Sir Walter Ralegh



Edward Edwards, The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh...together with his Letters, 2 vols (London, 1868).

Hannah (1845)

Poems by Sir Henry Wotton, Sir Walter Raleigh and others, ed. John Hannah (London, 1845).

Hannah (1870)

The Courtly Poets from Raleigh to Montrose, ed. John Hannah (London, 1870).


The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, ed. Agnes M.C. Latham [first pub. 1929], revised edition (London, 1951; reprinted 1962).

Lefranc (1968)

Pierre Lefranc, Sir Walter Ralegh écrivain (Paris, 1968).


The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: A Historical Edition, ed. Michael Rudick (Tempe, Arizona, 1999)

Works (1829)

The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, Kt., 8 vols (Oxford, 1829; reprinted New York, 1965).


The Letters of Sir Walter Ralegh, ed. Agnes Latham & Joyce Youings (Exeter, 1999)


Autograph Manuscripts

Many autograph manuscripts of Sir Walter Ralegh have survived. Those of special literary as well as historical interest include: the autograph fragments of his Cynthia poems (*RaW 8-9, *RaW 146, *RaW 188); a notebook which he kept during his imprisonment in the Tower (*RaW 728) containing another Cynthia poem (*RaW 200) and material used for The History of the World; some fragmentary notes for his lost Of the Art of Warre by Sea (*RaW 692); and the original journal compiled during his second voyage to Guiana (*RaW 726). A political memorandum on the succession to Queen Elizabeth is also in his hand (*RaW 698); so too is his Considerations concerning Reprysalles (*RaW 571), a memorandum previously known only from the unreliable testimony of the forger John Payne Collier but of which the authenticity can now be confirmed. In addition, some of his autograph scientific papers are extant (*RaW 711, *RaW 713), various state or legal documents are wholly or partly in his hand, a few printed books bear his signature, and a substantial number of his original letters survive.

Manuscript Copies

Late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscript copies of Ralegh's works abound. The only ones probably made at his direction or owned by him — since they appear in a volume of tracts bearing his annotations (*RaW 727) — are certain copies of A Dialogue between a Counsellor of State and a Justice of the Peace (*RaW 572) and of the discourses, usually attributed to him, on the proposed marriage of Prince Henry (RaW 621) and Princess Elizabeth (RaW 648). It is quite possible, however, that the extant copies of Of the Voyage for Guiana (RaW 694) and his memorial on the conduct of the war (RaW 695) were made for him, and some early texts such as the Lambeth manuscript of The Discovery of Guiana (RaW 676) and certain tracts in the National Archives, Kew (RaW 597-8), may well have been produced by or for people in his circle. Whatever the precise line of descent from the author's original manuscripts, there can be no doubt about the importance of the manuscript texts in general since the majority of Ralegh's works were not published until long after his death.

The proliferation of manuscript copies of some of these works is indeed extraordinary. Recorded copies of Ralegh's celebrated epigram “Euen such is tyme”, for instance, number nearly a hundred (RaW 11-105). There are also early brass or marble monuments bearing the epigram found in the Parish Churches at Ross, Herefordshire (Thomas Baker, d.1622), at Isel, Cumbria (Sir Wilfred Lawson, MP, d.1632), and at Sanderstead, now part of Greater London (Henry Mellish, d.1677): see W.A. Thorpe in TLS (12 October 1951), p. 645, and H.G. Carter in TLS (12 November 1951), p. 693.

The Canon

Since so few of his works were published in his lifetime, and since many anonymous poems and tracts were posthumously attributed to him, the Ralegh canon is highly problematical. The ‘standard’ collected edition of his Works (1829) is very much open to amendment. A project for a Clarendon Press edition of the complete works, under the general editorship of Pierre Lefranc, was begun in 1970 under the auspices of the Canada Council, but has long been defunct. Several discussions of the canon have been published — notably Pierre Lefranc's 1968 survey of Ralegh studies, and various articles by Ernest Strathmann. The uncertainty of so many attributions, however, leaves the general canon of Ralegh's works as open to debate as ever.


The standard edition of Ralegh's verse has traditionally been Latham (1951).This can now be supplemented by Rudick's ‘historical edition’ of The Poems (1999), which includes most of the poems that appear in Latham, but largely sidesteps the question of authenticity in favour of printing the texts of poems ascribed to Ralegh in precisely the form in which they were first so attributed. This editorial approach, which includes full texts of several versions of some poems, has its own special interests. It tends to confirm, however, the judgement that any attempt at establishing the canon of a poet like Ralegh is ‘not an exercise in assembling literary remains’, but is ‘more akin to a process of archaeological excavation’ (Peter Beal's review in TLS, 29 December 2000, p. 7).

The first series of entries below, under the category ‘Poems Generally Attributed to Ralegh’ (RaW 1-395), comprises chiefly those poems printed in full by Latham in the main body of her edition (pp. 1-84), with a few recent additions to the provisional canon. The entries include most of her ‘conjectural “Ralegh Group” in “The Phoenix Nest”’ (pp. 73-84). For a discussion of the authorship of these poems see Michael Rudick, ‘The “Ralegh Group” in The Phoenix Nest’, Studies in Bibliography, 24 (1971), 131-7. Both Latham and Rudick (1999) record (but do not usually collate) many early manuscript copies of poems attributed to Ralegh, and many more may here be adduced. As well as the Cynthia poem found in Ralegh's notebook (RaW 200-202), the full text of “Fortune hath taken thee away my love” (RaW 133-5), for instance, can be added to Latham's version of the canon, as well as an early version of Ralegh's Petition to Queen Anne (RaW 294), a poem based on verses in the Cynthia poems.

