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Walter Raleigh (professor)

Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh (left), Julian Ottoline Vinogradoff and an unknown boy, photographed by Lady Ottoline Morrell

Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh (/ˈrɔːli, ˈrɑː-/; 5 September 1861 – 13 May 1922) was an English scholar, poet, and author. Raleigh was also a Cambridge Apostle.


Walter Alexander Raleigh was born in London, the fifth child and only son of a local Congregationalist minister. Raleigh was educated at the City of London School, Edinburgh Academy, University College London, and King's College, Cambridge.[1]

He was Professor of English Literature at the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh in India (1885–87),[2] Professor of Modern Literature at the University College Liverpool (1890–1900), Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at Glasgow University (1900–1904), and in 1904 became the first holder of the Chair of English Literature at Oxford University[3][4] and he was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford (1914–22).[5] Raleigh was knighted in 1911.[6] Among his works are Style (1897), Milton (1900) and Shakespeare (1907), but in his day he was more renowned as a stimulating if informal lecturer than as a critic.

On the outbreak of World War I, he turned to the war as his primary subject. Raleigh's correspondence during the war revealed strong anti-German beliefs: one letter stated "German University Culture is mere evil", and added that the deaths "of 100 Boche professors ... would be a benefit to the human race".[7][8] His finest book may be the first volume of The War in the Air (1922), whose volumes II to VI (1928–1937, plus 3 volumes of maps) had to be compiled by Henry Albert Jones after Raleigh's death.

In 1915, he delivered the Vanuxem lectures at Princeton on "The Origins of Romance" and "The Beginnings of the Romantic Revival," and lectured on Chaucer at Brown, which gave him the degree of Litt.D.[6]

Raleigh died at the Acland Nursing Home, Oxford, from typhoid (contracted during a visit to the Near East) on 13 May 1922 (aged 60), being survived by his wife, Lucie Gertrude Jackson (sister-in-law of Catherine Carswell), three of their four sons, and a daughter. His daughter Philippa married the writer Charles Whibley. He is buried in the churchyard of the parish church of St. Lawrence at North Hinksey, near Oxford.

His son Hilary edited his light prose, verse and plays in Laughter from a Cloud (1923). Raleigh is probably best known for the poem "Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914":

I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I'm introduced to one
I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!

Raleigh Park at North Hinksey, near Harcourt Hill where he lived from 1909 to his death, is named after him. The Department of English at Aligarh Muslim University has an active Raleigh Literary Society, which regularly organises performances of scenes from Shakespeare's plays.[10]


  • The English Novel (1894)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: An Essay (1895); 2nd edition, 1896
  • Style (1897)
  • Milton (1900); 1905 reprint
  • Wordsworth (1903)[11]
  • The English Voyagers (1904)
  • Shakespeare (1907)
  • Samuel Johnson: the Leslie Stephen lecture delivered in the Senate House Cambridge 22 February 1907, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907, Wikidata Q107337202
  • Six Essays on Johnson (1910)
  • Early English Voyages of the 16th Century (1910)
  • Shakespeare's England : an account of the life & manners of his age (1916, with Sir Sidney Lee)
  • "Shakespeare and England". Proceedings of the British Academy, 1917–1918. 8: 403–418. Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British Academy (1918)
  • The War in the Air: being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force, Volume I: "Air operations of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign; the Western Front in 1915/1916; naval air operations." (1922;[12] revised 1939)
  • The Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh 1879–1922 (1926, 2 volumes; 1928, enlarged); reprinted as The Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh 1879 to 1922 (2005, 2-in-1 volume)


Glasgow James MacLehose and Sons Publishers to the University

  1. ^ "Raleigh, Walter Alexander (RLH881WA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ "Aligarh and its Shakespeare wallahs". The Hindu. 22 April 2016. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  3. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6th Edition. Edited by Margaret Drabble, Oxford University Press, 2000 p.836
  4. ^ ‘RALEIGH, Sir Walter’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 11 July 2012
  5. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 100.
  6. ^ a b New International Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Chris Baldick,The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1848–1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. ISBN 0-19-812979-3 (pp. 80–89)
  8. ^ Paul G. Nixon, Representations of Education in Literature. Lewiston, N.Y. : E. Mellen Press, 2000. ISBN 0773477071 (p. 71)
  9. ^ Bartlett, John (2002). Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Hachette Digital. ISBN 9780759527393.
  10. ^ Siddiqui, Mohammad Asim (22 April 2016). "Aligarh and its Shakespeare wallahs". The Hindu.
  11. ^ "Review of Wordsworth by Walter Raleigh". The Academy and Literature. 64: 271–272. 21 March 1903.
  12. ^ "Review of The War in the Air: being the Story of the Part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force, Volume I by Sir Walter Raleigh". The Nation and the Athenæum. 32, Part 1 (4823): 21–22. 7 October 1922.
Academic offices Preceded byA. C. Bradley Regius Professor of English Language and Literature,University of Glasgow 1900–1904 Succeeded byWilliam Macneile Dixon Preceded byChair created Merton Professor of English Literature, Oxford 1904–1922 Succeeded byGeorge Stuart Gordon
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Walter Raleigh (professor)
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