Page images

torical narrative, and to walk carelessly portrait of his talents, and the clearest in the lighter fields of anecdote, every- index to his unexaggerated character. day routine, or ordinary incident; to It was long said and thought that the see greatness without its external great Duke had preserved a complete attendants; to gaze closely on the chain of memoranda, notes, and reflecobjects of our habitual respect and ad- tions, on which he intended, in the miration in their intervals of domes- leisure of repose, when full of years tic privacy and familiar intercourse, and honours, to construct an autobiowhen, for a season, they have put off graphy of his public career; and then, the cumbrous panoply of command, when this idea was abandoned, that and are no longer fenced in by the his papers either were, or would be barriers of ceremony. In this view, committed to the late Sir George such volumes as those we now propose to Murray, his confidential quartermasglance through bastily, are invested with ter-general, to be revised and puba peculiar interest, which will never lished under his auspices. Whatever fail to prove acceptable to the general may have been the intention, neither reader. * Great men are not always of these plans were ever carried into mounted on the stilts of office. They effect; nor has it yet transpired that unbend like ordinary mortals, and re- any papers were left by his Grace cruit while they appear to relax the which may become valuable for histoenergies of mind and body by simple rical purposes, beyond those with which recreation.

the public are already familiar. Sir The death of the Duke of Welling- William Napier's “ History of the Peton naturally gave rise to many publi- ninsular War" may seem to render any cations respecting his life and career, future commentary on those memorable some of which, long written, had been campaigns (comprised between 1808 suppressed for various reasons until and 1814) equally hopeless and superthat event occurred.

fluous; yet it has been stated in print into existence on the spur of the mo. that Sir George Murray considered it ment, and not a few were suggested by incomplete, and said, emphatically, that the increased popularity of the subject, it was not the book; and the Duke of arising from his recent loss, and the Wellington himself recorded in a pubdeep, fervent, national regret with shed letter, that although he enterwhich men of all parties concurred in tained the highest respect for the doing homage to his character, and in author, he had not read his history, rendering a just tribute of respect and lest he should become entangled in an reverence to his memory. The sub- endless controversy. Biographies of ject will not easily tire, and many more illustrious monarchs and ministers, of volumes will yet be turned eagerly over great generals and statesmen, written before it may be pronounced effete or during their lives, must of necessity be wearisome. When all is done, as every- incomplete, and composed with rething must end at last—when eloquence serve, or from one-sided information. and language have exhausted their pow. Important documents are often wither and variety, and when the historian held through delicacy, which ceases to has adorned impressive fact with the ad- influence with the lapse of time, and vantages of style and the charms of com- when the parties referred to are no position, his own published despatch longer actors in the busy scene. Such es and orders will be selected in prefe- memoirs cannot be entirely divested of rence, as exhibiting the truest reflex of partisanship, and must be tinged by his mind and opinions, the most faithful the very diversified feelings of in

Others sprang

[ocr errors]

* 1. “Private Journal of F. S. Larpent, Esq., Judge Advocate-General of the British Forces in the Peninsula, from 1812 to the close of the Peninsular War." Edited by Sir George Larpent, Bart. 3 vols. Crown 8vo. London: Bentley. 1853.

2. “ Passages from My Life ; together with Memoirs of the Campaign of 1813 and 1814." By Baron Von Muftling. 8vo. London: Bentley. 1853.

3. " Three Years with the Duke of Wellington in Private Life." By an Ex-Aid-de-Camp. Crown 8vo. London: Saunders and Otley. 1853.

4. “The Duke of Wellington." By Jules Maurel. Translated by Lord Ellesmere. Cr. 8vo. London : Murray. 1853.

5. “Life and Character of the Duke of Wellington; a Discourse delivered by Lord Ellesmere." Crown 8vo, London : Murray. 1852.

terested supporters, or political op- opinion, has gone beyond mediocrity, ponents. In neither case are they to scarcely reaching the level of Addison's be depended on. Private friendship, panegyricon Marlborough, which, or individual admiration, will colour judged by comparison, cannod rate at highly on the one side; while party an exalted standard, and has but one virulence, or personal dislike, will dis- passage of pretension-the well-known tort to utter deformity on the other. simile of the angel. We scarcely Historians reciprocate accusations of think the whole composition, even if this bias in good set terms, and with- we were to throw in the mass of the out ceremony. A noble contemporary, late effusions on the Duke of Wellingwhose literary labours in the saine ton, worth the single impromptu epiwalk are many and popular, pro- grain (by a writer whose name is not nounced of Sir Wm. Napier's work, that given), on hearing that the Duchess of it was a good French history of the Marlborough has offered £500 for the Peninsular war; and Napier has said of best poem on the Duke's life and acSouthey's, that it would be difficult to tions.* We never heard that he reapply to a more copious source of ceived the reward, although we cererror. In all probability, some future tainly think his ready compliment Tacitus or Napier will give the next deserved it. Even money, the univergeneration

