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narrow resting place. It would be nearer the truth to say that the very reverse of all this should be our idea of Charles the Fifth at Yuste.
That our notions of any object closely viewed must differ from our impressions received at a distance, seems but a superfluous assertion: still it is one of more practical moment when applied to men than to the physical world. The mountain range, which through the softening atmosphere seems clothed with more than earthly beauty, reveals, as we approach, the stains of barrenness and desolation on its rugged slopes; and, nearer still, the yawning ravine and impenetrable gorge take the place of the tender lines and the melting tinges which charm the eye of the distant traveller. And if the parallel held good only so far, we should shrink from scanning too closely the individual portraitures of men whose names are known to us in the general records of history. The great man will be found the captive of many an unworthy littleness: the magnanimous will not be free irom meanness, or the upright from dissimulation. It can be nothing more than a repulsive anatomy, which will bring to light only defects and seams and scars in the brow which we had deemed unfurrowed, and the heart which appeared the natural home of generous open thoughts. But if rocks and fissures display themselves as we draw nigh to the mountain masses, there will yet be, in the winding glen and the tangled thicket and the rushing torrent, abundant beauties to compensate for the desolation: and the craggy pass may lead into some pleasant vale, the very bosom of peacefulness and repose, which speaks to our hearts with more winning tenderness, because we had not dreamed of its existence. So, too, while a nearer view lays open many a defect or fault in personal character, it will be but in rare instances that we shall fail to discern some fresh qualities to call for our esteem, and win our sympathy,—some hidden source of sorrow, some infirmity, to plead in arrest of a judgment of condemnation. Such instances indeed there are, where the hideous iniquities of a Henry VIII. or a Caesar Borgia loom out with the more appalling blackness, as we approach to scan their revolting features. There are men, between whom and their fellow mortals there rises a fearful and stupendous barrier, in a festering mass of unbounded depravity. The mind almost refuses to contemplate the deformities of a Tiberius, a Herod, and a Nero.
Mr. Stirling's pages give a very different impression of the character of Charles from those of Robertson: not that there is much discrepancy in their modes of judgment,—for devotion with both would be something akin to superstition; both feel the same contempt for what they would perhaps term ecclesiastical religion; but Mr. Stirling is fortunate in having been able Co avail himself of materials, to which the latter had no access.
Were any one called upon to express in few words their estimation of the volume now before us, they could have no hesitation in replying, that with abundance of detail, and with vigour and truthfulness of description, with accurate analysis of every phase of character, it leaves little to desire but the addition of original letters, which the author was not permitted to publish,—that we have here a picture of the statesman, the ruler, and the man, with every great and every little trait subordinated in just and harmonious keeping,-—a portraiture full of life and vigour, an animated pleasant volume, never wanting in spirited description, written moreover with considerable force and elegance of diction,—graced with many a page of true and real eloquence. And with all this we accord our entire concurrence. There is undoubtedly great freshness in taking up a book, in which the conventional stiffness and (so to speak) decorum, which some men think it incumbent on them to adopt so soon as they take pen in hand, are laid aside. It is very pleasant to be carried on from page to page by a warmth of language, which shows that the words convey the actual feelings of the writer, as he would give utterance to them in the intercourse of daily life. A man's system of thought and belief must be very feeble, when it does not tinge, we had almost said, everything which he may have to say on every subject. It is very agreeable to have the forms of departed greatness vested with all the lineaments of life. Time was, and that not so long past, when the history of the ancient world seemed to dull the minds, and enfeeble the hands of all who approached to handle it; and it was matter of astonishment when Mitford sent forth his work stamped with the * spirit of a partisan.' The accusation may have been right or not; but it resolved itself into the acknowledgment, that in writing the history of Greece, he was writing the history of men who lived and thought and hoped and feared, as we do now. A spirit of partisanship would elicit no blame from us, if by this word be meant a vigorous, hearty espousal of a principle, as distinguished from a sluggish and effete neutrality or indifference. The praise or the condemnation must be according to the merit and the Tightness of the cause espoused.
Mr. Stirling has chosen his side, and thinks, probably, that he writes with a very praiseworthy candour and liberality.
His axioms being granted, this may be true, but it cannot be true on any other admission: and until we can be so convinced, we must take leave to dissent from certain conclusions to which they lead. It would be useless to undertake the task of combating the principles on which he would justify expressions of irreverence and coarseness. It would be idle to show that the antecedent idea of monachism and asceticism need not necessarily be contemptible,—that submission to the principle of authority need not of necessity degenerate into bigotry and superstition,— and that devotion is not always childish when fostered by the rich variety of a glowing and gorgeous ritual. But neither, again, do we desire to be the apologists of that remarkable man, who, having wielded for nearly half a century a power never till then equalled since the days of Charlemagne, ended his career in a manner which certainly did not diminish the wonder of the world.
