The Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXVIII. February, 1843. Vol. LIII., by Various This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXVIII. February, 1843. Vol. LIII. Author: Various Release Date: July 30, 2004 [EBook #13062] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH *** Produced by Jon Ingram, Brendan O'Connor and PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced from page scans provided by The Internet Library of Early Journals.
If any doubt could exist as to the nature of the loss which the premature death of Dr Arnold has inflicted on the literature of his country, the perusal of the volume before us must be sufficient to show how great, how serious, nay, all circumstances taken together, we had almost said how irreparable, it ought to be considered. Recently placed in a situation which gave his extraordinary faculties as a teacher still wider scope than they before possessed, at an age when the vivacity and energy of a commanding intellect were matured, not chilled, by constant observation and long experience—gifted with industry to collect, with sagacity to appreciate, with skill to arrange the materials of history—master of a vivid and attractive style for their communication and display—eminent, above all, for a degree of candour and sincerity which gave additional value to all his other endowments—what but leisure did Dr Arnold require to qualify him for a place among our most illustrious authors? Under his auspices, we might not unreasonably have hoped for works that would have rivalled those of the great continental writers in depth and variety of research; in which the light of original and contemporaneous documents would be steadily flung on the still unexplored portions of our history; and that Oxford would have balanced the fame of Schlösser and Thierry and Sismondi, by the labours of a writer peculiarly, and, as this volume proves, most affectionately her own.
The first Lecture in the present volume is full of striking and original remarks, delivered with a delightful simplicity; which, since genius has become rare among us, has almost disappeared from the conversation and writings of Englishmen. Open the pages of Herodotus, or Xenophon, or Cæsar, and how plain, how unpretending are the preambles to their immortal works—in what exquisite proportion does the edifice arise, without apparent effort, without ostentatious struggle, without, if the allusion may be allowed, the sound of the axe or hammer, till "the pile stands fixed her stately height" before us—the just admiration of succeeding ages! But our modern filosofastri insist upon stunning us with the noise of their machinery, and blinding us with the dust of their operations. They will not allow the smallest portion of their vulgar labours to escape our notice. They drag us through the chaos of sand and lime, and stone and bricks, which they have accumulated, hoping that the magnitude of the preparation may atone for the meanness of the performance. Very different from this is the style of Dr Arnold. We will endeavour to exhibit a just idea of his views, so far as they regard the true character of history, the manner in which it should be studied, and the events by which his theory is illustrated. To study history as it should be studied, much more to write history as it should be written, is a task which may dignify the most splendid abilities, and occupy the most extended life.
Lucian in one of his admirable treatises, ridicules those who imagine that any one who chooses may sit down and write history as easily as he would walk or sleep, or perform any other function of nature,
From the remarks of this greatest of all satirists, it is manifest that, in his days, history had been employed, as it has in ours, for the purposes of slander and adulation. He selects particularly a writer who compared, in his account of the Persian wars, the Roman emperor to Achilles, his enemy to Thersites; and if Lucian had lived in the present day, he would have discovered that the race of such writers was not extinguished. He might have found ample proofs that the detestable habit still prevails of interweaving the names of our contemporaries among the accounts of former centuries, and thus corrupting the history of past times into a means of abuse and flattery for the present. This is to degrade history into the worst style of a Treasury pamphlet, or a daily newspaper. It is a fault almost peculiar to this country.
We are told in one of these works, for instance, that the "tones of Sir W. Follett's voice are silvery"—a proposition that we do not at all intend to dispute; nor would it be easy to pronounce any panegyric on that really great man in which we should not zealously concur; but can it be necessary to mention this in a history of the eighteenth century? Or can any thing be more trivial or offensive, or totally without the shadow of justification, than this forced allusion to the "ignorant present time," in the midst of what ought to be an unbiassed narrative of events that affected former generations? We do not know whether the author of this ingenious allusion borrowed the idea from the advertisements in which our humbler artists recommend their productions to vulgar notice; or whether it is the spontaneous growth of his own happy intellect: but plagiarized or original, and however adapted it may be to the tone and keeping of his work, its insertion is totally irreconcilable with the qualities that a man should possess who means to instruct posterity. When gold is extracted from lead, or silver from tin, such a writer may become an historian. "Forget," says Lucian, "the present, look to future ages for your reward; let it be said of you that you are high-spirited, full of independence, that there is nothing about you servile or fulsome."
Modern history is now exclusively to be considered. Modern history, separated from the history of Greece and Rome, and the annals of barbarous emigration, by the event which above all others has influenced, and continues still to influence, after so many centuries, the fate of Europe—the fall of the Western Empire—the boundary line which separates modern from ancient history, is not ideal and capricious, but definite and certain. It can neither be advanced nor carried back. Modern history displays a national life still in existence. It commences with that period in which the great elements of separate national existence now in being—race, language, institutions, and religion—can be traced in simultaneous operation. To the influences which pervaded the ancient world, another, at first scarcely perceptible, for a time almost predominant, and even now powerful and comprehensive, was annexed. In the fourth century of the Christian era, the Roman world comprised Christianity, Grecian intellect, Roman jurisprudence—all the ingredients, in short, of modern history, except the Teutonic element. It is the infusion of this element which has changed the quality of the compound, and leavened the whole mass with its peculiarities. To this we owe the middle ages, the law of inheritance, the spirit of chivalry, and the feudal system, than which no cause more powerful ever contributed to the miseries of mankind. It filled Europe not with men but slaves; and the tyranny under which the people groaned was the more intolerable, as it was wrought into an artificial method, confirmed by law, established by inveterate custom, and even supported by religion. In vain did the nations cast their eyes to Rome, from whom they had a right to claim assistance, or at least sympathy and consolation. The appeal was useless. The living waters were tainted in their source. Instead of health they spread abroad infection—instead of giving nourishment to the poor, they were the narcotics which drenched in slumber the consciences of the rich. Wretched forms, ridiculous legends, the insipid rhetoric of the Fathers, were the substitutes for all generous learning. The nobles enslaved the body; the hierarchy put its fetters on the soul. The growth of the public mind was checked and stunted and the misery of Europe was complete. The sufferer was taught to expect his reward in another world; their oppressor, if his bequests were liberal, was sure of obtaining consolation in this, and the kingdom of God was openly offered to the highest bidder. But to the causes which gave rise to this state of things, we must trace our origin as a nation.
With the Britons whom Cæsar conquered, though they occupied the surface of our soil, we have, nationally speaking, no concern; but when the white horse of Hengist, after many a long and desperate struggle, floated in triumph or in peace from the Tamar to the Tweed, our existence as a nation, the period to which we may refer the origin of English habits, language, and institutions, undoubtedly begins. So, when the Franks established themselves west of the Rhine, the French nation may be said to have come into being. True, the Saxons yielded to the discipline and valour of a foreign race; true, the barbarous hordes of the Elbe and the Saal were not the ancestors, as any one who travels in the south of France can hardly fail to see, of the majority of the present nation of the French: but the Normans and Saxons sprang from the same stock, and the changes worked by Clovis and his warriors were so vast and durable, (though, in comparison with their conquered vassals, they were numerically few,) that with the invasion of Hengist in the one case, and the battle of Poictiers in the other, the modern history of both countries may not improperly be said to have begun. To the student of that history, however, one consideration must occur, which imparts to the objects of his studies an interest emphatically its own. It is this: he has strong reason to believe that all the elements of society are before him. It may indeed be true that Providence has reserved some yet unknown tribe, wandering on the banks of the Amour or of the Amazons, as the instrument of accomplishing some mighty purpose—humanly speaking, however, such an event is most improbable. To adopt such an hypothesis, would be in direct opposition to all the analogies by which, in the absence of clearer or more precise motives, human infirmity must be guided. The map of the world is spread out before us; there are no regions which we speak of in the terms of doubt and ignorance that the wisest Romans applied to the countries beyond the Vistula and the Rhine, when in Lord Bacon's words "the world was altogether home-bred." When Cicero jested with Trebatius on the little importance of a Roman jurist among hordes of Celtic barbarians, he little thought that from that despised country would arise a nation, before the blaze of whose conquests the splendour of Roman Empire would grow pale; a nation which would carry the art of government and the enjoyment of freedom to a perfection, the idea of which, had it been presented to the illustrious orator, stored as his mind was with all the lore of Grecian sages, and with whatever knowledge the history of his own country could supply, would have been consigned by him, with the glorious visions of his own Academy, to the shady spaces of an ideal world. Had he, while bewailing the loss of that freedom which he would not survive, disfigured as it was by popular tumult and patrician insolence—had he been told that a figure far more faultless was one day to arise amid the unknown forests and marshes of Britain, and to be protected by the rude hands of her barbarous inhabitants till it reached the full maturity of immortal loveliness—the eloquence of Cicero himself would have been silenced, and, whatever might have been the exultation of the philosopher, the pride of the Roman would have died within him. But we can anticipate no similar revolution. The nations by which the world is inhabited are known to us; the regions which they occupy are limited; there are no fresh combinations to count upon, no reserves upon which we can depend;—there is every reason to suppose that, in the great conflict with physical and moral evil, which it is the destiny of man to wage, the last battalion is in the field.
The course to be adopted by the student of modern history is pointed out in the following pages; and the remarks of Dr Arnold on this subject are distinguished by a degree of good sense and discrimination which it is difficult to overrate. Vast indeed is the difference between ancient and modern annals, as far as relates to the demand upon the student's time and attention. Instead of sailing upon a narrow channel, the shores of which are hardly ever beyond his view, he launches out upon an ocean of immeasurable extent, through which the greatest skill and most assiduous labour are hardly sufficient to conduct him—
Instead of a few great writers, the student is beset on all sides by writers of different sort and degree, from the light memorialist to the great historian; instead of two countries, two hemispheres are candidates for his attention; and history assumes a variety of garbs, many of which were strangers to her during the earlier period of her existence. To the careful study of many periods of history, not extending over any very wide portion of time, the labour of a tolerably long life would be inadequate. The unpublished Despatches of Cardinal Granvelle at Besançon, amount to sixty volumes. The archives of Venice (a mine, by the way, scarcely opened) fill a large apartment. For printed works it may be enough to mention the Benedictine editions and Munatoris Annals, historians of the dark and middle ages, relating to two countries only, and two periods. All history, therefore, however insatiable may be the intellectual boulimia that devours him, can never be a proper object of curiosity to any man. It is natural enough that the first effect produced by this discovery on the mind of the youthful student should be surprise and mortification; nor is it before the conviction that his researches, to be valuable, must be limited, forces itself upon him, that he concentrates to some particular period, and perhaps to some exclusive object, the powers of his undivided attention. When he has thus put an end to his desultory enquiries, and selected the portion of history which it is his purpose to explore, his first object should be to avail himself of the information which other travellers in the same regions have been enabled to collect. Their mistakes will teach him caution; their wanderings will serve to keep him in the right path. Weak and feeble as he may be, compared with the first adventurers who have visited the mighty maze before him, yet he has not their difficulties to encounter, nor their perils to apprehend. The clue is in his hands which may lead him through the labyrinth in which it has been the lot of so many master-spirits to wander—
But it is time to hear Dr Arnold:—
"To proceed, therefore, with our supposed student's course of reading. Keeping the general history which he has been reading as his text, and getting from it the skeleton, in a manner, of the future figure, he must now break forth excursively to the right and left, collecting richness and fulness of knowledge from the most various sources. For example, we will suppose that where his popular historian has mentioned that an alliance was concluded between two powers, or a treaty of peace agreed upon, he first of all resolves to consult the actual documents themselves, as they are to be found in some one of the great collections of European treaties, or, if they are connected with English history, in Rymer's Fœdera. By comparing the actual treaty with his historian's report of its provisions, we get, in the first place, a critical process of some value, inasmuch as the historian's accuracy is at once tested: but there are other purposes answered besides. An historian's report of a treaty is almost always an abridgement of it; minor articles will probably be omitted, and the rest condensed, and stripped of all their formal language. But our object now being to reproduce to ourselves so far as it is possible, the very life of the period which we are studying, minute particulars help us to do this; nay, the very formal enumeration of titles, and the specification of towns and districts in their legal style, help to realize the time to us, if it be only from their very particularity. Every common history records the substance of the treaty of Troyes, May 1420, by which the succession to the crown of France was given to Henry V. But the treaty in itself, or the English version of it which Henry sent over to England to be proclaimed there, gives a far more lively impression of the triumphant state of the great conqueror, and the utter weakness of the poor French king, Charles VI., in the ostentatious care taken to provide for the recognition of his formal title during his lifetime, while all real power is ceded to Henry, and provision is made for the perpetual union hereafter of the two kingdoms under his sole government.
"I have named treaties as the first class of official instruments to be consulted, because the mention of them occurs unavoidably in every history. Another class of documents, certainly of no less importance, yet much less frequently referred to by popular historians, consists of statutes, ordinances, proclamations, acts, or by whatever various names the laws of each particular period happen to be designated. That the Statute Book has not been more habitually referred to by writers on English history, has always seemed to me a matter of surprise. Legislation has not perhaps been so busy in every country as it has been with us; yet every where, and in every period, it has done something. Evils, real or supposed, have always existed, which the supreme power in the nation has endeavoured to remove by the provisions of law. And under the name of laws I would include the acts of councils, which form an important part of the history of European nations during many centuries; provincial councils, as you are aware, having been held very frequently, and their enactments relating to local and particular evils, so that they illustrate history in a very lively manner. Now, in these and all the other laws of any given period, we find in the first place, from their particularity, a great additional help towards becoming familiar with the times in which they were passed; we learn the names of various officers, courts, and processes; and these, when understood, (and I suppose always the habit of reading nothing without taking pains to understand it,) help us, from their very number, to realize the state of things then existing; a lively notion of any object depending on our clearly seeing some of its parts, and the more we people it, so to speak, with distinct images, the more it comes to resemble the crowded world around us. But in addition to this benefit, which I am disposed to rate in itself very highly, every thing of the nature of law has a peculiar interest and value, because it is the expression of the deliberate mind of the supreme government of society; and as history, as commonly written, records so much of the passionate and unreflecting part of human nature, we are bound in fairness to acquaint ourselves with its calmer and better part also."
The inner life of a nation will be determined by its end, that end being the security of its highest happiness, or, as it is "conceived and expressed more piously, a setting forth of God's glory by doing his appointed work." The history of a nation's internal life is the history of its institutions and its laws. Here, then, it is that we shall find the noblest lessons of history; here it is that we must look for the causes, direct and indirect, which have modified the characters, and decided the fate of nations. To this imperishable possession it is that the philosopher appeals for the corroboration of his theory, as it is to it also that the statesman ought to look for the regulation of his practice. Religion, property, science, commerce, literature, whatever can civilize and instruct rude mankind, whatever can embellish life in its more advanced condition, even till it exhibit the wonders of which it is now the theatre, may be referred to this subject, and are comprised under this denomination. The importance of history has been the theme of many a pen, but we question whether it has ever been more beautifully described than in the following passage:—
"Enough has been said, I think, to show that history contains no mean treasures; that, as being the biography of a nation, it partakes of the richness and variety of those elements which make up a nation's life. Whatever there is of greatness in the final cause of all human thought and action, God's glory and man's perfection, that is the measure of the greatness of history. Whatever there is of variety and intense interest in human nature, in its elevation, whether proud as by nature, or sanctified as by God's grace; in its suffering, whether blessed or unblessed, a martyrdom or a judgment; in its strange reverses, in its varied adventures, in its yet more varied powers, its courage and its patience, its genius and its wisdom, its justice and its love, that also is the measure of the interest and variety of history. The treasures indeed are ample, but we may more reasonably fear whether we may have strength and skill to win them."
