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To his Wife, the night before he expected to be put to death
at Winchester, 1603. You shall now receive (my dear wife) my last words in these my last lines. My love I send you, that you may keep it when I am dead; and my counsel, that you may remember it when I am no more. I would not, by my will, present you with sorrows, (dear Bess,) let them go to the grave, and be buried with me in the dust: and seeing it is not the will of God that ever I shall see you more in this life, bear it patiently, and with a heart like thyself.
First, I send you all the thanks my heart can conceive, or my words can express, for your many travails and cares taken for me, which though they have not taken effect as you wished, yet my debt to you is not the less; but pay it I never shall in this world.
Secondly, I beseech you, for the love you bear me living, do not hide yourself many days, but by your travail seek to help your miserable fortune and the right of your poor child : thy mourning cannot avail me, I am but dust.
Thirdly, you shall understand that my land was conveyed (bona fide) to my child; the writings were drawn at midsummer was twelvemonths; my honest cousin Brett can testify so much, and Dalberie too can remember somewhat therein: and I trust my blood will quench their malice that have thus cruelly murdered me; and that they will not seek also to kill thee and thine with extreme poverty. To what friend to direct thee I know not, for all mine have left me in the true time of trial: a and I plainly perceive that my death was determined from the first day. Most sorry I am, (as God knows,) that, being thus surprised by death, I can leave you no better estate ; God is my witness, I meant you all my office of wines, or that I could have purchased by selling it; half my stuff and all my jewels, but some one for the boy; but God hath prevented all my resolutions, even that great God that worketh all in all ; but if you live free from want, care for no more, for the rest is but vanity ; love God,
• and first day] Not in MS. Ashm.
and begin betimes to repose your trust on him ; therein shall you find true and lasting riches, and endless comfort. For the rest, when you have travailed and wearied your thoughts over all sorts of worldly cogitation, you shall but sit down by sorrow in the end. Teach your son also to serve and fear God whilst he is yet young, that the fear of God may grow up with him ; and then will God be a husband unto you, and a father unto him; a husband and a father which can never be taken from you. Bayly oweth me two hundred pounds, and Adrian Gilbert six hundred pounds. In Jersey also I have much money owing me; besides, the arrearages of the wines will pay my debts ; and howsoever you do, for my soul's sake pay all poor men. When I am gone, no doubt you shall be sought to by many, for the world thinks that I was very rich : but take heed of the pretences of men and their affections, for they last not but in honest and worthy men; and no greater misery can befall you in this life than to become a prey, and afterwards to be despised. I speak not this (God knows) to dissuade you from marriage, for it will be best for you, both in respect of the world and of God. As for me, I am no more yours, nor you mine, death has cut us asunder; and God hath divided me from the world, and you from me.
Remember your poor child for his father's sake, who chose you and loved you in his happiest time. Get those letters (if it be possible) which I writ to the lords, wherein I sued for my life. God is my witness, it was for you and yours that I desired life: but it is true that I disdain myself for begging it, for know it (dear wife) that your son is the son of a true man, and one who in his own respect despiseth death, and all his misshapen and ugly forms. I cannot write much; God he knoweth how hardly I steal this time while others sleep; and it is also high time that I should separate my thoughts from the world. Beg my dead body, which living was denied thee, and either lay it at Sherborn, (if the land continue,) or in Exeter church by my father and mother; I can say no more, time and death call me away.
The everlasting God, infinite, powerful, and inscrutable;
that Almighty God which is goodness itself, mercy itself, the true life and light, keep thee and thine, have mercy on me, and teach me to forgive my persecutors and false accusers, and send us to meet again in his glorious kingdom! My true wife, farewell : bless my poor boy, pray for me, and let my good God hold you both in his arms. Written with the dying hand of sometime thy husband, but now (alas !) overthrown. Yours that was, but now not my own,
To Sir Robert Car, after Earl of Somerset. SIR, After many losses, and many years' sorrows, of both which I have cause to fear I was mistaken in their ends, it is come to my knowledge that yourself (whom I know not but by an honourable fame) hath been persuaded to give me and mine my last fatal blow, by obtaining from his majesty the inheritance of my children and nephews, lost in law for lack of a word. This done, there remaineth nothing with me but the name of life; his majesty, whom I never offended, (for 1 hold it unnatural and unmanlike to hate goodness,) stayed me at the grave's brink; not that I thought his majesty thought me worthy of many deaths, and to behold all mine cast out of the world with myself, but as a king, who knowing the poor in truth, hath received a promise from God that his throne shall be established for ever.
