Imágenes de páginas

palatable to the age? Of presumption and rashness we will not acquit Shelley; but are there no other vices of the temper or the will, from which he was exempt, which those who arraigned him cultivated and cherished as necessary and creditable for moralists and critics to entertain? But it is time to close our very imperfect remarks on the genius and character of Shelley. If we have more clearly pointed out and traced the causes and the consequences of his errors as a poet, we can securely leave the discovery of new excellences in him to the personal feeling and predilection of our readers.


1. The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington,

during his various Campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, the Low Countries, and France. From 1799 to 1818. Compiled from Official and Authentic Documents. By Lieutenant-Colonel GuRWOOD, Esquire to

His Grace as Knight of the Bath. 2. The General Orders of Field Marshal the Duke of Welling

ton in Portugal, Spain, and France; from 1809 to 1814. In the Low Countries and France, in 1815. And in France, Army of Occupation from 1816 to 1818. Compiled from the several printed volumes, which were originally issued to the General and Staff Officers, and Officers commanding Regiments in the above Campaigns. By Lieu

tenant-Colonel GURWOOD. WEAK must be the perceptions and obtuse the intellect of the man who can scan the page of history, and not trace the chains of events worked out by men fulfilling the ends of Providence. From the first dawn of time to these days, when concurrent events lead to the belief that some great consummation is at hand, mortals who have stood pre-eminent among their fellows, have been selected as instruments, and live in the with irresistible commands, the chosen people from their bondage. Attilas, instinct with fury to destroy, fulfilled their appointed tasks, and swept and trampled down the Roman empire to the dust. Ranging over the gulf of time, the historic visions of more modern eras float by, all connected, all parts of one great whole, clearly drawing to a close. To trace with steady eye and hand that great outline and close contexture, is not our province, and would require more time and space than can be here afforded. But during the last great series of events, which commenced with the French Revolution, the extraordinary man, the map of whose mind and career is now given to the world, was one of the mighty leaders, an instrument chosen to guide the storm of war, to destroy or defend, uphold or depose, until the vial of wrath which had been poured out upon the earth was exhausted,—then he sealed his last dreadful battle with the impress of victory and peace, which can never again be finally obliterated.

With this conviction, the Conqueror of Waterloo becomes invested with a character of the deepest interest, and wholly distinct from his weaknesses as a fellow-mortal. We know not the course of his own reflections, but we have seen his words written from the last field of his glory, while the enemy were discomfited and flying, before he knew the full extent either of the dreadful carnage or of his triumph,—when after enumerating some who had fallen, he ended the brief letter with “I HAVE ESCAPED UNHURT,—THE FINGER OF PROVIDENCE WAS ON ME.” What the impulse was which dictated these extraordinary words we leave to the opinion of these who read them.

The fields of action for extraordinary men are extraordinary times—they are contemporaneous. Yet in every instance can be traced the gradual training and preparation of the being, until fully prepared to complete the work for which he was intended. The scope of our inquiries becomes divided into two parts: first, the times; secondly, the part performed by the man in those times. The time, or period, is a part of that in which we live, and therefore too well known to require more than a sketch to revive the recollection of the leading points.

the Duke was engaged, when France was thus described by Isnard, a member of the Convention, and an active Jacobin :

" Le règne de la terreur établi; tous les sentimens de la nature étouffés; la liberté des actions, de la parole, de la presse, enchaînée; la probité, la vertu, la philosophie proscrites; le commerce, les sciences, et les arts anéantis ; le Vandalisme et le brigandage couronnés ; le Maratism déifié; la fortune publique délapidée ; la morale humaine corrompue ; la foi nationale violée; les propriétés envahies; de nombreux tribunaux de sang institués, le droit de vie et de mort délégué aux êtres les plus féroces ; des milliers d'échaffauds dressés, cinquante milles Bastilles encombrés de prétendus prisonniers d'état; cent milles victimes suppliciées, foudroyés, ou submergées; des millions de familles, de veuves, d'orphelins, noyés dans les pleurs; des départemens entiers passés au tranchant de l'épee et consumés par les flammes ; de vastes contrées n'offrant pour moissons que des ossemens et des ronces ; la veillesse massacrée et brulée sur son lit de douleur ; l'enfance égorgée dans le ventre maternel; la virginité violée jusques dans les bras de la mort; les monstres de l'ocean engraissés de chair humaine; la Loire roulant plus de cadavres que de cailloux; le Rhone et la Saône changes en fleuves de sang; Vaucluse en fontaine de larmes ; Nantes en tombeaux ; Paris, Arras, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, en boucheries ; Lyon en ruines; le Midi en désert, et la France entière en un vaste théâtre d'horreurs, de pillage, et de meurtres."

