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Sir Walter Raleigh

Born c. 1552
Devon, England
Died 29 October 1618 (aged 66)
London, England
Occupation Writer, poet, soldier, courtier, explorer

Sir Walter Raleigh[1] (c. 1552 – 29 October 1618) was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, and explorer.

Raleigh was born to a Protestant family in Devon, the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne. Little is known for certain of his early life, though he spent some time in Ireland, in Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, taking part in the suppression of rebellions and participating in two infamous massacres at Rathlin Island and Smerwick. Later he became a landlord of properties confiscated from the Irish. He rose rapidly in Queen Elizabeth I's favour, being knighted in 1585. He was involved in the early English colonization of the New World in Virginia under a royal patent. In 1591 he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, without requesting the Queen's permission, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London. After his release, they retired to his estate at Sherborne, Dorset.

In 1594 Raleigh heard of a "City of Gold" in South America and sailed to find it, publishing an exaggerated account of his experiences in a book that contributed to the legend of El Dorado. After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for allegedly being involved in the Main Plot against King James I, who was not favourably disposed toward him. In 1616, however, he was released in order to conduct a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful and the Spanish outpost at San Thomé was ransacked by men under his command. After his return to England, Raleigh was arrested. After a show trial held mainly to appease the Spanish after Raleigh's attack of San Thomé, he was beheaded at Whitehall in 1618.


Early life

Little is known about Raleigh's birth. Some historians believe Raleigh was born in 1552, while others guess as late as 1554. He grew up in the house of Hayes Barton, a farmer, in the village of East Budleigh, not far from Budleigh Salterton in Devon, England. He was the youngest of five sons born to Catherine Champernowne in two successive marriages. His half brothers, John Gilbert, Humphrey Gilbert, Adrian Gilbert, and full brother Carew Raleigh were also prominent during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Catherine Champernowne was a niece of Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's governess, who introduced the young men at court. (Ronald, p. 249).

Raleigh's family was strongly Protestant in religious orientation and had a number of near-escapes during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, Raleigh's father had to hide in a tower to avoid execution. As a result, during his childhood, Raleigh developed a hatred of Catholicism and proved himself quick to express it after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England came to the throne in 1558.

In 1568 or 1572, Raleigh was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, but does not seem to have taken up residence. In 1575, he was registered at the Middle Temple. His life between these two dates is uncertain, but, from a reference in his History of the World, he seems to have served with the French Huguenots at the Battle of Jarnac, 13 March 1569. At his trial in 1603, he stated that he had never studied law.


Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions. He was present at the siege of Smerwick, where he oversaw the slaughter of Italian and Spanish soldiers after they had surrendered.[2] Upon the seizure and distribution of land following the attainders arising from the rebellion, Raleigh received 40,000 acres (160 km²), including the coastal walled towns of Youghal and Lismore. This made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, but he enjoyed limited success in inducing English tenants to settle on his estates.

Sir Walter Raleigh's Seal of Office

During his seventeen years as an Irish landlord, frequently domiciling at Killulagh Castle, Clonmellon, county Westmeath, Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home. He was mayor there from 1588 to 1589. He is credited with having planted the first potatoes in Ireland[citation needed], but it is far more likely that the plant arrived in Ireland through trade with the Spanish. His town mansion, Myrtle Grove, is assumed to be the setting for the story that his servant doused him with a bucket of water after seeing clouds of smoke coming from Raleigh's pipe, in the belief he had been set alight. But this story is also told of other places associated with Raleigh: the Virginia Ash inn in Henstridge near Sherborne, Sherborne Castle, and South Wraxall Manor in Wiltshire, home of Raleigh's friend, Sir Walter Long.

Amongst Raleigh's acquaintances in Munster was another Englishman who had been granted land there, the poet Edmund Spenser. In the 1590s, he and Raleigh travelled together from Ireland to the court at London. Spenser presented part of his allegorical poem, the Faerie Queene, to Elizabeth I.

