Books: Great Failure

SIR WALTER RALEGH—Edward Thompson—Yale University Press ($4).

"All the powder of the Revenge to the last barrel was now spent, all her pikes broken, forty of her best men slain, and the most part of the rest hurt."

Thus begins one of the most famed passages in English prose. Its author though posterity does not seem to think he knew how to spell his own name was one of the most brilliant figures of his brilliant day. Sir Walter Raleigh, whom his latest biographer calls "the last of the Elizabethans," spelled his name three...

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