The second series of entries, under the category ‘Poems Doubtfully Ascribed to Ralegh’ (RaW 360-542), comprises chiefly those poems recorded (but for the most part not printed) by Latham in her Appendix (pp. 163-74). Although ascription to Ralegh of most of these poems has little or no authority, the poems are included here since they will probably continue to play a part in Ralegh studies. It is also possible that previously unknown copies now recorded may shed light on the matter. In view of the consistent attribution to Ralegh of the bawdy verse on the Lady Bendbow (RaW 412-27), for instance, this quip might merit at least reconsideration for inclusion in the canon.

The section on poems of doutful authorship is increased by the addition of poems formerly attributed to Ralegh (such as The passionate mans Pilgrimage, RaW 438-452) but now considered unauthentic. Conversely, two of Latham's poems are excluded from the canon altogether. One is the poem “Would I were chaung'd into that golden showre” (Latham, pp. 81-2), which can be safely assigned to Sir Arthur Gorges (see Gorges, GgA 118-121). The other is “Thou sentst to me a heart was crowned”, which is ascribed to Ralegh in two miscellanies written in the same hand — one in the Folger (MS V.a.103, Part I, f. 41), the other at the University of Nottingham (Portland MS Pw V 37, p. 78). This poem — of which there are innumerable early manuscript copies — is mentioned by Latham in her Appendix, p. 173, and is included in Rudick (1999), p. 111, but can with fair confidence be assigned to Sir Robert Ayton. It is printed in The English and Latin Poems of Sir Robert Ayton, ed. Charles B. Gullans, STS, 4th Ser. 1 (Edinburgh, 1963), pp. 181-2. Another poem probably by Ayton, “Wrong not, deare Empresse of my Heart”, is, however, included in the entries (RaW 500-542) since for some reason it became closely linked with the poem usually attributed to Ralegh beginning ‘Our Passions are most like to Floods and streames’ (RaW 320-338) (the two are printed as one poem in Latham) and since manuscripts which throw light on the textual history of one poem will be of obvious relevance to that of the other.

Other poems are to be found ascribed to Ralegh in manuscript sources - usually poems normally assigned to other authors — for instance, Edward Dyer's “The lowest Trees haue tops” and Henry Wotton's verses Upon the Sudden Restraint of the Earl of Somerset - - but no attempt has been made here to account for the complete Ralegh apocrypha. For a couplet beginning ‘Pray for thy fayth that it may fayle thee neeuer’, for instance, which is copied out and ascribed to ‘Walter Wrawleigh’ by Charles Stanhope, second Baron Stanhope (1595-1675), in a volume of Jonson's Workes (1640): see James M. Osborn, ‘Ben Jonson and the Eccentric Lord Stanhope’, TLS (4 January 1957), p. 16. What was supposed to be an autograph four-line poem by Ralegh, on the death of Thomas Greene, signed ‘WR’, was sold by Puttick & Simpson, 2 March 1867, lot 187, to Hopkinson.


The entries devoted to Ralegh's prose works (RaW 543-710) include those tracts, histories, and notable political, military, and naval memoranda generally accepted as Ralegh's. For tracts and memorials which have been added to the canon since 1829, see *RaW 571, RaW 604, RaW 692-5, *RaW 698. The entries include Observations concerning the Royal Navy and Sea-Service (RaW 683-691), which is sometimes found appended to Sir Arthur Gorges's Islands Voyage (or in one case to his Observations...for a Sea fight) but which seems to be of Ralegh's authorship. Ralegh's Orders to be observed by the Commanders of the Fleet with Land Companies, 3 May 1617 (RaW 701-708) was incorporated in Gorges's A forme of conducting a Fleet through the Narrow Seas, so copies of the latter are also included in the entries for Ralegh's work (RaW 705-708). Ralegh's Opinion upon the Articles propounded by the Earl of 1596 is included (RaW 699-700), although other related manuscripts, such as copies of Essex's articles and the opinions of other commanders, are to be found elsewhere: for instance, in the National Archives, Kew (SP.12/260/82-83, 12/260/93, 12/260/101, 12/265/2) and in the Huntington (EL 1612, pp. 37-8).

A number of manuscript copies of tracts in the Ralegh canon have appeared at auction and in sale catalogues over the years, although it is not now possible to identify them clearly: they may or may not correspond to manuscripts recorded below. Such items include a copy of A Dialogue between a Counsellor of State and a Justice of the Peace, on 128 quarto pages, including an autograph note allegedly attested by the Yorkshire antiquary Ralph Thoresby, was sold at Puttick & Simpson's, 18 August 1865, lot 408, to Dell. A copy of Ralegh's Speech on the Scaffold, on three folio pages, together with a pasted-in copy of ‘Euen such is tyme which takes in trust’, was sold at Sotheby's, 5 July 1955 (André de Coppet sale), lot 984, to B.F. Stevens.

