Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Reading about Raleigh in Budleigh (2)

Following on from my previous post about Raleigh-related books on the shelves of Budleigh Salterton Library I made a return visit a few days later, to be told by librarian Jane Cordy that there were further books that I might like to list. These are kept in a cupboard, and may be for consultation only because they are out of print and quite rare.

T.N. BrushfieldA Bibliography of Sir Walter Ralegh Knt  James G. Commin  Exeter, 1908  181 pp. Second edition.

You can read all about the great Ralegh scholar Dr Brushfield at

Edward Edwards - The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh  2 vols
724 pp; 530 pp  Macmillan & Co 1868

This book is a real treasure. Google Books tells me that the work ‘has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.’ So it can be read online. 

For Budleigh it’s especially important because it was published just before Millais came to the town to paint his celebrated ‘Boyhood of Raleigh’ and may well have been one of the reasons why he chose the subject of young Walter on the beach with his half-brother Humphrey Gilbert. Apart from that, the book was notable for publishing Raleigh’s letters, being based on contemporary documents preserved in the Rolls House, the Privy Council Office, Hatfield House, the British Museum, and other manuscript repositories. 

The story of its author has a rather sad ending. He is described on Wikipedia as the son of a builder, born in 1812, into a not especially privileged background. He was an important figure in the establishment of free libraries in the United Kingdom, but seems to have upset people with his impatient temper.  In his final years on the Isle of Wight, in Niton, where he had settled in retirement, we are told that he lived in poverty, on the charity of Rev John Harrison, a Baptist minister. In November 1885, he was found in a state of hypothermia on the nearby downs, and caught pneumonia. He died at Niton, on 10 February 1886, and is buried in the graveyard of the local Church of England church.

Walter ScuttA short account of East Budleigh & Hayes Barton, birthplace of Sir Walter Ralegh  Printed at Cranford by the author  1936  63 pp

Walter Scutt was trained as an artist, and after his career as Chief Examiner of Schools under the Board of Education was cut short because of ill health, he settled in Budleigh Salterton in the late 1920s. 

He wrote three books on subjects of local history including the above title, which he illustrated with his own wood engravings, and printed by hand on his own small printing press.  The others are Otterton, a village of East Devon (1935), in an edition of 75 copies and Pride of Devon (1938), in an edition of 36 copies.  

A.T. Thomson (Mrs) – Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Ralegh, with some account of the period in which he lived  Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green  1830 496 pp

‘This is a good book and worthy of recommendation,’ stated a review in Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country, Volume 5 (1832). ‘Mrs. Thomson set a high task for herself, and she has accomplished it with zeal and ability. There is an occasional tendency to indulge in conjecture when authorities are defective, and a fondness for lingering over trifling incidents, and giving them the importance of main incidents: but the book is a valuable production.’ 

From Wonderful Wikipedia I learnt that the author was Katherine Thomson (1797–1862), an English writer, known as a novelist and historian who wrote as Mrs A. T. Thomson, and also used the pseudonym Grace Wharton.  She was the seventh daughter of Thomas Byerley of Etruria, Staffordshire, a nephew by marriage and sometime partner and manager of the pottery works of Josiah Wedgwood. She married, in 1820, the physician Anthony Todd Thomson, as his second wife. During their residence in London, for some of the time at Hinde Street, Marylebone, she and her husband assembled an artistic and literary circle, among their earlier friends being the poet Thomas Campbell and the artist David Wilkie (artist). Later, in Welbeck Street, they saw much of Thackeray, Robert Browning, and also of Lord Lytton, who became a close friend. Mrs Thomson was the author of many other works, including novels, biographies and histories such as Memoirs of the Court of Henry the Eighth.  

Continued at


Raleigh 300: How did they mark the tercentenary in 1918? (1)

St Margaret's, Westminster: Just one of the various places in London where Raleigh's tercentenary was marked by services, ceremonies and lectures one hundred years ago
Image credit: Reinhold Möller

Too many anniversaries this year in Budleigh, keeping us busy at Fairlynch Museum! Raleigh 400 and the end of WW1 of course.

And then the centenary of children's author and Brownies' leader Jean Blathwayt, for whom I'm designing an exhibition and a Blue Plaque this year.

And of course the 50th anniversary of visits by Imperial College Operatic Society to the little town of Budleigh Salterton. I bet you didn't know that. 

What still strikes me as extraordinary is the fact that in the midst of the bombardments and the slaughter of the Great War Britain took time off to celebrate the life of Sir Walter for his tercentenary.