Raleigh's management of his Irish estates ran into difficulties, which contributed to a decline in his fortunes. In 1602, he sold the lands to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. Boyle subsequently prospered under kings James I and Charles I. Following Raleigh's death, Raleigh family members approached Boyle for compensation on the basis that Raleigh had struck an improvident bargain.

The New World

Engraved portrait of Raleigh

Raleigh's plan in 1584 for colonization in the "Colony and Dominion of Virginia" (which included the present-day states of North Carolina and Virginia) in North America ended in failure at Roanoke Island, but paved the way for subsequent colonies.[3] His voyages were funded primarily by himself and his friends, and never provided the steady stream of revenue necessary to start and maintain a colony in America. (Subsequent colonization attempts in the early 17th century were made under the joint-stock Virginia Company, which was able to collect the capital necessary to create successful colonies.)

In 1587, Raleigh attempted a second expedition, again establishing a settlement on Roanoke Island. This time, a more diverse group of settlers was sent, including some entire families, under the governance of John White. After a short while in America, White was recalled to England to find more supplies for the colony. He was unable to return the following year as planned, however, because the Queen had ordered that all vessels remain at port for potential use against the Spanish Armada. The threat of the Armada was only partially responsible for the 4-year delay of the second expedition. After England's victory over the Spanish fleet in 1588, the ships were given permission to sail. Unfortunately for the colonists at Roanoke, the small fleet made an excursion toward Cuba. They tried to capture the treasure-laden Spanish merchant ships reported to be proliferate in those waters at that time. White is said to have objected to this unplanned foray, but was helpless to dissuade the crews. They had been told of the enormous riches to be had by the experienced Portuguese pilot hired by Raleigh to navigate the voyage. It was not until 1591, 4 years later, that the supply vessel arrived at the colony, only to find that all colonists had disappeared.

The only clue to their fate was the word "CROATOAN" and letters "CRO" carved into separate tree trunks. This suggested the possibilities that they had been massacred, or absorbed or taken away by local Croatan or perhaps another native tribe. Other speculation includes their having starved, or been swept away or lost at sea during the stormy weather of 1588. A hurricane prevented John White and the crew of the supply vessel from visiting Croatan to investigate the colonists' disappearance. No further attempts at contact were recorded for some years. Whatever the fate of the settlers, the settlement is now remembered as the "Lost Colony of Roanoke Island".

Later life

Raleigh and his son Walter in 1602


In December 1581, Raleigh returned to England from Ireland to despatches as his company had been disbanded. He took part in Court life and became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. The various colourful stories told about him at this period are unlikely to be literally true.[4][5]

In 1585 Raleigh was knighted and was appointed warden of the stannaries, that is of the mines of Cornwall and Devon, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice-admiral of the two counties. Both in 1585 and 1586, he sat in parliament as member for Devonshire.[6]

Raleigh commissioned the shipbuilder R. Chapman, of Deptford to build a ship for him. Originally called Ark, it became Ark Raleigh, following the convention at the time by which the ship bore the name of its owner. The Crown, in the form of Queen Elizabeth I, purchased the ship from Raleigh in January 1587, for the sum of £5,000 (£941,340 as of 2010),[7]. (This took the form of a reduction in the sum Sir Walter owed the queen: he received Exchequer tallies, but no money). As a result, the ship was renamed Ark Royal.[8]


In 1592, Raleigh was given many rewards by the Queen, including Durham House in the Strand and the estate of Sherborne, Dorset. He was appointed Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, and as Lord Warden of the Stannaries of Devon and Cornwall(<<!The latter is listed above as happening in 1585>>). However, he had not been given any of the great offices of state. In the Armada year of 1588, Raleigh was appointed Vice Admiral of Devon, looking after the coastal defences and military levies.

In 1591, Raleigh was secretly married to Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton (or Throgmorton). She was one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, eleven years his junior, and was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a son, believed to be named Damerei, who was given to a wet nurse at Durham House. The infant does not seem to have survived, and Bess resumed her duties to the queen. The following year, the unauthorized marriage was discovered and the Queen ordered Raleigh imprisoned and Bess dismissed from court. He was released from prison to divide the spoils from the captured Spanish ship Madre de Dios (Mother of God).