The History of the World

A particularly notable, not to mention ambitious, work by Ralegh, written during his years of imprisonment in the Tower of London, is his unfinished The History of the World (1614). With its providential view of history, this was an especially popular and influential book in the 17th century (it was a favourite book of Oliver Cromwell, for instance, and well respected by Milton). Besides the two manuscripts of one or more abridged versions recorded in the entries below (RaW 678.8, RaW 679), and Ralegh's own exemplum presented to William Trumbull (*RaW 679.96), the work proved to be a favourite quarry for extracts in 17th-century miscellanies, a considerable number of which are also recorded below (RaW 677.1-679.95). Other printed exempla contain annotations by contemporary readers. A notable example is an exemplum of the 1634 edition copiously annotated by Charles, second Baron Stanhope of Harrington (1593-1675), now in the Folger (STC 20641 Copy 3). This is recorded in G.P.V. Akrigg, ‘The Curious Marginalia of Charles, Second Lord Stanhope’, in Joseph Quincy Adams Memorial Studies, ed. James G. McManaway, Giles E. Dawson, and Edwin E. Willoughby (Washington, DC, 1948), pp. 785-801.

In the British Library (Harley MS 6053, ff. 30v-8v) there is also a manuscript ‘Scheme of Procedure’ for an ‘Absolute History of ye Begin when ye noble and industrious Sr W. R. left off, to wit at ye 2d Macedonian War’. Whether this ambitious plan, which appears here in a notebook of c.1689, was any more successful than Ralegh's remains unclear.

Prose Works Doubtfully or Spuriously Attributed to Ralegh

A number of other tracts, treatises and discourses have been attributed to Ralegh — some of them perhaps because copies were found among his papers, others perhaps because of pure speculation or commercial considerations given the range of Ralegh's literary interests and his fame after his death. A number of such prose works, whose authorship is at best doubtful, at worst clearly spurious, but which were quite widely circulated in manuscript, have been given entries below (RaW 1042-1127), for largely the same reasons as the ‘doubtful’ verse. The least they do is bear witness to Ralegh's reputation in the seventeenth century.

One doubtfully attributed work recorded below, an Estimate of Spain & Portugale as they flourisht in the Yeare 1582 (RaW 1061), a treatise listing the revenues of the Spanish nobles and clergy and giving an account of the provinces, cities and shipping of Spain, is a reminder of ‘lost’ works by Ralegh, notably discourses which he himself claimed to have written on the Spanish faction in Scotland, on the West Indies, and on how war might be made against Spain and the Indies: see Lefranc (1968), pp. 70-4. Ralegh's son, Carew, sent to Lord Conway, on 28 June 1652, ‘a parcell of papers...most of them in my Fathers owne hand’, adding ‘I have many other papers of virses and discourses of several kynds which...shall be sent you’ (Conway Letters, ed. Marjorie Hope Nicolson (London, 1930), p. 19). These papers, verses and discourses are not known or identifiable today, however.

One or perhaps two folio manuscript copies of The Cabinet-Council: containing the Chief Arts of Empire and Mysteries of State, which Milton thought was by Ralegh, were in Osborne's sale catalogues in 1748, lot 99, and in 1750, lot 165.

For another apocryphal work, Tubus Historicus, which survives only in a printed edition, and for certain ‘works’ by Ralegh that are really parts of his History of the World, see Lefranc (1968), pp. 63-4.

Books and Manuscript Volumes from Ralegh's Library

Ralegh once possessed a library of at least several hundred volumes. According to John Aubrey, he also ‘studyed most in his sea-voyages, where he carried always a trunke of bookes along with him, and had nothing to divert him’. The titles of more than 500 books are listed in his notebook (*RaW 728), a list printed and discussed in Walter Oakeshott, ‘Sir Walter Ralegh's Library’, The Library, 5th Ser. 23 (1968), 285-327. Attempts to identify extant volumes from Ralegh's library, however, have yielded few results, and indeed speculation about possible ownership and the patent misidentification of marginalia allegedly in Ralegh's hand have led to some confusion. On the basis of manuscript annotations mistakenly thought to be in Ralegh's hand, his ownership has been claimed, for instance, for extant volumes of Pierre d'Ailly, Imago mundi (Louvain, [1483]), of J.J. Wecker, De secretis libri xvii (Basle, 1587), and of Diego de Torres, Relación del origen y sucesso de los Xarifes (Seville, 1586): see Walter Oakeshott's article cited and the arguments advanced in his articles in The Book Collector, 15 (Spring 1966), 12-18, and in The Library (1971), 1-21). To these may be added an exemplum of Historiae fragmentum certaminis beatique exitus gloriosi & inclyti martyris Ballazaris Gerardi (Paris, 1584), bound in a composite volume of pamphlets of a similar nature owned by the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House. The manuscript annotations in the pamphlet were attributed to Ralegh by the late P.J. Croft and accordingly recorded in IELM, I.ii (1980), p. 370, but they can in fact be identified as written by Sir Robert Cecil, whose hand was indeed very similar to Ralegh's.

