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A good biography will immerse readers in an era, and this massive work provides a cogent look at Elizabethan England as Trevelyan suspends Walter Raleigh's life in the tensions of the time. Literary and humane, a kind, even uxorious, husband, Raleigh was also as ruthless as they come, involved at one point or other in massacres, executions, battles, plundering, and merciless expropriation in Ireland. He came out of these exertions rich, a commoner who rose to the heights of society for a time as Elizabeth I's favorite courtier. Trevelyan reveals Raleigh's ambition in meticulous detail as he describes Raleigh's projects of colonization in the New World and warfare against Spain in the Old, for which Raleigh will always be legendary. He experienced innumerable controversies, which Trevelyan explains exhaustively, drawing copiously from Raleigh's verse, prose, and archives. This thorough and accomplished work is the new standard for Raleighana. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist
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Trevelyan (A Pre-Raphaelite Circle) notes in his preface that he was baptized Walter Raleigh "because of a tenuous family connection." However, it is more than a "tenuous family connection" that gives authenticity to this monumental addition to both Raleigh scholarship and that of the English Renaissance. In addition to enriching the background of his study by visiting each of the principal sites of Raleigh's adventures (Ireland, the Azores, Roanoke, and the Orinoco), Trevelyan has used his access to hitherto uninvestigated source materials from Spanish archives to document the reasons for the Spanish attitude toward Raleigh and other corsairs of the period much more completely than earlier studies do. The result is a fascinating and well-balanced account of the man who has been called "ahead of his time," "greedy and rapacious," "ambitious," "a liar," a "coward," a writer of "some superb lyrics and justly famous lines," and "the true Renaissance man." Raleigh may have observed, "Men are the causes of their own miseries, as I was of mine," but Trevelyan perhaps offers the most honest conclusion: "His life was so full of paradoxes that we cannot end with a neat little summary." Highly recommended.-Robert C. Jones, Warrensburg, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Trevelyan (The Fortress; Rome '44), a direct descendant of Sir Walter Raleigh, has written an exhaustive, indeed overlong, and at times too reverential biography of his legendary ancestor. Raleigh (1554-1618) was the prototypical Renaissance man: he explored the Americas, he was a poet and historian, an Elizabethan courtier, a soldier who fought the Spanish and an effective government administrator. Raleigh was also, notes Trevelyan, extremely ambitious and proud, thus making powerful enemies. Raleigh came from humble beginnings and made his first mark as a soldier. Trevelyan cites at length from Raleigh's poetry, which he wrote to flatter Queen Elizabeth. In 1584, Raleigh sponsored a voyage to the territory known as Virginia, where he founded the first American colony, the ill-fated Roanoke settlement. He also helped defend England against the 1588 Spanish Armada. In 1591, Raleigh made the mistake of secretly marrying one of the queen's servants. A jealous Elizabeth had him and his wife thrown into the Tower. After his release, he explored Guiana, and Trevelyan does an excellent job recreating the journey using Raleigh's writings. His enemies, especially Robert Cecil, were smearing him to the future King James I, who, when he took the throne in 1603, put Raleigh on trial for treason; he was found guilty. Trevelyan convincingly asserts that the charges were trumped up, a mere pretext for eliminating a political rival. King James let Raleigh live, but he spent 13 years in the Tower and was finally beheaded in 1618. Trevelyan's meticulously researched narrative will be informative for anyone looking to learn more about Elizabethan England and one of its most influential characters. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. (Jan. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved