Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 61, No. 375, January-June, 1847 by Various
generously made available by The Internet Library of Early Journals.)
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS, EDINBURGH;
37, PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON.
NO. CCCLXXV. JANUARY, 1847. VOL. LXI.
THE COURT OF LOUIS PHILIPPE, 1
MILDRED; A TALE. Chaps. IV., V., VI., 18
EUGENE, MARLBOROUGH, FREDERICK, NAPOLEON, AND WELLINGTON, 34
LAYS AND LEGENDS OF THE THAMES, 49
PRUSSIAN MILITARY MEMOIRS, 65
LAPPENBERG’S ANGLO-SAXONS, 79
SCOTTISH MELODIES, BY DELTA, 91
GENERAL MACK--A CHRISTMAS CAROL, 92
REFLECTIONS SUGGESTED BY THE CAREER OF THE LATE PREMIER, 93
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EDINBURGH: WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS, 45, GEORGE STREET; AND 37, PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON.
_To whom all Communications (post paid) must be addressed._
SOLD BY ALL THE BOOKSELLERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
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PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS, EDINBURGH.
No. CCCLXXV. JANUARY, 1847. VOL. LXI.
THE COURT OF LOUIS PHILIPPE.
The schoolboy, agape at the tinsel splendour and seeming miracles of a holiday pantomime, longs for a peep behind the pasteboard parapets that limit his view. When the falling curtain puts a period to Clown’s malicious buffoonery and to the blunders of persecuted and long suffering Pantaloon, he marvels as to the subsequent proceedings of the lithe and agile mimes who have so gloriously diverted him. He is tempted to believe that Harlequin sleeps in his motley skin, that Columbine perpetually retains her graceful rose-wreaths and diaphanous muslin. He can hardly realize the relapse of such glittering apparitions into the prosaic humdrum of every-day life, and would gladly penetrate the veil of baize that shrouds from his eager eyes the mirth-provoking crew. Better that he should not. Sadly would his bright illusions fade, sore be his disenchantment, could he recognise the brilliant Harlequin in yon shabby-genteel gentleman issuing from the stage door, and discern her of the twinkling feet rewarding herself with a measure of Barclay for the pirouettes and entrechats that lately ravished his youthful vision.
Not unlike the boy’s desire for a peep behind the scenes, is the popular hankering after glimpses of royal privacy. The concealed is ever the coveted, the forbidden the most desired. Keep an ape under triple lock, and fancy converts her into a sylph; it was the small key, the last of the bunch, that Bluebeard’s bride most longed to use. For the multitude, the Chronicles of Courts have ever a strong and peculiar attraction. With what avidity is swallowed each trivial detail concerning princes and their companions; how anxious are the humble many to obtain an inkling of the every-day life of the great and privileged few, to dive into the recesses of palaces, and contemplate in the relaxation of the domestic circle, those who in public are environed by an imposing barrier of ceremony, pomp, and dignity. In the absence of more precise and pungent particulars, even the bald and fulsome paragraphs of a court circular find eager readers, who learn with strange interest the direction and extent of a king’s afternoon ride, and the exact hour at which some infant principule was borne abroad for an airing. Less meagre and more satisfactory nourishment is afforded to popular inquisitiveness by the writings of those who have lived in the intimacy of courts. Seldom, however, do such appear during the lifetime both of the writer and of the personages to whom they chiefly refer, and when they do they are often valueless, further than as a sop to public curiosity. Truth is rarely told of kings by those who enjoy, seek, or hope aught from their favour. These split upon the reefs of flattery, as a disgraced courtier does upon those of spite and disappointed ambition. And again, history affords us examples of men, who, having, through misconduct or misfortune, lost the countenance of their sovereign, resorted, to regain his good graces, to shameless adulation and servile panegyric.
We do not include in any of the three categories just named, the author of the book before us. We should not be justified in attributing to interested motives his praises of his former patrons; but believe, on the contrary, that, although familiar with courts, he is no mere courtier. Had he been more of one, his fortunes might now be better. From a very early age, Monsieur Appert devoted himself to the prosecution of philanthropic plans and researches, having for their chief objects the amelioration of the condition of the lower classes, the reform of convicts, the education of the army, and that of children who, by the desertion or vices of their parents, are left destitute and unprotected. He has frequently been employed by the French government, and has occupied various important posts. When only one-and-twenty, he was appointed director of a model-school for the army. With reference to his humane schemes, he has published many volumes on the education of soldiers and orphans, on the prisons, schools, and other correctional and benevolent institutions of France. With these we have nothing to do. His present book is of a lighter and more generally interesting character. For ten years he held the office of almoner to the Queen of the French, and to her sister-in-law, Madame Adelaide. The charities of these royal ladies are, as we shall presently show, on a truly princely scale. To this almonership no salary was attached; M. Appert performed its arduous duties gratuitously, and esteemed himself well rewarded by the confidence and good opinion of the illustrious persons he served. His income from other sources was ample; his position honourable, and even distinguished; his friends, true or false, were reckoned by hundreds. But misfortune, swift of foot, overtook him in the zenith of his prosperity. Heavy pecuniary losses, chiefly resulting, as he implies rather than informs us, from ill-advised loans and generous assistance to unworthy persons, impaired his means. Concerning his disgrace at court, he is more explicit. He attributes it to the envy and intrigues of courtiers, against whom, as a class, he bitterly inveighs. That his office was one well calculated to make him enemies, if he conscientiously fulfilled its duties, is made evident by various passages in his book. During ten years that he was in the daily habit of seeing them, and of distributing the greater portion of their charities, the queen and Madame Adelaide, he tells us, never made him the slightest reproach; but, on the contrary, invariably approved his proposals and requests, none of which, he adds, tended to his personal advantage. The king, on various important occasions, showed great confidence in him, and a strong sympathy with his philanthropic labours. Nevertheless, the occult, but strong and persevering influence employed against M. Appert, at last prevailed, and he was removed from the court, laden with costly presents from the royal family, who assured him that they would never forget, but always acknowledge, his long and devoted services. After his disgrace, he sold a villa he possessed at Neuilly, and left Paris, with the intention of founding an experimental colony of released convicts, and of the children of criminals. Whether this experiment was carried out, and how far it succeeded, he does not inform us. He is now travelling in Germany, visiting the schools, prisons, and military institutions, and writing books concerning them. The King of Prussia has received him favourably, and given him every encouragement; the sovereigns of Belgium, Denmark, Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurtemberg, have written him flattering letters, and promised him all facilities and assistance during the stay he proposes making in their respective dominions.
It was at Berlin, in the spring of the present year, that M. Appert completed, after very brief labour, his three volumes of Memoirs. He confesses that they were written in haste, and whilst his mind was preoccupied with the objects of his German tour. This is to be regretted, for the result proves that the work was too quickly done to be well done. The motive of his precipitation is unexplained, and we are not told why it was necessary to complete, by the 15th of March, a book destined to appear but in late autumn. Did the _snail-wagen_ pace of the German _buchdruckerei_ need half a year for the printing of a thousand pages? Surely not; and surely M. Appert might have given himself a little more time,--have indulged us with more detail,--have produced, instead of a hasty outline, a finished picture. His materials were ample, his subject most interesting; he is no novice in the craft of authorship. Besides his opportunities of observation at court, he has enjoyed the acquaintance, in many cases the intimacy, of a vast number of notable persons, military, diplomatic, scientific, literary. Ministers and deputies, peers of France and nobles of the old regime, generals of the empire and distinguished foreigners, were reckoned upon his list of friends; many of them were regular partakers of his periodical dinners at his Paris hotel and his Neuilly villa. It was in his power, we are convinced, to have produced a first-rate book of its class, instead of these hasty and unsatisfactory sketches. Each night, he tells us, especially since the year 1826, when he was first attached to the Orleans family, he wrote down, before retiring to rest, the events of the day. And yet such is his haste to huddle over his work that he cannot wait to receive his voluminous memoranda and correspondence, but trusts entirely to his memory. As far as it goes, this serves him pretty well. “Whilst correcting the last page of these _souvenirs_, I have received the enormous mass of notes and autograph letters which ought to have been of great utility in the composition of the book; and, on referring to the various documents, I am surprised to find that my memory has served me faithfully upon every subject of interest, and that I have nothing to rectify in what I have written.” Nothing, perhaps, to rectify, but much, we should think, to add. Monsieur Appert’s notes, judging from one or two verbatim specimens, were both copious and minute, and must include very many interesting particulars and anecdotes of the remarkable persons with whom he came in contact during the varied phases of a busy and bustling life. Could he not, without indelicacy or breach of confidence, have given us more of such particulars? His memoirs would have gained in value had he deferred their publication some ten or fifteen years; for then many now living would have disappeared from the scene, and he might have spoken freely of things and persons concerning whom he now deems it prudent or proper to be silent. But personal recollections of the present French court, even when loosely and imperfectly set down, cannot fail to command attention and excite interest. And much that is novel and curious may be culled from M. Appert’s pages, although we regret, as we peruse them, that they should have suffered from too great haste and an overstrained discretion.
M. Appert opens his memoirs in the year 1807, in the prosperous days of Napoleon, whose ardent admirer he is. The earlier chapters of his book, relating to the Empire and the Restoration, have less to recommend them than the later ones, and we shall pass them rapidly over. At the age of fifteen he became a pupil of the imperial school of drawing. Here he carried off the first prizes, was made sub-professor, and hopes were held out to him that he should take a share in the education of the King of Rome. But this was in 1812; the decline of the empire had begun, Russia had given the first blow to Napoleon’s seemingly resistless power;--the hopes of the young professor were never realized. Upon the return of the Bourbons, after Waterloo, he lost his sub-professorship, on account of his well-known Bonapartism; and because, whilst giving a lesson in mathematics, he employed, to mark the curves and angles of a geometrical figure, letters which made up the words “_vive l’Empereur!_” Soon afterwards, however, he again obtained occupation, although of a far humbler description than that to which he had once aspired. He was employed in the organization of elementary and military schools, upon the plan of mutual instruction. In this he was most successful, and his reports to the Minister of war proved that, in three years, one hundred thousand men might be taught to read, write, and cipher, at the small expense of three hundred thousand francs, or half-a-crown per man. In 1820, although then only twenty-three years old, he was intrusted with the inspection of the regimental schools of the royal guard and first military division; and his connexion with the army brought him acquainted with many of the Bonapartist plots at that time rife. Although often confided in by the conspirators, who were aware of his attachment to the Emperor, he took share in none of their abortive schemes for placing Napoleon the Second on the throne of France; but, nevertheless, he was looked upon with suspicion by the government of the Bourbons. Still, however, he was permitted to become the director, without a salary, of a school established in the prison at Montaigu, appropriated to military criminals. To this prison, in the year 1822, were sent two non-commissioned officers, by name Mathieu and Conderc, implicated in the conspiracy for which General Berton lost his head. Yielding to his sympathies and to the prayers of these two young men, who were bent upon escape or suicide, M. Appert promised to assist their flight. He did so, successfully, and the consequence was his own imprisonment at La Force, where he was placed in the room subsequently occupied by the poet Beranger. Pending his trial, he had for servant a celebrated thief of the name of Doré, of whom Vidocq, the thief-taker, more than once makes mention in his curious books. This Doré, who, for a robber, was a very decent fellow, and who served M. Appert with the greatest punctuality and fidelity, once had the audacity, alone and unassisted, save by his own ingenuity, to stop a diligence full of passengers. With a skill that would have made him an invaluable confederate for a London or Paris _kite-flyer_, he constructed several excellent men of straw, the size of life, and quite as natural--at least in the dark. These he invested with the needful toggery--neither fresh nor fashionable, we presume, but serving the purpose. Finally, he fastened sticks, intended to represent muskets, to the shoulders of the figures, which he posted in a row against trees bordering the high road. Up came the diligence. “Halt!” shouted Doré, in the voice of a Stentor; “Halt! or my men fire!” The frightened driver pulled up short; conductor and passengers, seeing a row of figures with levelled fire-arms, thought they had fallen into the power of a whole army of banditti, and begged for mercy. Doré came forward in the character of a generous protector, sternly ordered his men to abstain from violence and remain where they were, and collected from the trembling and intimidated passengers their purses, watches, and jewels. “I forbid you to fire,” he shouted to his quaker gang, whilst pocketing the rich tribute; “they make no resistance; I will have no useless blood-shed.” The conductor, delighted to save a large sum of money secreted in a chest, quietly submitted: the passengers were too happy to get off with whole skins, and the women thanked the spoiler, called him a humane man, and almost kissed him, out of gratitude for him sparing their lives. The plunder collected, the driver received permission to continue his journey, which he did at full speed, lest the banditti should change their minds and forget their forbearance. Doré made his escape unmolested, leaving his straw regiment on picket by the road side, a scarecrow, till daybreak, to the passing traveller.
The few persons acquainted with M. Appert’s share in the escape of Mathieu and Conderc, proved stanch upon his trial: nothing could be proved against him, and he was acquitted. The affair gave rise to long and bitter controversy between the Liberal and Royalist newspapers. Of course M. Appert lost his place under government, and he now had full leisure to busy himself with his philanthropic investigations. To these he devoted his time; but the police looked upon him as a dangerous character, and, in May, 1823, orders were again issued for his arrest. Forewarned, he escaped by the garden-gate at the very moment that his pursuers knocked at the front door. The cause for which he was persecuted, that of Bonapartism and liberal opinions--the anti-Bourbon cause, in short--made him many friends, and he had no difficulty in concealing himself, although prudence compelled him frequently to change his hiding-place. One of his first retreats was the house of Lafayette, then looked upon as an arch conspirator, and closely watched by the police, but who, nevertheless, afforded a willing shelter to young Appert. A happy week was passed by the latter in the hotel and constant society of the venerable general.
“I had his coachman’s room, and a livery in readiness to put on, in case of an intrusion on the part of the police. I dined with him _tête-a-tête_, and we spent the evenings together; the porter telling all visiters, excepting relatives and intimate friends, that the general was at his country house of La Grange.
“Monsieur de Lafayette’s conversation was most interesting, his language well chosen, his narrative style simple and charming; his character was gay and amiable, his physiognomy respectable and good. His tone, and every thing about him, indicated good humour, kindness, and dignity, and the habit of the best society. He had the exquisitely polished manners of the old regime, blent with those of the highest classes of the present day. His vast information, the numerous anecdotes of his well-filled life, his immense acquaintance with almost all the celebrated persons in the world, his many and curious voyages, the great events in which he had borne a leading part, the historical details that he alone could give on events not yet written down in history, constituted an inexhaustible conversational treasure, and I look upon it as one of the happiest circumstances of my life to have passed a week in the intimacy of that excellent and noble general.”
All, however, that M. Appert thinks proper to record in print of these anecdotes, historical details, &c., consists of a short conversation with M. Lafayette, who predicted the final downfall of the Bourbons, and the advent of a more liberal order of things. In 1828, many besides Lafayette were ready with the same prophecy. M. Appert then asked the general whether, in the event of a revolution, the Duke of Orleans, who appeared sincerely liberal, who encouraged the progress of art and science, sent his sons to the public colleges, cultivated the opposition members, and was generally popular with the advocates of the progress, might not become King of France.
“‘My dear Appert,’ replied the general, ‘what you say is very true, and I myself greatly esteem the Duke of Orleans. I believe him sincere in his patriotism, his children are very interesting, his wife is the best of women. But one can answer for nothing in times of revolution. Nevertheless, the Duke would have many chances in his favour; and for my part, were I consulted, I should certainly vote for him.’
“Seven years after this curious conversation, which I wrote down at the time, General Lafayette still entertained, and expressed at the Hotel de Ville, the same opinion of the Duke of Orleans, now King of the French.”
From Lafayette, M. Appert transferred himself to the Duchess of Montebello, the ex-lady of honour and confidential friend of the Empress Maria Louisa. In her hotel he abode a month, and then went into the country. After a while, the police, who, by not capturing him, had shown great negligence or impotence, discontinued their persecutions, and he was again able to appear in public.
To arrive the sooner at the reign of Louis Philippe, M. Appert does little more than briefly recapitulate the principal events of the last few years of the Restoration, introducing, however, here and there, a remark or anecdote not unworthy of note. Take the following, as a Frenchman’s opinion of the military promenade of 1823, and of its leader, the Duke d’Angoulême.
“The battles were unimportant, our troops showed themselves brave as ever; but, in order to flatter the prince, so much fuss was made about the military feats of this campaign, about the passage of a bridge, for instance, that all sensible men in France and throughout Europe, laughed to hear so much noise for such small conquests. At last the Duke of Angoulême returned to Paris; entertainments were given him, triumphal arches erected, Louis XVIII. and the Count d’Artois told him he was the greatest captain of the age; the old generals of the empire, now become courtiers and flatterers, added the incense of their praise to the royal commendations. The poor prince came to believe that he really was a great warrior. A lie, by dint of repetition, acquires the semblance of a truth, especially when it flatters our self-love, our vanity and pride. Behold, then, Louis Antoine, _Fils de France_, a greater captain than Bayard or Turenne. Napoleon I do not name; of him the Restoration had made _a Corsican marquis, who had had the honour to serve, with some distinction and bravery, in the French army under the orders of the princes, during the reign H.M. Louis XVIII., King of France and Navarre_.
“Before his departure for this famous war, the Duke of Angoulême’s disposition was simple, modest, and good; when he returned he was subject to absence of mind and to fits of passion, and his understanding appeared weakened. Exaggerated praise, like a dizzy height, often turns the head.
“Louis XVIII., long a sufferer from the gout, at last died, and MONSIEUR became king under the title of Charles X. The priests and ultra-royalists rejoiced; they thought their kingdom was come.”
In another place we find a description of the personal appearance of the valiant commander, who, duly dry-nursed and tutored by his major-general, Count Guilleminot, won imperishable laurels in the great fight of the Trocadero. “Short in stature, and red in the face, his look was absent, his gait and shape were ungraceful, his legs short and thin.” M. Appert describes a visit paid by the duke, then dauphin, to his cousins at the Palais Royal. “This visit, a rare favour, lasted about twenty minutes, and when the Duchess of Orleans, according to established etiquette, had replaced the dauphine’s cloak, the duke and duchess conducted their illustrious visiters to the first step of the grand staircase. Here the dauphin had a fit of absence, for, instead of saying adieu, he repeated several times ‘word of honour, word of honour.’ The dauphine took hold of his arm and they returned to their carriage.” This absent man is next shown to us in a very unprincely and unbecoming passion, for which, however, he received a proper wigging from his royal dad. The anecdote is worth extracting.
“The sentries at the gates of the château of St. Cloud had orders to allow no person in plain clothes and carrying a parcel, to enter the private courts and gardens. One of the dauphin’s servants, not in livery, wished to pass through a door kept by the Swiss guards. The sentry would not allow it, and the servant appealed to the subaltern on guard, who was pacing up and down near the gate. ‘You may be one of Monseigneur’s servants,’ the officer politely replied, ‘and that parcel may, as you say, belong to His Royal Highness, but I do not know you, and I must obey orders.’ The lacquey got angry, was insolent, and attempted to force a passage. Thereupon, the officer, a young man of most estimable character, pushed him sharply away, and told him that if he renewed the attempt he should be sent to the guard-house.
“From his window the dauphin saw admission refused to his servant. Without reflection or inquiry, he ran down stairs like a madman, went up to the lieutenant, abused him violently, without listening to his defence, and at last so far forgot himself as to tear off his epaulets, and threaten him with his sword. Then the officer, indignant at seeing himself thus dishonoured in front of his men, when in fact he had done no more than his duty, took two steps backwards, clapped hand on hilt, and exclaimed, ‘Monseigneur, keep your distance!’ Just then, the dauphine, informed of this scene, hurried down, and carried off her husband to his apartments. ‘I entreat you, sir,’ said she to the officer, ‘forget what has passed! You shall hear further from me.’
“The same evening the king was told of this affair, which might have had very serious consequences, for all the officers of the Swiss guards were about to send in their resignations. As ex-colonel-general of the Swiss, Charles X. was too partial to them not to reprimand his son severely for the scandal he had caused. To make the matter up, and give satisfaction to the corps of officers, he desired the dauphine to send for the insulted lieutenant, and, in presence of that princess, who anxiously desired to see her husband’s unpardonable act atoned for and forgotten, the king addressed the young officer with great affability. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘my son has behaved most culpably towards you, and towards me, your former colonel-general. Accept these captain’s epaulets, which I have great pleasure in offering you, and forget the past?’ With much emotion the dauphine added a few gracious words, and the officer, not without reluctance, continued in the royal guard as captain. The dauphin, who was good in the main, did not fail, the next time he saw the new made captain, to offer him his hand in sign of reconciliation, and, by a singular chance, this officer was one of the last Swiss on duty with the royal family when it departed for Cherbourg on its way into exile.”
How striking the picture of regal dignity here presented to us! The heir to the French throne scuffling in his own palace yard with a subaltern of foreign mercenaries, and rescued by his wife from possible chastisement at the hands of his opponent. The king compelled to apologize for his son’s misconduct, and almost to crave the acceptance of a captain’s commission as plaster for the wounded honour of the Swiss guardsman. There is an unmistakeable Bourbon character about the story. And truly, both in great things and small, what a pitiful race of kings were those older Bourbons! Fit only to govern some petty German state of a few dozen square miles, where they might revel in etiquette, surround themselves with priests and flatterers, and play by turns the tyrant and the fool. High time was it that a more vigorous branch should oust them from the throne of a Francis, a Henry, and a Napoleon. The hour of their downfal was at hand, although they, as ever, were blind to the approaching peril. And little thought the glittering train of gay courtiers and loyal ladies who thronged to Rheims to the coronation of Charles the Tenth, that this ceremony was the last sacrifice offered to the last descendant of St. Louis, and that the corpse of Louis XVIII. would wait in vain, in the regal vault at St. Denis, for that of his successor.
In 1826, M. Appert was elected member of the Royal Society of Prisons, of which the Dauphin was president, and about the same time he became a frequent visiter at the Palais Royal. The Duke of Orleans took much notice of him, and begged him to pay particular attention to the schools and prisons upon his extensive domains. Madame Adelaide (Mademoiselle d’Orleans, as she was then styled) desired his assistance for the establishment of a school near her castle of Randan; and the Duchess of Orleans craved his advice in the distribution of her charities. He passed some time at Randan, where the whole Orleans family were assembled, and he describes their rational, cheerful, and simple manner of life. It was that of opulent and well-educated country gentlemen, hospitable, charitable, and intellectual. Kingly cares had not yet wrinkled the brow of Louis Philippe; neither had sorrow, anxiety, and alarm furrowed the cheeks of the virtuous Marie Amélie. “At that time, both Mademoiselle and Monseigneur were gay and cheerful. Since royalty has replaced that life of princely retirement, I have never seen them enjoy such calm and tranquil days; I might say, never such happy ones.” From Randan, M. Appert started on a tour to the south of France, and to visit the galleys. When he returned to Paris, he undertook to assist the Duchess of Orleans and Mademoiselle in their charities; and from that time he saw them every two or three days, sometimes oftener. At last came the July Revolution. The Orleans family were at Neuilly, and whilst the result of the fight between king and people was still uncertain, the duke, apprehensive of violence from the royalist party, shut himself up in a little pavilion in the park. There his wife and sister secretly visited him, and took him the news as it arrived from Paris. From his retreat, he plainly heard the din of battle raging in the streets of the capital. On the 28th of July, a cannon-ball, fired from Courbevoye, fell near the palace, and at a short distance from the duchess and her sister-in-law. There could be little doubt of the intention of the shot. This circumstance made Mademoiselle think, that in their fury the royalists might attack Neuilly, and carry off the family. Accordingly, the duke, accompanied only by his faithful adherent Oudard, left his retreat, and crossed the country on foot to Raincy, another of his seats, situated near Bondy. This was on the 29th July; the duke was dressed very simply, and wore a gray hat with a tri-colored cockade. As soon as the cannon shot was fired from Courbevoye, Mademoiselle said to the duchess, “My dear, we cannot stand by those people any longer; they massacre the mob, and fire at us; we must take a decided part.” Hastening to her wardrobe, she tore up several silk dresses, white, blue, and red, made them into cockades, and distributed them to the household. From that moment, it is evident, that if the royalists had had the upper hand, the house of Orleans was ruined.
On their way to Raincy, the duke and Oudard fell in with a peasant, digging his field as if nothing extraordinary was occurring. They asked him the news. “_Ma foi, Monsieur_,” replied the man, “they say that the people are thrashing the royal guard, that those stupid Bourbons have run, and that liberty will once more triumph.”
“And the Duke of Orleans?” was the next question. “What do they say of him?”
“No doubt he is with his cousins, since he has not shown himself at his Palais Royal. He’s no better than the rest; a fine talker, and nothing else.”
Not overpleased at the peasant’s reply, the duke asked no more questions, but continued his pedestrian journey. Forty-eight hours afterwards, however, he was at the Palais Royal, with the men of July for his body-guard; and ten days later he was King of the French. How far he owed his elevation to intrigues and manœuvres of his own--how far he had aimed at the crown which thus suddenly settled upon his brows--are questions that have been much discussed, but never satisfactorily elucidated. M. Appert’s opinion is worth recording. To us it appears a temperate and rational one.
“I consider it proved that the Duke of Orleans did not, as many believe, work for the overthrow of his cousins. As a shrewd and clever man, he could not forget the chances given to his family by the retrograde policy of the Bourbons; he remembered that he had five sons, brought up in the public colleges, partaking the intelligence and opinions of the rising generation, and therefore secure of public sympathy; he bore in mind also, that the Duke of Bordeaux, who alone stood above his sons, in the sense of legitimacy, but far below them in the opinion of the masses, was still very young, and liable to the diseases of childhood. All these were so many motives for him to court that popularity which the Tuileries each day lost. He did not omit to do so. He showed himself cordial and affable with the popular members of the Chambers, adopted and sustained the system of mutual instruction, which was protected by the liberal section of the nation, in opposition to the priests, and founded schools on that plan on his estates. A generous patron of artists and men of letters, for political refugees, Poles, Greeks, and Italians, he was ever ready to subscribe. In short, without conspiring, the Duke of Orleans did as much to advance the royal destiny of his family as the elder branch, by a completely contrary line of conduct, did to compromise theirs.”
If these were the sole arts and conjurations used by Louis Philippe to compass his ends, certainly no crown was ever more fairly come by than his. And verily so uneasy a station, so thorny a seat as that of King of the French, was scarce worth more active efforts; it would have been dearly bought by a sacrifice of honour and principle. The life of Louis Philippe, is one of incessant toil and anxiety; his leisure is less, his work harder, than that of his meanest subject. Late to bed, he rises early, rarely sleeping more than four hours; after a careful, but rapid toilet, his day’s labour begins. He seldom breakfasts with his family; it would take too much time; but has his frugal repast brought on a tray to the room where he happens to be. When he was Duke of Orleans, he read all the letters and petitions addressed to him, writing upon each an opinion or an order for the guidance of his secretaries. This practice he was of course obliged to discontinue when he became king. At the commencement of his reign, the number of letters and applications of various kinds, sent to the different members of the royal family, amounted to the astonishing number of a thousand or twelve hundred a-day. Although, upon an average, not above fifty of these possessed the least interest, or deserved an answer, the mere reading and classing of such a chaos of correspondence gave employment to several secretaries. After a while, the flood of petitions abated, but M. Appert estimates them, in ordinary times, at six to eight hundred daily. Of the letters, only the important ones are laid before the King, who answers many of them himself. He examines the reports, projects, and nominations brought to him by his ministers, and, at least twice or thrice a-week, presides at the council-board. Private audiences occupy much of his time; his conferences with architects, with the intendants of the civil list and of his private estates, are of frequent occurrence. The galleries of Versailles, and the improvements at Fontainebleau--all made after his plans, and in great measure under his personal superintendence--court-balls and dinners, diplomatic audiences, correspondence with foreign courts, journeys of various kinds, visits to the castle of Eu and to military camps--such are a portion of the innumerable claims upon the time of the King of the French. But, by a clear-headed, active, and earnest man, endowed with the faculty of order, which Louis Philippe possesses in a very high degree, much is to be got through in a day of twenty hours; and, after doing all that has been enumerated, and many other things of less importance, the king still finds time to devote to his family, for the necessary healthful exercise, and for the perusal of the principal newspapers and publications, both English and foreign. “Each morning, either before or after breakfast, _all_ the newspapers, political pamphlets, even caricatures, were laid upon the table, and the king and the princes were the first to read aloud the articles published against them. They examined the caricatures, and passed them to the bystanders, saying, ‘What do you think of this?’”
The taunt of parsimony has ever been prominent amongst the weapons of offence employed against the July monarchy by the French opposition press. The avarice of the Civil List, the candle-end economies of the Château, the _maigre chère_ of M. de Montalivet, have been harped upon till they have become bywords in the mouths of the mob, always eager to detect the petty failings of their superiors. They have been a fertile subject of pun, sneer, and witticism for those pasquinading periodicals which care little for truth or justice so long as they can tickle the popular palate, and keep up their circulation; a perfect treasure for such loose and ephemeral prints as the _Charivari_ and the _Corsaire_, the _Figaro_ and the _Tintamarre_. Even graver journals, the dull and fanatical organs of the Legitimatists, have, in a graver tone, made scornful reference to degrading and unkingly avarice, whilst that witty monomaniac, the editor of the “_Mode_,” has launched the keen shafts of his unsparing ridicule against the _mesquinerie_ of the usurping princes. It is easy to get up and sustain such a cry as this, against which it would be beneath the dignity of the persons assailed, and of their newspaper organs, to contend; and, when supported by a rattling fire of squib and jeer, daily printed for the reading of a people who, of all others, are most apt to prefer their jest to their friend, it is any thing but surprising that a fabrication should acquire credit, a falsehood be accepted as truth. We believe there is no ground for accusing the Orleans family of avarice. True, they do not, in imitation of some of their predecessors, indulge in a reckless prodigality, and squander enormous sums upon profligate courtiers and lewd women. They better understand the proper distribution of their great wealth. They do not gamble, or maintain _petites maisons_, or establish a _Parc-aux-cerfs_, or commit any other of the disgraceful extravagancies for which so many Bourbons have made themselves conspicuous. In this respect they have improved upon the traditions even of their own house. Louis Philippe must be admitted to be a great improvement, both as a private and public man, upon his dissolute and disreputable forefathers, even by those bitter and malicious foes who convert his habits of order and proper economy into a grave offence. We learn from M. Appert to what extent he sins in these particulars. To preserve his health, which is excellent, he lives very simply. At dinner, he rarely eats any thing but soup and a solid slice of roast beef; but the twenty-five or thirty persons who daily surround his board are subjected to no such frugal diet. The royal table is perfectly well served; the wines, especially, are old and delicious, and the king takes as much care of his guests as if he were a private gentleman giving a dinner. The intendant of the household submits each day’s bill of fare for the queen’s approval. Such, at least, was the custom in the time of M. Appert, whose personal experience of the court, as far as we can judge from his Memoirs,--for he is sparing of dates,--extends up to the year 1837.
“The king takes particular care of his clothes; and I once saw him in a very bad humour because he had torn his coat against a door. The papers in his private study, the books in his library, are arranged with great order, and he does not like to have their places changed in his absence. Whilst conversing, his majesty amuses himself by making envelopes for letters, and often makes those for the large despatches serve twice, by turning them. He has the habit of wasting nothing, not even a thing of small value, that can again be made available. He loves neither play nor field-sports: of an evening, in his domestic circle, he sometimes amuses himself with a game at billiards, but seldom for long together; for it is very rare that he can get more than an hour to himself, uninterrupted by the arrival of important despatches, by the visits of ministers or foreign ambassadors.”
We discern nothing very reprehensible in the harmless little peculiarities here enumerated. It may be stingy and unkingly to dislike being robbed, and in that case Louis Philippe is to blame, for we are told that he keeps a watchful eye over the expenses of his household. On the other hand, he is generous to prodigality in the repairs and embellishments of his palaces and domains; thus giving employment to many, and preparing for posterity monuments of his magnificence and of his princely encouragement of the artists and men of genius of his day. He has no abstract love of gold, no partiality for gloating over money-bags: his expenses, on the contrary, often exceed his income, and entail debts upon his civil list and private fortune. He has an open hand for his friends, a charitable heart for the poor. Party feeling should not blind us to private virtue. Even those who least admire the public conduct of Louis Philippe, who dislike his system of government, and blame his tortuous foreign policy, may, whilst censuring the conduct of the king, admit and admire the good qualities of the individual.
“I remember,” says M. Appert, when speaking of the subordinate officers of the royal household, “that one of these gentlemen, having amassed, a great deal too rapidly, a certain competency, asked the king’s permission to leave his service, and return to his own province, where an _aunt_, he said, had left him a pretty income. ‘I have not the least objection,’ replied his majesty; ‘I only hope that I have not been your _uncle_!’” And with this good-humoured remark, the heir, whether of dead aunt or living uncle, was allowed to retire upon his new-found fortune. Another anecdote, highly characteristic of him of whom it is told, may here be introduced. The burial-place of the house of Orleans is at Dreux. From an exaggerated feeling of regard or friendship, or whatever it may be called, the dowager-duchess, mother of the king, inserted in her will an earnest wish, indeed an injunction, that her intendant, M. de Folleville, should be buried in the outer vault, which precedes that of the Orleans family, and that a slab with his name and quality should close his grave. The king duly complied with his mother’s wish, but caused the inscribed side of the slab to be placed inwards, thus fulfilling the desire of the duchess without exposing her to the ill-natured comments of future generations.
M. Appert takes us even into the royal bed-chamber. He does so with all proper discretion, and we will venture to follow him thither.
“The king and queen always occupy the same bed, which is almost as broad as it is long, but whose two halves are very differently composed. On one side is a plain horse-hair mattress, on the other an excellent feather-bed. The latter is for the queen. The princes and princesses are accustomed, like the king, to sleep on a single mattress. There is always a light in their majesties’ apartment, _and two pistols are placed upon a table near the king_.”
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!” In this instance, however, the pistol practice is the result probably of an old habit rather than of any apprehension of a night attack upon the Tuileries. We have passed the days when kings were stabbed in their beds or poisoned in their cups; and the attempts of the Fieschis and Lecomtes do not appear to prey upon the robust health or dwell upon the imagination of their intended victim. With Marie Amélie it is very different. The anxieties and sorrows she has experienced since 1830 have been terrible; and doubtless she has wished many times that her husband had never exchanged his retirement at Neuilly, his circle of friends at the Palais Royal, for his present exalted but difficult and dangerous station. “Ah! M. Appert,” she more than once exclaimed, “he who invented the proverb, ‘Happy as a king,’ had certainly never worn a crown!” When we contemplate the careworn and suffering, but benevolent and interesting countenance of the virtuous Queen of the French, and call to mind all her trials during the last fifteen years, the constant attempts on the king’s life, the death of the Princess Mary and of the much-loved Duke of Orleans, and the perils incurred by her other sons in Africa, how can we doubt the sincerity of this exclamation? In unaffected piety, and in charity that blushes to be seen, this excellent princess finds consolation. M. Appert becomes enthusiastic when he speaks of her unassuming virtues, to which, however, his testimony was scarcely needed. None, we believe, not even her husband’s greatest enemies, have ever ventured to deny them.
“The queen disposes of five hundred thousand francs a-year for all her personal expenses; and certainly she gives more than four hundred thousand in charity of all kinds. ‘M. Appert,’ she would sometimes say to me, ‘give those five hundred francs, we spoke of, but put them down upon next month’s list, _for the waters are low, my purse is empty_.’” Imposture, ingratitude, even the insolent form of the petitions addressed to her, fail to discourage her in her benevolent mission. “Madam,” an old Bonapartist lady one day wrote to her, “if the Bourbons had not returned to France--for the misfortune of the nation--my beloved mistress and protectress, the Empress Maria Louisa, would still be upon the throne, and I should not be under the humiliating necessity of telling you that I am without bread, and that the wretched mattress upon which I sleep is about to be thrown out of the garret I inhabit, because my year’s rent is unpaid! I dare not ask you for assistance, for my heart is with my real sovereign, and I cannot promise you my gratitude. If, however, you think proper to preserve a life which, since the misfortunes of my country, has been so full of bitterness, I will accept a loan: I should blush to receive a gift. I am, madam, your servant, Ch----r.”
Here was a pretty letter to set before a queen; a mode of imploring alms that might well have disgusted the most charitable. But what was Maria Amélie’s reply to the precious epistle. She was accustomed to open all the petitions addressed to her--and numerous indeed they were--with her own hand, and to write upon many of them instructions for M. Appert. When the impertinent missive of the Bonapartist reached that gentleman, the following lines had been added to it:--“She must be very unhappy for she is very unjust. A hundred francs to be sent to her immediately; and I beg M. Appert to make inquiries concerning this lady’s circumstances.” M. Appert, indignant at the tone of the letter, ventured to remonstrate; but the queen insisted, and even tripled her intended donation, in case it should be required by her singular petitioner, whom her almoner accordingly proceeded to visit. “I knocked at a worm-eaten door, on the fifth floor of a house in the Rue St. André des Arts, and a lady dressed in black (it was her only gown,) opened it.
“‘Sir,’ said she, much agitated, ‘are you the commissary of police come to arrest me for my shameful letter to the queen? You must forgive me: I am so unhappy that at times I become deranged. I am sorry to have written as I did to a princess whom all the poor call good and charitable.’
“‘Be not alarmed, madam,’ I replied, taking her petition from my pocket. ‘Read her majesty’s orders; they will enable you to judge of her better than any thing I could tell you.’
“Madame C. read the affecting words added by the queen; then, bursting into tears, she pressed the paper to her lips. ‘Sir,’ she exclaimed, ‘give me nothing, but leave me this holy relic. I will die of hunger with it upon my heart.’
“Madame C. proving in all respects worthy of the queen’s generosity, I left her the three hundred francs, but had much difficulty in prevailing on her to give up the petition, which I still preserve with respect and veneration. This trait of the Queen of the French is only one of ten thousand.”
Madame Adelaide d’Orleans vies in charity with her sister-in-law; and, although she has no separate establishment at Paris, but lives always with the king, her generosity and the expenses of frequent journeys, and of a certain retinue which she is compelled to maintain, have sometimes caused her temporary embarrassments. “Thus is it,” she one day said to M. Appert, with reference to a loan she had contracted, “that royalty enriches us. People ask what the king does with his money, and to satisfy them, it would be necessary to publish the names of honourable friends of liberty, who, in consequence of misfortunes, have solicited and obtained from him sums of twenty, thirty, forty, and even of three hundred thousand francs. They forget all the extraordinary expenses my brother has had to meet, all the demands he has to comply with. Out of his revenues he has finished the Palais Royal, improved the appanages of the house of Orleans, and yet, sooner or later, all that property will revert to the State. When we returned to France, our inheritance was so encumbered, that my brother was advised to decline administering to the estate; but to that neither he nor I would consent. For all these things, people make no allowance. Truly, M. Appert, we know not how to act to inspire the confidence which our opinions and our consciences tell us we fully deserve.”
This was spoken on the 23d January, 1832, and written down the same evening, by M. Appert. Madame Adelaide had then been too short a time a king’s sister, to have become acquainted with the bitters as well as the sweets of that elevated position,--to have experienced the thorns that lurk amongst the roses of a crown. Doubtless she has since learned, that calumny, misrepresentation, and unmerited censure, are inevitable penalties of royalty, their endurance forming part of the moral tax pitilessly levied upon the great ones of the earth.
So liberal an almsgiver as the Queen of the French, and one whose extreme kindness of heart is so universally known, is of course peculiarly liable to imposition; and the principal duty of M. Appert was to investigate the merits of the claimants on the royal bounty, and to prevent it, as far as possible, from passing into unworthy hands. For this office his acquaintance with the prisons and galleys, with the habits, tricks, and vices of the poor, peculiarly fitted him. He discovered innumerable deceits, whose authors had hoped, by their assistance, to extract an undeserved dole from the coffers of the queen. Literary men, assuming that designation on the strength of an obscure pamphlet or obscene volume, and who, when charity was refused them, often demanded a bribe to exclude a venomous attack on the royal family from the columns of some scurrilous journal; sham refugees from all countries; old officers, whose campaigns had never taken them out of Paris, and whose red ribbon, given to them by _l’Autre_, on the field of Wagram or Marengo, was put into their button-hole on entering the house, and hastily taken out on leaving it, lest the police should inquire what right they had to its wear: such were a few of the many classes of imposters detected by M. Appert. One insatiable lady sent, regularly every day, two or three petitions to various members of the royal family, considering them as so many lottery tickets, sure, sooner or later, to bring a prize. She frankly confessed to M. Appert the principle she went upon. “Petitions,” she said, “like advertisements in the newspapers, end by yielding a profit to those who patiently reiterate them. Persons who constantly see my name, and hear that I have eighteen children, come at last to pity and relieve my distress, which is real.” This woman was, as she said, in real difficulties, but nevertheless it was impossible to comply with all her demands. When, by M. Appert’s advice, the queen and Madame Adelaide refused to do so, this pertinacious petitioner got up a melodramatic effect, borrowed from the Porte St Martin, or some other Boulevard theatre. She wrote a letter, announcing that if she did not receive immediate assistance she had made every preparation to suffocate herself with charcoal that same evening. “Then this good queen would send for me, and say, ‘Mon Dieu! M. Appert, Madame R. is going to kill herself. It is a great crime, and we must prevent it. Be so good as to send her forty francs.’ And to prevent my raising objections to this too great goodness, her majesty would add immediately, ‘I know what you are about to say: that she deceives me, and will not kill herself; but if it did happen, God would not forgive us. It is better to be deceived than to risk such a misfortune.’”
There exist regular joint-stock companies, composed of swindlers leagued together for the plunder of the charitable. Some of the members feign misfortune and misery, and send petitions to the queen, and ministers, or to any one known as rich or benevolent; whilst others, well dressed and decorated, assume the character of protectors of the unfortunate, and answer for the respectability and deserts of the _protégés_. M. Appert describes a lodging rented by one of these companies. It might have furnished Eugene Sue with a chapter in his “Mysteries of Paris.” “It consisted of two rooms. In one were a wretched truckle-bed, two broken chairs, an old table; the other was well furnished with excellent chairs, a mahogany table, and clean curtains. The door connecting the rooms was carefully masked by a hanging of old paper, similar to that of the outer one; the bed was a dirty straw mattress. The impostor who occupied these lodgings received her visiters in the shabby room, and there she looked so miserable, that it was impossible to help relieving her. The charitable person or persons gone, she transferred herself to the inner apartment, and led a joyous life with her confederates and fellow-petitioners. There are in Paris as many as fifty of these immoral associations, which the police does not interfere with, because it finds most of their members serviceable as spies.” The suicide-dodge seems a favourite resource of male as well as female impostors. “Mr. B., formerly in the army, now a gambler, always carried two loaded pistols in his pocket, (the balls forgotten, very likely,) and when he came to ask me for assistance, which was at least a hundred times a-year, he invariably threatened to blow out his brains in my room; having left, he said, a letter to a newspaper for which he wrote, publishing to Europe the avarice of the royal family, and the baseness of those about them, beginning, of course, with myself. When I refused to yield to his threats, Mr. B. changed his mind, and consented to live, but with the sole object of injuring me in every possible way; and, according to promise, this worthy man of letters wrote against me in _his_ newspaper, and sent anonymous letters to the Tuileries.”
Exiled Polish princes, Italian patriots, veterans of all possible armies and services, moustached to the eyes, their coats covered with crosses, their breasts, as they affirmed, with scars; aid-de-camps of half the kings and generals in the world; wounded and fever-stricken soldiers from Algeria;--these were a few of the false titles to charity impudently advanced by the mob of rogues and impostors, who daily crowded M. Appert’s anti-chamber, giving it the aspect of a guard-room or of the depôt of some house of correction, and displaying in their tales of wo astonishing address and ingenuity. And in spite of the immense army of gendarmes and police-spies, who are supposed to envelop France in the vast net of their vigilance--and who certainly succeed in rendering it as unlike a land of liberty as a free country well can be--in spite of the complicated passport system, having for one of its chief objects the check of crime and fraud, we find that these jail-birds “had always passports and certificates, and were often provided with letters of recommendation from persons of rank and wealth, who found it easier to sign their name than to draw their purse-strings. I possess more than fifteen hundred letters and notes, large and small, from peers of France, generals, ex-ministers, and others, recommending petitioners; and sometimes, when I met these complaisant patrons, they knew not even the name of those they had thus supported. The visits of these illustrious persons often lost me a great deal of time; and what astonished me beyond measure was, that the possession of a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand francs a-year did not prevent these rich misers from tormenting me. They would lose two or three hours rather than pay down a penny. The son-in-law of one of the richest proprietors in France once wrote me a most humble and suppliant letter, begging me to obtain from the Queen a grant of thirty francs to one of his domestics, who, through old age, was compelled to leave his service.” And many an enemy did M. Appert make by noncompliance with the requests of the wealthy skin-flints, who sought to do a charitable act at another’s expense. The Queen and the Princess Adelaide often received petitions from ladies of the court, who expatiated on the interesting and deserving character of those they recommended. Nevertheless, M. Appert was always desired to inquire into the real merits of the case, and frequently found that it was not one deserving of succour. Then the queen or princess would say, when next they were importuned on the subject, “My dear countess, M. Appert has been to see your _protégée_, has made due inquiry, and finds that we have many upon our list in far greater need of assistance. I am sorry, therefore, to be unable to comply with your wishes.” Here, of course, was an enemy for poor M. Appert, who certainly needs the approbation of his own conscience as reward for having gratuitously held so thankless an office. His functions were no light ones, and took up nearly his whole time. His position relatively to the royal family compelled him to receive a vast number of persons of all ranks and classes, some of them of no very respectable description, but who were useful in procuring him information. Once or twice a month the Phrenological Society held its sittings at his house. During one of these meetings two heads were brought into the room in a basket, and placed with great care upon the table. “I thought they were in wax; the eyes were open, the faces placid. Upon approaching, I recognised the features of the assassins, Lacenaire and Avril, whom I had seen in their dungeons. ‘Do you find them like, M. Appert?’ said the man who had brought them. I replied in the affirmative. ‘No wonder,’ said he, ‘they are not more than four hours off their shoulders.’ They were the actual heads of the two murderers.” Not satisfied with having the heads, our philanthropical phrenologist had the headsman. We have already referred to the less scientific but more convivial meetings held at M. Appert’s house, in the shape of dinners, given each Saturday, and at which the guests were all, in some way or other, men of mark. Sometimes the notorious Vidocq, and Samson, the executioner of Paris--son of the man who decapitated Louis the Sixteenth, Marie Antoinette, and many other illustrious victims--took their places at M. Appert’s table. When this occurred, all his friends were anxious for an invitation. The only two who declined meeting the thief-taker and the headsman, were the archbishop of Malines, and M. Arnault, of the French Academy, brother-in-law of Regnaut de St. Jean d’Angely, who was so influential a person in the time of Napoleon. There were others, however, whom M. Arnault disliked to meet. He had a great prejudice against writers of the romantic school, and especially against Dumas, whom he called a washed-out negro. If M. Appert wanted an abrupt refusal, he merely had to say to him, “Dine with me on Saturday next. I shall have Balzac and Alexander Dumas.” Caustic in manner, but good and amiable, M. Arnault cherished the memory of Napoleon with a fidelity that did him honour. In the court of his house grew a willow, sprung from a slip of that at St. Helena. After 1830, misfortune overtook him, and M. Appert tried to interest the king and Madame Adelaide in his behalf. He was successful, and a librarian’s place was promised to his friend. But the promise was all that M. Arnault ever obtained. The ill-will or obstinacy of the minister, who had the power of nomination, is assigned by M. Appert as the cause of the disappointment, which he hesitates to attribute to lukewarmness on the part of his royal patrons. Louis Philippe is the last man, according to our notion of him, to suffer himself to be thwarted by a minister, whether in great or small things. Kings, whose position exposes them to so much solicitation, should be especially cautious in promising, strictly on their guard against the odious vice, too common in the world, of lightly pledging and easily breaking their word. They, above all men, should ever bear in mind that a broken promise is but a lie inverted.
We return to M. Appert’s dinners. To meet Samson and Vidocq, he had invited the late Lord Durham, Dr. Bowring, De Jouy the academician, Admiral Laplace, and several others. The executioner sat on his right, the policeman on his left, and both occasionally favoured him with a confidential _a parte_. Samson was grave and serious, rather out of his element amongst the _grand seigneurs_, as he called them; Vidocq, on the contrary, was gay, lively, and quite at his ease.
“‘Do you know,’ said he, with a laugh, to the headsman, ‘I have often sent you customers when I was chief of the brigade of safety?’
“‘I know you have, M. Vidocq,’ replied Samson. Then, in a low voice to me, ‘Any where but in your house, sir, I should hardly like to dine in company with that joker. He’s a queer one.’ Almost at the same moment, Vidocq whispered, ‘He’s a worthy man, that Monsieur Samson; but all the same, it seems odd to me to sit at the same table with him.’” Very good, the spy; not bad, the hangman. In the conversation that followed, Lord Durham and the accomplished Hermite de la Chaussée d’Antin took a share, and Samson gave some curious details concerning his terrible profession. He was on the scaffold when Louis XVI. was executed. “We all loved the king in our family,” said he, “and when my father was obliged, according to orders, to take up the head by the hair and show it to the people, the sight of that royal countenance, which preserved all its noble and gentle expression, so affected him that he nearly swooned away. Luckily I was there, and being tall, I masked him from the crowd, so that his tears and emotion, which in those days might have sufficed to bring us to the guillotine in our turn, passed unobserved.” Presently Vidocq ventured a joke, concerning the headsman’s office, which greatly offended him of the axe, who muttered his displeasure in M. Appert’s ear. “That man is as coarse as barley bread,” was his remark: “it is easy to see he is not used to good society; _he does not behave himself as I do_!” Poor Samson, who receives about five hundred a year for the performance of his melancholy duties, was, in reality, very well behaved. His appearance was so respectable, his black coat, gold chain, and frilled shirt, so irreproachable, that on his first visit to M. Appert, that gentleman’s secretary took him for some village mayor on his way to a wedding, or about to head a deputation to the king. Upon Lord Durham’s expressing a wish to see the guillotine, he obligingly offered to show it to him. M. Appert gives an account of the visit. “On the following Saturday, Lord Durham, accompanied by his nephew, heir, I believe, to his title and vast fortune, came in his carriage to fetch me. He had told so many English of our intended visit, that we were followed by a string of vehicles, like the procession to a funeral. On our way, Lord Durham asked me if it were not possible to buy a sheep to try the guillotine upon. On my telling him that to do so would give just grounds for severe criticisms, he did not press his wish. On reaching the Rue du Marais, I went alone into Samson’s house. He was in a full dress suit of black, waiting to receive us. He conducted our party, at least fifty in number, to the banks of the Canal St. Martin, where, in a coachmaker’s shed, the guillotine was kept. Here there was a fine opportunity for the display of a genuine English characteristic. Every body wished to touch every thing; to handle the hatchet and baskets, and get upon the plank which supports the body when the head is fitted into the fatal frame. Samson had had the guillotine repainted and put together, and bundles of straw served to show its terrible power.”