An exemplum of the 1617 folio of Spenser's works, formerly belonging to Dr Oakeshott, was once owned and annotated by Ralegh's wife and by his son, Carew (see Walter Oakeshott, ‘Carew Ralegh's Copy of Spenser’, The Library, 5th Ser. 26 (1971), 1-21), but the claim that certain interesting pencil notes in the volume against passages referring to Ralegh (illustrated in that article) were probably made by Ralegh himself is untenable on purely palaeographical grounds: the hand belongs to a later period in the 17th century, possibly even the eighteenth century. Dr Oakeshott also claims that the cipher in an exemplum of The History of the World (1614) once in the Hyde Collection is certainly in his hand (The Library (1968), 293); however, the cipher ‘WR’ proves to be only an idle jotting made by a reader in the margin of the page containing the verses on Ralegh's portrait, an inscription repeated after the title of the poem, perhaps in another hand. (A similar doodle, the letter ‘R’ repeated several times, occurs, for instance, in the margin of the Arundel manuscript copy of Ralegh's ‘A quip for Cupide’ (RaW 124)). Another printed work by Ralegh, an exemplum of The Discovery of Guiana (1595) formerly owned by Dr Oakeshott, has, he claims (loc. cit., p. 293), ‘an ex dono cipher’ possibly in the author's hand. Dr Oakeshott's own reservations about the positive identification of this hand, and the evident lack of a clear signature in the volume, do not support the likelihood of Ralegh's ownership. One other volume, as Dr Oakeshott rightly observes (The Library (1968), pp. 292, 326), has been claimed as Ralegh's on the basis of a probable forgery (see Fred Sorenson in N&Q, 166 (10 February 1934), 102-3). The volume, Robert Gray's A Good Speed to Virginia (London, 1609), now in the Newberry Library, Chicago (Ayer 150.5. V7 G7 1609), has on the title-page the partly obliterated signature ‘W. Ralegh’ followed by the words ‘Turr Lond’. The last two words do indeed appear to be in a seventeenth-century hand, but the ‘signature’ (which has been clearly tampered with) is not Ralegh's and is likely the work of the forger John Payne Collier, who once apparently owned the volume.

Other spurious or, at best, unauthenticated items may be mentioned. A manuscript volume which was catalogued by Sir Thomas Phillipps (MS 9290) as ‘Sir Walter Raleigh's Prayers, found at Fardel, Co. Devon’ is now in the Devon Record Office, Exeter (MS 44). The attribution rests on an inscription on a flyleaf (? in an eighteenth-century hand), ‘This book is an original manuscript of Sr Walter Raleigh found at Fardel in Devonshire the seat of his father...’, but the volume (a small prayer book of over 250 pages) bears no trace of Ralegh's own hand; neither does it seem likely that it belonged to his father (d.1581), for the hand appears to date from the early seventeenth century. An exemplum of Peter Martyr, The History of travayle in the West and East Indies (London, 1577), formerly in the Grenville Kane Collection at Princeton, was catalogued as having some annotations ‘possibly’ in Ralegh's hand, but no signature is mentioned and no more can currently be said about it since the volume was stolen from Princeton University Library in 1973. Another unlocated volume allegedly annotated by Ralegh is an exemplum of Jan Jantzoon Orlers and Henry de Haestens, Description et représentation de toutes les victoires de son excellence, le prince de Nassau (Leiden, 1612); this volume, supposedly containing Ralegh's pencil notes in French, was once owned (and quoted) by William Oldys (1696-1761): see Works (1829), I, 245 et seq. It is not impossible that this item was authentic: the work contains an account of the action at Cadiz, which would have been of obvious interest to Ralegh, and Oldys, author of a Life of Ralegh, would probably have been familiar with his handwriting. In N&Q, 166 (24 February 1934), 138-9, William Jaggard supplies some not particularly helpful information about one other unlocated volume perhaps owned by Ralegh: ‘My old friend, the late Gordon Duff (Librarian of the Rylands Library 1893-1900) once showed me, in his private collection, a volume (title forgotten) from Ralegh's library. On the side, in blind relief, was stamped the coat-of-arms reproduced in the late Dr. Brushfield's “Ralegh Bibliography”’. Gordon Duff's library was sold at Sotheby's, 16-19 March 1925.

A case for Ralegh's possible ownership of certain other items is provided by evidence of provenance. A folio 35-leaf Spanish manuscript volume comprising partly illuminated cartas de executorias de hidalguia, on vellum, dated 1577, relating to Cristoval Palomeque, was donated to the Bodleian Library in 1622 by Ralegh's brother Sir Carew Ralegh (present pressmark MS Bodl. 909). Dr Oakeshott (The Library (1968), 293) plausibly suggests that this document may well have been captured by Sir Walter on his last voyage. An exemplum of Laurence Humphrey, Jesuitismi, 2 vols (London, 1582), now at Yale (Mhc5 H885 J4), has on the title-page of the second volume the partly cropped inscription, ‘Excelleti & Generoso viro D. Gual. Rau[ ] Laur. Humfred[us] D. D.’. Though this defective inscription is less than conclusive, and the volumes bear no traces of Ralegh's hand, they may have been presented to him by the author.

There is also a record of another book owned by Ralegh. In collections of the Viscount De L' Isle, in the Centre for Kentish Studies (U 1475 Z4 and Z5) are two folio copies of what is described as ‘Sir Walter Ralegh's Discourse of Exchange, &c.’. The copies were made by Thomas Ludwell, at Penshurst in 1629, for Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester. One is inscribed ‘This book I borrowed of my Lord of Northumberland, who had it of Sir Walter Rawleigh, whose arms were upon the cover’. The tract itself is not by Ralegh himself, however, but by Sir Francis Knollys (1511/12-96), Treasurer of the Royal household.