In passing we may observe, after Dr Arnold, that the most important bearing of a particular institution upon the character of a nation is not always limited to the effect which is most obvious; few who have watched the proceedings in our courts of justice can doubt that, in civil cases, the interference of a jury is often an obstacle, and sometimes an insurmountable obstacle, to the attainment of justice. Dr Arnold's remarks on this subject are entitled to great attention:—
"The effect," he says, "of any particular arrangement of the judicial power, is seen directly in the greater or less purity with which justice is administered; but there is a further effect, and one of the highest importance, in its furnishing to a greater or less portion of the nation one of the best means of moral and intellectual culture—the opportunity, namely, of exercising the functions of a judge. I mean, that to accustom a number of persons to the intellectual exercise of attending to, and weighing, and comparing evidence, and to the moral exercise of being placed in a high and responsible situation, invested with one of God's own attributes, that of judgment, and having to determine with authority between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, is to furnish them with very high means of moral and intellectual culture—in other words, it is providing them with one of the highest kinds of education. And thus a judicial constitution may secure a pure administration of justice, and yet fail as an engine of national cultivation, where it is vested in the hands of a small body of professional men, like the old French parliament. While, on the other hand, it may communicate the judicial office very widely, as by our system of juries, and thus may educate, if I may so speak, a very large portion of the nation, but yet may not succeed in obtaining the greatest certainty of just legal decisions. I do not mean that our jury system does not succeed, but it is conceivable that it should not. So, in the same way, different arrangements of the executive and legislative powers should be always regarded in this twofold aspect—as effecting their direct objects, good government and good legislation; and as educating the nation more or less extensively, by affording to a greater or less number of persons practical lessons in governing and legislating."
History is an account of the common purpose pursued by some one of the great families of the human race. It is the biography of a nation; as the history of a particular sect, or a particular body of men, describes the particular end which the sect or body was instituted to pursue, so history, in its more comprehensive sense, describes the paramount object which the first and sovereign society—the society to which all others are necessarily subordinate—endeavours to attain. According to Dr Arnold, a nation's life is twofold, external and internal. Its external life consists principally in wars. "Here history has been sufficiently busy. The wars of the human race have been recorded when every thing else has perished."
Mere antiquarianism, Dr Arnold justly observes, is calculated to contract and enfeeble the understanding. It is a pedantic love of detail, with an indifference to the result, for which alone it can be considered valuable. It is the mistake, into which men are perpetually falling, of the means for the end. There are people to whom the tragedies of Sophocles are less precious than the Scholiast on Lycophron, and who prize the speeches of Demosthenes chiefly because they may fling light on the dress of an Athenian citizen. The same tendency discovers itself in other pursuits. Oxen are fattened into plethoras to encourage agriculture, and men of station dress like grooms, and bet like blacklegs, to keep up the breed of horses. It is true that such evils will happen when agriculture is encouraged, and a valuable breed of horses cherished; but they are the consequences, not the cause of such a state of things. So the disciples of the old philosophers drank hemlock to acquire pallid countenances—but they are as far from obtaining the wisdom of their masters by this adventitious resemblance, as the antiquarian is from the historian. To write well about the past, we must have a vigorous and lively perception of the present. This, says Dr Arnold, is the merit of Mitford. It is certainly the only one he possesses; a person more totally unqualified for writing history at all—to say nothing of the history of Greece—it is difficult for us, aided as our imagination may be by the works of our modern writers, to conceive. But Raleigh, whom he quotes afterwards, is indeed a striking instance of that combination of actual experience with speculative knowledge which all should aim at, but which it seldom happens that one man in a generation is fortunate enough to obtain.
From the sixteenth century, the writers of history begin to assume a different character from that of their predecessors. During the middle ages, the elements of society were fewer and less diversified. Before that time the people were nothing. Popes, emperors, kings, nobles, bishops, knights, are the only materials about which the writer of history cared to know or enquire. Perhaps some exception to this rule might be found in the historians of the free towns of Italy; but they are few and insignificant. After that period, not only did the classes of society increase, but every class was modified by more varieties of individual life. Even within the last century, the science of political economy has given a new colouring to the thoughts and actions of large communities, as the different opinions held by its votaries have multiplied them into distinct and various classes. Modern historians, therefore, may be divided into two classes; the one describing a state of society in which the elements are few; the other the times in which they were more numerous. As a specimen of the first order, he selects Bede. Bede was born in 674, fifty years after the flight of Mahomet from Mecca. He died in 755, two or three years after the victory of Charles Martel over the Saracens. His ecclesiastical history, in five books, describes the period from Augustine's arrival in Kent, 597.
Dr Arnold's dissertation on Bede involves him in the discussion of a question on which much skill and ability have been exercised. We allude to the question of miracles. "The question," says he, "in Bede takes this form—What credit is to be attached to the frequent stories of miracles or wonders which occur in his narrative?" He seizes at once upon the difficulty, without compromise or evasion. He makes a distinction between a wonder and a miracle: "to say that all recorded wonders are false, from those recorded by Herodotus to the latest reports of animal magnetism, would be a boldness of assertion wholly unjustifiable." At the same time he thinks the character of Bede, added to the religious difficulty, may incline us to limit miracles to the earliest times of Christianity, and refuse our belief to all which are reported by the historians of subsequent centuries. He then proceeds to consider the questions which suggest themselves when we read Matthew Paris, or still more, any of the French, German, or Italian historians of the same period:—
"The thirteenth century contains in it, at its beginning, the most splendid period of the Papacy, the time of Innocent the Third; its end coincides with that great struggle between Boniface the Eighth and Philip the Fair, which marks the first stage of its decline. It contains the reign of Frederick the Second, and his long contest with the popes in Italy; the foundation of the orders of friars, Dominican and Franciscan; the last period of the crusades, and the age of the greatest glory of the schoolmen. Thus, full of matters of interest as it is, it will yet be found that all its interest is more or less connected with two great questions concerning the church; namely, the power of the priesthood in matters of government and in matters of faith; the merits of the contest between the Papacy and the kings of Europe; the nature and character of that influence over men's minds which affected the whole philosophy of the period, the whole intellectual condition of the Christian world."—P. 138.
The pretensions and corruptions of the Church are undoubtedly the chief object to which, at this period, the attention of the reader must be attracted. "Is the church system of Innocent III. in faith or government the system of the New Testament?" Is the difference between them inconsiderable, such as may be accounted for by the natural progress of society, or does the rent extend to the foundation? "The first century," says Dr Arnold, "is to determine our judgment of the second and of all subsequent centuries. It will not do to assume that the judgment must be interpreted by the very practices and opinions, the merits of which it has to try." As a specimen of the chroniclers, he selects Philip de Comines, almost the last great writer of his class. In him is exemplified one of the peculiar distinctions of attaching to modern history the importance of attending to genealogies.
"For instance, Comines records the marriage of Mary, duchess of Burgundy, daughter and sole heiress of Charles the Bold, with Maximilian, archduke of Austria. This marriage, conveying all the dominions of Burgundy to Maximilian and his heirs, established a great independent sovereign on the frontiers of France, giving to him on the north, not only the present kingdoms of Holland and Belgium, but large portions of what is now French territory, the old provinces of Artois and French Flanders, French Hainault and French Luxemburg; while on the east it gave him Franche Comté, thus yielding him a footing within the Jura, on the very banks of the Saône. Thence ensued in after ages, when the Spanish branch of the house of Austria had inherited this part of its dominions—the long contests which deluged the Netherlands with blood, the campaigns of King William and Luxembourg, the nine years of efforts, no less skilful than valiant, in which Marlborough broke his way through the fortresses of the iron frontier. Again, when Spain became in a manner French by the accession of the House of Bourbon, the Netherlands reverted once more to Austria itself; and from thence the powers of Europe advanced, almost in our own days, to assail France as a republic; and on this ground, on the plains of Fleurus, was won the first of those great victories which, for nearly twenty years, carried the French standards triumphantly over Europe. Thus the marriage recorded by Comines has been working busily down to our very own times: it is only since the settlement of 1814, and that more recent one of 1830, that the Netherlands have ceased to be effected by the union of Charles the Bold's daughter with Maximilian of Austria"—P. 148.
Again, in order to understand the contest which Philip de Comines records between a Frenchman and a Spaniard for the crown of Naples, we must go back to the dark and bloody page in the annals of the thirteenth century, which relates the extinction of the last heir of the great Swabian race of Hohenstauffen by Charles of Anjou, the fit and unrelenting instrument of Papal hatred—the dreadful expiation of that great crime by the Sicilian Vespers, the establishment of the House of Anjou in Sicily, the crimes and misfortunes of Queen Joanna, the new contest occasioned by her adoption—all these events must be known to him who would understand the expedition of Charles VIII. The following passage is an admirable description of the reasons which lend to the pages of Philip de Comines a deep and melancholy interest:—
"The Memoirs of Philip de Comines terminate about twenty years before the Reformation, six years after the first voyage of Columbus. They relate, then, to a tranquil period immediately preceding a period of extraordinary movement; to the last stage of an old state of things, now on the point of passing away. Such periods, the lull before the burst of the hurricane, the almost oppressive stillness which announces the eruption, or, to use Campbell's beautiful image—
'The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below,'—
are always, I think, full of a very deep interest. But it is not from the mere force of contrast with the times that follow, nor yet from the solemnity which all things wear when their dissolution is fast approaching—the interest has yet another source; our knowledge, namely, that in that tranquil period lay the germs of the great changes following, taking their shape for good or for evil, and sometimes irreversibly, while all wore an outside of unconsciousness. We, enlightened by experience, are impatient of this deadly slumber; we wish in vain that the age could have been awakened to a sense of its condition, and taught the infinite preciousness of the passing hour. And as, when a man has been cut off by sudden death, we are curious to know whether his previous words or behaviour indicated any sense of his coming fate, so we examine the records of a state of things just expiring, anxious to observe whether, in any point, there may be discerned an anticipation of the great future, or whether all was blindness and insensibility. In this respect, Comines' Memoirs are striking from their perfect unconsciousness: the knell of the middle ages had been already sounded, yet Comines has no other notions than such as they had tended to foster; he describes their events, their characters, their relations, as if they were to continue for centuries. His remarks are such as the simplest form of human affairs gives birth to; he laments the instability of earthly fortune, as Homer notes our common mortality, or in the tone of that beautiful dialogue between Solon and Crœsus, when the philosopher assured the king, that to be rich was not necessarily to be happy. But, resembling Herodotus in his simple morality, he is utterly unlike him in another point; for whilst Herodotus speaks freely and honestly of all men, without respect of persons, Philip de Comines praises his master Louis the Eleventh as one of the best of princes, although he witnessed not only the crimes of his life, but the miserable fears and suspicions of his latter end, and has even faithfully recorded them. In this respect Philip de Comines is in no respect superior to Froissart, with whom the crimes committed by his knights and great lords never interfere with his general eulogies of them: the habit of deference and respect was too strong to be broken, and the facts which he himself relates to their discredit, appear to have produced on his mind no impression."
We now enter upon a period which may be called the modern part of modern history, the more complicated period, in contradistinction to the more simple state of things which, up to this moment, has occupied the student's attention. It is impossible to read, without deep regret, the passage in which Dr Arnold speaks of his intention—"if life and health be spared him, to enter into minute details; selecting some one country as the principal subject of his enquiries, and illustrating the lessons of history for the most part from its particular experience."
He proceeds, however, to the performance of the task immediately before him. After stating that the great object, the τελειοτατον τελος, of history is that which most nearly touches the inner life of civilized man, he pauses for a while at the threshold before he enters into the sanctuary, and undoubtedly some external knowledge is requisite before we penetrate into its recesses: we want some dwelling-place, as it were, for the mind, some local habitation in which our ideas may be arranged, some topics that may be firmly grasped by the memory, and on which the understanding may confidently rest; and thus it is that geography, even with a view to other purposes, must engross, in the first instance, a considerable share of our attention. The sense in which Dr Arnold understands a knowledge of geography, is explained in the following luminous and instructive commentary:—
"I said that geography held out one hand to geology and physiology, while she held out the other to history. In fact, geology and physiology themselves are closely connected with history. For instance, what lies at the bottom of that question which is now being discussed every where, the question of the corn-laws, but the geological fact that England is more richly supplied with coal-mines than any other country in the world? what has given a peculiar interest to our relations with China, but the physiological fact, that the tea-plant, which is become so necessary to our daily life, has been cultivated with equal success in no other climate or country? what is it which threatens the permanence of the union between the northern and southern states of the American confederacy, but the physiological fact, that the soil and climate of the southern states render them essentially agricultural, while those of the northern states, combined with their geographical advantages as to sea-ports, dispose them no less naturally to be manufacturing and commercial? The whole character of a nation may be influenced by its geology and physical geography. But for the sake of its mere beauty and liveliness, if there were no other consideration, it would be worth our while to acquire this richer view of geography. Conceive only the difference between a ground-plan and a picture. The mere plan geography of Italy gives us its shape, as I have observed, and the position of its towns; to these it may add a semicircle of mountains round the northern boundary to represent the Alps, and another long line stretching down the middle of the country to represent the Apennines. But let us carry on this a little further, and give life and meaning and harmony to what is at present at once lifeless and confused. Observe, in the first place, how the Apennine line, beginning from the southern extremity of the Alps, runs across Italy to the very edge of the Adriatic, and thus separates naturally the Italy proper of the Romans, from Cisalpine Gaul. Observe again, how the Alps, after running north and south, where they divide Italy from France, turn then away to the eastward, running almost parallel to the Apennines, till they too touch the head of the Adriatic, on the confines of Istria. Thus between these two lines of mountains there is enclosed one great basin or plain; enclosed on three sides by mountains, open only on the east to the sea. Observe how widely it spreads itself out, and then see how well it is watered. One great river flows through it in its whole extent, and this is fed by streams almost unnumbered, descending towards it on either side, from the Alps on the one side, and from the Apennines on the other. Who can wonder that this large and rich and well-watered plain should be filled with flourishing cities, or that it should have been contended for so often by successive invaders? Then descending into Italy proper, we find the complexity of its geography quite in accordance with its manifold political division. It is not one simple central ridge of mountains, leaving a broad belt of level country on either side between it and the sea, nor yet is it a chain rising immediately from the sea on one side, like the Andes in South America, and leaving room, therefore, on the other side for wide plains of table-land, and rivers with a sufficient length of course to become at last great and navigable. It is a back-bone thickly set with spines of unequal length, some of them running out at regular distances parallel to each other, but others twisted so strangely that they often run for a long way parallel to the back-bone, or main ridge, and interlace with one another in a maze almost inextricable. And, as if to complete the disorder, in those spots where the spines of the Apennines, being twisted round, run parallel to the sea and to their own central chain, and thus leave an interval of plain between their bases and the Mediterranean, volcanic agency has broken up the space thus left with other and distinct groups of hills of its own creation, as in the case of Vesuvius, and of the Alban hills near Rome. Speaking generally then, Italy is made up of an infinite multitude of valleys pent in between high and steep hills, each forming a country to itself, and cut off by natural barriers from the others. Its several parts are isolated by nature, and no art of man can thoroughly unite them. Even the various provinces of the same kingdom are strangers to each other; the Abruzzi are like an unknown world to the inhabitants of Naples, insomuch, that when two Neapolitan naturalists, not ten years since, made an excursion to visit the Majella, one of the highest of the central Apennines, they found there many medicinal plants growing in the greatest profusion, which the Neapolitans were regularly in the habit of importing from other countries, as no one suspected their existence within their own kingdom. Hence arises the romantic character of Italian scenery: the constant combination of a mountain outline and all the wild features of a mountain country, with the rich vegetation of a southern climate in the valleys. Hence too the rudeness, the pastoral simplicity, and the occasional robber habits, to be found in the population; so that to this day you may travel in many places for miles together in the plains and valleys without passing through a single town or village; for the towns still cluster on the mountain sides, the houses nestling together on some scanty ledge, with cliffs rising above them and sinking down abruptly below them, the very 'congesta manu præruptis oppida saxis' of Virgil's description, which he even then called 'antique walls,' because they had been the strongholds of the primæval inhabitants of the country, and which are still inhabited after a lapse of so many centuries, nothing of the stir and movement of other parts of Europe having penetrated into these lonely valleys, and tempted the people to quit their mountain fastnesses for a more accessible dwelling in the plain.