At another dinner, to which Samson and Vidocq were invited, Balzac and Dumas were present, and the talk was most amusing. For romance writers, the conversation of such men must possess especial interest and value. Of Vidocq, M. Appert speaks very highly, with respect both to his head and heart. He began life as a soldier under Dumouriez, and was sent to prison for forging a passport. Endowed with great intelligence and physical strength, and with a restless activity of mind and body, he made his escape, and opened a negotiation for a free pardon, on which condition he promised to render great services to the police. His offer was accepted and he kept his word. M. Appert considers his skill as a police agent unsurpassable. It is perhaps in gratitude for that gentleman’s good opinion that Vidocq has bequeathed him his head, should he die first, for the purpose of phrenological investigations. We find two or three interesting traits and anecdotes of the thief-catcher. A report once got abroad that he had an only daughter to marry, and as he was supposed to be rich, he immediately received a host of offers for her hand, many of them from young men of excellent family, but in needy circumstances. Vidocq, who had no children, was vastly amused at this sudden eagerness for the honour of his alliance. Samson has two pretty daughters, who are well brought up and even accomplished, and who will probably marry the sons of the executioners of large towns. Hangmen, like kings, can only wed in their own sphere. “Samson, who was grateful for the politeness shown him by Lord Durham, thought it might please that nobleman to possess the clothes worn by remarkable criminals, and offered to send them to me. Thus I had for some time in my possession the coats worn at their execution by Fieschi, Lacenaire, and Alibaud. It was one of Samson’s assistants who brought them, and each time I gave him fifteen francs as compensation, the clothes being his perquisites.” M. Appert relates many other curious particulars concerning French executioners, and gives a remarkable letter from Samson himself, relating to the guillotine, to the punishment of branding, and to the old tax called _navage_, which was formerly levied, to the profit of the headsman, on all grain and fruits entering Paris. This tax gave rise to many disputes and discussions between the country people and the men appointed to collect it, who received from the peasants the title of _valets de bourreau_. From that time dates the French proverb, “Insolent as a hangman’s lacquey.”
Of the four sons of Louis Philippe, M. Appert speaks in terms of very high praise. Doubtless they are well-informed and accomplished princes, although, as yet, none of them have given indications of striking talents or high qualities; possibly because they have lacked opportunities for their display. Not one of them enjoys the prestige and popularity of the late Duke of Orleans. The Prince de Joinville, by his handsome person, and frank, off-hand manners, also by his antipathy, real or supposed, to the English, and by his occasional indulgence in a bit of harmless clap-trap and rhodomontade, has acquired the favour and good opinion of certain classes of the French people, who behold in him the man destined, at some future day, to humble the maritime power of England, and to take the British fleet into Brest or Cherbourg, as Gulliver towed the hostile men-of-war into the port of Liliput. We trust it will be long before he has an opportunity of displaying his prowess, or of disappointing the expectations of his admirers. The Duke of Nemours, against whom nothing can be alleged, who has distinguished himself in Algeria, and who is represented, by those who best know him, as a man of sense and moderate views, zealous for the welfare of his country, has been far less successful than his nautical brother, in captivating the sympathies of the bulk of the nation. This can only be attributed to his manners, which are reserved, and thought to indicate pride; but this seeming haughtiness is said to disappear upon nearer acquaintance. Of the two younger brothers, the characters have yet to be developed. It has been affirmed that the natural abilities of the Duke of Aumale are superior to those of either of his seniors. As far as can be judged by the scanty opportunities they have hitherto had of displaying them, the military talents of the French princes are respectable. Their personal courage is undoubted. But for the opposition of the king and of their anxious mother, they would, according to M. Appert, be continually in Africa, heading and serving as examples to the troops. Bravery, however, whose absence is accounted a crime in the private soldier, can hardly be made a merit of in men whose royal blood raises them, when scarcely beyond boyhood, to the highest ranks in the service. And the best wish that can be formed on behalf of the princes of France, of their country, and of Europe, is that their military experience may ever be limited, as, with some slight exceptions, it has hitherto been, to the superintendence of field-days, and the harmless manœuvres of Mediterranean squadrons.
A few days afterwards the Bloomfields also and Miss Willoughby left Brussels for Paris.
It is far from our purpose to follow them step by step upon their route. The little love-affair we have undertaken to relate, leads us a dance upon the Continent; but we have no disposition to play the tourist one moment more than is necessary; and as no incidents connected with our story occurred in Paris, we shall not loiter long even in that gayest and most seductive of capitals. He who knows Paris--and who does not?--and at all understands what sort of traveller Mildred was, will easily conceive the delight she felt in visiting the public monuments, ancient and modern; in observing its populace, so diversified and mobile in their expression, so sombre and so gay; in traversing the different quarters of a city which still retains in parts whatever is most picturesque in the structures of the middle ages, whilst it certainly displays whatever is most tasteful in modern architecture, and which, in fact, in every sense of the word, is the most complete summary of human life that exists upon the face of the earth.
What modern city can boast a point of view comparable to that which bursts upon the stranger as he enters the _Place de la Concorde_! What beautiful architecture to his right and to his left!--the _Palais Bourbon_, the distant Madeleine, the Chamber of Deputies--whilst before him runs the long avenue of the Champs Elysées, terminated by its triumphal arch. No crowding in of buildings. No darkening of the air. Here is open space and open sky, trees and fountains, and a river flowing through the scene. There is room to quarrel, no doubt, with some of its details. Those two beautiful fountains in the centre are beautiful only at a certain respectful distance; you must not approach those discoloured nymphs who are each squeezing water out of the body of the fish she holds in her arms. Nor can we ever reconcile ourselves to that Egyptian obelisk which stands between them; in itself admirable enough, but as much out of place as a sarcophagus in a drawing-room. But these and other criticisms of the like kind, are to be made, if worth while, on after reflection and a leisure examination; the first view which the scene, as a whole, presents to the eye, is like enchantment. So at least Mildred thought, when, the morning after their arrival, (while the breakfast was waiting for her uncle, who was compensating himself for the fatigues of the journey,) she coaxed her aunt to put her arm in hers, and just turn round the corner--she knew from the map where she was--and take one look at it whilst the sun was shining so brightly above them.
Nor are there many cities, however boastful of their antiquities, which present more picturesque views than meet the eye as, leaving the garden of the Tuileries, you proceed up the river; and the round towers, with their conical roofs, of the _Palais de Justice_, rise on the opposite banks, and you catch glimpses of _Notre Dame_. In London, the houses have crowded down to the edge of the water, and are standing up to their ankles in it, so that the inhabitants may walk about its streets all their lives, and never know that a river is flowing through their city. From the centre of one of its bridges they may indeed assure themselves of the fact, and confirm, by their own observations, what they had learned in the geographical studies of their youth, that London is built on the river Thames; but, even from this position, it is more wood than water they will see. The shipping, and the boats of all kinds, blot out the river, and so crush and overcharge it that it is matter of wonder how it continues to exist and move under such a burden. It is otherwise in Paris. There one walks along the quay, and sees the river flowing through the city.
In spite of its revolutions, of its innovations, of its impatient progress, there is much still in Paris to carry back the thoughts of a visitor to antiquated times. If the Madeleine is a Grecian temple, if he finds that religious ceremonies are performed there with an elegance and propriety which propitiate the taste of the profane, if they fail to satisfy the fervour of the devout--a short walk will bring him to the venerable church of St. Germain, hard by the Louvre, where he will encounter as much solemnity and antiquity as he can desire; an antiquity, however, that is still alive, that is still worshipping as it used to worship. He will see at the further extremity of the church a dark, arched recess, imitative of a cavern or sepulchre, at the end of which lies the Christ, pale and bleeding, visible only by the light of tapers; and, if he goes to matins there, he will probably find himself surrounded by a crowd of kneeling devotees, kneeling on the stone pavement before this mediæval exhibition. Two distant ages seem to be brought together and made contemporaries.
But we will not be tempted to loiter on our way even at Paris; we take post horses and proceed with our party to Lyons.
A long ride, what an exceptional state it is!--what a chapter apart--what a parenthesis in life! The days we pass rolling along the road are always dropped out of the almanack; we have lost them, not in the sublime sense of the Roman emperor, but fairly out of the calendar; we cannot make up the tale of days and weeks. We start--especially if it is in a foreign country that we are travelling--with how much exhilaration! Every thing is new, and this charm of novelty lends an interest to the most trivial things we encounter. Not one of the least amusements of travel is this passing, in easy and rapid review, the wayside novelties which the road, the village, and the street that we scamper through, present to us. The changing costume of the peasant--the whimsical, traditionary head-dress of the women, which, whimsical as it is, retains its geographical boundaries with a constancy rarely found in any _flora_ of the botanist--the oddly constructed vehicles, carts fashioned upon all conceivable plans, and drawn by horses, or mules, or oxen harnessed and decorated in what seems quite a masquerading attire--these, and a thousand other things, in their nature the most common and familiar, claim for _once_ the power to surprise us. All the common-place of daily life comes before us,
“Trick’d in this momentary wonderment.”
Here in the south of France, for instance, a cart-horse approaches you with a collar surmounted by a large upright horn, and furnished, moreover, with two long curving _antennæ_ branching from either side, which, with the gay trappings that he wears, give to an old friend the appearance of some monstrous specimen of entomology; you might expect him to unfold a pair of enormous wings, and take flight as you advance, and not pass you quietly by, as he soon will, nodding his head in his old familiar style, and jingling his bells. While the mind is fresh, there is nothing which does not excite some transitory pleasure. But when the journey is felt to be growing long--very long--what a singular apathy steals over us! We struggle against this encroaching torpor--we are ashamed of it--we rouse the mind to thought, we wake the eye to observation--all in vain. Those incessant wheels of the carriage roll round and round, and we are rolling on as mechanically as they. The watch, which we refrain from consulting too often, lest the interest of its announcements should be abated, is our only friend; we look at it with a secret hope that it may have travelled farther than we venture to prognosticate; we proclaim that it is just two o’clock, and in reality expect that it is three, and try to cheat ourselves into an agreeable surprise. We look, and the hands point precisely at half-past one!
“What a _business-like_ looking thing,” said Mildred, as she roused herself from this unwelcome torpor, “seems the earth when it is divided into square fields, and cut into even furrows by the plough!--so palpably a mere manufactory for grain. Oh, when shall I see it rise, and _live_ in the mountain?”
“My dear Mildred,” said her aunt, gently jogging her, “do you know that you are talking in your sleep?”
“I have been asleep, my dear aunt, or something very like it, I know; but I thought just then I was quite awake,” was Mildred’s quiet reply.
When the party reached Lyons, there was some little discussion as to the route they should take into Italy. Mildred had hoped to cross the Alps, and this had been their original intention; but the easy transit down the river, by the steam-boat, to Avignon, was a temptation which, presenting itself after the fatigues of his long journey from Paris, was irresistible to Mr. Bloomfield. He determined, therefore, to proceed into Italy by way of Marseilles, promising his niece that she should cross the Alps, and pass through Switzerland on their return home.
Accordingly, they embarked in the steamer. Here Mr. Bloomfield was more at his ease. One circumstance, however, occasioned him a little alarm. He was watching, with some curiosity, the movements of two men who were sounding the river, with long poles, on either side of the vessel. The reason of this manœuvre never distinctly occurred to him, till he heard the bottom of the boat grating on the bed of the river. “No danger!” cried the man at the helm, who caught Mr. Bloomfield’s eye, as he looked round with some trepidation. “No danger!” muttered Mr. Bloomfield. “No danger, perhaps, of being drowned; but the risk of being stuck here fast in the midst of this river for four-and-twenty hours, is danger enough.” After this, he watched the motions of these men with their long poles with less curiosity, indeed, but redoubled interest.
It was in vain, however, that he endeavoured to communicate his alarm to Mildred, who contented herself with hoping, that if the boat really meant to stop, it would take up a good position, and where the view was finest. With her the day passed delightfully. The views on the Rhone, though not equal to those of the Rhine, form no bad introduction to the higher order of scenery; and she marked this day in her calendar as the first of a series which she hoped would be very long, of days spent in that highest and purest excitement which the sublimities of nature procure for us. On the Rhine, the hills rise from the banks of the river, and enclose it, giving to the winding stream, at some of its most celebrated points of view, the appearance of a lake. It is otherwise on the Rhone. The heights are ruder, grander, but more distant; they appertain less to the river; they present bold and open views, but lack that charm of _tenderness_ which hangs over the German stream. In some parts, a high barren rock rises precipitately from the banks, and, the surface having been worn away in great recesses, our party was struck with the fantastic resemblance these occasionally bore to a series of vast architectural ruins. A beautiful sunset, in which the old broken bridge, with its little watch-tower, displayed itself to great advantage, welcomed them to Avignon.
Again, from Avignon to Marseilles, their route lay through a very picturesque country. One peculiarity struck Mildred: they were not so much _hills_ which rose before and around her, as lofty rocks which had been built up upon the plain--abrupt, precipitous, isolated--such as seem more properly to belong to the bottom of the sea than to the otherwise level surface over which they were passing. As their most expeditious conveyance, and in order to run no risk of the loss of the packet, our travellers performed this stage in the _diligence_, and Mildred was not a little amused by the opportunity this afforded of observing her fellow-passengers. It is singular how much accustomed we are to regard all Frenchmen as under one type; forgetting that every nation contains all varieties of character within itself, however much certain qualities may predominate. Amongst her travelling companions was an artist, _not_ conceited, and neither a coxcomb nor an abominable sloven, but natural in his manners, and, as the little incident we shall have occasion to mention will prove, somewhat energetic in his movements. In the corner opposite to him sat a rather elderly gentleman, travelling probably in some mercantile capacity, of an almost infantine simplicity of mind, and the most peaceable temperament in the world; but who combined with these pacific qualities the most unceasing watchfulness after his own little interests, his own comfort and convenience. The manner in which he cherished himself was quite amusing; and admirable was the ingenuity and perseverance he displayed in this object; for whilst quietly resolved to have his own way in every thing, he was equally resolved to enter into collision with no one. He was averse to much air, and many were the manœuvres that he played off upon the artist opposite, and on the controller of the other window, that he might get them both arranged according to the idea which he had formed of perfect comfort. Then, in the disposition of his legs, whilst he seemed desirous only of accommodating his young friend opposite, he so managed matters as to have his own limbs very comfortably extended, while those of his “young friend” were cramped up no one could say where. It greatly facilitated these latter manœuvres, that our elderly gentleman wore large wooden shoes, painted black. No one could tread on _his_ toes.
Sedulous as he was to protect himself against all the inconveniencies of the road, he seemed to have no desire to monopolize the knowledge he possessed requisite to this end, but, on the contrary, was quite willing to communicate the results of his travelling experience. He particularly enlarged on the essential services rendered to him by these very wooden shoes--how well they protected him from the wet--how well from external pressure! He was most instructive also and exact upon the sort of garments one should travel in--not too good, for travel spoils them--not too much worn, or too slight, for in that case they will succumb under the novel hardships imposed upon them. Pointing to his own coat, he showed how well it illustrated his principles, and bade the company observe of what a stout and somewhat coarse material it was fabricated. Warming upon his subject, he proceeded to give them an inventory of all the articles of dress he carried with him in his portmanteau--how many coats, shirts, pantaloons, &c. &c. All this he gave out in a manner the most urbane and precise, filling up his pauses with a short dry cough, which had nothing to do with any pulmonary affection, but was merely an oratorical artifice--a modest plan of his own for drawing the attention of his hearers.
Unfortunately he had not long succeeded in arranging matters to his perfect satisfaction, when a little accident robbed him of the fruit of all his labours. The artist, in his energetic manner of speaking, and forgetting that he had been induced by the soft persuasions of his neighbour to put up the window (an act which he had been led into almost unconsciously) thrust his elbow through the glass. Great was the consternation of our elderly traveller, and yet it was in the gentlest tone imaginable that he suggested to the artist the propriety, the absolute necessity, that he should get the window mended at the next place where they would stop to change horses. Mended the window accordingly was. When the new glass was in, and paid for, and they had started again upon their journey, _then_ the friendly old gentleman placed all his sympathies at the command of the young artist. He was of opinion that he had been greatly overcharged for the window--that he had paid twice as much as he ought. Nay, he doubted whether he ought to have paid any thing at all--whether he could be said to have broken the window--for, as he now began to remember, he thought _it was cracked before_.
Mildred could hardly refrain from a hearty laugh at what she found to be as amusing as a comedy.
First the town of Aix, then that of Marseilles, received our travellers. Of Aix, Mildred carried away one impression only. As they entered into the town with all the rattling vehemence which distinguishes the diligence on such occasions, there stood before her an enormous crucifix, a colossal, representation of the Passion; and underneath it a company of showmen, buffoons of some description, had established their stage, and were beating their drums, as French showmen can alone beat them, and calling the crowd together with all manner of noise and gesticulation. Strange juxtaposition! thought Mildred--the crucifix and the mountebank! But not the fault of the mountebank.
What execrable taste is this which the Catholic clergy display! That which is fit only for the sanctuary--if fit at all for the eye of man, or for solitary and desolate spots--is thrust into streets and market-places, there to meet with a perpetual desecration. That which harmonizes with one mood only, the most sad and solemn of the human mind, is dragged out into the public square, where every part of life, all its comedy and all its farce, is necessarily transacted. If the most revolting contrasts occur--no, it is not the fault of the profane mountebank.
Marseilles, with all its dirt and fragrance, left almost as little impression upon her mind. The only remembrance that outlived the day was that of the peculiar dignity which seemed to have been conferred upon the market-women of the town. At other places, especially at Brussels, our party had been not a little amused by inspecting the countenances of the old women who sat, thick as their own apples, round the _Grand Place_, or on both sides of the street. What formidable physiognomies! What preternatural length of nose! What terrific projection of chin! But these sat upon the pavement, or on an upturned wicker basket; a stool or a low chair that had suffered amputation in the legs, was the utmost they aspired to. Here the market-women have not only possessed themselves of huge arm-chairs, but these arm-chairs are elevated upon the broad wooden tables that are covered with the cabbages, and carrots, and turnips, over which they thus magisterially preside. Here they have the curule chair. Manifestly they are the _Ædiles Cereales_ of the town. Our travellers did not, however, see them in their glory; they saw only down the centre of the street the row of elevated chairs, which, if originally of ivory, had certainly lost much of their brightness and polish since the time when the Roman Senate had presented them. The Court was not sitting as they passed.
The following day saw them in the steam-boat bound for Genoa. In a few hours they would be coasting the shores of Italy!
We cannot resist the opportunity which here occurs of showing, by an example, how justly our Mildred may be said to have been a solitary traveller, though in almost constant companionship. She was alone in spirit, and her thoughts were unparticipated. The steam-boat had been advertised to leave Marseilles at four o’clock in the afternoon. The clock had struck six, and it was still stationary in the harbour,--a delay by no means unusual with steam-boats in that part of the world. Mildred stood on the deck, by the side of the vessel, watching the movements of the various craft in the harbour. To her the delays which so often vex the traveller rarely gave rise to any impatience. She always found something to occupy her mind; and the passing to and fro of men in their usual avocations was sufficient to awaken her reflection. At a little distance from the steamer was a vessel undergoing some repairs; for which purpose it was ballasted down, and made to float nearly on one side. Against the exposed side of the vessel, astride upon a plank, suspended by a rope, swung a bare-legged mortal most raggedly attired, daubing its seams with some most disgusting-looking compound. The man swinging in this ignominious fashion, and immersed in the filth of his operation, attracted the notice of Mildred. What an application, thought she, to make of a man! This fellow-creature of mine, they use him for this! and perhaps for such as this only! They use his legs and arms--which are sufficiently developed--but where is the rest of him?--where is the man? He has the same _humanity_ as the noblest of us: what a waste of the stuff, if it is worth any thing!
This last expression Mildred, almost unconsciously, uttered aloud,--“What a waste of the stuff, if it is worth any thing!”
“My dear,” said Miss Bloomfield, who sat beside her, “it is nothing but the commonest pitch or tar. How can you bear to look at it?”
“Dearest aunt,” said Mildred, “I was not thinking of the pitch, but the man.”
“What _can_ you be talking of, my child?” said her aunt, in utter amazement.
But there was one behind them who appeared to have understood what Mildred was talking of, and who now, by some observation, made his presence known to them. As she turned, she caught the eye of--Alfred Winston.
They met this time as old acquaintances; and that glance of intellectual freemasonry which was interchanged between them, tended not a little to increase their feeling of intimacy.
“And you too are going into Italy?” she said. “But how is it that _you_ select this route?”
“I made an excursion,” he replied, “last summer into Switzerland and the north of Italy, which accounts for my _turning_ the Alps on this occasion.”
The vessel now weighed anchor. Departure--and a beautiful sunset--made the view delightful. But daylight soon deserted them. Mr. Bloomfield came to take the ladies down to the cabin, where a meal, which might be called either dinner or supper, was preparing. Mildred would rather have remained on deck; but as _he_ had expressed his intention of doing so, she thought it better to descend with the rest.
Amongst the company in the cabin she immediately recognised one of her fellow-travellers of the previous day. There was the elderly gentleman with his black wooden shoes, and his short dry cough, gently but strenuously chiding the _garçon_ for his delay. In these vessels the passage-money includes provisions, so that, eat or not, you pay; and our experienced traveller, having taken due precaution, as he soon afterwards informed all the company, _not_ to dine, was very excusably somewhat impatient. Mildred was amused to find him supporting his character throughout with perfect consistency. Although every one but himself was suffering from heat, he--anxious only for the public good, and especially for the comfort of the ladies--maintained a strict watch upon both door and, window, and would have kept both, if possible, hermetically closed. And as the waiters handed round the soup, or any thing that was, fluid, he, with a mild solemnity of manner, warned them not to _arroser_ his coat, not to sprinkle that excellent garment which was doubtless destined, under so considerate a master, to see many years of service.
The next morning Mildred had risen with the dawn, leaving her aunt and the rest of the passengers locked in their slumbers. What a delightful sensation awaited her as she rose from the close cabin of the steamer, and, ascending upon deck, met the breeze, the sunrise, the dancing waters of the Mediterranean, and hailed at her side the mountain coast of Italy! It was the first time in her life she had seen the blue hill crested with the snowy summits of the more distant and lofty mountain,--a combination which the art of the painter is daily attempting to imitate, but the etherial effect of which it never can at all approach. What an enchantment is the first view of the greater beauties of nature! The first lake--the first mountain--the first time we behold the eternal snow, white as the summer cloud, but which passes _not_ away--is an era in our existence,--a first love without its disappointment. The inhabitant of a mountainous country, though he may boast his greater intimacy with nature, though he may have linked all the feelings of _home_ with her grandeur and sublimity, can never know what the dweller in the plain and the city has felt, who, with matured taste, with imagination cultivated by literature, stands, in all the vigour of his mind, for the first time before the mountain! It was but a distant view of the Alps that Mildred now obtained; but that snowy ridge against the blue sky--that moved not, that was not cloud--exercised an indescribable fascination over her.
Winston was also soon upon deck; but, observing how well she was employed, he was careful not to disturb her. He well knew how essential was solitude to the highest gratification which either art or nature afford. It is but a secondary or declining excitement that we feel when we are restless to communicate it to another. The heart is but half full of its object, that, to complete its pleasure, craves for sympathy.
It was not till they were within sight of Genoa that he ventured to approach the side of the vessel where she was sitting.
“Now,” said he, with a smile, “it is permissible to talk. We approach the shore too near for picturesque effect; and the town of Genoa, seen here from the bay, whatever tourists may assert, is neither more nor less than what a sea-port town may be expected to be.”
“Yes,” said Mildred; “I was just observing to myself that a hilly coast, delightful to him who is on it, and delightful to the distant spectator, is at a certain mid-way station seen to great disadvantage. It has lost the cerulean hue--that _colour laid in the air_--that visible poetry which it had appropriated to itself; it has lost this enchantment of distance, and it is still too remote for the natural beauty of its several objects to be perceived. These are dwarfed and flattened. The trees are bushes, mere tufts of green; the precipices and cliffs are patches of gravel darker or lighter. For the charm of imagination it is too near; for the effect of its own realities, too remote. And yet--and yet--see what a _life_ is thrown over the scene by the shadow of that passing cloud, moving rapidly over the little fields, and houses, and the olive groves! How it _brightens_ all, by the contrast it forms with the stream of light which follows as rapidly behind it! I retract--I retract--Nature has a pencil which never is at fault; which has always some touch in reserve to kindle every scene into beauty.”
“But the town----”
“Oh, I surrender the town. Certainly, if this is the view which tourists admire, they shall never have the moulding of my anticipations. The sail by the coast has been delightful; but it is precisely here, in presence of this congregation of ordinary buildings, that the pleasure deserts us.”
“People,” said Winston, “have described Genoa the Proud as if its palaces stood by the sea. They have combined, I suspect, in one view all that the exterior and the interior of the town had presented to them. They have taken the little privilege of turning the city inside out; just as if one should make up a picture of the approach to London by the river Thames, by lining its banks with sections cut out of Regent’s Park. But here we are at anchor, and shall soon be able to penetrate into this city of palaces.”
They landed, and Alfred Winston assisted the ladies to disembark, but showed no symptoms of any intention to attach himself to their party. He did not even select the same hotel. But as all travellers are seeing the same sights, visiting the same churches, the same palaces, the same points of view, it was not possible for them to be long without meeting. And these casual encounters seemed to afford to both parties an equal pleasure.
We have seen that there was a strain of thought in Mildred’s mind, which found neither sympathy nor apprehension with her companions. Mr. Bloomfield was, indeed, more intelligent than his sister; but his half-perceptions, coupled unfortunately with no distrust whatever of himself, made him the more tedious companion of the two; for he would either inflict upon her some misplaced flippancy, or some wearisome common-place; which last he doubted not was extremely edifying to his niece. Good man! he little suspected that the great difference between himself and his niece consisted in this, that he was indeed incapable of receiving any edification from her; whilst she, in her own silent way, would often extract from the chaff he dealt in, some truth for herself. Her responsive “Yes,” was, often yielded in assent to a meaning other and higher than he was aware he had expressed. To her, therefore, the intellectual sympathy which she found in their fellow-traveller was peculiarly grateful; it was as novel as it was agreeable.
If she had refused to be pleased with the applauded view of the bay of Genoa, she was unfeignedly interested in the interior of the town. Nor, perhaps, is there any town in Italy, with the exception of Venice, which makes a more striking impression upon the traveller. He walks through a street of palaces, the painted fronts of many of which remind him of the scenes of the theatre--so that he can hardly believe himself to be in a real town; he sees the orange-tree upon the terrace above him, and its veritable golden fruit hangs over his head--is hanging in the open air: he feels he is now really in Italy! he sees the light arcade running by the side of the palace, with its decorated arch, its statues, its vases; and as he passes along the street, the open portico partly reveals the branching staircase, and the inner court, with its deserted galleries, and its now so solitary fountain. And as he walks on--in striking contrast--narrow, very narrow streets, at his right or at his left, descend upon him, dark and precipitous as a mountain gorge, bringing down the clattering mule, laden ingeniously enough with whatever is elsewhere stowed into a cart, or the antique sedan, the only vehicle in which a living man could navigate those straits. Then the multitude of priests and friars, black and brown--the white muslin veil thrown over the heads of the women, or the gaudy scarf of printed cotton substituted by the poorer sort (Miss Bloomfield exclaimed, and very naturally, that they had got their bed furniture about their ears)--all this, and much more, which it is not exactly our purpose to describe, give to the town an air of complete originality. The very decay, in some parts, of its antique state and grandeur, adds to its interest. One looks into the deserted porch, deserted of all but that sleepy shoe-black, who has installed himself in its shade with the necessary implements of his calling; and one sees the fountain still bubbling up, still playing there before its only companion, that stained and mutilated statue, who looks on with how pensive, how altered, how deploring an aspect!
The young priests, with their broad hats and well draped vests of spotless black cloth, Mildred thought the best dressed men she had any where seen. The finished dandy looks contemptible by the side of these. She could not pass the same compliment on the brown friar, corded and sandeled, with his low brow and his bare shaven crown. In vain does he proclaim that his poverty is voluntary, and most meritorious: he has a sad, plebeian aspect; and even his saintly brother in black manifestly looks down upon him, as they meet upon the pavement, as belonging to the democracy of their sacred order. Voluntary poverty! the faith in the existence of such a thing is rarer even than the thing itself; it is worn out; and in this age a mendicant friar can be nothing more than a legalised beggar, earning his subsistence (as the Church, we suppose, would explain it) by the useful office of stimulating the charity of men; there being in the natural constitution of society so few occasions for the practice of benevolence.
Our fellow-travellers had met in the church of the _Annunciation_, one of the most gorgeous structures which the Catholic religion has erected for its worship. It would be almost impossible for gilding, and painting, and all the decorative arts, to produce any thing more splendid than the interior of this temple. Neither Versailles nor Rome has any thing to compete with the sumptuous effect which is here produced by these means. By drawing a red silk curtain across the upper windows, there is thrown over the gilding so rich a hue, that the roof and pillars glow as if with molten gold. High up, within the dome, there stand, in pairs, one at each side of every window, gilded statues; and these, in the red light thrown upon them, look as if invested with flame. They reminded Mildred of some description she had read in Southey’s _Curse of Kehama_.
Winston was disposed to quarrel with the building as being too gorgeous; but Mildred, who resigned herself more readily to genuine and natural impulses of pleasure, and who at all times expressed the unaffected dictates of her taste, would not acquiesce in any censure of the kind.
“No,” she maintained, “if the artist aim at being gorgeous, he must stop at no half measures. There is a higher aim, no doubt, where form and proportion ought more strictly to predominate over colour, and all the splendour of marble and of gilding. But if he is resolved to dazzle us--if to be sumptuous is his very object, let him throw timidity to the winds; let him build--as he has done here--in gold; let him paint--as on this ceiling--in such glowing colours as even this roof of flame cannot overpower. Look up the dome; see how these clouds are rolling down upon us!”
“But,” said Winston, still disposed to be critical, “there is something else in that dome which seems disposed to fall; and which, from its nature, ought to manifest no such tendency. Do you remark those small Corinthian pillars placed round the upper part of the dome--how they lean inward? A pillar is the last thing which ought to look as if it needed support; yet these evidently, unless fastened to the wall, would, by their own gravity, fall down upon us. This is surely contrary to the simplest rules of taste, yet it is not the first time I have observed in Italy this species of ornament.”
“I acquiesce in your criticism,” said Mildred, with a smile; “now point me out something to admire.”
They sat down quietly on one of the benches, placed there for the service of the faithful, to survey at leisure this sumptuous edifice, and let its impression sink into their memory. But this pleasure was not a little interrupted by the devotees in their neighbourhood--dirty, ragged, squalid men and women, mumbling and spitting--spitting and mumbling. They were unreasonable enough to feel that the devotion of these people was quite an intrusive circumstance. For such worshippers!--such a temple!--thought Mildred. They were jabbering their prayers, like idiocy, behind her. “Let us move away,” she whispered. “After all,” said Winston, as they retired, “it is for their idiocy, and not our admiration, that the temple is built.”
On leaving this building they directed their steps towards the suburbs of the town, and entered a church which, in its modest appearance, formed a strong contrast with the one they had just visited. A level space before it, planted with trees, gave it the air of an English parish church. Neither the interior nor the exterior presented any architectural display. Whilst Mr. and Miss Bloomfield were walking up to the altar, and taking, as in duty bound, a survey of the whole building, Mildred and her companion lingered near the entrance, attracted by some monumental tablets set up against the walls. The bas-reliefs on one, or two of these were remarkable for their beauty, their elegance and tenderness, and the inscriptions accorded with them, and seemed full of feeling.
“I am glad,” she said, “we happened to enter here. I was beginning to be a little out of humour with my catholic brethren; but these tablets bring me back to a charitable and kindly mood.”
Winston joined her in reading some of the inscriptions.
“It is really,” said he, “the first time I can remember to have been affected by monumental inscriptions, or to have read them with any pleasure or patience. In an English churchyard, the tombstone either _preaches_ at you--and that with such an offensive dogmatism as none but a dead man would venture to assume--or it presents a fulsome collection of laudatory phrases, shovelled upon the dead with as much thought and consideration as were the dirt and clay upon his coffin. If verse is added, it seems to have been supplied, with the stone, by the stone-mason; the countrymen of Milton--and not alone the poor and ignorant--select, to be engraved on the enduring marble, some pitiable doggerel that ought never to have been heard beyond the nursery, so that few persons stop to read the epitaphs in our churchyards, unless in a spirit of mockery, and with the hope of extracting a jest from them.”
“For which reason, amongst others,” said Mildred, “I generally avoid them. I would respect the dead,--and the living in their affliction. But what a natural, humane, tender, and faithful spirit are some of these written in! And this beautiful figure of a young girl ascending to the skies, embracing the cross in her arms,--what a sweet piety it breathes! How well it bears out the inscription underneath, the _conceit_ in which might otherwise have at least failed to please,--
è fatta in cielo quale parve in terra --un angelo.
“And here--how full of tenderness--how full of faith--seem these simple words!--
Quì dorme in pace la gentile e virtuosa giovine Maria, &c. Voleva all’ amplesso di Dio.
O Ginevra, Unico nostro tesoro! Arridi a noi dal cielo cara angioletta, e ne prega da Dio novella prole che ti somigli, a rendere meno acerbo, il dolore della tua partita.
“Earth and Heaven--how they mingle here!”
“Is it poetry or religion that we are reading?” said Winston. “It seems to me as if these people had suddenly turned their poetry into faith.”
“Or have some of us been turning our faith into poetry? I believe,” added Mildred, “that, in every mind, not utterly destitute of imagination, the boundaries of the two are not very rigidly defined. There is always something of faith in our poetry, and something of poetry in our faith.”
They were now joined by Mr. and Miss Bloomfield, who had made their tour of the church; and the whole party retraced their steps towards their hotel. Winston felt that he had not once indulged Mr. Bloomfield in an opportunity of venting his lamentations over the evils of travel, and the discomforts of foreign parts; he therefore asked that gentleman how he had found himself accommodated at the hotel at which he had descended.
“Ay,” said Mr. Bloomfield, delighted to have a topic on which he could feelingly expatiate, “_Descended!_--’tis the Frenchman’s phrase. I know that I have _ascended_ to my hotel, and to no trivial elevation. Why, the hotel itself does not begin till where another house might end, and where it ends might be a problem for astronomers to calculate. The ladies got deposited somewhere beneath the clouds; but for myself I am really at a frightful altitude. I was conducted up a dark stone-staircase with an iron-bannister; after some time my guide branched off laterally through by-passages, with unglazed openings, having the most cheerless look-out imaginable, and across damp landing-places contiguous to sinks, and what seemed wash-houses, and where you heard the perpetual dripping of water. All this lay in the road to my bed-room; but the bed-room was not reached yet. I had again to mount--to mount--till I was almost giddy. When at length I attained the apartment destined for me--the only one, I was assured, vacant in the hotel--and was left up there alone in it, I felt so removed from all human fellowship, all succour or sympathy from the inhabitants of the earth below, that I do declare, if I had not been a little initiated on the journey--if I had come direct from my English home at Wimborne--and if, moreover, I was not here in character of protector to two ladies, and therefore bound to carry a bold face in all extremities--I do declare that I should have thrown myself down in utter despair upon the floor, and there lay till the undertaker should come and take me down again!--it seemed the only mode of descent that was at all practicable.”
“Certainly it would be the easiest and the safest,” said Winston, humouring his vein of exaggeration. “And yet it is hardly upon the _floor_ that you would have thrown yourself--which being probably of painted tiles, would have given you a cruel reception. You would rather have chosen Captain Shandy’s attitude, when he was overwhelmed with grief, and flung yourself face foremost upon the bed.”
“Very true. And as to that same bed, whether owing to the fatigue of my toilsome ascent, or to some good properties of its own, I must confess I never slept on any thing more agreeable. Yet, on examination, I found it stuffed with the dried leaves of the Indian corn. Strange substitute for a feather bed! It is inconceivable how comfortable I found it. And to be the dried leaves of Indian corn--a sort of straw, in short. And the next morning when I woke, and saw by daylight the light and elegant drapery of my bed, and looked up at the gaily painted ceiling--I suppose in this country the pigeon-houses have their ceilings painted--I could hardly believe that I was in an attic--raised even to the fifth power of an attic.”
When Alfred Winston mounted to _his attic_ that night--as Mr. Bloomfield persisted in calling every elevated dormitory--he ought, if fatigue was sufficient to ensure it, to have slept soundly too. But he did not. He did not sleep at all. And the result of this sleepless night was a resolution, which does not seem strictly consequent thereon,--a resolution to rise with the dawn, and leave Genoa immediately.
The fact was, that this Mildred Willoughby was exercising over him, not, as is often said, a fascination “for which he could not account,” but one for which he could account too well. She realized all that he had ever pictured to himself of feminine charms,--his ideal of woman,--grace, beauty, tenderness, and a mind highly cultivated. But he had not come to Italy to fall in love. Besides, what had he, in Italy or elsewhere, to do with love? It was a thing out of his calculation at all times and places, and just now more than ever. How could he see Italy--see any thing--with this Mildred by the side of him? He would escape from this dangerous party. It was their intention, he had heard, to proceed to Pisa; he would start at once to Florence, and visit Pisa on his return. By this means he should get the start of them, and he would keep it.
By eight o’clock that morning he was travelling on the road to Florence.
The Bloomfields were a little surprised at not encountering their agreeable companion again; and at length concluded that he had taken his departure. Rather abruptly, to be sure, yet what claim had either on the other to any of the ceremonies of social intercourse? They were mere travellers, whom hazard had thrown together.
“After all,” said Mr. Bloomfield; “we have never been introduced.”
“Very true,” said Miss Bloomfield, “that never struck me.”
Mildred was silent.
Winston so far succeeded in his design, that by hastening from Genoa, and leaving Pisa unvisited, he was enabled to view the galleries of Florence without being disturbed by any other beauty than that which looked on him from the walls, or lived in the creations of the sculptor. From Florence he had proceeded to Rome, and had surveyed its antiquities and the marvels of art it contained, still undistracted by the too fascinating Mildred.
But although he had secured his solitude from interruption by a person likely to interest him too keenly, he was not equally resolute, or equally successful, in keeping himself aloof from certain fellow-travellers with whom he had scarce one thought or one taste in common. Our readers may remember a young lady whom we attempted to describe, figuring not very advantageously at the ball-room at Brussels. This damsel belonged to a mamma who, in her own way, was a still greater oddity, and who, indeed, ought to be made responsible for the grotesque appearance of her daughter on that occasion. She insisted upon it that, as all the world knew they were travellers, just looking in, as it were, as they were passing through the town, they might very well go to the ball in their travelling dresses; and as she was one of those who held rigidly to the prudent maxim that “any thing was good enough to travel in,” these dresses were not likely, be the occasion what it might, to be remarkable for their freshness.
Mrs. Jackson was the widow of a citizen of London who had lately died, leaving her and her daughter a very ample fortune. Now, although Mr. Jackson had, ever since his marriage, been adding hundred to hundred by the sale of wax and tallow candles in the city, yet had he continued to inhabit the same little house at Islington into which he had first packed himself with dear Mrs. Jackson immediately after the honeymoon; nor had he, in any one way, made an effort to enjoy his increasing income. An effort it would have been. What more did Mr. Jackson want? What more _could_ he have enjoyed? The morning took him to his warehouse in the city, and the afternoon brought him back with an excellent appetite for an excellent dinner, and quite sufficiently fatigued to enjoy that comfortable digestive nap, in which Mrs. Jackson also joined him; and from which he woke up only the better prepared for the hearty slumbers of the night. His wealth, had he been obliged to spend it, would have added to his discomfort, instead of diffusing over him, as it did, a perpetual pleasant glow of self-importance. A larger and finer house, with the toil of receiving company in it, would have distressed him beyond measure. It was bad enough to be compelled, occasionally, to take his spouse to the theatre, or to a Christmas party: such enterprises were looked forward to with uneasy apprehension; and the gratification of having _got over_ them was the only one they afforded him. His ledger--his newspaper--his dinner and a fireside, quiet but not solitary, this was the summary of his happiness. His little wine-glass, as Boswell would have expressed it, was quite full; you would only have made a mess of it, and spoilt all, by attempting to pour in a whole tumbler-full of happiness.
One daughter only had blessed the nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Jackson. She was still at boarding-school when her father died. But, after this event, her fond mamma could no longer bear the separation; and home she came, bringing with her that accurate and complete stock of human knowledge and female accomplishments which is usually derived from such establishments, namely, infinite scraps of every thing and every thing in scraps, with the beginning of all languages, of all arts, and all sciences. There was in her portfolio a map of China, faithfully delineated, and a group of roses not quite so faithful. She had strummed one sonata till she played it with all the certainty of animal instinct, and she had acquired the capability of saying, “How d’ye do?” in at least three several languages beside the English.
But the loss of “Jackson” even the society of the accomplished Louisa could not compensate. The widow was very dull. Her comfortable house at Islington ceased to bring comfort to her; and she was tormented by a most unusual restlessness. Her daughter, who had heard from her favourite companion at the boarding-school, of the charms of foreign travel,--of the romantic adventures, and the handsome counts and barons that are sure to be encountered on the road, took advantage of this restlessness to persuade her mamma to take a tour on the Continent. After much discussion, much hesitation, infinite talking, and reading of guide-books, and exploring of maps--they started.
Absurd!--impossible!--exclaims the intelligent reader--that good Mrs. Jackson should commit herself and her daughter to all the casualties of travel without a male companion. And for what purpose? What pleasure could rocks and mountains, or statues and pictures, give to her, that would be worth the trouble of getting to them? Very absurd and quite impossible! we ourselves should, perhaps, have exclaimed, had we been inventing incidents, and not recording a mere sober matter of fact. But so it was. And, indeed, let any one call to mind the strange groups he has encountered--scrambling about the Continent, the Lord knows why or wherefore--and whatever difficulty he may have in explaining Mrs. Jackson’s motives, he will have none in believing her conduct, were it twice as absurd. Of pleasure, indeed, she had little, and very much tribulation. To be sure she felt quite at home upon the steam-boat on the Rhine;--“it did so remind her” of a trip she once took to Greenwich with the dear departed. And then it was very amusing and instructive to both herself and her daughter to find out all the places as they passed on that “Panorama of the Rhine” which lay extended on their laps before them. Being on the spot, they could study the map with singular advantage. But it was not always they had a map of the country to look at, nor even anyone to tell them the names of the places. The idea of seeing a place and not knowing its name!--this always put Mrs. Jackson in a perfect fever: as well, she would say, shake hands with the Lord Mayor, and not know it _was_ the Lord Mayor! And then what she suffered who can tell, from the strange outlandish viands put before, and alas! too often put within her? and that daily affliction--imposed on her with such unnecessary cruelty--of eating her meat without vegetables, or her vegetables without meat?
Still on she went--bustling, elbowing, sighing, scolding, complaining--but nevertheless travelling on. Being at Rome, in the same hotel with Winston, and finding that he had answered one or two of her questions very civilly and satisfactorily, both she and her daughter had frequently applied to him in their difficulties. And these difficulties generally resulted from a lack of knowledge so easily supplied, that it would have been mere churlishness to withhold the necessary information.
These difficulties, however, seemed to increase rather than diminish with their sojourn at Rome; and well they might. Louisa Jackson found them the most convenient things imaginable. She had been all the way on the look-out for adventures, counts, and barons, and had hitherto met with nothing of the sort. But Alfred Winston was as handsome as any count need be--why not fall in love with him? A gentleman she was convinced he was; of wealth she had sufficient, and to do her justice, had quite generosity enough to be indifferent as to his possessions; and for the rest, she would let her eye, let her heart, choose for her. The brave Louisa! And her eye and her heart--which mean here pretty much the same thing--had made no bad selection. As she had mentally resolved to bestow herself, and all her “stocks, funds, and securities,” upon our hero, and as she had wit enough to see that her only hold upon him at present, was through his compassion for their embarrassments, she was determined to keep an ample supply of them on hand.
They came sometimes without being called for, and without the least collusion on her part. It was from no principle of economy, but from a curiosity which could not be gratified so well in any other manner, that Mrs. Jackson and her daughter occasionally ventured to thread their way on foot through the streets of Rome. On one of these expeditions they found themselves in the neighbourhood of the Pantheon. Opposite this building there is a sort of ambulatory market, outrivalling all other markets, at least in the commodity of noise--a commodity in which the populace of Rome generally abound. On approaching it you think some desperate affray is going on; but the men are only parading and vaunting their disgusting fish, or most uninviting vegetables. The merits of these they proclaim with a perfect storm of vociferation. Mrs. Jackson, who had heard of revolutions on the Continent, did not doubt for a moment but that one of these frightful things was taking place before her. She and her daughter hurried back with precipitation, haunted by all the terrors of the guillotine and the lamp-post. Louisa remembered a certain beautiful princess she had read of, who had been compelled to drink a cup of blood to save her father. What if they should treat her as they did the beautiful princess, and offer her such another cup, and force her to drink it, as the only means of saving her mother? Her heroism did not desert her. She resolved she would _drink half_. But as they were hurrying away full of these imaginary dangers, they rushed upon one of a more real though less imposing description. It is no joke in the narrow streets of Rome, to meet with a string of carts drawn by huge oxen, wallowing along under their uneasy yokes. Just such a string of carts encountered them as they turned one of the many narrow streets that conduct to the Pantheon. The enormous brutes went poking their spreading horns this way and that, in a manner very quiet perhaps in the animals apprehensions, but very alarming to those of Mrs. Jackson; huge horns, that were large enough, she thought, to spit an alderman, and still have, room for her at the top. The two ladies, seeing the first of these carts approach, had drawn-up close against the wall, and placed themselves on a little heap of rubbish to be more completely out of the way. To their dismay the line of these vehicles seemed to be endless--there was no escape--in that position they had to stand, while each brute as he passed turned his horns round to them, not with any ferocious intention, but as if he had a great curiosity to feel them, and examine their texture--an attention which would have been highly indecorous, to say the least of it.
What could Winston do, who encountered them in this predicament, but offer his escort? He calmed their various terrors--both of mad bulls and of revolutions--reconducted them to the Pantheon, and secured an exceedingly happy day for one at least of the party.
Winston had now been some time in Rome, and with an inconsistency so natural that it hardly merits the name of inconsistency, he found himself looking about in the galleries and churches for Mr. Bloomfield and his party, and with a curiosity which did not bespeak a very violent determination to avoid them. He began to think that they had lingered a long while at Florence. He had forgot the danger--he remembered the charm.
One morning--having stolen out early and alone from his hotel--as he was engaged in viewing, for perhaps the last time, the sculpture of the Vatican, he observed standing before the statue of the Amazon, a female figure, as beautiful as it, and in an attitude which had been unconsciously moulded into some resemblance of the pensive, queen-like posture which the artist has given to the marble. It was Mildred. He hesitated--he approached. She, on her part, met him with the utmost frankness. His half-uttered apologies were immediately dropped. He hardly knew whether to be pleased or mortified, as she made him feel that the peculiar footing on which they stood tasked him to no apologies, no ceremonial, that he was free to go--and withal very welcome to return.
“You are before the Amazon,” said he: “it is the statue of all others which has most fascinated me. I cannot understand why it should bear the name it does. I suppose the learned in these matters have their reasons: I have never inquired, nor feel disposed to inquire into them; but I am sure the character of the statue is not Amazonian. That attitude--the right arm raised to draw aside her veil, the left hand at its elbow, steadying it--that beautiful countenance, so full of sadness and of dignity--no, these cannot belong to an Amazon.”
“To a woman,” said Mildred, “it is allowed to be indifferent on certain points of learning; and, in such cases as this, I certainly take advantage to the full of the privilege of my sex. I care not what they call the statue. It may have been called an Amazon by Greek and Roman--it may have been so named by the artist himself when he sent it home to his patron: I look at it as a creation standing between me and the mind of the artist; and sure I am that, bear what name it may, the sculptor has embodied here all that his soul had felt of the sweetness, and power, and dignity of woman. It is a grander creation than any goddess I have seen; it has more of thought----”
“And, as a consequence, more of sadness, of unhappiness. How the mystery of life seems to hang upon that pensive brow! I used to share an impression, which I believe is very general, that the deep sorrow which comes of thought, the reflective melancholy which results from pondering on the bitter problem of life, was peculiar to the moderns. This statue, and others which I have lately seen, have convinced me that the sculptor of antiquity has occasionally felt and expressed whatever could be extracted from the mingled poetry of a Byron or a Goethe.”
“It seems that the necessity of representing the gods in the clear light of happiness and knowledge, in some measure deprived the Greek artist of one great source of sublimity. But it is evident,” continued Mildred, “that the mysterious, with its attendant sorrow, was known also to him. How could it be otherwise? Oh, what a beautiful creation is this we stand before! And what an art it is which permits us to stand thus before a being of this high order, and note all its noble passions! From the real life we should turn our eyes away, or drop them, abashed, upon the ground. Here is more than life; and we may look on it by the hour, and mark its graceful sorrow, its queen-like beauty, and this over-mastered grief which we may wonder at, but dare not pity.”
They passed on to other statues. They paused before the Menander, sitting in his chair. “The attitude,” said she, “is so noble, that the simple chair becomes a throne. But still how plainly it is _intellectual power_ that sits enthroned there! The posture is imperial; and yet how evident, that it is the empire of thought only that he governs in!”