It was a memorable day, on which, in the solemn assembly of the States at Brussels, surrounded by a proud array of nobles and warriors, Charles resigned to his son Philip all but his imperial dominion. The first step was taken towards the accomplishment of a long cherished intention, imparted to his wife, who had been taken from him nearly twenty years, and, fourteen years before this time, to Francisco Borgia, then the ornament and the boast of the ancient chivalry of Spain. Not a few writers have recorded their judgment of this resignation of authority. Disappointment, despondency, failure, hypochondria, nay, even growing imbecility of mind, have been supposed to be the proximate causes of this strange determination. Some of these reasons may possibly have concurred to strengthen his resolve: but perhaps the station to which he descended was not so humble, nor the renunciation of power so great, as these writers have imagined. Like other warriors and conquerors, before and since, he had known the ebb as well as flow of the tide of fortune; he too could point to a time, up to which victory followed victory, and after which disasters had ensued thick and fast. Disease, too, had laid her hand upon him: still it was but by fitful onsets, and the ripe powers of his commanding intellect could still promise years of sustained and vigorous action. And if the brilliancy of his ancient success was a Tittle dimmed, he still wielded a power wider and stronger than could be matched by any other potentate; his name still stood forth as that of the first sovereign of Europe. What might have been the course and character of his life, had his days been prolonged in the retreat which he had chosen, we cannot tell: but, in reality, four or five months only were granted him of entire freedom from kingly rule. He had indeed resigned the imperial crown; but eighteen months passed away, before the forms of the resignation could be gone through.
Facts of history, like other facts, will be regarded differently by different minds: but in reference to the last years of Charles V., the imaginations of historical writers have had rather more than their fitting scope. Robertson remarks the eagerness with which he sought to transfer the imperial dignity to his son at the very time, * when he seemed to be most sensible of the 'vanity of worldly grandeur, and when he appeared to be 'quitting it, not only with indifference, but with contempt,'— feelings which certainly were never avowed, even if they were entertained.
Late in September 1556, the fleet which bore Charles to his ancient realm rode in the bay of Laredo. On the 28th, accompanied by his sisters, Eleanor, Queen Dowager of Portugal and of France, and Mary, Queen Dowager of Hungary, he set foot on the land which he was not to quit again. Two years afterwards, and within a few weeks of each other, their bodies were laid to slumber in the grave. How different the moral lineaments of each, as scanned by the light of history! Eleanor, his favourite sister, the victim of his policy and ambition, meek, gentle, patient, had learnt the lesson of resignation in the school of neglect and suffering. Mary, too, had drunk of the cup of sorrow. Years before, her husband Louis fell, after the destruction of his army by the hordes of the infidel, in the marshes of Mohatz. In the first burst of grief, she made a vow of perpetual widowhood, and never after sought to be loosed from it From the disposition which prompted this act of devoted love, we should scarcely have expected other characteristics by which she was preeminently distinguished. With great powers of mind and as great strength of body, her delight was in active sports, in hunting and in hawking, and even in those functions of the chase, which would appear to be the most repulsive to feminine delicacy. With an iron arm she had conducted the government of the Netherlands for more than twenty years; labouring with unwearied zeal for the suppression of Lutheranism, and fearlessly heading in person the armies of her brother in the campaign and the siege.
They, too, like Charles, desired to spend the remainder of their days in retirement and meditation. By slow and easy stages the Emperor journeyed from Laredo to Estremadura, and at each place the nobles and knights came to pay homage to their imperial master. A thousand lights gleamed, on the night of his arrival, in the beautiful spires of Burgos; and the levee and banquet awaited him in the palaces of Valladolid. There was the olden pomp, and the ancient homage; and knight, noble, and ecclesiastic still sought to show their deference to him, who must continue, in effect, to rule in the land of his old dominion.
There is a great freshness in the record of his journey through the country. Charles, in his degree, appreciated the beauties of the outward world; and Spain is a land which could not fail of rousing the coldest imagination. So lovely in its beauty, so stern in its desolation, it presents to the eye a gorgeous feast of richness and colour, contrasted with sombre tracts of barren plain and bleak sierra. Something of these, its harder features, they looked upon by the way; but the green wood, and the running stream, and the deep blue distant mountains, formed the more frequent picture. A narrow and rugged gorge, through which wound an almost trackless path, with masses of craggy mountain heaped round in confusion, torn with torrents and yawning with ravines and fissures, was the entrance to the Vera in the direction which the Emperor chose to take. On reaching the summit, the eye sweeps at once over the mighty expanse of plain, spread out in magnificent luxuriance before it. 'I shall never go through a pass again,1 he said, as he looked back on the mighty barrier which shut out the world behind him. He hud arrived at the wished-for spot, and was now to be left at leisure, to repent of having resigned his power, or to give himself up wholly to meditation and prayer. So far as we may see, he did neither the one nor the other.
It would be a needless task to recapitulate all the statements, either incorrect or falsely coloured, which are to be found in Robertson and other writers. It would be easier and, perhaps, nearer the truth to say, that the greater number of incidents recorded by them are of very questionable authority. A vivid imagination has created the tale of his kneeling down on his debarcation and uttering, as he embraced the earth, the words of Job when smitten down to the dust in anguish. To the same source are owing the expressions of his speedy penitence for having abdicated his power, and of annoyance at the slights which he experienced. His very abode, in the Abbey of Yuste, (wrongly termed S. Just, the appellation being derived from a stream which flows near it,) has been described, not as it was, but as they would have it. Two motives might prompt this deceptive colouring—the one to eulogize his asceticism and his devotion, the other to display his superstition and his bigotry. On whom these motives would respectively act, there is no need to say. 'His apartments, when prepared for his 'reception,' says Sandoval, 'seemed rather to have been newly 'pillaged by the enemy, than for a great prince: the walls were 'bare, except in his bedchamber, which was hung with black 'cloth; the only valuables in the house were a few pieces of 'plate of the plainest kind ; his dress, always black, was usually * very old, and he sat in an old arm-chair, with half a scat, and