"I have been led on further than I intended, but I wished to give an example of what I meant by a real and lively knowledge of geography, which brings the whole character of a country before our eyes, and enables us to understand its influence upon the social and political condition of its inhabitants. And this knowledge, as I said before, is very important to enable us to follow clearly the external revolutions of different nations, which we want to comprehend before we penetrate to what has been passing within."
This introductory discussion is followed by a rapid sketch of the different struggles for power and independence in Europe during the three last centuries. The general tendency of this period has been to consolidate severed nations into great kingdoms; but this tendency has been checked when the growth of any single power has become excessive, by the combined efforts of other European nations. Spain, France, England, and Austria, all in their turns have excited the jealousy of their neighbours, and have been attacked by their confederate strength. But in 1793 the peace of Europe was assailed by an enemy still more dangerous and energetic—still more destructive—we doubt whether in the English language a more vivid description is to be found of the evil, its progress, and its termination, than Dr Arnold has given in the following passage:—
"Ten years afterwards there broke out by far the most alarming danger of universal dominion, which had ever threatened Europe. The most military people in Europe became engaged in a war for their very existence. Invasion on the frontiers, civil war and all imaginable horrors raging within, the ordinary relations of life went to wreck, and every Frenchman became a soldier. It was a multitude numerous as the hosts of Persia, but animated by the courage and skill and energy of the old Romans. One thing alone was wanting, that which Pyrrhus said the Romans wanted, to enable them to conquer the world—a general and a ruler like himself. There was wanted a master hand to restore and maintain peace at home, and to concentrate and direct the immense military resources of France against her foreign enemies. And such an one appeared in Napoleon. Pacifying La Vendée, receiving back the emigrants, restoring the church, remodelling the law, personally absolute, yet carefully preserving and maintaining all the great points which the nation had won at the Revolution, Napoleon united in himself, not only the power, but the whole will of France; and that power and will were guided by a genius for war such as Europe had never seen since Cæsar. The effect was absolutely magical. In November 1799, he was made First Consul; he found France humbled by defeats, his Italian conquests lost, his allies invaded, his own frontier threatened. He took the field in May 1800, and in June the whole fortune of the war was changed, and Austria driven out of Lombardy by the victory of Marengo. Still the flood of the tide rose higher and higher, and every successive wave of its advance swept away a kingdom. Earthly state has never reached a prouder pinnacle than when Napoleon, in June 1812, gathered his army at Dresden—that mighty host, unequalled in all time, of 450,000, not men merely, but effective soldiers, and there received the homage of subject kings. And now, what was the principal adversary of this tremendous power? by whom was it checked, and resisted, and put down? By none, and by nothing, but the direct and manifest interposition of God. I know of no language so well fitted to describe that victorious advance to Moscow, and the utter humiliation of the retreat, as the language of the prophet with respect to the advance and subsequent destruction of the host of Sennacherib. 'When they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses,' applies almost literally to that memorable night of frost, in which twenty thousand horses perished, and the strength of the French army was utterly broken. Human instruments, no doubt, were employed in the remainder of the work; nor would I deny to Germany and to Prussia the glories of the year 1813, nor to England the honour of her victories in Spain, or of the crowning victory of Waterloo. But at the distance of thirty years, those who lived in the time of danger and remember its magnitude, and now calmly review what there was in human strength to avert it, must acknowledge, I think, beyond all controversy, that the deliverance of Europe from the dominion of Napoleon was effected neither by Russia, nor by Germany, nor by England, but by the hand of God alone."
The question, whether some races of men possess an inherent superiority over others, is mooted by Dr Arnold, in his dissertation on military science. Without laying down any universal rule, it may be stated that such a superiority can be predicated of no European nation. Frederick the Great defeated the French at Rosbach, as easily as Napoleon overcame the Prussians at Jena. If Marlborough was uniformly successful, William III. was always beaten by Luxembourg, and the Duke of Cumberland by D'Etrées and Saxe. It seems, therefore, a fair inference, that no civilized European nation possesses over its neighbours that degree of superiority which greater genius in the general, or greater discipline in the troops of its antagonists, will not be sufficient to counteract. The defeat of the Vendéans in France, by the soldiers of the garrison of Mentz; and the admirable conduct of our own Sepoys under British generals, are, no doubt, strong instances to show the prodigious importance of systematic discipline. Still, we cannot quite coincide with Dr Arnold's opinion on this subject. We are quite ready to admit—who, indeed, for a moment would deny?—in military as well as in all other subjects, the value of professional attainments and long experience. We cannot, however, consider them superior to those great qualities of our nature which discipline may regulate and embellish, but which it can never destroy or supersede. As every man is bound to form his own opinion on religious matters, though he may not be a priest, every man is obliged to defend his country when invaded, though he may not be a soldier. Nor can the miseries which such a state of things involves, furnish any argument against its necessity. All war must be attended with misfortunes, which freeze the blood and make the soul sick in their contemplation; but these very misfortunes deter those who wield the reins of empire from appealing wantonly to its determination. The resistance of Saragossa was not the less glorious, it does not the less fire the heart of every reader with a holy and passionate enthusiasm, because it was not conducted according to the strict forms of military tactics, because citizens and even women participated in its fame. The inextinguishable hatred of the Spanish nation for its oppressor—which wore down the French armies, which no severities, no violence, no defeat, could subdue—will be, as long as time shall last, a terrible lesson to ambitious conquerors. They will learn that there is in the fury of an insulted nation a danger which the most exquisite military combinations cannot remove, which the most perfectly served artillery cannot sweep away, before which all the bayonets, and gunpowder, and lines of fortification in the world are useless—and compared with which the science of the commander is pedantry, and strategy but a word. They will discover that something more than mechanical power, however great—something more than the skill of the practised officer, or the instinct of well-trained soldiers, are requisite for success—where every plain is a Marathon, and every valley a Thermopylæ.
Would to God that the same reproach urged against the Spanish nation—that they defended their native soil irregularly—that they fought like freemen rather than like soldiers—that they transgressed the rules of war by defending one side of a street while the artillery of the enemy, with its thousand mouths, was pouring death upon them from the other—that they struggled too long, that they surrendered too late, that they died too readily, could have been applied to Poland—one fearful instance of success would have been wanting to encourage the designs of despotism!
Some of the rights of war are next considered—that of sacking a town taken by assault, and of blockading a town defended, not by the inhabitants, but by a military garrison—are next examined;—in both these cases the penalty falls upon the innocent. The Homeric description of a town taken by assault, is still applicable to modern warfare:—
κτεινουσι, πολιν δε τε πυρ αμαθυνει
τεκνα δε τ' αλλοι αγουσι, βαθυζωνους τε γυναικας
The unhappy fate of Genoa is thus beautifully related—
"Some of you, I doubt not, remember Genoa; you have seen that queenly city with its streets of palaces, rising tier above tier from the water, girdling with the long lines of its bright white houses the vast sweep of its harbour, the mouth of which is marked by a huge natural mole of rock, crowned by its magnificent lighthouse tower. You remember how its white houses rose out of a mass of fig and olive and orange trees, the glory of its old patrician luxury. You may have observed the mountains, behind the town, spotted at intervals by small circular low towers; one of which is distinctly conspicuous where the ridge of the hills rises to its summit, and hides from view all the country behind it. Those towers are the forts of the famous lines, which, curiously resembling in shape the later Syracusan walls enclosing Epipalæ, converge inland from the eastern and western extremities of the city, looking down—the western line on the valley of the Polcevera, the eastern, on that of the Bisagno—till they meet, as I have said, on the summit of the mountains, where the hills cease to rise from the sea, and become more or less of a table land, running off towards the interior, at the distance, as well as I remember, of between two and three miles from the outside of the city. Thus a very large open space is enclosed within the lines, and Genoa is capable therefore of becoming a vast intrenched camp, holding not so much a garrison as an army. In the autumn of 1799, the Austrians had driven the French out of Lombardy and Piedmont; their last victory of Fossano or Genola had won the fortress of Coni or Cunco, close under the Alps, and at the very extremity of the plain of the Po; the French clung to Italy only by their hold of the Riviera of Genoa—the narrow strip of coast between the Apennines and the sea, which extends from the frontiers of France almost to the mouth of the Arno. Hither the remains of the French force were collected, commanded by General Massena; and the point of chief importance to his defence was the city of Genoa. Napoleon had just returned from Egypt, and was become First Consul; but he could not be expected to take the field till the following spring, and till then Massena was hopeless of relief from without—every thing was to depend on his own pertinacity. The strength of his army made it impossible to force it in such a position as Genoa; but its very numbers, added to the population of a great city, held out to the enemy a hope of reducing it by famine; and as Genoa derives most of its supplies by sea, Lord Keith, the British naval commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, lent the assistance of his naval force to the Austrians; and, by the vigilance of his cruizers, the whole coasting trade right and left along the Riviera, was effectually cut off. It is not at once that the inhabitants of a great city, accustomed to the daily sight of well-stored shops and an abundant market, begin to realize the idea of scarcity; or that the wealthy classes of society, who have never known any other state than one of abundance and luxury, begin seriously to conceive of famine. But the shops were emptied; and the storehouses began to be drawn upon; and no fresh supply, or hope of supply, appeared.
"Winter passed away and spring returned, so early and so beautiful on that garden-like coast, sheltered as it is from the north winds by its belts of mountains, and open to the full rays of the southern sun. Spring returned and clothed the hill-sides within the lines with its fresh verdure. But that verdure was no longer the mere delight of the careless eye of luxury, refreshing the citizens by its liveliness and softness, when they rode or walked up thither from the city to enjoy the surpassing beauty of the prospect. The green hill-sides were now visited for a very different object; ladies of the highest rank might be seen cutting up every plant which it was possible to turn to food, and bearing home the common weeds of our road-sides as a most precious treasure. The French general pitied the distresses of the people; but the lives and strength of his garrison seemed to him more important than the lives of the Genoese, and such provisions as remained were reserved, in the first place, for the French army. Scarcity became utter want, and want became famine. In the most gorgeous palaces of that gorgeous city, no less than in the humblest tenements of its humblest poor, death was busy; not the momentary death of battle or massacre, nor the speedy death of pestilence, but the lingering and most miserable death of famine. Infants died before their parents' eyes, husbands and wives lay down to expire together. A man whom I saw at Genoa in 1825, told me, that his father and two of his brothers had been starved to death in this fatal siege. So it went on, till in the month of June, when Napoleon had already descended from the Alps into the plain of Lombardy, the misery became unendurable, and Massena surrendered. But before he did so, twenty thousand innocent persons, old and young, women and children, had died by the most horrible of deaths which humanity can endure. Other horrors which occurred besides during this blockade, I pass over; the agonizing death of twenty thousand innocent and helpless persons requires nothing to be added to it.
"Now, is it right that such a tragedy as this should take place, and that the laws of war should be supposed to justify the authors of it? Conceive having been an officer in Lord Keith's squadron at that time, and being employed in stopping the food which was being brought for the relief of such misery. For the thing was done deliberately; the helplessness of the Genoese was known; their distress was known; it was known that they could not force Massena to surrender; it was known that they were dying daily by hundreds, yet week after week, and month after month, did the British ships of war keep their iron watch along all the coast; no vessel nor boat laden with any article of provision could escape their vigilance. One cannot but be thankful that Nelson was spared from commanding at this horrible blockade of Genoa.
"Now, on which side the law of nations should throw the guilt of most atrocious murder, is of little comparative consequence, or whether it should attach it to both sides equally; but that the deliberate starving to death of twenty thousand helpless persons should be regarded as a crime in one or both of the parties concerned in it, seems to me self-evident. The simplest course would seem to be, that all non-combatants should be allowed to go out of a blockaded town, and that the general who should refuse to let them pass, should be regarded in the same light as one who were to murder his prisoners, or who were to be in the habit of butchering women and children. For it is not true that war only looks to the speediest and most effectual way of attaining its object; so that, as the letting the inhabitants go out would enable the garrison to maintain the town longer, the laws of war authorize the keeping them in and starving them. Poisoning wells might be a still quicker method of reducing a place; but do the laws of war therefore sanction it? I shall not be supposed for a moment to be placing the guilt of the individuals concerned in the two cases which I am going to compare, on an equal footing; it would be most unjust to do so—for in the one case they acted, as they supposed, according to a law which made what they did their duty. But, take the cases themselves, and examine them in all their circumstances; the degree of suffering inflicted—the innocence and helplessness of the sufferers—the interests at stake—and the possibility of otherwise securing them; and if any man can defend the lawfulness in the abstract of the starvation of the inhabitants of Genoa, I will engage also to establish the lawfulness of the massacres of September."
We rejoice to find that the great authority of Colonel W. Napier—an authority of which posterity will know the value—is arrayed on the side of those who think that war, the best school, as after all it must often be, of some of our noblest virtues, need not be always the cause of such atrocities.
This enquiry shows us how the centre of external movement in Europe has varied; but it is not merely to the territorial struggle that our attention should be confined—mighty principles, Christian truth, civil freedom, were often partially at issue on one side, or on the other, in the different contests which the gold and steel of Europe were set in motion to determine; hence the necessity of considering not only the moral power, but the economical and military strength of the respective countries. It requires no mean share of political wisdom to mitigate an encounter with the financial difficulties by which every contest is beset. The evils of the political and social state of France were brought to a head by the dilapidation of its revenues, and occasioned, not the Revolution itself, but the disorders by which it was accompanied. And more than half of our national revenue is appropriated to the payment of our own debt; in other words, every acre of land, besides the support of its owner and the actual demands of the State, is encumbered with the support of two or three persons who represent the creditors of the nation; and every man who would have laboured twelve hours, had no national debt existed, is now obliged to toil sixteen for the same remuneration: such a state of things may be necessary, but it certainly requires investigation.