“And this little statue of Esculapius,” she added, “kept me a long while before it. The healing sage--how faithfully is he represented! What a sad benevolence! acquainted with pain--compelled to inflict even in order to restore.”
They passed through the Hall of the Muses.
“How serene are _all_ the Muses!” said Winston. “This is as it should be. Even Tragedy, the most moved of all, how evidently her emotion is one of thought, not of passion! Though she holds the dagger in her down-dropt hand, how plainly we see that she has not used it! She has picked it up from the floor after the fatal deed was perpetrated, and is musing on the terrible catastrophe, and the still more terrible passions that led to it.”
They passed through the _Hall of the Animals_; but this had comparatively little attraction for Mildred. Her companion pointed out the bronze centaur for her admiration.
“You must break a centaur in half,” said she, “before I can admire it. And, if I am to look at a satyr, pray let the goat’s legs be hid in the bushes. I cannot embrace in one conception these fragments of man and brute. Come with me to the neighbouring gallery; I wish to show you a Jupiter, seated at the further end of it, which made half a Pagan of me this morning as I stood venerating it.”
“The head of your Jupiter,” said Winston, as they approached it, “is surpassed, I think, by more than one bust of the same god that we have already seen; and I find something of stiffness or rigidity in the figure; but the impression it makes, as a whole, is very grand.”
“It will grow wonderfully on you as you look at it,” said Mildred. “How well it typifies all that a Pagan would conceive of the supreme ruler of the skies, the controller of the powers of nature, the great administrator of the world who has the Fates for his council! His power irresistible, but no pride in it, no joy, no triumph. He is without passion. In his right hand lies the thunder, but it reposes on his thigh; and his left hand rests calmly upon his tall sceptre surmounted by an eagle. In his countenance there is the tranquillity of unquestioned supremacy; but there is no repose. There is care; a constant, wakefulness. It is the governor of a nature whose elements have never known one moment’s pause.”
“I see it as you speak,” said Winston. Winston then proposed that they should go together and look at the Apollo; but Mildred excused herself.
“I have paid my devotions to the god,” she said, “this morning, when the eyes and the mind were fresh. I would not willingly displace the impression that I now carry away for one which would be made on a fatigued and jaded attention.”
“Is it not godlike?”
“Indeed it is. I was presumptuous enough to think I knew the Apollo. A cast of the head--esteemed to be a very good one--my uncle had given me. I placed it in my own room; for a long time it was the first thing that the light fell upon, or my eyes opened to, in the morning; and in my attempts at crayons I copied it, I believe, in every aspect. It seemed to me therefore that on visiting the Apollo I should recognise an old acquaintance. No such thing. The cast had given me hardly any idea of the statue itself. There was certainly no feeling of old acquaintanceship. The brow, as I stood in front of the god, quite overawed me; involuntarily I retreated for an instant; you will smile, but I had to muster my courage before I could gaze steadily at it.”
“I am not surprised; the divinity there is in no gentle mood. How majestic! and yet how lightly it touches the earth! It is buoyant with godhead.”
“What strikes me,” continued Mildred, “as the great triumph of the artist, is this very anger of the god. It is an anger, which, like the arrow he has shot from his bow, spends itself entirely upon his victim; there is no recoil, as in human passion, upon the mind of him who feels it. There is no jar there. The lightning strikes _down_--it tarries not a moment in the sky above.”
We are giving, we are afraid, in these reports of Mildred’s conversation, an erroneous impression of the speaker. We collect together what often was uttered with some pauses between, and, owing to a partiality to our heroine, we are more anxious to report her sentiments than those of her companion. She is thus made to speak in a somewhat elaborate style, very different from her real manner, and represented as rather the greater talker of the two; whereas she was more disposed to listen than to speak, and spoke always with the greatest simplicity--with enthusiasm, it is true, but never with effort, or display of diction.
The delight which Winston experienced, (having already surveyed them for and by himself,) in retracing his steps through the marvels of Rome with such a companion, is indescribable. The pictures in the Borghese, and other palaces, broke upon him with a second novelty, and often with a deeper sentiment. But was there no danger in wandering through galleries with one by his side to whose living beauty the beauty on the canvass served only to draw renewed attention and heightened admiration? If he fled at Genoa, why does he tarry at Rome? There are some dangers, alas! that are seen the less the greater they become. He was standing with her before that exquisite picture in the Borghese palace representing the Three Ages; a youth is reclining in the centre, and a nymph is playing to him upon two flutes. He had seen it before, but he seemed now to understand it for the first time. “How plainly,” he murmured to himself, “is youth the _all_ of life! How plainly is love the _all_ of youth!”
As he was now somewhat familiar with Rome, he could be serviceable to the Bloomfield party in the capacity of cicerone. They were pleased with his services, and he found every day some incontrovertible reason why he should bestow them. The embarrassments of Louisa Jackson and her mamma were quite forgotten; nor could their difficulties excite a moment’s compassion or attention. In vain did Louisa sigh; no inquiry was made into the cause of her distress. In vain did she even, with plaintive voice, ask whether, “being a Protestant, she could take the veil, and be a nun?” the question was unheeded, and its deep significance unperceived.
EUGENE, MARLBOROUGH, FREDERICK, NAPOLEON, AND WELLINGTON.
Five generals, by the common consent of men, stand forth pre-eminent in modern times for the magnitude of the achievements they have effected, and the splendour of the talents they have displayed--Eugene, Marlborough, Frederick, Napoleon, and Wellington. It is hard to say which appears the greatest, whether we regard the services they have rendered to their respective countries, or the durable impress their deeds have left on human affairs. All had difficulties the most serious to contend with, obstacles apparently insurmountable to overcome, and all proved in the end victorious over them. All have immortalized their names by exploits far exceeding those recorded of other men. All have left their effects durably imprinted in the subsequent fate of nations. The relative position of the European states, the preservation of public rights, the maintenance of the balance of power, the salvation of the weak from the grasp of the strong, has been mainly owing to their exertions. To their biography is attached not merely the fortune of the countries to which they belonged, but the general destinies of Europe, and through it of the human race.
To give a faithful picture, in a few pages, of such men, may seem a hopeless, and to their merits an invidious task. A brief summary of the chief actions of those of them to ordinary readers least known, is, however, indispensable to lay a foundation for their comparison with those whose deeds are as household words. It is not impossible to convey to those who are familiar with their exploits, a pleasing _resumè_ of their leading features, and salient points of difference; to those who are not, to give some idea of the pleasure which their study is calculated to afford. Generals, like poets or painters, have certain leading characteristics which may be traced through all their achievements; a peculiar impress has been communicated by nature to their minds, which appears, not less than on the painter’s canvass or in the poet’s lines, in all their actions. As much as grandeur of conception distinguishes Homer, tenderness of feeling Virgil, and sublimity of thought Milton, does impetuous daring characterize Eugene, consummate generalship Marlborough, indomitable firmness Frederick, lofty genius Napoleon, unerring wisdom Wellington. Greatness in the military, as in every other art, is to be attained only by strong natural talents, perseveringly directed to one object, undistracted by other pursuits, undivided by inferior ambition. The men who have risen to the highest eminence in war, have done so by the exercise of faculties as great, and the force of genius as transcendent, as that which formed a Homer, a Bacon, or a Newton. Success doubtless commands the admiration of the multitude; military glory captivates the unthinking throng; but to those who know the military art, and can appreciate real merit, the chief ground for admiration of its great masters, is a sense of the difficulties, to most unknown, which they have overcome.
PRINCE EUGENE, though belonging to the same age, often acting in the same army, and sometimes commanding alternately with Marlborough, was a general of an essentially different character. A descendant of the House of Savoy, born at Paris, in 1663, and originally destined for the church, he early evinced a repugnance for theological studies, and, instead of his breviary, was devouring in secret Plutarch’s lives of ancient heroes. His figure was slender, and his constitution at first weak; but these disadvantages, which caused Louis XIV. to refuse him a regiment, from an opinion that he was not equal to its duties, were soon overcome by the ardour of his mind. Immediately setting out for Vienna, he entered the imperial service; but he was still pursued by the enmity of Louvois, who procured from Louis a decree which pronounced sentence of banishment on all Frenchmen in the armies of foreign powers who should fail to return to their country. “I will re-enter France in spite of him,” said Eugene; and he was more than once as good as his word. His genius for war was not methodical or scientific like that of Turenne or Marlborough, nor essentially chivalrous like that of the Black Prince or the Great Condé. It was more akin to the terrible sweep of the Tartar chiefs; it savoured more of oriental daring. He was as prodigal of the blood of his soldiers as Napoleon; but, unlike him, he never failed to expose his own with equal readiness in the fight. He did not reserve his attack in person for the close of the affray, like the French Emperor, but was generally to be seen in the fire from the very outset. It was with difficulty he could be restrained from heading the first assault of grenadiers, or leading on the first charge of horse. His first distinguished command was in Italy, in 1691, and his abilities soon gave his kinsman, the Duke of Savoy, an ascendant there over the French. But it was at the great battle of Zenta, on the Teife, where he surprised and totally defeated Cara-Mustapha, at the head of 120,000 Turks, that his wonderful genius for war first shone forth in its full lustre. He there killed 20,000 of the enemy, drove 10,000 into the river, took their whole artillery and standards, and entirely dispersed their mighty array.
Like Nelson at Copenhagen, Eugene had gained this glorious victory by acting in opposition to his orders, which were positively to avoid a general engagement. This circumstance, joined to the envy excited by his unparalleled triumph, raised a storm at Court against the illustrious general, and led to his being deprived of his command, and even threatened with a court-martial. The public voice, however, at Vienna, loudly condemned such base ingratitude towards so great a benefactor to the imperial dominions: the want of his directing eye was speedily felt in the campaign with the Turks, and the Emperor was obliged to restore him to his command, which he, however, only agreed to accept on being given _carte blanche_ for the conduct of the war. The peace of Carlowetz, in 1699, between the Imperialists and the Ottomans, soon after restored him to a pacific life, and the study of history, in which, above any other, he delighted. But on the breaking out of the war of the Succession, in 1701, he was restored to his military duties, and during two campaigns measured his strength, always with success, in the plains of Lombardy, with the scientific abilities of Marshal Catinat, and the learned experience of Marshal Villeroi, the latter of whom he made prisoner during a nocturnal attack on Cremona, in 1703. In 1704, he was transferred to the north of the Alps to unite with Marlborough in making head against the great army of Marshal Tallard, which was advancing, in so threatening a manner, through Bavaria; and he shared with the illustrious Englishman the glories of Blenheim, which at once delivered Germany, and hurled the French armies with disgrace behind the Rhine. Then commenced that steady friendship, and sincere and mutual regard, between these illustrious men, which continued unbroken till the time of their death, and is not the least honourable trait in the character of each. But the want of his protecting arm was long felt in Italy: the great abilities of the Duke de Vendôme had well-nigh counterbalanced there all the advantages of the allies in Germany; and the issue of the war in the plains of Piedmont continued doubtful till the glorious victory of Eugene, on the 7th Sept. 1706, when he stormed the French intrenchments around Turin, defended by eighty thousand men, at the head of thirty thousand only, and totally defeated Marshal Marsin and the Duke of Orleans, with such loss, that the French armies were speedily driven across the Alps.
Eugene was now received in the most flattering manner at Vienna: the lustre of his exploits had put to silence, if not to shame, the malignity of his enemies. “I have but one fault to find with you,” said the Emperor when he was first presented to him after his victory, “and that is that you expose yourself too much.” He was next placed at the head of the Imperial armies in Flanders; and shared with Marlborough in the conduct, as he did in the glories, of Oudenarde and Malplaquet. Intrusted with the command of the corps which besieged Lille, he was penetrated with the utmost admiration for Marshal Boufflers, and evinced the native generosity of his disposition, by the readiness with which he granted the most favourable terms to the illustrious besieged chief, who had with equal skill and valour conducted the defence. When the articles of capitulation proposed by Boufflers were placed before him, he said at once, without looking at them, “I will subscribe them at once: knowing well you would propose nothing unworthy of you and me.” The delicacy of his subsequent attentions to his noble prisoner evinced the sincerity of his admiration. When Marlborough’s influence at the English Court was sensibly declining, in 1711, he repaired to London, and exerted all his talents and address to bring the English council back to the common cause, and restore his great rival to his former ascendency with Queen Anne. When it was all in vain, and the English armies withdrew from the coalition, Eugene did all that skill and genius could achieve to make up for the great deficiency arising from the withdrawal of Marlborough and his gallant followers; and when it had become apparent that he was over-matched by the French armies, he was the first to counsel his Imperial master to conclude peace, which was done at Rastadt on the 6th March, 1714.
Great as had been the services then performed by Eugene for the Imperialists, they were outdone by those which he subsequently rendered in the wars with the Turks. In truth it was he who first effectually broke their power, and for ever delivered Europe from the sabres of the Osmanlis, by which it had been incessantly threatened for three hundred years. Intrusted with the command of the Austrian army in Hungary, sixty thousand strong, he gained at Peterwardin, in 1716, a complete victory over an hundred and fifty thousand Turks. This glorious success led him to resume the offensive, and in the following year he laid siege, with forty thousand men, to Belgrade, the great frontier fortress of Turkey, in presence of the whole strength of the Ottoman empire. The obstinate resistance of the Turks, as famous then, as they have ever since been, in the defence of fortified places, joined to the dysenteries and fevers usual on the marshy banks of the Danube in the autumnal months, soon reduced his effective force to twenty-five thousand men, while that of the enemy, by prodigious efforts, had been swelled to an hundred and fifty thousand around the besiegers’ lines, besides thirty thousand within the walls. Every thing presaged that Eugene was about to undergo the fate of Marshal Marsin twelve years before at Turin, and even his most experienced officers deemed a capitulation the only way of extricating them from their perilous situation. Eugene himself was attacked and seriously weakened by the prevailing dysentery: all seemed lost in the Austrian camp. It was in these circumstances, with this weakened and dispirited force, that he achieved one of the most glorious victories ever gained by the Cross over the Crescent. With admirable skill he collected his little army together, divided it into columns of attack, and though scarcely able to sit on horseback himself, led them to the assault of the Turkish intrenchments. The result was equal to the success of Cæsar over the Gauls at the blockade of Alesia, seventeen centuries before. The innumerable host of the Turks was totally defeated--all their artillery and baggage taken, and their troops entirely dispersed. Belgrade, immediately after, opened its gates, and has since remained, with some mutations of fortune, the great frontier bulwark of Europe against the Turks. The successes which he gained in the following campaign of 1718 were so decisive, that they entirely broke the Ottoman power; and he was preparing to march to Constantinople, when the treaty of Passarowitz put a period to his conquests, and gave a breathing time to the exhausted Ottoman empire.
From this brief sketch of his exploits, it may readily be understood what was the character of Eugene as a general. He had none of the methodical prudence of Turenne, Marlborough, or Villars. His genius was entirely different: it was more akin to that of Napoleon, when he was reduced to counterbalance inferiority of numbers by superiority of skill. The immortal campaigns of 1796, in Italy, and of 1814, in Champagne, bear a strong resemblance to those of Eugene. Like the French Emperor, his strokes were rapid and forcible; his _coup-d’œil_ was at once quick and just; his activity indefatigable; his courage undaunted; his resources equal to any undertaking. He did not lay much stress on previous arrangements, and seldom attempted the extensive combinations which enabled Marlborough to command success; but dashed fearlessly on, trusting to his own resources to extricate him out of any difficulty--to his genius, in any circumstances, to command victory. Yet was this daring disposition not without peril. His audacity often bordered on rashness, his rapidity on haste; and he repeatedly brought his armies into situations all but desperate, and which, to a general of lesser capacity, unquestionably would have proved so. Yet in these difficulties no one could exceed him in the energy and vigour with which he extricated himself from the toils: and many of his greatest victories, particularly those of Turin and Belgrade, were gained under circumstances where even the boldest officers in his army had given him over for lost. He was prodigal of the blood of his soldiers, and, like Napoleon, indifferent to the sacrifices at which he purchased his successes; but he was still more lavish of his own, and never failed to share the hardships and dangers of the meanest of his followers. He was engaged in thirteen pitched battles, in all of which he fought like a common soldier. He was in consequence repeatedly, sometimes dangerously, wounded; and it was extraordinary “that his life escaped his reiterated perils.” He raised the Austrian monarchy by his triumphs to the very highest pitch of glory, and finally broke the power of the Turks, the most persevering and not the least formidable of its enemies. But the enterprises which his genius prompted the cabinet of Vienna to undertake, were beyond the strength of the hereditary states; and for nearly a century after, it achieved nothing worthy, either of its growing resources, or the military renown which he had spread around its annals.
FREDERICK II., surnamed THE GREAT, with more justice than that title has elsewhere been applied in modern times, was born at Berlin on the 24th January, 1712. His education was as much neglected as ill-directed. Destined from early youth for the military profession, he was in the first instance subjected to a discipline so rigorous, that he conceived the utmost aversion for a career in which he was ultimately to shine with such eclat, and, as his only resource, threw himself with ardour into the study of French literature, for which he retained a strong predilection through the whole of his subsequent life. Unfortunately his education was almost entirely confined to that literature. That of his own country, since so illustrious, had not started into existence. Of Italian and Spanish he was ignorant. He could not read Greek; and with Latin his acquaintance was so imperfect, as to be of no practical service to him through life. To this unfortunate contraction of his education his limited taste in literature, in subsequent life, is chiefly to be ascribed. He at first was desirous of espousing an English princess; but his father, who was most imperious in his disposition, decided otherwise, and he was compelled, in 1733, to marry the Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick. This union, like most others contracted under restraint, proved unfortunate; and it did not give Frederick the blessing of an heir to the throne. Debarred from domestic enjoyments, the young prince took refuge with more eagerness than ever in literary pursuits; the chateau of Rhinsberg, which was his favourite abode, was styled by him in his transport the “Palace of the Muses;” and the greatest general and most hardy soldier of modern times spent some years of his youth in corresponding with Maupertuis, Voltaire, and other French philosophers, and in making indifferent verses and madrigals, which gave no token of any remarkable genius. He had already prepared for the press a book entitled “Refutation of the Prince of Machiavel,” when, in 1740, the death of his father called him to the throne, its duties, its dangers, and its ambition.
The philosophers were in transports, when they beheld “one of themselves,” as they styled him, elevated to a throne: they flattered themselves that he would continue his literary pursuits, and acknowledge their influence, when surrounded by the attractions, and wielding the patronage of the crown. They soon found their mistake. Frederick continued through life his literary tastes: he corresponded with Voltaire and the philosophers through all his campaigns: he made French verses, in his tent, after tracing out the plans of the battles of Leuthen and Rosbach. But his heart was in his kingdom: his ambition was set on its aggrandizement: his passion was war, by which alone it could be achieved. Without being discarded, the philosophers and madrigals were soon forgotten. The finances and the army occupied his whole attention. The former were in admirable order, and his father had even accumulated a large treasure which remained in the exchequer. The army, admirably equipped and disciplined, already amounted to 60,000 men: he augmented it to 80,000. Nothing could exceed the vigour he displayed in every department, or the unceasing attention he paid to public affairs. Indefatigable day and night, sober and temperate in his habits, he employed even artificial means to augment the time during the day he could devote to business. Finding that he was constitutionally inclined to more sleep than he deemed consistent with the full discharge of all his regal duties, he ordered his servants to waken him at five in the morning; and if words were not effectual to rouse him from his sleep, he commanded them, on pain of dismissal, to apply linen steeped in cold water to his person. This order was punctually executed, even in the depth of winter, till nature was fairly subdued, and the king had gained the time he desired from his slumbers.
It was not long before he had an opportunity of evincing at once the vigour and unscrupulous character of his mind. The Emperor Charles VI. having died on the 20th October, 1740, the immense possessions of the house of Austria devolved to his daughter, since so famous by the name of MARIA THERESA. The defenceless condition of the imperial dominions, consisting of so many different and discordant states, some of them but recently united under one head, when under the guidance of a young unmarried princess, suggested to the neighbouring powers the idea of a partition. Frederick eagerly united with France in this project. He revived some old and obsolete claims of Prussia to Silesia; but in his manifesto to the European powers, upon invading that province, he was scarcely at the pains to conceal the real motives of his aggression. “It is,” said he, “an army ready to take the field, treasures long accumulated, and perhaps the desire to acquire glory.” He was not long in winning the battle, though it was at first rather owing to the skill of his generals, and discipline of his soldiers, than his own capacity. On the 10th April, 1741, the army under his command gained a complete victory over the Austrians, at Mollwitz, in Silesia, which led to the entire reduction of that rich and important province. The king owed little to his own courage, however, on this occasion. Like Wellington, the first essay in arms of so indomitable a hero was unfortunate. He fled from the field of battle, at the first repulse of his cavalry; and he was already seven miles off, where he was resting in a mill, when he received intelligence that his troops had regained the day; and at the earnest entreaties of General afterwards Marshal Schwerin, he returned to take the command of the army. Next year, however, he evinced equal courage and capacity in the battle of Czaslau, which he gained over the Prince of Lorraine. Austria, on the brink of ruin, hastened to disarm the most formidable of her assailants; and, by a separate peace, concluded at Breslau on June 11, 1742, she ceded to Prussia nearly the whole of Silesia.
This cruel loss, however, was too plainly the result of necessity to be acquiesced in without a struggle by the Cabinet of Vienna. Maria Theresa made no secret of her determination to resume possession of the lost province on the first convenient opportunity. Austria soon united the whole of Germany in a league against Frederick, who had no ally but the King of France. Assailed by such a host of enemies, however, the young king was not discouraged, and, boldly assuming the initiative, he gained at Hohenfriedberg a complete victory over his old antagonist the Prince of Lorraine. This triumph was won entirely by the extraordinary genius displayed by the King of Prussia: “It was one of those battles,” says the military historian, Guibert, “where a great master makes every thing give way before him, and which is gained from the very beginning, because he never gives the enemy time to recover from their disorder.” The Austrians made great exertions to repair the consequences of this disaster, and with such success, that in four months Prince Charles of Lorraine again attacked him at the head of 50,000 men near Soor. Frederick had not 25,000, but with these he again defeated the Austrians with immense loss, and took up his winter quarters in Silesia. So vast were the resources, however, of the great German League, of which Austria was the head, that they were enabled to keep the field during winter, and even meditate a _coup-de-main_ against the king, in his capital of Berlin. Informed of this design, Frederick lost not a moment in anticipating it by a sudden attack on his part on his enemies. Assembling his troops in the depth of winter with perfect secrecy, he surprised a large body of Saxons at Naumberg, made himself master of their magazines at Gorlitz, and soon after made his triumphant entry into Dresden, where he dictated a glorious peace, on 25th December, 1745, to his enemies, which secured, permanently, Silesia to Prussia. It was full time for the Imperialists to come to an accommodation. In eighteen months Frederick had defeated them in four pitched battles, besides several combats; taken 45,000 prisoners, and killed or wounded an equal number of his enemies. His own armies had not sustained losses to a fifth part of this amount, and the chasms in his ranks were more than compensated by the multitude of the prisoners who enlisted under his banners, anxious to share the fortunes of the hero who had already filled Europe with his renown.
The ambitious and decided, and, above all, indomitable character of Frederick, had already become conspicuous during these brief campaigns. His correspondence, all conducted by himself, evinced a vigour and _tranchant_ style, at that period unknown in European diplomacy, but to which the world has since been abundantly accustomed in the proclamations of Napoleon. Already he spoke on every occasion as the hero and the conqueror--to conquer or die was his invariable maxim. On the eve of his invasion of Saxony, he wrote to the Empress of Russia, who was endeavouring to dissuade him from that design:--“I wish nothing from the King of Poland (Elector of Saxony) but to punish him in his Electorate, and make him sign an acknowledgment of repentance in his capital.” During the negotiations for peace, he wrote to the King of England, who had proposed the mediation of Great Britain:--“These are my conditions. I will perish with my army before departing from one iota of them: if the Empress does not accept them, I will rise in my demands.”
The peace of Dresden lasted ten years; and these were of inestimable importance to Frederick. He employed that precious interval in consolidating his conquests, securing the affections by protecting the interests of his subjects, and pursuing every design which could conduce to their welfare. Marshes were drained, lands broken up and cultivated, manufactures established, the finances were put in the best order, agriculture, as the great staple of the kingdom, sedulously encouraged. His capital was embellished, and the fame of his exploits attracted the greatest and most celebrated men in Europe. Voltaire, among the rest, became for years his guest; but the aspiring genius and irascible temper of the military monarch could ill accord with the vanity and insatiable thirst for praise in the French author, and they parted with mutual respect, but irretrievable alienation. Meanwhile, the strength of the monarchy was daily increasing under Frederick’s wise and provident administration. The population nearly reached 6,000,000 of souls; the cavalry mustered 30,000, all in the highest state of discipline and equipment; and the infantry, esteemed with reason the most perfect in Europe, numbered an hundred and twenty thousand bayonets. These troops had long been accustomed to act together in large bodies; the best training next to actual service in the field which an army can receive. They had need of all their skill, and discipline, and courage, for Prussia was ere long threatened by the most formidable confederacy that ever yet had been directed in modern times against a single State. Austria, Russia, France, Sweden, and Saxony, united in alliance for the purpose of partitioning the Prussian territories. They had ninety millions of men in their dominions, and could with ease bring four hundred thousand men into the field. Prussia had not six million of inhabitants, who were strained to the uttermost to array a hundred and fifty thousand combatants--and even with the aid of England and Hanover, not more than fifty thousand auxiliaries could be relied on. Prussia had neither strong fortresses like Flanders, nor mountain chains like Spain, nor a frontier stream like France. It was chiefly composed of flat plains, unprotected by great rivers, and surrounded on all sides by its enemies. The contest seemed utterly desperate; there did not seem a chance of escape for the Prussian monarchy.
Frederick began the contest by one of those strokes which demonstrated the strength of his understanding and the vigour of his determination. Instead of waiting to be attacked, he carried the war at once into the enemy’s territories, and converted the resources of the nearest of them to his own advantage. Having received authentic intelligence of the signature of a treaty for the partition of his kingdom by the great powers, on 9th May 1756, he suddenly entered the Saxon territories, made himself master of Dresden, and shut up the whole forces of Saxony in the intrenched camp at Pirna. Marshal Brown having advanced at the head of 60,000 men to relieve them, he encountered and totally defeated him at Lowositz, with the loss of 15,000 men. Deprived of all hope of succour, the Saxons in Pirna, after having made vain efforts to escape, were obliged to lay down their arms, 14,000 strong. The whole of Saxony submitted to the victor, who thenceforward, during the whole war, converted its entire resources to his own support. Beyond all question, it was this masterly and successful stroke, in the very outset, and in the teeth of his enemies, adding above a third to his warlike resources, which enabled him subsequently to maintain his ground against the desperate odds by which he was assailed. Most of the Saxons taken at Pirna, dazzled by their conqueror’s fame, entered his service: the Saxon youth hastened in crowds to enrol themselves under the banners of the hero of the North of Germany. Frederick, at the same time, effectually vindicated the step he had taken in the eyes of all Europe, by the publication of the secret treaty of partition, taken in the archives at Dresden, in spite of the efforts of the electress to conceal it. Whatever might have been the case in the former war, when he seized on Silesia, it was apparent to the world, that he now, at least, was strictly in the right, and that his invasion of Saxony was not less justifiable on the score of public morality, than important in its consequences to the great contest in which he was engaged.
The allies made the utmost efforts to regain the advantages they had lost. France, instead of the 24,000 men she was bound to furnish by the treaty of partition, put 100,000 on foot; the Diet of Ratisbon placed 60,000 troops of the empire at the disposal of Austria; but Frederick still preserved the ascendant. Breaking into Bohemia, in March 1757, he defeated the Austrians in a great battle under the walls of Prague, shut up 40,000 of their best troops in that town, and soon reduced them to such extremities, that it was evident, if not succoured, they must surrender. The cabinet of Vienna made the greatest efforts for their relief Marshal Daun, whose cautious and scientific policy were peculiarly calculated to thwart the designs, and baffle the audacity of his youthful antagonist, advanced at the head of 60,000 men to their relief. Frederick advanced to meet them with less than 20,000 combatants. He attacked the Imperialists in a strong position at Kolin, on the 18th July, and, for the first time in his life, met with a bloody defeat. His army, especially that division commanded by his brother, the prince-royal, sustained severe losses in the retreat, which became unavoidable, out of Bohemia; and the king confessed, in his private correspondence, that an honourable death alone remained to him. Disaster accumulated on every side. The English and Hanoverian army, his only allies, capitulated at Closterseven, and left the French army, 70,000 strong, at liberty to follow the Prussians; the French and troops of the empire, with the Duke of Richelieu at their head, menaced Magdeburg, where the royal family of Prussia had taken refuge; and advanced towards Dresden. The Russians, 60,000 strong, were making serious progress on the side of Poland, and had recently defeated the Prussians opposed to them. The king was put to the ban of the empire, and the army of the empire, mustering 40,000, was moving against him. Four huge armies, each stronger than his own, were advancing to crush a prince who could not collect 30,000 men round his banners. At that period he carried a sure poison always with him, determined not to fall alive into the hands of his enemies. He seriously contemplated suicide, and gave vent to the mournful, but yet heroic, sentiments with which he was inspired, in a letter to Voltaire, terminating with the lines--
Pour moi, menaçé de naufrage, Je dois, en affrontant l’orage Penser, vivre et mourir en roi.
Then it was that the astonishing vigour and powers of his mind shone forth with their full lustre. Collecting hastily 25,000 men out of his shattered battalions, he marched against the Prince of Soubise, who, at the head of 60,000 French and troops of the empire, was advancing against him through Thuringia, and totally defeated him, with the loss of 18,000 men, on the memorable field of Rosbach. Hardly was this triumph achieved, when he was called, with his indefatigable followers, to stem the progress of the Prince of Lorraine and Marshal Daun, who were making the most alarming progress in Silesia. Schweidnitz, its capital, had fallen: a large body of Prussians, under the Duke de Bevorn, had been defeated at Breslau. That rich and important province seemed on the point of falling again into the hands of the Austrians, when Frederick reinstated his affairs, which seemed wholly desperate, by one of those astonishing strokes which distinguish him, perhaps, above any general of modern times. In the depth of winter he attacked, at Leuthen, on the 5th December, 1757, Marshal Daun and the Prince of Lorraine,--who had 60,000 admirable troops under their orders,--and, by the skilful application of the _oblique_ method of attack, defeated them entirely, with the loss of 30,000 men, of whom 18,000 were prisoners! It was the greatest victory that had been gained in Europe since the battle of Blenheim. Its effects were immense: the Austrians were driven headlong out of Silesia; Schweidnitz was regained; the King of Prussia, pursuing them, carried the war into Moravia, and laid siege to Olmutz; and England, awakening, at the voice of Chatham, from its unworthy slumber, refused to ratify the capitulation of Closterseven, resumed the war on the continent with more vigour than ever, and intrusted its direction to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, who soon rivalled Turenne in the skill and science of his methodical warfare.
But it was the destiny of the King of Prussia--a destiny which displayed his great qualities in their full lustre--to be perpetually involved in difficulties, from the enormous numerical preponderance of his enemies, or the misfortunes of the lieutenants to whom his subordinate armies were intrusted. Frederick could not be personally present every where at the same time; and wherever he was absent, disaster revealed the overwhelming superiority of the force by which he was assailed. The siege of Olmutz, commenced in March 1758, proved unfortunate. The battering train, at the disposal of the king, was unequal to its reduction, and it became necessary to raise it on the approach of Daun with a formidable Austrian army. During this unsuccessful irruption into the south, the Russians had been making alarming progress in the north-east, where the feeble force opposed to them was well-nigh overwhelmed by their enormous superiority of numbers. Frederick led back the flower of his army from Olmutz, in Moravia, crossed all Silesia and Prussia, and encountered the sturdy barbarians at Zorndorf, defeating them with the loss of 17,000 men, an advantage which delivered the eastern provinces of the monarchy from this formidable invasion; dearly purchased, however, by the sacrifice of 10,000 of his own best soldiers. But, during the king’s absence, Prince Henry of Prussia, whom he had left in command of 16,000 men, to keep Marshal Daun in check, was well-nigh overwhelmed by that able commander, who was again at the head of 50,000 combatants. Frederick flew back to his support, and, having joined his brother, took post at Hohenkirchen. The position was unfavourable: the army inferior to the enemy. “If Daun does not attack us here,” said Marshal Keith, “he deserves to be hanged.” “I hope,” answered Frederick, “he will be more afraid of us than the rope.” The Austrian veteran, however, saw his advantage, and attacked the Prussians, during the night, with such skill, that he threw them into momentary confusion, took 150 pieces of cannon, and drove them from their ground, with the loss of 7000 men. Then it was that the courage and genius of the king shone forth with their full lustre. Though grievously wounded in the conflict, and after having seen his best generals fall around him, he rallied his troops at daybreak,--formed them in good order behind the village which had been surprised, and led them leisurely to a position a mile from the field of conflict, where he offered battle to the enemy, who did not venture to accept it. Having remained two days in this position to re-organize his troops, he decamped, raised the siege of Niesse, and succeeded in taking up his winter quarters at Breslau, in the very middle of the province he had wrested from the enemy.
The campaign of 1759 was still more perilous to Frederick; but, if possible, it displayed his extraordinary talents in still brighter colours. He began by observing the Austrians, under Daun and the Prince of Lorraine, in Silesia, and reserved his strength to combat the Russians, who were advancing, 80,000 strong, through East Prussia. Frederick attacked them at Cunnersdorf, with 40,000 only, in an intrenched position, guarded by 200 pieces of cannon. The first onset of the Prussians was entirely successful: they forced the front line of the Russian intrenchment, and took 72 pieces of cannon. But the situation of the king was such, pressed on all sides by superior armies, that he could not stop short with ordinary success; and, in the attempt to gain a decisive victory, he had well-nigh lost all. The heroism of his troops was shattered against the strength of the second line of the Russians; a large body of Austrians came up to their support during the battle, and, after having exhausted all the resources of courage and genius, he was driven from the field with the loss of 20,000 men and all his artillery. The Russians lost 18,000 men in this terrible battle, the most bloody which had been fought for centuries in Europe, and were in no condition to follow up their victory. Other misfortunes, however, in appearance overwhelming, succeeded each other. General Schmellau capitulated in Dresden; and General Finch, with 17,000 men, was obliged to lay down his arms in the defiles of the Bohemian mountains. All seemed lost; but the king still persevered, and the victory of Minden enabled Prince Ferdinand to detach 12,000 men to his support. The Prussians nobly stood by their heroic sovereign in the hour of trial; new levies supplied the wide chasms in his ranks. Frederick’s great skill averted all future disasters, and the campaign of 1759, the _fourth_ of the war, concluded with the king still in possession of all his dominions in the midst of the enormous forces of his enemies.
The campaign of 1760 began in March by another disaster at Landshech, where ten thousand Prussians were cut to pieces, under one of his generals, and the important fortress of Glatz invested by the Austrians. Frederick advanced to relieve it; but soon remeasured his steps to attempt the siege of Dresden. Daun, in his turn, followed him, and obliged the Prussian monarch to raise the siege; and he resumed his march into Silesia, closely followed by three armies, each more numerous than his own, under Laudon, Daun, and Lacey, without their being able to obtain the slightest advantage over him. Laudon, the most active of them, attempted to surprise him; but Frederick was aware of his design, and received the attacking columns in so masterly a manner, that they were totally defeated, with the loss of 12,000 men. Scarcely had he achieved this victory, when he had to make head against Lacey, withstand Daun, repel an enormous body of Russians, who were advancing through East Prussia, and deliver Berlin, which had been a second time occupied by his enemies. Driven to desperate measures by such an unparalleled succession of dangers, he extricated himself from them by the terrible battle and extraordinary victory of Torgau, on November 3, 1761, in which, after a dreadful struggle, he defeated Daun, though intrenched to the teeth, with the loss of 25,000 men--an advantage dearly purchased by the loss of 18,000 of his own brave soldiers. But this victory saved the Prussian monarchy: Daun, severely wounded in the battle, retired to Vienna; the army withdrew into Bohemia; two-thirds of Saxony was regained by the Prussians; the Russians and Swedes retired; Berlin was delivered from the enemy; and the fifth campaign terminated with the unconquerable monarch still in possession of nearly his whole dominions.
The military strength of Prussia was now all but exhausted by the unparalleled and heroic efforts she had made. Frederick has left us the following picture of the state of his kingdom and army at this disastrous period:--“Our condition at that period can only be likened to that of a man riddled with balls, weakened by the loss of blood, and ready to sink under the weight of his sufferings. The noblesse was exhausted, the lower people ruined; numbers of villages burnt, many towns destroyed; an entire anarchy had overturned the whole order and police of government: in a word, desolation was universal. The army was in no better situation. _Seventeen pitched battles_ had mowed down the flower of the officers and soldiers; the regiments were broken down and composed in part of deserters and prisoners: order had disappeared and discipline relaxed to such a degree that the old infantry was little better than a body of newly-raised militia.” Necessity, not less than prudence, in these circumstances, which to any other man would have seemed desperate, prescribed a cautious defensive policy; and it is doubtful whether in it his greatness did not appear more conspicuous than in the bolder parts of his former career. The campaign of 1761 passed in skilful marches and countermarches, without his numerous enemies being able to obtain a single advantage, where the king commanded in person. He was now, literally speaking, assailed on all sides: the immense masses of the Austrians and Russians were converging to one point; and Frederick, who could not muster 40,000 men under his banners, found himself assailed by 120,000 allies, whom six campaigns had brought to perfection in the military art. It seemed impossible he could escape: yet he did so, and compelled his enemies to retire without gaining the slightest advantage over him. Taking post in an intrenched camp at Bunzelwitz, fortified with the utmost skill, defended with the utmost vigilance, he succeeded in maintaining himself and providing his troops for two months within cannon-shot of the enormous masses of the Russians and Austrians, till want of provisions obliged them to separate. “It has just come to this,” said Frederick, “who will starve first?” He made his enemies do so. Burning with shame, they were forced to retire to their respective territories, so that he was enabled to take up his winter quarters at Breslau in Silesia. But, during this astonishing struggle, disaster had accumulated in other quarters. His camp at Bunzelwitz had only been maintained by concentrating in it nearly the whole strength of the monarchy, and its more distant provinces suffered severely under the drain. Schweidnitz, the capital of Silesia, was surprised by the Austrians, with its garrison of 4000 men. Prince Henry, after the loss of Dresden, had the utmost difficulty in maintaining himself in the part of Saxony which still remained to the Prussians: in Silesia they had lost all but Glogau, Breslau, and Neiss; and, to complete his misfortune, the dismissal of Lord Chatham from office in England, had led to the stoppage of the wonted subsidy of £750,000 a-year. The resolution of the king did not sink, but his judgment almost despaired of success under such a complication of disasters. Determined not to yield, he discovered a conspiracy at his head-quarters, to seize him, and deliver him to his enemies. Dreading such a calamity more than death, he carried with him, as formerly in similar circumstances, a sure poison, intended, in the last extremity, to terminate his days.
“Nevertheless,” as he himself said, “affairs which seemed desperate, in reality were not so; and perseverance at length surmounted every peril.” Fortune often, in real life as well as in romance, favours the brave. In the case of Frederick, however, it would be unjust to say he was favoured by Fortune. On the contrary, she long proved adverse to him; and he recovered her smiles only by heroically persevering till the ordinary chance of human affairs turned in his favour. He accomplished what in serious cases is the great aim of medicine; he made the patient survive the disease. In the winter of 1761, the Empress of Russia died, and was succeeded by Peter III. That prince had long conceived the most ardent admiration for Frederick, and he manifested it in the most decisive manner on his accession to the throne, by not only withdrawing from the alliance, but uniting his forces with those of Prussia against Austria. This great event speedily changed the face of affairs. The united Prussians and Russians under Frederick, 70,000 strong, retook Schweidnitz in the face of Daun, who had only 60,000 men; and, although the sudden death of the Czar Peter in a few months deprived him of the aid of his powerful neighbours, yet Russia took no farther part in the contest. France, exhausted and defeated in every quarter of the globe by England, could render no aid to Austria, upon whom the whole weight of the contest fell. It was soon apparent that she was over-matched by the Prussian hero. Relieved from the load which had so long oppressed him, Frederick vigorously resumed the offensive. Silesia was wholly regained by the king in person: the battle of Freyberg gave his brother, Prince Henry, the ascendant in Saxony; and the cabinet of Vienna, seeing the contest hopeless, were glad to make peace at Hubertsbourg, on 15th February, 1763, on terms which left Silesia and his whole dominions to the King of Prussia.
He entered Berlin in triumph after six years’ absence, in an open chariot, with Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick seated by his side. No words can paint the enthusiasm of the spectators at the august spectacle, or the admiration with which they regarded the hero who had filled the world with his renown. It was no wonder they were proud of their sovereign. His like had never been seen in modern times. He had founded and saved a kingdom. He had conquered Europe in arms. With six millions of subjects he had vanquished powers possessing ninety millions. He had created a new era in the art of war. His people were exhausted, pillaged, ruined; their numbers had declined a tenth during the contest. But what then? They had come victorious out of a struggle unparalleled in modern times: the halo of Leuthen and Rosbach, of Zorndorf and Torgau, played round their bayonets; they were inspired with the energy which so speedily repairs any disaster. Frederick wisely and magnanimously laid aside the sword when he resumed the pacific sceptre. His subsequent reign was almost entirely pacific; all the wounds of war were speedily healed under his sage and beneficent administration. Before his death, his subjects were double, and the national wealth triple what it had been at the commencement of his reign: and Prussia now boasts of sixteen millions of inhabitants, and a population increasing faster in numbers and resources than any other state in Europe.
No laboured character, no studied eulogium, can paint Frederick like this brief and simple narrative of his exploits. It places him at once at the head of modern generals,--if Hannibal be excepted, perhaps of ancient and modern. He was not uniformly successful: on the contrary, he sustained several dreadful defeats. But that arose from the enormous superiority of force by which he was assailed, and the desperate state of his affairs, which were generally so pressing, that a respite even in one quarter could be obtained only by a victory instantly gained, under whatever circumstances, in another. What appears rashness was often in him the height of wisdom. He could protract the struggle only by strong and vigorous strokes and the lustre of instant success, and they could not be dealt out without risking receiving as many. The fact of his maintaining the struggle against such desperate odds proves the general wisdom of his policy. No man ever made more skilful use of an interior line of communication, or flew with such rapidity from one threatened part of his dominions to another. None ever, by the force of skill in tactics and sagacity in strategy, gained such astonishing successes with forces so inferior. And if some generals have committed fewer faults, none were impelled by such desperate circumstances to a hazardous course, and none had ever so much magnanimity in confessing and explaining them for the benefit of future times.
The only general in modern times who can bear a comparison with Frederick, if the difficulties of his situation are considered, is Napoleon. It is a part only of his campaigns, however, which sustains the analogy. There is no resemblance between the mighty conqueror pouring down the valley of the Danube, at the head of 180,000 men, invading Russia with 500,000, or overrunning Spain with 300,000, and Frederick the Great with 30,000 or 40,000, turning every way against quadruple the number of Austrians, French, Swedes, and Russians. Yet a part, and the most brilliant part of Napoleon’s career, bears a close resemblance to that of the Prussian hero. In Lombardy in 1796, in Saxony in 1813, and in the plains of Champaigne in 1814, he was upon the whole inferior in force to his opponents, and owed the superiority which he generally enjoyed on the point of attack to the rapidity of his movements, and the skill with which, like Frederick, he availed himself of an interior line of communication. His immortal campaign in France in 1814, in particular, where he bore up with 70,000 men against 250,000 enemies, bears the closest resemblance to those which Frederick sustained for six years against the forces of the Coalition. Rapidity of movement, skill in strategy, and the able use of an interior line of communication, were what enabled both to compensate a prodigious inferiority of force. Both were often to appearance rash, because the affairs of each were so desperate, that nothing could save them but an audacious policy. Both were indomitable in resolution, and preferred ruin and death to sitting down on a dishonoured throne. Both were from the outset of the struggle placed in circumstances apparently hopeless, and each succeeded in protracting it solely by his astonishing talent and resolution. The fate of the two was widely different: the one transmitted an honoured and aggrandized throne to his successors; the other, overthrown and discrowned, terminated his days on the rock of St. Helena. But success is not always the test of real merit: the verdict of ages is often different from the judgment of present times. Hannibal conquered, has left a greater name among men than Scipio victorious. In depth of thought, force of genius, variety of information, and splendour of success, Frederick will bear no comparison with Napoleon. But Frederick’s deeds as a general were more extraordinary than those of the French emperor, because he bore up longer against greater odds. It is the highest praise of Napoleon to say, that he did in one campaign--his last and greatest--what Frederick had done in six.
If the campaigns of Eugene and Frederick suggest a comparison with those of Napoleon, those of Marlborough challenge a parallel with those of the other great commander of our day--Wellington. Their political and military situations were in many respects alike. Both combated at the head of the forces of an alliance, composed of dissimilar nations, actuated by separate interests, inflamed by different passions. Both had the utmost difficulty in soothing their jealousies and stifling their selfishness; and both found themselves often more seriously impeded by the allied cabinets in their rear, than by the enemy’s forces in their front. Both were the generals of a nation, which, albeit covetous of military glory, and proud of warlike renown, is to the last degree impatient of previous preparation, and frets at the cost of wars, which its political position renders unavoidable, or its ambitious spirit had readily undertaken. Both were compelled to husband the blood of their soldiers, and spare the resources of their governments, from the consciousness that they had already been strained to the uttermost in the cause, and that any farther demands would render the war so unpopular as speedily to lead to its termination. The career of both occurred at a time when political passions were strongly roused in their country; when the war in which they were engaged was waged against the inclination, and, in appearance at least, against the interests of a large and powerful party at home, which sympathized from political feeling with their enemies, and were ready to decry every success and magnify every disaster of their own arms, from a secret feeling that their party elevation was identified rather with the successes of the enemy than with those of their own countrymen. The Tories were to Marlborough precisely what the Whigs were to Wellington. Both were opposed to the armies of the most powerful monarch, led by the most renowned generals of Europe, whose forces, preponderating over the adjoining states, had come to threaten the liberties of all Europe, and at length produced a general coalition to restrain the ambition from which so much detriment had already been experienced.
But while in these respects the two British heroes were placed very much in the same circumstances, in other particulars, not less material, their situations were widely different. Marlborough had never any difficulties approaching those which beset Wellington to struggle with. By great exertions, both on his own part and that of the British and Dutch governments, his force was generally equal to that with which he had to contend. It was often exactly so. War at that period, in the Low Countries at least, consisted chiefly of a single battle during a campaign, followed by the siege of two or three frontier fortresses. The number of strongholds with which the country bristled, rendered any farther or more extensive operations, in general, impossible. This state of matters at once rendered success more probable to a general of superior abilities, and made it more easy to repair disaster. No vehement passions had been roused, bringing whole nations into the field, and giving one state, where they had burnt the fiercest, a vast superiority in point of numbers over its more pacific or less excited neighbours. But in all these respects, the circumstances in which Wellington was placed, were not only not parallel--they were contrasted. From first to last, in the Peninsula, he was enormously outnumbered by the enemy. Until the campaign of 1813, when his force in the field was, for the first time, equal to that of the French, the superiority to which he was opposed was so prodigious, that the only surprising thing is, how he was not driven into the sea in the very first encounter.
While the French had never less than 200,000, sometimes as many as 260,000 effective troops at their disposal, after providing for all their garrisons and communications, the English general had never more than 30,000 effective British and 20,000 Portuguese around his standard. The French were directed by the Emperor, who, intent on the subjugation of the Peninsula, and wielding the inexhaustible powers of the conscription for the supply of his armies, cared not though he lost 100,000 men, so as he purchased success by their sacrifice in every campaign. Wellington was supported at home by a government, which, raising its soldiers by voluntary enrolment, could with difficulty supply a drain of 15,000 men a-year from their ranks, and watched by a party which decried every advantage, and magnified every disaster, in order to induce the entire withdrawal of the troops from the Peninsula. Napoleon sent into Spain a host of veterans trained in fifteen years’ combats, who had carried the French standards into every capital of Europe. Wellington led to this encounter troops admirably disciplined, indeed, but almost all unacquainted with actual war, and who had often to learn the rudiments even of the most necessary field operations in presence of the enemy. Marlborough’s troops, though heterogeneous and dissimilar, had been trained to their practical duties in the preceding wars under William III., and brought into the field a degree of experience noways inferior to that of their opponents. Whoever weighs with impartiality those different circumstances, cannot avoid arriving at the conclusion that as Wellington’s difficulties were incomparably more formidable than Marlborough’s, so his merit, in surmounting them, was proportionally greater.
Though similar in many respects, so far as the general conduct of their campaigns is concerned, from the necessity under which both laboured of husbanding the blood of their soldiers, the military qualities of England’s two chiefs were essentially different, and each possessed some points in which he was superior to the other. By nature Wellington was more daring than Marlborough, and though soon constrained, by necessity, to adopt a cautious system, he continued, throughout all his career, to incline more to a hazardous policy. The intrepid advance and fight at Assaye; the crossing of the Douro and movement on Talavera in 1809; the advance to Madrid and Burgos in 1812; the actions before Bayonne in 1813; the desperate stand made at Waterloo in 1815--place this beyond a doubt. Marlborough never hazarded so much on the success of a single enterprise: he ever aimed at compassing his objects by skill and combination, rather than risking them on the chance of arms. Wellington was a mixture of Turenne and Eugene: Marlborough was the perfection of the Turenne school alone. No man could fight more ably and gallantly than Marlborough: his talent and rapidity of eye in tactics were, at least, equal to his skill in strategy and previous combination. But he was not partial to such desperate passages at arms, and never resorted to them, but from necessity or the emergency of a happy opportunity for striking a blow. The proof of this is decisive. Marlborough, during ten campaigns, fought only five pitched battles. Wellington in seven fought fifteen, in every one of which he proved victorious.