To the account of Ralegh's library given in his notebook may be added certain other references. Ralegh, like many other intellectual figures of the time (e.g. Bacon, Camden, and Jonson), made use of the library of Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631). An autograph letter to Cotton, now in the British Library (Cotton MS Julius C. III, f. 311r), includes a brief list of titles and asks Cotton, ‘if yow haue any of thes old books or any manuscrips’ relating to ‘our Brittan antiquites’, whether Ralegh might borrow them (see Edwards, No. CXL). The Cotton manuscripts, the single most important manuscript collection preserved in the British Library, presents serious possibilities for research connected with Ralegh and his sources, as with other members of Cotton's circle. Another relevant library is that of Henry Percy (1564-1632), ninth Earl of Northumberland, who was Ralegh's fellow prisoner in the Tower from 1605 and with whom he obviously shared common intellectual interests and pursuits. Percy's library at Alnwick Castle, seat of the present Duke of Northumberland, is largely preserved. He also lived, between 1621 and 1632, at Petworth House, Sussex, later seat of the Earl of Leconfield and now the seat of Lord Egremont. A substantial portion of the Leconfield library (including books and manuscripts with Percy's armorial crest) is preserved at Petworth, though a number of volumes were sold at Sotheby's on 23 April 1928. For some account of the Percy library, see G. R. Batho, ‘The Library of the “Wizard” Earl: Henry Percy, Ninth Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632)’, The Library, 5th Ser. 15 (1960), 246-61.

The most famous of Ralegh's books, though not mentioned in any of his lists, is obviously the Bible in which, according to so many early texts, he inscribed “Euen such is tyme” and which he left in the Gatehouse Prison at Westminster before his execution. It is scarcely to be hoped that this volume could have survived. A manuscript volume of material relating to the trials for the Overbury murder, now in the University of London Library (MS 313), contains (f. 15r) an interesting note concerning another bible: ‘Sir Walter Rawleye sent a bible to Earle Somersett being in the tower he desiring to haue a Bible with a leafe turned downe at the xxiiith Chapter of Ecclesiasticus verse xiiiith Remember thy father and mother &c and soe to the end of the Chapter’. Sir Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, was committed to the Tower in 1615. He and his wife, Frances Howard, occupied Ralegh's rooms and adjoining apartments (in the upper story of the Bloody Tower) for some years after Ralegh's release in March 1615/16. It would be an extraordinary irony if a particular bible was passed between the two prisoners and was the one in which Ralegh finally wrote “Euen such is tyme” (though this is unlikely).

The only volumes that can be identified, for the most part with reasonable confidence, as coming from Ralegh's library are given separate entries below (in RaW 1026-1038).


The entries for Ralegh's books and manuscript volumes include four maps of Guiana (RaW 1029-1032), whose provenance is less certain, although of considerable interest — especially if any of them were passed on to Ralegh's great enemy Count Gondomar, another tangible reminder of one of the main reasons why Ralegh's last voyage was doomed from the start.

Clearly Ralegh owned many more maps and geographical documents, notably ‘a great manuscript booke in pchment nere a yeard square containing the discriptions of all contries in the world’ which Sir Thomas Wilson described in a letter to King James (National Archives, Kew, SP14/103/67, quoted by Walter Oakeshott in The Library (1968), 326). For some indication of the nature and disposal of Ralegh's maps (and of his mathematical instruments and books and papers in general), see Edwards, II, 413-14, 420-4; R.A. Skelton, loc. cit.; Oakeshott, The Library (1968), 285-327; and Lefranc (1968), pp. 42-4. It is clear that steps were taken to confiscate Ralegh's possessions of this kind for the Royal Collection, but Lady Ralegh seems to have petitioned successfully to retain them. However, a number of Ralegh's books and manuscripts probably perished in 1623, in a fire which destroyed the London house of Sir William Cockayne (who owned a trunk-full of them) and also the neighbouring house of Lady Ralegh herself.


The entries devoted to miscellaneous items (RaW 711-822) include Ralegh's journal (*RaW 726), his extant notebook (*RaW 728), his manuscript volume of miscellaneous tracts (*RaW 727), accounts of his arraignments in 1603 and 1618 (RaW 728.1-728.290), and a few other items of special interest.

Ralegh's scientific papers - both those in his own hand and some early copies of receipts attributed to him - are recorded (RaW 711-725). For a discussion of the most famous of his receipts, his ‘great Cordiall’, see John Knott, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh's “Royal Cordial”’, Dublin Journal of Medical Science, 121 (1906), 63-70, 131-43. For some account of Ralegh's general activities in the field of chemistry and medicine, see Lefranc (1968), pp. 678-82, and John William Shirley, ‘The Scientific Experiments of Sir Walter Ralegh, the Wizard Earl, and the Three Magi in the Tower 1603-1617’, Ambix, 4 (1949), 52-66.

Ralegh's Arraignments and Execution

The miscellaneous entries also include certain memorials arising from Ralegh's final arraignment and execution. Of the two brief items which Edwards called Ralegh's ‘testamentary notes’ (RaW 729-736), the first is a note of some last wishes regarding purely practical matters, and the second is a list of points which Ralegh prepared for his own defence, a list which survives in several early transcripts. An unpublished item included is a prayer, described in one manuscript source as ‘A Speech found in Sir Walter Rawleighes pockett after his Execution Written by him in the Gatehouse ye night befores dea[th]’ (RaW 737-738). Although the precise details of this description need not be taken literally, for similar claims were made about various poems and letters of Ralegh, it seems quite possible that this ‘Speech’ is a genuine composition of Ralegh's, perhaps a pious confession prepared by him for circulation in case he was not allowed to speak on the scaffold (a suggestion made in private correspondence by Professor Lefranc). The final entries (RaW 739-822) record extant texts of the celebrated speech which Ralegh actually made on the scaffold. The number of surviving copies of the speech and of accounts of the execution containing summaries thereof testifies to the enormous interest which this event commanded in the 17th century. It can only be imagined how many manuscript texts must once have been in existence. Perhaps some of the extant copies were produced and sold by professional scribes within days of the execution. Transcripts of the speech continued to be made, however, until well into the middle of the seventeenth century. A few independent accounts of the speech found in contemporary letters provide additional witnesses to the text (see RaW 817-822), and it is conceivable (if not certain) that one item - a note of the main points in the speech made by Ralegh's friend Thomas Harriot (RaW 816) - was jotted down at the execution itself.