Other parts of the law of nations, the maritime law especially, require improvement. Superficial men are apt to overlook the transcendent importance of error on these subjects by which desolation may be spread from one quarter of the globe to the other. As no man can bear long the unanimous disapprobation of his fellows, no nation can long set at defiance the voice of a civilized world. But we return to history in military operations. A good map is essential to this study. For instance, to understand the wars of Frederick the Great, it is not enough to know that he was defeated at Kolin, Hochkirchen, and Cunersdorf—that he was victorious at Rosbach, Lowositz, Zorndorf, and Prague—that he was opposed by Daun, and Laudohn, and Soltikoff—we must also comprehend the situation of the Prussian dominions with regard to those of the allies—the importance of Saxony as covering Prussia on the side of Austria—the importance of Silesia as running into the Austrian frontier, and flanking a large part of Bohemia, should also be considered—this will alone enable us to account for Frederick's attack on Saxony, and his pertinacity in keeping possession of Silesia; nor should it be forgotten, that the military positions of one generation are not always those of the next, and that the military history of one period will be almost unintelligible, if judged according to the roads and fortresses of another. For instance, St Dizier in Champagne, which arrested Charles the Fifth's invading army, is now perfectly untenable—Turin, so celebrated for the sieges it has sustained, is an open town, while Alexandria is the great Piedmontese fortress. The addition of Paris to the list of French strongholds, is, if really intended, a greater change than any that has been enumerated. This discussion leads to an allusion to mountain warfare, which has been termed the poetry of the military art, and of which the struggle in Switzerland in 1799, when the eastern part of that country was turned into a vast citadel, defended by the French against Suwaroff, is a most remarkable instance, as well as the most recent. The history by General Mathieu Dumas of the campaign in 1799 and 1800, is referred to as containing a good account and explanation of this branch of military science.
The internal history of Europe during the three hundred and forty years which have elapsed since the middle ages, is the subject now proposed for our consideration. To the question—What was the external object of Europe during any part of this period? the answer is obvious, that it was engaged in resisting the aggression of Spain, or France, or Austria. But if we carry our view to the moral world, do we find any principle equally obvious, and a solution as satisfactory? By no means. We may, indeed, say, with apparent precision, that during the earliest part of this epoch, Europe was divided between the champions and antagonists of religion, as, during its latter portion, it was between the enemies and supporters of political reformation. But a deeper analysis will show us that these names were but the badges of ideas, always complex, sometimes contradictory—the war-cry of contending parties, by whom the reality was now forgotten, or to whom, compared with other purposes, it was altogether subordinate.
Take, for instance, the exercise of political power. Is a state free in proportion to the number of its subjects who are admitted to rank among its citizens, or to the degree in which its recognised citizens are invested with political authority? In the latter point of view, the government of Athens was the freest the world has ever seen. In the former it was a most exclusive and jealous oligarchy. "For a city to be well governed," says Aristotle in his Politics, "those who share in its government must be free from the care of providing for their own support. This," he adds, "is an admitted truth."
Again, the attentive reader can hardly fail to see that, in the struggle between Pompey and Cæsar, Cæsar represented the popular as Pompey did the aristocratical party, and that Pompey's triumph would have been attended, as Cicero clearly saw, by the domination of an aristocracy in the shape most oppressive and intolerable. The government of Rome, after several desperate struggles, had degenerated into the most corrupt oligarchy, in which all the eloquence of Cicero was unable to kindle the faintest gleam of public virtue. Owing to the success of Cæsar, the civilized world exchanged the dominion of several tyrants for that of one, and the opposition to his design was the resistance of the few to the many.
Or we may take another view of the subject. By freedom do we mean the absence of all restraint in private life, the non-interference by the state in the details of ordinary intercourse? According to such a view, the old government of Venice and the present government of Austria, where debauchery is more than tolerated, would be freer than the Puritan commonwealths in North America, where dramatic representations were prohibited as impious, and death was the legal punishment of fornication.
These are specimens of the difficulties by which we are beset, when we endeavour to obtain an exact and faithful image from the troubled medium through which human affairs are reflected to us. Dr Arnold dwells on this point with his usual felicity of language and illustration.
"This inattention to altered circumstances, which would make us be Guelfs in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, because the Guelf cause had been right in the eleventh or twelfth, is a fault of most universal application in all political questions, and is often most seriously mischievous. It is deeply seated in human nature, being, in fact, no other than an exemplification of the force of habit. It is like the case of a settler, landing in a country overrun with wood and undrained, and visited therefore by excessive falls of rain. The evil of wet, and damp, and closeness, is besetting him on every side; he clears away the woods, and he drains his land, and he, by doing so, mends both his climate and his own condition. Encouraged by his success, he perseveres in his system; clearing a country is with him synonymous with making it fertile and habitable; and he levels, or rather sets fire to, his forests without mercy. Meanwhile, the tide is turned without his observing it; he has already cleared enough, and every additional clearance is a mischief; damp and wet are no longer the evil most to be dreaded, but excessive drought. The rains do not fall in sufficient quantity; the springs become low, the rivers become less and less fitted for navigation. Yet habit blinds him for a long while to the real state of the case; and he continues to encourage a coming mischief in his dread of one that is become obsolete. We have been long making progress on our present tack; yet if we do not go about now, we shall run ashore. Consider the popular feeling at this moment against capital punishment; what is it but continuing to burn the woods, when the country actually wants shade and moisture? Year after year, men talked of the severity of the penal code, and struggled against it in vain. The feeling became stronger and stronger, and at last effected all, and more than all, which it had at first vainly demanded; yet still, from mere habit, it pursues its course, no longer to the restraining of legal cruelty, but to the injury of innocence and the encouragement of crime, and encouraging that worse evil—a sympathy with wickedness justly punished rather than with the law, whether of God or man, unjustly violated. So men have continued to cry out against the power of the Crown after the Crown had been shackled hand and foot; and to express the greatest dread of popular violence long after that violence was exhausted, and the anti-popular party was not only rallied, but had turned the tide of battle, and was victoriously pressing upon its enemy."
The view which Dr Arnold gives of the parties in England during the sixteenth century—that great epoch of English genius—is remarkable for its candour and moderation. He considers the distinctions which then prevailed in England as political rather than religious, "inasmuch as they disputed about points of church government, without any reference to a supposed priesthood; and because even those who maintained that one or another form was to be preferred, because it was of divine appointment, were influenced in their interpretation of the doubtful language of the Scriptures by their own strong persuasion of what that language could not but mean to say."
And he then concludes by the unanswerable remark, that in England, according to the theory of the constitution during the sixteenth century, church and state were one. The proofs of this proposition are innumerable—not merely the act by which the supremacy was conferred on Henry VIII.—not merely the powers, almost unlimited, in matters ecclesiastical, delegated to the king's vicegerent, that vicegerent being a layman—not merely the communion established by the sole authority of Edward VI.—without the least participation in it by any bishop or clergyman; but the still more conclusive argument furnished by the fact, that no point in the doctrine, discipline, or ritual of our church, was established except by the power of Parliament, and the power of Parliament alone—nay, more, that they were established in direct defiance of the implacable opposition of the bishops, by whom, being then Roman Catholics, the English Church, on the accession of Elizabeth, was represented—to which the omission of the names of the Lords Spiritual in the Act of Uniformity, which is said to be enacted by the "Queen's Highness," with the assent of the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, is a testimony, at once unanswerable and unprecedented. We have dwelt with the more anxiety on this part of Dr Arnold's work, as it furnishes a complete answer to the absurd opinions concerning the English Church, which it has been of late the object of a few bigots, unconsciously acting as the tools of artful and ambitious men, to propagate, and which would lead, by a direct and logical process, to the complete overthrow of Protestant faith and worship. Such, then, being the state of things "recognized on all hands, church government was no light matter, but one which essentially involved in it the government of the state; and the disputing the Queen's supremacy, was equivalent to depriving her of one of the most important portions of her sovereignty, and committing half of the government of the nation to other hands."
At the accession of Henry VIII., the most profound tranquillity prevailed over England. The last embers of those factions by which, during his father's reign, the peace of the nation had been disturbed rather than endangered, were quenched by the vigilance and severity of that able monarch; during the wars of the Roses, the noblest blood in England had been poured out on the field or on the scaffold, and the wealth of the most opulent proprietors had been drained by confiscation. The parties of York and Lancaster were no more—the Episcopal and Puritan factions were not yet in being—every day diminished the influence of the nobles—the strength of the Commons was in its infancy—the Crown alone remained, strong in its own prerogative, stronger still in the want of all competitors. Crime after crime was committed by the savage tyrant who inherited it; he was ostentatious—the treasures of the nation were lavished at his feet; he was vindictive—the blood of the wise, the noble, and the beautiful, was shed, like water, to gratify his resentment; he was rapacious—the accumulations of ancient piety were surrendered to glut his avarice; he was arbitrary—and his proclamations were made equivalent to acts of Parliament; he was fickle—and the religion of the nation was changed to gratify his lust. To all this the English people submitted, as to some divine infliction, in silence and consternation—the purses, lives, liberties, and consciences of his people were, for a time, at his disposal. During the times of his son and his eldest daughter, the general aspect of affairs was the same. But, though the hurricane of royal caprice and bigotry swept over the land, seemingly without resistance, the sublime truths which were the daily subject of controversy, and the solid studies with which the age was conversant, penetrated into every corner of the land, and were incorporated with the very being of the nation. Then, as the mist of doubt and persecution which had covered Mary's throne cleared away, the intellect of England, in all its health, and vigour, and symmetry, stood revealed in the men and women of the Elizabethan age:—
"To say," observes Dr Arnold, "that the Puritans were wanting in humility because they did not acquiesce in the state of things which they found around them, is a mere extravagance, arising out of a total misapprehension of the nature of humility, and of the merits of the feeling of veneration. All earnestness and depth of character is incompatible with such a notion of humility. A man deeply penetrated with some great truth, and compelled, as it were, to obey it, cannot listen to every one who may be indifferent to it, or opposed to it. There is a voice to which he already owes obedience, which he serves with the humblest devotion, which he worships with the most intense veneration. It is not that such feelings are dead in him, but that he has bestowed them on one object, and they are claimed for another. To which they are most due is a question of justice; he may be wrong in his decision, and his worship may be idolatrous; but so also may be the worship which his opponents call upon him to render. If, indeed, it can be shown that a man admires and reverences nothing, he may be justly taxed with want of humility; but this is at variance with the very notion of an earnest character; for its earnestness consists in its devotion to some one object, as opposed to a proud or contemptuous indifference. But if it be meant that reverence in itself is good, so that the more objects of veneration we have the better is our character, this is to confound the essential difference between veneration and love. The excellence of love is its universality; we are told that even the highest object of all cannot be loved if inferior objects are hated."
Opinions, in the meanwhile, not very favourable to established authority in the state, and marked by a rooted antipathy to ecclesiastical pretensions, were rapidly gaining proselytes in the nation, and even at the court. But the prudence and spirit of Elizabeth, and, still more, the great veneration and esteem for that magnanimous princess, which were for many years the ruling principle—we might almost say, the darling passion—of Englishmen, enabled her to keep at bay the dangerous animosities which her miserable successor had neither dexterity to conciliate nor vigour to subdue. In his time the cravings, moral and intellectual, of the English nation discovered themselves in forms not to be mistaken—some more, some less formidable to established government; but all announcing that the time was come when concession to them was inevitable. No matter whether it was the Puritan who complained of the rags of popery, or the judge who questioned the prerogative of the sovereign, or the patriot who bewailed the profligate expenditure of James's polluted court, or the pamphleteer whom one of our dramatists has described so admirably, or the hoarse murmur of the crowd execrating the pusillanimous murder of Raleigh—whosesoever the voice might be, whatever shape it might assume, petition, controversy, remonstrance, address, impeachment, libel, menace, insurrection, the language it spoke was uniform and unequivocal; it demanded for the people a share in the administration of their government, civil and ecclesiastical—it expressed their determination to make the House of Commons a reality.
The observations that follow are fraught with the most profound wisdom, and afford an admirable exemplification of the manner in which history should be read by those who wish to find in it something more than a mere register of facts and anecdotes:—
"Under these circumstances there were now working together in the same party many principles which, as we have seen, are sometimes perfectly distinct. For instance the popular principle, that the influence of many should not be overborne by that of one, was working side by side with the principle of movement, or the desire of carrying on the work of the Reformation to the furthest possible point, and not only the desire of completing the Reformation, but that of shaking off the manifold evils of the existing state of things, both political and moral. Yet it is remarkable that the spirit of intellectual movement stood as it were hesitating which party it ought to join: and as the contest went on, it seemed rather to incline to that party which was most opposed to the political movement. This is a point in the state of English party in the seventeenth century which is well worth noticing, and we must endeavour to comprehend it.
"We might think, a priori, that the spirit of political, and that of intellectual, and that of religious movement, would go on together, each favouring and encouraging the other. But the Spirit of intellectual movement differs from the other two in this, that it is comparatively one with which the mass of mankind have little sympathy. Political benefits all men can appreciate; and all good men, and a great many more than we might well dare to call good, can appreciate also the value, not of all, but of some religious truth which to them may seem all: the way to obtain God's favour and to worship Him aright, is a thing which great bodies of men can value, and be moved to the most determined efforts if they fancy that they are hindered from attaining to it. But intellectual movement in itself is a thing which few care for. Political truth may be dear to them, so far as it effects their common well-being; and religious truth so far as they may think it their duty to learn it; but truth abstractedly, and because it is truth, which is the object, I suppose, of the pure intellect, is to the mass of mankind a thing indifferent. Thus the workings of the intellect come even to be regarded with suspicion as unsettling: we have got, we say, what we want, and we are well contented with it; why should we be kept in perpetual restlessness, because you are searching after some new truths which, when found, will compel us to derange the state of our minds in order to make room for them. Thus the democracy of Athens was afraid of and hated Socrates; and the poet who satirized Cleon, knew that Cleon's partizans, no less than his own aristocratical friends, would sympathize with his satire when directed against the philosophers. But if this hold in political matters, much more does it hold religiously. The two great parties of the Christian world have each their own standard of truth, by which they try all things: Scripture on the one hand, the voice of the church on the other. To both, therefore, the pure intellectual movement is not only unwelcome, but they dislike it. It will question what they will not allow to be questioned; it may arrive at conclusions which they would regard as impious. And, therefore, in an age of religious movement particularly, the spirit of intellectual movement soon finds itself proscribed rather than countenanced."
In the extract which follows, the pure and tender morality of the sentiment vies with the atmosphere of fine writing that invests it. The passage is one which Plato might have envied, and which we should imagine the most hardened and successful of our modern apostates cannot read without some feeling like contrition and remorse. Fortunate indeed were the youth trained to virtue by such a monitor, and still more fortunate the country where such a duty was confided to such a man:—
"I have tried to analyze the popular party: I must now endeavour to do the same with the party opposed to it. Of course an anti-popular party varies exceedingly at different times; when it is in the ascendant, its vilest elements are sure to be uppermost: fair and moderate,—just men, wise men, noble-minded men,—then refuse to take part with it. But when it is humbled, and the opposite side begins to imitate its practices, then again many of the best and noblest spirits return to it, and share its defeat though they abhorred its victory. We must distinguish, therefore, very widely, between the anti-popular party in 1640, before the Long Parliament met, and the same party a few years, or even a few months, afterwards. Now, taking the best specimens of this party in its best state, we can scarcely admire them too highly. A man who leaves the popular cause when it is triumphant, and joins the party opposed to it, without really changing his principles and becoming a renegade, is one of the noblest characters in history. He may not have the clearest judgment, or the firmest wisdom; he may have been mistaken, but, as far as he is concerned personally, we cannot but admire him. But such a man changes his party not to conquer but to die. He does not allow the caresses of his new friends to make him forget that he is a sojourner with them, and not a citizen: his old friends may have used him ill, they may be dealing unjustly and cruelly: still their faults, though they may have driven him into exile, cannot banish from his mind the consciousness that with them is his true home: that their cause is habitually just and habitually the weaker, although now bewildered and led astray by an unwonted gleam of success. He protests so strongly against their evil that he chooses to die by their hands rather than in their company; but die he must, for there is no place left on earth where his sympathies can breathe freely; he is obliged to leave the country of his affections, and life elsewhere is intolerable. This man is no renegade, no apostate, but the purest of martyrs: for what testimony to truth can be so pure as that which is given uncheered by any sympathy; given not against friends, amidst unpitying or half-rejoicing enemies. And such a martyr was Falkland!
