Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

and dispersed ; and the Life Guards receiving the thanks, and Kelly a warm shake of the hand of Lord Uxbridge, resumed their place at the rear of the of the still retiring English army. In this fashion, unmolested during the remainder of the day, they reached the position at Mont St. Jean by their immortal chief. Next day the cheesemongers' gained further and perennial laurels.

In the charge against the lancers I have just spoken of, Kelly escaped death by a strange circumstance. When about to mount his horse that morning, he found that his cartridge-box was out of order. Knowing that a brother officer (Perrott) was too ill to march, Kelly entered his quarters, and asked the loan of his cartridge-box He received it of course, and throwing it over his shoulder hurriedly, shook hands with Perrott, and dashed out of the room in consequence of another summons from the trumpet. Perrott was a man hardly of the middle size; Kelly stood nearly six feet high. This difference caused the cartridge box of Perrot to hang scarcely below Kelly's shoulder-blade. The hurry of the march, and the incidents of the day, prevented Kelly's recollecting this circumstance. After cutting down the Colonel of the lancers Kelly was in another second attacked by a lancer. With a blow from his vigorous arm, which parried and at the same time shattered the lance,t Kelly raised his sabre anew, and cut at the lancer ; but he was too late. As in the case of Frederick Ponsonby, this personal rencontre took place while Kelly and his antagonist were respectively in rapid motion; and as in the former case too, the Pole was too active for his foe. Dropping the remnant of his lance, he with the rapidity of lightning drew his sabre, and cut at Kelly as they passed The well-aimed blow fell

upon

the cartridge-box of Kelly, which, according to the regimental regulation, was of massive silver. It was completely cut through, but Kelly escaped without a scar."

“In the course of our journey from Bangor to Holyhead, I asked Kelly, naturally, many questions about Waterloo, for it was almost the only topic of conversation in 1816. Amongst other things, I inquired whether all that was said of Shaw (the pugilist and Lifeguardsman) was true? I have no doubt of it,' replied Kelly ; ! but every man did his duty on that day, and none more bravely than my orderly, Paddy Halpin.'( • What I were there Irishmen in the Life

[ocr errors]

“This was a friendly soubriquet, and not a term of contempt. The gallant 50th were thus called the dirty half hundred.' The 101st the hundred and worst,' &c.”

+ “Kelly was on that day mounted on a powerful black mare. When the lancer gave point, Kelly threw up her head, and to that movement possibly owed his life. The lance intended for him struck the mare's nose, and cut open her head until it passed between her ears. This fine animal, like her rider, survived the action, and was, for some years afterwards, an object of interest to the visitors of the Life Guards' stables."

$" John Shaw was well known among the pugilistic corps of London before the battle of Waterloo. Paddy Halpin afterwards figured in the same circle, but not in the ring; only with the gloves, I think.”

6

a

guards ?' • Yes, but not many.'–Our conversation next turned on the Peninsular war, and then on the qualities of the English, Irish, and Scotch soldiers. “They are all equally brave, said he ; but they differ much in character. In Spain, when going my rounds as officer of the night, I found an enemy upon an English regiment, the men fast and confidently asleep. On arriving at a regiment of Highlanders, they, too, would seem sound asleep, but I observed that they were closely observing me. I would go further ; from a hovel I could hear the sound of a fiddle. On entering, I should find the soldiers of an Irish regiment engaged in a country dance. On remonstrating, and telling them that possibly we should have

an action next day, and that they ought therefore to seek repose, Let it come, Sir!' they would reply, 'were we ever backward ?' Poor Kelly! He accompanied that distinguished cavalry officer, Lord Combermere, to India, as chief of his staff ; for in Spain, Kelly's gallantry had become known to his Lordship. Change of climate, advancing years, hard campaigning, but, above all, the untimely death of his only son, a young officer of much promise, broke up his iron frame. He never raised his head after his son's death; and died during the Burmese campaign, lamented by all who knew him. Conriected with this sad event was a circumstance that may have interest for some of my readers. Before intelligence of his death reached Europe, I happened to meet, at the Hôtel Quillac, in Calais, a number of Indian officers, who had just arrived, on their return home. On my way 1 inquired of them for Ned Kelly;' they said that he was pretty well, but much grieved in consequence of his bereavement.' tleman at another table asked: Is he in low spirits ?' Very! • Then,' said the gentleman, an old soldier, “I am sorry to say he is ordered to join. I lament this, for he was a noble fellow. I have served seven-and-twenty years in India, and have never known a desponding invalid recover, nor a man mentally depressed to live long in that country. This prediction was verified. The next mail brought an account of the death of Edward Kelly— Waterloo

A gen

6

[ocr errors]

Kelly,"

The foregoing extracts sufficiently demonstrate that had the writer of these volumes confined himself to the narration of his own reminiscences, he might have produced an interesting and instructive work; his ambition to become an historian, without the necessary research and investigation, having led him from the path which he should have pursued, obliges us, in justice, to class him among those too numerous authors whose productions possess neither the authenticity of history nor the attractions of romance.

THE

IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW.

No. X.-JUNE, 1853.

Arr. I.-AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALEXANDER DUMAS.

Memoires d'Alerandre Dumas. Tomes 1-13. Bruxelles :

. : Meline, Cans, et Compagnie. 1852-1853.