Marlborough’s consummate generalship, throughout his whole career, kept him out of disaster. It was said, with justice, that he never fought a battle which he did not gain, nor laid siege to a town which he did not take. He took above twenty fortified places of the first order, generally in presence of an enemy’s army superior to his own. Wellington’s bolder disposition, more frequently involved him in peril, and on some occasions caused serious losses to his army; but they were the price at which he purchased his transcendent successes. But Wellington’s bolder strategy gained for him advantages which the more circumspect measures of his predecessor never could have attained. Marlborough would never, with scarcely any artillery, have hazarded the attack on Burgos, nor incurred the perilous chances of the retreat from that town; but he never would have delivered the South of the Peninsula in a single campaign, by throwing himself, with 40,000 men, upon the communications, in the North, of 200,000. It is hard to say which was the greater general, if their merits in the field alone are considered; but Wellington’s successes were the more vital to his country, for they delivered it from the greater peril; and they were more honourable to himself, for they were achieved against greater odds. And his fame, in future times, will be proportionally brighter; for the final overthrow of Napoleon, and destruction of the revolutionary power, in a single battle, present an object of surpassing interest, to which there is nothing in history, perhaps, parallel, and which, to the latest generation, will fascinate the minds of men.
The examination of the comparative merits of these two illustrious generals, and the enumeration of the names of their glorious triumphs, suggests one reflection of a very peculiar kind. That England is a maritime power, that the spirit of her inhabitants is essentially nautical, and that the sea is the element on which her power has chiefly been developed, need be told to none who reflect on the magnitude of her present colonial empire, and how long she has wielded the empire of the waves. The French are the first to tell us that her strength is confined to that element; that she is, at land, only a third-rate power; and that the military career does not suit the genius of her people. How, then, has it happened that England, the nautical power, and little inured to land operations, has inflicted greater wounds upon France by _military_ success, than any other power, and that in almost all the pitched battles which the two nations have fought, during five centuries, the English have proved victorious? That England’s military force is absorbed in the defence of a colonial empire which encircles the earth, is indeed certain, and, in every age, the impatience of taxation in her people has starved down her establishment, during peace, to so low a point, as rendered the occurrence of disaster, in the first years consequent on the breaking out of war, a matter of certainty; while the military spirit of its neighbours has kept theirs at the level which ensures early success. Yet with all these disadvantages, and with a population which, down to the close of the last war, was little more than half that of France, she has inflicted far greater _land_ disasters on her redoubtable neighbour than all the military monarchies of Europe put together.
English armies, for 120 years, ravaged France: they have twice taken its capital; an English king was crowned at Paris; a French king rode captive through London; a French emperor died in English captivity, and his remains were surrendered by English generosity. Twice the English horse marched from Calais to the Pyrenees; the monuments of Napoleon in the French capital at this moment, owe their preservation from German revenge to an English general. All the great disasters and days of mourning for France, since the battle of Hastings,--Tenchebray, Cressy, Poitiers, Azincour, Verneuil, Blenheim, Oudenarde, Ramilies, Malplaquet, Minden, Quebec, Egypt, Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, the Pyrenees, Waterloo,--were all gained by English generals, and won, for the most part, by English soldiers. Even at Fontenoy, the greatest victory over England of which France can boast since Hastings, every regiment in the French army was, on their own admission, routed by the terrible English column, and victory was snatched from its grasp solely by want of support on the part of the Dutch and Austrians. No coalition against France has ever been successful, in which England did not take a prominent part; none, in the end, failed of gaining its objects, in which she stood foremost in the fight. This fact is so apparent on the surface of history, that it is admitted by the ablest French historians, though they profess themselves unable to explain it.
Is it that there is a degree of hardihood and courage in the Anglo-Saxon race which renders them, without the benefit of previous experience in war, adequate to the conquest, on land, even of the most warlike Continental military nations? Is it that the quality of dogged resolution, determination not to be conquered, is of such value in war, that it compensates almost any degree of inferiority in the practical acquaintance with war? Is it that the North brings forth a bolder race of men than the South, and that, other things being equal, the people in a more rigorous climate will vanquish those in a more genial? Is it that the free spirit which, in every age, has distinguished the English people, has communicated a degree of vigour and resolution to their warlike operations, which has rendered them so often victorious in land fights, albeit nautical and commercial in their ideas, over their military neighbours? Or is it, that this courage in war, and this vigour in peace, and this passion for freedom at all times, arise from and are but symptoms of an ardent and aspiring disposition, imprinted by Nature on the races to whom was destined the dominion of half the globe? Experience has not yet determined to which of these causes this most extraordinary fact has been owing; but it is one upon which our military neighbours, and especially the French, would do well to ponder, now that the population of the British isles will, on the next census, be _thirty millions_. If England has done such things in Continental warfare, with an army which never brought fifty thousand native British sabres and bayonets into the field, what would be the result if national distress or necessities, or a change in the objects of general desire, were to send two hundred thousand?
LAYS AND LEGENDS OF THE THAMES.
----Rushing along, leaving innumerable chimneys behind pouring out sempiternal smoke; the air filled with a perpetual clank of hammers, the crashing of enormous wheels, and jangling of colossal chains; every human being within sight being as black as a negro, and the gust from the shore giving the closest resemblance to a blast between the tropics. Our steamer played her part handsomely in this general effort to stifle the population, and threw columns of smoke, right and left, as she moved through the bends of the river, thick enough to have choked an army of coal-heavers. I am as little of a sentimentalist as any man; I have always pronounced Rousseau an impostor. I regretted that the pillory has been abolished in the days of the modern novelists of France; but I was nearly in a state of suffocation, and some allowance must be made for the wrath of asphyxia. As I looked on the fuliginous sky, and the cineritious earth, on the ember-coloured trees, and half vitrified villas, the whole calcined landscape, I involuntarily asked myself, what is the good of all this hammering, forging, and roasting alive? Is man to be made perfect in the manner of a Westphalia ham? or is it to be the crowning glory of a nation, that she is the great nail-maker to the civilized globe? Is her whole soul to be absorbed in the making of chain-cables and cotton-twist? Are all her aspirations to breathe only linsey-woolsey, Yorkshire broadcloth, and Birmingham buttons? Are the cheeks of her maids to grow pallid, for the sake of clothing the lower portion of a Hindoo mountaineer in flannel, and the forehead of an African savage in book-muslin? Or are our men, by nature the finest race in the world, to be crippled into the physiognomy and faculties of baboons, merely to make shawls for the Queen of Madagascar, or slippers for the great Mogul?
I was startled, by an universal run towards the head of the steamer. Men, women, children, lap-dogs, and all rushed forward, followed by an avalanche of bandboxes, which, heaped half chimney high, had heaved with a sudden lurch of the helm, and over-spread the deck with a chaos of caps, bonnets, and inferior appendages to the toilet. In the cloud of smoke above, around, and below, we had as nearly as possible run ashore upon the Isle of Dogs. The captain, as all the regular reports on occasions of disaster say, behaved in this extremity “with a coolness, a firmness, and a sagacity worthy of all admiration.” He had made nine hundred and ninety-nine voyages, to Margate before; it was therefore wholly impossible that he could have shot the head of his ship into the mud of the left bank of the Thames on his thousandth transit. The fact, however, seemed rather against the theory. But as I was not drowned, was not a shareholder in the vessel, and have an antipathy to courts-martial, I turned from the brawling of the present, to the bulletins of the past, and thought of Dog-land in its glory.
THE ISLE OF DOGS.
“_On Linden when the sun was low._”
Ten thousand years the Isle of Dogs, Lay sunk in mire, and hid in fogs, Rats, cats and bats, and snakes and frogs-- The tenants of its scenery.
No pic-nic parties came from town, To dance with nymphs, white, black, or brown, (They stopped at Greenwich, at the Crown, Neglecting all its greenery.)
Dut Dog-land saw another sight, When serjeants cried, “Eyes left, eyes right,” And jackets blue, and breeches white, Were seen upon its tenantry.
Then tents along the shore were seen, Then opened shop the gay Canteen, And floated flags, inscribed,--“The Queen.” All bustle, show, and pennantry.
There strutted laughter-loving Pat, John Bull (in spirits rather flat,) And Donald, restless as a rat, Three nations in their rivalry.
There bugle rang, and rattled drum, And sparkled in the glass the rum, Each hero thinking of his plum, The prize of Spanish chivalry.
At last, Blue-Peter mast-high shone, The Isle of Dogs was left alone, The bats and rats then claimed their own By process sure and summary.
The bold battalions sail’d for Spain, Soon longing to get home again, Finding their stomachs tried in vain To live on Spanish _flummery_.
A cloud of smoke, which the wrath of Æolus poured upon our vessel, as a general contribution from all the forges along shore, here broke my reverie, by nearly suffocating the ship’s company. But the river in this quarter is as capricious as the fashions of a French milliner, or the loves of a figurante. We rounded a point of land, emerged into blue stream and bright sky, and left the whole Cyclopean region behind, ruddied with jets of flame, and shrouded with vapour, like a re-rehearsal of the great fire of London.
I had scarcely time to rejoice in the consciousness that I breathed once more, when my ear was caught by the sound of a song at the fore-part of the deck. The voice was of that peculiar kind, which once belonged to the stage coachman, (a race now belonging alone to history,)--strong without clearness; full without force; deep without profundity, and, as Sydney Smith says, “a great many other things _without_ a great many other things;” or, as Dr. Parr would tell mankind,--“the product of nights of driving and days of indulgence; of facing the wintry storm, and enjoying the genial cup, the labours of the Jehu, and the luxuries of the Sybarite,”--it was to Moore’s melody,--
----“My dream of life From morn till night, Was love, still, love.”
THE SONG OF THE MAIL-COACHMAN.
Oh, the days were bright When, young and light, I drove my team, My four-in-hand Along the Strand, Of bloods the cream. But time flies fast: Those days are past, The ribbons are a dream: Now, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
The Bristol Mail, Is but a snail, The York stands still, The Liverpool Is but a stool-- All gone down hill. Your fire you poke, Up springs your smoke, On sweeps the fiery stream: Now, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
Along the sky The sparkles fly, _You_ fly below,-- You leave behind Time, tide, and wind, Hail, rain, and snow. Through mountain cores The engine snores, The gas lamps palely gleam: Oh, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
You see a hill, You see a mill, A bit of sky; You see a cow, You see a plough, All shooting by. The cabins prance, The hedgerows dance, Like gnats in Evening’s beam: Oh, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
You hear a sound, You feel a bound, You all look blue. You’ve split a horse, A man’s a corse. All’s one to you. Upon the road You meet a load, In vain you wildly scream. Oh, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
You come full front Upon a hunt, You hear a yell; You dash along, You crush the throng, Dogs, squires, pell-mell. You see a van; The signal man Is snugly in a dream. Oh, there’s nothing half so quick in life As steam, still, steam.
You see a flash, You feel a crash, From toe to chin. You touch a bank, You top a tank, You all plump in. You next engage The three-mile stage, And long for my old team, Your trial’s o’er, you trust no more, To steam, steam, steam!
The romantic disappears from the world every day. Canals and docks now vulgarize this tract of the shore, and the whole scene will yet undergo the fate of Billingsgate. But it has a story as romantic as that of Romeo and Juliet; excepting the masquerade, the moonlight, and the nightingales of Verona.
The Isle flies from me, and I must give but the outline.
The daughter of the old Baron de Bouvraye, one of the followers of William the Norman, and lord of the country for leagues along the northern shore of the Thames, was the court beauty of the time. With the Norman dignity of form, she had the Saxon beauty of countenance; for the Baron had wedded a Saxon heiress. The charms of the Lady Blanche de Bouvraye, were the theme of the whole race of troubadours; and the most popular poem of Guido de Spezzia was written on the incident of her dropping her wimple at a court ball. It was said that she had a thousand lovers; but it is certain, that suitors crowded from every part of Christendom to claim her hand--a number probably not diminished by the knowledge that she was to succeed to the immense possessions of the barony.
But, to the sorrow of some, the indignation of others, and the astonishment of all, the Lady Blanche laughed at the idea of love. William, not accustomed to have his orders disputed, commanded the beautiful heiress to fall in love with some one or other at a moment’s delay. But she laughed at the herald who bore the command, and bade him tell his master, that though armies might be commanded, and crowns conquered, Blanche de Bouvraye would be neither. William was indignant, and ordered the herald to prison for a month, and to be fed on bread and water, for the audacity of bringing back such an answer. But the lady was unchanged. The Baron remonstrated, and demanded whether she was prepared to see his line extinguished, and his lands go to strangers. She laughed and said, that as the former could not be while she lived, and the latter could take place only after she was dead, she saw no reason why she should concern herself on the subject. The abbess of the famous convent of the Celestines, near the ford of the river Rom, where the town of Romford has since grown up, was sent to argue with her. But her answer was the question, “Why had not the abbess herself married?” Her father confessor was next sent to her. But she sportively asked him, “Where were _his_ wife and children?”--a question which, though put in all innocence, so perplexed the good father, that, not desiring to be the penitent instead of the confessor, he returned with all possible speed to his convent.
Yet the Lady Blanche’s eye often exhibited the signs of weeping, and her cheek grew pale. All was a problem, until a handsome youth, the son of a knight on the Kentish shore, was seen one night touching a theorbo under her window, and singing one of the Tuscan love songs, which the troubadours had brought into England.
This was enough for the suspicions of the Baron. The young minstrel was seized, and sent to join the Crusaders then embarking for the Holy Land; and the lady was consigned to the Baron’s castle in Normandy. As Shakspeare said four hundred years after,
The course of true love never does run smooth.
It would take the pen and song of ten troubadours to tell the adventures of the lady and the youth. In the fashion of the age, they had each consulted an astrologer, and each had been told the same fortune, that they should constantly meet, but be constantly separated, and finally be happy.
In Normandy, the Baron’s castle and the lady had fallen together into the hands of the troops who had rebelled against William, when a band of the crusaders on the march, commanded by her lover, rescued her. The lady was next ordered to take up her abode in a convent in Lombardy, of which her father’s sister was the abbess. The vessel in which she embarked was driven up the Mediterranean by a storm, and wrecked on the shore where the army of the crusaders was encamped. Thus the lovers met again. By the Baron’s order, the lady returned once more to Europe; but when in sight of the Italian coast, the felucca was captured by an Algerine, and, to her astonishment, she found in the pirate’s vessel her lover, who had been wounded and taken prisoner in battle with the Saracens, and sold into slavery. Again they were separated; the lady was ransomed by her father; and the lovers seemed to have parted for ever.
But the stars were true. The lover broke his Moorish chains, and the first sight which the lady saw on her landing at Ancona, was the fugitive kneeling at her feet.
I hasten on. As the vessel in which they sailed up the Thames approached the baronial castle, they saw a black flag waving from the battlements, and heard the funeral bell toll from the abbey of the Celestines. The Baron had been laid in the vault of the abbey on that day. Their hopes were now certainty: but the lady mourned for her father; and the laws of the church forbade the marriage for a year and a day. Yet, this new separation was soothed by the constant visits of her lover, who crossed the river daily to bask in the smiles of his betrothed, who looked more beautiful than ever.
The eve of the wedding-day arrived; and fate seemed now to be disarmed of the power of dividing the faithful pair; when, as the lover was passing through a dark grove to return to the Kentish shore for the last time, he was struck by an arrow shot from a thicket, fainted, and saw no more.
The morning dawned, the vassals were in array, the bride was in her silk and velvet drapery, the bride’s maids had their flower-baskets in their hands, the joy-bells pealed, a hundred horsemen were drawn up before the castle gates,--all was pomp, joy, and impatience,--but no bridegroom came.
At length the mournful tidings were brought, that his boat had waited for him in vain on the evening before, and that his plume and mantle, dabbled with blood, had been found on the sands. All now was agony. The bank, the grove, the river, were searched by hundreds of eager eyes and hands, but all in vain. The bride cast aside her jewels, and vowed to live and die a maid. The castle was a house of mourning; the vassals returned to their homes: all was stooping of heads, wringing of hands, and gloomy lamentation.
But, as the castle bell tolled midnight, a loud barking was heard at the gate. It was opened; and the favourite wolf-hound of the bridegroom rushed in, making wild bounds, running to and fro, and dragging the guard by their mantles to go forth. They followed; and he sprung before them to the door of a hut in a swampy thicket a league from the castle.
On bursting open the door, they found a man in bed, desperately torn, and dying from his wounds. At the sight, the noble hound flew on him; but the dying man called for a confessor, and declared that he had discharged the arrow by which the murder was committed, that he had dug a grave for the dead, and that the dog had torn him in the act. The next demand was, where the body had been laid. The dying man was carried on the pikes of the guard to the spot; the grave was opened; the body was taken up; and, to the astonishment of all, it was found still with traces of life. The knight was carried to the castle, restored, wedded, and became the lord of all the broad acres lying between the Thames and the Epping hills.
He had been waylaid by one of his countless rivals, who had employed a serf to make him the mark for a cloth-yard shaft, and who, like the Irish felon of celebrated memory, “saved his life by dying in jail.” The dog was, by all the laws of chivalry, an universal favourite while living; and when dead, was buried under a marble monument in the Isle; also giving his name to the territory; which was more than was done for his master; and hence the title of the Isle of Dogs. Is it not all written in _Giraldus Cambrensis_?
----Enter Limehouse Reach.--The sea-breeze comes “wooingly,” as we wind by the long serpent beach; the Pool is left behind, and we see at last the surface of the river. Hitherto it has been only a magnified Fleet-ditch. The Thames, for the river of a grave people, is one of the most frolicsome streams in the world. From London Bridge to the ocean, it makes as many turns as a hard-run fox, and shoots round so many points of the shore, that vessels a few miles off seem to be like ropemakers working in parallel lines, or the dancers in a quadrille, or Mr. Green’s balloon running a race with his son’s (the old story of Dædalus and Icarus renewed in the 19th century); or those extravaganzas of the Arabian Nights, in which fairy ships are holding a regatta among meadows strewn with crysolites and emeralds, for primroses and the grass-green turf.
But what new city is this, rising on the right? What ranges of enormous penthouses, covering enormous ships on the stocks! what sentinels parading! what tiers of warehouses! what boats rushing to and fro! what life, tumult, activity, and clank of hammers again? This is Deptford.
“Deep forde,” says old Holinshed, “alsoe called the Goldene Strande, from the colour of its brighte sandes, the whiche verilie do shine like new golde under the crystalle waters of the Ravensbourne, which here floweth to old Father Thamis, even as a younge daughtere doth lovinglie fly to the embrace of her aged parente.”
But Deptford has other claims on posterity. Here it was that Peter the Great came, to learn the art of building the fleets that were to cover the Euxine and make the Crescent grow pale. At this moment I closed my eyes, and lived in the penultimate year of the 17th century. The scene had totally changed. The crowds, the ships, the tumult, all were gone; I saw an open shore, with a few wooden dwellings on the edge of the water, and a single ship in the act of building. A group of ship carpenters were standing in the foreground, gazing at the uncouth fierceness with which a tall wild figure among them was driving bolts into the keel. He wore a common workman’s coat and cap; but there was a boldness in his figure, and a force in his movement, which showed a superior order of man. His countenance was stern and repulsive, but stately; there was even a touch of insanity in the writhings of the mouth and the wildness of the eye; but it did not require the star on the cloak, which was flung on the ground beside him, nor the massive signet ring on his hand, to attest his rank. I saw there the most kingly of barbarians, and the most barbarian of kings. There I saw Peter, the lord of the desert, of the Tartar, and of the polar world.
While I was listening, in fancy, to the Song of the Steppe, which this magnificent operative was shouting, rather than singing, in the rude joy of his work, I was roused by a cry of “Deptford!--Any one for Deptford? Ease her; stop her!”
I sprang from the bench on which I had been reclining, and the world burst upon me again.
“Deptford--any one for Deptford?” cried the captain, standing on the paddle-box. None answered the call, but a whole fleet of wherries came skimming along the surge, and threw a crowd of fresh passengers, with trunks and carpet-bags numberless, on board. The traveller of taste always feels himself instinctively drawn to one object out of the thousand, and my observation was fixed on one foreign-featured female, who sat in her wherry wrapt up in an envelope of furs and possessing a pair of most lustrous eyes.
A sallow Italian, who stood near me, looking over the side of the vessel, exclaimed, “FANNI PELLMELLO,” and the agility with which she sprang up the steps was worthy of the name of that most celebrated daughter of “the muse who presides over dancing,” as the opera critics have told us several million times.
The sallow Italian was passed with a smile of recognition, which put him in good spirits at once. Nothing vivifies the tongue of a foreigner like the memory of the _Coulisses_, and he over-flowed upon me with the history of this terrestrial Terpsichore. It happened that he was in Rome at the time of that memorable levee at which Fanny, in all her captivations, paid her obeisance at the Vatican; an event which notoriously cost a whole coterie of princesses the bursting of their stay-laces, through sheer envy, and on whose gossip the _haut ton_ of the “Eternal City” have subsisted ever since.
The Italian, in his rapture, and with the vision of the danseuse still shining before him at the poop, began to _improvise_ the presentation. All the world is aware that Italian prose slides into rhyme of itself,--that all subjects turn to verse in the mind of the Italian, and that, when once on his Pegasus, he gallops up hill and down, snatches at every topic in his way, has no mercy on antiquity, and would introduce King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, dancing a quadrille with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
The month was September, The day I remember, (’Twas the _congé_ of Clara Novello), I saw troops under arms, Dragoons and gendarmes, Saluting sweet Fanny Pellmello.
At St Peter’s last chime A chorus sublime (By-the-by, from Rossini’s Otello), Was sung by Soprani, In homage to Fanny, The light footed Fanny Pellmello.
As she rush’d on their gaze, The Swiss-guard in amaze, Thought they might as well stand a Martello; All their muskets they dropp’d, On their knees they all popp’d, To worship sweet Fanny Pellmello.
To describe the _danseuse_, Is too much for _my_ muse; But if ever I fight a “duello,” Or quarrel at mess, It will be to possess Such a jewel as Fanny Pellmello.
On her brow a tiara, Like the lady’s in Lara, Or a portrait of thine, Biandello; With a twist and a twirl, All diamond and pearl, In bounded sweet Fanny Pellmello.
All the men in the cowls, Were startled like owls, When the sunbeam first darts in their dell, O; As she flash’d on their eyes, All were dumb with surprise-- All moon-struck with Fanny Pellmello.
As she waltzed through the hall, None heard a foot fall, All the chamberlains stood in a spell, O; While, silent as snow, She revolved on her toe, A la Psyche--sweet Fanny Pellmello.
_Whom_ she knelt to within I can’t say, for my sin; Those are matters on which I don’t dwell, O; But I _know_ that a Queen Was nigh bursting with spleen At the diamonds of Fanny Pellmello.
Were I King, were I Kaiser, I’d have perish’d to please her, Or dared against all to rebel, O; I’d have barter’d a throne To be bone of thy bone, Too exquisite Fanny Pellmello.
If Paris had seen Her _pas seul_ on the green, When the goddesses came to his cell, O, Forgetting the skies, He’d have handed the prize To all-conquering Fanny Pellmello.
Achilles of Greece Though famed for caprice, Would have left Greek and Trojan _in bello_, Cut country and king, And gone off on the wing To his island with Fanny Pellmello.
Alexander the Great, Though not over sedate, And a lover of more than I’ll tell, O, Would have learn’d to despise All his Persians’ black eyes, And been faithful to Fanny Pellmello.
Marc Antony’s self Would have laid on the shelf His Egyptian so merry and mellow; Left his five hundred doxies, And found all their proxies In one, charming Fanny Pellmello.
The renown’d Julius Cæsar, With nose like a razor, And skull smooth and bright as a shell, O, Would his sword have laid down, Or pilfer’d a crown, At thy bidding, sweet Fanny Pellmello.
His nephew Augustus, Not famous for justice, (Unless when the gout made him bellow,) His nose would have curl’d At the pomps of the world, For a cottage with Fanny Pellmello.
The Emperor Tiberius, (A rascal nefarious,) Though all things on earth he would sell, O, Would have bid Rome adieu, To the Alps flown with you, And play’d shepherd to Fanny Pellmello.
That Bluebeard, young Nero, (Not much of a hero, For a knave earth has scarce seen his fellow,) Though his wife he might smother, Or hang up his mother, Would have worshipp’d sweet Fanny Pellmello.
Nay, Alaric the Goth, Though he well might be loath His travelling baggage to swell, O, Would have built you a carriage,-- Perhaps offer’d marriage,-- And march’d off with Fanny Pellmello.
Fat Leo the Pope, In tiara and cope, Who the magic of beauty knew well, O, Would have craved your permission For your portrait, by Titian, As Venus--sweet Fanny Pellmello.
The Sultan Mahmood Who the Spahis subdued, And mow’d them like corn-fields so yellow, Would have sold his Haram, And made his salām At thy footstool, sweet Fanny Pellmello.
Napoleon le Grand Would have sued for thy hand, Before from his high horse he fell, O; He’d have thought Josephine Was not fit to be seen, By thy beauties, sweet Fanny Pellmello.
----But the Thames, like the world, is full of changes. As the steamer ran close in under the right shore, I observed a small creek, as overgrown with sedge, as silent and as lonely as if it had been hid in a corner of Hudson’s Bay. It was once called Julius Cæsar’s bath, from the tradition, that when marching at the head of the Tenth Legion, on a visit to Cleopatra, then resident in Kent! he ordered his whole brigade to wash the dust from their visages preparatory to appearing before her majesty and her maids of honour. But this was the age of romance. An unwashed age followed, and the classical name gave way to the exigencies of things. The creek was called the “Condemned Hole,” and was made the place for impounding vessels caught in the act of smuggling, which were there secured, like other malefactors, in chains. It may not unnaturally be concluded, that the spot was unpopular to the tribe of gallant fellows, who had only followed the example of Greek, Saxon, Dane, and Norman; and who saw the beloved companions of many a daring day and joyous night (for if the sailor loves his ship, the smuggler adores her) laid up under sentence of firewood. By that curious propensity, which makes the fox so often fix his burrow beside the kennel, the surrounding shore was the favourite residence of the smuggler; and many a broad-shouldered hero, with a visage bronzed by the tropic sun, and a heart that would face a lion, a fire-ship, or any thing but his wife in a rage, was seen there taking his sulky rounds, and biting his thumb (the approved style of insult in those days) at the customhouse officers, who kept their uneasy watch on board. With some the ruling passion was so strong, that they insisted on being buried as near as possible to the spot, and a little churchyard was thence established, full of epitaphs of departed gallantry and desperate adventure--a sort of Buccaneer Valhalla, with occasional sculptures and effigies of the sleepers below.
Among those the name of Jack Bradwell lived longest. The others exemplified what Horace said of the injustice of fame, they “wanted a poet” to immortalize them; but Jack took that office on himself, and gave the world an _esquisse_ of his career, in the following rough specimen of the Deptford muse of 1632:--
Fulle thirtie yeares, I lived a smuggler bolde, Dealing in goode Schiedam and Englishe golde. My hande was open, and my hearte was lighte; My owners knew my worde was honour brighte. In the West Indies, too, for seven long yeares, I stoutlie foughte the Dons and the Mounseers. Commander of the tight-built sloop, the Sharke, Late as the owle, and early as the larke, I roamed the sea, nor cared for tide or winde, And left the Guarda Costas all behinde. Until betrayed by woman’s flattering tongue, In San Domingo my three mates were hung. I shot the Judge, forsook the Spanish Maine, And to olde Englande boldlie sailed againe. Was married thrice, and think it rather harde, That I should lie alone in this churchyarde.
But the march of mind is fatal to sentiment. A few years ago all vestiges of Jack were swept away. A neighbouring tanner had taken a liking to the spot, purchased it, planted his pits in it, and carried off Jack’s monument for a chimney-piece!
----But what hills are those edging the horizon, green, soft, and sunny. I hear a burst of sonorous bells--
Over this wide-watered shore, Swinging slow with sullen roar.
No; Milton’s bells are monastic; the solemn clang of some huge cathedral, calling the brethren to vespers, and filling the air with the melancholy pomp of the antique cloister.--These are gay, glad, tumultuous, a clang of joy. It is the Queen’s accession. Flags are flying on every ship and steeple, and I hear a distant cannonade. The guns of Woolwich are firing in honour of the day.
And what palace is looming on my right? Greenwich Hospital. A façade worthy of Greece; ranges of Corinthian columns; vast courts expanding in front; groves and green hills in the rear; and on the esplanade, a whole battalion of one-legged or one-armed heroes, formed in line, and, as we arrive, giving three cheers to the “glory” of her Majesty.
I leave the chroniclers to tell, that this noble establishment was founded by William the Dutchman, of freedom-loving and French-hating memory; that the call for public munificence was answered, as such calls always are, by England; and that at this hour it pensions nearly forty thousand as brave veterans as any in the world.
What magnitude of benevolence was ever equal to this regal and national benefaction? In what form could public gratitude have ever been more nobly displayed? Or by what means, uniting the highest charity to the most just recompense, could comfort have been more proudly administered to the declining days of the British seaman. In the long course of a hundred and fifty years, what thousands, and tens of thousands, must have been rescued, by this illustrious benevolence, from the unhappiness of neglected old age! To what multitudes of brave old hearts must it have given comfort in their distant cottages, and what high recollections must the sight of its memorials and trophies revive in the men who fought under Rodney and Howe, St. Vincent and Nelson! Those are the true evidences of national greatness. Those walls are our witnesses to posterity, that their fathers had not lived in vain. The shield of the country thrown over the sailor and the soldier, against the chances of the world in his old age, is the emblem of a grander supremacy than ever was gained by even its irresistible spear.
----But the steamer has made a dash to the opposite bank, and we glide along the skirts of a small peninsula, marked by a slender stone pillar, where the border of Essex begins.
At this spot, a couple of hundred years ago, a mayor of London had been hanged; for what reason, Elkanah Settle, the city laureate, does not aver, further than that “wise people differed much on the subject,”--some imagining that it was for bigamy; others, that it was for having, at a great banquet given to the king by the corporation of spectacle-makers, mistaken the royal purse for his own; but the chief report being, “that he was hanged for the bad dinners which he gave to the common-councilmen.” The laureate proceeds to say, that at this spot, whenever the mayor of London went down with the Companies in their visitation of the boundaries, the barges all made a solemn stop. The mayor, (he was not yet a lord,) with all the aldermen, knelt on the deck, and the chief chaplain, taking off his cap, repeated this admonition:--
Mister Mayor, Mister Mayor, Of a sinner’s death beware. Liveth virtue, liveth sin Not without us, but within. Man doth never think of ill, While he feedeth at his will. None doth seek his neighbour’s coin, When he seeth the sirloin. No man toucheth purse or life, While he thus doth use his knife. Savoury pie and smoking haunch Make the hungry traitor staunch. Claret spiced, and Malvoisie, From ill Spirits set us free, Better far than axe or sword Is the City’s well filled board. Think of him once, hanging there, Mister Mayor, Mister Mayor, _Chorus._--Beware, Beware, Beware!
The various corporate bodies chanted the last line with unanimous devotion; the mayor and aldermen then rose from their knees, and the whole pageant moved on to Blackwall to DINE.
Who has not heard of Blackwall? more fashionable for three months in the year than Almacks itself for the same perishable period; fuller than Bond Street, and with as many charming taverns as Regent Street contains “Ruination shops,” (so called by Lady J. the most _riante_ wit of the day,) those shops where one can purchase every thing that nobody wants, and that few can pay for. Emporiums, as they name themselves, brilliant collections of all that is dazzling and delightful, from a filigree tooth-pick, up to a service of plate for a royal visitation.
Blackwall is a little city of taverns, built by white-bait, as the islands in the South Sea are built by the coral insect. The scenery is a marsh, backed by the waters of a stagnant canal, and lined with whitewashed warehouses. It is in fact a transfer of Wapping, half-a-dozen miles down the Thames. But Blackwall disdains the picturesque; it scorns exterior charms, and devotes itself to the solid merits of the table, and to dressing white-bait with a perfection unrivalled, and unrivalable in the circumference of the terrestrial globe.
Blackwall deserves to be made immortal, and I gave it a passport to posterity, in an Ode.
ODE TO BLACKWALL.
Let me sing thy praise, Blackwall! Paradise of court and city, Gathering in thy banquet-hall Lords and cockneys--dull, and witty. Spot, where ministers of state, Lay aside their humbug all; Water-souchy, and white-bait, Tempting mankind to Blackwall.
Come, ye Muses, tuneful Nine, Whom no Civil List can bribe, Tell me, who come here, to dine, All the great and little tribe, Who, as summer takes its rounds, O’er Whitechapel, or Whitehall, From five shillings to five pounds, Club for dinner at Blackwall.
There the ministerial _Outs_, There the ministerial _Ins_, One an emblem of the pouts, T’other emblem of the grins; All, beneath thy roof, are gay, Each forgetting rise or fall, Come to spend _one_ honest day,---- All good fellows, at Blackwall.
There I see an old Premier, Very like a “Lord at nurse,” Rather _near_, rather near, Dangling a diminish’d purse. Grieving for the days gone by, When he had a “house of call,” Every day his fish and pie, Gratis--_not_ like thine, Blackwall.
There I see an Irish brow, Bronzed with blarney, hot with wine, Mark’d by nature for the plough, Practising the “Superfine.” Mumbling o’er a courtly speech, Dreaming of a palace Ball, Things not _quite_ within his reach, Though _quite asy_ at Blackwall.
There the prince of Exquisites! O’er his claret looking sloppy, (All the ladies know, “he writes,” Bringing down the price of poppy, Spoiling much his scented paper, Making books for many a stall,) Sits, with languid smile, Lord Vapour, Yawning through thy feast, Blackwall.
By him yawning sits, Earl Patron, Well to artists (_too_ well) known. Generous as a workhouse matron, Tender-hearted as a stone: Laughing at the pair, Lord Scoffer Whispers faction to F--x M--le. _Asking_ an “official offer,” _Ainsi va le monde_ Blackwall.
But, whence comes that storm of gabble, Piercing casement, wall, and door, All the screaming tongues of Babel? ’Tis the “Diplomatic corps,” Hating us with all their souls, If the knaves have souls at all. I’d soon teach them other _roles_, Were I Monarch of Blackwall.
Then, I hear a roar uproarious! ----“There a Corporation dine,” Some are tipsy, some are “glorious,” Some are bellowing for wine; Some for all their sins are pouting, Some beneath the table fall; Some lie singing, some lie shouting,-- Now, farewell to thee, Blackwall.
----Stopped for five minutes at the handsome pier, waiting for the arrival of the railway passengers from London. The scene was animated; the pier crowded with porters, pie-men, wandering minstrels, and that ingenious race, who read “moral lessons” to country gentlemen with their breeches’ pockets open, and negligent of their handkerchiefs.
----Stepped on shore, and, tempted by the attractions of one of the taverns, ordered a bottle of claret, on the principle of the parliamentary machines for cleansing the smoke-conveying orifices of our drawing-rooms. The inconceivable quantity of fuliginous material, which I had swallowed in my transit down the river, would have stifled the voice of a _prima donna_. The claret gave me the sense of a recovered faculty, and as I inhaled, with that cool feeling of enjoyment which salutes the man of London with a consciousness that sea-breezes are in existence, I had leisure to glance along a vista of superb saloons, which would have better suited a Pasha of Bagdad, than the payers of the income tax in the dingiest and mightiest city of the known world.
Yet all was not devoted to the selfish principle. In a recess at the end of the vista was a small bust--a sort of votive offering to the “memory of Samuel Simpson, formerly a waiter in this tavern for the space of fifty years,” this bust having been “here placed by his grateful master, Thomas Hammersley.”
I am proud to have seen, and shall be prouder to rescue, the names of both those Blackwall worthies from oblivion. They have long slept without their fame; for the bust is dated A.D. 1714, the year which closed the existence of that illustrious queen, Anna, whose name, as Swift rather saucily observed, like her friendships,
Both backward and forward was always the _same_.
An honour shared in succeeding ages only by the amiable Lord Glenelg.
But inscribed on the pedestal was an epitaph, which I transferred to my memoranda.
Bacchus! thy wonders fill the wondering world! Thrones in the dust have by thy cups been hurl’d. Yet, still thou had’st for mankind _one_ surprise: There was _one_ honest drawer! and here he lies. Sam Simpson, of the Swan, who, forced to wink At drinking hard in others, did _not_ drink. A man who, living all his life by sots, Yet fairly drew, and fairly fill’d his pots. Steady and sure, his easy way held on, Nor let his chalk score _two_, when called for _one_. If man’s best study is his fellow man, Reader, revere this hero of the Can. ’Twere well for kings, if many a king had been Like him who sleeps beneath yon Churchyard-green.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” saith Solomon; and as the late Lord Mayor said, “I am quite of Solomon’s opinion.” Here is Crabbe, fifty years before he was born. Here is his pomp and his particularity; his force and his facility; his pungency and his picturesque. Is the theory of transmigration true? and has the Blackwall tavern-keeper only reappeared in the Rutlandshire parson? Let the antiquarians settle it among them. I leave it to occupy the life of some future Ritson, to poison some future Stephens with his own ink; and to give the whole race of the Malones the shadow of an excuse for their existence in this world.
But, I hear the snort of the locomotive; I see the cloud of steam rushing towards the pier. The bell rings, the chaos of trunks and passengers is rolled on board. I follow, and Blackwall fades in the distance, as the poets say, “like a dream of departed joys.”
----Came in sight of a promontory, Purfleet, flanked by an immense row of dark-roofed ominous-looking buildings,--these are the gunpowder depôts of the navy and army of the empire. I pretend to no exclusive poltroonery; but I must acknowledge that I highly approved of the speed which carried us past them. If they had blown up at the moment, in what region of the atmosphere should we have been, steamer and all, in five seconds after. Yet, how many things might have turned our whole cargo into gas and carbon at the instant? a flash of lightning; the wire of a Voltaic machine, apparently as harmless as a knitting needle in the hands of an old spinster; the spark of a peasant’s pipe; the scrape of a hob-nailed shoe! Within a hundred yards of us there lay, in “grim repose,” a hundred thousand barrels of gunpowder. We might have lighted them from the sparks of our funnel, and committed an involuntary suicide on the most comprehensive scale.
But we should not have perished unknown. As the maid, in Schiller’s famous Monologue, sings,--
Even in the solitudes Of the Transatlantic woods, Where the elk and bison stalk, Men of that dark day should talk. Old men by their fireside sitting, Maidens in the sunset knitting, Still should think of that dark day. Till the world itself grew gray.
If the magazine at Purfleet were to explode, the Thames would be routed out of its bed, and carried into Tunbridge Wells; Woolwich would be a cinder, Gravesend an ash-pit, Chatham a cemetery, Blackwall a nonentity, the Tunnel a tomb, and one half of the mighty metropolis itself but a recollection.
Yet human beings actually _live_ at Purfleet! actually eat, drink, and sleep, with this volcano beside their pillows; Essex picnics are eaten within sight of this earth-shaker. Nay, balls have been given; and creatures, calling themselves rational, have danced quadrilles, with the salient temerity of the incurably insane. What a short-sighted and saltatory thing is human nature!
Among the changes produced by the new importation of passengers, it was my fate to be placed beside the Authoress; who did me the honour of thinking me worthy of her notice, and who rapidly admitted me into the most unbounded confidence, respecting the merits of her own performances, and the demerits of all the world of authorship besides. I listened with the most profound submission; only filling up the pauses, when she stopped to take breath; by a gesture of acquiescence, or that most valuable of all words, “Yes.” She “had met me,” in a hundred places, where I was not conscious of having ever been; and “recognised my style” in a hundred volumes which I had never read. In short, she was charmed with me; and confessed, after half an hour of the most uninterrupted eloquence on her side; that “though evidently cautious of giving an opinion,” I should thenceforth be ranked by her, among the most brilliant conversationalists of the day.
Must I acknowledge, that I forgot as expeditiously as I learned, and, excepting _one_ recollection, all was a blank by dinner time.
But we _had_ met once before, in a scene, which, on afterwards casually turning over some papers, I found recorded on those scraps of foolscap, and in those snatches of rhyme, which argue, I am afraid, a desultory mind. So be it. I disdain to plead “not guilty” to the charge of perfection. I make no attempt to exonerate myself of the cardinal virtues. I write poetry, because it is “better behaved” than prose; and in this feeling I give the history to a sympathizing world.
THE POET’S AUCTION.
As I stroll’d down St. James’s, I heard a voice cry, “The auction’s beginning, come buy, sir, come buy.” On a door was a crape, on a wall a placard, Proclaiming to earth, it had lost its last bard. In I rambled, and, climbing a dark pair of stairs, Found _all_ the blue-stockings, all giggling in pairs; The crooked of tongue, and the crooked of spine, _All_ ugly as Hecate, and old as the Nine. Tol de rol.
There were A, B, C, D,’s--all your “ladies of letters,” Well known for a trick of abusing their betters; With their _beaus_! the old snuffling and spectacled throng, Who haunt their “_soirees_” for liqueurs and souchong; There was “dear Mrs. Blunder,” who scribbles Astronomy-- Miss Babble, who “owns” the “sweet” Tales on Gastronomy; Miss Claptrap, who writes the “Tractarian Apologies,” With a host of old virgins, all stiff in the ologies. Tol de rol.
There sat, grim as a ghoul, the sublime Mrs. Tomb, With rouged Mrs. Lamp, like a corpse in full bloom, And the hackney-coach tourist, old Mrs. Bazaar, Who lauds every ass with a ribbon and star; Describes every tumble-down Schloss, brick by brick, And quotes her flirtations with “dear Metternich;” With those frolicsome ladies who visit harāms, And swallow, like old Lady Mary, their qualms. Tol de rol.
There was, dress’d _à la Chickasaw_, Miss Chesapeak, Who makes novels as naked as “nymphs from the Greek;” Mrs. Myth, with a chin like a Jew’s upon Hermon; Mrs. Puff, who reviewed the archbishop’s last sermon; Miss Scamper, who runs up the Rhine twice a-year, To tell us how Germans smoke pipes and swill beer. All the _breakfasting_ set: for the bard “drew a line,” And ask’d the Magnificoes only, to dine. Tol de rol.
There stood old Viscount Bungalow, hiding the fire, As blind as a beetle, the great picture-buyer; With Earl Dilettante, stone-deaf in both ears, An opera-fixture these last fifty years; Little Dr. de Rougemont, the famous Mesmeric, Who cures all the girls by a touch of hysteric; And Dean Dismal, court-chaplain, whose pathos and prose Would beat Mesmer himself at producing a doze. Tol de rol.
And there, with their eyes starting out of their sockets, A tribe, whose light fingers I keep from my pockets, _Messieurs les Attaches_, all grin and moustache, With their souls in full scent for our heiresses’ cash. Four eminent lawyers, with first-rate intentions Of living the rest of their lives on their pensions, With six heads of colleges, hurried to town, To know if Sir Bob, or Lord John, would go down. Tol de rol.
“Here’s a volume of verse,” was the auctioneer’s cry. “What! nobody bids!--Tom, throw that book by. Though it cost the great author one half of his life, Unplagued (I beg pardon) with children or wife. Here’s an Epic in embryo, still out of joint, Here’s a bushel of Epigrams wanting the point, With a lot of _Impromptus_, all finished to fit A dull diner-out with _extempore_ wit. Tol de rol.
“Here’s a sonnet, inscribed ‘To the Shade of a Sigh.’ A ‘Lament’ on ‘The Death of a Favourite Fly;’ And, well worth a shilling, that sweetest of lays-- To the riband that tied up a ‘Duchess’s stays.’ Here’s a note from a Young-England Club, for a _loan_, Lord B----’s famous speech on ‘The Sex of Pope Joan,’ With the bard’s private budget of H--ll--d House stories, Of Tories turned Whigs, and of Whigs _turning_ Tories. Tol de rol.
“What! nobody bids! Must I shut up the sale? Well; take all the verses at so much per bale! I come to the autographs:--One from _the_ Duke, Assigning the cause for cashiering his cook; A missive from Byr-n,--a furious epistle,-- Which proves that a bard may pay “dear for his whistle;” With letters from geniuses, sunk in despair By the doctrine, that ‘Poets should live upon air.’ Tol de rol.
“A scrap from Bob Burns, to d--n the Excise, Where they sent him to perish--(a word to the wise;) A line from Sir W-lt-r, in anguish and debt, To thank his good king for _what never came yet_; A song from the minstrel of minstrels, T-m M--re, To laud his ‘dear country’ for keeping him poor; With a prayer from old Coleridge, in hope that his bones Might escape all the humbug of ‘National stones!’ Tol de rol.
“Here’s a note to T-m C-mpb-ll, (indorsed, ‘_From a Peer_,’) To mulct Income-tax from his hundred a-year; Pinn’d up with a note from his _Chef_ to his Grace, That he ‘must have five hundred, or throw up his place;’ Here’s an epitaph written by Haydon’s last pen-- Poh! Genius may die in a ditch or a den! The country wants none of it, female or male, So, as no one bids sixpence, I’ll shut up the sale.” Tol de rol.
PRUSSIAN MILITARY MEMOIRS.
“_Vieux soldat, vieille bête_,” is a French proverb, implying an exceedingly low estimate of the mental acuteness of the veteran soldier. We do not know that English soldiers are quicker witted than French ones; better educated we know they are not, except, as we love to believe, in what pertains to push of bayonet. But in how much more flattering terms is couched the popular opinion in this country, concerning the capacity and wit of the man of musket and sabre. On this side the Channel, to be an “old soldier” implies something remarkably knowing--a man quite “up to snuff,” and a trifle above it. “He’s too old a soldier for that,” signifies that the “_he_” is a very sharp and wary dog, the last fellow to be taken in or made a fool of. “He came the old soldier over me,” is a common cant acknowledgment of having met more than one’s match--of having been overreached or outwitted. Other similar phrases are there, familiar to most ears, and unnecessary to cite. They concur to show a prevailing belief, that a long habit of scarlet--we mean no pun--and familiarity with pipeclay, or else the many vicissitudes and much experience of life they argue, polish the soldier’s faculties to a particularly sharp point, and remove from his character each vestige of the unsophisticated, as effectually as he himself, with sand and oil-rag, would rub all stain of rust from scabbard or barrel. There is exaggeration in this notion. It is not unusual to find in veteran soldiers, a dash of _naive_ simplicity, even of childish credulity, co-existent with much shrewdness and knowledge of the world. For this incongruity, let physiologists account; we shall not investigate its causes. The remark applies to soldiers of most countries; for, with certain shades of difference, derivable from climate, race, and national customs, the soldier is the same every where. The original material is various, but the moulds in which it is fashioned are to a great extent identical. Divide the whole population of Europe according to trades and professions, and in the military class shall the least diversity be found.
We strongly suspect that Baron von Rahden, whose “Wanderings” we noticed in a previous number of this Magazine, and from whose agreeable pages we propose again to glean, is a fine example of the compound character above described. On duty, none more matter-of-fact than he, none more prompt and keen in conduct and language; but, suspend the activity of camps, and dangers of the fight, remove him for a moment from his battalion’s ranks and the routine of service, and behold! he builds up all idyl about a peasant girl and cow; or, better still, and more fully confirming our opinion, treats you with all gravity and deep conviction to a spice of the supernatural. Of his ghostly gambols we will forthwith give a specimen.
It was in the month of October, 1812, that a party of young cadets, of whom the baron was one, left Breslin for Berlin, there to pass their examination as officers. The ordeal to which the aspirants hastened was severe and dreaded, and the journey was no very soothing preparation for the rigours of the examiners. German roads and diligences were far less respectable then than now, and the lumbering carriage in which the cadets, in company with Polish Jews, market-women, baskets, bags, and blankets, prosecuted their journey, was a bone-setter of most inhuman construction. Its wooden lining was clouted with nails, compelling the travellers to preserve a rigid perpendicular, lest a sudden jolt should diminish the number of their teeth, or increase that of the apertures of their heads. About midnight this modern barrel of Regulus reached a large town, and paused to deposit passengers. The halt was of some duration, and the cadets dispersed themselves about the streets. One of them, designated by the Baron under the initial Von L., did not re-appear till the post-horn had sounded its fourth signal, when he came up in haste and agitation and threw himself into the carriage, which immediately drove off. The next day this youth, who had been silent and gloomy since the halt of the previous night, was taken grievously ill, a misfortune attributed by his comrades to a plentiful breakfast of sour milk and sausages. On their return from Berlin, however, Von L., whose health was still delicate, and depression visible, showed, on passing the scene of their midnight halt, symptoms of uneasiness so strong as to excite suspicion that his illness had had some extraordinary cause. That this suspicion was well founded, he, at a later period, confessed to Baron von Rahden, who tells the story in his friend’s own words.
“Being very thirsty,” said Von L., “I lingered at the great fountain on the market-place, and there I was presently joined by a young peasant girl, carrying a great earthen pitcher. We soon became great friends. It was too dark for me clearly to distinguish the features of my little Rebecca, but I nevertheless readily complied with her tittered invitation to escort her home. Arm in arm we wandered through the narrow by-streets, till we reached a large garden, having a grated door, which stood half open. Here the damsel proposed that we should part, and nimbly evaded my attempt to detain her. She ran from me with suppressed laughter. I eagerly followed, soon overtook her, and, by flattery and soothing words, prevailed on her to sit down beside me upon a bank of soft turf in the shadow of overhanging trees. Here, for a short quarter of an hour, we toyed and prattled, when I was roused from my boyish love-dream by the distant sound of the post-horn. I sprang to my feet; at the same instant, with a peal of shrill wild laughter, my companion disappeared. My light and joyous humour suddenly checked, I looked about me. I was now better able to distinguish surrounding objects; and with what indescribable horror did I recognise in the supposed garden a churchyard, in the turf bank a grave, in the sheltering foliage a cypress. And now all that related to the maiden seemed so mysterious, her manner occurred to me as so strange and unearthly! How I found out the gate of the cemetery, I know not. I remember stumbling over the graves and rushing in the direction whence the postilion’s horn still sounded, pursued by echoes of scornful laughter. Shuddering and breathless, I at length rejoined my comrades, but the impression made upon me by that night’s adventure has never been effaced.”
So much for the Baron’s friend. Now for the Baron himself, who relates all this, be it observed, with a most commendable solemnity, implying conviction of the supernatural nature of his comrade’s adventure. “With reference to this unnatural occurrence,” he says, “I frequently met my friend during the war and the early years of the peace, but never without that incident recurring to me, and the more so, as from that day forward, melancholy settled upon Von L.’s manly and handsome countenance. He strove, with indifferent success, as it appeared to me, to combat his depression by dissipation and worldly pleasures; but the expression of his dark eye was ever one of severe mental suffering. He never married or partook of the peaceful joys of domestic existence. During the War of Liberation he distinguished himself by daring courage and reckless exposure of his life, was repeatedly wounded, and died suddenly at the age of thirty, in the full bloom and strength of manhood. He is still well remembered as a gallant officer and thorough soldier.