A few additional items relating to the execution may be mentioned. In a letter of 7 November 1618 to Sir Dudley Carleton (National Archives, Kew, SP14/103/73), John Chamberlain describes Ralegh's deportment the night before his execution; the text is printed in The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. N. E. McClure (Philadelphia, 1939), II, 179-82. In another letter to Carleton, also written on 7 November 1618 (SP.14/104/74), John Pory describes Ralegh's manner on the morning of his death; this letter is edited in William S. Powell, ‘John Pory on the Death of Sir Walter Ralegh’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser. 9 (1952), 532-8 (pp. 537-8). In a letter of 9 November 1618 to Sir John Isham, Dr Robert Tounson, Dean of Westminster (who accompanied Ralegh to the scaffold), describes Ralegh's manner and state of mind before the execution; this letter is now preserved in the Northamptonshire Record Office (I.C. 152), and the text is printed in Works (1829), VIII, 780-3, and in Edwards, II, 489-92. There is also an account of Ralegh's execution apparently made by Sir Thomas Aylesbury. Unless it can be identified with RaW 753 or RaW 816.5 among the Vernon or Dropmore Papers respectively, it was last recorded in the library of Winchester Cathedral.


The number of other miscellaneous documents signed by, or associated with, Ralegh are legion, and have not been afforded separate entries here. A selection of such documents may briefly be summarised as follows.

A plan for Munster in the hand of Lord Burghley, 25 October 1582, with autograph revisions by Ralegh, is in the National Archives, Kew (SP 63/96/30), and was edited in Sir John Pope-Hennessy, Sir Walter Ralegh in Ireland (London, 1883), pp. 227-32. A questionnaire, of 12 May 1589, submitted to ‘undertakers’ in Munster and containing Ralegh's autograph answers, is also in the National Archives, Kew (SP.63/144/27). So is a paper signed by Ralegh recording the names of his tenants in Munster, September [1589] (SP.63/114/28). A copy of Ralegh's instructions for the Muster Masters of Cornwall, [1587 or 1588] is likewise in the National Archives, Kew (SP 12/265/113). A signed petition to Lord Burghley, [1588 or 1589], concerning the reform of abuses in the wine-licenses, is now in the New York Public Library, Manuscripts Division (Montague Collection, No. 1307). A vellum document signed by Ralegh concerning a licence for the selling of wines in 1583 was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 30-31 October 1950 (Oliver R. Barrett sale), lot 954 and is illustrated in the sale catalogue. Contemporary transcripts of two joint memoranda from Cecil, Ralegh, and other commissioners concerning the Great-Carrack, 21 and 24 September 1592, are owned by the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House (Cecil Papers 168/134-5).

Various joint letters to the Privy Council or to individuals such as Burghley, Cecil, and Lord Howard were written and signed by Essex, Ralegh, and other naval commanders in July and August 1597. Four despatches of this kind signed by Ralegh are in the National Archives, Kew (SP.12/264/11; 12/264/12; 12/264/13(i); 12/264/60), and another is owned by the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House (Cecil Papers 54/27). A similar joint letter from Howard, Ralegh, and Mountjoy to Essex, 5 November 1597, is now in the Warwickshire County Record Office, among the papers of the Earl of Aylesford, of Packington Hall (Essex Letter Book, No. 58). Ralegh's autograph memorandum (to Cecil)? [c.20 March?] 1601/2, on the case of Kettleby v. Kettleby, is owned by the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House (Cecil Papers, Petitions 2237a). So is an autograph memorandum by Ralegh, [April 1602], annotated by Cecil, concerning prizes taken by the Refusal commanded by Sir John Gilbert the Younger (Cecil Papers, Petitions 2237).

