It is illuminating that Ralegh was not alone in his move into print at this time. Stansby and Burre were involved with a number of writers who had strong connections with Ralegh, and, moreover, 1614 appears to be a crucial year for many of these authors.(34) Arthur Gorges, one of Ralegh's closest friends, published his first work in 1614, a translation of Lucan's Pharsalia, for which Ralegh himself wrote a prefatory sonnet. The translation was sold by Burre, whose only other investment during 1614 was The History. Ben Jonson, the author of the dedicatory poem to The History and tutor to Ralegh's son during 1612-13, had as his main bookseller Burre, and used Stansby throughout the 1610s.(35) Moreover, Jonson wrote a dedicatory poem to John Selden's first published work, Titles of Honour, which appeared in 1614. One further Stansby author should be mentioned, although his relevance, at first glance, appears to be limited. Dr. John Hoskins, brother of the John Hoskins imprisoned with Ralegh during 1614 on account of a supposedly seditious speech in parliament, published his first and only work in 1615, a collection of sermons given the previous year.

The dynamics of this move into print on the part of Ralegh and his friends can be discerned in the works themselves. Selden's preamble to Titles of Honour claims, for example, that he is dealing with "verum," a thing of "Publique right."(36) He self-consciously places himself and his project outside the patronage system but within the realm of public duty, writing proudly to his dedicatee, his "beloued Friend and Chamberfellow, Master Edward Heyward," that "I call you not my Patron."(37) Ben Jonson's long dedicatory poem to the work conveys a further rejection of a patronage system which encourages sycophancy. Jonson condemns himself for having

too oft preferr'd

Men past their termes; and prais'd some names too much:

But'twas, with purpose, to haue made them such.

(sig. B1r)

He now realizes his error (with whatever disingenuity is hard to say) and vows to use his poetic talent to better purpose, to "aske, to whome, and why/And what I write."

The sermons published by Dr. John Hoskins are similarly concerned with the powers of the published author. In one of his dedicatory prefaces, Hoskins uses the familiar topos of being forced into print by his friends but adds an extra dimension to his explanation:

The copies were wrested out of mine hands in your house through importunity, and through distraction of my thoughts about the passages of another businesse, suffered me not to fully peruse them, yet I was contented, such as they were, to let them goe. For soe, perhaps, I may recompense, in some sort, the time which I then lost from my function, whilse that which was sometimes preached in the eares of a few, shall now preach to the eyes of all.(38)

Hoskins is, I would argue, drawing attention to his brother's experience of imprisonment during 1614, the "passages of another businesse." He is "contented" that his thoughts about this imprisonment reach "the eyes of all" and, indeed, his choice of biblical text is appropriate to the occasion, revealing a concern to show the legitimacy of speaking out. The first is Hosea 8.12: "I have written unto them the great things of my Law, but they were counted as a strange thing." He uses the text to defend the act of writing. The power of print, "this most profitable inuention," is acknowledged, for "then indeed the losse of the eare is restored to the eye, and the certaine patterne of truth becomes secured in mens memories."' The text for the second sermon is Isaiah 62: "You that be the Lords Remembrancers, be not silent." The sermon defends clerical participation in civil affairs. Hoskins argues that the followers of Satan, who have no calling, speak for evil policy, and he asks his readers,

Shall they speake without a calling? and will you that haue a calling, hold your peace?...They will not hold their peace, if you hold your peace.(40)

If a cleric knows how to "shake off the poore mens clamour in the Country," then he must speak out.(41) Hoskins goes on to plead with his wider audience, the citizens of London, insisting that they too speak out, identifying his cause and himself with the parliamentary and nationalist interest:

O you that haue either greatnesse in your eyes, or goodnesse in your hearts, set before you this example of a true Patriot, a true Parliament man. Why are your desires at a stay, where is your courage, what is become of your ambition?(42)

It seems clear that the "example" is that of his brother, John Hoskins the younger, and that the publication of these sermons is a response to his imprisonment.

The anti-court implications of Arthur Gorges' translation of the republican Lucan's Pharsalia have been considered recently by David Norbrook.(43) Ralegh's dedicatory poem identifies Gorges with Lucan, the former praised for his freedom from flattery, his suffering, and his military achievements. The poem ends with a Stoic encouragement to Gorges to die for the cause of truth and his good name. In return, Gorges draws attention to Ralegh's aggressive foreign policy in his notes to the poem.(44) The anti-court message of The History will be fully considered later, but one point is worth making here in order to emphasize Ralegh's active involvement with the physical production of his book. There is conclusive evidence that, unlike most of his contemporaries, he supervised the printing of his text, arguing a rare level of commitment to the process of publication.(45)

What these writers had in common was a lack of success at court. Gorges, the ex-courtier, had lost his recently acquired place with the death of Prince Henry. Jonson, once so successful, was reeling from the failure of Catiline and the decline of the corrupt Howard faction. The Hoskins family had suffered because one of their number had criticized the king in parliament. Individually disparate as the motives and methods of these authors may have been, the authors used print to express criticism of the king, his court, and his policies. The move was, superficially at least, a reluctant one. The "stigma of print" should not be underestimated as a cultural force, and the different writers found different ways of justifying their actions.(46)

What can be argued is that there were two facets to the move to publication described above. The first, publication as a response to imprisonment, was related in some cases to the second, publication as an attempt to find a wider audience, to bypass the court patronage system, to move beyond a coterie manuscript culture, and to establish some posterity for one's work.(47)

Ralegh's History can be related to these developments. It is the act of a politician and soldier, who, denied an opportunity to participate in the active world because of his imprisonment, turns to reading histories and then to writing one based on his reading, in order to contribute to the common weal. An important article by Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton on "reading...for action" helps to clarify this statement.(48) They outline the role of rhetoric in inspiring man to action and the humanist belief in the necessity of utilizing texts. Active reading is the logical extension of this, its purpose being to induce an action which is public in its aims and character rather than private. More specifically, Jardine and Grafton note that reading and study were viewed as an approved way of relieving boredom for a man of action, and; moreover, that history was seen as the best reading for a politician or soldier. Ralegh can be regarded as an imprisoned man of action who reads history and then applies his reading actively for the public good.

In two respects, however, Ralegh's project differs from that of the scholars described by Jardine and Grafton. Most significant is the fact that his audience is as potentially large as his subject; this is not advice conveyed in a letter or a manuscript for a particular patron but a history of the world offered to the world. Moreover, he does not negate his own selfhood in his act of collation. He may be a collector of ideas for others to act upon, but, as will be seen, in the act of writing he infuses himself into his material. An imprisoned writer is finding a way to make his voice heard and to remind the world of his existence, and he is using the form of history, the genre which acts to preserve memory.

