Sir Walter Raleigh's literary legacy consists of a highly fragmented oeuvre including many unprinted or pirated poems and works of disputed authorship. No collection of Raleigh's poetry produced under his own direction or that of a contemporary, either in print or in manuscript, exists. This book is a collection of essays by scholars from Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Taiwan that covers a wide range of topics about Raleigh's diversified career and achievements. Some essays shed light on less familiar facets such as Raleigh as a father and as he is represented in paintings, statues, and in movies. Others re-examine him as poet, historian, as a controversial figure in Ireland during Elizabeth's reign, and looks at his complex relationship with and patronage of Edmund Spenser. The theme of Raleigh's poem is a mutability that is political: i.e., the precariousness of the ageing courtier's estate, as revealed by his fall from eminence and the loss of his privileged position in court. The Cynthia holograph engages in complex ways with idealistic pastoral, a genre predicated upon the pursuit of otium (a longing for the ideal and an escape from the actual). The Nymph's reply offers a reminder of the power of time and death to ensure the failure of that attempt. There were patrilineal imperatives that might have shaped Raleigh's views of sovereignty. Raleigh's story is an actor's story, one crafted by its own maker for the world-as-stage.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book presents historical and literary work on Sir Walter Ralegh's courtly context, including the new editions of letters and poems. It highlights aspects of Ralegh as writer and his visual image that are the subjects of new or renewed scholarly interest. The book examines the complex, ambiguous relationship between Raleigh and Edmund Spenser while they were part of the English settlement in Ireland and afterwards in London. It analyses the famous exchange between Christopher Marlowe's 'Passionate Shepherd to his Love' and Ralegh's 'Nymph's Reply', and the four centuries of variations on that theme. The book focuses on visual presentations of Ralegh, a man famous for outward ostentation.