“Whilst on a visit to the town of N., a few years ago, my evening walk frequently led me, in company with a much esteemed friend, to the churchyard where Von L., after his short and melancholy career, had at last found repose. During one of these walks, my companion related to me the following story:--At the hour of twelve, upon three successive nights, the sentry, whose lonely post was adjacent to the cemetery, had challenged the rounds, as they approached through the deep shadow of an arched gateway. To his question, ‘Who makes the rounds?’ was each time replied, in deep sepulchral tones, ‘Captain von L.’ and at the same instant the visionary patrol vanished. So runs the guard-room tale.” Which the Baron is sufficiently reasonable to treat as such, although he assures his readers that, even after an interval of three-and-thirty years, he does not write down the details of his melancholy friend’s adventure with the mysterious _aquaria_ without something very like a shudder. In a collection of _Mahrchen_ this very German story might have been accepted as an endurable fragment of imaginative _diablerie_, but coming thus in the semi-historical autobiography of a hero of Leipzig and Waterloo, and Knight of the Iron Cross, it certainly subjects the writer to the application of the uncomplimentary French proverb already cited.
As a boy--and during his German and French campaigns, he was but a boy--Baron von Rahden showed an odd mixture of the manly and the childish. Cool and brave in the fight, bearing wounds and hardship with courage and fortitude, the loss of a trinket made him weep; an elder comrade’s rebuke rendered him down-cast and unhappy as a whipped school-boy. Scarcely had he joined his regiment, when he was admitted to the intimacy of a Lieutenant Patzynski, an experienced officer and crack duellist. It was a mode amongst the young officers, when sitting round the punchbowl, to enter into contracts of brotherhood. The process was exceedingly simple. The glasses clattered together, an embrace was given, and thenceforward the partakers in the ceremony addressed each other in the second person singular, in sign of intimacy and friendship. Emboldened by the patronage of the formidable Patzynski, and heated by a joyous repast, Von Rahden one day approached Lieutenant Merkatz, who was considerably his senior both in rank and years, and proffered him the fraternal embrace. “With the greatest pleasure, my dear boy,” replied Merkatz, who had observed with some disgust the forward bearing of the unfledged subaltern, “but on one condition. You shall address me as _Sie_, and I will call you _Er_.” The former being the most respectful style of address, the latter slighting and even contemptuous, only used to servants and inferiors. Cowed by this unkind, if not undeserved reproof, Von Rahden retreated in confusion. Subsequently he met many unpleasant slights and rebuffs from Merkatz; but they did him good, and his persecutor eventually became his warm friend. This, however, was not till the recruit had proved his manhood in many a hot fight and sharp encounter. “Forward,” said the stern Prussian soldier on the field of Lutzen, when, borne back bleeding from the foremost line of skirmishers, he met Von Rahden hurrying to replace him. “Forward, boy! Yonder will you find brothers!” In the smoke of the battle, not in the fumes of the orgie, were the esteem and friendship of Germany’s tried defenders to be conquered. After the battle of Kulm, Von Rahden bought a French watch, part of a soldier’s plunder; and his pride and delight in this trinket were, according to his own confession, something quite childish. His comrades, with whom he was a favourite, bore with his exultation. Merkatz alone showed a disposition to check it. He had assumed the character of a surly Mentor, resolved, apparently, to cure his young comrade of his follies, and drill him into a man. He now assured Von Rahden that if he did not leave off playing with, and displaying, his watch, he would knock it out of his hand the very first opportunity. This soon presented itself. Whilst bivouacking in the mountains of Bohemia, the two officers chanced one night to be seated near each other at the same fire, and Von Rahden, forgetting his companion’s menace, repeatedly pulled out his watch, until Merkatz, with a blow of a stick, shivered it to pieces. “Although, in general, when my comrades’ jokes displeased me, I was ready enough to answer them with my sabre, on this occasion I was so astonished and grieved, that I burst into tears, and retreated to my couch in the corner of the hut, where I sobbed myself to sleep.” This whimpering young gentleman, however, was the same, who, only a few days previously, in the hottest moment of the battle of Kulm, had led his men, encouraging them by voice and deed, up to the very musket-muzzles of the parapeted Frenchmen, and who, twice already, had been wounded amidst the foremost of the combatants. At the fight of May, too, although that was somewhat later, his bravery was such as to attract the notice of Prince Augustus of Prussia. The men of his battalion were weary and exhausted by a hard day’s combat, when, suddenly and unexpectedly, they were again ordered forward into a fierce fire of artillery. They murmured and hesitated, and for a moment refused to advance. “Upon this occasion, I was fortunate enough to contribute, by boyish and joyous humour, for which the men all liked me, and by my contempt of danger, in restoring courage and confidence. Shot and shell flew about us, and the younger soldiers were hard to keep in their ranks. I ran forward thirty or forty paces to the front, and several shells happening to fall close to me without bursting, I laughed at and cut jokes upon them. At last the men laughed too, and came willingly forward. Such little incidents occur in far less time than it takes to tell of them. So it was here; but we had effected what we wanted--the men were in better humour. I had no idea that Prince Augustus had observed my behaviour, which was certainly rather juvenile; and when I saw him standing near me, I was ashamed and drew back; but he called out to me, and said, in a loud voice, ‘Very good! very good! Lieutenant Rahden,’ and then spoke a few words to Count Reichenbach. From that day I found great favour with our illustrious general of brigade. The first proof of it was the Iron Cross.”
Von Rahden’s final reconciliation with Merkatz took place under the enemy’s fire. It was the day after Montmirail, and Blucher’s _corps d’armée_, after gallantly protecting Ziethen’s beaten troops from Gronchy’s cavalry, itself retreated towards Etoges. At about half a league from that place, whilst marching along a road that ran between vineyards, the French tirailleurs attacked them, and cavalry patrols came in to inform the Field-marshal that Etoges was occupied by the enemy. But the Baron shall tell the story himself.
“In darkness, surrounded by foes, ignorant of the ground we manœuvred upon, a handful of men against a powerful force, and our old Father Blucher, with the elite of his generals, in danger of being taken--all this made up an alarming picture. But the greater the need, the prompter the deed. In an instant it was decided to throw out skirmishers into the vineyards, whilst the battalions, formed close and compact round the Field-marshal, should cut their way along the road. Count Reichenbach gave his orders accordingly; and his adjutant, Lieutenant Merkatz, who sat chilled and weary upon his horse, turned mechanically to me, and desired me to extend my skirmishers on the left of the road. This was beyond a joke: I had been skirmishing the whole day, perpetually under fire, and hard at work since nine in the morning. Tired to death, I had been heartily glad to rejoin my battalion, and now I was ordered out again into the cold dark night, and on the most uncertain service. All my old grudge against Merkatz recurred to me, and, as it was not my turn for the duty, I answered him in loud and marked tones, ‘Order out somebody else, and don’t be too lazy to ride to the next company.’ When, however, Count Reichenbach turned round, and with some displeasure desired me to speak less loud in the neighbourhood of the General-in-chief, I became more complying, and only argued that my large cloak, which I carried rolled over my shoulder, would hinder me in the vineyards. ‘Give me the cloak here,’ replied Merkatz: ‘I am freezing upon my horse.’ What could I do? Time pressed: so venting my ill humour in a few grumbling words, I threw my cloak to the adjutant, and hurried with my skirmishers to the vineyard. I had taken but a few steps, however, when an arm was thrown round me. It was that of Merkatz. ‘Listen, Rahden,’ said he; ‘before we part, perhaps for ever, become my brother for life, and let us forget all past unkindness.’ I replied by a hearty embrace, for I had long esteemed Merkatz as one of the bravest of my comrades, and, elated at the atonement he now made me for having refused my friendship at the commencement of the previous campaign, I pressed forward cheerfully into the fight.”
The French cavalry had been several hours in possession of Etoges, had removed the railings from the wells, and sawn the timbers of a bridge which crossed a broad and muddy stream. As soon as the Prussians set foot on it, it broke down, and an awful confusion ensued. The panic was aggravated by the darkness, and by the fire of the enemy, who blazed at the Allies from behind trees and houses. In attempting to jump the stream, Von Rahden fell in, and all his efforts only sank him deeper in the mud. A number of soldiers, who had also missed the leap, struggled beside him, involuntarily wounding each other with their fixed bayonets. Von Rahden gave himself up for lost. “I uttered a short prayer, gave one thought to my distant home, and awaited the death blow. My senses had already half left me, when I heard a well-known voice exclaim, ‘Lieutenant, where are you?’ With a last effort I raised myself, and saw Schmidt, my sergeant of skirmishers, peering down into the ditch. He held out his musket. I seized it with the grasp of desperation, and the brave fellow dragged me up. Barefoot, and covered with mud, I followed in the stream of fugitives. So great was the hurry and disorder of the flight, that if the enemy had sent a single squadron after us, thousands of prisoners must have been taken. It seems incomprehensible that they did not pursue; but I think I may safely affirm, that a young Russian officer, whose name I do not know, saved the army by his presence of mind. In a loud voice, he shouted several times, ‘Barabanczek! Barabanczek!’ which means a drummer. A number of drummers and buglers gathered around him and beat and blew a charge. The French did not suspect the stratagem; and supposing that reinforcements were coming up under cover of the night, they would not risk, by a pursuit, the advantage they had already gained. My friend, Merkatz, was amongst the prisoners taken upon that disastrous evening; but he soon managed to escape, leaving behind him, however, his own horse, and my warm and much prized cloak.”
A terrible campaign was that of 1813-14; and the man who had made it, from Lutzen to Paris, might well style himself a veteran, though his whole military career were comprised in the short ten months of its duration. What incessant fighting! not occasional battles, with long intervals, varied by insignificant skirmishes, but a rapid succession of pitched and bloody fields. No rest or relaxation, or pleasant repose in comfortable quarters, but short rations and the bivouac’s hard couch as sole solace for the weary and suffering soldier. The hardships of the allied armies are briefly, but frequently and impressively adverted to by the Baron von Rahden. As if the ravages of lead and steel were insufficient, disease and exposure added their quota to the harvest of death. “Although in the height of summer,” says the Baron, speaking of the month of August, 1813, “we had had, for three days past, uninterrupted rains, and the fat black soil was so soaked, that our progress was painfully difficult. We could bivouac only in meadows, and on the uncut corn. In fallow or stubble fields we must have lain in mud. We were very ill fed; the commissariat stores were far in rear, detained in the mountain passes, and for several days our only nourishment consisted of wild fruits, potatoes and turnips, which the men dug up in the fields. Our clothes and equipment, to the very cartouch-boxes, were wet through, and not a ray of sun, a tree or house, or even a bivouac fire, was there for warmth or shelter.” With vermin also, bequeathed to them often by their Cossack allies, the Prussians were grievously tormented. “In our camp, by Chlumetz, in Bohemia, where we passed some days, we had rain and other bivouac calamities to put up with. The straw served out to us had already been slept upon; and the consequence was, an invasion of our clothes and persons by certain small creeping things of a very unpleasant description. Whether they were of Austrian or Russian extraction I am unable to state; nor did it much matter: we succeeded to them. Looking out of my hut one morning, I saw a man issue from one of the straw-built sheds occupied by the soldiers, and run, wringing his hands, to an adjacent wood. I followed him, to prevent mischief, and recognised an old friend and fellow cadet, Von P. He was in the greatest despair. The soldiers had turned him out of their temporary abode. The poor fellow swarmed with vermin. I succeeded in calming him, fetched him clean linen, and after a careful examination of his clothes in a neighbouring oat-field, he returned with me to my hut, which he thenceforward inhabited. Should the Russian commandant of the Polish fortress of Czenstochau chance to read these pages, and remember the above incident, let him give a friendly thought to his old brother in arms, who will soon again have to speak of the brave Von P., of the Second Silesian Regiment.” If, in the rugged Bohemian mountains, hardships were to be anticipated, in the plains of Champagne things might have been expected to go better. If possible, they went worse. “To speak plainly,” says the Baron, referring to the campaign in France, which commenced very early in the year, “filth and ordure were our couch; rain, ice, and snow, our covering; half-raw cow’s flesh, mouldy biscuits, and sour wine lees, our nourishment; for heart and mind, the sole relaxation was shot, and blow, and stab. Some one has said, ‘Make war with angels for twenty years and they will become devils.’ To that I add, ‘Six months of such a life as we then led, and men would turn into beasts.’” Little wonder if soldiers thus situated greedily seized each brief opportunity of enjoyment. The cellars of Ai and Epernay paid heavy tribute to the thirsty Northern warriors. We are told of one instance where a whole division of the allied army was unable to march, and an important military operation had to be suspended, in consequence of a Pantagruelian debauch at a chateau near Chalons, where champagne bottles, by tens of thousands, were emptied down Prussian and Muscovite gullets. The sacking of their cellars, however, was not the only evil endured at the hands of the invaders by the unlucky vine-growers. Wood was scarce, the nights were very cold, and the sticks upon which the vines were trained, were pulled up and used as fuel. Sometimes, in a single night, many hundreds of thousands of these _echalas_ were thus destroyed, every one of them being worth, owing to the hardness and rarity of the wood required for them, at least two _sous_. Their second visit to France hardly entered into the anticipations of the reckless destroyers, or they would perhaps have had more consideration for that year’s vintage.
From a host of anecdotes of Baron von Rahden’s brother-officers, we select the following as an interesting and characteristic incident of Prussian camp-life three-and-thirty years ago. It is told in what the Baron calls his poetical style:
“My captain, a Pole by birth, was brave as steel, but harsh and rough as the sound of his name. He was deficient in the finer feelings of the heart, in philanthropy, and in a due appreciation of the worth of his fellow-men. Although a good comrade to us young officers, he was a tyrant to his inferiors. His envy and jealousy of his superiors he barely concealed under an almost exaggerated courtesy. Such was Captain von X.
“It was the eve of the battle of Leipzig, and a violent gust of wind had overthrown the fragile bivouac-huts, at that time our only protection from the cold and wet of the October nights. The rain fell in torrents, and, in all haste, the soldiers set to work to reconstruct their temporary shelter. The more cunning and unscrupulous took advantage of the prevailing confusion to consult their own advantage, without respect to the rights of others. The objects which they coveted, and occasionally pillaged, would, under other circumstances, have been of little worth: they consisted of straw, branches, and stakes, invaluable in the construction of our frail tenements. As in duty bound, our military architects first built up the captain’s hut, within which he took refuge, after ordering me to remain outside and preserve order. As junior officer of the company, this fatigue-duty fairly fell to me, in like manner as the first turn for an honourable service belonged to the senior; but, nevertheless, I felt vexed at the captain’s order, and could not help wishing him some small piece of ill luck. My wish was very soon realized.
“Our major’s hut, more carefully and strongly constructed, had resisted the hurricane: it stood close beside that of the captain. The major was long since asleep and snoring; but his servant, a cunning, careful dog, was still a-foot, and watched his opportunity to get possession of a long bean-stick, to be used as an additional prop to the already solid edifice under which his master slumbered. The unlucky marauder had not remarked that this stake formed one of the supports of the captain’s dormitory. He seized and pulled it violently, and down came the hut, burying its inmate under the ruins. There was a shout of laughter from the spectators of the downfal, and then the Pole disengaged himself from the wreck, cursing awfully, and rushed upon the unfortunate fellow who had played him the trick. Pale and trembling, the delinquent awaited his fate; but his cry of terror brought him assistance from his master, who suddenly stepped forth in his night-dress, a large gray cavalry cloak thrown about him, and a white cloth bound round his head. The major was an excellent and kind-hearted man, loved like a father by his men, but subject to occasional fits of uncontrollable passion, which made him lose sight of all propriety and restraint. Without investigation, he at once took his servant’s side against the captain, in which he was certainly wrong, seeing that his worthy domestic had been caught in the very act of theft. He snatched the bean-stick from the man’s hand: the captain already grasped the other end; and, for some minutes, there they were, major and captain, pulling, and tugging, and reeling about the bivouac, not like men, but like a brace of unmannerly boys. Myself and the soldiers were witnesses of this singular encounter. Accustomed to regard our superiors with fear and respect, we now beheld them in the most childish and ludicrous position. Astonishment kept us motionless and silent. At last the captain made a violent effort to wrest the pole from his antagonist: the major held firm, and resisted with all his strength; when, suddenly, his opponent let go his hold, and our major, a little round man, measured his length in the mud. In an instant he was on his feet again. Throwing away the bean-stick, and stepping close up to his opponent, ‘To-morrow,’ said he, ‘we will settle this like men: here we have been fools; and you, captain, a malicious fool.’
“‘I accept your invitation with pleasure,’ replied the captain, ‘and trust our next meeting will be with bullets. But, for to-day, the pole is mine.’ And he seized it triumphantly.
“‘Certainly; yours to-day,’ retorted the major. ‘To-morrow we will fight it out upon my dirty cloak.’
“The morrow came, and the battle began, not, however, between major and captain, but between French and Prussians. Silent we stood in deep dark masses, listening to the music of the bullets. ‘Firm and steady!’ was the command of our little major--of the same man who, a few hours before, had played so childish a part. Skirmishers were called in, and a charge with the bayonet ordered. The foe abandoned his first position. Animated by success, we attacked the second. Our battalion hurried on from one success to another, and my gallant captain was ever the first to obey, in the minutest particular, the orders of our famous little major. The noble emulation between the two brave fellows was unmistakeable. In their third position the French defended themselves with unparalleled obstinacy, and our young soldiers, in spite of their moral superiority, were compelled to recede. ‘Forward, my fine fellows!’ cried the major; ‘Follow me, men!’ shouted the captain, and, seizing the sinking standard, whose bearer had just been shot, he raised it on high, and dashed in amongst the foe. With a tremendous ‘Hurra!’ the whole line followed, and Napoleon’s ‘Vieille Garde’ was forced to a speedy retreat.
“The major gazed in admiration at his bitter opponent of the preceding day. Calling him to him, he clasped him in his arms. For a moment the two men were enveloped in the cloak upon which they were to have fought. Words cannot describe that scene. Suddenly a cannon-ball boomed through the air, and, lo! they lay upon the ground, shattered and lifeless, reconciliation their dying thought. The fight over, and our bivouac established in a stubble-field, we paid then the last military honours. Fifty men, all that remained of my company, followed their bodies, and a tear stood in every eye as we consigned the gallant fellows to one grave.”
With bitter and ill-suppressed rage did the military portion of the French nation, after a brief but busy campaign, see themselves compelled to submission, their emperor an exile, their hearths intruded upon by the foreigners who, at Jena and Wagram, Austerlitz and Marengo, had quailed and fled before their conquering eagles. Resistance, in a mass, was no longer to be thought of: the French army was crushed, crippled, almost annihilated, but its individual members still sought opportunities of venting their fury upon the hated victors. By sneer, and slighting word, and insulting look, they strove to irritate and lure them to the lists; and their provocations, even the more indirect ones, rarely failed of effect. On the duelling-ground, as in the field, steady German courage was found fully a match for the _brio_ and presumption of these French _spadassins_. After the capitulation of Paris, Von Rahden’s regiment was sent into country-quarters at Amiens, and they were but a few days in the town before the ill-smothered antipathy between Gaul and German broke out into a flame.
“When we were fairly installed in our quarters, and the first little squabbles and disagreements between towns-people and soldiers had been settled, chiefly by the good offices of the authorities, we officers gave ourselves up to the pleasures of the place, amongst which a large and elegant _café_ was not to be forgotten. In this coffee-house the tables were of marble, the walls covered with mirrors, the windows and doors of plate-glass, in gilt frames. All was gold and glitter, and the _dames de comptoir_ might, from their appearance, have been fashionable ladies, placed there to lead the conversation. All this was very new and attractive, and well calculated to dazzle us young men. Accordingly, from early morn till late at night, hundreds of officers, of all arms, sat in the _café_, drinking, playing, and sighing.
Happening one forenoon to be orderly-officer, I received several complaints from soldiers concerning the younger son of the family upon which they were quartered. He had returned home only the day before, had shown himself very unfriendly towards the men, and did his utmost to irritate their other hosts against them. Upon inquiry, I found the complaint to be just, and that a young and handsome man, of military appearance, was doing all in his power to excite ill-will towards us. After several warnings, which were unattended to, I was compelled to arrest and put him in the guard-room, menacing him with further punishment. This done, I joined my comrades at the _café_.
“That day our favourite place of resort presented an unusual aspect. A regiment of French hussars, on its march westwards, had halted for the night at Amiens, and upwards of twenty of the officers were now seated in the coffee-house. There was a good deal of talk going on, but not so much as usual; and the division between the different nations was strongly marked. To the right the hussars had assembled, crowded round three or four tables; on the other side of the saloon sat fifty or sixty Prussian infantry officers. The situation was not the most agreeable, and there was a mutual feeling of constraint. Presently there came to the coffee-house (by previous arrangement, as I am fully persuaded) one of those Italian pedlars, for the most part spies and thieves, of whom at that time great numbers were to be met with in France and other parts of the Continent. Stopping at the glazed door opening into the street, he offered his wares for sale. Soon one of the hussar officers called to him in excellent German, and asked him if he had any pocket-books to sell. He wanted one, he said, to note down the anniversaries of the battles of Jena, Austerlitz, &c. Although this inquiry was manifestly a premeditated insult, we Prussians remained silent, as if waiting to see what would come next. The pedlar supplied the demands of the Frenchman, and was about to leave the room, when one of our officers, Lieutenant von Sebottendorf, of the 23d infantry regiment, called to him in his turn, and observed, in a loud voice, that he also required a pocket-book, wherein to mark the battles of Rossbach, the Katzbach, and Leipzig. The names of Rossbach and Leipzig served for a signal. As by word of command, the hussars sprang from their chairs and drew their long sabres; we followed their example, and bared our weapons, which for the most part were small infantry swords. In an instant a mêlée began; the French pressing upon Sebottendorf; we defending him. At the same moment the hussar trumpets and our drums sounded and beat in the streets. As officer of the day, those sounds called me away. With great difficulty I got out of the café, and hurried to the main-guard, which was already menaced by the assembled hussars. I had just made my men load with ball-cartridge--we had no other--when luckily several companies came up and rescued me from my very critical position. Nothing is more painful than to be compelled to use decisive and severe measures in such a conjuncture, at the risk of one’s acts being disapproved and disavowed.
“Meanwhile, in the coffee-house, a somewhat indecorous fight went on, the mirrors and windows were smashed, and the scuffle ended by the officers forcing each other out into the street. All these affronts naturally would have to be washed out in blood. In a quarter of an hour our battalions were drawn up in the market-place: the general commanding at Amiens, and who just then happened to be absent, had given the strictest orders, that, in case of such disturbances, we were not to use our arms till the very last extremity. We were compelled, therefore, patiently to allow the French to march through our ranks, on foot and with drawn sabres, challenging us to the fight, as they passed, not with words, certainly, but by their threatening looks. Amongst them I saw, to my great astonishment, the young civilian whom I had that morning put in confinement, and who now passed several times before me, in hussar uniform, and invited me to follow him. In the confusion of the first alarm, he had escaped from the guard-room, put on regimentals, and now exhaled his vindictiveness in muttered invectives against me and the detested Prussians. Of course I could not leave my company; and, had I been able, it would have been very foolish to have done so.
“In a short half-hour the French and Prussian authorities were assembled. The hussars received orders to march away instantly, and we were to change our quarters the next day. Before we did so, however, rendezvous was taken and kept by several hussar officers, on the one hand, and by Lieutenant Sebottendorf, his second, Merkatz, and six others of our regiment, on the other, to fight the matter out. Sebottendorf and his opponent, who had commenced the dispute, also began the fight. They walked up to the barriers, fixed at ten paces; the Frenchman’s shot knocked the cap off the head of our comrade, who returned the fire with such cool and steady aim, that his opponent fell dead upon the spot. Another hussar instantly sprang forward to take his turn with Merkatz. I looked about for my young antagonist; but no one had seen him since the previous day, nor did the French officers know whom I meant; so it is possible that, favoured by the confusion of the previous day, he had donned a uniform to which he had no right. There was no more fighting, however. After long discussions and mutual explanations, matters were peaceably arranged. The officer who had caused the strife, alone bore the penalty. He was carried away by his comrades, and we repaired to our new cantonments. The brave Von Sebottendorf had vindicated with fitting energy and decision the fame and honour of the Prussian officer.”
The month of February, 1815, witnessed the return to Germany of Von Rahden’s battalion. A soldier’s home is wherever the quarters are best; and it was with many regrets that the Baron and his comrades left the pleasant cantonments and agreeable hospitality of gay and lively France, for the dull fortress of Magdeburg. The Baron shudders at the bare recollection of the unwelcome change, and of the subsequent reduction of his regiment to the peace establishment. Nor, according to his account, did any very hearty welcome from their civilian countrymen console the homeward-bound warriors for stoppage of field-allowance and diminished chance of promotion. They were received coldly, if not with aversion. Instead of good quarters and wholesome food, bad lodgings and worse rations fell to their share. Stale provisions, the leavings, in some instances, of the foes from whom they had delivered Germany, were deemed good enough for the conquerors of Kulm and Leipzig. Fatigue duties replaced opportunities of distinction, economy and ennui were the order of the day, and, amongst the disappointed subalterns, for whom the war had finished far too soon, but one note was heard, a sound of discontent and lamentation. It was the first opportunity these young soldiers had of learning that the man-at-arms, prized and cherished when his services are needed, is too often looked upon in peace time as a troublesome encumbrance and useless expense.
Suddenly, however, and most unexpectedly, came the signal for renewed activity. On the 29th of March, intelligence reached Magdeburg that Napoleon had escaped from Elba, and, after a triumphant march of twenty days, had resumed his seat upon the imperial throne. Joyful news for the ambitious subaltern, eager for action and advancement; less pleasant tidings to the old officer, who believed his campaigns at an end, and hoped tranquilly to enjoy his well-earned promotion. Cockade and sabre instantly rose in public estimation; and those who, a day previously, had cast sour glances at the neglected soldier, now lauded his valour and encouraged his aspirations. Forgetting the toils and perils of recent campaigns, old Blucher’s legions joyfully prepared for another bout with the Frenchman. Once more the march was ordered Rhine-wards; and, on the 18th April, Von Rahden and his battalion crossed that river at Ehrenbreitstein.
An accident, the overturn of a carriage, by which he was severely hurt, separated the Baron, for some time, from his regiment. He rejoined it at Liege; to the great surprise of all for his death had been reported, and his name struck off the strength. The officers gave him a dinner,--the men welcomed his appearance on parade with a triple hurra. Happy in these proofs of his fellow-soldiers’ esteem he looked forward joyfully and confidently to the approaching struggle. It soon came. In the night of the 15th June the alarm sounded: Bülow’s corps hastily got under arms, and marched to the assistance of Prince Blucher. Front three in the morning till one in the afternoon they advanced without pause or slackening; then a short halt was ordered. The sound of Blucher’s cannon was plainly heard. He was hard pressed by the French: but a burning sun and a ten hours march had exhausted the strength of Bülow’s troops; rest and refreshment were indispensable. It was not till eleven at night that they reached Gembloux, and there met the old field-marshal’s disordered battalions in full retreat from the disastrous field of Ligny.
Of the battle of Waterloo, the Baron of course saw but the close. Nevertheless he had a little hard fighting and received a wound at the taking of Planchenoit, which was full of French troops, principally grenadiers of the guard. “The order was given. ‘The second regiment will take the village by storm.’ My brave colonel was the first man in the place; but he was also the first killed: a shot from a window knocked him over. Notwithstanding this loss, in an instant we were masters of the village. At its farther extremity was the churchyard, surrounded by a low wall, and occupied by two battalions of the old Imperial Guard. Hats off! He who has fought against them will know how to admire them. Like a swarm of bees, my regiment, whose ranks had got disordered during the short fight in the village, dashed forward with lowered bayonets against the cemetery. We were within fifteen paces of it. ‘Shoulder arms!’ cried the French commander. More than once had the guardsmen found the sign of contempt profit them, by confusing their antagonists, and startling them into a hasty and irregular discharge. This time it did not answer; in five minutes the churchyard was ours. Scarcely had we won, when we again lost it. Thrice did it change hands, and the ground was heaped with dead. The third encounter was terrible--with the bayonet, just below the lime trees that shaded the cemetery gate. We officers took the muskets of the fallen, and fought like common soldiers. Some of the French officers followed our example; others, standing in the foremost rank, did fearful execution with point of sword. Here fell my dearest friend, thrust through the heart; I sprang forward to revenge his death, when a bronzed hero of the Pyramids shot me down.” The wound was not very severe; and, although the ball could not be extracted, the Baron, after a month’s stay at Brussels, was able to rejoin his battalion, then quartered in Normandy. Thence, early in August, he marched to Paris, to take share in the grand ceremony of blessing the colours of the Prussian regiments.
“On a splendid summer’s day, (2d September, 1815,) 25,000 to 30,000 Prussians, comprising the whole of the guards, six infantry and six cavalry regiments of the line, were formed up in the Champ de Mars in one great square. In its centre was an altar, composed, military fashion, of drums, and covered with red velvet, upon which lay the Iron Cross. The Emperors Alexander and Francis, our noble king, and all the generals of the Allies, stood around and listened bareheaded to the impressive thanksgiving offered up by Chaplain Offelsmeyer. Here the colours of the various regiments, surmounted by the Iron Cross, and having the Alliance ribband--white, black, and orange--and the ribband of the medal cast out of captured artillery for ‘Prussia’s brave warriors’ fluttering from their staves, received, in the hands of our king and his imperial friends, a high and rare consecration.” As the blessing was spoken over the lowered colours, a numerous park of artillery fired a royal salute, and then, in review order, the troops defiled before the King of Prussia. “When the infantry of the line had passed, the officers were allowed to fall out and look on, whilst the guards and grenadiers marched by. It was a splendid sight, especially at the moment when the two emperors, at the head of their Prussian grenadier regiments, lowered swords, and paid military honours to our King.” The honours of the day were for Frederick William the Third; and the sovereigns of Russia and Austria, Baron von Rahden tells us, reined back their horses and kept a little in rear, that they might not seem to appropriate a share of them. “Only one soldierly figure, astride, proud and stately, upon a splendid charger, had taken post on the same line with the King of Prussia, some twenty paces to his right. Alone, and seemingly unsympathizing, he beheld, with thorough British phlegm, the military pageant. It was the Duke of Wellington, the bold hero of Eastern fight, the prudent general in the Peninsula, the fortunate victor of Waterloo. Accident and the crowd brought me close to his horse’s breast; and, with the assurance of a young man who feels himself an old and experienced soldier, I contemplated his really lofty, and proud, and noble appearance. I should find it very difficult to describe the Duke as he then was. Not that one line has been effaced of the impression stamped upon my memory whilst I stood for more than half an hour scarce three paces from his stirrup. But tame and feeble would be any portrait my pen could draw of the flashing eagle eye, the hawk’s nose, the slightly sarcastic expression of the pointed chin, and compressed, seemingly lipless, mouth. His hair was scanty and dark; neither moustache nor whisker filled and rounded his thin oval physiognomy. His high forehead, that noblest feature of the masculine countenance, I could not see, for a long narrow military hat, with a rather shabby plume, was pressed low down upon his brows. For two reasons, however, the impression the English leader that day made upon me, was not the most favourable: I was vexed at his placing himself thus intentionally apart from, and on the same line with my king; and then it seemed to me unnatural that his deportment should be so stiff, his bust so marble-like, and that at such a moment his features should not once become animated, or his eye gleam approval.”
This was not the last sight obtained by the Prussian lieutenant of the British field-marshal. In 1835 Baron von Rahden came to London. During the siege of Antwerp he had served as a volunteer under General Chassé, and had drawn a large military _tableau_ or plan of the defence of the citadel. This he had dedicated to the King of Holland, and now wished to confide to an English engraver. To facilitate his views, Chassé gave him an introduction to the Duke. We will translate his account of the interview it procured him. He went to Apsley House in Dutch uniform, his Iron Cross and medal, and the Prussian order of St. Anne, upon his breast, the latter having been bestowed upon him for his conduct at Waterloo, or La Belle Alliance, as the Prussians style it. He was introduced by an old domestic, who, as far as he could judge, might have been a mute, into a spacious apartment.
“I had waited almost an hour, and became impatient. I was on the point of seeking a servant, and causing myself to be announced a second time, when a small tapestried door, in the darker part of the saloon, opened, and a thin little man, with a stoop in his shoulders, dressed in a dark blue frock, ditto trousers, white stockings, and low shoes with buckles, approached without looking at me. I took him for servant, a steward, or some such person, and inquired rather quickly whether I could not have the honour to be announced to the Duke. The next instant I perceived my blunder; the little stooping man suddenly grew a head taller, and his eagle eye fixed itself upon me. I at once recognised my neighbour on the Champ de Mars. Rather enjoying my confusion, as I thought, the Duke again turned to the door, and, without a word, signed to me to follow him. When I entered the adjoining room he had already taken a chair, with his back to the light, and he motioned me to a seat opposite to him, just in the full glare from the plate-glass windows. We conversed in French; I badly, the Duke after a very middling fashion. With tolerable clearness I managed to explain what had brought me to London, and to crave the Duke’s gracious protection. In reply the Duke said that ‘He greatly esteemed General Chassé, who had fought bravely at Waterloo under his orders: that he was pleased with his defence of Antwerp,’ &c. At last he asked me ‘by whom my plan,’ which lay upon the table beside him, and which he neither praised nor found fault with, ‘was to be engraved.’
“‘_Chez M. James Wyld, géographe du roi_,’ was my somewhat over-hasty answer.
“‘_Géographe de sa Majesté Britannique_,’ said the Duke, by way of correction.
“A few more sentences were exchanged, doubtless of very crooked construction, as far as I was concerned,--for I was a good deal embarrassed; and then I received my dismissal.
“The _Géographe de sa Majesté Britannique_ told me, some weeks afterwards, that the Duke had been to him, had bought several military maps and plans, and, as if casually, had spoken of mine, which hung in the shop, had said that he knew me,” &c.
Notwithstanding the Duke’s kind notice and patronage, Captain von Rahden takes occasion to attack his grace for an expression used by him in the House of Lords in 1836, during a debate on a motion for the abolition of corporal punishment in the army. The Duke maintained that such punishment was necessary for the preservation of discipline; and on the Prussian army being cited as a proof of the contrary, he referred, in no very flattering terms, to the state of discipline of Blucher’s troops in 1815. There was some talk about the matter at the time, and an indignant answer to the Duke’s assertion, written by the German general, Von Grolman, was translated in the English journals. Baron von Rahden himself, as he tells us, took advantage of being in London on the anniversary of Waterloo, 1836, to perpetrate a little paragraph scribbling, in certain evening papers, with respect to the battle, and to the share borne in it by old MARSCHALL VORWAERTS and his men. That the campaigns of 1813-15 were most creditable to Prussian courage and patriotism, none will dispute; that the discipline of the Prussian army was then by no means first-rate, is equally positive. Nay, its mediocrity is easy to infer from passages in Baron von Rahden’s own book. Without affirming it to have been at the lowest ebb, it was certainly not such as could find approval with one who, for five years, had ranged the Peninsula at the head of the finest troops in Europe. As to who won the battle of Waterloo, the discussion of that question is long since at an end. The Baron claims a handsome share of the glory for his countrymen, and insists, that if they were rather late for the fight, they at least made themselves very useful in pursuit of the beaten foe. “If their discipline, had been so very bad,” he says, “they could hardly, on the second day after a defeat, have come up to the _rescue_ of their allied brethren.” The arrival of the Prussians was certainly opportune; but, had they not come up, there cannot be a doubt that Wellington, if he had done no more, would have held his own, and maintained the field all night: for he commanded men who, according to his great opponent’s own admission, “knew not when they were beaten.”
“Old General Blucher was a sworn foe of all unnecessary wordiness and commendation. ‘What do you extol?’ he once said, to put an end to the eulogiums lavished on him for a gloriously won victory. ‘It is my boldness, Gneisenau’s judgment, and the mercy of the Great God.’ Let us add, and the stubborn courage and perseverance of a faithful people and a brave army. Without these thoroughly national qualities of our troops, such great results would never have followed the closing act of the mighty struggle of 1813, 1814, and 1815. General Gneisenau’s unparalleled pursuit of the French after the battle of La Belle Alliance, could never have taken place, had not our troops displayed vigour and powers of endurance wonderful to reflect upon. The instant and rapid chase commanded by Gneisenau was only to cease when the last breath and strength of man and horse were exhausted. Thus was it that, by daybreak on the 19th June, he and his Prussians found themselves at Frasne, nearly six leagues from the field of battle, which they had left at half-past ten at night. Only a few squadrons had kept up with him; all the infantry remained behind; but the French army that had fought so gallantly at Waterloo and La Belle Alliance, was totally destroyed.”
The battle won, a courier was instantly despatched to the King of Prussia. The person chosen to convey the glorious intelligence was Colonel von Thile, now a general, commanding the Rhine district. From that officer’s narrative of his journey, the Baron gives some interesting extracts.
“In the course of fight,” Von Thile _loquitur_, “I had lost sight of my servant, and of my second horse, a capital gray. The brown charger I rode was wounded and tired, and it was at a slow pace that I started, to endeavour to reach Brussels that night. A Wurtemberg courier had also been sent off, the only one, besides myself, who carried the good news to Germany. Whilst my weary steed threatened each moment to sink under my weight, the Wurtemberger galloped by, and with him went my hopes of being the first to announce the victory to the king. Suddenly I perceived my gray trotting briskly towards me. I wasted little time in scolding my servant; I thought only of overtaking the Wurtemberger.
“At Brussels I learned from the postmaster that my fortunate rival had left ten minutes before me, in a light carriage with a pair of swift horses. I followed: close upon his heels every where, but unable to catch him up. At last, on the evening of the third day, I came in sight of him; his axle-tree was broken; his carriage lay useless on the road. I might have dashed past in triumph; but I refrained, and offered to take him with me, on condition that I should be the first to proclaim the victory. He joyfully accepted the proposal; and I was rewarded for my good nature, for he was of great service to me.”
Von Thile expected to find the king at Frankfort-on-the-Main; but he had not yet arrived, and the colonel continued his hurried journey, by Heidelberg and Fulda, to Naumberg.
“Five days and nights unceasing fatigue and exertion had exhausted my strength, but nevertheless I pushed forward, and on the following morning reached Naumberg on the Saal. In the suburb, on this side the river, I fell in with Prussian troops, returning, covered with dust and in very indifferent humour, from a review passed by the king. At last then I was at my journey’s end. They asked me what news I brought: all expected some fresh misfortune, for only an hour previously intelligence of the defeat at Ligny had arrived, and upon parade the king had been ungracious and out of temper. I took good care not to breathe a word of my precious secret, and hurried on. In the further suburb I met the king’s carriage. We stopped; I jumped out.
“‘Your majesty! a great, a glorious victory! Napoleon annihilated; a hundred and fifty guns captured!’ And I handed him a paper containing a few lines in Prince Blucher’s handwriting. The king devoured them with his eyes, and cast a grateful tearful glance to Heaven.
“‘TWO HUNDRED CANNON, according to this,’ was his first exclamation, in tones of heartfelt delight and satisfaction.
“I followed his majesty into the town. The newly instituted assembly of Saxon States was convoked, and the king made a speech announcing the victory. And truly I never heard such speaking before or since. I was ordered to go on to Berlin with my good news. This was in fact unnecessary, for a courier had already been despatched, but the king knew that my family, from which I had been two years separated, was at Berlin, and he wished to procure me the pleasure of seeing it. For that noble and excellent monarch was also the kindest and best of men.”
Soon after Waterloo, Baron von Rahden appears to have left the service; for he informs us, that between 1816 and 1830 he made long residences in Russia, Holland, and England. Perhaps he found garrison life an unendurable change from the stir and activity of campaigns, and travelled to seek excitement. Be that as it may, fifteen years’ repose did not extinguish his martial ardour. The echoes awakened by the tramp of a French army marching upon Antwerp, were, to the veteran of Leipzig, like trumpet-sound to trained charger, and he hurried to exchange another shot with his old enemies. Having once more brought hand and hilt acquainted, he grieved to sever them, and when the brief struggle in Belgium terminated, he looked about for a fresh field of action. Spain was the only place where bullets were just then flying, and thither the Baron betook himself, to defend the cause of legitimacy under Cabrera’s blood-stained banner. Concerning his travels, and his later campaigns, he promises his readers a second and a third volume; and the favourable reception the first has met with in Germany, will doubtless encourage him to redeem his pledge.
We are willing to acknowledge, without blindly exaggerating, our obligations to the men of learning of Germany, in several branches of art and science. We owe them something in criticism, something in philosophy, and a great deal in philology. But in no department have they deserved better of the commonwealth of letters, than in the important province of antiquarian history, where their erudition, their research, their patience, their impartiality, are invaluable. Whatever subject they select is made their own, and is so thoroughly studied in all its circumstantial details and collateral bearings, that new and original views of the truth are sure to be unfolded, as the fixed gaze of an unwearied eye will at last elicit light and order out of apparent darkness and confusion.
The writer, whose chief work is now before us, cannot and would not, we know, prefer a claim to the foremost place among those who have thus distinguished themselves. That honour is conceded by all to the name of Niebuhr, a master mind who stands unrivalled in his own domain, and whose discoveries, promulgated with no advantage of style or manner, and in opposition to prejudices long and deeply cherished, have wrought a revolution in the study of ancient history to which there is scarcely a parallel. But among those who are next in rank, Dr. Lappenberg is entitled to a high position. His present work is one of the very best of a series of European histories of great merit and utility. He has given fresh interest to a theme that seemed worn out and exhausted. He has brought forward new facts, and evolved new conclusions that had eluded the observation and sagacity of able and industrious predecessors. He has treated the history of a country, not his own, with as much care and correctness, and with as true a feeling of national character and destinies as if he had been a native; while he has brought to his task a calmness of judgment, and freedom from prejudice, as well as a range of illustration from extraneous sources, which a native could scarcely be expected to command. It must now, we think, be granted, that the best history of Saxon England--the most complete, the most judicious, the most unbiassed, and the most profound, is the work of a foreigner. It must, at the same time, be said that Lappenberg’s history could not have exhibited this high degree of excellence, without the ample assistance afforded by the labours of our countrymen who had gone before him, and of which their successor has freely taken the use and frankly acknowledged the value.
The history and character of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, have employed the pen of the most illustrious among our native writers. One of our greatest poets, and one of our greatest masters of prose,--Milton and Burke--have felt the attraction and importance of the subject, at the same time that they have given evidence to its obscurity and difficulty. In later times men of less genius, but of more acquaintance with the times and topics involved in the inquiry, have added greatly to our knowledge of those important events and institutions in which the germs of our present government and national disposition are to be found. But Saxon England can only be thoroughly understood by means of aids and appliances, which have been seldom possessed in any eminent degree by the general run of our antiquarian writers. A thorough familiarity with the Anglo-Saxon language and literature is obviously the first requisite: yet this attainment was scarcely to be met with till within a few years back, and even now, we fear that it is confined to a narrow circle, and that the able men who have made progress in this arduous path, lament that they have so slender and so scattered a train of followers. If we can suppose inquirers studying Roman history, without being able to conjugate a Latin verb, or to gather more than a dim suspicion of a Latin author’s meaning, we shall have a case nearly analogous to the condition and achievements of our Saxon scholars in the last, and even in part of the present century. Another qualification for the successful cultivation of this field of study, is an intimate acquaintance with the analogous customs and traditions of kindred countries, an accomplishment which few Englishmen could till lately pretend to possess, but without which, a great deal of what occurs in our own early history must seem senseless and unintelligible. The key to many apparent mysteries in English antiquities, is often to be found in something which has been more clearly developed elsewhere, and which may even yet survive in a Danish song or saga, or a German proverb or superstition.
In these respects, our kinsmen across the water have undoubtedly the advantage of us; and to most of them the subject of English history cannot be alien in interest or barren of attraction. It is impossible for an enlightened native or neighbour of continental Saxony, to tread the southern shore of the North Sea, and think of the handful of his countrymen who, fourteen centuries ago, embarked for Britain from that very strand, without feeling the great results involved in that simple incident, and owning the sacred sympathies which unite him with men of English blood. He may well remember with wonder that the few exiles or emigrants who thus went forth on an obscure and uncertain enterprise carried in their bark the destinies of a mighty moral empire, which was one day to fill the world with the glory of the Saxon name, and to revive the valour and virtue of Greece and Rome, with a new admixture of Teutonic honour and Christian purity. He may well kindle with pride to admire the eminence to which that adventurous colony has attained from such small beginnings, and to consider how much the old Germanic virtues of truth and honesty, and home-bred kindliness, have conduced to that marvellous result; while perhaps the less pleasing thought may at times overshadow his mind, that his country, great as she is, has in some things been outstripped by her descendant, and that the best excellencies and institutions of ancient Germany may have been less faithfully preserved and less nobly matured in their native soil than in the favoured island to which some shoots of them were then transplanted.
If some such feelings prompted or encouraged the writer of these volumes to engage in his work, Dr. Lappenberg had other facilities to aid him in the task. He had been sent to Scotland in early life, and had studied at our metropolitan university where he is still kindly remembered by some who will be among the first to peruse those pages. His residence in this ancient city of the Angles, and his visits to the most interesting portions of the island, must have formed a familiarity and sympathy with our language, manners, and institutions which would afford additional inducements and qualifications to undertake a history of England. He has distinguished himself by other valuable compositions of a historical and antiquarian character, and particularly by some connected with the mediæval jurisprudence and history of his native city of Hamburgh. But his reputation will probably be most widely diffused, and most permanently preserved, by the admirable work which is the subject of our present remarks.
The labours of Mr. Thorpe, so well known as one of the very few accomplished Saxonists of whom we can boast, has now, after much discouragement, placed the Anglo-Saxon portion of Lappenberg’s history within the reach of English readers, and has given it a new value by his own additions and illustrations. The translation ought to be found in the library of every one among us who professes to study the history or to patronize the literature of his country.
The invasion or occupation of England by German tribes is involved in an obscurity, which does not disappear before a rigorous examination of its traditional details. On the contrary, the more we consider it the less certainly we can pronounce as to the truth. That on the departure of the Romans in the fifth century, a full and continuous stream of German population found its way into Britain, and that ere long the invading race gained the ascendant, and planted firmly in the soil their laws, their language, and their institutions, are facts established by a cloud of witnesses, and by that real evidence which lawyers consider superior to testimony. But how, or at what exact date this process commenced, under whose leadership or auspices it was carried on, and with what rapidity, or through what precise channels the tide flowed, are matters of more difficulty, on which, from the want of authentic materials, it is idle to dogmatise, however unpleasant it may be to remain in doubt. There is no want of ancient narratives of these supposed events; but though ancient as to us, they are neither so near the time to which they refer, nor so clear and consistent with probability, and with each other, as to command implicit deference.
Dr. Lappenberg, leaning perhaps too readily to the German theory of mythes, sees little in the history and achievements of Hengist and Horsa which can be considered authentic. Mr. Thorpe, on the other hand, is less sceptical, and while directing our notice to the fact that the northern tribes occasionally submitted to the command of double leaders, he has adduced in evidence the ancient poetical celebrity of Hengist as a Jutish hero. The episode from Beowulf, which he has inserted and ably translated in a note, is interesting and important in this view. But, after all, we confess that our mind remains in a state of suspense. We think the proof sufficient neither to justify a belief in the existence of the two chiefs, nor to authorise us in consigning them to non-entity; and we hold it an important duty in historical criticism to proportion our conclusions precisely to the premises from which they are deduced. Where there is good evidence, we should believe; where the evidence is incoherent or impossible, we should disbelieve. But there are conditions of a historical question where we can legitimately arrive at no opinion either way, and where we must be content to leave the fact in uncertainty, by a verdict of _not proven_.
There is no historian, we think, who mentions Hengist or Horsa, until at an interval of two or three hundred years after their supposed era; and what sort of interval had thus elapsed? A period of pagan obscurity, passed by the invaders in incessant conflicts, for a home and habitation, or for existence itself,--a period of which not a relic even of poetical tradition has survived, and in which the means of recording events, or of calculating time, were wholly different from our modern apparatus, and are too little known to let us judge of their sufficiency. The celebrity of Hengist in the old Saxon epics, but in which he is never, we think, connected with the invasion of England, appears to be a double-edged weapon, and may even account for his name being taken as a convenient stock to bear a graft of later romance. If we add to all this the tendency of the age to fiction and exaggeration, the marks of a fabulous character, so forcibly pointed out by Lappenberg in the recurrence of certain fixed numbers or periods of years, chiefly on an octonary system, as distinguished by conspicuous events, the divine genealogies attributed to the heroes, and the resemblance in incident to similar traditions in other ages or scenes, we shall easily see the unsteady footing on which the question stands, and be obliged to own, that, if our belief must be renounced in Romulus and Remus, we can scarcely go to the stake for Hengist and Horsa. It is remarkable, that while the Roman brothers are said to bear one and the same name in different forms, the appellations of the Anglo-Saxon leaders are also so far identical, as each signifying the warlike animal which is said to have been emblazoned on the Saxon banner.
It should be satisfactory to our West-British brethren, that Lappenberg sees no reason to distrust the existence of the illustrious Arthur, but he admits too readily the questionable discovery of his grave.