This idea of "reading...for action" is particularly relevant to Ralegh's choice of history as a genre; as Sidney wrote, "the Historian makes himselfe a discourser for profite."(49) D. R. Woolf has summarized the classical theory behind the insistence on the utility of history writing:

For Cicero, historia was not simply another kind of literature: it was a source of correct action and human wisdom, the lux veritatis and magistra vitae. The well-known passage from De oratore which praises history for its didactic effectiveness acquired the status of a topos in Elizabethan historical theory, soon becoming an incantation chanted in preface after preface. By 1581, it had grown so familiar that John Marbeck could define history in a mere two lines simply by citing Cicero with no further comment: 'What an historie is. Tullie calleth an historie the witnesse of times, the light of vertue, the life of memorie, maistres of life.'(50)

More important still, in connection with Ralegh's project, history was viewed as a source of correct action and human wisdom for political leaders. For example, Stephan Wither, the translator of John Sleidan, wrote that the reading of history is particularly important for those in power.(51) Fifty years later Samuel Daniel echoed these sentiments in the dedication to his History of England: he writes for political leaders because "it concernes them most to know the generall affaires of England who haue least leasure to read them." He has therefore chosen "to deliuer only those affaires of action, that most concern the gouernment."(52)

From this consideration the political agency of history as a genre, I want to go on to ask questions about the specific nature of Ralegh's historical project. I have chosen to limit my discussion to two central issues, message and method, in order to show that The History offers both a critique of court culture and an opportunity for Ralegh to display himself and his learning. The latter point will be illustrated in a number of ways from the text, starting with the frontispiece, then lead into a discussion of Ralegh's political stance.

Corbett and Lightbown, the authors of a study of Renaissance frontispieces, have written that it is "not immediately obvious" why a contemporary map of the world was chosen for the title-page, but they suggest that it may signify the scope of Ralegh's work, or perhaps his intention to continue it to the present day. If, however, their own listing of the features of the map is analyzed, it can be seen that the image has a more specific function. Almost all its details act as a key to Ralegh's biography, serving to draw attention to his active achievements prior to imprisonment: the islands of the Caribbean are marked, as is the river Amazon; there is a sea battle raging in the North Atlantic; in southern Spain a town marks Cadiz; Dublin is marked by a church; and, as Corbett and Lightbown speculate:

London is not marked, but a church and building in the west; it is unlikely that there would be an engraving slip here; could this be Winchester, the seat of his trial in 1603 and where he was condemned to captivity, wrily alluded to in the last sentence of his Preface?(53)

This catalogue of Ralegh's achievements in the world intensifies the meaning both of the accompanying poem's insistence upon the triumph of history over death and oblivion and the iconographical representation of history trampling death under her feet. Ralegh may be imprisoned, but his previous actions, particularly those in the interest of the state, are remembranced in iconographical form. Just as truth will emerge from death or dark oblivion, so Ralegh will speak from the Tower. Just as Providence will eventually reward and punish individuals, so Ralegh and his persecutors will be judged.

The frontispiece and its accompanying poem are, therefore, a potent fusion of classical and Christian iconopraphy and philosophy. harnessed in the cause of celebrating Ralegh's previous (primarily military) achievements and condemning his present persecuted state. His cause has become identified with the cause of truth. The reader has been primed for the aggressive apologia pro vita sua coupled with a critique of absolute monarchical power that follows, the infamous "Preface."(54)

To come to the end of the Preface, having been prepared to read it in a certain way by a reading of the frontispiece, is to have experienced an impressive work of autobiographical display.(55) The absence of Ralegh's name on the title-page does nothing to conceal the presence of his grievances. For example, in the final paragraphs at least two allusions to Ralegh's imprisoned and persecuted status appear. Writing about his use of foreign languages in The History, he refers to his "eleuen yeares leasure" in which he has had time, if he so wished, to learn them. On the subject of writing a modern history, he draws attention to his previous political power, describing himself as "hauing beene permitted to draw water as neare the Well-head as another."

In a fascinating conclusion, Ralegh insists that the reader is reading him:

For conclusion; all the hope I haue lies in this, That I haue already found more vngentle and vncurteous Readers of my Loue towards them, and welldeseruing of them, than euer I shall doe againe. For had it beene otherwise, I should hardly haue had this leisure, to haue made my selfe a foole in print.

(sig. E4v)

A direct connection between his imprisonment and his text is made, and correct reading becomes a metaphor for political life and communication. In the past, his "Loue" was read incorrectly and he has thus been imprisoned; now, because of that imprisonment, he expose himself and his policy to the reading of the world.

The digressive modern parallels serve to draw attention to Ralegh's own political experience and acumen. Many examples of phrases such as "in all that I haue obserued" and "I am of opinion that" can be found.(56) Narratives are illustrated with examples from Ralegh's own experience.(57) These invocations of his political experience and activities encourage the reader to apply his or her knowledge of his life to other passages and to interpret more allusive historical narratives.(58)

So, for example, Ralegh's strange insistence that Alexander's achievements are not particularly exceptional and that it is only their "huge bulke" that should be admired begins to make sense when his heroic model is identified as Epaminondas, an unrewarded captain:

But hee that would finde the exact patterne of a noble Commander, must looke vpon such as Epaminondas, that encountring worthy Captains, and those better followed than themselues, haue by their singular vertue ouertopped their valiant enemies, and still preuailed ouer those, that would not haue yeelded one foot to any other. Such as these are, doe seldome liue to obtaine great Empires. For it is a worke of more labour and longer time, to master the equall forces of one hardie and well-ordered State, than to tread downe and vtterly subdue a multitude of seruile Nations, compounding the body of a grosse vnweildie Empire. (B174)

This kind of autobiographical display is complemented by an ostentatious historical rhetoric which seeks to establish Ralegh as a thoughtful purveyor of his classical, and a conscientious translator of his biblical, sources. His control over, and personal involvement with, his material is evident throughout the work in small details of shaping: the recurrent phrases, such as "But it seemes to me," or in the way in which certain kinds of material are rejected, whether it be the evidence of dreams, or "a friuolous discourse of Serpents, Apes, and Peacocks" (B207). The announcement of digressions and chronology is another "truth-telling" signal, as well as a reassurance to the reader that he is in control of the vast body of material.(59)

One of the purposes of this methodology is made explicit in a section entitled "Of THALESTRIS Queene of the Amazons; where, by way of digression it is shewed, that such Amazons haue beene, and are." In this section, Ralegh carefully reviews his sources for the story of Thalestris bearing a child by Alexander. He goes on to argue that the story is not present in Alexander's own letters to Antipater, and therefore it should be treated with suspicion. However, he insists that, whatever the credibility of the Alexander story, Amazons do exist, supporting his argument with ancient and modern authorities. His reason is avowedly self-serving:

I haue produced these authorities, in part, to iustifie mine owne relation of these Amazons, because that which was deliuered mee for truth by an ancient Casica of Guiana, how vpon the Riuer of Papamena (since the Spanish discoueries called Amazons) that these women still liue and gouerne, was held for a vaine and vnprobable report. (B196)

Ralegh understands that he must have credibility as a writer and as a previously successful politician in order to make his criticisms of royal policy acceptable. His techniques for establishing that authority include learned exegesis, structural control, and collation and aphorism, and these will now be considered in turn.

