Walter Raleigh (professor)

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 and he was a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford (1904–22).[3][4] Raleigh was knighted in 1911.[5] 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. 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.[5] 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".[6][7] 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.

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, three of their four sons, and a daughter. His daughter Philippa married the writer Charles Whibley.

Raleigh 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). He 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. Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University considers this Shakespeare critic one of its own and has a very active ‘Raleigh Literary Society’ which regularly organises performances of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.[9]


  • The English Novel (1894)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: An Essay (1895)
  • Style (1897)
  • Milton (1900)
  • Wordsworth (1903)
  • The English Voyagers (1904)
  • Shakespeare (1907)
  • 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)
  • 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; 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. New International Encyclopedia
  6. Chris Baldick,The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1848-1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. ISBN 0-19-812979-3 (pp. 80-89)
  7. Paul G. Nixon, Representations of Education in Literature. Lewiston, N.Y. : E. Mellen Press, 2000. ISBN 0773477071 (p. 71)
  8. Bartlett, John (2002). Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Hachette Digital.
Academic offices
Preceded by
A. C. Bradley
Regius Professor of English Language and Literature,
University of Glasgow

Succeeded by
William Macneile Dixon
Preceded by
Chair created
Merton Professor of English Literature, Oxford
Succeeded by
George Stuart Gordon
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