England, in some degree tainted with the epidemic of revolution, but imperfectly acquainted with its horrors and the objects of the leaders, had been forced by that insane country into a defensive war. The excited armies of France, on the pretext of establishing liberty throughout the world, poured down to the seizure of every realm they could conquer, of every town they could sack, and every district they could leave to military pillage. The ancient régimes of Austria and Prussia were shaken to their very centres, and their councils rendered vacillating and dispirited; Spain, a mass of imbecility and political corruption, was a tempting quarry; young America, ignorant and enthusiastic, clasped the hand of alliance with polluted France; while Russia, after being driven from the battle-field, looked on with fear and trembling at the promulgation of doctrines fraught with the wildest forms of rebellion against universal law and order,– then she became the confederate, and at last one of the instruments of punishment. Such a state of the realms of the civilized world was certain to produce, on the one side, men of reckless energy, talent and military vanity, depraved by the vulgarity of the mere love of war and conquest; on the other hand, in conformity with the great law, that violence, oppression and injustice beget resistance, men were certain to appear of as great resolution, ability and military genius, guided by the highest principles of integrity and honour, and who, instead of fretting for the vanity of glory, would seek high renown as leaders in the defence of the religion, the laws, the territory of their country and of the civilized nations who were so wantonly assailed. The principal chiefs of the operative part, on the one side, were Napoleon and his lieutenants; on the other, Wellington, his countrymen and allies.

Though the intellectual faculties and propensities of such men may be, and doubtless are, the best adapted to the parts they have to perform, yet it is requisite that the circumstances in which they are placed should accord with the training necessary to fit them for their work. Some observation and reflection show, that in both those extraordinary leaders their training did so accord with their future career, and that similar situations produced in both of them different results. Success rendered the one self-vaunting, incautious, impatient of restraint, self-sufficient, and feigning to be invincible,the other, mistrustful, cautious even in matters of minute detail, patient and compliant to powers and circumstances, selfrelying, provident against defeat, and not less so in victory. These different effects were the natural causes of the discomfiture and downfall of the one, and of the steady career of glory and permanent triumph of the other. This, to us attractive, kind of analysis may be resumed before we close our labours;-we must now give some account of the volumes before us, and of the mind of the extraordinary man as delineated in them; a task, to which we address ourselves with the greater readiness, because we can furnish information new to the public, and to be depended upon for its accuracy.

A brief account of the origin of the work, so ably executed by Colonel Gurwood, cannot but interest every reader. Impressed with the importance to history of documents illustrating a series of events not exceeded for their momentous results in any age of the world, and aware that misrepresentations and erroneous impressions were diffused, which

chief he had served and often followed to the field of victory, the necessity of permitting the documentary narrative of facts to be prepared for the printing-press, and then published to the world. At first the Duke was averse to the undertaking, “lest he should be drawn into controversies with nations and men in proportion as the truth was told.” Notwithstanding, his faithful follower respectfully, and with a soldier's feeling, pressed the suit,First, proposing to continue the work under his Grace's di

rection. Secondly, to collect, collate, and submit the work to his

Grace's inspection, to print and deposit a corrected copy with him, so that hereafter an attested and corrected

document might be given to the world. Thirdly, to discontinue the compilation. His Grace having confidence in Colonel Gurwood, the first proposition was accepted, and every source of information was thrown open to him, and every assistance afforded from the wonderful memory of the Duke, though no fact was allowed to be inserted which a written document was not in existence to verify. We here distinctly state, that no other person ever had access to any documents of the Duke, by his Grace's permission, for any historical or other purpose, and that all inferential pretensions to such privilege are not founded in fact.

The Duke's precision and business-like arrangement of his papers cannot be exceeded. The original drafts of the dispatches and letters written in the Peninsula, as also those received, were kept in a different manner from the rest; the drafts or copies of the original letters were folded up and classed alphabetically, and then arranged in monthly bundles, with a card specifying the letters contained in each bundle. From these an annual list or index was made containing the précis of each letter, arranged also alphabetically, monthly and annually. His Grace adopted this plan of keeping his correspondence, as being more compact and less troublesome than the usual mode of letter-books, and the Military Secretary's department was a model of arrangement as well as of portableness.

« AnteriorContinuar »