"Others who fall off from a popular party in its triumph, are of a different character; ambitious men, who think that they become necessary to their opponents and who crave the glory of being able to undo their own work as easily as they had done it: passionate men, who, quarrelling with their old associates on some personal question, join the adversary in search of revenge; vain men, who think their place unequal to their merits, and hope to gain a higher on the opposite side: timid men, who are frightened as it were at the noise of their own guns, and the stir of actual battle—who had liked to dally with popular principles in the parade service of debating or writing in quiet times, but who shrink alarmed when both sides are become thoroughly in earnest: and again, quiet and honest men, who never having fully comprehended the general principles at issue, and judging only by what they see before them, are shocked at the violence of their party, and think that the opposite party is now become innocent and just, because it is now suffering wrong rather than doing it. Lastly, men who rightly understand that good government is the result of popular and anti-popular principles blended together, rather than of the mere ascendancy of either; whose aim, therefore, is to prevent either from going too far, and to throw their weight into the lighter scale: wise men and most useful, up to the moment when the two parties are engaged in actual civil war, and the question is—which shall conquer? For no man can pretend to limit the success of a party, when the sword is the arbitrator: he who wins in that game does not win by halves: and therefore the only question then is, which party is on the whole the best, or rather perhaps the least evil; for as one must crush the other, it is at least desirable that the party so crushed should be the worse."
Dr Arnold—rightly, we hope—assumes, that in lectures addressed to Englishmen and Protestants, it is unnecessary to vindicate the principles of the Revolution; it would, indeed, be an affront to any class of educated Protestant freemen, to argue that our present constitution was better than a feudal monarchy, or the religion of Tillotson superior to that of Laud—in his own words, "whether the doctrine and discipline of our Protestant Church of England, be not better and truer than that of Rome." He therefore supposes the Revolution complete, the Bill of Rights and the Toleration Act already passed, the authority of King William recognized in England and in Scotland, while in Ireland the party of King James was still predominant. He then bids us consider the character and object of the parties by which Great Britain was then divided; on the side of the Revolution were enlisted the great families of our aristocracy, and the bulk of the middle classes. The faction of James included the great mass of country gentlemen, the lower orders, and, (after the first dread of a Roman Catholic hierarchy had passed away,) except in a very few instances, the parochial and teaching clergy; civil and religious liberty was the motto of one party—hereditary right and passive obedience, of the other. As the Revolution had been bloodless, it might have been supposed that its reward would have been secure, and that our great deliverer would have been allowed to pursue his schemes for the liberty of Europe, if not without opposition, at least without hostility. But the old Royalist party had been surprised and confounded, not broken or altogether overcome. They rallied—some from pure, others from selfish and sordid motives—under the banner to which they had been so long accustomed; and, though ultimately baffled, they were able to place in jeopardy, and in some measure to fling away the advantages which the blood and treasure of England had been prodigally lavished to obtain.
The conquest of Ireland was followed by that terrible code against the Catholics, the last remnant of which is now obliterated from our statute-book. It is singular that this savage proscription should have been the work of the party at whose head stood the champion of toleration. The account which Mr Burke has given of it, and for the accuracy of which he appeals to Bishop Burnet, does not entirely coincide with the view taken by Dr Arnold. Mr Burke says—
"A party in this nation, enemies to the system of the Revolution, were in opposition to the government of King William. They knew that our glorious deliverer was an enemy to all persecution. They knew that he came to free us from slavery and Popery, out of a country where a third of the people are contented Catholics, under a Protestant government. He came, with a part of his army composed of those very Catholics, to overset the power of a Popish prince. Such is the effect of a tolerating spirit, and so much is liberty served in every way, and by all persons, by a manly adherence to its own principles. Whilst freedom is true to itself, every thing becomes subject to it, and its very adversaries are an instrument in its hands.
"The party I speak of (like some amongst us who would disparage the best friends of their country) resolved to make the King either violate his principles of toleration, or incur the odium of protecting Papists. They, therefore, brought in this bill, and made it purposely wicked and absurd, that it might be rejected. The then court-party discovering their game, turned the tables on them, and returned their bill to them stuffed with still greater absurdities, that its loss might lie upon its original authors. They, finding their own ball thrown back to them, kicked it back again to their adversaries. And thus this act, loaded with the double injustice of two parties, neither of whom intended to pass what they hoped the other would be persuaded to reject, went through the legislature, contrary to the real wish of all parts of it, and of all the parties that composed it. In this manner these insolent and profligate factions, as if they were playing with balls and counters, made a sport of the fortunes and the liberties of their fellow-creatures. Other acts of persecution have been acts of malice. This was a subversion of justice from wantonness."
Whether Dr Arnold's theory be applicable or not to this particular case, it furnishes but too just a solution of Irish misgovernment in general. It is, that excessive severity toward conquered rebels, is by no means inconsistent with the principles of free government, or even with the triumph of a democracy. The truth of this fact is extorted from us by all history, and may be accounted for first, by the circumstance, that large bodies of men are less affected than individuals, by the feelings of shame and a sense of responsibility; and, secondly, that conduct the most selfish and oppressive, the mere suspicion of which would be enough to brand an individual with everlasting infamy, assumes, when adopted by popular assemblies, the air of statesmanlike wisdom and patriotic inflexibility. The main cause of the difference with which the lower orders in France and England regarded the Revolution in their respective countries, is to be found in the different nature of the evils which they were intended to remove. The English Revolution was merely political—the French was social also; the benefits of the Bill of Rights, great and inestimable as they were, were such as demanded some knowledge and reflection to appreciate—they did not come home directly to the business and bosom of the peasant; it was only in rare and great emergencies that he could become sensible of the rights they gave, or of the means of oppression they took away: while the time-honoured dwellings of the Cavendishes and Russells were menaced and assailed, nothing but the most senseless tyranny could render the cottage insecure; but the abolition of the seignorial rights in France, free communication between her provinces, equal taxation, impartial justice—these were blessings which it required no economist to illustrate, and no philosopher to explain. Every labourer in France, whose sweat had flowed for the benefit of others, whose goods had been seized by the exactors of the Taille and the Gabelle,1 the fruits of whose soil had been wasted because he was not allowed to sell them at the neighbouring market, whose domestic happiness had been polluted, or whose self-respect had been lowered by injuries and insults, all retribution for which was hopeless, might well be expected to value these advantages more than life itself. But when the principles of the Revolution were triumphant, and the House of Brunswick finally seated on the throne of this country, it remains to be seen what were, during the eighteenth century, the fruits of this great and lasting victory. The answer is a melancholy one. Content with what had been achieved, the nation seems at once to have abandoned all idea of any further moral or intellectual progress. In private life the grossest ignorance and debauchery were written upon our social habits, in the broadest and most legible characters. In public life, we see chicanery in the law, apathy in the Church, corruption in Parliament, brutality on the seat of justice; trade burdened with a great variety of capricious restrictions; the punishment of death multiplied with the most shocking indifference; the state of prisons so dreadful, that imprisonment—which might be, and in those days often was, the lot of the most innocent of mankind—became in itself a tremendous punishment; the press virtually shackled; education every where wanted, and no where to be found.
The laws that were passed resemble the edicts of a jealous, selfish, and even vindictive oligarchy, rather than institutions adopted for the common welfare, by the representatives of a free people. Turn to any of the works which describe the manners of the age, from the works of Richardson or Fielding, to the bitter satire of Churchill and the melancholy remonstrances of Cowper, and you are struck with the delineation of a state and manners, and a tone of feeling which, in the present day, appears scarcely credible. "'Sdeath, madam, do you threaten me with the law?" says Lovelace to the victim of his calculating and sordid violence. Throughout the volumes of these great writers, the features perpetually recur of insolence, corruption, violence, and debauchery in the one class, and of servility and cunning in the other. It is impossible for the worst quality of an aristocracy—nominally, to be sure, subject to the restraint of the law, but practically, almost wholly exempt from its operation—to be more clearly and more fearfully represented. The South Sea scheme, the invasion of Scotland, the disgraceful expeditions on the coast of France; the conduct of Lord George Sackville at Minden, the miserable attempt on Carthagena, the loss of Minorca, the convention of Closterseven, the insecurity of the high-roads, nay, of the public streets in the metropolis itself, all serve to show the deplorable condition into which the nation was fast sinking, abroad and at home, when the "Great Commoner" once more aroused its energies, concentrated its strength, and carried it to a higher pinnacle of glory than it has ever been the lot even of Great Britain to attain. Yet this effect was transient—the progress of corruption was checked, but the disease still lurked in the heart, and tainted the life-blood of the community. The orgies of Medmenham Abbey, the triumphs of Wilkes, and the loss of America, bear fatal testimony to the want of decency and disregard of merit in private as well as public life which infected Great Britain, polluting the sources of her domestic virtues, and bringing disgrace upon her arms and councils during the greater part of the eighteenth century. It is with a masterly review of this period of our history that Dr Arnold closes his analysis of the three last centuries. His remaining lecture is dedicated to the examination of historical evidence—a subject on which it is not our present intention to offer any commentary.
To trace effects to their causes, is the object of all science; and by this object, as it is accomplished or incomplete, the progress of any particular science must be determined. The order of the moral is in reality as immutable as the laws of the physical world; and human actions are linked to their consequences by a necessity as inexorable as that which controls the growth of plants or the motion of the earth, though the connexion between cause and effect is not equally discernible. The depression of the nobles and the rise of the commons in England, after the statutes of alienation, were the result of causes as infallible in their operation as those which regulate the seasons and the tides. Repeated experiments have proved beyond dispute, that gold is heavier than iron. Is the superior value of gold to iron a fact more questionable? Yet is value a quality purely moral, and absolutely dependent on the will of man. The events of to-day are bound to those of yesterday, and those of to-morrow will be bound to those of to-day, no less certainly than the harvest of the present year springs from the grain which is the produce of former harvests. When by a severe and diligent analysis we have ascertained all the ingredients of any phenomenon, and have separated it from all that is foreign and adventitious, we know its true nature, and may deduce a general law from our experiment; for a general law is nothing more than an expression of the effect produced by the same cause operating under the same circumstances. In the reign of Louis XV., a Montmorency was convicted of an atrocious murder. He was punished by a short imprisonment in the Bastile. His servant and accomplice was, for the same offence at the same time, broken alive upon the wheel. Is the proposition, that the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, more certain than the ruin of a system under which such a state of things was tolerated? How, then, does it come to pass, that the same people who cling to one set of truths reject the other with obstinate incredulity? Cicero shall account for it:—"Sensus nostros non parens, non nutrix, non poeta, non scena depravat; animis omnes tendentur insidiæ." The discoveries of physical science, in the present day at least, allow little scope to prejudice and inclination. Whig and Tory, Radical and Conservative, agree, that fire will burn and water suffocate; nay, no tractarian, so far as we know, has ventured to call in question the truths established by Cuvier and La Place. But every proposition in moral or political science enlists a host of feelings in zealous support or implacable hostility; and the same system, according to the creed and prepossessions of the speaker, is put forward as self-evident, or stigmatized as chimerical. One set of people throw corn into the river and burn mills, in order to cheapen bread—another vote that sixteen shillings are equal to twenty-one, in order to support public credit—proceedings in no degree more reasonable than a denial that two and two make four, or using gunpowder instead of water to stop a conflagration. Again, in physical science, the chain which binds the cause to its effect is short, simple, and passes through no region of vapour and obscurity; in moral phenomena, it is long hidden and intertwined with the links of ten thousand other chains, which ramify and cross each other in a confusion which it requires no common patience and sagacity to unravel. Therefore it is that the lessons of history, dearly as they have been purchased, are forgotten and thrown away—therefore it is that nations sow in folly and reap in affliction—that thrones are shaken, and empires convulsed, and commerce fettered by vexatious restrictions, by those who live in one century, without enabling their descendants to become wiser or richer in the next. The death of Charles I. did not prevent the exile of James II., and, in spite of the disasters of Charles XII., Napoleon tempted fortune too often and too long. It is not, then, by the mere knowledge of separate facts that history can contribute to our improvement or our happiness; it would then exchange the character of philosophy treated by examples, for that of sophistry misleading by empiricism. The more systematic the view of human events which it enables us to gain, the more nearly does it approach its real office, and entitle itself to the splendid panegyric of the Roman statesman—"Historia, testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriæ, magistra vitæ, nuntia vetustatis."
But while we insist upon the certainty of those truths which a calm examination of history confirms, and the sure operation of those general laws by which Providence in its wisdom has ordained that the affairs of this lower world shall be controlled—let it not be supposed that we for a moment doubt the truth which Demosthenes took such pains to inculcate upon his countrymen, that fortune in human affairs is for a time omnipotent. That fortune, which "erring men call chance," is the name which finite beings must apply to those secret and unknown causes which no human sagacity can penetrate or comprehend. What depends upon a few persons, observes Mr Hume, is to be ascribed to chance; what arises from a great number, may often be accounted for by known and determinate causes; and he illustrates this position by the instance of a loaded die, the bias of which, however it may for a short time escape detection, will certainly in a great number of instances become predominant. The issue of a battle may be decided by a sunbeam or a cloud of dust. Had an heir been born to Charles II. of Spain—had the youthful son of Monsieur De Bouillé not fallen asleep when Louis XVI. entered Varennes—had Napoleon, on his return from Egypt, been stopped by an English cruizer—how different would have been the face of Europe. The poco di piu and poco di meno has, in such contingencies, an unbounded influence. The trade-winds are steady enough to furnish grounds for the most accurate calculation; but will any man in our climate venture to predict from what quarter, on any particular day, the wind may chance to blow?