“The contemporary who records the victory at Bath gained by his countrymen in the first year of his life, and who bears witness of its consequences after a lapse of forty-four years, Gildas, surnamed the Wise, considers it superfluous to mention the name of the far-famed victor; but his wide-spread work, and the yet more wide-spread extracts from it in Beda, have reached no region in which the fame of King Arthur had not outstript them, the noble champion who defended the liberty, usages, and language of the ancient country from destruction by savage enemies; who protected the cross against the Pagans, and gained security to the churches most distinguished for their antiquity and various knowledge, to which a considerable portion of Europe owes both its Christianity and some of its most celebrated monasteries. Called to such high-famed deeds, he needed not the historian to live through all ages more brilliantly than the heroes of the chronicles, among whom he is counted from the time of Jeffrey of Monmouth; but, not to mention the works which, about the year 720, Eremita Britannus is said to have composed on the Holy Graal, and on the deeds of King Arthur, the rapid spread of Jeffrey’s work over the greater part of Europe, proves that the belief in the hero of it was deeply rooted. In the twelfth century a Greek poem, recently restored to light, was composed in celebration of Arthur and the heroes of the round table. Still more manifestly, however, do the numerous local memorials, which throughout the whole of the then Christian part of Europe, from the Scottish hills to Mount Etna, bear allusion to the name of Arthur; while on the other hand, the more measured veneration of the Welsh poets for that prince, who esteem his general, Geraint, more highly than the king himself, and even relate that the latter, far from being always victorious, surrendered Hampshire and Somersetshire to the Saxons, may be adduced as no worthless testimony for the historic existence of King Arthur. Even those traditions concerning him, which at the first glance seem composed in determined defiance of all historic truth,--those which recount the expedition against the Romans on their demand of subjection from him,--appear not totally void of foundation, when we call to mind that a similar expedition actually took place in Gaul; and are, moreover, informed, on the most unquestionable authority, of another undertaking in the year 468, on the demand of Anthemius, by the British general Riothamus, who led twelve thousand Britons across the ocean against the Visigoths in Gaul, and of his battles on the Loire. This very valuable narrative gives us some insight into the connexions and resources of those parts of Britain which had not yet been afflicted with the Saxon pirates.
“Arthur fell in a conflict on the river Camel, in Cornwall, against his nephew, Medrawd; his death was, however, long kept secret, and his countrymen waited many years for his return, and his protection against the Saxons. The discovery of his long-concealed grave in the abbey of Glastonbury, is mentioned by credible contemporaries, and excited at the time no suspicion of any religious or political deception. Had the king of England, Henry the Second, who caused the exhumation of the coffin in the year 1189, wished merely, through an artifice, to convince the Welsh of the death of their national hero, he would hardly himself have acted so conspicuous a part on the occasion. Poem and tradition bear witness to the spirit and his ashes, and the gravestone to the life and name of Arthur. Faith in the existence of this Christian Celtic Hector cannot be shaken by short-sighted doubt, though much must yet be done for British story, to render the sense latent in the poems of inspired bards, which have in many cases reached us only in spiritless paraphrases, into the sober language of historic criticism.”
It appears not unlikely, that the period fixed by the traditions for the arrival of the Saxons does not truly indicate the first settlement of their countrymen on our shores. In East Anglia, (Norfolk and Suffolk) as well as in Northumbria, and perhaps indefinitely to the north-east, successive colonies of German immigrants had probably found a home on islands at the mouths of rivers, or on barren tracts of sea-beach, along a thinly peopled and ill cultivated country. The cautious and tentative occupation of the shore thus taken, may have ultimately suggested the invitation of the Saxons, or facilitated their invasion of Britain in the deserted and distracted state in which the Romanised inhabitants were left, when their masters and protectors withdrew.
The introduction of Christianity among the English Saxons, is the first great event in their annals, that stands brightly out in the light of history. To whom we are indebted for this mighty and merciful revolution, does not, we think, admit of controversy. Though no friends to the corruptions or ambition of Rome, we cannot withhold from the Roman see the honour that here belongs to it, and for the service thus rendered to England, to Europe, and to mankind, the name of Gregory the Great deserves a place in a nobler calendar than that in which the saints of his own church are enrolled. The liberal spirit in which the mission was in some respects organized, deserves high praise. “It is my wish,” writes Gregory, “that you sedulously select what you may think most acceptable to Almighty God, be it in the Roman, or in the Gallican, or in any other church, and introduce into the church of the Angles that which you shall have so collected; for things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things.” The intervention of the Pope was the more meritorious and seasonable from the conduct of the British clergy, in leaving their Saxon conquerors without an attempt to convert them. Such a course may have been natural and excusable, but it was not prompted either by Christian love or by enlightened policy; and we cannot altogether refrain from reading in the subsequent massacre of the monks of Bangor by the Pagan sword of Ethelfrid, the retribution which Augustine had denounced as awaiting the Celtic Church, for not preaching to the Angles the way of life.
The Irish clergy, useful as they afterwards were, had not then advanced so far in their progress, as to reach the Anglican border. It was in the year 563 that St. Columba passed over from Ireland to the Northern Picts, in whose conversion he was occupied about thirty years. And it was in 597 that Ethelbert of Kent was baptized, and was followed soon after to the font by ten thousand of his subjects. Whether there was any connexion between these simultaneous movements, beyond the ripening of events for so desirable a result, has not, so far, as we know, been traced by any inquirer.
The rapidity with which Christianity was then accepted implies a remarkable condition of the public mind. The bigotry, and even the confiding belief of the old religion, must in a great measure have passed away, and a certain dissatisfaction have come to be felt with its creed and its consolations. This is peculiarly visible in the course which the conversion took in Northumbria, where, if we can trust the traditionary accounts, a spirit of philosophical inquiry had pervaded the nobility, and even the priesthood, implying a high degree of intellectual advancement, and an earnest sense of the religious necessities of our nature. Let us take the well-known incidents of this event as they are given in the poetry of Wordsworth, rather than in any prose narrative.
But to remote Northumbria’s royal hall, Where thoughtful Edwin, tutor’d in the school Of sorrow, still maintains a Heathen rule, Who comes with functions apostolical? Mark him, of shoulders curved, and stature tall, Black hair, and vivid eye, and meagre cheek, His prominent feature like an eagle’s beak; A man whose aspect doth at once appal And strike with reverence. The monarch leans Tow’rd the pure truths this delegate propounds; Repeatedly his own deep mind he sounds With careful hesitation,--then convenes A synod of his counsellors:--give ear, And what a pensive sage doth utter, hear!
“Man’s life is like a sparrow, mighty king! That, stealing in while by the fire you sit Housed with rejoicing friends, is seen to flit Safe from the storm, in comfort tarrying. Here did it enter--there, on hasty wing Flies out, and passes on from cold to cold; But whence it came we know not, nor behold Whither it goes. Even such that transient thing, The human soul, not utterly unknown While in the body lodged, her warm abode; But from what world she came, what wo or weal On her departure waits, no tongue hath shown; This mystery, if the stranger can reveal, His be a welcome cordially bestowed!”
The Christian doctrine once planted in the hearts of Englishmen was never eradicated, but a storm passing over Northumbria levelled, for a while, the ripening harvest with the soil. Penda of Mercia, a man of remarkable character and fortune, “the last unshaken and powerful adherent of Paganisim among the Anglo-Saxons,” swept like a tempest over the scene, and seemed to blast the growing hopes of the Christian husbandman, while the native princes, in whom, from a national respect for royal lineage, the government was nominally left, relapsed into the errors of the old faith. The deliverance, however, was at hand, from a quarter then beginning to send forth its beneficial influences. Oswald, a Bernician prince, educated among the Scots, or converted Picts, assembled a few followers under the banner of the cross, and restored to his country independence and Christianity.
“History informs us that Oswald’s cross decided the fate of Britain for ever. Oswald obtained the sovereignty of Bernicia, and also of Deira, being entitled to the latter country by his maternal descent, his mother ‘Acha,’ the sister of Eadwine, being descended from Aelle. He was acknowledged as Bretwalda the sixth who held that dignity, and is said to have reigned over the four tongues of Britain, of the Angles, the Britons, the Picts, and the Scots. Oswald combined great vigour with much mildness and religious enthusiasm. By him Christianity was introduced anew into his kingdom, but it was that of his teachers, the Scots, by whom Aidan was sent to him from the isle of St. Columba, (Hii or Icolmkill,) and to whom as an Episcopal seat, he granted the isle of Lindisfarne, now Holy Island, the hallowed abode of many heroes of the Christian faith. Severity towards himself and the powerful, humility and benevolence towards the poor and lowly, activity in the cause of religion, zeal for learning, were the admirable qualities that were praised in Aidan, and shed the purest lustre on the old Scottish Church to which he belonged; and few will feel disposed to doubt that the general impression which the lives of such men made on the minds of people disgusted with Paganism, together with the internal truth of the Christian doctrines, has ever, and in a greater degree, contributed to their first conversion, than even the most convincing and solid arguments. How else could the so-often, vainly attempted conversion of the Northumbrians have been effected by Aidan, who, sprung from a hostile race, sent from a hostile school, strove to propagate the doctrines of the defeated Scots and Picts, the former oppressors of the Britons, in a tongue for which Oswald himself was compelled to act as the interpreter?
“Of Aidan’s fitness for the pious work committed to him, a judgment may be formed from the following anecdote related by Beda. At the solicitation of Oswald, a priest had been sent by the Scots to preach the word to the Pagans of Northumbria, who, proving unqualified for the task, and unwelcome to the people, through the austerity of his character, returned to his country, where, in an assembly of his brethren, he declared his inability to effect any good among a people so ungovernable and barbarous. On hearing this declaration, Aidan, who was present at the meeting, said to him, ‘Brother, it seems to me that you have been harsher than was fitting towards such uninstructed hearers, and have not, in conformity with apostolic usage, first offered the milk of milder instruction, until, gradually nourished by the divine word, they might become capable both of receiving the more perfect, and of executing the higher precepts of God.’ A discussion, to which these words gave rise, terminated in the unanimous declaration, that Aidan was worthy of the Episcopal dignity, and that he ought to be sent back to the ignorant unbelievers.
“In such, and in every other manner possible, Oswald promoted the religion of the Cross, planted by him, not in his own kingdom only, but in the states encircling the British empire. In this he followed the impressions of his youth, and the conviction which had steeled his arm to victory. He might also have cherished the hope that in a British Christian church, the surest spiritual support would be found to consist in the union of all the tongues of Britain.”
For some time the Catholic and Columban clergy lived and laboured together in the common cause of true religion, with mutual charity and increasing usefulness. But the desire for external unity, so attractive in theory, so unattainable in practice, disturbed this pleasing repose; and, in the struggle that ensued, the victory was on the side of the Romish system, aided perhaps by superior learning and experience, and perhaps by the great advantage which dictatorial intolerance often possesses, in religious matters, over an enlarged liberality. On weak or ill-instructed minds, the bold assertion of an exclusive access to salvation, so dogmatically claimed by bigots of all churches, will generally prevail over opposing doctrines, which invest the choice of a sect with a less hazardous responsibility. The scene at the Synod of Whitby reveals a part of the truth, but perhaps a part only; and views of deeper policy may have been concealed under the somewhat slender pretext which led to this momentous change.
“An important measure, both for the benefit of the church and the closer union of the Anglo-Saxons, was reserved for King Oswiu. The Anglo-Saxons, according as they had been converted by Augustine and his followers, or by those of Columba, were attached to the Roman Catholic, or to the British Church. The majority of the ecclesiastics, at least of the more distinguished, belonged to the latter; hence arose a difference in religious views and worship, not only in the several kingdoms, but in the several provinces, which threatened to become extremely dangerous to the new faith. We see this religious discussion introduced through marriages even among the royal families, and that Oswiu himself celebrated the Easter festival, according to the Scottish practice, on a different day from that observed by his queen, Eanflœd, a daughter of the King of Kent. Ealhfrith also, the son, and co-regent with Oswiu, was, through the persuasion of his friend Cenwealh, favourable to the Roman church. Differences of this kind, though affecting externals only, greatly endangered the Christian faith among a people scarcely weaned from the worship of their forefathers, and acquainted with Christianity only in the closest connexion with the new external observances. Colman, a Scot, the third bishop of Lindisfarne, after the death of Finan, zealously strove to establish the principles of his sect. A synod was called at Streoneshealh, (Whitby) in which, under the presidency of Oswiu, the most distinguished ecclesiastics of each church defended their respective doctrines. Among the partisans of Rome were Agilbert, bishop of Wessex, and Wilfrith, (Wilferth) the future celebrated bishop of York. The disputation was maintained on both sides with learning and acuteness, and the Scottish clergy might have succeeded in settling for ever a strong barrier against the Catholic pretensions of the Roman church, if the king, wavering under the weight of so many conflicting arguments, had not remarked, that the Scots appealed to St. Columba, but the Catholics to the Apostle Peter; for Wilfrith had not forgotten to adduce, in support of the Roman tenets, that Peter was the rock on which the Lord had founded his Church, and that to him were committed the keys of Heaven. ‘Has Columba also received such power?’ demanded the king. Colman could not answer in the affirmative. ‘Do you both agree, that to Peter the Lord has given the keys of Heaven?’ Both affirmed it. ‘Then,’ said the king, ‘I will not oppose the Heavenly porter, but to my utmost ability will follow all his commands and precepts, lest, when I come to the gates of Heaven, there be no one to open to me, should he, who is shown to have the key in his custody, turn his back upon me.’ Those sitting in the council, as well as those standing around, noble and vulgar, alike anxious for their eternal salvation, approved of this determination, and were thus, in the usual spirit of large assemblies, and without further investigation of the arguments adduced, impelled to a decision by the excited feelings of the moment. The Scots either returned to their friends, or yielded to the opinion of the majority, and thus, by the learning of their school, became useful to the Anglo-Saxons; but, together with these apparently trivial externals, the great latent influence was sacrificed, which their church would probably have acquired in opposition to the then less firmly established one of Rome.”
The arrival of Theodore, an able and accomplished Asiatic, appointed to the primacy by the Pope, and the co-operation of Wilfrith, just mentioned, an Anglo-Saxon of transcendant talents and unconquerable zeal, confirmed throughout England the ascendency of Romish influence, which had thus been established in Northumbria, and which, from the first, had been recognised in Kent.
We may speculate, with Lappenberg, on the results to be expected if this controversy had terminated differently. A victory of opinion, gained in England by the followers of Columba, might have laid the foundation of a United Church, comprehending all the races that inhabited the island, and sufficiently powerful to contest with Italy the guidance of Christian principles over the rest of Europe, and to confine the Roman Bishoprick within narrower and safer bounds.
“The British Church, established probably on the oldest direct traditions from Judea, in closest connexion with conversions of the highest importance in the history of mankind, appeared, no less by its geographical position than by its exalted spiritual endowments, fitted to become the foundation of a northern patriarchate, which, by its counterpoise to Rome and the rest of the south, its guardianship over a Celtic and Germanic population, sanctified by the doctrine of Christ, might have been the instrument to impart to those within its pale, that which both meditative and ambitious men in the middle-age sometimes ventured to think on, but which, in comparatively modern times, Martin Luther first strove to extort for Romanized Europe.”
The picture is pleasing if we contemplate these possibilities merely on “the side that’s next the sun.” We fancy a church system extending over Northern Europe, pure in its doctrines and peaceable in its policy, free from foreign influence and intrigue, and in harmony with the frank and earnest character of the nations it embraces within its bosom. We imagine, too, that Rome herself, uninjured by the intoxication of a wealth and power too great for any clerical rulers to bear meekly and innocently, would have retained something more of apostolical truth and simplicity; and that the two rivals might have run a friendly race of Christian zeal and diligence. But there are also opposite contingencies which may reconcile us to the course, in which events have been directed by a wisdom greater than our own. We might have seen perhaps in our own region the establishment of a church at variance with that of Rome, in some essential articles of faith in which we now agree with her. We might have been born under a great Arian or Pelagian heresiarchy, enervating or polluting all our best elements of action; or, if _we_ had remained pure, the unaided energy of the Roman See might have sunk under the formidable errors with which she was at one time threatened, and the limits of orthodox Christendom might have been fearfully abridged. As it is, by the unity that for a time was attained even at a serious sacrifice, the preservation and extension of the apostolic faith may have been secured until the fulness of time arrived, when the Reformation set men free from a bondage that had ceased to be necessary, and had begun to be pernicious.
The ascendency of the Romish church brought with it another compensation, in the influx of southern art and classical learning. It cannot be doubted that our religious connexion with Christian Rome, was mainly instrumental in rendering us familiar with Roman and even with Grecian antiquity: and who shall say what might have been our mental condition if we had wanted all the ennobling and ameliorating influences which have thence been derived? A Saxon or a Celtic tendency predominating in our literature, and in our habits of thought and action, and excluding perhaps benigner elements of sentiment and reflection, might have made us a rude and rugged people, brave and impetuous, ardent and impassioned, but without either the refinement of taste, the soundness of judgment, or the depth of philosophy, which have been the fruits of that ingrafted instruction which has softened and subdued our native character. On the whole, then, let us be grateful for what we are: not repining at having learned our religion from Rome, and not regretting that we are now emancipated from our schoolmistress, and at liberty to judge and to act for ourselves.
With other arts and knowledge, as Lappenberg observes,
“Architecture also came in the suite of the Roman Church. The Scottish clergy, from the preference, perhaps, of the northern nations for that material, had built their churches of wood, thatching them with reeds, an example of which existed in the new Cathedral at Lindisfarne. It was at a later period only that reeds were exchanged for sheets of lead, with which the walls also were sometimes covered. Wilfrith sent for masons from Kent, and the abbot Benedict for workmen from Gaul. The stone basilica, erected by Paulinus, at York, which had fallen into a disgraceful state of dilapidation, was restored by Wilfrith, the roof covered with lead, the windows filled with glass, till then unknown among his countrymen. At Ripon, he caused a new basilica of polished stone to be erected, supported by pillars with a portico. The consecration--at which the Kings Ecgfrith and Ælfwine were present--was concluded by a feasting reminding us of Pagan times, which lasted during three days and nights. The four gospels, written with golden letters on purple vellum, adorned with paintings, in a case of pure gold set with precious stones, enables us to judge both of the wealth and munificence of the patrons of Wilfrith.
An edifice still more remarkable was erected by the bishop at Hexham, which, it is said, had not its like on this side of the Alps. Benedict’s structure, too, at Wearmouth was the work of masters from Gaul, after the Roman model. Thus, we perceive, in the instance of the most memorable buildings of which mention is found in the history of the Anglo-Saxons, how their architecture sprang from that of ancient Rome, however it may have been modified in England, to suit a difference of circumstances and climate.”
The details we possess of the exertions of Benedict, mentioned in the preceding extract, and generally distinguished by the name of Benedict Biscop, are especially interesting, and present a remarkable view of the actual importation and progress of those arts of civilization, to which the Saxons but a century before were utter strangers. He was the builder, and first abbot of St. Peter’s monastery at Weremouth:--“A man,” as Bede tells us in his Lives of the Abbots of that locality, “of a venerable life, (we use Dr. Giles’ translation,) blessed (benedictus) both in grace and in name; having the mind of an adult even from his childhood, surpassing his age by his manners, and with a soul addicted to no false pleasures. He was descended from a noble lineage of the Angles, and by corresponding dignity of mind, worthy to be exalted into the company of the angels. Lastly, he was the minister of King Oswy, and by his gift enjoyed an estate suitable to his rank; but at the age of twenty-five years he despised a transitory wealth, that he might obtain that which is eternal.” He visited Rome five times, and never returned with empty hands. After being settled at Weremouth in the year 674, Benedict visited Gaul, and brought with him masons and glass artificers, to build his church in the Roman style. He then made his fourth voyage to Rome, (we quote again from Bede,)
“And returned loaded with more abundant spiritual merchandise than before. In the first place, he brought back a large quantity of books of all kinds; secondly, a great number of relics of Christ’s Apostles and Martyrs, all likely to bring a blessing on many an English church; thirdly, he introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church, by obtaining permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the arch chanter of the church of St. Peter, and Abbot of the Monastery of St. Martin, to teach the English.”--Further, “he brought with him pictures of sacred representations to adorn the church of St. Peter, which he had built; namely, a likeness of the Virgin Mary, and of the twelve Apostles, with which he intended to adorn the central nave, on boarding placed from one wall to the other; also some figures from ecclesiastical history for the south wall, and others from the Revelation of St. John for the north wall; so that every one who entered the church, even if they could not read, whereever they turned their eyes, might have before them the amiable countenance of Christ and his Saints, though it were but in a picture, and with watchful minds might revolve on the benefits of our Lord’s incarnation, and having before their eyes the perils of the last judgment, might examine their hearts the more strictly on that account.”
Some years afterwards, he made his fifth voyage
“From Britain to Rome, and returned (as usual) with an immense number of proper ecclesiastical relics. There were many sacred books and pictures of the saints, as numerous as before. He also brought with him pictures out of our Lord’s history, which he hung round the Chapel of Our Lady in the larger monastery; and others to adorn St. Paul’s church and monastery, ably describing the connexion of the Old and New Testament; as, for instance, Isaac bearing the wood for his own sacrifice, and Christ carrying the cross on which he was about to suffer, were placed side by side. Again, the serpent raised up by Moses in the desert, was illustrated by the Son of Man exalted on the cross. Among other things, he brought two cloaks, all of silk, and of incomparable workmanship, for which he received an estate of three hides, on the south bank of the river Were, near its mouth, from King Alfred.”
A glimpse of the pictures thus imported into England, in the seventh century, and of the gazing multitudes who would crowd around them, would carry us back almost to the childhood of modern art, and to the infancy of English taste.
The establishment, however, of Roman influence in England was partial after all, and ecclesiastical authority was not independent of the State. The Anglo-Saxon clergy, as Lappenberg observes, were not so free as their brethren on the continent, and many are the complaints that their subjection to secular power seems to have called forth, particularly as to their liability to the _trinoda necessitas_ of fortress and bridge money, and contributions for military levies. The weaker hold maintained by the Papal power helped to promote the use of the vernacular tongue in their church service, and the diffusion of vernacular versions of Scripture, as well as other benefits of which we are still reaping the good fruits.
The permanent importance of the struggles then maintained for ecclesiastical ascendency, and the profession and pursuits of the only men by whom history could be written, have necessarily given an undue prominence to those actors on the scene who belonged to the church, and have left the laymen and even the royal personages of the period in comparative obscurity. As illustrating the workings of Roman influence on the minds of men, we may select two examples of distinguished churchmen of Northumbria, the one representing the secular, and the other the monastic portion of the clergy, and in whom the different elements entering into the spirit of the times were very variously exhibited.
“Wilfrith, though not of noble birth, was endowed with all those natural advantages, the influence of which over rugged, uncivilized people appears almost fabulous. In his thirteenth year, the period at which an Anglo-Saxon youth was considered of age, he resolved to leave his parents and renounce the world. Equipped suitably to his station, he was sent to the court of Oswiu, and, through the influence of the Queen Eanflœd, was received into the monastery of Lindisfarne by the chamberlain Cudda, who had exchanged earthly joys and sorrows for the retirement and observances of a cloister. There he was as remarkable for humility as for mental endowments. Besides other books, he had read the entire Psalter, according to the emendation of St. Jerome, as in use among the Scots. His anxious desire to behold and pray in the church of the apostle Peter must have been the more grateful to the queen and her Roman Catholic friends, from the novelty and singularity of such a wish among his countrymen. In furtherance of his object, she sent him to her brother Earconberht, King of Kent, where he made himself familiar with the doctrines of the Roman Church, including the Psalms according to the fifth edition. He was attached as travelling companion to Benedict, surnamed Biscop, a distinguished man, who, at a later period, exerted himself so beneficially in the cause of the Church, and in the civilization and instruction of the Northumbrians. Benedict died abbot of the monastery founded by him at Wearmouth, an establishment not less famed for arts and scientific treasures, than ennobled through its celebrated priest, the venerable Beda. On Wilfrith’s arrival at Lyons, Dalfinus, the Archbishop, was so struck by his judicious discourse, comely countenance, and mature understanding, that he retained him long with him, offered to adopt him for his son, to give him the hand of his brother’s daughter, and to procure for him the government of a part of Gaul.
“But Wilfrith hastened to Rome, acquired there a thorough knowledge of the four Gospels, also the Roman computation of Easter, which, as we have already seen, he afterwards so triumphantly employed, and at the same time made himself familiar with many rules of ecclesiastical discipline, and whatever else was proper for a minister of the Roman Church. On his return, he passed three years at Lyons, with his friend Dalfinus, and extended his knowledge by attending the most learned teachers. He now declared himself wholly devoted to the Church of Rome, and received from Dalfinus the tonsure of St. Peter, consisting of a circle of hair in imitation of the crown of thorns, while the Scots shaved the entire front, leaving the hair only on the hinder part of the head. Here he nearly shared the fate of his unfortunate friend, the archbishop, in the persecution raised against him by the Queen Baldhild, the widow of Clovis the Second, and the mayor of the palace, Ebruin; but the comely young stranger, through the extraordinary compassion of his persecutors, was saved from the death of a martyr. He now hastened back to his country, where he was honourably received by King Ealhfrith, consecrated abbot of the monastery of Ripon, and regarded as a prophet by high and low. After the disputation with Bishop Colman at Whitby, Oswiu and his son, with their witan, chose the abbot Wilfrith for Bishop of York, who passed over to Paris to be consecrated by Agilbreht. On his return to Northumbria, he was driven by a storm on the coast among the Pagan south Saxons, who proceeded vigorously to exercise the right of wreck on the strangers. The chief priest of the idolaters stood on an eminence for the purpose of depriving them of power by his maledictions and magic, when one of their number, with David’s courage and success, hurled a stone at him, from a sling, which struck him to the brain. At the fall of their priest, the fury of the people was excited against the little band, who succeeded however, after a conflict, four times renewed, in re-embarking with the return of the tide, and reached Sandwich in safety.”
Wilfrith in his absence had been deprived of the See of York, and on his return retired with real or affected submission to his cloister at Ripon; but the see was restored to him by the influence of Theodore. Various events hastened an outbreak of dissensions among the higher clergy, and of the jealousy of the secular towards the ecclesiastical power.
In order partly to curtail the dimensions of Wilfrith’s power, the See of York was divided into two dioceses; and the influence and remonstrances of the bishop were unavailing to avert the blow. He set out, therefore, on a journey to Rome, to appeal to the Papal authority; but he had enemies abroad as well as at home, and was only saved from their hostility by a storm, which drove his vessel to the coast of Friesland, and secured for him the honour of being the first of the numerous English missionaries who bore the tidings of the Gospel to the continental Pagans of the North.
Resuming his journey, after a year, he laid his complaints before the Roman See, and was here also the first in a less honourable path,--no previous appeal to the Papal protection having ever been attempted by Anglo-Saxon churchmen. The thunders of the Vatican sounded, as yet, but faintly in British ears; and Wilfrith, on his return, was consigned to a prison, instead of obtaining that restoration of his honours which Pope Agatho had ventured to decree.
Driven from Northumbria a homeless exile, Wilfrith fled to the shores of Sussex, the scene of his former peril and preservation, and, renewing his efforts against the remains of Pagan barbarism still lingering in that quarter, he taught the natives the lore of a better life, both in worldly and in spiritual things, and established a bishopric, to the charge of which he was himself elevated.
Again reconciled to Theodore, he was appointed to the See of Litchfield, the fourth that had fallen to him, and he afterwards had the glory of declining an offer of the archiepiscopate of Canterbury. After recovering the bishopric of York, he once more lost it by becoming involved in new disputes and contests for the superiority of the Romish discipline, and, in his seventieth year, carried another appeal to the Papal Chair, which, on this occasion, had the satisfaction of finding that both Wilfrith and his enemies pleaded to its jurisdiction. Wilfrith was exculpated by the Pope, but could only obtain from the Anglo-Saxon Prince of Northumbria the See of Hexham and the monastery of Ripon. “After a few years passed in almsgiving and the improvement of church discipline, Wilfrith died in his seventy-sixth year, a man whose fortunes and activity in the European relations of England were long without a parallel.” He completed what Augustine began, and united the English Church to that of Rome in matters of discipline. Even his influence, however, could not destroy the independence of his countrymen, who, as Lappenberg observes, “even after they were no longer Anti-Catholic, continued always Anti-Papistical.”
The two achievements which occur as episodes in this singular biography, the commencement of a Christian mission in Germany, and the conversion of the last remnants of Paganism in England, would have been enough to immortalise their author, independently of his influence on the outward discipline of the Church.
To the chequered and restless career of Wilfrith, thus divided between clerical ambition, and Christian usefulness, a striking contrast is presented in the peaceful life of one who is the honour of Saxon England, and the brightest, or the only bright name in European literature during the centuries that intervened between Theodoric and Charlemagne.
“But no one imparts to the age of the ‘Wisest King’ greater brilliancy than the man just named, whom the epithet of ‘The Venerable’ adorns, whose knowledge was profound and almost universal. Born in the neighbourhood of Wearmouth, he enjoyed in that abbey the instructions of Benedict, its first abbot, of whom we have already had occasion to make honourable mention, as well as those of his successor, Ceolfrith, equally distinguished for his zeal in the promotion of learning. In the neighbouring cloister of Jarrow, Beda passed his life in exercises of piety and in varied study; and gave life and form to almost all the knowledge which the age could offer him. If, on a consideration of his works, it must appear manifest that that age possessed more means of knowledge, both in manuscripts and learned ecclesiastics, than we are wont to ascribe to it; and even if we must recognise in Beda the high culture of the Roman church, rather than Anglo-Saxon nationality, yet the acknowledgment which his merits found in Rome during his life, and shortly after his death, whereever learning could penetrate, proves that in him we justly venerate a wonder of the time. His numerous theological writings, his illustrations of the books of the Old and New Testaments, have throughout many ages, until the total revolution in that branch of learning, found readers and transcribers in every cloister of Europe. His knowledge of Greek, of medicine, of astronomy, of prosody, he made subservient to the instruction of his contemporaries; his work “De sex hujus seculi ætatibus,” though less used than it deserves to be, is the basis of most of the universal chronicles of the middle age. But his greatest merit, which will preserve his name through all future generations, consists in his historic works, as far as they concern his own native land. If a second man like himself had arisen in his days, who with the same clear, circumspect glance, the same honest and pious purpose, had recorded the secular transactions of his forefathers, as Beda has transmitted to us those chiefly of the church, then would the history of England have been to posterity almost like revelation for Germanic antiquity.”
It seems like a miracle to witness within a century of their country’s conversion, two native names so remarkable as these. Under the influence thus exerted, which in the one man was purely good, and in the other had more good in it than evil, an active spirit of religion was necessarily introduced, and the national character underwent a mighty change. The condition of public feeling at this period is strongly illustrated in the concluding chapter of Bede’s History.
“Such being the peaceable and calm disposition of the times, many of the Northumbrians, as well of the nobility as private persons, laying aside their weapons, rather incline to dedicate both themselves and their children to the tonsure and monastic vows, than to study martial discipline. What will be the end hereof, the next age will show. This is, for the present, the state of all Britain; in the year, since the coming of the English into Britain about 285, but in the 731st year of the incarnation of our Lord, in whose reign may the earth ever rejoice; may Britain exult in the profession of his faith; and may many islands be glad, and sing praises in honour of his holiness!”
_What will be the end hereof the next age will show!_ These are ominous words, of which we are soon to find the fulfilment in many grievous revolutions and disasters. And yet amid all these it is impossible to depreciate the value and operation of the peaceful interval that preceded them, or to deny that, though other things might fall or fade away for a time, the great work of the diffusion of Christian civilisation was destined ever to make more rapid progress, even by the help of those very events which seemed to threaten its extinction.
SCOTTISH MELODIES BY DELTA.
Shon’st thou but to pass away, Chieftain, in thy bright noon-day? (All who knew thee, love thee!) Who to Eric would not yield? Red hand in the battle field, Kinsman’s idol, Beauty’s shield, Flowers we strew above thee!
Eagle-like, in Glory’s sky, Soar’d thy dauntless spirit high; (All who knew thee, love thee!) Scion of a matchless race, Strong in form, and fair of face, First in field, and first in chase, Flowers we strew above thee!
Three to one Argyle came on, Yet thy glance defiance shone; (All who knew thee, love thee!) Fear thine Islesmen never knew; We were firm, tho’ we were few; And in front thy banner flew:-- Flowers we strew above thee!
What mere men could do was done; Two at least we slew for one; (All who knew thee, love, thee!) But, ah fatal was our gain! For, amid the foremost slain, Lay’st thou, whom we mourn in vain: Flowers we strew above thee!
Mourn!--nor own one tearless eye, Barra, Harris, Uist, and Skye! (All who knew thee, love thee!) Eric! low thou liest the while, Shadowed by Iona’s pile; May no step thy stone defile:-- Flowers we strew above thee!
THE STORMY SEA!
Ere the twilight bat was flitting, In the sunset, at her knitting, Sang a lonely maiden, sitting Underneath her threshold tree; And, as daylight died before us, And the vesper star shone o’er us, Fitful rose her tender chorus-- “Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
Warmly shone that sunset glowing; Sweetly breathed the young flowers blowing; Earth, with beauty overflowing, Seem’d the home of love to be, As those angel tones ascending, With the scene and season blending, Ever had the same low ending-- “Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
Curfew bells remotely ringing, Mingled with that sweet voice singing; And the last red rays seem’d clinging Lingeringly to tower and tree: Nearer as I came, and nearer, Finer rose the notes, and clearer; Oh! ’twas heaven itself to hear her-- “Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
“Blow, ye west winds! blandly hover O’er the bark that bears my lover; Gently blow, and bear him over To his own dear home and me; For, when night winds bend the willow, Sleep forsakes my lonely pillow, Thinking of the foaming billow-- “Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
How could I but list, but linger, To the song, and near the singer, Sweetly wooing heaven to bring her Jamie from the stormy sea: And, while yet her lips did name me, Forth I sprang--my heart o’ercame me-- “Grieve no more, sweet, I am Jamie, Home returned, to love and thee!”
GENERAL MACK--A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
_To the Tune of “No one else could have done it.”_
At the taking of Ulm, some forty years back, “No one could have done it” but General Mack: Like “The League,” the besiegers were certainly strong, But to Mack, without doubt, did the triumph belong: “In vain,” people cried, “must have been the attack, But for one single man--gallant General Mack!”
Yet “the Hero of Ulm,” doesn’t stand quite alone,-- For we have a General Mack of our own; And when any strong Fortress in which he commands, Any morning is found in The Enemy’s hands, We cry till our voices are ready to crack, “Pray, who could have done it but General Mack?”
In the time of _old_ Mack, although only a lad, What delight in the name must the stripling have had! How the opening buds of political truth Must have swell’d in the heart of the generous youth, As he nobly resolved to pursue the same track, And become, in due season, a General Mack!
“If perchance,” he would say, “the time ever should be, When some fortress as strong is entrusted to _me_-- If its chosen defenders I ever should lead, Here at once is a system that’s sure to succeed! How soon may the boldest and bravest attack Be brought to an end, by a General Mack!”
In days when they tell us that prophets are rare, This was, for a young one, you’ll own, pretty fair; For in due course of time, (not to dwell upon dates,) Full many a fortress had open’d its gates; And I could not admit, though I were on the rack, Any one could have done it but General Mack.
On each new exploit, the same wonderment ran-- “You’ll allow that this Mack _is_ a wonderful man. All the optics of friends and of foes he defies-- He is always preparing some pleasant surprise-- What a squint you must have, if you see on what tack, He next is to go--honest General Mack!”
Oh, gallant commander! I hear people say, These triumphs of yours have at length had their day. I will not determine how far that may be, But I’m sure they have not been _forgotten_ by me; And a Carol for CHRISTMAS you never shall lack, As long as your name shall be GENERAL MACK!
REFLECTIONS SUGGESTED BY THE CAREER OF THE LATE PREMIER.
We have heard a great deal said of late against what are termed “personalities”--a term which, I suppose, implies remarks or reflections on the personal conduct of an individual. If a statesman is hard pressed on some unpleasant point, he escapes by saying, that it is only a “personality,” and that to “bandy personalities” is a thing from which he is precluded by his dignity. If a discussion in Parliament turn much upon these personalities, they are treated by those who may find them distasteful, as a totally irrelevant matter, interrupting the true business of the House; and if they are noticed, it is done as if it was a pure πάρεργον, a gratuitous piece of condescension on the part of the person replying to the attack. It seems to be laid down as a sort of axiom by many, that political questions should be discussed solely on their own merits, abstaining from all remarks on personal character, more especially in Parliament, where all such reflections are condemned as pure waste of the time of the House.
That political questions should be discussed on their own merits, and that those merits are in no way affected by the character of any individual whatever, is perfectly true; but if it be meant to be inferred that the personal character of public men is therefore a matter of no importance, a subject which is to be veiled in a sacred silence, and never to be examined or discussed, such a sentiment is eminently flimsy and false, one which could only find general acceptance in a poor-minded age, to which material interests were of greater value than the far higher ones of national character. For that the national character is greatly affected by the personal character of its leading public men, is a truth that will scarcely be called in question. The venality and corruption which more especially disgraced the ministry of Walpole, and infected, in a greater or less degree, that of his successors, may reasonably be expected to have exercised a widely debasing influence on the nation at large, an expectation amply confirmed (to say nothing of native testimonies) by the estimates which foreign writers of that time draw of the national character of England. The intriguing and profligate character of many of the public men under Charles II. had, no doubt, a similarly evil influence on the popular mind; and generally, all insincerity in high places must be looked on as a bane to the country. Most widely should we err, if, in estimating the career of these statesmen, we looked only to the outward character of their measures, in a commercial, economical, or political point of view. However beneficial many of their measures may have been in these respects, if their own character was not sincere and honest, if these measures were brought about not by fair and open means, but by artful and underhand intrigues, by false professions, by duplicity, and insincerity, by venality, whether of the open bribe, or the insidious government influence, we pass a verdict of censure on their career, we reject them from the rank of the true patriots, the sacred band, who have earned renown as the pure benefactors of their country,--“Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo.”
If we looked only at the commercial or practical consequences of his measures, the career of Walpole might be esteemed glorious--for I believe it is generally considered that his measures were sagacious and successful. But the venal character of his administration is a blot that no one may remove, and this stain on his personal character neutralises (as far as he is concerned) all the effect of his measures. Posterity, accordingly, has done him justice, and has assigned him his fitting rank--he takes his place among the skilful statesmen, not among the great patriots. Who will be able to alter this decision? Who shall have influence to induce the world to raise him to the higher rank,--to make us couple the name of Walpole with those of Aristides, Phocion, and Demosthenes?
Since, then, this personal character exercises so wide an influence for good or for bad upon the character, and therefore on the destinies, of a nation, are we to be told, that it is not a subject of discussion, that it is shrined in an inviolable asylum, removed from the free exercise of thought; that we must confine our views to the character of measures, and not dare to direct them to the character of men? Who is it, in writing the history of Charles I. who has not pointed out the lamentable defect in the character of that unfortunate prince, that his friends could not rely on his professions? And if there be a statesman of the present day, whose friends cannot rely upon his professions, are we totally to abstain from making any reflection, either mentally or verbally, on so lamentable a defect? By whom are we taught this new and precious doctrine? Certain members of the late Government take upon them to be our chief instructors in it; more especially, perhaps, Mr. Sidney Herbert. Sharp expressions had been raining pretty thick from his foes, amid which he and his colleagues (proh nefas!) had been termed “Janissaries!”
Talibus exarsit dictis violentia Sidnei; Dat gemitum;
and he delivers an able lecture to his opponents on their strong and ungentlemanly language. After this, let us take care what we are about: let us say nothing ungentlemanly respecting the conduct of Walpole: whatever we may think of the personal character of Cromwell, let us, in our language at least, observe the established courtesies and urbanities of discussion.
“Not so,” perhaps says Mr. Herbert. “I make a distinction: I do not mean to debar you from free discussion on the characters of the dead; but what I desire is, that you abstain from meddling with the conduct of the living.” Where is it, then, that he has found this doctrine? Were those who blamed, and strongly too, the conduct of Shaftesbury, and Bolingbroke, and Walpole, when alive, culpable? Was it only permitted to do so after their death? Is Aristophanes thought peculiarly guilty for having blamed Cleon while alive and in power? Is Socrates stigmatised for having wounded the feelings of any demagogue of the day, or of the thirty tyrants? Is Cicero reproached for his ungentlemanly tone towards Catiline, his disregard of the feelings of Verres, his total want of courtesy and urbanity even to so eminent and distinguished a man as Antony? Or in our own days, is Lord Lyndhurst blamed for having again happily applied the language of Cicero to denounce the conduct, or rather misconduct, of O’Connell? No; if their censure was deserved, they are honoured for having decidedly expressed it. And when, indeed, is it of greater importance that a true estimate should be formed of the character of public men, than while they are yet alive,--while that character is still exercising its widely-acting influence, and while mistakes in respect to it may lead to the most pernicious consequences? It is during their lifetime that we should discuss the characters of such men as O’Connell and Peel. A true estimate of their character after death is, doubtless, better than nothing; but a true estimate of it during life is better still. The proverb tells us, that “late is better than never;” but it does not deny that early is better than late.
“Well, then,” perhaps Mr. Herbert may reply, “you may, if you please, judge their character while they are yet alive, but this must be in proper time and place; I must request you to abstain from doing so in Parliament. Strong language in Parliament on personal character is a thing which I can never approve; here I must insist on the use of mild language, on a gentlemanly and courteous tone of discussion.”
And what, we would ask, is the object of Parliament, if not to discuss impartially, but firmly and decidedly, all important subjects that deeply concern the public weal? And what subject more important than the conduct of the men who hold the helm? Since how long is it that Parliament has been considered as having no right to form or to express any opinion on this subject? Since how long has the new doctrine been held or been acted on, that they are only to regard measures, and not the conduct of men? This is calling on them to abdicate one of the highest and most important of their functions; for the public character of statesmen is at least as important a consideration as that of the measures they propose; frequently of much greater importance. And in what place can such opinions be more fitly expressed, or with greater weight and propriety, than within the walls of Parliament; of that assembly, whose duty it is to deliberate on all matters concerning the national welfare?
“Well, then,” perhaps says our Parliamentary master of the ceremonies, “let us grant even this point; still I must insist on their expressing such opinions in courteous and gentlemanly language.”
We should be much obliged to our preceptor, if he would inform us of the precise mode in which this is to be done. We suppose he will grant that if such opinions are to be expressed at all, the thing chiefly desirable is, that the expression of the opinions be _true_; that the language employed convey an accurate and well-defined idea of the real sentiments entertained by the speaker.
Now, if the deliberate opinion which the speaker wishes to convey to the assembly be, that a public man is insincere, underhand, and artful, one whose convictions have no genuine strength, one whose professions cannot be trusted, we would fain be informed how these ideas can be accurately, truthfully, and unmistakeably conveyed, in gentlemanly, courteous, and pleasing language. Our tutor must give us a list of expressions by which this can be effected, before he blame us for not making use of them. But even suppose that his ingenious intellect should enable him to accomplish this, we would still desire to be informed what would be the use of it, and why, if we wish to express our opinion of a person’s insincerity, the discourteous word of “insincere,” which is now in use, should not be as good as the most gentlemanly and elegant detour that could be invented even by Mr. Herbert’s ingenuity.
Or take the very word of “_Janissary_,” which forms the bone of contention. The Janissaries were a body who acted under orders of their chief, without perhaps troubling themselves much about the abstract merits of the case. If bidden by their General to do a thing, they did it; if bidden to abstain, they abstained. Such conduct is not altogether unknown among the politicians of England. If, then, the word Janissary convey an accurate idea, well applicable to certain individuals, why should its use be so atrocious? Really, we are at a loss to comprehend the storm of indignation excited in the late Government by the simple word Janissary. We have heard of a fish-woman who patiently endured all the opprobrious epithets heaped on her by one of her fellows, till this latter happened to apply to her the term of “individual.” What the term of “individual” was to the fish-woman, the term of “Janissary” seems to have been to certain members of the late Peel cabinet. We will, however, grant that its application was somewhat unjust, though quite in a different way from what those parties suppose. Leaving it to them to defend themselves, we must take up the part of the Janissaries, whose feelings seem to have been totally disregarded in the whole matter. Let us remember that they no longer exist; victims of a melancholy end, they are incapable of speaking for themselves; be it then allowed to us to see that fair play is done them. Is it just, we ask, that their name should be so scornfully rejected as the _ne plus ultra_ of reproaches by English statesmen? What great guilt are they charged with, that it should be thus opprobrious? Not, surely, that they were paid: I have some doubts even whether such was the case; but, granted that they were, so are our soldiers, so are our officials. Whatever were their errors, they were bold and brave, true and consistent to their Mussulman principles. They were not basely subservient to government influence; their fault lay rather the other way. It was not that they truckled to the Prime Vizier, but that they did not sufficiently respect their Sultan. Their misconduct has been expiated by their death. Peace be with their ashes! Let us not add insult to injury. It is not for Peel and his followers to spurn at and dishonour their name. Considering the recent conduct of so many of our public men, may we not reasonably think that it is a greater insult to the Janissaries to apply their name to some of our statesmen, than it is to those statesmen that the name of Janissary should be applied to them. Would not the shade of an old Janissary be fully as indignant if he heard himself termed a paid English official, as the English official in his full-blown virtue could be at being called a paid Janissary?
The contrast of all these indignant professions of our statesmen with their actual practice, has not the best effect. The present is not the time best fitted for these displays; the brilliancy of public virtue has not of late been so lustrous as to justify this tone of triumph over the poor Ottomans. If these epithets are so distasteful to our public men, there is a far better mode of repelling them than these angry protestations. Let them act with that openness, sincerity, and candour which England looks for in her statesmen, and they need not fear far harder terms than this much dreaded name of Janissary.
But enough of this digression, which is purely incidental. We have merely wished to state a principle, let others accommodate it to the rules of Parliamentary warfare. Enough has been said for our object, to vindicate the utility of a review of the public character of leading statesmen, and the right of expressing a judgment upon it in firm and decided language.
That the practice of defaming the character of a public man without cause, simply because he is a political opponent--a practice too much employed in the party political warfare of the day--is one deserving the severest reprobation: this is a truth that no one ought to deny. But the evil of this practice consists, not in the decided tone of the language, nor in the severity of the opinion expressed, but in the absence of all just cause to warrant the strength of the censure.
But to argue, that because many people are blamed unjustly, no one is to be blamed justly--that the abuse of censure precludes the use of it,--is a mode of reasoning which cannot for a moment be admitted. We all know, that if we are forbidden from using everything that may be abused, nothing of any worth or importance would be left; and it is an old remark, that the very best and most useful things, are precisely those that are liable to the easiest and greatest abuses.
If I thought that the views which I entertain on the conduct of the late Premier were in the least degree the result of political prejudices, I should carefully abstain from giving them publicity. But I am not conscious of being swayed by any such motives. With regard to the greater part of the actual measures brought forward by Sir R. Peel, as far as I know them, I feel no reason to disapprove of them. With regard to many of his measures, which are wanting in any specific or decided character, it is natural that no very decided opinion should be felt. They are good, for all I know to the contrary, as far as they go. With respect to the more prominent measure of Catholic Emancipation, it is one that has my hearty approval. With respect to the bulk of his financial measures, I believe them, from general report, to be sagacious and skilful. But, it will be said, you have a strong opinion in favour of Protection, and here your political prejudices warp your judgment. Such, I can safely say, is by no means the case. I by no means entertain any fixed and definite opinion, either for or against the actual measure of the repeal of the Corn Laws. I have not obtained sufficient knowledge of the facts of the case, to enable me to come to such a decisive opinion; and so little am I suited at present for a staunch Protectionist, that I feel in perfect readiness, if greater knowledge, or the practical result of the working of the measure should convince me of its utility, to recognise its value and importance; nay, I will even say, that in the state of excitement into which the public mind had been worked on the subject, I rejoice at the experiment being made, for if it work well, so much the better, and if it work ill, our laws are not as those of the Medes and Persians. Its evils can be stopped in time, and if so, will be far less than those arising from permanent disaffection among the people. Certainly, many of the principles urged in its support, I consider fallacious, and some of those fallacies I have endeavoured to expose; but I know perfectly well, that people may form a correct practical judgment, though unable to explain, philosophically, the true principles on which that judgment is really based. No earnest free-trader, who advocates his cause from a sense of its truth, could wish such fallacies to remain without exposure. If their view is true, it cannot but gain instead of lose, by being removed from the treacherous support of unsound principles.
But I feel quite sure that I entertain no prejudice against any man, merely on account of his being a free-trader. I dislike all whose suspicious conversion prevents full confidence in the sincerity of their motives. I feel no sympathy with those who, with the ignoble violence of petty minds, preach up a war against the aristocracy, impugn all motives but their own, and seem to anticipate with triumph the downfal of those above them, and their own seizure on rank and power in their turn. But then, it is not here the free trade that I dislike, but, in the one case, the insincerity; in the other, the bigotry and narrow-mindedness. But with a reasonable and liberal-minded free-trader, such as many of the Whig party doubtless are, who is willing to do justice to other motives than his own, and is actuated by a sincere and earnest belief in the truth of his principles, I feel perfectly sure that no animosity vitiates my feelings towards him, and that I could be as good friends with him as with any person whatever. I believe, indeed, that there are few people in England less under the influence of party or political prejudice than myself, nor less unfitted, so far as their absence is concerned, for forming an impartial estimate of a public man’s character. I feel, therefore, no apprehension, in the present case, of being influenced, even unconsciously, by unworthy motives, but simply by the desire of expressing my opinion on conduct which appears to me to call for grave and decided censure. My judgment is not based on any isolated or doubtful expression, nor on minute and recondite circumstances: it is the simple reading of those plain and unmistakeable characters which more conspicuously mark Sir Robert Peel’s career, which are known and admitted by all, and which lie within the comprehension of all.
For my own part, I knew next to nothing of his former political conduct, till the discussion caused by recent circumstances; a vague knowledge of some change in his opinion on the Catholic Question, was nearly the whole information I possessed of the career of a man respecting whom, feeling no great admiration of his character, I never took any lively interest. Nor can I say, that at present I have any thing but the most elementary knowledge of the circumstances of his political life. I know no more than those leading events which form the salient points in his career, which, however, it seems to me, are quite sufficient for a just conclusion,--a conclusion which, perhaps, is the less likely to err, as founded on simpler premises, and freer from all subtle minutiæ.
I take then the facts which, as far as I can learn, are admitted by all,--himself among the rest. If there be any error in my statement of them, it certainly does not arise from design.
After having been for some time in the government with Canning, he refused to hold office under him, and went into opposition, from a strong and decided feeling (as was professed by himself) against the Catholic claims which that statesman advocated.
Amid the ranks of this opposition, were some partisans, more zealous than scrupulous, who carried on their party warfare in an unduly violent way, which produced an effect much deeper than political attacks usually do, on the generous and sensitive mind of Canning. This misconduct, though confined to few, and little thought of at the time by their associates, has, by its result, cast somewhat of a shade over the whole of this opposition.