First, then, the linguistic analysis, which, with its echo of the pulpit, gives weight to Ralegh's work, serving to display his erudition, his wide learning and diversity of sources. Much of the opening material of The History is, for example, taken up with discussions of words such as "beginning" (I.I.iii) or "heaven and earth" (I.I.iv), or concerned with translations, such as of the phrase "the spirit of God moved upon the Waters." The discussion of Enoch, for example, reveals an acute sensitivity to words and sources. Twentieth-century readers may have been frustrated by Ralegh's repeated deferral to the mysterious authority of the Bible (which so often lets him escape from tortuous argument), but the work's original readership, steeped in the culture of biblical exegesis, would perhaps have accepted the process more readily. Secondly, there is to be considered the careful framework that The History is built upon. Despite the local complexity of Ralegh's arguments, often structured around a series of buts and digressions, the work is painstakingly organized, with the reader given copious information in titles as to what each section is about, and then further information within the text as to what is being done at each stage. The Preface is followed by the beautifully laid out contents pages, almost overwhelming in their promise of encyclopedic knowledge. Digressions, in particular, are self-consciously signposted and act as formal displays of Ralegh's use of his encyclopedic knowledge. These digressions are rightly defended by Patrides, who argues that they do not indicate a lack of control, but rather a contribution to the argument.(60) Finally, there is Ralegh's general approach. Although The History is riddled with contradiction and confusion, it is also inclusive, encyclopedic, and, on occasion, platitudinous, all highly valued qualities for the seventeenth-century reader. Ralegh's approach to universal history is to encompass most other methods of writing history, including biblical exegesis, territorial or chorographical analyses, and surveys of particular problems. Moreover, his methodology is predominantly collative, a significant point according to Jardine and Grafton, who argue that the collative methodology, in which no one text has primacy, carried a special authority:

in a society where books were seen as offering powerful knowledge, the reader who could focus the largest number of books on a problem or an opportunity would therefore appear to have the advantage.

The frequent use of aphorism is equally valuable to the reader; Jardine and Grafton have noted that aphoristic history was deemed the most useful kind, offering as it did a crystallization of knowledge.(61) By combining the aphoristic and the encyclopedic mode, Ralegh offers his seventeenth-century reader the ultimate in useful reading.

These techniques may have made the work popular, but they do not locate the work's political power. A section which discusses the nature of Nimrod's power can be used to define the problem. In this section, Ralegh further establishes his discriminatory powers, but he also exposes the limitations of his political theory. The crucial issue, whether Nimrod's authority was given or usurped, remains unresolved. The disparity between Ralegh's policies, which are usually clearly stated, and his political theory, which is insubstantial at the best of times, needs to be acknowledged. Consider, for example, the insubstantiality of his discussions of causality, or his inconclusiveness about the issue of tyranny. He may outline various reasons for the downfall of the Greeks and the triumph of Philip of Macedonia, but this list of second causes is immediately followed by a discussion of Providence. We are told that if the reader only looks carefully enough at causes, then all things will be found to agree with Providence.(62) Similarly, although an attempt at a "Ralegh definition" of tyranny can be made, it is almost impossible to formulate a "Ralegh political response" to tyranny. This is not only because his argumentative tactics often involve the assertion and then the immediate qualification, if not recantation, of even mildly challenging ideas, but also because his terminology is so fluid.(63) He does argue that tyranny is natural but not legal; what remains entirely unclear is whether he believes that it is legal to take arms against a tyrant.(64)

To recognize inconsistency is one thing: to understand its roots and the responses to it is another. In a recent book, Rebecca Bushnell reminds us that in the Renaissance "any given text-poem, play, treatise, or tract--may be composed of many different political languages and views, often quite contradictory."(65) These contradictions may be frustrating for the intellectual historian in search of a linear "development" in thought, but they should not be ignored or dismissed. Inconsistency was inherent to Ralegh's very project, since the two world views which validated history writing were essentially contradictory. One was the Ciceronian, humanist view, which had at its heart a cyclical view of history, and suggested that man could learn from the past. The other was the Christian/Protestant view of a history controlled by Providence. This history was linear (Christ's incarnation could happen only once) and apocalyptic, although it might contain discernible patterns. Fallen man's ability to learn political lessons from history was questionable; more important was the lesson to be learned about man's sinfulness as a necessary preparation for the culmination of all history, the Second Coming. Incompatible though these theories were, Ralegh was utterly representative of his time in his attempt to fuse them.(66)

The political potency of The History does not, however, depend upon consistency of method or theory. Ralegh is a poor political thinker. He does not search out actual causes (writers like Selden and Eliot would do that), nor does he elaborate a justification of regicide.(67) His power lies in his relentless and repetitive rehearsal of God's judgments upon kings; he will never justify the overthrow of a monarch, but he will illustrate it again and again. This technique is nowhere more visible than in the Preface, during which Ralegh addresses the contentious question, Why do kingdoms fall? His answer at this stage is a simple one: kings do not learn from history. Since he has already qualified the classical idea of learning from history, by arguing that learning is only possible if Cod's judgment is borne in mind, there is surely the implicit suggestion that kings do not learn because they do not remember God. What follows is a catalogue of God's judgments upon kings, complemented by a catalogue of Ralegh's judgments upon kings: Henry I used "force, craft, and cruelty"; Richard II "cannot be excused"; Henry IV's "obtaining of the crown" was "traiterous"; Edward IV was a cruel slaughterer; and Richard III was "the greatest Maister in mischiefe of all that fore-went him" (sigs. A3v-A4v). The list of cruelties culminates in Henry VIII, of whom Ralegh writes:

if all the pictures and Patternes of a mercilesse Prince were lost in the World, they might all againe be painted to the life, out of the story of this King. (sig. B1v)

Even the panegyric of James which concludes the review of English history is laced with jarring comments. Ralegh may praise James's patience in waiting for the English crown, and his unification of the Scottish and English nations, but the fulsome (if not long-winded) praise of Union is followed by a brief and bathetic sentence: "It is true that hereof we do not yet finde the effect" (sig. B2v). Worse is to come. The next paragraph begins:

It is true, that there was neuer any Common-weale or Kingdome in the world, wherein no man had cause to lament. Kings liue in the world and not aboue it. (sig. B2v)

This is eulogy with an edge: the complaint against James hovers on the periphery of the text, despite, or perhaps because of, all the disclaimers.

The final paragraph of Ralegh's survey of kings, introduced with uncharacteristically excited exclamation, reestablishes the by now familiar tone of judgment.