but one, " A History of the sal talisman, the veritable aurum pala Life and Times of Arthur, Duke of pabile itself, cannot always awaken Wellington," in a tone of clear, un- the fire of genius. Several years ago, compromising truth, which shall en- the lessee of the Haymarket Theatre dure while the language lasts, as a offered £500 for the best prize cometext-book for the youth of England to dy. The pay was liberal, and the comstudy from as they admire. We feel petitors many: The appointed comquite satisfied that when this book is mittee selected the best specimen that written, the character it describes will offered, but the public set no seal on stand on a more lofty pinnacle even the decision. The play soon died, and than it does at present; tested by time never returned the manager the money and reflection, and like gold purified it had cost him. When the real “ Reby fire, it will obtain additional value jected Addresses” for the opening of from the ordeal of increasing investi. Drury-lane were published, not one gation. In the meanwhile, we hail possessed a spark of poetry, or a single with avidity and thankfulness, all that claim to consideration. Amongst the falls from the pens of those who knew tributary odes and elegies on the Duke and associated with him ; who either of Wellington, there are, of course, served under his command, or enjoyed some two or three better than the rest ; bis personal confidence. From all we but none that will enhance the reputalearn something new, and that some. tion of the writers, or the glory of the thing we should regret if it were lost. deceased. Shakspeare speaks of a Poetry, too, has been summoned to do “bad epitaph” as a very undesirable honour to the mighty dead ; but we appendage. A commonplace cannot say that the tuneful Nine, al- memorative poem is not more to be though invoked by many, have re- coveted. Heroic deeds demand, and sponded warmly to the call – either should create exalted verse ; but al. Parnassus is slumbering or deserted. though the names and actions of The present age is too deeply immersed Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon in speculative science, in philosophical are much indebted to the majestic and theological theories, in calcula- muse of Homer, it is surely better tions of worldly profit and loss, to be. for departed greatness to remain uncome absorbed or enthusiastic in the sung, than to be laboriously threnohigher regions of poetical imagination. dised by harps that sound faintly, and Nothing in this way, in our humble without the swell of lofty inspiration.


* Five hundred pounds! too small a boon,
To put the poet's muse in tune,

That nothing miglit escape her ;
Should she rehearse the endless story
Of the immortal Churchill's glory,

It scarce would buy the paper !”

Let us indulge the hope that Apollo names, the fearful responsibility of may, hereafter, place his lyre in the aggressive war, the crime of inordi. hands of some future Virgil, Tasso, nate ambition, and the evils thereby Milton, or Byron; and assist him to entailed on present and future generawreath a poetical chaplet in honour of tions. During the six years of the the great Duke, which shall embellish Peninsular struggle, there perished, in and crown the long labours of the his- round numbers, and their bones lie torian and biographer.

bleaching on the hills of Spain, PorMr. Larpent's journal consists of a tugal, and France, 40,000 British series of letters written from head. soldiers, and more than 400,000 Spaquarters, to wbich he was attached by niards, Portuguese, and Frenchmen, his office, to his step-mother in Eng- including peasants, their wives and land, solely for private information, children, and other unoffending inba. and without any view to future pub- bitants. Nearly half a million souls, licity. The style is easy and familiar, who otherwise might have lived and exhibiting neither effort nor pretence at died in peaceful avocation and utility, laboured effects, sometimes even home. and all for what?ly and tautological, but we think the editor has done wisely in leaving the