Owing at length to the efforts of his party, Sir R. Peel is brought in, as the Protestant champion, to resist the Catholic claims, which the great bulk of that party look upon as fraught with danger both to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the State.
This party, which places him in power, never for a moment doubts that his opinion coincides with their own, nor does he ever express a sentiment which could lead them to suppose that they were mistaken in their conviction. His actions and his speeches are perfectly in harmony with that opinion, and all tend to confirm them in unlimited confidence.
When, however, he is seated in office, and while they are still enjoying their opinion in perfect security, lie astonishes them by proposing and passing the very measure which they imagined it was his principal object to resist.
On the sudden and unexpected triumph of the principles of reform, which raised the Whigs to power, Peel is again reduced to the ranks of Opposition, and we here find him strenuously attacking all their principles, which he denounces as dangerous to the institutions of Church and State. He thus rallies round himself a party termed Conservative, whose object is to resist these encroachments, which they look on as irreligious, destructive, and anarchical.
This party gradually gains ground, while the Whigs decline in proportion. At length, when the Whigs begin to devote their attention to the development of free-trade principles, the storm, under Peel’s auspices, is roused to the highest pitch, and the Whigs fall prostrate under their triumphant adversaries.
Peel then comes into power, (for the second time,) supported by a large majority. He stands forth in the character of “Defender of the Faith,” and of the institutions of Church and State, and, generally, as the firm antagonist of all Whiggish principles.
But more especially does he stand forth as the great Champion of Protection--to resist the menacing encroachments of Free Trade--to check all advances in the direction of that dimly seen and dreaded catastrophe--the Repeal of the Corn Laws. Here, again, his party entertain the strongest conviction that his opinions on this subject coincide with their own; and on the strength of this conviction they take their measures in full security on the most important matters.
Sir R. Peel, as before, never for a moment leads them to infer, by any word or action, that this conviction is erroneous; on the contrary, for a considerable period of time, he gives repeated assurances, in the strongest language, of his support of the principle of Protection.
Nevertheless his measures, as it is soon observed, are all imbued with the precise policy which he had formerly so denounced in his opponents--a discovery which excites considerable dissatisfaction among his followers, though they reconcile themselves to it, as they best may, on the plea of the necessity of the times. Not for a moment, however, are they induced to doubt of his firm determination to uphold the Corn Laws.
No sooner, however, has the repeal of these laws (by the declaration of the opposite party and the strength of public opinion) become feasible, than, without giving any previous intimation of his real opinion, while his party are still in complete security, and relying on his support, he proposes and carries the very measure which they believed him to be heartily endeavouring to oppose, and for the sake of resisting which they had placed him in power, and supported him.
Before quitting power, he makes a speech explanatory of his views and principles, in which he expresses his adoption of all those principles of policy which, when the Whigs were in power, he had so resolutely denounced, and his perfect readiness to assist in developing their doctrines much further than they themselves had done.
Such is a simple outline of the facts,--facts of no dubious or recondite nature, but notorious, and not, I apprehend, capable of denial.
It is from these facts that my opinion is formed, that Sir R. Peel’s career is deserving of the gravest censure: it is from these that I draw the conclusion, by some so much deprecated, and venture to pronounce, without feeling much risk of error, that Sir R. Peel, in his public conduct, is insincere, a man unworthy of all trust and confidence. A most unwarrantable attack, exclaim his partisans; an imputation that can only be the result of the venomous malignancy of a political opponent! Who else would dare to brand such a man with the odious crime of insincerity, to assert that he is not worthy of being trusted--to impute to a statesman of such pure and exalted virtue the detestable guilt of political hypocrisy!
How far the simple ideas of right and wrong may be altered by a tenure of office, or by long acquaintance with political affairs, we are fortunately ignorant; but unless they undergo some improvement, or at least some modification, we are at a loss to account for all the indignation manifested at these charges by the principal members of the late ministry, and by other leading political luminaries, and are tempted to inquire whence arise such great angers in these celestial minds? To our unsophisticated intellect it seems, that to say that Sir R. Peel is insincere, is only saying, in a concise and general way, what is conveyed in the simple statement of the above facts, with somewhat more of detail. What better exposition of the word _insincerity_ could we give to a person desirous of receiving it than the plain recital of Sir R. Peel’s conduct, as given above? That conduct is little else than the very definition of the word. Is not a man said to be insincere when, either by words or deeds, or by their omission, he wilfully leads people to believe that he holds opinions which he really does not, and to act in important matters upon that supposition;--when, knowing that they believe him to support their cause, and that they are placing their trust in him accordingly, he does not undeceive them, as one word of his might do, but suffers them complacently to remain in their error?
Is not a man said to be unworthy of trust, or faithless, who, while he knows that a trust of the greatest importance is reposed in him, and who has tacitly acknowledged the acceptance of that trust, is seeking all the time the ruin of that cause, the defence of which has been intrusted in full confidence to him?
Is not a man said to be a hypocrite who acts outwardly a part which is at variance with his inward convictions? Is not a man a hypocrite, who outwardly so behaves himself, that he is looked upon as the Protestant champion, while inwardly he is casting about how to carry the Catholic claims? Is not he a hypocrite whose demeanour is such that he is clapped on the political stage as the hero of Protection, whilst inwardly he is thinking of the time when he shall be cheered as the Repealer of the Corn Laws?
Now, that Sir R. Peel was ignorant that his party reposed trust in him, and believed his views to coincide with their own, is, I imagine, what nobody, not even himself, could for a moment pretend. It may be looked on as a fact that cannot be disputed, that he knew that a large body of men believed him to hold a certain class of opinions, while he himself knew that he was holding the contrary, and that nevertheless he suffered them to repose trust in him, without ever undeceiving them of their error, which a word of his would have sufficed to do, and allowed them to act in security on matters of importance upon that erroneous belief.
He is placed, then, in this dilemma;--that if he acknowledges the fact he acknowledges the insincerity; if he denies the fact, nobody will believe the denial; and so far from escaping from the odium of insincerity, he will only prove it the more, by adding one piece of it to another. Any way, then, he cannot escape this charge of insincerity, which is complained of as so peculiarly distasteful. To what purpose, then, are all these high-sounding speeches, this tone of injured innocence, this indignation at the slightest hint of the names of deceit or hypocrisy? It falls powerless on his accusers; it is not they who laboriously strain to prove the charges, it is the facts which speak for themselves. But what is the use, alas! of all this declamation against the unhappy facts, which are in no degree moved or affected by it? Here, again, if the reputation of sincerity be so much valued, would it not have been a far better method of securing it, instead of making all these laboured professions of esteem, to have simply observed its rules in practice? How is it that so mature and able a statesman overlooked so simple and obvious a course? Let politics explain the mystery.
The fact that he himself professes to see nothing in the least degree blamable in his conduct, nothing that can in any way be qualified as insincere, and that some of his partisans are indignant at such terms being applied to it, is a useful example, to show how political prejudices can blind the mind to the simplest moral truths.
The only line of defence that he could reasonably take, would be to grant the insincerity, but to maintain that it was rendered necessary and justifiable by circumstances. Thus, (taking the second case, of the repeal of the Corn Laws,) his partisans might argue, that the measure was one most highly beneficial to the country; that it was of vital importance as well for its commercial interests, as also to allay the strong and growing discontent which had taken hold of the nation; that the concealment and dissimulation of which such complaint is made, were necessary to obtain these benefits. Had Sir R. Peel avowed at an early stage his real views, the prejudices of the Protectionists would immediately have displaced him from power. It was necessary not to awaken these prejudices, and this end was obtained by concealing his true sentiments; by suffering them to repose their trust in one who was really their enemy, which, it is admitted, was certainly a piece of hypocrisy. “But then,” would they say, “mark the advantages of this hypocrisy. Peel is thus enabled quietly to watch his opportunity. The Whigs, finding the current of opinion strongly setting for free trade, declare their adherence to it. Now, then, they are fairly compromised, and Peel has the game all to himself. If he goes out, and the Whigs come in, they will not be able to carry it, for when Peel is out of office, not a dozen of his party will vote in favour of Free Trade. They will not be able then to make any head, and if they come in they will be immediately displaced again. Peel all the time, with that hypocrisy which you so much blame, has kept his own plans snugly locked up in his impenetrable breast, and is still looked upon by the unconscious Protectionists as their hero and champion, so much so, that they refuse to believe any rumours which may be floating about to the contrary. Thanks then to this hypocrisy, he smoothly comes in again as before, but the case, now that he is once more in office, is widely altered. If the Whigs had proposed the measure, perhaps not a dozen of his party would have supported it. But now that he is in office, the ‘_government influence_’ is in his hands;” (that “_government influence_,” a phrase after Mr. Sidney Herbert’s own heart which means, I believe, being interpreted, that mixture of motives which combines, with the purest public duty, certain visions of peerages, salaries, offices of various kinds, and all the undefinable tribe of loaves and fishes.) “Will Peel find only a dozen free-traders among his ranks now? Rest assured that a wonderful liberality will be diffused among them; for the government influence has the property of making many a man a free-trader, who otherwise would have lived and died a staunch Protectionist. A round hundred will be converted in addition to the former dozen, by the magic of this government influence. This, in addition to the Whigs, who would any way vote for free-trade, will be sufficient to carry the measure with a good majority.
“Do not then let us blame so loudly this hypocrisy, before we have examined how far it has been advantageous. In the present case, it has hastened on a most beneficial measure, and we may well overlook in regard to that a little falsehood and deceit. If the Protectionists have been taken in, it is no very great matter; they are not people to be pitied; they should have looked sharper about what they were doing. Peel had shown them before what they might expect in the Catholic business; and it is their own fault if such old birds let themselves be caught, twice running, with chaff.”
This, altering somewhat the expressions to suit the dignity of his language, is the line of defence that Sir R. Peel ought to adopt. Admitting the insincerity, which it is useless to attempt to deny, he should rest his case on the necessities of the State, on the important benefits of his measure. In this view it will be a case of a conflict of duties,--of the duty of truthfulness and sincerity, which in ordinary cases is binding--and the duty to his country; and he may say, that considering his duty to his country as greater than his duty of sincerity to the Protectionists, he considered himself justified in deceiving them, with a view of benefiting the nation. In this case, however, we must remark, that he ought to acknowledge the deceit, and feel compunction for it; for the breach of a duty, even when sacrificed to a superior one, should not (as the moralists and as reason tell us) take place in a virtuous mind without pain. This pain, however, Sir R. Peel is particularly unwilling to acknowledge; he strenuously insists on feeling no humiliation or compunction of any kind for any part of his conduct, by which assertion he gives us no favourable impression of the nature of his mind; while by taking up so foolish and exaggerated a posture, he materially injures the strength of his defence.
That the duty of truth, though paramount in ordinary circumstances, is not so in all, and requires in certain cases to be sacrificed to superior duties, is what all must on reflection admit. The wife who saved her husband by a falsehood, is immortalized as the “splendide mendax” of Horace, and many other cases might be quoted in point. There is no reason why a statesman also might not, in some circumstances, be “splendide mendax,” but it is a dangerous aim, and he must take especial care, that the natural meanness of the “mendacia” do not more than counteract the splendour of his measures.
In estimating such conduct, two points come into consideration, the splendour of the benefit obtained, and the character of those upon whom the deceit is practised. Thus, in the above case of Hypermnestra, the benefit obtained was the preservation of her husband’s life, a benefit of the greatest importance to him, and one which her duty to her husband made it imperative upon her to seek. Moreover, the conduct of those whom she deceived was such, that the duty of sincerity towards them was scarcely binding; for they themselves were endeavouring to compass an act of the greatest guilt, one which involved not only deceit, but murder. In every way her conduct was perfectly right, and justly is she celebrated as “splendide mendax.”
Let us then examine, on both these points, the conduct of the late Premier; let us weigh Peel against Hypermnestra. Let us scrutinise the character of his “mendacia,” and see whether it should be ranked in the category of “splendida” or “ingloria.”
First, then, as to the benefits which his recent conduct has conferred upon his country.
Admitting (what, however, we cannot hold as any way proved at present) that the measure itself of free-trade in corn, is one of the highest benefit to the country,--granting that the promises held out by its most sanguine advocates, shall be copiously fulfilled,--it still remains to inquire, how far the country’s possession of those benefits will be attributable to the conduct of Sir R. Peel, who, up to the eleventh hour, was their strenuous and consistent opponent.
It is a generally admitted truth, that under the constitution we now possess, as soon as public opinion is decidedly formed in favour of any principle, that principle must triumph over all opposing influences. If, then, public opinion were strongly pronounced in favour of free-trade in corn, if the majority of the electors, who, under our constitution, represent by the members they send to Parliament the deliberate opinion of the nation, were strongly and decidedly in favour of the measure, why should they be unable to give effect to those opinions?--what need would they have of all the circuitous and underhand process employed by the late Premier? No damage could have been done in this case to their cause by Sir R. Peel’s avowal of his real opinions, instead of the close secrecy in which, for purposes best known to himself, he thought fit to veil them for so long a period. Granted, that by so doing he would have been displaced from office; the country would not have felt at all embarrassed by such an event--it would have had no difficulty on that account in finding men who could execute its deliberate opinion. However desirable it may be to Sir Robert, that he should have been the minister to pass the measure, that his name might be associated with it, and that it should cast a halo on his career, all that is a matter of pure indifference to the nation, and cannot be looked on in the light of a benefit. If the opinions of the actual Parliament were the only obstacle, a dissolution was nigh at hand, or might have been resorted to at any moment, when the country could have had no possible difficulty in expressing its real opinions, and carrying them into effect, either through him or others. However much, then, it might be advantageous to himself, we cannot see what benefit, in such a case, free-trade can have derived from the sinister support of all this disingenuous conduct.
But, if the merit attributed to him be, that by means of his skilful artifices, and by the government influence at his disposal, he succeeded in carrying the measure before it was the deliberate opinion of the House, or of the majority of the electors of the country, then it is plain that his conduct has been unconstitutional, and deserving far more blame than praise. In this case the majority would have been obtained by improper influences, not by the deliberate convictions of sincere and earnest men, and would have been forced, by a species of trick, by the minority of the electors on the majority. We all know to some extent what “government influence” means--though the idea of it is so mysterious and vague, that it is impossible to give a very precise definition. Without asserting that it is an influence of any very dishonourable kind, (as times go,) we may safely assert that it is not of the most honourable. Motives resulting from sincerity and truth, are certainly more estimable than those which result from government influence. We should have thought that a minister, however useful he might find it in practice, would carefully abstain from making much direct reference to it in public. That a statesman should boast of the success with which, by his eloquence and earnestness, he had advocated a principle--of the impression which his arguments had made on the minds of his hearers,--of how he had consistently supported it from the time while it was yet weak and doubtful, till its triumphant success had crowned his arduous exertions, this we could readily understand,--this would be a just subject of self-gratulation. But if he has no proofs of having persuaded the minds of men by reason; if, on the contrary, his arguments have all tended to plunge them deeper into error and delusion, we cannot understand how he should think it a matter of boast, that he had persuaded their minds by “government influence.” Such a boast appears to us not to be of the most honourable kind to himself, and certainly not very complimentary to those who had supported him. If we ourselves had voted for a minister, and had heard him afterwards declare, that he believed us to have done so from “government influence,” we should certainly look upon it as a species of insult. Sir R. Peel, however, in giving his own account of his share of merit in promoting the measure, makes no scruple of attributing it all to his well-timed use of “government influence.” After particularly insisting, that Lord John Russell cannot claim much merit in the affair, he explains to us what amount properly falls to himself. “The real state of the case,” says he, “was, that parties were nearly equally balanced, and THAT THE GOVERNMENT INFLUENCE WAS THROWN INTO THE SCALE.” With his wonted egotism, he does not seem to think it possible, that the gentlemen of his party may have given their vote without reference to him, solely as the result of their genuine convictions. Such is the reward which his unhappy followers receive from the master whom they so faithfully supported. We do not say that they may not have deserved it, but we think they had a right to look for it from other hands.
By his own account, then, the matter stands thus: the merit of the affair is to be shared between Cobden and Peel. In this division of labour, Cobden has all the clean work, and Peel all the dirty. Cobden converts all those whose minds are amenable to persuasion, and Peel all those whose minds are amenable to “government influence.”
Sir Robert Peel, however, seems most perfectly satisfied with his exploit, and never for a moment to doubt that it entitles him to the greatest applause. St. Augustine could not speak with more exultation of converting millions of Pagans to Christianity by the fervour of his eloquence, than Sir R. Peel does of his illustrious feat of converting some hundred ignoble minds to free-trade by his paltry government influence. This is the glorious, the devoted deed, upon which he rests his claims to immortality; this it is which is to enshrine his name amid the gratitude of an admiring posterity. On account of this he trusts that “his name will be gratefully remembered in those places which are the abode of the man whose lot it is to labour, and to gain his bread with the sweat of his brow, when he recruits his strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because no longer leavened with a sense of injustice.” What this abundance of food will actually turn out to be, and when it is to begin, (for I apprehend that as yet, although the law is in operation, no labourers have been incommoded with plethora,) we will not here endeavour to determine. But even if it should turn out to be an abundance altogether unlooked for and unprecedented, we would not have Sir Robert Peel imagine that much of the labourer’s gratitude will go to him. The labourer is generally a shrewd man, with a good share of honest common sense; and he neither likes his bread nor his minister to be leavened with the taint of injustice. He is perfectly capable of discriminating between those who consistently advocate a cause, and those who, having profitably opposed it in the hour of its weakness, when they might have aided it, embrace it at the eleventh hour, in the time of its triumph, when it is capable of aiding them. It is not on time-serving patriots, such as these, that posterity confers her gratitude. Posterity gives her gratitude to the upright and sincere, not to the crafty, servile, and deceitful. Posterity admires those who convert their fellows to truth by persuasion, she scorns those who can only convert them to dishonour by government influence.
If, then, the majority of electors were in favour of free-trade, Peel’s artifices were null and superfluous; if they were not yet in favour of it, they were unconstitutional. He either did no good whatever to the cause, or he passed it sooner than constitutional principles warranted. In the latter case he might claim some merit for anticipating, by a brief period, the time when it would have been duly carried by a majority of the electors. A short additional interval of the enjoyment of free-trade is then, it appears, the utmost extent of his services. Against this are to be placed all the evils arising from his peculiar mode of passing the measure,--the shock given to confidence in public men by such sudden inconsistency,--the general lowering of political character by his craftiness and duplicity,--the disgust excited at the avowed and conspicuous part which government influence has played on the occasion. The country feels justly offended with the minister, who, in a free nation, where the conscientious voice of the majority should alone decide, attempts to anticipate that decision by the voice of those who are biassed by lower and unrecognised motives, and who scruples not to boast of the success of such a method, and lay claim to merit on its account. It feels justly offended also at the discovery, that no less than a hundred of its representatives, who are looked on as the elite of the land, are capable of voting on a measure of first-rate importance, on other grounds than their own heartfelt convictions; that they are ready to vote against it if proposed by A, and for it if proposed by B. Even the cause of free-trade receives its share of damage by becoming associated with the odium of such mischievous proceedings. This, indeed, is felt and acknowledged by many of the free-traders themselves. I may quote, as an illustration, some expressions in a published letter of Mr. Vernon Smith, that has fallen under my eye. He states as a motive for declining office, that “he should be very sorry in his person, however humble, to sanction the belief that official emolument is a motive of action among public men. Sufficient shock” he says, “has already been given to public virtue;” and he subsequently adds, speaking of the Corn Bill, “We have to await many mischiefs from its mode of settlement.”
For our part, had we been free-traders, most earnestly should we have implored that our cause might not be encumbered with the sinister aid of Sir Robert Peel.
Weighing, then, well all the circumstances of the case; considering the relative value of moral and economical advantages; nay, even looking principally merely to the latter, it appears to me, as the result of Sir R. Peel’s recent proceedings, that no residuum of benefit to the country is left, but a very considerable amount of injury. Such a result is not one of sufficient lustre and brightness to enable us to grant him the title in question of “splendide mendax.”
Let us, however, inquire into the other point, as to the character of those who were the dupes of his insincerity, and how far the duty of sincerity between him and them was binding.
The duty of sincerity between a leading statesman and that body of men who were termed his party, does not result from any verbal promise given by one to the other, but is a tacit compact, arising from the nature of things, mutually understood, though not defined; and, precisely on account of its tacit nature, and of so much being left to good faith, is perhaps the more incumbent on an honourable mind. Not, indeed, that the party who have placed a public man in power, have therefore the smallest right to claim an influence over his opinions;--not that because they think they have done a service to him, they are to claim his support of their views as a recompense for that service. He is perfectly free to hold what opinions he pleases, but he is under an obligation honestly to profess those opinions. He is free to change them when he likes, but he is bound to give an intimation of those changes. This is not a case of services bandied to and fro between one party and another, but it is a mutual duty which all public men owe to each other for the furtherance of the welfare of the State. Unless public men of all parties and positions are sincere in the avowal of their opinions, public business sustains severe injury. For in this, as in other things, isolated individuals can accomplish little; men must combine their efforts, and organise themselves, that they may act effectually; and in order to do this, they must know the general tenor of each other’s opinions, and count on their support or their hostility accordingly. If they once took to deceiving one another on these points; if a body of Whigs came over to the Tory benches, (or _vice versâ_,) and acted and spoke like Tories, merely with the view of deceiving them, leading them into erroneous calculations, and then profiting by the error they had caused, such conduct would justly be stigmatised as baneful and dishonourable. For public men act and concert measures in matters of the greatest importance upon the belief which they thus entertain of the general views of others, and unless they can act in security on this belief, there is an end of all public confidence. But this general sincerity of profession and behaviour, though binding on all, even the humblest member of the House, is more especially so on the leading and more distinguished statesmen, inasmuch as its breach in their case is productive of greater evils. A knowledge of their real views is of the greatest importance to all parties, whose measures vitally depend on the opinion they entertain of the general views of these statesmen. Upon this belief they securely act in matters of the greatest importance; upon this they support or oppose a ministry; and if they are deceived in this belief, they are thus induced to act in a way which they would, if they knew the truth, think contrary to the public welfare. If a man should knowingly induce in another, though without any actual falsehood, an erroneous belief, and suffer him to act in consequence in a way prejudicial to his private fortune, (of which we have seen many instances in the late railroad transactions,) such conduct is justly denounced as highly censurable. But much more censurable is the conduct of him who induces an erroneous belief in another, so as to lead him to act in a way prejudicial (under his views) to the public welfare. By how much the public welfare is dearer to the high-minded man than his own individual fortune, by so much is the misconduct of the hypocrite in Parliament greater than that of the hypocrite upon ’Change. When, therefore, a Prime Minister knowingly suffers an erroneous belief to exist in the minds of men, owing to which they give him their support, which support, if they knew his real views, they would think injurious to the public welfare, he is committing a breach of a solemn trust; he is suffering, or rather he is inducing, men to act contrary to the dictates of their conscience, to do that which he knows they will afterwards repent of, as contrary to what they deem the interests of their country; and his conduct is in every way deserving of the strongest and severest censure.
That Sir Robert Peel knew that men looked upon him as a Protectionist, while he knew that he was not one; that he knew that, in consequence of this belief, they supported him; that he knew that if they were aware of his real views, they would instantly withdraw their support, and that as soon as they discovered them they would grievously repent of that which they had given him, as having been contrary to the real interests of their country;--that he knew all this, and that, nevertheless, he concealed his real views from these men, and allowed them to retain their erroneous belief, and to act consequently in a way diametrically opposite to their conscientious convictions, though a single sentence of his would have sufficed to dispel their error, and enable them to further their country’s interests conformably with their own views--this, I say, is matter of fact, which he would in vain attempt to deny.
This case, then, exactly corresponds with the preceding; he has broken a solemn though tacit trust; he has given a severe blow to public confidence; he has culpably suffered honourable men to deceive themselves in matters deeply concerning the public welfare; and his conduct, therefore, exposes him to a severer censure than I have any wish to seek for language to express.
And when honest men, who have been for a long time conscientiously supporting him, find that he has been tacitly deceiving them, and concealing from them his real views,--that he has been sporting with their convictions, and using them for nothing more than tools for his own secret purposes,--shall we wonder that they feel just indignation at such conduct, and that they express their feelings in stronger terms than suit the delicate ears of Mr. Sidney Herbert?
Sir R. Peel has indeed attempted, in a broken kind of way, to excuse his conduct, by saying,--“I never told you so and so; if you supported me without knowing my real opinions, it was your own fault. I did not _say_ any thing that you can charge me with as a falsehood.” Without mentioning that, in this case, great suspicion is cast on many even of his verbal professions, which come down to no distant period, surely a sexagenarian Premier can scarcely need to be told, that there is a deceit in actions not less than in professions. Does he think it an excuse that he did not deceive others, but only allowed them to deceive themselves? A pleasant kind of sincerity! Why, this is no more than the excuse of a school-boy, who thinks it a sufficient salve to his conscience that he has skilfully managed to deceive without uttering any thing directly false with his lips. And this is the excuse put forth by an English Minister! Miserable excuse, that fitly crowns the deceit--paltriness of mind, almost inconceivable!
Still worse is it, when he attempts to justify his conduct by taunting his friends with a previous inconsistency of their own, which they had been reluctantly induced to commit through him, in order to support him in power. We cannot understand why he should thus delight in exposing the not very pleasing recesses of his ignoble nature. Certainly, “Quem Jupiter vult perdere, prius dementat.” Otherwise he must see that such palliations as these are far more injurious to his character than the severest attacks of his foes.
The only case in which this duty of sincerity towards public men could at all cease to be binding, and admit of a valid excuse, would be, when those upon whom the deceit was practised were not men conscientiously seeking the public good, but were acting from unworthy views, for private or for class interests. In this case, we will admit that the duty of sincerity would not be of any very strict obligation. This is doubtless the view that is taken by many people of the conduct of the Protectionists; by all that numerous class represented by Messrs. Bright, Villiers, &c.--men who, however sincere themselves, are not probably endowed by nature with very comprehensive or liberal minds. From these gentlemen we hear nothing but attacks on the character of the whole body of the landlords; they look on them as a selfish oligarchy, sacrificing the public good to their own class interests. Such views having been industriously propagated by the League, are entertained with more or less of bitterness by a considerable body of the people. It is on this account that Sir R. Peel’s conduct has met with so much applause among them; this it was which animated the cheers that consoled him on his resignation of power; his treachery to the Protectionists, so far from appearing censurable in the eyes of these admirers, has rather enhanced the merit of his success. But such views, however they may suit the minds of those whose passions are aroused in the party warfare of the day, can meet with no acceptance from the impartial judge. It is impossible to admit for a moment that a very large portion of the whole population of the country, including not only landlords but people of all classes, merchants, tradesmen, and operatives, were so lamentably destitute of all regard for their country, and that public spirit was entirely monopolised by the party advocating free-trade. Neither can we admit that the large body of Protectionist members in the House, forming upwards of a third of the whole, were all playing so unworthy a part. For, adding them to the converts of “Government influence,” we should thus have more than half the House of Commons acting upon questionable motives--a prospect certainly not cheering, nor honourable to the country.
Sir R. Peel, indeed, with his usual magnanimity, does not scruple to adopt, in a great measure, the above view; and, seeing how little he spares the feelings of his own devoted supporters, we cannot expect him to show much tenderness to those who have become his foes. Accordingly, we find him making frequent hints at these unworthy motives; indeed, but for some such belief, we cannot understand how he could have justified to himself his deceitful conduct. In his last words, on laying down his power, he does not conceal his sentiments:--“I shall leave a name,” says he, “execrated by every monopolist, who, from less honourable motives, clings to Protection for his own individual benefit,”--a sentiment warmly, applauded by Messrs. Bright, Villiers, & Co.
The generosity of nature displayed in this parting blow is indeed worthy of admiration! We should scarcely think that it was pronounced by a man, who, up to the age of fifty-six, had done every thing in his power to uphold this very monopoly and oppose the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and who had strongly denounced all imputations of the above kind, in the language of its early and consistent supporters. How noble must be the man, who, having for all his life courted and flattered the aristocracy, and thus obtained power as their champion, now gives them a parting kick, and delivers them over to popular odium as monopolists, after having obtained for himself popularity and influence at their expense!
Really, let us remark, when Sir Robert scruples not to express such views, he has no reason to be indignant if the stones of his opponents break some of the panes of his own glass house, even though they damage a few of the artificial flowers, which he has been striving to rear there with so much care.
But, as we observed before, the impartial judge cannot accept this opinion of Sir Robert’s. He will proportion his praise and blame pretty nearly equally between both parties. He will hope that in both, the main body of men are acting on sincere and worthy motives; in both he must acknowledge it to be probable that there are a few whose motives are of a less estimable kind. But he will not put all the virtue on one side, nor all the selfishness on the other. We have yet to learn that Sir Robert is in any way qualified to pass his censure on the body of English gentlemen. The less he says upon these points the better. In the impartial estimate of the three parties, it is he and his that will come by far the worst off.
We cannot then admit that the character of the parties deceived, in any way justified the insincerity; no sufficient excuse is found upon this head, and the breach of the duty remains exposed to grave and severe censure. England does not recognise such conduct in her Ministers. She has long been accustomed to pride herself on a general openness and sincerity of dealing; and that honesty which she looks for in the humbler walks of life, she claims in a yet more imperative degree from her leading and conspicuous statesmen. She reprobates among these all deceitful and underhand conduct, all espionage and mystery; she loves not the secret opener of letters, even though the plea of utility be at hand to excuse his conduct; nor is the government influence, Sir Robert’s darling, at all palatable to her taste. Such proceedings she thinks more fitted to the court of the despot, to the sinuous policy of the Oriental Divan; in a free country she demands that public men should be honest and straightforward, and should not, from whatever motives, suppress and mask the genuine convictions of their mind. She looks not on language as a method of concealing the thoughts, but as a method of declaring them. The recent conduct of Peel has been in every way alien to her principles. It was a skilful _coup d’état_, well suited to a Turkish Vizier, but totally inappropriate to an English Minister.
Having, then, examined the insincerity on both the points proposed, we find that in neither does it wear an aspect of splendour or of brilliancy, but much of the reverse. We refuse it then the title of a splendid insincerity, but we qualify it as poor, culpable, and inglorious.
Sir R. Peel, however, gives us quite a different account of the matter: he puts in his claim to a generosity of the purest and most exalted kind. “What possible motives could I have had,” he asks, “except the most devoted and patriotic? See what an enormous sacrifice I have made! To afford my country the blessings of Free Trade, I have given up my power and the confidence of a large party, every thing, in a word, which is chiefly valuable to a public man. I have come forward and boldly avowed the truth, in spite of all the taunts of inconsistency and apostasy to which I inevitably exposed myself. But these I esteem as nothing in comparison with the good of my country. For my part, I declare that the proudest moment of my life was when I avowed my opinions to my colleagues, and proposed measures for opening the ports.”
It is curious to observe how completely blind Sir Robert Peel seems to be, to the point on which his conduct is really blamable. He insists much on his perfect integrity in proposing the measure, seeing that he thought it highly beneficial to his country. Surely so self-evident a truism can scarcely need so much parade: surely it is an acknowledged fact that a statesman is not to blame for proposing measures which he deems to be highly beneficial. Sir Robert was doubtless most perfectly right in proposing his measure; nobody, I apprehend, at all blames him on that head. He was doing his simple duty, considering what his views were upon the subject. But that for which he is justly blamable, is for not having done so before. He was culpable for suppressing so long his real opinions, for professing to deem free trade injurious, while really he thought it beneficial. He is culpable for the general mask which he has so long thrown over all his real character and opinions, leading astray the minds of men, and ruining public confidence. This is the point to which blame attaches, and on this he is perfectly silent. We should be glad to know whether it was from motives of a very high and exalted virtue, that he so long suffered his colleagues, and the public generally, to deceive themselves? Was it from any very stoical sense of duty that he so long passed himself off for a protectionist, when really a free trader? Was it from any very intense and devoted patriotism that for so long he bitterly denounced Whig principles, when, as it now turns out, he thoroughly approves of them in his heart? Was it any great stretch of self-sacrifice, any very generous magnanimity, to obtain power, and so long to retain it, upon false pretences? This is the point which it would be desirable for him to clear up. Instead of this, we have much declamation, quite beside the purpose, on his virtue in coming forward and avowing his real opinion. What! is it then any such excessive stretch of virtue, that a man should actually tell the truth? Is it any thing so marvellous in a statesman, that he should advocate a measure which he thinks vitally necessary for his country? Sir R. Peel seems to think that when it entails, as in his own case, the sacrifice of power, such conduct is eminently praise-worthy and meritorious. Why, it is his bare duty and nothing more; it is what he ought to have done years ago, holding the views he does; or, rather, he should never have entered on that power at all. Surely power and place are not so dear to statesmen that they should think it very arduous and patriotic to sacrifice them for their duty to their country. Not to do so would be highly blamable, to do so is simply right, but in no way a subject for praise or self-glorification. And yet Sir R. Peel naively tells us, that the proudest moment of his life was when he declared his real sentiments to his colleagues, and avowed his advocacy of free trade. A strange subject of pride, to fulfil (much too late) a duty of common honesty! Wondrous triumph of virtue, to put a tardy close to a culpable and pernicious dissimulation, which had already been productive of great harm! And this is the glorious feat, which, as Sir R. Peel informs us, afforded him the proudest moment of his life! Curious, unenviable career, of which such is the proudest moment?
It seems then to be “the enormous sacrifice” which he has made, upon which he rests his claim to devoted virtue. “I have sacrificed,” says he, every thing that “is dear to a public man.” Certainly, we do not deny that he has made many sacrifices. He has sacrificed his former supporters, handing them over to discomfiture and to the public odium as monopolists. By his course of dissimulation and deceit he has also sacrificed his character, and with it all claims to public confidence. But these sacrifices are not of any very sublime and devoted nature. It is not by a sacrifice of character that a claim to exalted virtue can best be established. The method is ingenious, but somewhat Irish, and likely to meet with no solid success. There remains, then, the sacrifice of power, to which we will grant its share of merit, (provided it is not made a matter of boast.) We learn, however, from some of his new admirers, that it has not been laid down for nought. It appears to have been exchanged for a good equivalent of popularity and influence, upon which it is hinted that a firmer power is to arise ere long, much grander and more durable than the last. Mr. Wakley, for instance, informs us that “at this moment Sir R. Peel is the most popular man in the kingdom; that he is beloved, nay adored, by the masses, who believe that no man has ever before made such sacrifices on their behalf.” And that most probably “he (Sir R. Peel) will shortly return to power upon the shoulders of the people, and will remain there just as long as he pleases.”
If this be so, what shall we say of the sacrifice? Had Sir Robert advocated this measure while it was weak, and while such advocacy entailed a real sacrifice, then might he justly put in his claim to heroism and devotion. But he gained his power by opposing it while weak, he did not adopt it till it was strong, and capable of supporting that power. He rejected it when its adoption would have weakened him, he embraced it when his adherence procured for him an extensive (though ill-deserved) popularity and influence. By associating his name with it, he has obtained renown, frequently the dearest reward of ambition. In no way are the circumstances of his conduct such as to support his claims to intense and exalted patriotism. It is not for men of time-serving convictions like these, to aspire to the rank of Aristides or Washington.
If, indeed, we go back to the characters of antiquity, we find others much better suited to our man, than these exalted natures; but there is one especially whose resemblance is such that we cannot help suspecting that there must be more than chance in it. He is described by Aristophanes, and with such lively and accurate traits, that no one can fail to recognise the type of our present hero. It has not, indeed, been reserved for the nineteenth century to discover that a measure promising cheap food is well suited to procure popularity and power, and that the favour of the people can most readily be obtained by courting that highly important organ, its stomach. (Nor can we altogether blame this judgment of the “popular bellua.”) The late contest between our political leaders is most amusingly similar to that described in the “Knights,” between the two candidates for the good graces of the Athenian Demos.
R. ὁρᾷς· ἐγώ σοι πρότερος ἐκφέρω δίφρον.
P. ἀλλ’ οὐ τράπεζαν· ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ προτεραίτερος.
R. ἰδοὺ φέρω σοι σάχχαρον Κύβης ἐγὼ, ἤρτυνε δ’ αὐτὸν δοῦλος Ἀφρικανικός.
P. ἐγὼ δὲ μᾶζαν Ἰνδικὴν μεμαγμένην.
R. λαβέ νῦν πλακοῦντος πίονος παρ’ ἐμοῦ τόμον.
But it is when we come to the crowning trick that we more especially recognise our patriot, that famous “coup” of the hare, which has shed immortal lustre on the ἀλλαντοπώλης. How exactly was Cleon like the Whigs, boasting
Κ. ἀλλ’ οὐ λαγῷ’ ἕξεις ὁπόθεν δῷς· ἀλλ’ ἐγώ·
ΑΛΛΑΝ. οἴμοι. πόθεν λαγῷά μοι γενήσεται; ὦ θυμὲ νυνὶ, βωμολόχον ἔξευρέ τι.
And how beautiful is the heaven-sent flash of genius which irradiates the mind of the Athenian Peel, when, distracting his adversary’s attention, by directing it to “envoys _with bags of money_,” he snatches away the choice tit-bit, and proffers it with his own hands to the chuckling Demos;--
ΑΛΛΑΝ. ὦ Δημίδιον, ὁρᾷς τὰ λαγῷ’ ἅ σοι φέρω;
It is a stroke that may have been often imitated, but never surpassed, and must excite envy even in the breast of his present successful follower. And is not our modern trickster’s recognition of the services of Cobden, and his own claim of merit for his skilful “government influence,” almost prophetically expressed in the slightly varied line--
P. τὸ μὲν νόημα Κοβδένος, τὸ δὲ κλέμμ’ ἐμόν.
and the contest for their respective claims to favour between himself and Lord John?
R. ἐγὼ δ’ ἐκινδύνευσ’. P. ἐγὼ δ’ ὤπτησά γε.
with the pithy judgement of the Demos,
ἄπιθ’· οὐ γὰρ ἀλλὰ τοῦ παραθέντος ἡ χάρις.
Yes, when we read this it is impossible to hesitate; an Attic colony must have settled in England, and the sausage-seller’s progeny must still be thriving among us. The blood of the ἀλλαντοπώλης must yet be circulating in the veins of the κοτωνοπώλης of the day.
Yet when we read of our sausage-seller’s subsequent career, we feel that we have done him injustice; most widely different is his policy as Agoracritus, from any thing in the career of Peel.
In fact, our κοτωνοπώλης is the ἀλλαντοπώλης inverted. The Athenian starts as a demagogue, and ends as a patriot. Peel starts in the character of a patriot, and ends in that of a demagogue. The Athenian starts with the trick of the hare, and ends in an honest and noble policy. Peel starts with the appearance of an honest policy, and ends with the trick of the hare.
The Athenian directs his efforts to a high and noble aim, to purify and regenerate the Δῆμος, to purge him from the love of gain, from fickle caprice, and overweening vanity, and lead him to higher and nobler influences; to attune his mind to old national feelings, and revive in him a love of his country’s institutions, before fast falling into contempt. Under the auspices of the bard of the shining brow, we are conducted to a glorious vision, where amid the sound of the opening Propylæa, the regenerate Δῆμος is sitting on his throne, clad in his long-lost ornaments, τεττιγοφόρας ἀρχαίῳ σχήματι λαμπρός. οἷός περ Ἀριστείδῃ πρότερον καὶ Μιλτιάδῃ ξυνεσίτει·
But what is the vision to which Peel’s principles have conducted us? How will the Δῆμος that delights his economical mind bear comparison with that of the Athenian? The Athenian’s is sitting upon a throne, Peel’s is standing bowing behind a counter. The Athenian’s is animated by the love of the beautiful, Peel’s by the love of the gainful. The Athenian’s is alive to poetry and art, Peel’s is engrossed by industry and commerce. The Athenian’s strives to give real value to mind, Peel’s to give exchangeable value to matter. The Athenian’s delights in philosophical, Peel’s in commercial speculations. The Athenian’s is a nation of heroes, Peel’s is a nation of shopkeepers. There is the workman toiling twelve hours a-day, while Parliament discusses the probability of a discussion on his condition. There is the pauper, revelling in the workhouse on his diet of “abundant and untaxed food.” There, too, is the liberal cotton lord, proud of his intelligence, his piety, and his purse. “I thank my stars that I am not as other men are, monopolists, aristocrats, or even as this Protectionist. I eat slave-grown sugar. I pay half per cent income-tax on all that I possess. I work my men twelve hours a-day, and leave them no time for vice and idleness. I buy in the cheapest, and I sell in the dearest market.”
There is the liberality that prefers free trade to free man, and the principles of economy to those of humanity. There is the piety that justifies its avarice by texts, and patronises slavery on the ground of Christian duty. There is the philanthropy that loves itself and its tea better than the happiness of its fellows; that dooms thousands of its race to the lowest depths of wo, in order to save a penny on the pound of sugar. Go, ye liberal and enlightened Christians, learn Christianity from Voltaire. He did not bow before the idol of trade, at which you are now prostrating yourselves; he raised his voice in the cause of humanity against those vile principles of commercial cupidity which you have chosen for your creed. He, pointing to the degraded negro, could indignantly exclaim--
“Voyez, à quel prix vous mangez du sucre en Europe!”
He did not think that market cheap, where such a price was paid for it. Yes! while you are dealing out damnation in your bigoted sects, he was more, far more a Christian than you are.
We by no means wish to lay to Sir Robert’s charge all the evils of the above picture; nevertheless, we think that the economical principles so dear to his heart, have had no little share in contributing to them. Certainly we look in vain for any efforts on his part to elevate the national character. His last support of the sugar bill is admirably characteristic; he is decidedly opposed to its principle, (he sympathises indeed most warmly with the negroes,) but, nevertheless, he is compelled as usual to support it--at a great sacrifice of course to his feelings--owing to the peculiar position of political affairs. Certainly, his career cuts a lamentable figure by the side of that of Agoracritus.
Nevertheless, though we cannot think his career meritorious, it is without doubt remarkable. This phenomenon of a man, who through life had been regarded as a leader in the aristocratic or Tory school, casting his skin nearly at the mature age of sixty, and soaring forth in the sunshine of popular favour in the gaudy and pleasing colours of the Radical, is certainly one of a curious and interesting kind. A variety of questions are suggested by it to the inquiring spirit. For how long has this suppression of his real opinions existed? For how long has he been pleased, according to his phrase, to allow people to deceive themselves? Is he still allowing them this amusing privilege? Do we even now see him in his real colours, or is some further metamorphosis in store? Have his changes been the sudden conversions of a facile and unstable inconsistency, or are they the long prepared denouement of a secret and mysterious plot? Has a tyro in politics been unlearning his prejudices and mistakes at the expense of his country, or has a Radical in disguise been prowling in the Tory fold, luring on the aristocracy to their own discomfiture?
Between the two alternatives of inconsistency and insincerity, it might be thought that his apologists would all take the first, and his accusers the second; that while the latter attacked him for premeditate treachery, the former might defend him on the ground of a natural facility of disposition, which rendered him prone to sudden conversions beneath the pressure of the times.
Such, however, by no means seems to be the case: on the contrary, the darker and more mysterious view of his conduct is the one taken by his most ardent admirers; (for, strange to say, such beings still exist.) Happening to be in conversation with one of these, (a zealous Radical,) I chanced to indulge in some animadversions on Sir Robert’s weakness, as shown in his numerous and repeated conversions, expressing an opinion that a statesman so exceedingly fallible must be totally unfitted to guide the destinies of a great nation. But such, I found, was by no means the view of my radical friend; who, somewhat to my surprise, maintained that he was a most able and skilful man, by far the best fitted of all our existing statesmen for the post of Prime Minister. Of any thing like weakness he would not hear. Does Peel’s general character, said he, savour of weakness? does he look like an innocent child, who does not know what he is about? Depend upon it there is a method in his inconsistency; depend upon it he has perfectly well known, all along, the game he has been playing.
What! then, said I, do you mean to say, that all his former professions were insincere? that when he opposed Canning on the Catholic question, he all along looked forward to his carrying it? that when he opposed the Whigs, he intended when in, power to adopt their principles? that when he made such strenuous professions in favour of Protection, he all along had an eye to the repeal of the Corn Laws?
Certainly, replied my friend, I may say not only that I think it, but that I know it. Do you suppose that so skilful a man would make his moves without having an eye to the game he was playing?
And is not such insincerity, said I, most detestable?
Insincerity! replied my Liberal, with a shrug of the shoulders,--it is a fine word, a very pretty word for declamation; but, young man, when you are as old as I am, you will know what it passes for in the political world. Depend upon it, only those cry out about it who are hurt by it; those who benefit by it give it quite a different name. The man who is an apostate and a renegade to the party whom he betrays, is a virtuous and patriotic convert to that which receives him.
Surely, cried I, if Peel has really been playing the game you attribute to him, no one could hesitate to pronounce him insincere.
Not at all so, said his admirer, his sincerity can easily be defended. I look upon him myself as a most sincere patriot, notwithstanding the view that I take of his policy. His principle has been a most consistent and patriotic one;--always to carry the popular measure, as soon as the public mind was ripe for it.
But was not, then, his conduct to Canning most reprehensible, when he professed such repugnance to the Catholic claims?
Not by any means; he really opposed them at the time, because the public mind was not yet ripe for them; and he sincerely proposed them afterwards, because it had ripened in the interim. The measure which would have been hazardous in the former case, had become safe and beneficial in the second. The same may be said of his apparent changes with respect to the principles of the Whigs and the Free Traders. He abstained from these doctrines as long as their popularity was doubtful, and embraced them as soon as the maturity of public opinion had rendered them wise and beneficial.
Why then, I inquired, did he profess to oppose them on principle?--why did he not declare that he was only waiting for the public mind to ripen? I cannot say that I got a very satisfactory answer on this head, but it was something to the effect that the public good, statesman-like discretion, peculiarities of political affairs, might justify some suppression on this point.
In fact, continued my friend, his whole opposition to the Whigs and the Reform Bill, was nothing but a piece of acting, into which he was led by the force of circumstances. Nobody thought that the public mind was so nearly ripe for it as it proved to be, and Peel therefore was not prepared to take advantage of it. It was an unforeseen event which took him by surprise, and he thus, against his will, was forced out of the movement. But his opposition was entirely fictitious,--he was never a Tory at heart: he might use their prejudices as tools to serve his purposes, but he was always too wary to adopt them in reality. His heart was always with the popular doctrines, more so than was the case with the Whigs themselves, as his recent behaviour evinces. He is ready now to take up and carry out their principles at a point where they themselves hesitate to do so. This is what he has all along been aiming at,--the post he aspires to is that of the man of the people, the leader of the movement. He is far better fitted for this than the Whigs; he has no sickly visions of finality. He will not scruple to carry out the dominant wishes of the people, whithersoever they may lead. Then he has this peculiar advantage, that while most other ministers are fettered by their pledges and professions, these are no impediments to Peel. This is why I look upon him as our fittest minister, because he will most fully carry out the people’s will. As soon as that will is decidedly expressed, his only care will be to execute it.
We ventured to raise some doubts as to the fitness of such a character for the post of Minister. Surely, said we, _he_ can scarcely be fit for a ruler, who is thus servile to the dominant opinion of the day. Surely a Minister should be somewhat in advance of the mass, and rather capable of directing their opinion than compelled to follow it.
If we look to mere outward brilliancy, replied he, that may be true, but if we look to solid utility, the case is different. In a despotic country, such a minister as you require might be needful; in Austria, for instance, a Metternich may be of use to direct and anticipate public opinion. But in a free country like ours, where public opinion is so active, we shall never want demagogues to form it; of these there will always be a plentiful stock; the difficulty is to find a minister who will interpret and execute the popular will, after it has been fashioned by these more original spirits. And this, if I mistake not, is eminently found in Peel, as time, I suspect, will demonstrate. Think not that his career is over; think not, as his short-sighted adversaries may imagine, that he is extinguished as a public man. That darling wish of his heart, to be borne triumphantly into power by the masses, as leader of the popular movement, lies at length almost within his grasp. His recent desertion of the aristocracy was admirably timed; though he may have lost their support, he has gained in exchange the favour of the people. He has craftily quitted the falling house, to take ampler lodgings in the new and rising fabric. However powerless he may seem to the ignorant, he has still admirable cards in his hand. His adversaries may be formidable in number, but they are weak in intrinsic strength. No one knows better than he how to play them off one against the other, and to profit by their dissensions. Meanwhile he is patiently biding his time, which, be assured, is not far distant. Politics have lately displayed much greater wonders than the triumphant return to power of Sir Robert Peel.
And if once he return, think not that he will easily be dispossessed of it. He will well know how to play the part of the popular favourite. There stands not in the House a more thorough Radical than the inner man of Sir Robert Peel. It is from him that we shall obtain Extended Suffrage, finally to become Universal. It is from him that we shall obtain the diminution, and at last the abolition of Church Establishments. It is from him, or from such as he, that we may hope finally to obtain a Republic. You may smile, and think such a prospect absurd. Would you have thought it more absurd, if I had told you three years ago that from him we should have obtained Repeal of the Corn Laws? Depend upon it, we shall yet see the day when Sir Robert shall be the triumphant popular minister.
Heaven forbid! thought I; yet I was forced to confess that it did not seem unlikely. I could, however, by no means join in the admiration which my friend expressed for such a character. While granting that some respect might be felt for the skilful δημαγωγός, who leads and sways the popular mind, I could feel nothing but contempt for the servile δημοπηδός, who merely watches and follows it. I rallied him somewhat upon the magnanimous liberality, which could ally itself with so poor and ungenerous a character, so debased, if his account were true, by meanness, duplicity, and hypocrisy. My Radical waxed somewhat warm, and at length he parted, in all the dignity of his liberality, thinking me a young fool; while I returned, laughing at his generous patriotism, and thinking him a servile-minded old humbug.
The more, however, I pondered on the subject, the more did I see the justice of his views on Peel’s character, and at length I almost entirely coincided with him,--in every thing but his admiration.