Oh by what plots, by what forswearings, betrayings, oppressions, imprisonments, tortures, poysonings, and under what reasons of State, and politique subteltie, haue these forenamed Kings, both strangers, and of oure owne Nation, pulled the vengeance of GOD vpon them selues, vpon theirs, and vpon their prudent ministers ! and in the end haue brought those things to passe for their enemies, and seene an effect so directly contrarie to all their owne counsailes and cruelties; as the one could neuer haue hoped for themselues; and the other neuer haue succeeded; if no such opposition had euer beene made. GOD hath said it and performed it euer: Perdam sapientiam sapientum, I will destroy the wisdome of the wise. (sig. C2r)

The pungent criticism of kings past and present, which passes for political comment, is validated by the relentless exposition of examples of God's judgments upon evil kings.

It is perhaps no wonder that Prince Henry is invoked as a ghostly protector for the work, although it is debatable whether his posthumous blessing is enough to defuse the political implications of the historical material rehearsed in the Preface.(68) Since God is the same God everywhere and for all time, as is evinced in the geographically wide-ranging catalogue of fallen kings, then the reader can only adduce that if the fall of a king could happen in the past, then it could happen again. It is no surprise that later in the seventeenth century the Preface was retitled as "A Premonition to Princes."

Indeed, as the work progresses, the reader is encouraged by Ralegh to relate his or her reading to contemporary life. A confusion over the act of historical analogy evident in the Preface is replaced by a confident exposition of the historian's project, and its relevance to the modern reader:

And as in those times the causes were exprest, why it pleased God to punish both Kings and their People: the same being both before, and at the instant deliuered by Prophets; so the same iust God who liueth and gouerneth all thinges for euer, doeth in these our times giue victorie, courage, and discourage, raise and throw downe Kings, Estates, Cities, and Nations, for the same offenses which were committed of old, and are committed in the present; for which reason, in these and other the afflications of Israel, alwaies the causes are set down, that they might bee as precedents to succeeding ages. (A508-9)

In the light of this insistence on analogy, the condemnations of rulers such as Rehoboam can only be read as a critique of, and a warning to, the king and his ministers. James is Rehoboam who "knew not how to resolue, so had hee not the iudgement to discerne of counsells, which is the very test of wisdome in Princes, and in all men else," who "was transported by his familiars and fauourites, not only to continue on the backs of his subiects those burdens which greatly crusht them; but (vaunting falsly of greatnesse exceeding his Fathers) he threatned in sharpe, or rather in terrible termes, to lay yet heauier, and more vnsupportable loades on them," and whose counsellors, described as "witless parasites," were "also ignorant that it (taxation) ought to be vsed for the helpe, and not for the harme of subiects." The fate of Rehoboam, who thinks himself safe from God, is predictable. The section is entitled "Of REHOBOAM his impietie; for which he was punished by SESAC: of his end and Contemporaries" (A507). The political analysis, one which would be developed at length in a subsequent work, The Prerogative of Parliaments, is simple if not simplistic:

For what is the strength of a King left by his people? and what cordes or fetters haue euer lasted long, but those which haue beene twisted and forged by loue only? (A505)

Numerous other criticisms of court culture can be found, at times thinly veiled, as in the descriptions of Darius, "this Maygame-king" who is "rather like a masker than a man of Warre" and whose military procession is described as follows:

To second this Court-Like companie, fifteene thousand were appointed more rich and glittering than the former, but apparelled like Women (belike to breed the more terrour) and these were honoured with the Title of the Kings Kinsmen. (B177)

In section IV.II.xvi Alexander's moral corruption is dwelt upon, in particular his "Sodomiticall Eunuchs" and his hubris, and he is described as having become like one of Darius's "licentious Courtiers" (B197) The twin strands in The History, personal display and opposition to the court, converge most clearly, however, in the Hannibal narrative. One particular encounter, between Hannibal and Scipio at Zama, can be used as the key to an understanding of Ralegh's method. In this passage, the reader is told that Hannibal admires Scipio and wants to meet him. When the commanders meet, "they remained a while silent, viewing one the other with mutual admiration." Hannibal then speaks on the subject of change, "the contemplation of that mutability, whereto all human affairs are subject." Scipio rejects Hannibal's offer of peace and battle ensues. Hannibal encourages his men "with words agreeable to their several conditions," but, despite his "singular skill," the Carthaginians lose. The fault lies not with Hannibal, however, but with the Carthaginians at home whose "malicious counsels" had brought their nation into misery (B574-84).

This narrative of two great military commanders facing each other in mutual admiration, of Hannibal speaking of the mutability of all things, of battle between respectful enemies, of defeat occasioned by the machinations of stay-at-home politicians, contains, I would argue, an idealized portrait of Ralegh himself, and forms the culmination of the sequence of identifications with historical characters. In the most sophisticated element yet in the tapestry of personal allusion and political comment that characterizes The History, he places himself/Hannibal firmly within the military honor culture with which he empathized.

The way in which Ralegh focuses on different passages in his two primary sources, Livy and Polybius, affirms this reading. Livy does not know why Hannibal approaches Scipio for a meeting, so Ralegh follows Polybius and asserts that Hannibal is impressed by Scipio's allowance of his "Scowts and Spies" and "admired the brauerie and courage of his Enemie: with whom on the sudden he grew desirous to haue an Enterview, and personall conference" (B575).(69) The interview is sought because Hannibal respects his opponent. Ralegh does follow Livy almost word for word in the actual description of the meeting, a passage not present in Polybius. Thus Livy has "for a minute mutual admiration struck them dumb, and they looked at each other in silence"; whilst Ralegh has "they remained a while silent, viewing one the other with mutuall admiration" (B576). His account of the speeches of Hannibal and Scipio also show some interesting omissions and additions. Hannibal's speech is relatively short, Ralegh summarizing Livy but concentrating attention on the passages in which Hannibal presents himself as a symbol of mutability. Most importantly, Scipio's speech loses its insolent tone and gains a passage which obliquely praises Hannibal and sets the battle in terms of an honor encounter:

But I cannot blame thee, HANNIBAL, though thou wouldst be glad to make thy Citizens understand, from how much of their burden they are by the meanes eased. Onely thou must thinke, that in like sort it concernes me in honour, not to let them bee gainers or sauers by the wrongs they haue done of late. (B577)

The commanders' words of encouragement to their troops (B577-78) are rehearsed, then in the battle itself Ralegh describes an encounter between Hannibal and Scipio which is present neither in Livy nor Polybius:

This done, he aduanced towards Hannibal: who entertayned him after another manner, than euer he had beene receiued in his life before. All the daies worke till now, seemed to haue beene onely a matter of pastime; in regard of the sharpe conflict, that was maintained betweene these notable souldiours. (B579)(70)

Finally, Ralegh is not only insistent on Hannibal's military genius, citing both Polybius and Livy, but repeats again his accusations against the Carthaginian government who pushed him into battle too soon (B580), countering Polybius's verdict that Hannibal was defeated by chance.(71)

The Ralegh/Hanibal identification alerts the reader to some significant aspects of Hannibal's decline, such as his banishment at the hands of evil faction and his position as an unheard adviser.