It would be several years before Raleigh returned to favour. The couple remained devoted to each other. During Raleigh's absences, Bess proved a capable manager of the family's fortunes and reputation. They had two more sons, Walter (known as Wat) and Carew.

Raleigh was elected a burgess of Mitchell, Cornwall, in the parliament of 1593.[2] He retired to his estate at Sherborne where he built a new house, completed in 1594, known then as Sherborne Lodge. Since extended, it is now known as Sherborne (new) Castle. He made friends with the local gentry, such as Sir Ralph Horsey of Clifton Maybank and Charles Thynne of Longleat. During this period at a dinner party at Horsey's, there was a heated discussion about religion. The argument later gave rise to charges of atheism against Raleigh. He was elected to Parliament, speaking on religious and naval matters.

In 1594, he came into possession of a Spanish account of a great golden city at the headwaters of the Caroní River. A year later he explored what is now Guyana and eastern Venezuela in search of Manoa, the legendary city. Once back in England, he published The Discovery of Guiana[9] (1596) an account of his voyage which made exaggerated claims as to what had been discovered. The book can be seen as a contribution to the El Dorado legend. Although Venezuela has gold deposits, there is no evidence Raleigh found any mines. He is sometimes said to have discovered Angel Falls, but these claims are considered far-fetched.[10]

In 1596 Raleigh took part in the capture of Cádiz, where he was wounded. He was also the second-in-command of the Islands Voyage to the Azores in 1597.

In 1597, he was chosen member of parliament for Dorset, and, in 1601, for Cornwall.[6] He was unique in the Elizabethan period in sitting for three counties.[2]

1600 to 1618

Raleigh's cell, Bloody Tower, Tower of London

From 1600 to 1603, as Governor of the Channel Island of Jersey, Raleigh modernised its defences. This included construction of a new fort protecting the approaches to Saint Helier, Fort Isabella Bellissima, or Elizabeth Castle.

Royal favour with Queen Elizabeth I had been restored by this time but did not last. Elizabeth died in 1603, and Raleigh was arrested at Exeter Inn, Ashburton, Devon and imprisoned in the Tower of London on 19 July. On 17 November, Raleigh was tried in the converted Great Hall of Winchester Castle for treason, due to alleged involvement in the Main Plot against King James. Raleigh conducted his defence with great skill, which may, in part, explain why King James spared his life, despite the guilty verdict. He remained in the tower until 1616. While imprisoned, he wrote many treatises and the first volume of The Historie of the World (London, 1628) [11] about the ancient history of Greece and Rome. His son Carew was conceived and born (1604) while Raleigh was legally "dead" and imprisoned in the tower.

In 1616, Raleigh was released to conduct a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. During the expedition, Raleigh's men, under the command of Lawrence Keymis, attacked the Spanish outpost of Santo Tomé de Guayana (San Tomé) on the Orinoco River. In the initial attack on the settlement, Raleigh's son Walter was killed by a bullet. On Raleigh's return to England, the outraged Count Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador successfully demanded that King James reinstate Raleigh's death sentence.

Execution and aftermath

Execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.jpg

Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall on 29 October 1618. "Let us dispatch", he said to his executioner. "At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear." After he was allowed to see the axe that would behead him, he mused: "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries." According to many biographers — Raleigh Trevelyan in his book Sir Walter Raleigh (2003) for instance — Sir Walter's final words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: "Strike, man, strike!"

Having been one of the people to popularize tobacco smoking in England, he left a small tobacco box, found in his cell shortly after his execution. Engraved upon the box was a Latin inscription: Comes meus fuit illo miserrimo tempo (It was my comfort in those miserable times)[12].

After Raleigh's execution, his head was embalmed and presented to his wife. His body was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh, but finally laid to rest in St. Margaret's, Westminster, where his tomb may still be visited today.[13] "The Lords", she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits."[14] After her death 29 years later, his head was returned to Raleigh's tomb and interred at St. Margaret's Church.[15]

Although Raleigh's popularity had waned considerably since his Elizabethan heyday, his execution was seen by many, both at the time and since, as unnecessary and unjust. Any involvement in the Main Plot appears to have been limited to a meeting with Lord Cobham.[citation needed] One of the judges at his trial later said: "[T]he justice of England has never been so degraded and injured as by the condemnation of the honorable Sir Walter Raleigh."[16]


One of eleven boarding houses at the Royal Hospital School has been named after him.

