Thursday, 12 March 2009
Just one more look at New World related books on my shelves. There are the two volumes of documents about to the colony published as The Roanoke Voyages by Dover. These are real documents related to the enterprise - letters, reports etc - and absolutely fascinating if you like that kind of thing. And I do.
Lee Miller's Roanoke and Giles Milton's Big Chief Elizabeth both tell the Roanoke story in different ways, Milton's being the more readable probably, and it obviously makes an appearance (albeit brief) in both biographies of the flawed, complex and charismatic Sir Walter Raleigh (he was a very busy man). Raleigh - contrary to common belief - never personally set foot in North America. And it should actually be spelled Ralegh and pronounced Rawley. No, really.
Incidentally Elizabeth called Raleigh Water, as a comment both on his buccaneering spirit and because that was what his name sounded like when imitating his thick Devon accent. New Worlds, Lost Worlds by Susan Brigden and Unredeemed Shores by Michael Foss also cover Elizabethan attempts to colonise the Americas.
The Elizabethan secret service plays a big role in my New World book, as does Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster and both are subjects of books by Alan Haynes. John Bossy's Giardano Bruno and the Embassy Affair and Under the Molehill are both really interesting books about 16th century espionage.
But the best book on this subject by far and a candidate for the best book on my shelves is Charles Nicholls' The Reckoning, about the events leading up to the death of Christopher Marlowe in a pub in Deptford. It is an absolutely gripping book. Nicholls also wrote the excellent The Creature in the Map about Raleigh and the his ill-fated search for gold in South America, just visible on the right.