Hannibal was at this meeting: who had long beene cast aside, as a vessell of no vse; but was now required to deliuer his opinion. (B684)(72)

Moreover, although "many were pleased with the great spirit of the man, and said he had spoken brauely," and although Hannibal's counsel is good, "of all this was nothing done" (B685). Hannibal flits in and out of the closing stages of this huge work, the unheard, but correct, adviser, the victim of political machinations, envy, and, in the end, the "malice" of the Romans (B700). Ralegh's treatment of Hannibal's death will be considered later, but his eulogy is relevant to the argument here:

Certainely, for Hannibal, whose tragedie we haue now finished, had he beene Prince of the Carthaginians, and one who by his authoritie might haue commaunded such supplyes, as the Warre which he undertooke, required, it is probably, that he had torne vp the Roman Empire by the roots. But he was so strongly crost by a cowardly and enuious Faction at home; as his proper vertue, wanting publike force to sustaine it, did lastly dissolue it selfe in his owne, and in the common miserie of his Countrey and Commonweale. (B715)

This is more than Renaissance role-playing. It is the full-scale appropriation of a historical character to the anti-pacifist cause, the harnessing of Hannibal's biography to Ralegh's own political predicament.

To conclude this analysis of Ralegh's strategies in The History of the World I would like to consider the very beginning and the very end of the work in order to show the way in which it is a revelatory text. The iconographical frontispiece to The History sets the terms for a reading of the text that follows it: as Roger Chartier has written, "The image was often a proposal or protocol for reading, suggesting to the reader a correct comprehension and a proper meaning for a text."(73) This particular frontispiece demands an act of interpretation on the part of the reader: it is "made up of a number of complex images which require a literary interpretation to be understood."(74) The reader is given some help in his or her act of interpretation by the writer of the poem (the unnamed Jonson), who places the ensuing history in a firmly classical and utterly conventional context, deploying Cicero's definition of history:

Times witnesse, Herald of Antiquitie,

The light of Truth, and life of Memorie.

At the same time, however, the poet incorporates the Christian historiographic tradition in the form of Providence, which oversees, and approves of, the project of history writing. The revelatory intention of classical historiography becomes part of Christian revelation itself, "the reward, and punishment" which are "assur'd" resonate with providential significance, the classical preoccupation with earthly fame is replaced by the Christian preoccupation with heavenly judgment. In pictorial terms the readers sees truth (history) in triumph, in a setting which incorporates the idea of judgment, the eye which watches over the classical tableau.

Ralegh articulates these concepts in his final lines, concluding his work with a summary of his project and its meaning:

By this which we haue alreadie set downe, is seene the beginning and end of the three first Monarchies of the world; whereof the Founders and Erectours thought, that they neuer could haue ended. (B775)

He questions the reason "of the succession and continuance of this boundless ambition in mortall men" (B775) which causes so many problems. His answer is that

the Kings and Princes of the world haue alwayes laid before them, the actions, but not the ends, of those great Ones which praeceded them. (B776)

In his final vision, entirely cynical yet passionately eloquent, Ralegh reminds his readers of "the end": the end of history, the end of time. The closing concern is with the power, not of God, but of Death. Death

puts into man all the wisdom of the world, without speaking a word, which God with all the words of his law, promises, or threats, doth not infuse. Death which hateth and destroyeth man is believed; God, which had made him and loves him, is always deferred. (B776)

It is truth-telling death that is now addressed: "whom all the world hath flattered thou only hast cast out of the world and despised" (B776). History and death are both revelation: the reader is reminded of Hannibal's suicide which, according to Hannibal himself, will reveal how "farre the auncient Roman vertue is degenerate and corrupted." For the post-1618 reader, Ralegh's own stoic behavior on the scaffold and his speech which condemned the injustice that had brought him to his death would have added further resonance to these passages. Just as Ralegh, on the scaffold, would proclaim that he has come from the darkness into the light to speak his message, The History, written in the Tower, has published the truth to the world. It has revealed Ralegh, the great statesman, his oppositional policy, and the fate in store for kings who err.


It is not surprising that The History was called in by the government within weeks of its publication: with the political consequences of history came institutional surveillance, and the Privy Council had controlled the censorship of histories since 1599. Nor is it surprising that King James, that sensitive interpreter of historical analogy, found the work unacceptable.

What is surprising is that the work was not effectively suppressed. Not only did the suppression take place only after publication, the work having been registered in an unfinished state in 1611; not only were the confiscated copies sold off by the Crown on Ralegh's release in 1616, despite his unpardoned status; but in 1617 a new edition carrying Ralegh's name and even his picture appeared without any government intervention.(75)

The 1616 re-release, let alone the 1617 new edition, can be seen as gross errors of judgment on the part of the state who may have believed, as Annabel Patterson now argues, that The History had been "calmly appropriated to the system" in 1616.(76) The state was in error. Although Ralegh's political model appears to be the moderate use of sovereign power, it is little wonder that his relentless rehearsal of the fall of kings appealed to those with republican sympathies. A clear sign of the interpretative process can be seen in the renaming of the untitled "Preface" as "A Premonition to Princes." The newly titled section was placed at the end of The History, and thus presented as its logical conclusion rather than its introduction.

Numerous examples of this kind of reading can be found. For example, William Sanderson appreciated the evidence of God punishing and revenging, and, in 1655, Clement Writer admired The History because it revealed how the "back-biters, slanderers, envious, covetous, self-seekers" who are condemned in Scripture are punished:

Perfidiousness of this kinde, how detestable it is in the sight of God, and how punished by him in the sight of men, is well set forth by Sir Walter Rawleigh.(77)

In 1650, Bishop Joseph Hall gave more measured praise:

How memorable an instance hath our age yeelded us of an eminent Person to whose encagement we are beholde, (besides many Philosophicall experimets) for that noble history of the World, which is now in our hands: The Court had his youthfull and freer times, the Tower his later age; the Tower reformed the Court in him, and produced those worthy monuments of art and industry, which we should have in vain expected from his freedom and jollity.(78)

Hall's conflation of prison, industry, and righteous suffering is placed in opposition to the moral corruption of the court. The list could be continued, encompassing the famous recommendation of the work by Cromwell to his son, or the presence of The History in the library of William Dowsing, the iconoclast, or the work's popularity in the colonies of America.