The state capitol of North Carolina was named in 1792 for Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of the Colony of Roanoke. The "Lost Colony" is commemorated at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

He is referenced in the song I'm So Tired by The Beatles on their 1968 release, The White Album.


Raleigh is generally considered one of the foremost poets of the Elizabethan era.[citation needed] His poetry is written in the relatively straightforward, unornamented mode known as the plain style. C. S. Lewis considered Raleigh one of the era's "silver poets", a group of writers who resisted the Italian Renaissance influence of dense classical reference and elaborate poetic devices.

In poems such as "What is Our Life" and "The Lie", Raleigh expresses a contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) attitude more characteristic of the Middle Ages than of the dawning era of humanistic optimism. But, his lesser-known long poem "The Ocean to Cynthia" combines this vein with the more elaborate conceits associated with his contemporaries Edmund Spenser and John Donne. It achieves a power and originality that justify Lewis' assessment. It expresses a melancholy sense of history reminiscent of The Tempest and all the more effective for being the product of personal experience. Raleigh is similar to Christopher Marlowe in terms of the terse line, e.g., "She sleeps thy death that erst thy danger sighed".[citation needed]

A minor poem of Raleigh's captures the atmosphere of the court at the time of Queen Elizabeth I. His response to Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" was "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd". "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" was written in 1592, while Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to The Shepherd" was written four years later. Both were written in the style of traditional pastoral poetry. They follow the same structure of six four-line stanzas employing a rhyme scheme of AABB.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Many alternate spellings of his surname exist, including Rawley, Ralegh, Ralagh and Rawleigh. "Raleigh" appears most commonly today, though he, himself, used that spelling only once, as far as is known. His most consistent preference was for "Ralegh". His full name is correctly pronounced /ˈwɔːltə ˈrɔːli/, though, in practice, /ˈræli/ "rally" or even /ˈrɑːli/ "rahly" are the usual modern pronunciations in England.
  2. ^ a b c Nicholls, Mark; Williams, Penry (September 2004). "Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554–1618)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  3. ^ Markham, Jerry W. (2001). A financial history of the United States. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 22. ISBN 0-7656-0730-1. 
  4. ^ Fragmenta Regalia
  5. ^ Fuller's Worthies
  6. ^ a b J. K. Laughton and Sidney Lee, Ralegh, Sir Walter (1552?–1618), military and naval commander and author, 1896
  7. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measuring Worth: UK CPI.
  8. ^ Archaeologia, p. 151
  9. ^ Sir Walter Raleigh. The Discovery of Guiana Project Gutenberg.
  10. ^ "Walter Raleigh - Delusions of Guiana" at The Lost World: Travel and information on the Gran Sabana, Canaima National Park, Venezuela web page. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  11. ^ Raleigh, Walter. "The Historie of the World". Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Williams, Norman Lloyd. "Sir Walter Raleigh", Cassell Biographies, 1962)
  14. ^ Durant, Will, The Story of Civilizationvol. VII, Chap. VI, p.158
  15. ^ Lloyd, J & Mitchinson, J: "The Book of General I.
  16. ^ Historical summary, Crawford v. Washington (page 10 of .pdf file)


  • Adamson, J.H. and Folland, H. F. Shepherd of the Ocean, 1969
  • Dwyer, Jack Dorset Pioneers The History Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7524-5346-0
  • Fuller, Thomas Anglorum Speculum or the Worthies of England, 1684
  • Lewis, C. S. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama, 1954
  • Naunton, Robert Fragmenta Regali 1694, reprinted 1824.
  • Nicholls, Mark and Williams, Penry. ‘Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554–1618)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Ronald, Susan The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2007. ISBN 0-06-082066-7
  • Stebbing, William: Sir Walter Ralegh. Oxford, 1899 Project Gutenberg eText
  • Trevelyan, Raleigh Sir Walter Raleigh, 2003
  • The Sir Walter Raleigh Collection in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

