Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

On the return of both parties to England, their cause was heard before the Privy Council; where Ralegh is said to have defended his cause with so much ability, that it materially contributed, with his other accomplishments, to introduce him to the notice of the court.*

Not content, however, with the smiles of courtiers, he was ambitious of attracting the royal notice: and an opportunity speedily offered, which showed that gallantry was not the least of his qualifications. Her Majesty (says Fuller) in one of her walks

1581) under the Deputy in such poor place and charge, as were it not that I knew him to be as if yours, I would disdain it as much as to keep sheep. I will not trouble your honour with the business of this lost land; for that Sir Warham St. Leger can best of any man deliver unto your Lordship the good, the bad, the mischiefs, the means to amend, and all in all of this commonwealth, or rather common woe!"

* See Naunton's • Fragmenta Regalia,' where this dispute is assigned among the second causes of his growth.—" What advantage he had in the case in controversy, I know not, but he had much the better in the manner of telling his tale; insomuch that the Queen and the Lords took no slight mark of the man and his parts: for from thence he came to be known, and to have access to the Lords. And then we are not to doubt, how such a man would comply to progression; and whether or no my Lord of Leicester had the cast in a good word for him to the Queen, which would have done him no harm, I do not determine: but true it is, he had gotten the Queen's ear in a trice, and she began to be taken with his election, and loved to hear his reasons to her demands. And the truth is, she took him for a kind of oracle, which nettled them all: yea, those that he relied on, began to take this his sudden favour for an alarm, and to be sensible of their own supplantation, and to project his; which made him shortly after sing,

• Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown?'"

meeting with a plashy place, made some scruple to go on: when Ralegh, dressed in the gay and genteel habit of those times, presently cast off and spread his new plush-cloak on the ground; whereon the Queen trod gently over, rewarding him afterward with many suits for his so free and seasonable a tender of so fair a foot-cloth. This adventure indeed, joined to a handsome person, a polite address, and a ready wit, could not fail to recommend him to his susceptible Sovereign. Accordingly, coming to court shortly afterward, and meeting with a flattering reception, he took an opportunity of inscribing with a diamond, upon a window, the following line;

"Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall;"

which Elizabeth elegantly turned to a couplet, suggesting that if he did not rise, it would be his own fault:

"If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all." *

After such a challenge, it is no wonder that he made a rapid progress in her Majesty's favour.

In 1582, he was selected with other persons of distinction to accompany the Duke of Anjou to the Netherlands; and, upon his return, he brought letters to her Majesty from the Prince of Orange. The year following, he engaged with his brother Gilbert in a second expedition to Newfoundland; but after he had been two or three days at sea, a contagious distemper seized the whole crew, and he was obliged

* Both these stories are recorded by Fuller, in his « Worthies of Devon.*

to return to port.* Ill-success, however, could not divert Ralegh from a scheme, which he deemed important to the interests of his country. He therefore drew up an account of it's advantages, and laid it before the Queen and her Council, who were so well satisfied with it, that her Majesty granted him letterspatent authorising him to 'discover such remote, heathen, and barbarous lands, not actually possessed by any Christian prince, or inhabited by Christian people, as to him or them should seem good; and to hold the same with all prerogatives, commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, &c.'

Upon this, he immediately fitted out two vessels, which reached the gulf of Florida in the beginning of July; and, after coasting along for about a hundred and twenty miles, debarked on an island called Wokoken, of which he took formal possession in the name of his royal mistress. He then inquired into the strength of the Indian nations, and their con

* By this accident, he escaped the calamities of an expedition, in which Sir Humphry, after having taken possession of Newfoundland for the English crown, on his return home unfortunately perished. This eminent man, observes Granger, possessed many of the various talents, by which his illustrious half-brother was distinguished. In his military capacity, he had gained a considerable reputation in Ireland; and by sea, as an enterprising adventurer, he opened to his country the way of commerce and prosperity. Like Ralegh, he pursued his studies upon both elements; and even in the dreadful tempest, which swallowed up his vessel, he was seen sitting unmoved at the stern with a book in his hand, frequently exclaiming, " Courage, my lads! we are as near heaven at sea as at land." He always wore on his breast a golden anchor, suspended to a pearl, which was given him by the Queen. He wrote a discourse to prove, that • there is a North-West passage to the Indies.'

nexions, alliances, and contests with each other; and on his return to England, made such an advantageous report of the fertility of the soil and the healthfulness of the climate, that Elizabeth readily patronised the design of settling a colony in that country, and bestowed upon it the name of ' Virginia.'

About two months after Ralegh's return, in 1584, he was chosen knight of the shire for his native county of Devon; and the same year the Queen, though extremely frugal and judicious in bestowing her honours, as a distinguishing token of her favour conferred upon him the order of knighthood. She granted him, at the same time, a patent to license the vending of Wines by retail throughout the kingdom.*

He was now so intent upon planting his new colony, that in April 1585 f he despatched a fleet of seven sail, under the command of his cousin Sir Richard Greenevile or Grenville, a gentleman who acquired the highest degree of reputation both in the land and sea-service. Sir Richard, upon his landing, sent a deputation to the Indian king, whose name was Wingina, requesting permission to establish a friendly intercourse with the inhabitants, and to visit the country. And, after availing himself to a consider

* This grant involved him, shortly afterward, in a dispute with the University of Cambridge, which claimed the exclusive privilege of issuing wine-licences within the limits of it's own jurisdiction, and had it's claim allowed.

f He had the preceding month, in conjunction with his halfbrother Sir Adrian Gilbert, for the purpose of discovering the North-West passage he anticipated, sent out Captain Davis, an experienced navigator, who soon afterward fell upon the wellknown 'Davis' Straits.' Upon this account, a promontory in that neighbourhood is still called * Mount Ralegh.'

able extent of the privilege, and leaving one hundred and seven persons (among whom was the celebrated mathematician, Thomas Hariot) to settle the colony, he set sail for England; taking, in his passage homeward, a Spanish prize estimated at 50,000/.

This was not the only circumstance of good fortune, which happened to Sir Walter this year. The rebellion in Ireland being now totally suppressed, her Majesty granted him twelve thousand acres of the forfeited lands in the counties of Cork and Waterford,* which he immediately planted at his own expense.

Encouraged by this noble donation, he fitted out a third fleet for Virginia: but the party left by Grenville, having suffered great distresses, had procured a passage to England with Sir Francis Drake, on his return from his conquest of St. Domingo, Carthagena, and St. Augustine. Ralegh indeed, in the preceding spring, had despatched a ship of one hundred tons to their succour; but she did not arrive, before they had abandoned their new settlement.!

About this time, likewise, Ralegh engaged in other plans, for the improvement of the navigagation and commerce of his country. To indemnify

* This, forming a part of the very extensive territories of the Earl of Desmond (574,000 acres), he sold near the close of Elizabeth's reign to Richard Boyle, afterward the great Earl of Cork, and thus laid the foundation of that family's fortune.

f They brought back with them the Nicotiana, or Tobacco, so called from Tabaco, a province of Yucatan. The Spaniards, who first imported it into Europe, had discovered it about the year 1560. Ralegh was, himself, very fond of smoking it.

« AnteriorContinuar »