And for you, sir, seeing your fair day is but in the dawn, mine drawn to the setting; your own virtues and the king's grace assuring you of many good fortunes and much honour; I beseech you begin not your first building upon the ruins of the innocent, and 'let not mine and their sorrows attend your first plantation. I have ever been bound to your nation, as well for many other graces as for the true report of my trial to the king's majesty; against whom had I been found malignant, the hearing of my cause would not have changed enemies into friends, malice into compassion,
and the minds of the greatest number then present into the commiseration of mine éstate. It is not the nature of foul treason to beget such fair passions ; neither could it agree with the duty and love of faithful subjects (especially of your nation) to bewail his overthrow that had conspired against their most natural and liberal lord. I therefore trust that you will not be the first that shall kill us outright, cut down the tree with the fruit, and undergo the curse of them that enter the fields of the fatherless : which, if it please you to know the truth, are far less in value than in fame. But that so worthy a gentleman as yourself will rather bind us to your service, (being six gentlemen not base in birth and alliance,) which have interest therein : and myself with the uttermost thankfulness will remain ready to obey your commandments.
To the Duke, 12th of August. IF I presume too much, I humbly beseech your lordship to pardon me, especially in presuming to write to so great and worthy a person, who hath been told that I have done him wrong. I heard it but of late, but most happy had I been, if I might have disapproved that villainy against me, when there had been no suspicion that the desire to save my life had presented my excuse.
But, my worthy lord, it is not to excuse myself that I now write : I cannot, for I have now offended my sovereign lord : for all past, even all the world, and my very enemies, have lamented my loss, whom now if his majesty's mercy alone do not lament, I am lost. Howsoever, that which doth comfort my soul in this offence is, that even in the of. fence itself I had no other intent than his majesty's service, and to make his majesty know that my late enterprise was grounded upon a truth, and which, with one ship speedily set out, I meant to have assured, or to have died: being resolved (as it is well known) to have done it from Plymouth, had I not been restrained. Hereby I hoped not only
to recover his majesty's gracious opinion, but to have destroyed all those malignant reports which had been spread of me. That this is true, that gentleman whom I so much trusted, (my keeper,) and to whom I opened my heart, cannot but testify, and wherein, if I cannot be believed living, my death shall witness : yea, that gentleman cannot but avow it, that when we came back towards London, I desired to have no other treasure than the exact descrip tiongof those places in the Indies. That I meant to go hence as a discontented man, God, I trust, and mine own actions, will dissuade his majesty ; whom neither the loss of my estate, thirteen years' imprisonment, and the denial of my pardon, could beat from his service. And the opinion of being accounted a fool, or rather distract, by returning as I did unpardoned, balanced with my love to his majesty's person and estate, had no place at all in my heart.
It was that last severe letter from my lords, for the speedy bringing of me up, and the impatience of dishonour, that first put me in fear of my life, or enjoying it in a perpetual imprisonment, never to recover my reputation lost, which strengthened me in my late, and too late lamented resolution, if his majesty's mercy do not abound: if his majesty do not pity my age, and scorn to take the extremest and utmost advantage of my errors : if his majesty in his great charity do not make a difference between offences proceeding from a life-saving, natural impulsion, without ill intent, and those of an ill heart ; and that your lordship, remarkable in the world for the nobleness of your disposition, do not vouchsafe to become my intercessor, whereby your lordship shall bind an hundred gentlemen of my kindred to honour your memory, and bind me for all the time of that life, which your lordship shall beg for me, to pray to God that you may ever prosper, and ever bind me to remain Your most humble servant,
WALTER RALEGH. From the tower this 12 of August.