Admittedly they must have known that the war had only another fortnight to run. Admittedly the country badly needed to pay tribute to its heroes - the recently slaughtered ones as well as those of its past. Admittedly British politicians wanted to show their gratitude to America for its support of the Allies, even if it had come in at a late stage. Germany of course had been desperately hoping to keep the USA out of the conflict. 

Even so, I am struck today by the energy that went into celebrating the tercentenary, and that was mainly in London.  In the capital it was a prestigious event involving people like the British Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, Lord Bryce - a former British ambassador in the USA - and numerous distinguished academics such as the Early English and Shakespeare scholar Israel Gollancz.

This is what Professor Gollancz told the nation via The Observer newspaper. It seems today like a very long time ago. 

THE OBSERVER, Sunday 27 October 1918


The Raleigh tercentenary falls on Tuesday next, and the occasion is to be commemorated both here and in America in such a manner, Professor I. Gollancz said yesterday in an interview with a representative of THE OBSERVER, “as to emphasise the significance of the place of Raleigh as the pioneer and prophet of Anglo-American relations now happily realised, and also of his position as one of the great heroes of the modern world, embodying the splendour, imagination, and undaunted enterprise of the Elizabethan age.
             “His dream of England as the great colonising power was the tragedy of his life, and after three hundred years the moment seems signally appropriate for a joint celebration in his honour by the peoples of the English-speaking world now united in the brotherhood of arms and ideals.
              “At Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, special pride is taken in Raleigh’s name and fame, and a programme has been arranged dealing with his life and work, with special reference to Anglo-American relations. It is proposed, amongst other schemes, to erect a statue of Raleigh there, and a series of meetings is to be held representing Virginia and other States and American institutions.
               “It was my privilege from the outset to be associated in the movement with Dr.Page, the late American ambassador, himself a citizen of North Carolina, who up to the time of his illness, and even during his illness, notively co-operated in bringing about the joint commemoration.
                “Here a representative committee has been formed, consisting mainly of representatives   
Of the leading learned societies, with Mr Balfour, Dr.Page, and Lord Reading as honorary presidents, Lord Bryce honorary chairman, Sir Charles Wakefield honorary treasurer, Bishop G.F. Browne and Professor C.H. Firth vice-chairman, and myself as honorary secretary. On the committee American interests are well represented. His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to become patron of the commemoration.


            “A varied programme has been arranged. On Sunday (to-day) a special afternoon service, to which the public will be admitted as far as space allows, is to be held at St Margaret’s, Westminster. The rector, Canon Carnegie, will preach, and the Lessons will be read by eminent representatives of Great Britain and America. St Margaret’s is regarded by Americans with special reverence, for there Raleigh’s remains were interred, and there, in 1882, American citizens placed the Raleigh window in his honour. At the morning service at the Temple Raleigh will also be commemorated, the Master, Dr.Barnes, being the preacher.
            “On Tuesday there will be a public meeting at the Mansion House, at which the speakers will be Lord Bryce, Mr Balfour, General Sir Ian Hamilton, Lieutenant of the Tower, and, on behalf of American citizens, the American Consul-General, and Major J.Baker White, Judge-Advocate, American troops in Great Britain and Ireland. Mr Edmund Gosse will deliver a panegyric on Raleigh.
              “In the evening the Benchers of the Middle Temple will give a Raleigh tercentenary dinner. Raleigh was a member of the Middle Temple, and the dinner will take place in the famous old hall, where Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ was acted in February, 1601-2.
              “At Exeter there will be a special commemoration for Devonshire folk. A service will be held in the Cathedral, and there will be a public meeting, at which Lord Fortescue, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, will preside. At Woolwich, associated with Raleigh’s voyages, there will also be a special commemoration; and at Jersey, of which he was Governor, and where his memory is held in special honour, steps are being taken for a permanent memorial.


            “As regards other permanent memorials, my own proposal for a Raleigh House in London, mainly for promoting intellectual co-operation between British and American scholars, and to serve as a centre for their meetings, has been generally approved by the Committee and has received support in many quarters. Such an intellectual centre in London is greatly needed in many ways and for many purposes, especially for the work that scholars of the English-speaking world must take a leading part in at no very distant date, let us hope.

              “Many other functions have been arranged, especially a series of papers on various aspects of Raleigh’s life and work by members of the Committee, which have been assigned by the Committee to the various societies co-operating in the movement. Thus on October 30 Professor C.H. Firth will read a paper on Raleigh’s ‘History of the World’ before the British Academy at Burlington House at 4.30.  On November 1, at King’s College, at 5.30, I am giving an address on ‘Shakespeare and the New World.’ Mr Lionel Cust will read a paper next month on Raleigh’s portraits. On November 27 Sir Harry Stephen will read a paper before the Royal Historical Society on Raleigh’s Trial, and on December 10 Sir Sidney Lee will deal with Raleigh’s discovery of Guiana, at the Royal Colonial Institute.” 