What then shall we say of these principles, looking at them under their moral aspect? Taking his admirer’s view, I know not how they could escape the severest censure. But though these admirers of his make no scruple in adopting this view, and even in warmly defending it, we cannot but hesitate to follow their example. An insincerity so deliberate, so calculated, is more than we can readily admit. No doubt, his actual conduct has been such as my friend above described, as facts sufficiently show. No doubt, he has professed one set of principles when seeking power, and another when in possession of it. No doubt, he has used the aristocratical element as his stepping-stone to greatness, and has afterwards kicked it over for the popular one as its support. But we think that these principles have acted in a great measure spontaneously, without any very fixed and deliberate plan in his own mind. We take his conduct to have been not so much the result of calculation, as of the peculiar organisation of his nature. We believe him to have been in a great measure unconscious of the inherent servility and flexibility of his convictions. When he opposed a measure, he probably imagined that he did so chiefly on its own merits, and was not aware that his conversion would inevitably take place, as soon as public opinion was ripe for that measure.
Let us, however, listen to himself, and see what light we can derive from his own lips as to the nature of his principles. By his own account, in the case of the Corn Laws, the suppression of his real opinions lasted for somewhere about three years. “About three years ago,” says he, “a great change took place in my opinions on the subject;” but it seems that for the public good, he thought it best to allow people to deceive themselves, and therefore carefully suppressed all intimation of this change. So far, then, his own account tallies with that of his admirer, and we have his own word that his insincerity, for a considerable period of time, was deliberate and calculated. But the actual duration of this hypocrisy it must evidently be impossible to determine with accuracy; for if a person can, by his own avowal, practise it knowingly and deliberately for three years, it is probable that in a vague and unconscious way, not thoroughly known even to himself, he has been indulging in it for a much longer period.
Again, with respect to his Whig principles, it is impossible to determine accurately how long they have been suppressed, and he has not favoured us on this point with much specific information; but it would appear that they latently existed at the time that he so strenuously opposed that government, and that the germ of Whiggery was developing itself in his bosom, while outwardly he was shining as a high Tory.
With respect to the Catholic Question he is more communicative, and he takes care to inform us, in a speech revised by his own hand, and published for the benefit of posterity in Hansard, that here, too, his duplicity had been of long standing, and very much of a deliberate and premeditated nature. When proposing, as Minister, the measure of Catholic Emancipation, which outwardly he had so long opposed, he reports himself to have said, “So far as my own course in this question is concerned, it is the same with that which suggested itself to my mind in the year 1825, when I was his Majesty’s Principal Minister for the Home Department, and found myself in a minority in this House on this [the Catholic] Question.” Now, the course which he was then pursuing was that of openly advocating and supporting the Catholic claims. And the same course, he tells us, (that, therefore, we must conclude, of his advocating these claims,) suggested itself to his mind in 1825. His duplicity then was of long standing; for he did not, as is well known, suffer the public to be in the least aware of any such suggestion, from the time when it presented itself to his mind in 1825, till 1829, when he first avowed that favourable leaning to those claims, which had so long lain dormant in the interior of his breast. His conduct certainly was well calculated to prevent any suspicion of the existence of such a tendency in his mind; for in 1827, two years after the suggestion had offered itself, he declared himself compelled, by a painful but rigorous sense of duty, to quit Canning’s ministry, and join the opposition against that statesman, on account of his own deep repugnance to those claims, and his conviction of their ruinous tendency. Nay, more, he suffered himself to be borne into power for the ostensible purpose of resisting those claims, and made the round of the country amid the acclamations of his supporters, as Protestant champion, without giving the slightest hint of the suggestion which the minority in 1825 had awakened in his mind, and which was so shortly to develop itself in full force, as soon as he was seated in power.
If, then, we are to believe his own account, his hypocrisy in this matter must have been of considerable duration, of much skill, and consummate perfidy. Though a feat of his earlier prime, it must have been quite worthy to compare with the recent great exploit of his maturity.
The speech from which we have extracted the above passage, is the same which gave rise to the discussion in Parliament, in which Sir Robert’s conduct in this business was attacked. He then endeavoured to rebut the charges founded on it, by denying the authenticity of the expressions attributed to him, some of which rested only on the isolated reports of particular newspapers. But the sentence above quoted stands at full length in his own corrected report in Hansard, revised, as its title tells us, by Mr. Secretary Peel, the authenticity of which has never been questioned. And certainly its natural sense would lead us to conclude, that he was ready, in the interior of his mind, in 1825, to embrace the cause of Catholic Emancipation. If, as he would fain demonstrate, it has a contrary meaning, it can be only, we presume, when taken in some _non-natural sense_;--the fixing of which we leave to those more conversant than ourselves with that very ingenious mode of interpretation.
And if it be true that he did feel so disposed, that he was “almost persuaded,” at that early period, of the wisdom of granting the Catholic claims, then his subsequent behaviour in putting himself at the head of the party who unflinchingly and undoubtingly opposed those claims, as injurious to the country, his professing to coincide fully in their views, and his obtaining power on the strength of those professions, cannot but be looked on as a political manœuvre of the most disingenuous and culpable kind.
What could have been the motive of his making so strange a confession, is a somewhat curious subject of inquiry. We think we recognise in it an attempt to establish a kind of vague compromise between insincerity and inconsistency. If his conduct were attributed to mere inconsistency, he must plead guilty to a long previous mistake, and must forfeit all pretensions to political prudence and foresight. If, however, it were thought that he had for a long time had a secret leaning in favour of the Catholic claims, and had only been waiting for the ripeness of public opinion to declare his real sentiments, then he would escape the charge of weakness and imprudence, and would only incur the blame of a beneficial insincerity. He would thus gain the good graces of all those whose strong attachment to the measure would make them overlook, in behalf of its importance, what they would consider a pardonable deceit.
This view, indeed, he could not explicitly state in so many words, as it would have laid him too open to the accusations of his opponents; but it can be hinted at, as in the above passage. For what intelligible meaning can be attached to that sentence, if it do not convey the idea that his inconsistency, after all, was not so flagrant as had been represented; that his mind for some time previously had been leaning that way, and that, to use his peculiar phrase, his course was “the same with that which suggested itself to his mind in the year 1825.” We believe this expression to be the most accurate that he could have used. The design of supporting the Catholic claims had not then fully ripened in his mind, he had not formed any accurate and deliberate plan of conduct; but the possibility of doing so at some future day secretly “suggested itself to his mind.” A scarcely audible voice whispered in his mind, “Perhaps, Peel, some time or other, in certain contingencies, State necessities, public duty, &c., may require that you should lend a favourable ear to the Catholic claims.” What these peculiar contingencies were would also be suggested by the same little voice, but in so low a tone and in such vague terms that he himself would not be able to render a definite account of them.
Whatever, however, be the real construction of the above passage, or of any other similar ones that may be met with among his speeches, we ourselves should not be disposed to attach too prominent an importance to them. Such confessions might be admirably fitted as a taunt to him, as an “argumentum ad hominem,” as a case of “habemus confitentem reum:” but it is not on his own verbal expressions that the judgment on his conduct is to be formed. Strange indeed would it be if a skilful orator should so blunder in his speech as openly to avow an act of duplicity and deceit; it is only matter of marvel how such expressions as that above quoted could ever have been used. But, in a case like this, if he wished fully to express all that he knew of his own intentions, if he desired to unburden his mind by the fullest possible confession, he would not be able accurately to do so, and his own estimate of his own character would be little worth. It is an unfailing consequence with those who practise hypocrisy in the view of deceiving others, that they also at the same time deceive themselves. One deliberate and systematic piece of deceit produces an incalculable amount of this subtler and unconscious hypocrisy. It is a kind of general veil or mantle in which the person walks, which conceals his soul even from his own view, and deceives him as to the motives of his own actions. Under its soothing influence no sense of insecurity is felt; and the man whose conduct is all the time biassed by some egotistical motive, walks in the proud conviction to himself that he is a model of patriotism and virtue. Such an hypocrisy, to take a prominent instance, is well exemplified in the case of Cromwell; but illustrations must be familiar to every one in the humbler walks of life, and if he have a difficulty in discerning it in others, he will have none if he knows how to examine himself. It is a tendency which exists in all, and requires strong efforts for its subjugation. All strong passions or desires carry it along with them, unless their deceptive influence be firmly counteracted by the stronger desire for truth and right.
In Sir Robert’s case we believe it to have arisen from the action of a strong egotistical desire of power and fame, unchecked by any heartfelt and earnest convictions with regard to the truth of his public principles. His whole career is a continuous proof of this defect of all genuine and lively seizure of the truth; for never does he advocate an opinion while it is weak, and never does he oppose it when it is strong. Owing to this, his principles, though he himself may have no distinct consciousness of it, have insensibly bent themselves to the stronger motives of ambition. He remains all the time in ignorance of the secret bias, and is by no means aware of how far from true patriotism he is.
Accustomed to rely on the opinions of others, from the absence of all earnest conviction in himself, he must be forced to trust to their voice even in matters relating to his own conduct; and, when he hears the cheers of the populace that salute him at the door of the House of Commons, he lays the flattering unction to his soul that he is a martyr and a patriot. How should it be otherwise? When he hears himself applauded as an eminently virtuous and injured man, what means is there of undeceiving him, if his own conscience be silent or confirm the delusion? I find it well remarked to my purpose by Mencius, the Chinese sage, speaking of some statesmen of his day, whom he declares to have had only a false appearance of virtue,--“Having had for a long time this false appearance, and not having made any return to sincerity and integrity, how could they know,” he asks, “that they did not possess it?”
And when we speak of the weakness or servility of conviction, we would by no means be understood to mean a mere liability to change. The man of sincere and earnest mind frequently changes his opinions oftenest. The difference lies in the motives of the change. In the case of the earnest man these arise from his own mind, in the case of the servile-minded man from external circumstances. Such, for instance, are political advantages, or the number, or clamour, or strength of the advocates of an opinion. Circumstances generally enable us to discriminate pretty accurately. If a man always rejects an opinion when shared by few, and always adopts it when popular and dominant; if he has nothing to say to it when it is of no service to him, but embraces it when it is strong, and can give him renown and popularity, we shall not probably err in deeming that man to be of a servile mind, wanting in sincere and earnest convictions. The truthful-minded man at once avows his change, the servile-minded one cunningly conceals it till it suits his purpose. If, besides this, a man be cold, pompous, and an egotist, if his character be marked by duplicity, if his language be plausible, but unsatisfactory if he be found to pay more deference to his foes through fear than to his friends from affection, all these are corroborating tests of the servile character in question. Though it may be difficult to assign its precise tokens in words, there is less difficulty in discriminating it in practice.
It is this total want of all earnest and heartfelt conviction of the truth, which forms the key to the interpretation of the whole of Sir R. Peel’s career. Deciphered by this, all the tortuous inconsistencies of his course arrange themselves in systematic order, all the varied hieroglyphics of his mysterious conduct yield a clear and intelligible meaning. The man who is thoroughly convinced of the truth of his principles, labours unceasingly to impart them to others, to urge upon them the importance of his views, to point out the beneficial results which must flow from his course of policy. Such an earnest conviction animated Pitt in his resistance to the French Revolution, Canning in his advocacy of the Catholic claims, Wilberforce in his endeavours for Negro Emancipation; and lately, (if we may be pardoned somewhat of a bathos,) Cobden in his war against the Corn Laws. Without meaning to assimilate the merits, of these various efforts, they all serve as examples of the way in which men act when animated by a genuine and sincere conviction. But there is no principle, great or small, which has owed its advance in public opinion to one sentence of Peel’s. Say rather, there is none which while yet in its infancy, and in need of support, has not been opposed by him to the best of his power. While it is weak, he raises his tongue against it; while it is doubtful, he halts between two opinions, and watches the struggle in cautious silence; as soon as it has become dominant and can dispense with his support, he proffers his aid with copious professions of zeal, and seeks to fix on his inglorious brow the laurels that rightly belong to another.
Had he lived in the Roman world at an earlier age, when Christianity was yet striving against the secular powers, while it was weak and despised, who would have opposed it more loudly than the Robert Peel of the day? who would have more warmly urged its impracticability, its unfitness for the concerns of life? who would more eloquently have exhorted the Roman world to hold to the wisdom of their forefathers? As, however, the tide gradually and steadily rolled on, and day by day one conversion followed another, these eloquent protestations would begin somewhat to flag, and at length that plausible tongue would lie in silence. But when at last it began to make its way among the higher powers of the land, amid the eminent and wealthy; when finally it even penetrated into the Court of the Emperor, and rumours began to be whispered that he himself looked on it with no unfavourable eye, a few days before Constantine’s conversion Pellius would announce his formal adhesion to its principles, with an intimation that he had for some years been leaning that way, and that “a similar course had suggested itself to his mind,” even at the time when he took some part in the Dioclesian persecution. A skilful management of “government influence,” pouring grace and unction on many benighted minds, would secure him a good claim to merit, and he would doubtless be rewarded for his seasonable change by a high post amid the officers of the regenerate Emperor.
This time-serving conduct, skilfully managed, will frequently succeed admirably with the world; for these children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. The sincere advocates of principles through good and through bad report, are looked upon as unpractical and fanciful theorists; while those who carefully watch their opportunity, and conform themselves with good grace to the dominant tide of opinion, are hailed as able and practical men, and even obtain from the mass the praise of more than common honesty, inasmuch as they are not ashamed to avow a change in their opinions. It is of such as these that the wise Confucius pointedly says, “The most honest men of their time are the pest of virtue.”
“What!” asks the surprised disciple Wen-tchang, “whom do you call the most honest men of their time?”
“Those,” replies the Sage, “who direct their principal efforts to speak and act like all the world, are the adulators of their age: these are the most honest men of their generation.”
“And why,” says the disciple, “do you call them the pest of virtue?”
“If you wish to find a defect in them, you will not know where to lay hold of them; if you wish to attack them in any place, you will not be able to compass it. They participate in the poverty of the manners of their age. That which dwells in their heart resembles integrity and sincerity, and their actions resemble the practice of temperance and virtue. As all the people of their country boast of them incessantly, they believe themselves to be models of perfection. This is why I regard them as the pest of virtue.”
“I detest,” continues Confucius, “that which has only the appearance of reality: I detest the tares, in the fear that they will ruin the crop. I DETEST THE SKILFUL STATESMAN, IN THE FEAR THAT HE WILL CONFOUND EQUITY.”
Might not the simple lessons of Confucius be read with advantage even in our enlightened age, which certainly is not without its “adulators?” Might not they do some good to Sir R. Peel, and awaken that “skilful statesman” to a juster estimate of his real virtue?
The idea contained in the above passage is most accurately and profoundly true, and shows, like most of his remarks, that Confucius had a penetrating knowledge of human nature. There are, in fact, two great classes into which mankind may be divided; those whose model of conduct is the general conduct of the society in which they live, and those whose model is an ideal in their own minds, unattainable indeed, and never to be realised in practice, but the mere aiming at which elevates their character. The first of these are the men described above by Confucius, “whose principal effort is to think and to act just like all the world,” whom he ironically terms “the most honest men of their district.” And even in our day this class furnishes us with a vast number of “most highly respectable men.” Destitute of all splendid visions, they are never led astray into any extravagance that might shock the decorous laws of society, and they are looked upon accordingly as models of temperance and virtue. These are the “children of this world” most wise in their generation: the “men of the world,” from whom arise the sharp practical man, the skilful statesman, the time-serving diplomatist, and all the host of Vicars of Bray, whether in religion or politics.
The others are those who derive their principles not from the fashionable dicta of the world, nor the ruling doctrines of the age, but from the idea of truth within their own minds; who, “though the sun were on their right hand and the moon were on their left,” would not be diverted from the genuine convictions of their conscience. They look not to the flickering glare of public opinion, but to the immutable light of truth; these are “the children of light,” the souls of pure and high-minded virtue. From these have sprung all that humanity has of great and noble, all those who have sacrificed on the altar of truth; in religion the Martyrs, in philosophy the Sages, in politics the sincere and devoted Patriots. They do not despise opinions because the world despises them, nor do they honour them because the world does them honour; they are “justi ac tenaces propositi viri,” who do not ebb and flow with the tide of public opinion.
In which of these two classes Sir Robert Peel is to be placed, is what his own conduct will decide, better than our judgment. Nevertheless, we will hazard the opinion, that Sir Robert Peel is no child of light. We suspect that there are _very_ few principles, for which he would suffer himself to be burnt,--even in effigy. With no high ideal by which to guide his conduct, with no generous or exalted views, he has ventured on a career beyond his powers. Fitted by Nature to make an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer, he has not known how to content himself with his proper post. A narrow egotist, he has attempted to guide the destinies of a great nation. His career, as might have been expected, has been a notable failure. If it be not exposed to very heavy blame, we decidedly must withhold all praise from it; if it have little of the execrable, it certainly has nothing of the admirable. Unstable as water, how could he excel? and excellence has been wanting accordingly. His career has been one continuous mistake; the greatest mistake of all being that he ever began it. His only discoveries have been, that he had previously been in error. His only victories have been over his friends, whom thrice he has dragged through the mire of dishonour. He has portioned out triumph to his foes, defeat and bitterness to his supporters. He quits power amid the disgust and indignation of his old friends, and the contemptuous patronage of his new. Such has been the career of the _safe_ man, the practical and able statesman! The generous Canning, a man of real and noble ideas, was looked upon as dangerous, and the wary and cautious Peel was raised to power in his stead. Could they have foreseen--those who were toiling for their safe man, and so alarmed at the dangerous ideas of Canning--that it was to the safe man they were to be indebted for Catholic, Emancipation, and Repeal of the Corn Laws? Reflect upon this, ye lovers of _safe_ men, and be wise: choose those who are really safe, and see first that they are men at all, and next only that they be safe ones; men--of high and bold ideas, not crafty and narrow-minded egotists.
The above described modification of character is, no doubt, extensively prevalent, and by its frequency in their ranks casts somewhat of a shade over the whole body of politicians and statesmen; so much so, that it was an axiom of one of the most distinguished of their number, that they were all to be considered dishonest, till their conduct proved the contrary. But, though far too many examples of it are afforded by political history, we may safely say that seldom has a better opportunity of studying such a character existed, than at the present day, when it is exemplified in a far more open and unblushing way than usual, by the two most noted actors on the political stage, the one of England, the other of Ireland. It is impossible not to recognise the intrinsic similarity in the characters of Peel and O’Connell, though outwardly very differently modified by the circumstances and the tempers of the nations with which they have had to deal. But in both, one great characteristic is the same, that their professions have been at variance with their convictions; that the ends to which they have secretly been working, have been totally different from those which they put forward to the public as their aim. Both have made use of principles and feelings as tools to their ambition, in which they themselves did not in the least degree sympathise; nay, which, in Peel’s case, were the secret object of his hostility and aversion. Peel made use of the principles of Toryism, the banner of Church and State; O’Connell of the principle of Nationality, so dear to the Irish, the cry of Repeal, and the Parliament in College Green. That O’Connell cares little enough about Repeal, is now sufficiently evident; and that Peel cared absolutely nothing about Toryism, is but a faint expression of the truth, inasmuch as his object has evidently been to overthrow it, as soon as it had raised him to power. O’Connell, while professedly upholding the cause of the National and fiery Anti-Saxon party, has secretly made friends with the much less romantic and more practical interests of the Catholic priesthood and the Whigs; Peel, while professedly maintaining the declining cause of the Church and State, the old institutions, the national feelings, &c., of the country, has secretly made friends with the much less ideal and more substantial interests of the commercial classes, and the Manchester cotton lords. Both have ended in a complete rupture with the party of which they were the former champion. Peel is at open war with the Tories, O’Connell with the Nationals. The love of their former friends, is in both cases turned into bitter disgust and contempt; and as we have already heard violent denunciations of Peel from his old supporters, we shall probably ere long hear equally violent against O’Connell. Both, in fact, share the merited fate of long-continued falsity of principle; they stand forth in their old age with their nakedness uncovered, the contempt of all those who can penetrate the hollowness of their career. For both the same excuse is set up, that they deceived for the good of their country. For both the excuse is alike untenable, for nothing can justify such deliberate tampering with the truth; and in both, their final exposure may serve as a warning to show how delusive is such a notion.
On the whole, however, we must greatly give the preference to the Irish agitator; his services to his country have been much greater, his exertions much more effective, and his career much more consistent; for, however insincere he may be on certain points, he has never been guilty of professing principles diametrically opposite to his convictions; he cannot be accused of any such hypocrisy as that of professing Toryism while in heart a Radical. He has consistently supported, and very mainly procured, by his own exertions, many measures important to his country; not to name others, that of Catholic Emancipation. But there is not a single measure which owes its success to the exertions of Peel; though he may have been the nominal instrument of carrying them, their triumph has been in reality the work of others, and they would have been passed with equal or greater readiness had he never existed. The Corn Bill, on which he rests his principal claim, has doubtless lost much more by his long-continued opposition, than it has gained by his tardy conversion. He has done nothing but adopt those principles which had already become dominant through the exertions of others, and has lived entirely on the fruit of other people’s intellects. Every one must admit, that in all this O’Connell is, beyond comparison, superior to Peel. In other respects, too, the bold and open _bonhommie_ of the Irish agitator, is far preferable to the cold and repulsive egotism of the English statesman.
That the career of the man who, with weak principles, as above described, attempts to play a conspicuous part in politics, will be pregnant with humiliation, is what we might at once predict. In the present instance of Peel this has been most strikingly exemplified. Unable to nourish himself with the food of truth, he has scantily sustained himself by eating his professions. Perpetually has he opposed, to the best of his power, men whose principles he has afterwards been compelled to adopt. After gaining power by such opposition, he has been forced to confess that he gained it by injuring his country. Even should we take the most favourable view of his conduct to Canning, that the nature of the case will allow, how much has it still of a humiliating character! He is reluctantly induced, at a great sacrifice to his feelings, to join the unfortunate opposition against that statesman, solely, as he _believes_, from a stern sense of public duty. Yet he is obliged afterwards to confess that Canning was much wiser than himself in the matter, and to carry the very measure on account of which his friend had been so mercilessly assailed. He discovers that the violence done to his feelings, not only was productive of no good to his country, but actually of detriment. He discovers that his former objections were not (as had been professed) to the principle of the measure, but only because the public mind was not yet ripe for it, and that as soon as the public mind ripened, his own would ripen too. What regret must thus be excited in the mind awakened to the consciousness of its long mistake!
If he had been satisfied that his opposition to Canning had proceeded from a firm and well-grounded conviction, from an unswerving sense of public duty, his conduct, however repugnant to his feelings, would, on the whole, be a just subject of pride, and the sacrifice of his friendship to his duty would entitle him to gratitude and respect. But, alas! it turns out that this firm conviction was wanting, that it was based on a foundation of sand; that what principles he had were vague and weak, and were liable to be biassed all the time, much more than he knew, by extraneous and contingent circumstances. This is the reason why they afterwards gave way, when their yielding was demanded by his political position. The law of duty that was deemed so stern and inflexible, proved, when the test was applied, to be pliant and elastic; the convictions which were believed to be based on the firmest Protestant principle, turned out to be chiefly dependent on public ripeness. And when he reflected that he had gained his power by so mistaken a course, by so unfounded an opposition to Canning, surely this would call for feelings of repentance on account of his previous errors, this would at least demand some expression of that contrition and humiliation, which seem so distasteful to his nature. But this is what he seems peculiarly disinclined to do, and till some such avowal of repentance has been made, we cannot think that he will have expiated his error.
His position with respect to the Whigs is of a similarly humiliating kind. What must he now think of that bitter opposition which he formerly promoted and encouraged against them, now that he discover that he is fully prepared to carry out their extremest principles? Must it not be a subject of penitence to him to discover, that here again his policy was, under his present views, injurious to his country; that his power has been based on an opposition to people wiser, as he now confesses, than himself? Yet here, too, he most strangely resists any avowal of contrition or humiliation.
This phenomenon is not of an amiable nature, nor one which would dispose us to a favourable view of his career. We can scarcely, I think, wonder, all things considered, that his previous conduct, and more especially that towards Canning, should have been brought under discussion in Parliament, as liable to the suspicion of premeditate duplicity and insincerity--of having, in fact, been similar to that of his three last years with respect to the Corn Laws. Ill, indeed, would it have spoken for the political morality of that Honourable House, if his conduct had been passed over without notice, as the usual and proper course which might be looked for from a British Statesman. Upon this question we will leave others to decide, for this is a point on which every one must entertain his own opinion. Since such has avowedly been his conduct for the three last years, there is nothing to prevent us from extending it over the whole of his public life. We do not, however, purpose to enter minutely into any such researches. We can only wonder at the very needless amount of agitation into which his supporters were thrown, when the subject, not long since, was broached in Parliament. A belief was there expressed, that his conduct on the Catholic Question had been equally insincere with his recent behaviour on the Corn Laws; that he had then, as now, suffered his colleagues and the public to deceive themselves, and had not openly avowed his real opinions. Sir R. Peel is roused to the greatest indignation at such an assertion. Yet surely this anger in him is somewhat out of place. His present insincerity, or deceit by sufferance, he does not attempt to deny;--it would, indeed, be useless for him to do so. Why, then, is he so indignant at the idea that his former conduct should have been similar to his present? Was insincerity a greater crime twenty years ago than it is now? Is deceit in the green tree worse than it is in the dry? If his public duty in 1845 authorised him to allow Lord Stanley, Lord Ashburton, and his party generally, “to deceive themselves,” why might it not have authorised him in 1825 to allow Mr. Canning and Lord Liverpool to deceive themselves also? If it be lawful for him now to mask and suppress his real opinions, why should it not have been so then? Yet by his energetic protestations he would seem to think that it must have been highly censurable. Such charges could only proceed, if we believe him, from the base and vindictive malice of political opponents. Yet what are these charges? The charges of having done then precisely what he has avowedly been doing now, and what it can scarcely be questioned he has done in the case of the Whigs also; the charge of having suppressed his real opinions, and led his colleagues and the public astray; of having opposed a measure professedly on principle, when in reality he was only waiting for sufficient symptoms of “public ripeness,” or for some other favourable conjuncture, as might best suit his views.
His indignation, then, seems to me to be the severest censure that could be passed on his conduct; and since he takes such pains to condemn himself, we will not trouble ourselves to defend him. We will leave him to his own tender mercies; from no quarter can his castigation proceed better than from his own hand.
We will merely hint a few remarks on the line of defence he has adopted. He seems to think that it all turns on some verbal expressions of his own, and that if he establish his position on these, no possible ground is left for suspecting him of insincerity. He insists several times, “I repeat that the whole of this question turns on the point, Did I, or did I not (at a certain time) use such and such expressions to Lord Liverpool?” We cannot agree with him in thinking that the question turns mainly upon this, or even that it is much affected by it. The question, in our apprehension, turns upon this:--Seeing that you have been, through an unknown portion of your career, accustomed to suppress and mask your opinions, and allow people, as you phrase it, to deceive themselves, have we any reason to think that your conduct was more ingenuous in your youth than it was in your mature prime, and is in your declining age? Seeing what your practice has recently been, we think that people must be allowed on these matters to judge for themselves, and to form their own opinion on your insincerity, as to its nature, its duration, and its amount. Indeed, if the question were to be decided by his own words, it would fare ill with his case; for, as we saw above, in a passage of his revised and corrected speech, his own expressions on this matter make against him more than those of his bitterest opponent could do. Were we to believe his own assertion, that the same course which he pursued in 1829, with respect to the Catholic Question, had suggested itself to his mind so early as in 1825, we should be forced to regard his conduct to Canning as disgraced by most culpable hypocrisy. He must have opposed that statesman upon hollow and deceitful grounds, and must have obtained power upon false pretences. We do not assert that such was actually the case, but if we are to believe his statements it must have been so. We can only hope that his account of the business was incorrect, and that the foresight he would seek to attribute to himself had no real existence. If, then, any body is maligning him, it would seem to be himself; and when he is thus merciless to his own character, he can scarcely wonder at some severity from the hands of his foes. We have no wish for our part to say any thing of him so injurious, as that which he has left on record against himself; and we will leave him therefore, as before, to smart beneath the lash of his own self-inflicted chastisement.
There is another charge, quite distinct from the preceding, brought against him with respect to his conduct towards Canning; viz., that he sanctioned the violent attacks made against that statesman by some of his supporters.
His own language, indeed, is free from this violence, but we can scarcely avoid thinking that blame attaches to him for indifference in the matter, for suffering his followers to employ an ungenerous mode of warfare against his rival, when it may reasonably be supposed that a decided expression of disapproval on his part would have gone far to put a stop to this. His conduct in the case of the Whigs was very similar, and their very generous behaviour at the present time to him, affords a most striking contrast to his previous treatment of them. As to the actual guilt to be imputed to these direct assailants of Canning, we hear very different estimates. That their attacks had a very powerful effect upon him personally, and were bitterly felt by him, there can be no doubt; and there seems no good ground for questioning the opinion of his relatives, that they had a share in hastening his death. It is urged, however, in their behalf, that they were doing no more than what is frequently done in politics; that they were young men, accustomed to see violent personal attacks considered an ordinary weapon of political warfare, and they would probably therefore think that theirs were perfectly _en régle_; that their assaults were not more bitter than what have often been made on other statesmen; that public men must expect this kind of annoyance, and that it was impossible to anticipate that they would produce so unwonted an effect in this instance. Granting them the full benefit of these apologies, there will still remain a considerable share of blame. If a practice is culpable, however general, those who adopt it must bear in some measure the guilt of any evil consequences that ensue. School-boys are in the habit of flinging stones without any very great regard to the damage they may occasion, and the practice among them not being looked on as blamable, we cannot, from proofs that a boy has flung these stones, argue in him any very peculiarly evil nature. Nevertheless, nobody can deny, that if one of these boys, though not much more careless or vicious than his fellows, should chance to aim so full at a more than usually delicate head, that his stone should be the cause of death, this should be a subject of repentance to him, a lesson that he should remember with humiliation for the rest of his life, and one which should be frequently quoted as a useful example of the culpability of the practice. A guilt of a nature analogous to this is what we should attribute to these assailants; the guilt of great wantonness and meanness, though not of _malice prepense_.
And if a person whose years, or whose position, such as a tutor to these boys, ought to have rendered him wiser, should have been standing by at the time, while these stones were raining against a friend or rival of his, with the view of diverting and pleasing him, and should have regarded the matter with indifference, thinking to himself it is no more than what all boys do, it is not likely that any harm will come from it this time more than any other;--he also should look on his connivance, under the circumstances, as matter of humiliation and repentance. A culpability similar to this very possibly attaches to Sir R. Peel, and if so, it should not be looked upon as in any way light and trivial, however much it may be sought to be sheltered by custom or example.
His blame indeed in this matter would be rather negative than positive, rather of omission than of commission, and would not therefore afford ground for any positive charge. Very probably, by the ordinary rules of political warfare, his conduct in this affair would be justifiable. It would be deemed sufficient by them that he should be clear from all such violence himself; it would not be thought incumbent on him to take any especial pains to stop it in others. Had he, however, been of a generous nature, we should have expected more than this; and we think in that case he would have taken more energetic measures to repress this wanton and culpable practice, especially against one who had been his friend. There is certainly nothing in his conduct on this occasion to applaud; no generous traits, as there might have been, to raise him in our estimation. But this is more, perhaps, than we could reasonably expect; men do not look for grapes from thistles, nor for generosity from Peels. We cannot well make it an actual charge against a man, that he was not generous; absence of generosity is not guilt, but poverty of character. That Sir R. Peel’s conduct on this occasion may have evinced poverty of character, is no more than what his general career would dispose us to believe. A higher mind would not have been contented with doing no more than what was ordinarily done; he would have seen more clearly the culpability of the practice, though established by usage, and would have blamed it in stronger language than many of his party would think it merited. We think, therefore, that it is a passage in his career which he should look on with deep humiliation, although we should not be disposed to consider it the ground of any very serious charge.
It is not, however, in any way a matter of wonder that some should entertain a severer judgment; for Sir R. Peel’s subsequent conduct has been such, that it justifies much liberty of opinion on these matters. It is in these cases that a perfect sincerity and ingenuousness of conduct is of the greatest use in purging a character which may undeservedly have been placed in untoward and suspicious circumstances. If his own wily and deceitful behaviour has very much weakened the defence which such a character would have afforded him, he has none but himself to blame. We can feel no pity for him under such imputations, for these suspicions are no more than the natural and proper punishment which general insincerity calls down upon itself. As one of the rewards of truthful and ingenuous conduct is that it fortifies the whole character, and repels unmerited suspicion, so the fitting and appropriate punishment of hypocrisy is that it throws a tarnish over the whole career, and prevents the assumption of the high tone of blameless and unassailable purity.
Nor can we leave unnoticed the weakness of his retort on his assailants, when he complains so loudly of these old accusations being disturbed after so long a slumber. He would argue from this that they arise entirely from party malice. “I ask,” says he, “whether, if I had not brought forward the present measure, I should have heard a word of all these accusations?” Very likely not; we quite agree with him that in that case they would probably have lain dormant without much revival of notice. But so acute a mind must, one would think, perceive that their re-appearance at the present moment might reasonably be expected, independent of all party or unworthy motives. His whole recent conduct has been extraordinary and unprecedented, and people are naturally anxious to trace up the hidden springs in which so remarkable a policy takes its rise. But more than that--it is his recent conduct which more especially establishes his insincerity; and does he forget that it is on the suspicion of insincerity, that the culpability of much of his previous course depends? His career cannot well be judged _a priori_, but it can be so much better, _a posteriori_. When he refers to the character given him by Canning, as a testimony of his integrity, does he think that Canning would have so expressed himself, if he had known at that time what was to be his future conduct on the Catholic question? Does he not see that it is his subsequent behaviour which entirely nullifies all the praises that Canning may have bestowed upon him, even if it were not futile in every way to refer to such compliments? And does he not see that his recent conduct in the case of the Corn Laws aggravates the suspicion of insincerity? It is this which has reasonably awakened a scrutiny into the previous events of his career; it is this which has excited that discussion which has fixed for ever an unmusical dissonance between the names of Canning and of Peel.
For out own part, putting aside his culpability in the matter, we would look upon his relation with these maligners of Canning, to be not so much blamable as ominous. However much we may be disposed to acquit him of any connivance in the matter, yet the mere fact that his power owed obligation at its outset to so violent an opposition against a man like Canning--an opposition which so deeply imbittered the career of that generous and high-minded statesman, this mere fact, I say, is an unfortunate and untoward fact, one which would stand as no happy augury at the commencement of the brightest course of pure and irreproachable patriotism. But when it stands at the commencement of a career like his, of that long tissue of inconsistent profession, of masked and disingenuous policy, it is a gloomy and an inauspicious fact, one which fully justifies the expression of his antagonist, in calling his an ill-omened and a sinister career.
Whatever view be taken, there is no ground for complaint, if his conduct be strictly and rigidly scrutinised; for really, all things considered, he is not a subject who can lay claim to any excessive and scrupulous delicacy. For our part, when we hear his conduct to Canning censured, though it may be too severely, we are rather disposed to reserve our pity for Canning, than to give any portion of our tenderness to the fragile and sensitive Peel. For is it not precisely one of the complaints to which he is justly liable, that he was not duly alive to the evil of such attacks when made against the character of another, and that he profited by the support of those who made them, without any very energetic remonstrance? Did he not stand by while the iron was eating into the soul of his former friend, without any very great and poignant grief, without any severe disturbance of his equanimity? He appears to have maintained a magnanimous composure, and philosophically to have reaped the advantages, unmindful, in his short-sighted views, of what might happen to himself. “_Eheu! quam temere in nosmet legem sancimus iniquam!_” Now, when his own conduct is assailed, though on just and reasonable grounds, while that of Canning was attacked on the most frivolous and unreasonable, whither has suddenly vanished that stoical fortitude with which he so firmly bore up against the attacks on his friend? Now it is his turn to wince and to complain, to protest against all rancour in politics, to deprecate all asperity of tone, to claim a mild and courteous mode of discussion. Maxims most good and true in themselves, but why were they not remembered earlier? Where were they among his former party? where were they when those unjust attacks were made, which now form a just subject of attack in their turn? It was not from him nor his partisans that the voice was raised which stigmatised those proceedings. No: his present complaints are idle: to be of avail we ought to have heard of them earlier. His position at present is no more than the result of that natural and equitable action, by which injustice, though late, punishes itself. It is a law of nature from which no man may escape; neither a beggar nor a Premier. One wrong begets another, of like brood and kind with itself. Τὸ γὰρ δυσσεβὲς ἔργον μετὰ μὲν πλείονα τίκτει, σφετέρᾳ δ’ εἰκότα γέννᾳ. The cup which in his youth he tranquilly suffered a nobler soul to drain to the dregs, how should he refuse in his declining years to put his lips to the margin? Let him try its taste with the best face he can, without superfluous whinings or complainings. He need not be unnecessarily apprehensive of its effect; it will not act on him as it did on a nobler nature. The chill and callous organisation of the egotist will receive no more than a beneficial stimulus from the potion which is death to the generous soul. The darts which would find their way direct to the frank and open heart, will fall blunt and powerless long before they reach those hidden and inaccessible recesses of his own, cased as it is in a triple mail of coldness, secrecy, and self-delusion. Should a stray one, piercing that elephantine hide, awaken an unwonted smart, our pity would be steeled by the reflection,--“_Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas immolat_,” and we should watch the flow of blood, with no apprehension of a serious effect, but with feelings of pleasure, arising from the sense of a somewhat satisfied justice.
What, then, is the moral of the whole matter? A short and simple one.
LET NO ONE ASPIRE TO A LEADING PART IN POLITICS, UNLESS HE POSSESS GENUINE AND EARNEST CONVICTIONS: LET NO ONE WHO HAS NOT SUCH FIRM PRINCIPLES IN HIS HEART, GIVE UTTERANCE TO ENERGETIC PROFESSIONS WITH HIS LIPS: LET NO ONE WHO HAS NOT A GREAT SOUL SET UP FOR BEING A GREAT MAN.
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If Sir R. Peel’s career as a public man were over, the reflections suggested by it, however interesting in a speculative point of view, would not be of much immediate practical importance. But such is by no means the case: this mysterious character is still among us, playing his part upon the stage, and possessed of very extensive influence and popularity. It is this, indeed, which renders his example more peculiarly baneful and demoralising, for, owing to the favour he has gained by his recent measures, the hollowness and insincerity of his previous career are by many wholly overlooked. The admiration lavished on such a policy as this, must exercise a most pernicious influence, injurious to the character of public men, and of the nation at large. Every thing that can counteract this mistaken tendency, would be a real benefit; and it is chiefly with this view that we have been induced to contribute our mite in an otherwise ungenial task. But when we find skilful insincerity receiving the praises due only to disinterested virtue, we feel called upon to lift our feeble voice against so fatal a delusion. The prospect, by no means improbable, of his return to power, renders such efforts still more important. For such an event is far more likely than many would be inclined to deem. However deserted he may be by his old friends, a new and rising party is gathering around him, and the old champion of the High Tories is become the flower of the Ultra Radicals. The strongest hopes are entertained by these of his speedy return to the post of Minister. We are told, as quoted above, that he is to be triumphantly borne into power on the shoulders of the people, and in that enviable position to remain as long as he pleases; a sort of perpetual Grand Vizier. He has made friends, it would appear, with the Mammon of the Cotton Lords, that when the Landlords failed they might receive him into everlasting habitations. That he has sufficient popularity and influence for this purpose is not to be questioned, and the jealousies of the two great rival parties are likely to be favourable to his views. If it be true that he has all along been working to this consummation, that his secret and steady aim has been to come out as the Popular Minister of the movement, however severely his previous conduct must be censured, we cannot deny it a certain amount of skill. We hope, however, that it will meet with the ill success that it deserves. It is impossible to think that a character like this, however able, is fitted to govern the nation. That the popular will, whatever it may be, will be readily executed by him, is perfectly clear; but something more than this is necessary to constitute a good Minister. They must indeed be a peculiar kind of Liberals who would gladly ally themselves with such a leader as this.
“License they mean, when they cry liberty, For who loves that must first be wise and good.”
Now their chosen master, Sir Robert, has unfortunately placed himself in such a position, that he cannot be both wise and good. His course must either have been very much mistaken, or very insincere, so that if he be wise he cannot be good, and if he be good he cannot be wise. It is impossible, therefore, that he can be both, though perfectly possible that he may be neither. We cannot, then, congratulate the Ultra party upon the acquisition that they have made; and if as friends they find reason to be satisfied with their new champion, they will be the first of his friends who have done so.
Surely, however, we are not yet so badly off, but that we may find men both wiser and better for our Ministers. Let us hope that the new government, in spite of its very inauspicious commencement, may at least, by its honesty and sincerity, form a brilliant contrast to its predecessor. They have a great task before them, one which will test their worth and their abilities to the utmost, and afford the amplest scope to their energies; viz. the improvement of the social condition of the labouring classes. Let them know at once, and let them openly proclaim it, that this will require far higher and more extensive principles than those of political economy; that it will not be accomplished by the “competition” or by the “state of nature” proposed by an Episcopal economist, nor by the mere process of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market. Nay, let them be well assured that it will require an infringement of this sacred principle, however blasphemous it may sound in the ears of our Liberal cottonocracy. It will require an interference with the market of labour, and with the lordly privileges of capital. They must be prepared to encounter the censure of many a dogmatic economist, the odium of many a wealthy capitalist, and even the ingratitude of many of the people upon whom their benefits shall be conferred. The problem is one for which their predecessor, Sir Robert, was evidently totally unfitted, for it will require minds above the spirit of the time, Statesmen who must anticipate, not follow, the reigning popular doctrines. Their present conduct will show whether they are really Liberals, or merely false and empty assumers of the name; whether they are in possession of the high and true principles which conduce to the virtue and happiness of States, or whether, like the mass, they are principally engrossed in commercial and industrial doctrines. It cannot be disguised that they have made a very poor beginning, disgraceful to their name and to their former achievements; let us hope that shame may serve to stimulate them for the future to something more glorious and honourable.
Sir Robert Peel’s conduct will serve them in many matters as a useful example, as a solemn warning, as a practical illustration of the homely adage, that “honesty is the best policy.” We have seen enough of the evils entailed by a masked and disingenuous policy, which delights in allowing people to deceive themselves. Let us now contrast with it the advantages of a sincere, open, and consistent course. Let us profit by the late Premier’s career as an example, in which case it will not have been without its use; and let us, by so doing, avoid the disgrace of falling again under his power.
_Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh._
 _Dix Ans à la Cour du Roi Louis Philippe, et Souvenirs du Temps de l’Empire et de la Restauration._ Par B. APPERT, de la Société Royale des Prisons de France. Berlin and Paris, 1846.
 According to old usage, each defunct King of France awaited, at the entrance of the vault at St. Denis, the body of his successor, and was not consigned to his final resting-place till its arrival.
 Biog. Univ. xiii. 482-491, (Eugene.)
 Histoire de mon Tempe par Frederick IV., p. 174.
 Viz. Vimiera, the Douro, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d’Onoro, Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, the Bidassoa, the Nive, the Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse, Quatre Bras, and Waterloo.
 _Wanderungen eines alten Soldaten._ Von Wilhelm, Baron von Rahden. Berlin, 1846.
 Even in the House there are some free-traders by no means irreproachable on this head, gentlemen whose speeches are profuse in invectives against the whole body of the landlords, and who, when freed from Parliamentary restraint, denounce them as robbers, and openly express “their desire of levelling the aristocracy to the dust.” However sincere these patriots may be, this ungenerous tone does not betoken that large and comprehensive mind which we look for in a Member of Parliament; and it is the fortunate possessors of minds like these, who, in our days, pleasantly style themselves Liberals! _Lucus a non lucendo._ Where will this abuse of language stop? An American slave-breeder will be the next claimant of the name, when these Parliamentary Thersitæ set themselves up as Liberals!
 And this for a considerable period of time. In the last case of the Corn Laws, by his own account, it would seem to have been about _three years_.
 See this point well put in Whewell’s Treatise on Morals--a book which we strongly recommend to Sir Robert’s perusal, as containing many interesting views on these topics, and likely to be of peculiar service to _him_.
 _Vide_ again Whewell’s Treatise.
 In the matter of the Factory Bill.
 Simply in its peculiar naïveté. We do not mean to assimilate the Irish character with that of Peel.
“_Cleon._--There, I’m the first, you see, to bring ye a chair. _Sausage-seller._--But a table--here I’ve brought it, first and foremost. _Cleon._--See here this little half meal-cake from Pylos, Made from the flour of victory and success. _Sausage-seller._--But here’s a cake! See here! which the heavenly goddess Patted and flatted herself, with her ivory hand, For your own eating. * * * * * _Cleon._--This slice of rich sweet-cake, take it from me. _Sausage-seller._--This whole great rich sweet-cake, take it from me. _Cleon_ [_to the S. S._]--Ah, but hare-pie--where will you get hare-pie? _Sausage-seller_ [_aside._]--Hare-pie! What shall I do? Come, now’s the time, O mind, invent me now some sneaking trick. _Cleon._ [_to the S. S. showing the dish which he is going to present._]--Look there, you poor rapscallion! _Sausage-seller._ Pshaw, no matter. I’ve people of my own there in attendance. They’re coming here.--I see them. _Cleon._--Who? What are they? _Sausage-seller._--Envoys with bags of money. _Cleon._--Where? Where are they? Where? Where? _Sausage-seller._--What’s that to you? Can’t ye be civil? Why don’t you let the foreigners alone?-- [_While Cleon’s attention is absorbed in looking for the supposed envoys, the Sausage-seller dexterously snatches the hare-pie out of his hands, and presents it to the Demus._] There’s a hare-pie, my dear own little Demus, A nice hare-pie, I’ve brought ye!--See, look there! _Cleon_ [_returning._]--By Jove, he’s stolen it, and served it up! _Sausage-seller._--Just as you did the prisoners at Pylos. _Demus._--Where did ye get it? How did ye steal it? Tell me. _Sausage-seller._--The scheme and the suggestion were Divine; The theft and the execution simply mine. _Cleon._--I took the trouble. _Sausage-seller._ But I served it up. _Demus._--Well, he that brings the thing must get the thanks. _Cleon_ [_aside._]--Alas, I’m circumvented and undone, Out-faced and over-impudentified.”
_The Knights_ of Aristophanes, translated by Frere, l. 1164-9, and 1189-1206.
 We would not apply this strong language to all the advocates of the measure, but only to those who uphold it on principle as an enlightened and liberal one. If it is honestly put forward on low commercial grounds, not on high moral ones; if it is frankly confessed that it is an ignoble and selfish measure, in which our love of sugar and of revenue prevails over the love of our fellows; if we own that we have not virtue enough to resist these palpable and material temptations for the sake of the impalpable and invisible ones of right and humanity;--let it pass, (sorry though it be;)--our pious and enlightened nation is already disfigured with too many of these commercial blots, to make this further additional one matter of much especial censure. We can only lament that having made some beginning in the true and good line, we are so easily induced to give it up; that whereas before we could point to one brilliant exception as a source of light and hope, this is now to be extinguished, and we are to relapse into total darkness. But it is the advocacy of this measure on principle, as an eminently liberal and Christian one, as a triumph of truth, liberty, and reason, which is so peculiarly disgusting, and argues the corruption of the people. It is the sneer at every thing like true generous principle, the laugh at the high moral, the complacency in the low commercial, the assertion of the paramount importance of mere considerations of lucre over all the laws of humanity, that forms the bad feature in the case of these holy Liberals. When we find people, in a tone of profound piety, putting forth the purely commercial principle of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, as an inviolable law of the Great Parent of the Universe, the infringement of which, even to avert the deepest suffering from our fellows, is an impious rebellion against His will; when we are implored not to do evil, that good may come, (the evil being a want of sweetness in our tea, and the good, the preserving from slavery and degradation a large number of our race;) when we are exhorted to deal freely in slave produce, for the sake of promoting “peace and good-will among all mankind;” then, I say, that this servile liberality, this Evangelical cupidity, this Christianity of the ’Change, is beyond all expression detestable, and more worthy of the shafts of Voltaire’s satire than the Christianity of the Inquisition. The present measure will probably cause a greater amount of suffering in the course of a few years, than the Inquisition did during the whole period of its existence.
 The above conversation, though with no pretensions to exact accuracy in the expressions, is strictly founded on fact.
 Hansard’s Debates, vol. xx. New Series, p. 731. The speech is said, in a note on p. 727, to have been “inserted with the permission and approbation of Mr. Secretary Peel.”
 The expression which was chiefly insisted on in that discussion, and which he strenuously laboured to disprove, was that in which he was reported to have said, that in 1825 he gave it as his opinion to Lord Liverpool that “something ought to be done for the Catholics.” He strongly denied having ever used those words, and as indeed they are not found in many of the reports of his speech, there would not appear to be sufficient evidence that he did so. But it was labour lost to disprove the point, for this sentence after all was by no means so clear or explicit as that which stands in his own revised report. He might have stated that something ought to be done for the Catholics, without its being thereby evident, that by that something he meant the measure of Catholic Emancipation. Some other course might have “suggested itself to his mind,” as a solution of the difficulty. But when he tells us in so many words, that the course which then suggested itself to his mind was the very same which he afterwards pursued in proposing the measure of Catholic Emancipation, no room for question is left; this is a precise and explicit statement to which we do not see how two meanings can well be given. When such a statement stands in his own corrected report, it was worse than idle so strenuously to disclaim the weaker one.
 Meng-tseu, Book II. chap. 6, Art. 30. Pauthier’s Translation.
 This chronology might seem difficult to conciliate with the life of an individual, but it must be remembered that the Robert Peel never dies. There are always in the world not only one, but many representatives of the character.
 Meng-tseu, Book II. chap. 7, Art. 37. Pauthier’s Translation.
 Talleyrand is a good example.
 Catholic Bill, Factory Bill, Corn Bill.
 That this opposition to Canning was characterised by a peculiar virulence on the part of some of its members, appears to be indisputable, inasmuch as it seems to be the received opinion of those best acquainted with Canning, that it had a considerable share in causing his death. Thus, not to mention other testimonies, his widow, when Huskisson subsequently joined some of these politicians in office, writes to him to reproach him with having joined her husband’s murderers. Peel himself at the time did not escape from severe blame on account of it, and one of his relatives, Mr Dawson, is mentioned as one of the most notable of the culprits.
 Translated by Shelley:
“Revenge and wrong bring forth their kind: The foul cubs like the parents are.”
Obvious printer errors corrected silently.
Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]