The Aspiring Mind of the Elizabethan Younger Generation

By Anthony Esler | Go to book overview

VII. The melancholy malcontents

By 1603 the generation of 1560 had ceased to be a younger generation in any sense of the word. Sir Walter Raleigh, whose birth marked the beginning of their generational span, had passed his fiftieth year; Essex, had he lived, would have been in his late thirties. By and large, even the younger members of this generation were in their forties, an age which, in those times, was generally considered at best the autumn of one's life.

More important, by 1603 the generation of 1560 had shot its bolt. The successful among them had already begun to bask in the warmth of the new regime and to anticipate further advancement. The failures were firmly settled on the downward slope, or had already been cast aside. As individuals, their paths were determined, their characters fixed. And as a generation, they were losing their identity, beginning to merge with the generation of the 1540's, as the generations of Elizabeth and Burghley had merged in their later years. We need follow this generation no further. We should, however, take one last look at these men, no longer young, to see how their ambitious lifetimes of striving ended.


i. A generation of failures

The Queen was dead. For the generation of 1560, the long agony of the bottleneck years was over, and the dragging, futile Spanish War was ending. The king was now James Stuart, a man of their own generation, whose special needs for loyalty and money would make him particularly willing to satisfy their demands for honors and power. After twenty years in limbo, the ruling-class generation of 1560 came into its birthright: its members were now the governors of England.

But the cost of their long struggle had been high. Many of their leaders had fallen--Sir Philip Sidney in the war, Essex in the political infighting of the bottleneck years. Many other aspiring minds had also perished in the wars, or had been cast into

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The Aspiring Mind of the Elizabethan Younger Generation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: A Generational Approach to Elizabethan England ix
  • I. a Burned-Out Generation 3
  • Ii. the Orthodox View of Ambition 24
  • Iii. a Generation of Phoenixes 51
  • Iv. the Bubble Reputation 87
  • V. a Lust for Dominion 125
  • Vi. Grand Schemes, Impossible to Accomplish 165
  • Vii. the Melancholy Malcontents 202
  • Appendix: Leading Courtiers and Writers of the Generation of 1560 244
  • Bibliography of Works Cited 245
  • Index 262
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