" To swell one bloated chief's unwholesome reign,

And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain."* letters untouched and unrevised. He observes with truth, in a short pre- Mr. Larpent joined the army in face, that the simplicity of the style, Spain at a critical time, during the and the minute details, throw over the somewhat hurried retreat from Burgos, journal a charm of truth and reality, when a great triumph had been tol. which a more studied composition lowed by a temporary and unexpected would not have possessed. In their reverse. The defection or disobepresent state, the letters carry internal dience of the Spanish generals, partievidence of conveying impressions as cularly Ballasteros, bad enabled the they arose, and of detailing events as French to unite the armies of the they occurred. The writer had no south, centre, and north, under Soult, time to polish his sentences, or arrange forming one overwhelming mass, which thein according to critical rules. The Lord Wellington, from inferior numbook reads freshly and agreeably, and bers, was unable to meet, and was, we feel satisfied that the author invents therefore, obliged to relinquish his occunothing to give it a more attractive pation of Madrid, and retire towards colouring. There are many who have the northern frontiers of Portugal, reaccustomed themselves to think and taining no immediate advantages from read of war as of a grand melodrama. his great victory of Salamanca, beyond tic spectacle, composed almost entirely the raising of the siege of Cadiz, and of “pride, pomp, and circumstance;" the abandonment of Andalusia by the who lose sight of the groans, the tears enemy. It is by no means evident and suffering, the crime, the license, that the capture of Burgos would have and devastation; who hear and see enabled the English general to hold only the imposing flourishes of trum. his ground, although it would have pets, the thrilling sounds of triumphal given him a firm appui for his left, and marches, the glittering of variegated might have sustained an advanced pouniforms, and the loud pealing of artil. sition. But as in the previous cases lery, with the waving of banners, and of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, it the shouts of excited inultitudes. The became necessary to snatch the forperusal of these volumes will abate tress from the enemy by a given dute, their admiration, and qualify their en- or not at all. The ordinary siege thusiasm. There is enough of glory; means, as usual, were deticient, and the but the true features of the appalling irregular approaches by sap proved to drama are here faithfully depicted, be unavailing. The allied army was with the accompaniments of misery and forced to retire, closely pursued by the privation-inflicted and endured to an French, who picked up many stragglers, extent, which may impress on all who but lost more than one favourable oplook only on the surface, and suffer portunity, and finally did nothing, with themselves to be carried away by a powerful force, well concentrated, and

* * Childe Harold," Canto I.


commanded by their ablest marshal. but they are sometimes pressed for The increasing activity of the war, time, are not very susceptible of legal with the vicissitudes of service, engen. quibbles, and a little careless as to midered many irregularities, and courts- nute particulars. Our readers will remartial became frequent. The Duke member the conclusive logic of the of Wellington, anxious that these should Black Douglas in the “ Fair Maid of be conducted with as close a consistency Perth," when, sitting on the trial of Sir as possible to established rules, al. John Ramorny and Dwining for the though in many respects the military murder of the Duke of Rothsay. The code dispenses with the formalities of Lord Balveny descended to tell him civil practice, bad applied for a regular that the criminals were already exelegal practitioner to fill the impor- cuted. " Then there is no further use tant post of judge advocate - general in the trial,” said the Earl,“ how to the army under his command. say you, good men of inquest, were Mr. Larpent was appointed to the these men guilty of high treason-ay or office in 1812, and continued from the no?" “Guilty” exclaimed the obsetime of his arrival to manage all the quious inquest, with edifying unanicourts-martial that occurred, and to

we need no further evidence." move with the head-quarters, until the Mr. Larpent arrived at head-quarlast detachment returned to England ters, at Rueda, on the 5th November, from Bordeaux, in 1814. It bad be- 1812, and was immediately introduced come highly necessary that a profes- to the Great Captain, who received sional lawyer, with competent expe- him very courteously, and forth with rience, should be appointed to this transmitted to bim fifty cases against duty, which had often been discharged officers, to be examined as to the suffi. by regimental officers, recommended ciency of evidence.

He soon appears by a certain readiness with the pen, to have obtained the good opinion of by private interest, or by a confused Lord Wellington, and to have been smattering of the technicalities ga- admitted to as much of his confidence thered from a slight perusal of such as he usually communicated to those scanty volumes on military jurispru- subordinates who satisfied without tor. dence as were at that time accessible. menting him. He had a great dislike These unqualified functionaries soon to all officials who gave unnecessary began to talk of Grotius, Puffendorff, trouble, and made a great fuss about Vattel, and Coke upon Littleton, as nothing. Mr. Larpent speedily discosolemnly as if they had kept their vered the clear decisive character of terms in Lincoln's Inn or the Temple, his commander, the control he exer, in the regular form, and had worn wig cised by the supremacy of mind and and gown on many circuits. But they quick decision, and the total absence made strange mistakes, and scanty of " humbug" in all the arrangements justice was sometimes administered by at head-quarters. On more than one the tribunals they undertook to in- occasion, at dinner, the conversation struct in the way in wbich they should turned on the celebrated letters of go. Once within our own experience “ Vetus,” in the Times, which were we heard a general officer, as president then causing much remark, and were of a court-martial, in a case nearly ap- considered by many the most punproaching life and death, lay down, gent and ably written political essays under the suggestion of his military since the days of Junius. The general counsel, that it was not necessary for purport of these letters was a wholethe prosecutor to substantiate the some and welldeserved condemnation charge, but that the prisoner must first of the ministry for allowing the Spanish establish his innocence. The court war to languish for want of adequate would have proceeded on this learned supplies, while the grand resources showing, had not a very young mem