Continued at


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Reading about Raleigh in Budleigh (1)

The West Country’s rich history is reflected in the number of books about local heritage that you find in its public libraries.  Budleigh Salterton Library on Station Road is no exception. In the 400th year of Sir Walter’s death it’s good to see that there’s a fair number of titles on the shelf, which now carries a helpful poster as well as the following.

Not surprisingly, Raleigh’s tumultuous life has inspired a fair bit of fiction, so novels are included as well as history studies.

Anna Beer - Bess: The Life of Lady Ralegh, Wife to Sir Walter
Constable  2004  287 pp

Anna Beer’s book, it’s been said, aimed to show that Bess was ‘the hidden force behind Sir Walter Ralegh's spectacular public achievements, the stable point in his turbulent private life and the shrewd creator of his reputation after his death’. The result is ‘a perceptive and immensely enjoyable biography’. 

One review complained that the book ‘is seriously flawed by what appears to be a personal bitterness’ on the part of the author, suggesting that for Raleigh she has ‘little but scorn’. I am not finding that to be the case.  

Anna Beer’s particular interests as a biographer are ‘the relationship between literature, politics and history’ which she has explored in her 2008 life of John Milton and  her 2016 study of the lives and work of female composers, Sounds and Sweet Airs: the forgotten women of classical music. She was Lecturer in Literature at the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford between 2003 and 2010, and remains a Fellow of Kellogg College.

Richard DaleWho killed Sir Walter Ralegh?  
The History Press, 2011. 192 pp

The author is a professor emeritus of the University of Southampton and a visiting professor at the University of Reading. A barrister with a PhD in law and economics, he has worked at N. M. Rothschild, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bank of England and written for the Financial Times. He is the author of Napoleon is Dead. This is not only a thoughtful and precisely written work, but also an adventure story that sweeps the reader into another world,’ Elisabeth Stevenson in The Law Society Gazette.

Eric Delderfield The Raleigh Country Raleigh Press 1985 edn, first publ 1949 158 pp

This book was written as ‘a brief history of Exmouth, East Budleigh, Otterton, Bicton, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Topsham and Lympstone, with ‘a short life story of that great Englishman, Sir Walter Raleigh’. 

Eric Raymond Delderfield was well known for his writings about West Country topics.  He moved with his family to Devon in 1923, when his father, William James Delderfield, became editor of the Exmouth Chronicle.  His brother Ronald became a well-known novelist.  Eric published over sixty books and guides, plus a series of Brief Guides, condensed versions of his books ranging from regionals to churches and inn signs.  He knew Exmoor and Devonshire well but also wrote about Yorkshire, the Lake District and the Cotswolds.


George GarrettDeath of the Fox: a novel about Raleigh  Barrie & Jenkins 1971 739 pp Described as ‘a meticulous re-creation’ of Elizabethan and Stuart England, the novel forms a trilogy with The Succession and Entered from the Sun. Here the author delves into the story of Sir Walter Raleigh's fall from favour for alleged conspiracy against James I, transporting the reader, in one words of one review, to ‘a world of cunning, intrigue, and colorful abundance’. 

George Palmer Garrett (1929-2008) was an American poet and novelist. He was the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2002 to 2004. His other novels include The Finished Man and Double Vision. He worked as a book reviewer and screenwriter, and taught at Cambridge University and, for many years, at the University of Virginia.

Stephen J. GreenblattSir Walter Raleigh: The Renaissance Man and his Roles.  New Haven, CT Yale University Press 1973  209 pp

Based on the author’s doctoral thesis, the book is described by an American reviewer as ‘seeking to explore the ways in which Raleigh attempted “to fashion his own identity as a work of art”’. 

Greenblatt, in the review’s words, ‘focuses on the contradictions within Raleigh’s life, his complex relation to the world he inhabited, and the inadequacy of the distinction between life and art in thinking about Raleigh’s life’.  

Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a Pulitzer Prize winning American literary critic, theorist and scholar. He is Cogan University Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. He is the author of many books, including Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Hamlet in Purgatory, Practicing New Historicism and Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Vermont.


Shaun McCarthySir Walter Raleigh Heinemann Library 2002 48 pp

The book is described as presenting an account of Raleigh's life and explorations, and examines their impact on history and the world. 