A document signed by Ralegh concerning the sale of land in Derbyshire formerly owned by the conspirator Anthony Babington, dated 18 March 1587, was in 1942 in the possession of Mr Francis Blom of New Orleans; a photograph is in the Folger (PR 1405 R2). The seal and signature on this document, which was formerly owned by E. Basil Jupp, FSA, are reproduced in Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, ed. Joseph Jackson Howard, II (London, 1876), 155. Another signed document concerning the sale of land in Derbyshire formerly owned by Babington, dated 1 August 1587, was sold at Sotheby's, 27 October 1970, lot 368, and subsequently exported; a photocopy is in the British Library (RP 546). A similar signed document, dated 5 August 1587, was sold at Chrustie's, 29 May 1986, lot 143, and is illustrated in the sale catalogue. A warrant signed by Ralegh and his brother Carew, 28 September 1587, appointing a deputy steward of the Manor of Mere is preserved in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives (WRO 150). A signed patent for the stewardship of the Manor of Gillingham, 30 June 1588 — a document endorsed by one ‘Rand[olph] Baron’, who refers to Ralegh as ‘my master’ - was recorded in the printed catalogue of the R.B. Adam Library (1929), III, 201, and was subsequently in the Hyde Collection (Life, I, 3, 226). A signed indenture leasing lands in Munster to Thomas Colthurst, 8 September 1589, was sold at Sotheby's, 14 March 1979, lot 434, to Batchelder (a reduced facsimile is in the sale catalogue). A signed mandate to the steward of the Manor of Trematon, Cornwall, 25 June 1591, is preserved in Chetham's Library, Manchester (Mun. A 1. 2). A signed warrant appointing John Meere as Keeper of Sherborne, 28 August 1592, is in the National Archives, Kew (SP.12/242/124). An authorisation of payment for arrows for the Queen's guards, signed by both the Queen and Ralegh, 31 December 1593, is now in the Arents Collection in the New York Public Library. An autograph warrant concerning the delivery of timber cut in Ireland, 29 August 1599, is preserved by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Case 10, Box 34, pp. [D-E]). A legal transcript of a warrant appointing John Foster bailiff of Sherborne, 12 September 1599, is in the National Archives, Kew (E. 143/7). An autograph declaration to Sir Robert Carr of good usage for Sherborne, December 1609, also signed by Lady Ralegh and Walter Ralegh the younger, is owned by the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey. Another document signed by these three is a receipt for money towards Ralegh's last expedition, dated 17 February 1616/17, sold at Sotheby's, 11 July 1983, lot 119, to Hutton, and is illustrated in the sale catalogue. Two signed certificates of service for one John Duckett, disabled by war-wounds, [1613?], are in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives (in the Great Rolls, Quarter Sessions: Easter 1613, No. 187, and Autograph Book, f. 13r). Besides two wills made by Ralegh (RaW 1024-1025), the chief interest of the first lying in its disclosure that he had an illegitimate child in Ireland, Sherborne Castle retains the indenture surrendering the castle to the Crown.

A number of other little-known financial documents relating to Ralegh's estates in Ireland are among the muniments of the Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth House, and have been given separate entries below (RaW 1007-1022). Besides all else, one of these documents is of interest because the date ‘1612’ looks like ‘1622’ (the first ‘2’ being tilted to one side), and indeed ‘1622’ has been docketed in modern ink on the verso. Since there is no way that it could have been written or signed in 1622 (four years after his execution), this is conclusive evidence in connection with the long-disputed number of supposed ‘Bookes’ of Ralegh's unfinished autograph poem to Queen Elizabeth, ‘the Ocean to Scinthia’ (*RaW 8). Scholars have puzzled over whether ‘The 22th: and laste booke’ should be 22, 11, 12, or (one theory) ‘vi’. It is manifestly ‘12’.

Ralegh's Voyages

Among the various other documents relating to Ralegh in the Public Records and elsewhere, a number concern his voyages, especially his second expedition to Guiana in 1617. A ‘Cashe Booke for the Voyage Sett fforthe By the Right Worshipfull Sir Walter Rawlighe and others in anno 1592’ (a voyage from which he was recalled by the Queen) is among the papers of the Myddleton family, now in the National Library of Wales (Chirk MS F. 12629). It is discussed in G.M. Griffiths, ‘An Account Book of Raleigh's Voyage, 1592’, National Library of Wales Journal, 7 (1951-2), 347-53. Brief descriptions of the same voyage appear in various volumes of maritime tracts, including one owned by Lord Egremont at Petworth House (HMC MS 59, pp. 20-1) and another owned by the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House (recorded in HMC, 3rd Report (1872), Appendix, p. 183).

A contemporary transcript of the official account of the Islands Voyage in 1597, the original of which was signed by Ralegh and the Council of War, is in the British Library (Harley MS 36, ff. 323r-8r); this account was printed in 1625 in Purchas his Pilgrimes (Glasgow edition (1905-7), XX, 24-33). Spanish documents concerning Ralegh's ‘piracies’ are preserved in the Archivo General, Simancas (‘Secretaria de Estado. Documentos relativos a Inglaterra’, Legajos 2.514, 2.850, & 7.030 (Libro 373)) and among other state papers. Transcripts of various documents in the Spanish archives relating to Ralegh's voyages were made at the end of the nineteenth century at the time of the Guiana-Venezuela Boundary Dispute and are now in the British Library (Add. MSS 36316-17, 36320). A number of relevant Spanish documents are printed in C. Pérez Bustamente, El Conde de Gondomar y su intervención en el proceso, prisión y muerte de Sir Walter Raleigh (Santiago, 1928) and Don Antonio Ballesteros y Beretta, Correspondencia oficial de Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Conde de Gondomar (Madrid, 1943). Certain documents relating to the 1617 voyage are printed in V. T. Harlow, Ralegh's Last Voyage (London, 1932). Others are discussed and quoted from transcripts formerly in her own possession by Agnes Latham in ‘Sir Walter Ralegh's Gold Mine: New Light on the Last Guiana Voyage’, Essays & Studies, NS 4 (1951), 94-111. Some documents in the National Archives, Kew, relating to Ralegh's finances are discussed in John W. Shirley, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh's Guiana Finances’, Huntington Library quarterly, 13 (1949-50), 55-69. Ralegh's own estimate of his expenses for the expedition is preserved in a transcript in the Folger Shakespeare Library (MS G.b.10, ff. 111r-12v). The text of this memorandum is printed in Ernest A. Strathmann, ‘Ralegh Plans his Last Voyage’, The Mariner's Mirror, 50 (1964), 261-70. A signed agreement (26 March 1617) between Ralegh and Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, concerning the voyage is preserved in the Arents Collection in the New York Public Library; a reduced facsimile appears in Sotheby's sale catalogue, 5 July 1955, lot 981. A document signed on the same day, covenanting to pay a share of the profits to Sir Arthur Ingram, was once owned by Henry Lawrence Bradfer-Lawrence (1887-1965), Norfolk and Yorkshire antiquary and manuscript collector, and was on temporary deposit in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Bradfer-Lawrence 60), but is currently untraced. Copies of James I's commission to Ralegh for the expedition are to be found among various state papers, including muscripts in the Bodleian (MS North a. 6, ff. 1r-16r and at the University of North Carolina (CSWR A28 and A29). A signed indenture appointing John Chudleigh as captain of a ship on Ralegh's last voyage, dated 23 March 1616/17, was offered in Maggs's sale catalogue 554 (spring 1931), item 215.