To this list, we may add Sir Anthony Weldon's A Cat may look upon a King (1652) in which a cat gives an extremely synoptic survey of the kings of England. The tone can be gathered from the verdict on Henry III:

A Chip of the old block, for no oath could bind him; Jealous of the Nobility, brings in strangers, despiseth all Councell in Parliament, wastes all the Treasure of the Kingdome in Civil Wars, sells his Plate and Jewels and pawnes his Crowne.(79)

The cat encourages his readers to study Ralegh, whom he admires on account of his accessible language, his condemnations of princes, and the manner of his death. Ralegh is seen as a predecessor to the author of A Cat, who justifies his own work by asserting most explicitly the connection between history writing and political action:

The Common people of this kingdome cannot attend to read Chronicles, and they are the major part whom it concerns....In this little Book, I would haue them hereafter know for whom and for what they fight, and pay.(80)

This tradition of radical "reading for action" exposes a Stuart state unable to control the transmission of an oppositional text, even when it came from the pen of a man whom the state had imprisoned. In the light of The History's political agency, the questions of Ralegh's immediate gains or losses of patronage which have dominated recent criticism recede in importance, to be replaced by questions about the nature of Ralegh's public history.


1. John Racin depicts the prince as Ralegh's "most powerful friend" and writes that the prisoner was "Encouraged by Henry" to write a number of treatises. These treatises are apparently written in the "confident, familiar (at times jocular) tone" which is "clear evidence of their close relationship." Sir Walter Ralegh as Historian: An Analysis of "The History of the World" (Salzburg: Institut fur Englische Sprache und Literatur, 1974) 5-6. Leonard Tennenhouse has Ralegh writing "position papers" for the prince in response to requests for advice. "Sir Walter Ralegh and the Literature of Clientage," in Patronage in the Renaissance, eds. G. E Lytle and S. Orgel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 248-49. See also Edward Edwards, The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (London: Macmillan Co., 1868), I:492-94; Stephen Greenblatt, Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973) 152 157; Graham Parry, The Golden Age restor'd (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1981), 84; J. W. Williamson, The Myth of the Conqueror: Prince Henry Stuart: a Study of 17th Century Personation (New York: AMS Press, 1978), 49ff.

2. The death of Henry not only "guaranteed the permanent loss of Ralegh's social and financial legacy" but ensured a loss of control over the narrative, the abrupt ending of The History being a direct result of the "impact of Prince Henry's death on Ralegh's quest for patronage." Tennenhouse, 257-54. Annabel Patterson echoes Tennenhouse in Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) 119, as does Marion Campbell, who writes that Henry's death led to a "failure of [the] text," which thus "became meaningless": "Inscribing Imperfection: Sir Walter Ralegh and the Elizabethan Court," ELR 20 (1990): 252-53.

3. Page numbers are taken from the 1614 edition, which is paginated in two sequences, 1-651 and 1-776, preceded by the preface. The first sequence ends at the end of the second book. It shall be referred to as A, the second as B.

4. See Parry, 86; and E. C. Wilson, Prince Henry and English Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1946), 142-43. It has been shown that the extreme length and complexity of The History ensured that the printing took three years, which explains the time lag between the Stationers Register entry (1611) and actual publication (1614). See Racin, 13.

5. Patterson, 129; and Steven May, Sir Walter Ralegh (Boston: Twayne, 1989), 89. See also Parry, 85; and Racin, 192.

6. In July 1604 for example, he wrote to the king reiterating his devotion and desiring liberation from what he describes as his "long imprisonment." Cal. S.P.D. 14.8.1237

7. Cal. S.P.D. 13.16.42, 4 February 1607.

8. Cal. S.P.D. 14.23.10, 20 August 1606.

9. Steven May describes Ralegh as a "utilitarian" poet. See The Elizabethan Courtier Poets: The Poems and Their Contexts (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1991), 117. My reading of the poetry to Elizabeth concurs with this idea. See Anna Beer, "'Knowing shee cann renew': Sir Walter Ralegh in Praise of the Virgin Queen," Criticism 34 (1992): 497-516.

10. Sir George Carew's quest for patronage is recorded in Edwards, I:104, 146. In 1610 Sir Arthur Gorges presented Henry with a plan for making money, and in the following year he succeeded in gaining a place in the prince's newly established household. Gorges also prepared an account of the 1597 Islands Voyage, to which were attached Ralegh's Observations on the Navy, intending to present them to Henry. Henry was trying to fashion a heroic mythology for himself during this period, although there is critical debate as to how well this mythology served him. See, for example, Parry, The Golden Age restor'd, chapter 3; Williamson, The Myth of the Conqueror; E. C. Wilson, Prince Henry and English Literature; R. Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987) 29ff; Roy Strong, Henry Prince of Wales and England's Lost Renaissance (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986); and David Norbrook, "The Masque of Truth: Court Entertainments and International Protestant Politics in the Early Stuart Period," The Seventeenth Century 1 (1986): 81-110.

11. My assessment of the prose canon is based on that of Pierre Lefranc, Sir Walter Ralegh, ecrivain: l'oeuvre et les idees (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1968).

12. The rest of the work was lost in a fire in 1623.

13. "Of the Art of Warre by Sea, I had written a Treatise, for the Lord HENRIE, Prince of Wales; a subiect, to my knowledge, neuer handled by any man, ancient or moderne: but God hath spared me the labour of finishing it, by his losse" (B351).

14. Bodley MS Rawlinson 1208, dating from the early seventeenth century.

15. Lefranc allots a broad dating of 1611 to 1615. The tract is, however, headed "9 Jacobi" which seems to suggest 1611. Princess Elizabeth was married in 1613.

16. The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, eds. W. Oldys and T. Birch, 8 vols., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1829), VIII: 127.

17. Williamson (184) lists the elegies for Henry. Norbrook (96) discusses the militantly Protestant poets who suffered most from his death and the subsequent rise of the Howards.

18. The analysis which confirmed this tradition is that of Helen Estabrook Sandison, "Manuscripts of the 'Islands Voyage' and 'Notes on the Royal Navy,'" in Essays and Studies in Honor of Carleton Brozon (New York: New York University Press, 1940) 242-52.

19. The first form of this work, in 1597-98, was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and is, according to Suzanne Gossett, "a manifestation of restored intimacy" between Ralegh and his queen following a five year banishment from court. "A New History for Ralegh's Notes on the Navy," MP 85 (1987): 17. The Elizabethan version is in Folger MS J.a.1.

20. He attacks the corrupt and indirect patronage system "when favour or partiality shall thus eat out knowledge and sufficiency in matters so nearly concerning the service and safety of the kingdom," argues that "all private respects should be laid apart, and virtue truly regarded for itself," and demands that the king take back direct control of the navy, employing only "his majesty's own sworn servants." His final argument is that of peace through strength, coupled with a warning that there is no "immutable tranquillity" in the world. Works, VIII:336-49.