Who has not heard of Alexander Dumas ? Who has not laughed at his heroes; wondered at his Monte Christo; been charmed by his descriptions of French life, and who, above all, has not been astonished by his Briarean facility of penmanship? He has laid the historic annals of every nation under contribution, and the records of crime have, in his works, been familiarized to the general reader. But, amusing as he has ever been, no novel issuing from his scriptorium, which is only a manufactory wherein romantic fiction is forged, ever possessed so many strange, odd, and striking incidents as are presented in the work before us.

In selecting this autobiography, thirteen volumes of which have appeared, for consideration in the present paper, our choice has not resulted from any intrinsic interest in either the matter or spirit of the work, but from the quantity of anecdotic gossip concerning Dumas' cotemporaries, who have made for themselves a name in literature, in diplomacy, or in warfare. Valuable pearls are sometimes strung on a very valueless cord, and a fine "take" of delicious trout, with emerald, ruby, and opal tinted scales, is frequently fastened on a common sallow twig, and borne home by a vulgar little boy. If we were safe in sketching a man's character from the tone of his writings, we would pronounce our author's to be a compound of self-esteem, ostentatious profusion, great perseverance and industry, varied with an occasional outbreak of prodigality and idlenessa VOL. III.NO. X.

13

a

a

a

an indifference to Religion—no particular eagerness for forbidden subjects as materials for his stories, but an equal carelessness as to their avoidance. It scarcely tells well for his paternal care to find his son already remarkable for the very objectionable matter and treatment of most of his productions. When we assert that the self conceit of Dumas almost approaches the sublime, and can scarcely be paralleled, excepting by that of Sir Godfrey Kneller, * we hope our readers will take several passages and traits sketched of his father and himself with a very large pinch of salt indeed. The only thing to which we are disposed to give implicit credence, is his affection for his mother. There is a truthful and loving spirit in all his reminiscences connected with her, which hides, from our eyes, many of his sins against good taste.

If in a sketch of his works, however slight, his deep rooted dislike to all of regal race were omitted, it would be an inexcusable ornission. If we trace his various outlines of all the royal personages who have figured on his canvas, we can scarcely meet with any qualities better than intense selfishness, indifference to the weal or happiness of their subjects, selfindulgence carried to excess, and domestic as well as political despotism. If they are devout it is a sour uncharitable bigotry; and if the lives of any are known from history to be irreproachable, they are sure to be cold, ill-natured, and disagreeable to all round them. As poor Louis XVI. did not gratify him by many moral blots, he is content to exhibit him as a prototype of Jerry Sneak.

The only noted men who seem to have obtained his regard are, first, the Regent Philip, his sensuality and thorough exemption from any kind of religious feeling notwithstanding; second, Louis XV. who never voluntarily did hurt to a human being, but was somewhat fonder of other men's wives than a philosopher should be, and rather subject to laziness.

We can recall the name of only one ecclesiastic made

a

* Dumas is always the hero of his own good stories; he forgets, however, the following. When Dujarrier was killed in a duel with Beauvallon in the year 1845, about a worthless woman, Alexander was the chief witness on the trial of Beauvallon at Rouen, the birth place of Corneille; the following bit of fun took place during Dumas' examination, and the quickness of the President was worthy of the late Chief Justice Doherty. President. Votre nom ? Dumas. Alexandre Dumas, P. Votre prof D. Je dirais, auteur dramatique, si n'etais pas dans la patrie de Corneille. P. Monsieur, il y a des degrès a tous.

ion ?

prominent by our author for any good, moral, or pious qualities.

There is a strong propensity in many French writers for the flamboyant or gorgeous style, and for what they suppose to be the sublime, but which to our more sober taste, appears both profane and ridiculous. Several passages in Dumas' Memoirs, as well as in his other works, show marks of this taint. And now, having written quite enough in disparagement of our hero, we will strive to get into good humour with him as we proceed. His enthusiastic reverence and love for the memory of his parents will interest our readers' sympathy as they glean it from his narrative.

Alexander Dumas was born the 24th July, 1802, at Villers Côterêts, on the route from Paris to Laon, in a house which the present proprietor reserves for Alexander when about to die, in order that “ he may enter into the night of the future, in the very apartment where he stepped into this sphere from the night of the past.” Many ill-natured people, wishing to contest our author's legitimacy, he supplies the Baptismal Certificate in full, “to shew the rogues they lied ;” and adds, that had he been born with a legal blemish, he would have labored like other illustrious bastards to win fame by mental or bodily exertions : " but what will you have, gentlemen : as I happen to be born in wedlock, the public may as well learn patience, and resign itself to my legitimacy." His grandfather, Marquis AntoineAlexander Davy de la Pailleterie, Colonel and Commissary General of Artillery, sold his property, and settled in the west of St. Domingo, about 1760. His father, Thomas Alexander Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, was there born the 25th March, 1762, and at ten years' old, was nearly caught and eaten by a cayman, but was saved by attending to the directions of a Negro, and flying in a zig-zag direction, as the cayman runs or jumps only in a straight line. Father and son returned to France in 1780, the latter being then eighteen years of age.

He was, at that period, a handsome young man, dark of course as being a Mulatto, with hands and feet small as a lady's, skilled to perfection in the management of the sword, and meeting strange adventures, in one of which figures the Duke of Richelieu, the hero of so many of our author's true histories.

« PreviousContinue »