Author Shaun McCarthy has written books on a variety of subjects, many of them forming part of a series published for primary school children and students. On a similar subject was his book about James Cook, exploring how he got his start as a sailor and why he was chosen to lead an expansion to the South Pacific. Shaun McCarthy has also written study notes for students, including exam-focused analyses of texts ranging from the poems of Seamus Heaney to Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

Lilian Sheppard Raleigh’s birthplace: The story of East Budleigh Granary Press, 1983 84 pp

Local writer Lilian Sheppard described her book as ‘Historical Jottings of East Budleigh, Bicton, Salterton, Otterton and Withycombe’. It’s a useful chronicle of local places, buildings and people, written with the thought that the author is describing ‘scenes beloved of young Raleigh’. Here, as she writes in a Preface, ‘the first sixteen years of his life were spent wandering these lanes and fields and the wide, unspoiled beach at Salterton, where the Cliffs and grassy paths reached down to the water’s edge. Here, under his fascinated gaze, the laden ships made their way into the Otter-mouth to make harbor in Budleigh Haven. Thus, perhaps, the seeds of that indomitable spirit of adventure which came to rule his life, were sown irrevocably in that young heart.’

Andrew SinclairSir Walter Raleigh and the Age of Discovery 
Penguin Books, 1984  128 pp

This book was published to coincide with the launching of Operation Raleigh, after which two renovated ships - Sir Walter Raleigh and Zebu - carried 4,000 volunteers and almost 1,600 staff to take part in expeditions around the world until 1988. 

So I find it very odd that there is no mention of Sir Walter on Raleigh International’s website at Its Patron, Sir Ralnulph Fiennes, was unable to give me any explanation for this. 

The book, according to a description, ‘traces the life and accomplishments of the sixteenth-century British explorer, examines his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I, and attempts to portray his complex personality’. Eton-educated Andrew Sinclair, born in 1935, is an amazingly prolific author, described as a historian, novelist, critic, filmmaker, editor and translator, and a founding member of Churchill College, Cambridge.

Alan WallThe School of Night  St Martin’s  Secker & Warburg 2001  304 pp Described as ‘part scholarly mystery, part thriller, the plot of this novel opens when its narrator, BBC editor Sean Tallow, steals two Elizabethan-era tomes from a university library. In the ‘Hariot Notebooks’, as they are called, written by Sir Walter’s friend Thomas Hariot, he hopes to find reference to the enigmatic School of Night, a group of Elizabethans which possibly included the writer George Chapman and its reputed leader Sir Walter Raleigh. 

Yorkshire-born Alan Wall studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford and is Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Chester. His other novels include Bless the Thief and The Lightning Cage. 

More about Budleigh Salterton Library at 


Monday, 29 January 2018

Friday 23 February 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery

Raleigh and his son in 1602. From a copy in Fairlynch Museum, based on the original in the National Portrait Gallery, London

London’s National Portrait Gallery has 48 portraits in which Sir Walter is the sitter, including this striking painting of Raleigh and his son Walter. And its Director Nicholas Cullinan was born in the New World, in Connecticut. So it’s good to see that the NPG is the location for the first London event to honour our great Devonian.

On Friday 23 February, from 6.30-7.30 pm, soprano Gillian Gingell Wormley joins lutenist Din Ghani, founder of the group Musicke in the Ayre. It will be the group’s sixth appearance at the National Portrait Gallery, in an event marking the 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh’s death.

Entitled ‘“Amor et virtute”: a portrait in song of Walter Raleigh’, the programme will comprise songs based on his poetry, as well as some associated with other significant personages - Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex, Prince Henry to name a few - and with the New World which fascinated Raleigh.

Entry is free, and early arrival is recommended!

There will be a similar concert featuring soprano Jane Hunt at Christ Church in Frome, on Saturday 7 July, part of Frome Festival

A further concert takes place in Bath on Thursday 11 October. This is part of Musicke in the Ayre’s regular series at the Museum of Bath Architecture, and will be a duet version of the programme, with Jane Hunt and Philippa Neaverson.

Both the Frome and the Bath concerts will still have the same title: “Amor et Virtute”.  This was the motto chosen by Raleigh for his 1588 portrait in the NPG, seen above. The painting was intended as a compliment to Elizabeth I: he is shown dressed solely in black and white, the Queen’s colours. A crescent moon, representing her as the moon-goddess Cynthia, can be seen in the top left corner. It hovers over a patch of wavy water, recently discovered during conservation work, and clearly intended to be a pun on Sir Walter’s name. The motif is also found in Raleigh's poetry, and indicates his willingness to be controlled by the Queen as the moon controls the tides.