of the nation were exhausted in the ber ventured modestly to suggest, fatal and fruitless expedition to Walthat they were directly and ingeniously cheren. We have often wondered they inverting the fundamental principle of were not re-published in a separate all English law, which holds every sup- volume, not only from the interest of posed criminal innocent until his al. the subject, but from their undoubted leged guilt is proved. Military tribu. pretensions as literary efforts of no ornals are good courts of honour, and dinary mind. We are not aware that discharge their duties conscientiously, the author has ever been ascertained, but many thought, and it was com. English general had ever exercised monly reported then and after, that since Cromwell received commission they were written by Lord Wellesley, from the Long Parliament. from the warm eulogiums they con- Mr. Larpent gives great credit to tained on his brother, and the corro- Sir George Murray, and seems to conborating circumstance that about this sider him as, next to the Duke, the time he retired from the ministry, in foremost man of the arıy. There can disgust at the wavering dispositions of be no doubt he was an excellent the cabinet, and the incompetence of quartermaster-general, and that the some of his colleagues. If Lord Wel- office requires a clear head, and an exe. lesley wrote the letters of “ Vetus," cutive genius; but Sir G. Murray Lord Wellington was certainly igno. never had the good fortune to be tried rant of the fact. Mr. Larpent says: in a separate command; his qualities,

therefore, as an efficient leader not "A few days since, at dinner at Lord Wel

having been tested, are scarcely open lington's, he got upon the subject of Vetus'

to discussion. Many said he was to the (the subject had been introduced before).

Duke what Berthier was to Napoleon, He said he thought he knew the author, and that he had been in India - not Mackintosh

and that neither of the great modern as reported here. He then went on to say he captains could have got on without his did not think much of Vetus's' letters; that right hand. Those who were better many of his facts as to this country were informed smiled at both conclusions, quite without foundation ; that neither · Ve- and knew how far they were removed tus,'nor the 0. P.'s, nor Lord Wellesley knew from the fact. In some respects it was anything about the war here, and what

no very desirable compliment to be could or could not be done; that he fully be

compared to Berthier. He damaged lieved Government had done all they could;

long years of faithful service by rather that the men who did come could not have

a hurried adieu of his old master and been here sooner, and perhaps had better have come still later. More cavalry he could

friend at Fontainebleau, and was renot have employed had he had them at Lis

garded by his brother generals and marbon, for want of transport for food ; that when shals as a plodding official drudge, who he advanced formerly to Talavera, he left never originated an idea, or suggested several thousand men at Lisbon, because he a remedy for a disaster. could not supply them if with the army. In Mr. Larpent tells some amusing short, he said, Lord Wellesley knew nothing anecdotes of the gallant General about the matter, and that he had no reason Robert Craufurd, who commanded to be dissatisfied with the Government at

the light division, and fell at the home. All this made several of us stare. I am told Lord Wellington was very angry

storming of Ciudad Rodrigo. Like

Sir David Baird, he was never happy with Lord Wellesley for his resignation, and hardly spoke to any one for some days after

except when under fire, and had no he had heard the fact."*

business to lead a storming party,

which might have been more fitly It was commonly said that Sir Johu consigned to a brigadier or a regi. Moore was sacrificed because he had mental colonel. English generals often no parliamentary or cabinet interest, throw away their lives as subaland that Lord Wellington, on the con- tern officers, in a manner which has trary, owed much to both, and par. occasioned much animadversion, and ticularly to the commanding influence some jeers, amongst our enemies. It is of his brother. It is quite clear that seldom necessary for the leader of a Lord Wellesley retired from office at division to act the part of a grenadier, the exact crisis, when liz abilities and although there are times and places influence would have been more valu. when example ensures victory. Cæsar able than ever to Lord Wellington. in the battle against the Nervii, and But the latter was now strong enough again at Munda, Alexander at Grani. to rest exclusively on his own name cus and Oxydracè, Bonaparte at Lodi and pretensions, which obtained for and Arcola, Wolfe at Quebec, and him full power, such as no delegated Wellington at Waterloo, were cases

* Immediately after this passage, Mr. Larpent adds—" Lord Paget has just sent up here two of the hussars to wait on my lord the peer.” This is a mistake for some other name; lord Paget (afterwards Earl of Usbridge, now Marquis of Anglesey) was not at this time in the Peninsula.

« PreviousContinue »