Walter Raleigh (professor)

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Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh (5 September 186113 May 1922) was an English scholar, poet and author.


  • Definition and division are the watchwords of science, where art is all for composition and creation.
  • Almost all men are less humorous than Shakespeare; but most men are more humorous than Milton, and these, it is to be feared, having suffered themselves to be dragooned by the critics into professing a distant admiration for Paradise Lost, have paid their last and utmost tribute to the genius of its author.
  • God's most candid critics are those of his children whom he has made poets.
  • I wish I loved the human Race,
    I wish I loved its silly face,
    I wish I liked the way it walks,
    I wish I liked the way it talks,
    And when I'm introduced to one,
    I wish I thought "what jolly fun"!
    • Poem, "Thoughts of an Old Man"

English Voyages of the Sixteenth Century (1906)

  • The actions that move the world have been prompted and inspired by dreams and visions. The search for the philosopher's stone laid the foundations of modern chemistry; modern travel and geography owe their chief advances to the search for the fabled realm of Cathay.
  • The stalwart honesty and simplicity of the character and writings of Davis give a singular charm to his name and story. He was a man after Hakluyt's own heart, a fearless explorer, an ardent student and professor of the science of navigation.
  • ... these men, though there was little of saintliness in their character, had a religion, and fought and suffered for it. It was a religion not wholly unlike that of the later Orangeman, a Protestant compound, made up of fervid patriotism, a varied assortment of hates, a rough code of morals, and an unshaken trust in the providence of God. To the heathen they brought not peace but a sword. To the Pope, whom they named with the Turk and the Devil, they wished destruction. For Queen and Country they would go anywhere and attempt anything.
  • Of all the notable Elizabethans, Sir Walter Raleigh is perhaps the most difficult to understand. He has the insolent imagination of Marlowe, and the profound melancholy of Donne.
  • Over and against the plays of Shakespeare and his fellows, as their natural counterpart, must be set the Voyages of Hakluyt; he who would understand the Elizabethan age, and what it meant for England, must know them both.
  • The sense of liberty and power, and of belief in the capacity and destiny of man, which was quickened by the new discoveries, distinguishes the literature of the Elizabethan age from the great backward-looking periods of romance. It is a literature of youth and hope, with none of the subtle and poignant flavours that are to be tasted in a literature of regret and memory.

Six Essays on Johnson (1910)

  • The measure of an author's power would be best found in the book which he should sit down to write the day after his library was burnt to the ground.
  • The Dictionary, great work though it be, might have been successfully carried through by a merely mechanical genius.
  • A reporter remembers what he understands, and sets down what his readers will appreciate. The genius of Boswell appears not least in this, that that he was willing, on occasion, to record Johnson's most whimsical and irresponsible remarks. But he must have omitted or neglected by far the greater number. Those that he has preserved are perhaps the most delightful and convincing things in his book.
  • It is one of Boswell's greatest merits that he is careful of his background; wherever it is possible he gives us a full and true account of the persons present, and the incidents and remarks that prompted Johnson's speech.
  • The Dictionary was finished in 1755, and Johnson, compelled to find some new means of livelihood, returned to Shakespeare. ... The Proposals for Printing the Dramatick Works of William Shakespeare, which he issued in 1756, are magnificent in their range and discernment. The whole duty of a Shakespearian commentator and critic is here, for the first time, expounded. The complete collation of the early editions; the tracing of Shakespeare's knowledge to its sources; the elucidation of obscurities by a careful study of the language and customs of Shakespeare's time; the comparison of Shakespeare's work with that of other great poets, ancient and modern—all this and more is promised in the Proposals.
  • Those Elizabethan authors whose lives are fairly well known to us were always something other than mere authors—men of noble family, it may be, or distinguished in politics and war. We know more of Sir Walter Raleigh's career than of Shakespeare's, and more of Essex than of Spenser. On the other hand, while the works of Shakespeare and Spenser have come down to us almost in tact, most of the poems of Raleigh and Essex are lost. Men of position held professional authorship in some contempt, and wrote only for the delectation of their private friends.
  • These Lives are the maturest and strongest of Johnson's work. It ought be a comfort to men past middle life to find Johnson, like Dryden, wrote his best prose in his latest years.
  • For some years after his death, his writings were held in huge esteem, and shaped the prose of England. That time has passed. New models have captured the public ear; and at this day Johnson's noble prose is perhaps studied chiefly by his parodists.