Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Last Elizabethan: A Portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh follows a chronological progression from Ralegh’s childhood as the youngest son of a poor but proud Devon-shire country gentleman to his execution on trumped up charges sixty-four years later. Constance Fecher’s book is not a fictionalized, romanticized history; it is a careful study of an intriguing, courageous individual who was perhaps too modern, intelligent, and tolerant for his age. Ralegh was a poet, scientist, sailor, colonizer, courtier, historian, a favorite of a great queen, and a potentially great prince.

Every quotation in Fecher’s biography is historically accurate, derived from the records of the day, and details of Ralegh’s life are lovingly filled out with information about the period, the people, the manners, and the social, religious, and political attitudes of Elizabethan England. What one can know of Ralegh’s thoughts, hopes, commitments, and fears (as expressed by his own writings, the testimony of those close to him, and the public records of his trials and execution) is put together in a record of the important moments of his life; what can be guessed is suggested, but what is hidden by the veil of history is left unsaid.

Fecher captures not only the grandness of Ralegh’s famous, often-daring gestures, particularly against the Spanish, but also his pride, quick temper, overriding ambition, competitiveness, and impatience with those less capable...

(The entire section is 448 words.)