21. An elaborate and beautiful presentation copy in the British Library, RP 3898, is entitled as follows: "A true Relation of the Voyage To the Iles of the Azores by the Nauie and forces of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory.... Collected and written accordinge to the accidents & auentures observed from time to time in the Royall shippe called the Wastspight by Sir Arthur Gorges Knight then captaine of the same. With a briefe description of these Islands....Whereunto are allsoe annexed certain obseruations & ouertures concerninge the Royall Nauie & Sea Seruice gathered & sett down by the same Author."

22. Sandison, 249-50. Sandison's copy text is the now lost MS Ballard. British Library RP 3898 appears to be identical.

23. Sandison, 249. Working from now lost manuscripts, Sandison (245) argues that these presentation copies were individually tailored for their recipients. Although I have not found evidence of this in the manuscripts that I have seen, the strategy seems plausible.

24. Sandison, 148. The political uncertainty which occasioned this version is evident in the self-conscious signposting of genre, the perceived need to sanction the act of writing in itself, and a sense of confusion about the work's audience, since some of the manuscripts that survive are presentation copies which were sent to influential courtiers, and yet there is the all-encompassing dedication to the country. The Observations take a secondary role to the Islands Voyage account in this post-Henrician transmission. The preface to the work is brief but contributes further political comment, conveyed in language characterized by an anxiety of tone. The writer is worried about speaking plainly, even though he claims that his plain speech is in the service of the country, afraid of "medlinge with matters wherein I haue noe dealings nor charge" (Sandison, 151).

25. Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625) II, X, xiv, 2.

26. See Sandison (246) for details of this 1650 edition and its relation to earlier texts.

27. If the events of these years are examined more closely, the political rewards from the relationship can be seen to be insubstantial since, whilst Ralegh was producing these texts of advice, his social position declined still further and his wife repeatedly had to apply to James for money. In 1609 he lost his estate of Sherborne to James on a legal technicality. While Ralegh remained "legally dead," others were achieving his ambitions. Robert Harcourt went to Guiana in 1609 with the backing of Prince Henry. As early as 1611 it would have Seen clear that Henry's power to help Ralegh was limited. Whether this stemmed from a lack of real political power on the part of the prince, or the prince's lack of interest in Ralegh is more difficult to assess. There does seem to be some disparity between the expressions of support from the prince, as recorded by Chamberlain, and his actual failure to improve Ralegh's position in any material way. See letter from John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, 12 November 1611, in The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. N. E. McClure, 2 vols., (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1939) I:389.

28. See the dedication to John Hayward, The Lives of the III Normans, Kings of England (London: R. B., 1613) sig.A3r, for a similarly retrospective invocation of Henry, in which the prince is described both as requesting a history for his own instruction and as urging Hayward to publish.

29. See Tennenhouse, 235; and Patterson, 129.

30. Ralegh requested medieval books from Sir Robert Cotton, in a letter written after 1605 suggesting his claim was true (Edwards, II:322-23). These medieval studies were to bear fruit the following year in The Dialogue betweene a Counsellor of State and a Justice of Peace, later published as The Prerogative of Parliaments.

31. Later in the century, another interpretation was put forward. "The Epistle to the Reader," which prefaces a collection of Ralegh's Judicious and Select Essayes and Observations (London: T. W., 1650) says, "Reader, thou hast enough of him in his History of the World, which speaks him to Fame; only thou mayst herein truly lament, That Fortune was so bitter to him and us to deprive us of that happinesse in snatching him hence before his perfecting that glorious worke" (sigs. A3v-A4r unpaged). For this editor, Ralegh's execution, rather than Henry's death, prevents completion of the work.

32. The classic exposition of the wider issues touched upon here is Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modem France (Cambridge: Polity [1965] 1987) in particular chapter 7 Printing and the People." See also The Culture of Print: Power and the Uses of Print in Early Modern Europe, ed. Roger Chartier, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Princeton: Princeton University Press [[1987], 1989). I disagree with those critics who view historiography as a refuge from time and thus depoliticize the genre. See, for example, Herschel Baker, The Race of Time (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1967) 52ff, and Greenblatt, chapter 5.

33. See Racin, 13. For Ralegh's living conditions in the Tower, see Derek Wilson, The Tower: 1078-1978 (London: Hamilton, 1978), 148-50; and May, Ralegh, 86-87.

34. All information is collected from the Short-Title Catalogue of English Books 1475-1640, 2nd ed. (London: The Bibliographical Society, 1986, 1991).

35. Burre, who set up business in 1599 had been selling Jonson's books since 1601. Stansby printed Epicoene (1610), Catiline (1611), and the Folio, which was being printed throughout the early 1610s, but was only published in 1616.

36. John Selden, Titles of Honour (London: Stansby, 1614) sig. A3v.

37. Ibid., sig. A3v.

38. John Hoskins, Two Sermons Preached: The One At Saint Maries In Oxford, The Other Being the Conclvsion of the Rehearsall Sermon at Pauls Crosse. 1614 (London: W. Stansby, 1615) sig. A2v.

39. Ibid., 6.

40. Ibid., 38.

41. Ibid., 39.

42. Ibid., 39-40.

43. He notes the way in which the dedicatory poems link "Lucan's poetics with his anti-courtly standpoint." Even though the poem was ostensibly published by Carew Gorges (Arthur's son), Norbrook cautions that "such claims of accidental publication in the Renaissance, however, are not always to be taken at face value, the more so in this case since Carew Gorges was only ten years old at the time." "Lucan, Thomas May, and the Creation of a Republican Literary Culture," in Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England, eds. Peter Lake and Kevin Sharpe (London: Macmillan, 1993) 52.

44. Ibid., 52.

45. See Anthony T. Grafton, "The Importance of Being Printed," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 11 (1980): 281.

46. Ralegh for example, bemoans the way in which printers corrupt texts and the fact that "the long trauels of an vnderstanding braine...should be cast away vpon men of no worth." He concludes, however, that authors are wise "to enlarge themselues, and to publish vnto the world" (B516-17).

47. Ben Jonson appears to be a crucial figure, in general terms because of his longstanding commitment to the printed book, and, in more practical terms because of his equally longstanding involvement with Burre and Stansby. His precise role is, however, hard to pin down. Jonson's contribution to The History can be explained in biographical terms by his contact with Ralegh as tutor to his son, Wat, in 1611/11. And presumably it was Jonson who suggested a printer and bookseller to Ralegh. Stansby had not printed any history books prior to 1611, so he would not have had a reputation in this field. It has been argued that the publication of Jonson's Folio was delayed because Stansby was committed at this period to the printing of The History. Ben Jonson, eds. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950) IX:1315. The political dynamics are, however, less tangible. On the one hand there is the Jonson of 1614, the so-called inuentor of the printed book, the champion of the autonomous author who remains free from political control or patronage, the critic of the court in his dedicatory poems to the work of Ralegh and Selden, the attacker of state (mis)interpretations in his prologue to the 1614 Bartholemew Fair. On the other hand, there is the Jonson rooted in court culture, his plays performed for the king, the writer of a masque for the marriage of Carr and the Countess of Essex one year, the writer of The Golden Age Restored for Pembroke and his protege Villiers the next.

48. Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, "Studied for Action: How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy," Past & Present 129 (1990): 40.

49. Letter from Philip Sidney to Robert Sidney, 18 October 1580, Prose Works, ed. Albert Feuillerat, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1912], 1961), III:130-31.

50. D. R. Woolf, "Erudition and the Idea of History in Renaissance England," RQ 40 (1987): 20. Woolf cites John Marbeck, A booke of notes and common-places (London, 1581), 492. The idea of utility characterized both humanist and Protestant history, and spanned the early modern period.

51. John Sleidan, A briefe chronicall of the foure principall empyres, to witte, of Babilon, Persia, Grecia, and Rome. Wherein is compendiouslye conteyned the whole discourse of histories (London: Rouland Hall, 1563) sig. iiir.

52. Samuel Daniel, The First Part of the Historie of England (1613) sig. A2v. Although the pre-revisionist argument that history was the language of opposition is limited by its onesidedness, it at least acknowledges the political agency of the genre and its study. See for example Hill, 178; Berkowitz, 25; and Wallace Notestein, The House of Commons 1604-1610 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971) 390ff.

53. Margery Corbett and Ronald Lightbown, The Comely Frontispiece: the Emblematic Title-Page in England 1550-1660 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979) 134. In the light of this, even a small detail such as the accenting of the lines on Experientia's face and neck may be significant. Ralegh draws attention to his advanced age in the preface.

54. Tennenhouse, 250 describes the work as an apologia pro vita sua.

55. Tennenhouse, 255-56, disagrees, seeing the personal elements as a sign of collapse.

56. See for example B169 and B178.

57. See the references to, for example, Ireland (B178), Languedoc (B197) and exploration (B207).

58. For example, there could be autobiographical significance attached to the account of the trial and torture of Philotas, or the defence of Mandeville, a writer dismissed as a fabler by his own countrymen, but respected in other countries (B207).

59. For example, the title of section IV.II.iii or B174.

60. The History of the World, ed. C. A. Patrides (London: Macmillan, 1971) 35.

61. Jardine and Grafton, 61.

62. Ralegh is equally inconsistent concerning the functions of history writing and advice. God's judgments, which negate human attempts to influence events, do not lie easily with Ralegh's assertions of the educative role of history. See, for example, B175-76. Similarly, he describes the ways in which Providence makes leaders take bad advice, yet at the same time shows how bad advice can nevertheless work out for the good. Contrast, for example, B170 and B179-188.

63. See for example, the short section IV.I.iii and the use of terms such as "liberty" and "tyranny" (B161-62).

64. Steven May (Ralegh, 92-93) offers the most recent summary of Ralegh's views on tyranny and kingship, indicating that although there is explicit criticism of those kings who are against God, and a defence of the right to withhold goods from such a king, Ralegh distances himself from the debate.

65. Rebecca Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), xi.

66. See Richard Tuck, "Humanism and Political Thought," in The Impact of Humanism on Western Europe, eds. Anthony Goodman and Angus Mackay (London: Longman, 1990), 43-65. Attempts at reconciliation on the part of historians across the period include John Sleidan's deployment of both humanist and apocalyptic tropes in A briefe chronicall (1563); John Hayward's attachment of a providential ending to his humanist, secular account of The first part of the life and raigne of King Henrie the IIII (London: John Wolfe, 1599); Edmund Bolton's attack on histories which give God as a cause, which appears alongside the signalling of divine intervention on the side of justice in Bodley MS Wood, "Hypercritica, or a rule of iudgement, for writing or reading our Histories"; and John Selden's apparent confusion of purpose in Titles of Honour (1614)

67. The development of interest in second causes was part of the move towards a "modern" political and historical analysis. In practical terms, the study of "causes" was an important element in the process of political opposition since the subcommittee of "causes of causes" was instrumental in the attempts to bring down the Duke of Buckingham in the late 1620s.

68. An earlier comment is usually read as another, more oblique, reference to Henry's involvement with The History. Ralegh is worried about the formal problems in his work:

Among the grosest, the unsutable diuision of the bookes, I could not know how to excuse, had I not been directed to inlarge the building after the foundation was laid, and the first part finished.

The implication is that the prince, the "Maister" of the work, insisted that Ralegh write more of it. The sentence is, however, enigmatic, provoking more questions than it answers. Ralegh entitles his history The First Part. Is he using the phrase here as a title or merely as a descriptive term? When did Henry read the work? Was it necessarily Henry who "directed" him? And what about the eighteen months or so after Henry's death during which Ralegh was still writing?

69. "On their return to his camp, Hannibal was so much struck with the magnanimity and high courage of Scipio, that he conceived a lively desire for a personal interview with him" (Book XV, Section V). Polybius, The Histories, 2 vols., trans. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan & Co., 1889), II:141.

70. The closest parallel is found in Polybius. "The whole affair being now a trial of strength between man and man at close quarters" (Book XV, Section XIII). The Histories, II:147.

71. The Histories, II:150.

72. Incorrectly paginated as 984.

73. Roger Chartier, "Introduction" to The Culture of Print, 5-7.

74. Corbett and Lightbown, 1. See F. Smith Fussner, The Historical Revolution: English Historical Writing and Thought 1580-1640 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), 194 for an earlier, less full, analysis.

75. Stansby, who usually turned out between 30 and 40 books per year, produced only 15 in 1614 suggesting that the bulk of the printing of The History took place in 1614. The licensers could not, therefore, have read the complete work at the time of its registration. The belated suppression of The History did no discernible harm to either Stansby, the printer, or Burre, the bookseller. Walter Burre actually had a particularly good year in 1615; after selling only two books in 1614 (Gorges' translation of Lucan and The History), he was back up to eight in 1615.

76. P 130. Tennenhouse (158) also argues that on Ralegh's release, The History could be "safely published and read without suspicion of the author's intent." Steven May (Ralegh, 90) offers support for my view.

77. Reference to Sanderson from The History, ed. Patrides, 17. The Jus Divinem of Presbyterie; newly enlarged: and therine, by many Reasons, Justifying the present GOVERNMENT in not giving Power to any to judge Errors or Heresies & c. (London, 1655) 72. Writer refers the reader to Section II.VI.viii, a passage explaining Joshua's victory. Ralegh lists the reasons for Joshua's success, which include the observation that the "God hath taken away all wisdome and foresight" from the "Gouernours" of the Canaanites (B326). A comment echoing Writer appears in the margin of the Bodleian edition: "Note those people God will destroy he takes their wisdome & courage away."

78. Bishop Joseph Hall, The Balme of Giliad: or, Comforts for the Distressed, both Morall and Divine (London: M. Flesher, 1646), 216-17.

79. (London: William Roybould, 1652) 12.

80. Ibid., 33.