Also of interest, but not given separate entries below, are Ralegh's occasional speeches, or interjections, in Parliament. Copies or reports of these are found in numerous parliamentary journals, among them Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey, HMC No. 189; British Library Harley MS 1888; Folger MS G.b.3; Inner Temple Library Petyt 538, Vol. 20; Hertfordshire Record Office XII B 16; Lincoln's Inn Library, Hale MS 138; and Northamptonshire Record Office FH 46.


Not the least numerous of Ralegh manuscripts are his letters, many of which exist in his generally autograph originals, and many more in contemporary or near-contemporary copies, which appear to have been avidly produced and collected in the years following his execution. Edwards printed the text of 166 letters of Ralegh, perhaps as many as 125 of which survive in the originals. His edition has now been superseded by the Latham and Youings edition (1999), which runs to 228 letters. Some of Ralegh's letters relating to his voyages to Guiana are also edited, with other related papers, in the appendices of Joyce Lorimer's edition of Sir Walter Ralegh's Discoverie of Guiana (Aldershot, 2006). In view of these publications, no attempt has been made here to give entries to Ralegh's original letters. Entries have been collected, however, for widely scattered copies of letters by Ralegh (RaW 823-1006), whether individually identified or otherwise, and whether or not mentioned in Youings. This information will at least signal the nature and extent of the proliferation of such copies.

Some facsimile examples of original letters by Ralegh may be listed as follows. Letters in the British Library are to be found in Greg, English Literary Autographs, Plates LXXIV-LXXV, in Facsimiles of Royal, Historical, and Literary Autographs in the British Museum (1899), Plate 20, and in Sir Henry James, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts from William the Conqueror to Queen Anne, 4 vols (Southampton, 1865-8), III, Plate XC; IV, Plate XIX. A letter in the Bodleian (MS Tanner 79, f. 117) is reproduced in Edwards, II, frontispiece, and letters in the National Archives, Kew are reproduced in Ralegh, Selections, ed. G. E. Hadow (Oxford, 1917), facing p. 34; in Jonathan Gibson, ‘Significant Space in Manuscript Letters’, The Seventeenth Century, 12/1 (Spring 1997), 1-10 (p. 10); and in Youings, pp. 243, 311, 328 (with one in Woburn Abbey on p. 315). One in the Pierpont Morgan Library is reproduced in British Literary Manuscripts, Series I, ed. Verlyn Klinkenborg et al. (New York, 1981), No. 19. A letter now at the University of Texas at Austin (Pforzheimer MS 106) is reproduced in The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library: English Literature 1475-1700 (New York, 1940), III, facing p. 853. Facsimiles of letters by Ralegh also appear in Sotheby's sale catalogue for 11 August 1942 (‘The Bacon-Frank Manuscripts’), lot 35; in Christie's sale catalogue for 2 April 1975, lot 149. and in Maggs's sale catalogue No. 445 (Christmas 1923), item 2833. No doubt other facsimile examples of this kind are to be found.

It may be added that a number of letters by Ralegh's wife, Elizabeth Throckmorton, also survive, written either by amanuenses and signed by her or else entirely in her own italic hand with her characteristic semi-phonetic spelling. Examples can be found, for instance, in the British Library (Add.MSS 29598 and 72709), and in the library of the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House, while a letter by her about her husband's books is preserved in a copy by Sir Thomas Wilson in the National Archives, Kew (SP 14/103, f. 126r). Facsimile examples may be found in Oakeshott's article on Carew Ralegh's ‘Copy of Spenser’ in The Library, 5th Ser. 26 (March 1971), after p. 16; in Sotheby's sale catalogue, 11 July 1983, lot 93; in Anna Beer, My Just Desire: The Life of Bess Ralegh, Wife to Sir Walter (New York, 2003), after p. 132; and in Peter Beal, A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450-2000 (Oxford, 2008), p. 392.

Editorial Papers

The autograph manuscript and some proof sheets of the Life of Ralegh written before 1751 by Thomas Birch, together with supplementary material, are to be found in the British Library (Add. MS 4231). John Hannah's annotated exemplum of his 1845 edition of Ralegh's poems is now in the Bodleian (13. θ. 132). A collection of transcripts of Ralegh's poems made from various sources in the 1890s by one Abram E. Cutter is in the Boston Public Library (H. 80. 107-109). In addition, J.P. Collier's transcript of collections relating to Ralegh was offered in Quaritch's sale ‘Catalogue of English Literature’ (August-November 1884), item 22352.

Peter Beal