‘We are open to invitations to bring this programme down to Devon!’ Din told me. So I’m leafing through the calendar to see if they can perform on Sir Walter’s home ground.  ‘I’m a bit of a Devon girl at heart myself,’ says Gillian. She has a cottage in South Brent and trained at Dartington College of Arts 40 years ago. She’ll be running her weekend retreat for singers there in March this year. Gillian’s website is at

Musicke in the Ayre evolved from the informal lute-song workshops that Din began organising at his home in Wiltshire. It was conceived as an umbrella performing group for varying combinations of singers working with Din on lute, and sometimes with other instruments such as the bass viol, violin, or a second lute.  The musical styles range from Renaissance to early Baroque.

Din met many of the singers of Musicke in the Ayre at Dartington International Summer School over the last 10 years, having accompanied most of them in Dame Emma Kirkby’s masterclasses there.

You can hear performances at
(including some of Gillian) and at


Sunday, 28 January 2018

Matching the Millais in 2015

The Boyhood of Raleigh  by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1870 
Tate Britain Collection 

'Matching the Millais in 2015' is a rewrite of an article I wrote a few years ago, just as Fairlynch Museum's Sir Walter Ralegh Room was about to open.  The article has been edited and gathered in with all the other material on this Raleigh 400 blog devoted to Sir Walter in 2018, the 400th anniversary of his death. 

And now Fairlynch Museum does indeed have the chance of bringing 'The Boyhood' back to Budleigh for a third time. There could not be a more appropriate year for the painting to be shown in the place where it was first created. 

Please help with this major project by giving what you can. Click on the Museum's website to link to our fund-raising efforts.  


'We’ve added a bit to the boat so it’s not cut off. And there’s more sky than in the original.'

'So it’s going to be an improvement on Millais’ version?'


That was just one of many snatches of conversation I heard as I watched members of a local art club at work in 2015 on an unusual project. It was part of the preparations to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of one of East Devon’s best known historical figures. 

Sir John Everett Millais’ painting of the young Walter Ralegh and his half-brother Humphrey Gilbert sitting rapt as they listen to an old sailor’s tales is one of Tate Britain’s treasures.  Budleigh Salterton people will tell you that the stone wall in the painting can still be seen today, opposite The Octagon, the building where Millais stayed in 1870. 

It seemed only right that this Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece should be displayed in Budleigh’s Fairlynch Museum to celebrate its centenary. 

So indeed it was in 1970, shortly after the museum was founded back in July 1967. It was a masterstroke of publicity for the town, with annual visitor numbers at the museum shooting up from just over 2,000 to almost 12,000 in the space of a year. 

The feat was repeated as a millennial event for the museum in 2000. 

But doubts were expressed about whether it would be third time lucky for Budleigh

So visitors to the Museum in 2015 saw not the original painting by Millais on display in but a copy which was a remarkable collaborative effort by amateur artists from Budleigh Salterton’s Venture Art Club. 

The painting was due for completion in time for the opening of the Museum’s Sir Walter Ralegh Room on 4 April that year. 

It was all part of the build-up to 2018, when Sir Walter Ralegh’s death on the scaffold after his eventful life would be marked with more tributes to a great Devon hero. 

Art Club Chairman Chris Stacey explained: 'We started immediately after Christmas with a postcard of the original painting. Then we made a grid out of it, so we had 30 panels for 21 members to do. We’ve added a bit of extra to make up to 30 panels.'  

At 12.30pm on Tuesday 3 February 2015, the panels were  brought together for the first time. 

'It's a historic moment! We must have a record!' 

'Look! The sailor’s fingers don’t match his hand.' 

'Just a dab more Scarlet Lake I think.' 

'I love the toucan!'

'Those flowers don’t look quite right.'

'I wanted to paint a complete ship but I could only find a photo of a Dutch vessel to copy from. Nobody’ll notice, will they?' 

'Looks good to me!'

'That  sea needs a few waves.'

'What do you think? That’s not how Millais has done it.'

'That’s Iris’ work. She helps with costumes at the museum.'

'Hang on! He doesn’t lose his head until later.' 

'That sailor's foot looks as if it could do with a wash.'

'Just a little more burnt umber, I think.'

'Still some way to go but we’re getting there.' 

'We’ve had a lot of fun with this project.' 

'It’s been a team effort - a lovely thing to do as a group.'

'I bet you couldn’t do any better.'


'And of course it made a good story for the media.' 


Radical Ralegh

The point about Sir Walter Ralegh: historian Anna Beer with Millais’ celebrated 1870 painting at Fairlynch Museum.  Dr Beer’s visi...