External links

Texts by Raleigh

Court offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Bedford
Lord Warden of the Stannaries
Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Francis Godolphin
Sir William Mohun
Peter Edgcumbe
Richard Carew
Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall
Succeeded by
The Earl of Pembroke
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Seymour
Vice-Admiral of Devon
Succeeded by
The Earl of Bath (North Devon) and
Sir Richard Hawkins (South Devon)
Preceded by
John Best
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Erskine
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Anthony Paulet
Governor of Jersey
Succeeded by
Sir John Peyton

See also


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554 – October 29, 1618) is famed as a writer, poet, spy, and explorer. Note that many alternate spellings of his surname exist, including Rawley, Ralegh, and Rawleigh; although "Raleigh" appears most commonly today, he himself used that spelling only once. His most consistent preference was for "Ralegh".



  • Every fool knoweth that hatreds are the cinders of affection.
    • Letter to Sir Robert Cecil (May 10, 1593).
  • No man is wise or safe, but he that is honest.
    • Advice to the Earl of Rutland on his Travels (1596).
  • If all the world and love were young,
    And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
    These pretty pleasures might me move
    To live with thee and be thy Love.
    • The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd, st. 1 (1599).
    • Inspired by Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to his Love
  • Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
    Upon a thankless arrant:
    Fear not to touch the best;
    The truth shall be thy warrant:
    Go, since I needs must die,
    And give the world the lie.

    Say to the court]glows
    And shines like rotten wood;
    Say to the church, it shows
    What’s good, and doth no good:
    If church and court reply,
    Then give them both the lie.
    • The Lie (1608).
  • So when thou hast, as I
    Commanded thee, done blabbing —
    Although to give the lie
    Deserves no less than stabbing —
    Stab at thee he that will,
    No stab the soul can kill.
    • The Lie (1608).
Sir Walter Raleigh
  • [History] hath triumphed over time, which besides it nothing but eternity hath triumphed over.
    • The History of the World, Preface (1614).
  • Whosoever, in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may happily strike out his teeth.
    • The History of the World, Preface (1614).
  • O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet [Here lies]!
    • The History of the World Book V, chapter 6.
  • Even such is time, that takes on trust
    Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
    And pays us but with earth and dust;
    Who, in the dark and silent grave,
    When we have wandered all our ways,
    Shuts up the story of our days;
    But from this earth, this grave, this dust
    My God shall raise me up, I trust!
    • His Own Epitaph, written the night before his execution (1618).
Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Our passions are most like to floods and streams;
    The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh to the Queen (published 1655). Alternately reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919) as:
      "Passions are likened best to floods and streams:
      The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb"
      and titled The Silent Lover. Compare: "Altissima quæque flumina minimo sono labi", (translated: "The deepest rivers flow with the least sound"), Q. Curtius, vii. 4. 13. "Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep", William Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI. act iii. sc. i.
  • Cowards fear to die; but courage stout,
    Rather than live in snuff, will be put out.
    • On the snuff of a candle the night before he died; Raleigh's Remains, p. 258, ed. 1661.
  • Silence in love bewrays more woe
    Than words, though ne’er so witty:
    A beggar that is dumb, you know,
    May challenge double pity.
    • The Silent Lover, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Fain would I, but I dare not; I dare, and yet I may not;
    I may, although I care not, for pleasure when I play not.
    • Fain Would I, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay.
    • Verses to Edmund Spenser, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Methought I saw my late espoused saint", John Milton, Sonnet xxiii. "Methought I saw the footsteps of a throne", William Wordsworth, Sonnet.
  • Even such is time, that takes in trust
    Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
    And pays us but with age and dust;
    Who in the dark and silent grave,
    When we have wandered all our ways,
    Shuts up the story of our days.
    But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
    My God shall raise me up, I trust!
    • Written the night before his death and found in his Bible in the Gate-house at Westminster; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Shall I, like an hermit, dwell
    On a rock or in a cell?
    • Poem reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • If she undervalue me,
    What care I how fair she be?
    • Poem reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "If she be not so to me, / What care I how fair she be?", George Wither, The Shepherd's Resolution.
  • Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall.
    • Poem written in a glass window obvious to the Queen's eye, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). "Her Majesty, either espying or being shown it, did under-write, 'If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all'", Thomas Fuller, Worthies of England, vol. i. p. 419.
Sir Walter Raleigh