Therefore, in forming our judgment of human affairs, we must apply a "Lesbian rule," instead of one that is inflexible. Here it is that the line is drawn between science, and the wisdom which has for its object the administration of human affairs. The masters of science explore a multitude of phenomena to ascertain a single cause; the statesman and legislator, engaged in pursuits "hardliest reduced to axiom," examine a multitude of causes to explain a solitary phenomenon. The investigations, however, to which such questions lead, are singularly difficult, as they require an accurate analysis of the most complicated class of facts which can possibly engross our attention, and to the complete examination of which the faculties of any one man must be inadequate. The finest specimens of such enquiries which we possess are the works of Adam Smith and Montesquieu. The latter, indeed, may be called a great historian. He sought in every quarter for his account of those fundamental principles which are common to all governments, as well as of those peculiarities by which they are distinguished one from another. The analogy which reaches from the first dim gleam of civility to the last and consummate result of policy and intelligence, from the law of the Salian Franks to the Code Napoleon, it was reserved for him to discover and explain. He saw that, though the shape into which the expression of human thought and will was moulded as the family became a tribe, and the tribe a nation, might be fantastic and even monstrous—that the staple from which it unrolled itself must be the same. Treading in the steps of Vico, he more than realized his master's project, and in his immortal work (which, with all its faults, is a magnificent, and as yet unrivalled, trophy of his genius, and will serve as a landmark to future enquirers when its puny critics are not known enough to be despised) he has extracted from a chaos of casual observations, detached hints—from the principles concealed in the intricate system of Roman jurisprudence, or exposed in the rules which barely held together the barbarous tribes of Gaul and Germany—from the manners of the polished Athenian, and from the usages of the wandering Tartar—from the rudeness of savage life, and the corruptions of refined society—a digest of luminous and coherent evidence, by which the condition of man, in the different stages of his social progress, is exemplified and ascertained. The loss of the History of Louis XI.—a work which he had projected, and of which he had traced the outline—is a disappointment which the reader of modern history can never enough deplore.
The province of science lies in truths that are universal and immutable; that of prudence in second causes that are transient and subordinate. What is universally true is alone necessarily true—the knowledge that rests in particulars must be accidental. The theorist disdains experience—the empiric rejects principle. The one is the pedant who read Hannibal a lecture on the art of war; the other is the carrier who knows the road between London and York better than Humboldt, but a new road is prescribed to him and his knowledge becomes useless. This is the state of mind La Fontaine has described so perfectly in his story of the "Cierge."
The mere chemist or mathematician will apply his truths improperly; the man of detail, the mere empiric, will deal skilfully with particulars, while to all general truths he is insensible. The wise man, the philosopher in action, will use the one as a stepping-stone to the other, and acquire a vantage-ground from whence he will command the realms of practice and experience.
History teems with instances that—although the general course of the human mind is marked out, and each succeeding phasis in which it exhibits itself appears inevitable—the human race cannot be considered, as Vico and Herder were, perhaps, inclined to look upon it, as a mass without intelligence, traversing its orbit according to laws which it has no power to modify or control. On such an hypothesis, Wisdom and Folly, Justice and Injustice, would be the same, followed by the same consequences and subject to the same destiny—no certain laws establishing invariable grounds of hope and fear, would keep the actions of men in a certain course, or direct them to a certain end; the feelings, faculties, and instincts of man would be useless in a world where the wise was always as the foolish, the just as the unjust, where calculation was impossible, and experience of no avail.
Man is no doubt the instrument, but the unconscious instrument, of Providence; and for the end they propose to themselves, though not for the result which they attain, nations as well as individuals are responsible. Otherwise, why should we read or speak of history? it would be the feverish dream of a distempered imagination, full of incoherent ravings, a disordered chaos of antagonist illusions—
But on the contrary, it is in history that the lessons of morality are delivered with most effect. The priest may provoke our suspicion—the moralist may fail to work in us any practical conviction; but the lessons of history are not such as vanish in the fumes of unprofitable speculation, or which it is possible for us to mistrust, or to deride. Obscure as the dispensations of Providence often are, it sometimes, to use Lord Bacon's language—"pleases God, for the confutation of such as are without God in the world, to write them in such text and capital letters that he who runneth by may read it—that is, mere sensual persons which hasten by God's judgments, and never tend or fix their cogitations upon them, are nevertheless in their passage and race urged to discern it." In all historical writers, philosophical or trivial, sacred or profane, from the meagre accounts of the monkish chronicler, no less than from the pages stamped with all the indignant energy of Tacitus, gleams forth the light which, amid surrounding gloom and injustice, amid the apparent triumph of evil, discovers the influence of that power which the heathens personified as Nemesis. Her tread, indeed, is often noiseless—her form may be long invisible—but the moment at length arrives when the measure of forbearance is complete; the echoes of her step vibrate upon the ear, her form bursts upon the eye, and her victim—be it a savage tyrant, or a selfish oligarchy, or a hypocritical church, or a corrupt nation—perishes.
And as in daily life we rejoice to trace means directed to an end, and proofs of sagacity and instinct even among the lower tribes of animated nature, with how much greater delight do we seize the proofs vouchsafed to us in history of that eternal law, by which the affairs of the universe are governed? How much more do we rejoice to find that the order to which physical nature owes its existence and perpetuity, does not stop at the threshold of national life—that the moral world is not fatherless, and that man, formed to look before and after, is not abandoned to confusion and insecurity?
Fertile and comprehensive indeed is the domain of history, comprising the whole region of probabilities within its jurisdiction—all the various shapes into which man has been cast—all the different scenes in which he has been called upon to act or suffer; his power and his weakness, his folly and his wisdom, his virtues in their meridian height, his vices in the lowest abyss of their degradation, are displayed before us, in their struggles, vicissitudes, and infinitely diversified combinations: an inheritance beyond all price—a vast repository of fruitful and immortal truths. There is nothing so mean or so dignified; nothing so obscure or so glorious; no question so abstruse, no problem so subtile, no difficulty so arduous, no situation so critical, of which we may not demand from history an account and elucidation. Here we find all that the toil, and virtues, and sufferings, and genius, and experience, of our species have laboured for successive generations to accumulate and preserve. The fruit of their blood, of their labour, of their doubts, and their struggles, is before us—a treasure that no malignity can corrupt, or violence take away. And above all, it is here that, when tormented by doubt, or startled by anomalies, stung by disappointment, or exasperated by injustice, we may look for consolation and encouragement. As we see the same events, that to those who witnessed them must have appeared isolated and capricious, tending to one great end, and accomplishing one specific purpose, we may learn to infer that those which appear to us most extraordinary, are alike subservient to a wise and benevolent dispensation. Poetry, the greatest of all critics has told us, has this advantage over history, that the lessons which it furnishes are not mixed and confined to particular cases, but pure and universal. Studied, however, in this spirit, history, while it improves the reason, may satisfy the heart, enabling us to await with patience the lesson of the great instructor, Time, and to employ the mighty elements it places within our reach, to the only legitimate purpose of all knowledge—"The advancement of God's glory, and the relief of man's estate."
[This noble lyric is perhaps the happiest of all those poems in which Schiller has blended the classical spirit with the more deep and tender philosophy which belongs to modern romance. The individuality of the heroes introduced is carefully preserved. The reader is every where reminded of Homer; and yet, as a German critic has observed, there is an under current of sentiment which betrays the thoughtful Northern minstrel. This detracts from the art of the Poem viewed as an imitation, but constitutes its very charm as an original composition. Its inspiration rises from a source purely Hellenic, but the streamlets it receives at once adulterate and enrich, or (to change the metaphor) it has the costume and the gusto of the Greek, but the toning down of the colours betrays the German.]
[Hinrichs properly classes this striking ballad (together with the yet grander one of the "Fight with the Dragon") amongst those designed to depict and exalt the virtue of Humility. The source of the story is in Ægidius Tschudi—a Swiss chronicler—and Schiller (who, as Hinrichs suggests,) probably met with it in the researches connected with the compositions of his drama, "William Tell," appears to have adhered, with much fidelity, to the original narrative.]
[In the ballad just presented to the reader, Schiller designed, as he wrote to Goethe, to depict the old Christian chivalry—half-knightly, half-monastic. The attempt is strikingly successful; and, even in so humble a translation, the unadorned simplicity and earnest vigour of a great poet, enamoured of his subject, may be sufficiently visible to a discerning critic. "The Fight of the Dragon" appears to us the most spirited and nervous of all Schiller's ballads, with the single exception of "The Diver;" and if its interest is less intense than that of the matchless "Diver," and its descriptions less poetically striking and effective, its interior meaning or philosophical conception is at once more profound and more elevated. The main distinction, indeed, between the ancient ballad and the modern, as revived and recreated by Goethe and Schiller, is, that the former is a simple narrative, and the latter a narrative which conveys some intellectual idea—some dim, but important truth. The one has but the good faith of the minstrel, the other the high wisdom of the poet. In "The Fight of the Dragon," is expressed the moral of that humility which consists in self-conquest—even merit may lead to vain-glory—and, after vanquishing the fiercest enemies without, Man has still to contend with his worst foe,—the pride or disobedience of his own heart. "Every one," as a recent and acute, but somewhat over-refining critic has remarked, "has more or less—his own 'fight with the Dragon,'—his own double victory (without and within) to achieve." The origin of this poem is to be found in the Annals of the Order of Malta—and the details may be seen in Vertot's History. The date assigned to the conquest of the Dragon is 1342. Helion de Villeneuve was the name of the Grand Master—that of the Knight, Dieu-Donné de Gozon. Thevenot declares, that the head of the monster, (to whatever species it really belonged,) or its effigies, was still placed over one of the gates of the city in his time.]
Having shown that the standard of Taste is in the Truth of Nature, and that this truth is in the mind, Sir Joshua, in the Eighth Discourse, proceeds to a further development of the principles of art. These principles, whether poetry or painting, have their foundation in the mind; which by its sensitive faculties and intellectual requirements, remodels all that it receives from the external world, vivifying and characterizing all with itself, and thus bringing forth into light the more beautiful but latent creations of nature. The "activity and restlessness" of the mind seek satisfaction from curiosity, novelty, variety, and contrast. Curiosity, "the anxiety for the future, the keeping the event suspended," he considers to be exclusively the province of poetry, and that "the painter's art is more confined, and has nothing that corresponds with, or perhaps is equivalent to, this power and advantage of leading the mind on, till attention is totally engaged. What is done by painting must be done at one blow; curiosity has received at once all the satisfaction it can have." Novelty, variety, and contrast, however, belong to the painter. That poetry has this power, and operates by more extensively raising our curiosity, cannot be denied; but we hesitate in altogether excluding this power from painting. A momentary action may be so represented, as to elicit a desire for, and even an intimation of its event. It is true that curiosity cannot be satisfied, but it works and conjectures; and we suspect there is something of it in most good pictures. Take such a subject as the "Judgment of Solomon:" is not the "event suspended," and a breathless anxiety portrayed in the characters, and freely acknowledged by the sympathy of the spectator? Is there no mark of this "curiosity" in the "Cartoon of Pisa?" The trumpet has sounded, the soldiers are some half-dressed, some out of the water, others bathing; one is anxiously looking for the rising of his companion, who has just plunged in, and we see but his hands above the water; the very range of rocks, behind which the danger is shown to come, tends to excite our curiosity; we form conjectures of the enemy, their number, nearness of approach, and from among the manly warriors before us form episodes of heroism in the great intimated epic: and have we not seen pictures by Rembrandt, where "curiosity" delights to search unsatisfied and unsatiated into the mysteries of colour and chiaro-scuro, receding further as we look into an atmosphere pregnant with all uncertain things? We think we have not mistaken the President's meaning. Mr Burnet appears to agree with us: though he makes no remark upon the power of raising curiosity, yet it surely is raised in the very picture to which we presume he alludes, Raffaelle's "Death of Ananias;" the event, in Sapphira, is intimated and suspended. "Though," says Mr Burnet, "the painter has but one page to represent his story, he generally chooses that part which combines the most illustrative incidents with the most effective denouement of the event. In Raffaelle we often find not only those circumstances which precede it, but its effects upon the personages introduced after the catastrophe."
There is, however, a natural indolence of our disposition, which seeks pleasure in repose, and the resting in old habits, which must not be too violently opposed by "variety," "reanimating the attention, which is apt to languish under a continual sameness;" nor by "novelty," making "more forcible impression on the mind than can be made by the representation of what we have often seen before;" nor by "contrasts," that "rouse the power of comparison by opposition."
The mind, then, though an active principle, having likewise a disposition to indolence, (might we have said repose?) limits the quantity of variety, novelty, and contrast which it will bear;—these are, therefore, liable to excesses. Hence arise certain rules of art, that in a composition objects must not be too scattered and divided into many equal parts, that perplex and fatigue the eye, at a loss where to find the principal action. Nor must there be that "absolute unity," "which, consisting of one group or mass of light only, would be as defective as an heroic poem without episode, or any collateral incidents to recreate the mind with that variety which it always requires." Sir Joshua instances Rembrandt and Poussin, the former as having the defect of "absolute unity," the latter the defect of the dispersion and scattering his figures without attention to their grouping. Hence there must be "the same just moderation observed in regard to ornaments;" for a certain repose must never be destroyed. Ornament in profusion, whether of objects or colours, does destroy it; and, "on the other hand, a work without ornament, instead of simplicity, to which it makes pretensions, has rather the appearance of poverty." "We may be sure of this truth, that the most ornamental style requires repose to set off even its ornaments to advantage." He instances, in the dialogue between Duncan and Banquo, Shakspeare's purpose of repose—the mention of the martlets' nests, and that "where those birds most breed and haunt, the air is delicate;" and the practice of Homer, "who, from the midst of battles and horrors, relieves and refreshes the mind of the reader, by introducing some quiet rural image, or picture of familiar domestic life. The writers of every age and country, where taste has begun to decline, paint and adorn every object they touch; are always on the stretch; never deviate or sink a moment from the pompous and the brilliant."10
Novelty, Variety, and Contrast are required in Art, because they are the natural springs that move the mind to attention from its indolent quiescence; but having moved, their duty is performed—the mind of itself will do the rest; they must not act prominent parts. In every work there must be a simplicity which binds the whole together, as a whole; and whatever comes not within that girdle of the graces, is worse than superfluous—it draws off and distracts the attention which should be concentrated. Besides that simplicity which we have spoken of—and we have used the word in its technical sense, as that which keeps together and makes one thing of many parts—there is a simplicity which is best known by its opposite, affectation; upon this Sir Joshua enlarges. "Simplicity, being a negative virtue, cannot be described or defined." But it is possible, even in avoiding affectation, to convert simplicity into the very thing we strive to avoid. N. Poussin—whom, with regard to this virtue, he contrasts with others of the French school—Sir Joshua considers, in his abhorrence of the affectation of his countrymen, somewhat to approach it, by "what in writing would be called pedantry." Du Piles is justly censured for his recipe of grace and dignity. "If," says he, "you draw persons of high character and dignity, they ought to be drawn in such an attitude that the portraits must seem to speak to us of themselves, and as it were to say to us, 'Stop, take notice of me—I am the invincible king, surrounded by majesty.' 'I am the valiant commander who struck terror every where,' 'I am that great minister, who knew all the springs of politics.' 'I am that magistrate of consummate wisdom and probity.'" This is indeed affectation, and a very vulgar notion of greatness. We are reminded of Partridge, and his admiration of the overacting king. All the characters in thus seeming to say, would be little indeed. Not so Raffaelle and Titian understood grace and dignity. Simplicity he holds to be "our barrier against that great enemy to truth and nature, affectation, which is ever clinging to the pencil, and ready to drop and poison every thing it touches." Yet that, "when so very inartificial as to seem to evade the difficulties of art, is a very suspicious virtue." Sir Joshua dwells much upon this, because he thinks there is a perpetual tendency in young artists to run into affectation, and that from the very terms of the precepts offered them. "When a young artist is first told that his composition and his attitudes must be contrasted; that he must turn the head contrary to the position of the body, in order to produce grace and animation; that his outline must be undulating and swelling, to give grandeur; and that the eye must be gratified with a variety of colours; when he is told this with certain animating words of spirit, dignity, energy, greatness of style, and brilliancy of tints, he becomes suddenly vain of his newly-acquired knowledge, and never thinks he can carry those rules too far. It is then that the aid of simplicity ought to be called in to correct the exuberance of youthful ardour." We may add that hereby, too, is shown the danger of particular and practical rules; very few of the kind are to be found in the "Discourses." Indeed the President points out, by examples from Raffaelle, the good effect of setting aside these academical rules. We suspect that they are never less wanted than when they give direction to attitudes and forms of action. He admits that, in order "to excite attention to the more manly, noble, and dignified manner," he had perhaps left "an impression too contemptuous of the ornamental parts of our art." He had, to use his own expression, bent the bow the contrary way to make it straight. "For this purpose, then, and to correct excess or neglect of any kind, we may here add, that it is not enough that a work be learned—it must be pleasing." Pretty much as Horace had said of poetry,
To which maxim the Latin poet has unconsciously given the grace of rhyme—
He again shows the danger of particular practical rules.—"It is given as a rule by Fresnoy, that 'the principal figure of a subject must appear in the midst of the picture, under the principal light, to distinguish it from the rest.' A painter who should think himself obliged strictly to follow this rule, would encumber himself with needless difficulties; he would be confined to great uniformity of composition, and be deprived of many beauties which are incompatible with its observance. The meaning of this rule extends, or ought to extend, no further than this: that the principal figure should be immediately distinguished at the first glance of the eye; but there is no necessity that the principal light should fall on the principal figure, or that the principal figure should be in the middle of the picture." He might have added that it is the very place where generally it ought not to be. Many examples are given; we could have wished he had given a plate from any one in preference to that from Le Brun. Felebein, in praising this picture, according to preconceived recipe, gives Alexander, who is in shade, the principal light. "Another instance occurs to me where equal liberty may be taken in regard to the management of light. Though the general practice is to make a large mass about the middle of the picture surrounded by shadow, the reverse may be practised, and the spirit of the rule be preserved." We have marked in italics the latter part of the sentence, because it shows that the rule itself must be ill-defined or too particular. Indeed, we receive with caution all such rules as belong to the practical and mechanical of the art. He instances Paul Veronese. "In the great composition of Paul Veronese, the 'Marriage of Cana,' the figures are for the most part in half shadow. The great light is in the sky; and indeed the general effect of this picture, which is so striking, is no more than what we often see in landscapes, in small pictures of fairs and country feasts: but those principles of light and shadow, being transferred to a large scale, to a space containing near a hundred figures as large as life, and conducted, to all appearance, with as much facility, and with attention as steadily fixed upon the whole together, as if it were a small picture immediately under the eye, the work justly excites our admiration, the difficulty being increased as the extent is enlarged." We suspect that the rule, when it attempts to direct beyond the words Sir Joshua has marked in italics, refutes itself, and shackles the student. Infinite must be the modes of composition, and as infinite the modes of treating them in light and shadow and colour. "Whatever mode of composition is adopted, every variety and license is allowable." All that is absolutely necessary is, that there be no confusion or distraction, no conflicting masses—in fact, that the picture tell its tale at once and effectually. A very good plate is given by Mr Burnet of the "Marriage of Cana," by Paul Veronese. Sir Joshua avoids entering upon rules that belong to "the detail of the art." He meets with combatants, as might have been expected, where he is thus particular. We will extract the passage which has been controverted, and to oppose the doctrine of which, Gainsborough painted his celebrated "Blue Boy."
