Ralegh‘s writings in the Tower come back again and again to the theme of Fortune, the accidental turns and twists of man’s life, particularly a public man’s life, throwing him up unexpectedly on the heights and the next casting him into the depths.1 He had experienced it over and over in his own career. It is not my purpose to analyse his writings in detail, but to scan them for the light they throw on a personality hitherto so enigmatic, controversial and contradictory, now becoming clearer to us. ‘The success of all human actions’, he tells us, ‘seems rather to proceed from fortune than virtue.’2 Again, ‘it is no wisdom ever to commend or discommend the actions of men by their success; for oftentimes some enterprises attempted by good counsel end unfortunately, and others unadvisedly taken in hand have happy success’. ‘Neither can I think that the virtue or sufficiency of any man, without the favour of the heavens, can advance him.’ And lastly, with an inward turn, ‘rarely or never can we consider truly of worldly proceedings, unless first we have felt the deceits of fortune’. These thoughts that crop up across the surface of his various works have the connection of inner meditation: they are his reflections on his experience of the bufferings of life.
KeywordsPrivy Council English History Worldly Proceeding Customary Tenure Military Enterprise
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.