Instructions to his Son and to Posterity (published 1632)

  • Better were it to be unborn than ill-bred.
    • Chapter II.
  • Remember...that if thou marry for beauty, thou bindest thyself all thy life for that which perchance will never last nor please thee one year; and when thou hast it, it will be to thee of no price at all, for the desire dieth when it is attained, and the affection perisheth when it is satisfied.
    • Chapter II.
  • Bestow therefore thy youth so, that thou mayest have comfort to remember it when it hath forsaken thee, and not sigh and grieve at the account thereof.
    • Chapter II.
  • But it is hard to know them [flatterers] from friends, they are so obsequious, and full of protestations; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend.
    • Chapter III.
  • Speaking much also is a sign of vanity; for he that is lavish in words is a niggard in deeds.
    • Chapter IV.
  • Be advised what thou dost discourse of, and what thou maintainest whether touching religion, state, or vanity; for if thou err in the first, thou shalt be accounted profane; if in the second, dangerous; if in the third, indiscreet and foolish.
    • Chapter IV.
  • No man is esteemed for gay garments but by fools and women.
    • Chapter VII.
Sir Walter Raleigh

The Cabinet Council (published 1658)

  • There is nothing exempt from the peril of mutation.
    • Chapter 24.
  • All histories do shew, and wise politicians do hold it necessary that, for the well-governing of every Commonweal, it behoveth man to presuppose that all men are evil, and will declare themselves so to be when occasion is offered.
    • Chapter 25 .
  • It is the nature of men, having escaped one extreme, which by force they were constrained long to endure, to run headlong into the other extreme, forgetting that virtue doth always consist in the mean.
    • Chapter 25.
  • All, or the greatest part of men that have aspired to riches or power, have attained thereunto either by force or fraud, and what they have by craft or cruelty gained, to cover the foulness of their fact, they call purchase, as a name more honest. Howsoever, he that for want of will or wit useth not those means, must rest in servitude and poverty.
    • Chapter 25.
  • He that doth not as other men do, but endeavoureth that which ought to be done, shall thereby rather incur peril than preservation; for whoso laboureth to be sincerely perfect and good shall necessarily perish, living among men that are generally evil.
    • Chapter 25.
  • Historians desiring to write the actions of men, ought to set down the simple truth, and not say anything for love or hatred; also to choose such an opportunity for writing as it may be lawful to think what they will, and write what they think, which is a rare happiness of the time.
    • Chapter 25.
  • Whoso taketh in hand to govern a multitude, either by way of liberty or principality, and cannot assure himself of those persons that are enemies to that enterprise, doth frame a state of short perseverance.
    • Chapter 25.
  • Whoso desireth to govern well and securely, it behoveth him to have a vigilant eye to the proceedings of great princes, and to consider seriously of their designs.
    • Chapter 25.
  • War begets quiet, quiet idleness, idleness disorder, disorder ruin; likewise ruin order, order virtue, virtue glory and good fortune.
    • Chapter 25.


  • Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall.
    • According to Thomas Fuller's History of the Worthies of England vol. 1, p. 4 (1662) this was written by Raleigh on a window-pane, prompting Elizabeth I to add "If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all".
  • The world itself is but a larger prison, out of which some are daily selected for execution.
    • Supposed to have been said by Raleigh to his friends as he was being taken to prison, on the day before his execution (William Stebbing Sir Walter Raleigh (1891), chapter 30).
  • So the heart be right, it is no matter which way the head lies.
    • Stebbing's Sir Walter Raleigh, chapter 30, gives these as Raleigh's words on being asked by the executioner which way he wanted to lay his head on the block.

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