"Though it is not my business to enter into the detail of our art, yet I must take this opportunity of mentioning one of the means of producing that great effect which we observe in the works of the Venetian painters, as I think it is not generally known or observed, that the masses of light in a picture be always of a warm mellow colour, yellow red or yellowish white; and that the blue, the grey, or the green colours be kept almost entirely out of these masses, and be used only to support and set off these warm colours; and for this purpose a small proportion of cold colours will be sufficient. Let this conduct be reversed; let the light be cold, and the surrounding colours warm, as we often see in the works of the Roman and Florentine painters, and it will be out of the power of art, even in the hands of Rubens or Titian, to make a picture splendid and harmonious." Le Brun and Carlo Maratti are censured as being "deficient in this management of colours." The "Bacchus and Ariadne," now in our National Gallery, has ever been celebrated for its harmony of colour. Sir Joshua supports his theory or rule by the example of this picture: the red of Ariadne's scarf, which, according to critics, was purposely given to relieve the figure from the sea, has a better object. "The figure of Ariadne is separated from the great group, and is dressed in blue, which, added to the colour of the sea, makes that quantity of cold colour which Titian thought necessary for the support and brilliancy of the great group; which group is composed, with very little exception, entirely of mellow colours. But as the picture in this case would be divided into two distinct parts, one half cold and the other warm, it was necessary to carry some of the mellow colours of the great group into the cold part of the picture, and a part of the cold into the great group; accordingly Titian gave Ariadne a red scarf, and to one of the Bacchantes a little blue drapery." As there is no picture more splendid, it is well to weigh and consider again and again remarks upon the cause of the brilliancy, given by such an authority as Sir Joshua Reynolds. With regard to his rule, even among artists, "adhuc sub judice lis est." He combats the common notion of relief, as belonging only to the infancy of the art, and shows the advance made by Coreggio and Rembrandt; though the first manner of Coreggio, as well as of Leonardo da Vinci and Georgione, was dry and hard. "But these three were among the first who began to correct themselves in dryness of style, by no longer considering relief as a principal object. As these two qualities, relief and fulness of effect, can hardly exist together, it is not very difficult to determine to which we ought to give the preference." "Those painters who have best understood the art of producing a good effect, have adopted one principle that seems perfectly conformable to reason—that a part may be sacrificed for the good of the whole. Thus, whether the masses consist of light or shadow, it is necessary that they should be compact, and of a pleasing shape; to this end some parts may be made darker and some lighter, and reflections stronger than nature would warrant." He instances a "Moonlight" by Rubens, now, we believe, in the possession of Mr Rogers, in which Rubens had given more light and more glowing colours than we recognize in nature,—"it might easily be mistaken, if he had not likewise added stars, for a fainter setting sun." We stop not to enquire if that harmony so praised, might not have been preserved had the resemblance to nature been closer. Brilliancy is produced. The fact is, the practice of art is a system of compensation. We cannot exactly in all cases represent nature,—we have not the means, but our means will achieve what, though particularly unlike, may, by itself or in opposition, produce similar effects. Nature does not present a varnished polished surface, nor that very transparency that our colours can give; but it is found that this transparency, in all its degrees, in conjunction and in opposition to opaque body of colour, represents the force of light and shade of nature, which is the principal object to attain. The richness of nature is not the exact richness of the palette. The painter's success is in the means of compensation.
This Discourse concludes with observations on the Prize pictures. The subject seems to have been the Sacrifice of Iphigenia. All had copied the invention of Timanthes, in hiding the face of Agamemnon. Sir Joshua seems to agree with Mr Falconet, in a note in his translation of Pliny, who would condemn the painter, but that he copied the idea from the authority of Euripides; Sir Joshua considers it at best a trick, that can only with success be practised once. Mr Fuseli criticises the passage, and assumes that the painter had better reason than that given by Mr Falconet. Mr Burnet has added but two or three notes to this Discourse—they are unimportant, with the exception of the last, wherein he combats Sir Joshua's theory of the cold and warm colours. He candidly prints an extract of a letter from Sir Thomas Lawrence, who differs with him. It is so elegantly written that we quote the passage. Sir Thomas says,—"Agreeing with you in so many points, I will venture to differ from you in your question with Sir Joshua. Infinitely various as nature is, there are still two or three truths that limit her variety, or, rather, that limit art in the imitation of her. I should instance for one the ascendency of white objects, which can never be departed from with impunity, and again, the union of colour with light. Masterly as the execution of that picture is (viz. the Boy in a blue dress,) I always feel a never-changing impression on my eye, that the "Blue Boy" of Gainsborough is a difficulty boldly combated, not conquered. The light blue drapery of the Virgin in the centre of the "Notte" is another instance; a check to the harmony of the celestial radiance round it." "Opposed to Sir Thomas's opinion," says Mr Burnet, "I might quote that of Sir David Wilkie, often expressed, and carried out in his picture of the 'Chelsea Pensioners' and other works." It strikes us, from our recollection of the "Chelsea Pensioners," that it is not at all a case in point; the blue there not being light but dark, and serving as dark, forcibly contrasting with warmer light in sky and other objects; the colour of blue is scarcely given, and is too dark to be allowed to enter into the question. He adds, "A very simple method may be adopted to enable the student to perceive where the warm and red colours are placed by the great colourists, by his making a sketch of light and shade of the picture, and then touching in the warm colours with red chalk; or by looking on his palette at twilight, he will see what colours absorb the light, and those that give it out, and thus select for his shadows, colours that have the property of giving depth and richness." Unless the pictures are intended to be seen at twilight, we do not see how this can bear upon the question; if it does, we would notice what we have often observed, that at twilight blue almost entirely disappears, to such a degree that in a landscape where the blue has even been deep, and the sky by no means the lightest part of the picture, at twilight the whole landscape comes out too hard upon the sky, which with its colour has lost its tone, and become, with relation to the rest, by far too light. It is said that of all the pictures in the National Gallery, when seen at twilight, the Coreggios retire last—we speak of the two, the "Ecce Homo" and the "Venus, Mercury, and Cupid." In these there is no blue but in the drapery of the fainting mother, and that is so dark as to serve for black or mere shadow; the lighter blue close upon the neck is too small to affect the power of the picture. It certainly is a fact, that blue fades more than any colour at twilight, and, relatively speaking, leaves the image that contains it lighter. We should almost be inclined to ask the question, though with great deference to authority, is blue, when very light, necessarily cold; and if so, has it not an activity which, being the great quality of light, assimilates it with light, and thus takes in to itself the surrounding "radiance?" A very little positive warm colour, as it were set in blue, from whatever cause, gives it a surprising glow. We desire to see the theory of colours treated, not with regard to their corresponding harmony in their power one upon the other, nor in their light and shadow, but, if we may so express it, in their sentimentality—the effect they are capable of in moving the passions. We alluded to this in our last paper, and the more we consider the subject, the more we convinced that it is worth deeper investigation.
The NINTH DISCOURSE is short, and general in its character; it was delivered at the opening of the Royal Academy in Somerset Place, October 16, 1780. It is an elegant address; raises the aim of the artist; and gives a summary of the origin of arts and their use. "Let us for a moment take a short survey of the progress of the mind towards what is, or ought to be, its true object of attention. Man in his lowest state has no pleasures but those of sense, and no wants but those of appetite; afterwards, when society is divided into different ranks, and some are appointed to labour for the support of others, those whom their superiority sets free from labour begin to look for intellectual entertainments. Thus, while the shepherds were attending their flocks, their masters made the first astronomical observations; so music is said to have had its origin from a man at leisure listening to the strokes of a hammer. As the senses in the lowest state of nature are necessary to direct us to our support, when that support is once secure, there is danger in following them further; to him who has no rule of action but the gratification of the senses, plenty is always dangerous. It is therefore necessary to the happiness of individuals, and still more necessary to the security of society, that the mind should be elevated to the idea of general beauty, and the contemplation of general truth; by this pursuit the mind is always carried forward in search of something more excellent than it finds, and obtains its proper superiority over the common sense of life, by learning to feel itself capable of higher aims and nobler enjoyments." This is well said. Again.—"Our art, like all arts which address the imagination, is applied to a somewhat lower faculty of the mind, which approaches nearer to sensuality, but through sense and fancy it must make its way to reason. For such is the progress of thought, that we perceive by sense, we combine by fancy, and distinguish by reason; and without carrying our art out of its natural and true character, the more we purify it from every thing that is gross in sense, in that proportion we advance its use and dignity, and in proportion as we lower it to mere sensuality, we pervert its nature, and degrade it from the rank of a liberal art; and this is what every artist ought well to remember. Let him remember, also, that he deserves just so much encouragement in the state as he makes himself a member of it virtuously useful, and contributes in his sphere to the general purpose and perfection of society." Sir Joshua has been blamed by those who have taken lower views of art, in that he has exclusively treated of the Great Style, which neither he nor the academicians of his day practised; but he would have been unworthy the presidential chair had he taken any other line. His was a noble effort, to assume for art the highest position, to dignify it in its aim, and thus to honour and improve first his country, then all human kind. We rise from such passages as these elevated above all that is little. Those only can feel depressed who would find excuses for the lowness of their pursuits.
The TENTH DISCOURSE.—Sir Joshua here treats of Sculpture, a less extensive field than Painting. The leading principles of both are the same; he considers wherein they agree, and wherein they differ. Sculpture cannot, "with propriety and best effect, be applied to many subjects." Its object is "form and character." It has "one style only,"—that one style has relation only to one style of painting, the Great Style, but that so close as to differ only as operating upon different materials. He blames the sculptors of the last age, who thought they were improving by borrowing from the ornamental, incompatible with its essential character. Contrasts, and the littlenesses of picturesque effects, are injurious to the formality its austere character requires. As in painting, so more particularly in sculpture, that imitation of nature which we call illusion, is in no respect its excellence, nor indeed its aim. Were it so, the Venus di Medici would be improved by colour. It contemplates a higher, a more perfect beauty, more an intellectual than sensual enjoyment. The boundaries of the art have been long fixed. To convey "sentiment and character, as exhibited by attitude, and expression of the passions," is not within its province. Beauty of form alone, the object of sculpture, "makes of itself a great work." In proof of which are the designs of Michael Angelo in both arts. As a stronger instance:— "What artist," says he, "ever looked at the Torso without feeling a warmth of enthusiasm as from the highest efforts of poetry? From whence does this proceed? What is there in this fragment that produces this effect, but the perfection of this science of abstract form?" Mr Burnet has given a plate of the Torso. The expectation of deception, of which few divest themselves, is an impediment to the judgment, consequently to the enjoyment of sculpture. "Its essence is correctness." It fully accomplishes its purpose when it adds the "ornament of grace, dignity of character, and appropriated expression, as in the Apollo, the Venus, the Laocoon, the Moses of Michael Angelo, and many others." Sir Joshua uses expression as will be afterwards seen, in a very limited sense. It is necessary to lay down perfect correctness as its essential character; because, as in the case of the Apollo, many have asserted the beauty to arise from a certain incorrectness in anatomy and proportion. He denies that there is this incorrectness, and asserts that there never ought to be; and that even in painting these are not the beauties, but defects, in the works of Coreggio and Parmegiano. "A supposition of such a monster as Grace begot by Deformity, is poison to the mind of a young artist." The Apollo and the Discobolus are engaged in the same purpose—the one watching the effect of his arrow, the other of his discus. "The graceful, negligent, though animated air of the one, and the vulgar eagerness of the other, furnish a signal instance of the skill of the ancient sculptors in their nice discrimination of character. They are both equally true to nature, and equally admirable." Grace, character, and expression, are rather in form and attitude than in features; the general figure more presents itself; "it is there we must principally look for expression or character; patuit in corpore vultus." The expression in the countenances of the Laocoon and his two sons, though greater than in any other antique statues, is of pain only; and that is more expressed "by the writhing and contortion of the body than by the features." The ancient sculptors paid but little regard to features for their expression, their object being solely beauty of form. "Take away from Apollo his lyre, from Bacchus his thyrsus and vine-leaves, and from Meleager the boar's head, and there will remain little or no difference in their characters." John di Bologna, he tells us, after he had finished a group, called his friends together to tell him what name to give it: they called it the "Rape of the Sabines." A similar anecdote is told of Sir Joshua himself, that he had painted the head of the old man who attended him in his studio. Some one observed that it would make a Ugolino. The sons were added, and it became the well-known historical picture from Dante. He comments upon the ineffectual attempts of modern sculptors to detach drapery from the figure, to give it the appearance of flying in the air; to make different plans on the same bas-relievos; to represent the effects of perspective; to clothe in a modern dress. For the first attempt he reprehends Bernini, who, from want of a right conception of the province of sculpture, never fulfilled the promise given in his early work of Apollo and Daphne. He was ever attempting to make drapery flutter in the air, which the very massiveness of the material, stone, should seem to forbid. Sir Joshua does not notice the very high authority for such an attempt—though it must be confessed the material was not stone, still it was sculpture, and multitudinous are the graces of ornament, and most minutely described—the shield of Hercules, by Hesiod; even the noise of the furies' wings is affected. The drapery of the Apollo he considers to have been intended more for support than ornament; but the mantle from the arm he thinks "answers a much higher purpose, by preventing that dryness of effect which would inevitably attend a naked arm, extended almost at full length; to which we may add, the disagreeable effect which would proceed from the body and arm making a right angle." He conjectures that Carlo Maratti, in his love for drapery, must have influenced the sculptors of the Apostles in the church of St John Lateran. "The weight and solidity of stone was not to be overcome."
To place figures on different plans is absurd, because they must still appear all equally near the eye; the sculptor has not adequate means of throwing them back; and, besides, the thus cutting up into minute parts, destroys grandeur. "Perhaps the only circumstance in which the modern have excelled the ancient sculptors, is the management of a single group in basso-relievo." This, he thinks, may have been suggested by the practice of modern painters. The attempt at perspective must, for the same reason, be absurd; the sculptor has not the means for this "humble ambition." The ancients represented only the elevation of whatever architecture they introduced into their bas-reliefs, "which is composed of little more than horizontal and perpendicular lines." Upon the attempt at modern dress in sculpture, he is severe in his censure. "Working in stone is a very serious business, and it seems to be scarce worth while to employ such durable materials in conveying to posterity a fashion, of which the longest existence scarcely exceeds a year;" and which, he might have added, the succeeding year makes ridiculous. We not only change our dresses, but laugh at the sight of those we have discarded. The gravity of sculpture should not be subject to contempt. "The uniformity and simplicity of the materials on which the sculptor labours, (which are only white marble,) prescribe bounds to his art, and teach him to confine himself to proportionable simplicity of design." Mr Burnet has not given a better note than that upon Sir Joshua's remark, that sculpture has but one style. He shows how strongly the ancient sculptors marked those points wherein the human figure differs from that of other animals. "Let us take, for example, the human foot; on examining, in the first instance, those of many animals, we perceive the toes either very long or very short in proportion; of an equal size nearly, and the claws often long and hooked inwards: now, in rude sculpture, and even in some of the best of the Egyptians, we find little attempt at giving a character of decided variation; but, on the contrary, we see the foot split up with toes of an equal length and thickness; while, in Greek sculpture, these points characteristic of man are increased, that the affinity to animals may be diminished. In the Greek marbles, the great toe is large and apart from the others, where the strap of the sandal came; while the others gradually diminish and sweep round to the outside of the foot, with the greatest regularity of curve; the nails are short, and the toes broad at the points, indicative of pressure on the ground." Rigidity he considers to have been the character of the first epochs, changing ultimately as in the Elgin marbles, "from the hard characteristics of stone to the vivified character of flesh." He thinks Reynolds "would have acknowledged the supremacy of beautiful nature, uncontrolled by the severe line of mathematical exactness," had he lived to see the Elgin marbles. "The outline of life, which changes under every respiration, seems to have undulated under the plastic mould of Phidias." This is well expressed. He justly animadverts upon the silly fashion of the day, in lauding the vulgar imitation of the worsted stockings by Thom. The subjects chosen were most unfit for sculpture,—their only immortality must be in Burns. We do not understand his extreme admiration of Wilkie; in a note on parallel perspective in sculpture, he adduces Raffaelle as an example of the practice, and closes by comparing him with Sir David Wilkie,—"known by the appellation of the Raffaelle of familiar life,"—men perfect antipodes to each other! There is a proper eulogy on Chantrey, particularly for his busts, in which he commonly represented the eye. We are most anxious for the arrival of the ancient sculpture from Lycia, collected and packed for Government by the indefatigable and able traveller, Mr Fellowes.
The ELEVENTH DISCOURSE is upon Genius, the particular genius of the painter in his power of seizing and representing nature, or his subject as a whole. He calls it the "genius of mechanical performance." This, with little difference, is enforcing what has been laid down in former Discourses. Indeed, as far as precepts may be required, Sir Joshua had already performed his task; hence, there is necessary repetition. Yet all is said well, and conviction perpetuates the impressions previously made. Character is something independent of minute detail; genius alone knows what constitutes this character, and practically to represent it, is to be a painter of genius. Though it be true that he "who does not at all express particulars expresses nothing; yet it is certain that a nice discrimination of minute circumstances, and a punctilious delineation of them, whatever excellence it may have, (and I do not mean to detract from it,) never did confer on the artist the character of genius." The impression left upon the mind is not of particulars, when it would seem to be so; such particulars are taken out of the subject, and are each a whole of themselves. Practically speaking, as we before observed, genius will be exerted in ascertaining how to paint the "nothing" in every picture, to satisfy with regard to detail, that neither its absence nor its presence shall be noticeable.
Our pleasure is not in minute imitation; for, in fact, that is not true imitation, for it forces upon our notice that which naturally we do not see. We are not pleased with wax-work, which may be nearer reality; "we are pleased, on the contrary, by seeing ends accomplished by seemingly inadequate means." If this be sound, we ought to be sensible of the inadequacy of the means, which sets aside at once the common notion that art is illusion. "The properties of all objects, as far as the painter is concerned with them, are outline or drawing, the colour, and the light and shade. The drawing gives the form, the colour its visible quality, and the light and shade its solidity:" in every one of these the habit of seeing as a whole must be acquired. From this habit arises the power of imitating by "dexterous methods." He proceeds to show that the fame of the greatest painters does not rest upon their high finish. Raffaelle and Titian, one in drawing the other in colour, by no means finished highly; but acquired by their genius an expressive execution. Most of his subsequent remarks are upon practice in execution and colour, in contradistinction to elaborate finish. Vasari calls Titian, "giudicioso, bello, e stupendo," with regard to this power. He generalized by colour, and by execution. "In his colouring, he was large and general." By these epithets, we think Sir Joshua has admitted that the great style comprehends colouring. "Whether it is the human figure, an animal, or even inanimate objects, there is nothing, however unpromising in appearance, but may be raised into dignity, convey sentiment, and produce emotion, in the hands of a painter of genius." He condemns that high finish which softens off. "This extreme softening, instead of producing the effect of softness, gives the appearance of ivory, or some other hard substance, highly polished. The value set upon drawings, such as of Coreggio and Parmegiano, which are but slight, show how much satisfaction can be given without high finishing, or minute attention to particulars. "I wish you to bear in mind, that when I speak of a whole, I do not mean simply a whole as belonging to composition, but a whole with respect to the general style of colouring; a whole with regard to light and shade; and a whole of every thing which may separately become the main object of a painter. He speaks of a landscape painter in Rome, who endeavoured to represent every individual leaf upon a tree; a few happy touches would have given a more true resemblance. There is always a largeness and a freedom in happy execution, that finish can never attain. Sir Joshua says above, that even "unpromising" subjects may be thus treated. There is a painter commonly thought to have finished highly, by those who do not look into his manner, whose dexterous, happy execution was perhaps never surpassed; the consequence is, that there is "a largeness," in all his pictures. We mean Teniers. The effect of the elaborate work that has been added to his class of subjects, is to make them heavy and fatiguing to the eye. He praises Titian for the same large manner which he had given to his history and portraits, applied to his landscapes, and instances the back-ground to the "Peter Martyr." He recommends the same practice in portrait painting—the first thing to be attained, is largeness and general effect. The following puts the truth clearly. "Perhaps nothing that we can say will so clearly show the advantage and excellence of this faculty, as that it confers the character of genius on works that pretend to no other merit, in which is neither expression, character, nor dignity, and where none are interested in the subject. We cannot refuse the character of genius to the 'Marriage' of Paolo Veronese, without opposing the general sense of mankind, (great authorities have called it the triumph of painting,) or to the Altar of St Augustine at Antwerp, by Rubens, which equally deserves that title, and for the same reason. Neither of these pictures have any interesting story to support them. That of Paolo Veronese is only a representation of a great concourse of people at a dinner; and the subject of Rubens, if it may be called a subject where nothing is doing, is an assembly of various saints that lived in different ages. The whole excellence of those pictures consists in mechanical dexterity, working, however, under the influence of that comprehensive faculty which I have so often mentioned."
The power of a whole is exemplified by the anecdote of a child going through a gallery of old portraits. She paid very little attention to the finishing, or naturalness of drapery, but put herself at once to mimic the awkward attitudes. "The censure of nature uninformed, fastened upon the greatest fault that could be in a picture, because it related to the character and management of the whole." What he would condemn is that substitute for deep and proper study, which is to enable the painter to conceive and execute every subject as a whole, and a finish which Cowley calls "laborious effects of idleness." He concludes this Discourse with some hints on method of study. Many go to Italy to copy pictures, and derive little advantage. "The great business of study is, to form a mind adapted and adequate to all times and all occasions, to which all nature is then laid open, and which may be said to possess the key of her inexhaustible riches."
Mr Burnet has supplied a plate of the Monk flying from the scene of murder, in Titian's "Peter Martyr," showing how that great painter could occasionally adopt the style of Michael Angelo in his forms. In the same note he observes, that Sir Joshua had forgotten the detail of this picture, which detail is noticed and praised by Algarotti, for its minute discrimination of leaves and plants, "even to excite the admiration of a botanist."—Sir Joshua said they were not there. Mr Burnet examined the picture at Paris, and found, indeed, the detail, but adds, that "they are made out with the same hue as the general tint of the ground, which is a dull brown," an exemplification of the rule, "Ars est celare artem." Mr Burnet remarks, that there is the same minute detail in Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne."—He is right—we have noticed it, and suspected that it had lost the glazing which had subdued it. As it is, however, it is not important. Mr Burnet is fearful lest the authority of Sir Joshua should induce a habit of generalizing too much. He expresses this fear in another note. He says, "the great eagerness to acquire what the poet calls
and which Reynolds describes as so captivating, has led many a student to commence his career at the wrong end. They ought to remember, that even Rubens founded this excellence upon years of laborious and careful study. His picture of himself and his first wife, though the size of life, exhibits all the detail and finish of Holbein." Sir Joshua nowhere recommends careless style; on the contrary, he every where urges the student to laborious toil, in order that he may acquire that facility which Sir Joshua so justly calls captivating, and which afterwards Rubens himself did acquire, by studying it in the works of Titian and Paul Veronese; and singularly, in contradiction to his fears and all he would imply, Mr Burnet terminates his passage thus:—"Nor did he (Rubens) quit the dry manner of Otho Venius, till a contemplation of the works of Titian and Paul Veronese enabled him to display with rapidity those materials which industry had collected." It is strange to argue upon the abuse of a precept, by taking it at the wrong end.
The TWELFTH DISCOURSE recurs likewise to much that had been before laid down. It treats of methods of study, upon which he had been consulted by artists about to visit Italy. Particular methods of study he considers of little consequence; study must not be shackled by too much method. If the painter loves his art, he will not require prescribed tasks;—to go about which sluggishly, which he will do if he have another impulse, can be of little advantage. Hence would follow, as he admirably expresses it, "a reluctant understanding," and a "servile hand." He supposes, however, the student to be somewhat advanced. The boy, like other school-boys, must be under restraint, and learn the "Grammar and Rudiments" laboriously. It is not such who travel for knowledge. The student, he thinks, may be pretty much left to himself; if he undertake things above his strength, it is better he should run the risk of discouragement thereby, than acquire "a slow proficiency" by "too easy tasks." He has little confidence in the efficacy of method, "in acquiring excellence in any art whatever." Methodical studies, with all their apparatus, enquiry, and mechanical labour, tend too often but "to evade and shuffle off real labour—the real labour of thinking." He has ever avoided giving particular directions. He has found students who have imagined they could make "prodigious progress under some particular eminent master." Such would lean on any but themselves. "After the Rudiments are past, very little of our art can be taught by others." A student ought to have a just and manly confidence in himself, "or rather in the persevering industry which he is resolved to possess." Raffaelle had done nothing, and was quite young, when fixed upon to adorn the Vatican with his works; he had even to direct the best artists of his age. He had a meek and gentle disposition, but it was not inconsistent with that manly confidence that insured him success—a confidence in himself arising from a consciousness of power, and a determination to exert it. The result is "in perpetuum."—There are, however, artists who have too much self-confidence, that is ill-founded confidence, founded rather upon a certain dexterity than upon a habit of thought; they are like the improvisatori in poetry; and most commonly, as Metastasio acknowledged of himself, had much to unlearn, to acquire a habit of thinking with selection. To be able to draw and to design with rapidity, is, indeed, to be master of the grammar of art; but in the completion, and in the final settlement of the design, the portfolio must again and again have been turned over, and the nicest judgment exercised. This judgment is the result of deep study and intenseness of thought—thought not only upon the artist's own inventions, but those of others. Luca Giordano and La Fage are brought as examples of great dexterity and readiness of invention—but of little selection; for they borrowed very little from others: and still less will any artist, that can distinguish between excellence and insipidity, ever borrow from them. Raffaelle, who had no lack of invention, took the greatest pains to select; and when designing "his greatest as well as latest works, the Cartoons," he had before him studies he had made from Masaccio. He borrowed from him "two noble figures of St Paul." The only alteration he made was in the showing both hands, which he thought in a principal figure should never be omitted. Masaccio's work was well known; Raffaelle was not ashamed to have borrowed. "Such men, surely, need not be ashamed of that friendly intercourse which ought to exist among artists, of receiving from the dead, and giving to the living, and perhaps to those who are yet unborn. The daily food and nourishment of the mind of an artist is found in the great works of his predecessors. 'Serpens nisi serpentem comederit, non fit draco.'" The fact is, the most self-sufficient of men are greater borrowers than they will admit, or perhaps know; their very novelties, if they have any, commence upon the thoughts of others, which are laid down as a foundation in their own minds. The common sense, which is called "common property," is that stock which all that have gone before us have left behind them; and we are but admitted to the heirship of what they have acquired. Masaccio Sir Joshua considers to have been "one of the great fathers of modern art." He was the first who gave largeness, and "discovered the path that leads to every excellence to which the art afterwards arrived." It is enough to say of him, that Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino, Raffaelle, Bartolomeo, Andrea del Sarto, Il Rosso, and Pierino del Vaga, formed their taste by studying his works. "An artist-like mind" is best formed by studying the works of great artists. It is a good practice to consider figures in works of great masters as statues which we may take in any view. This did Raffaelle, in his "Sergius Paulus," from Masaccio. Lest there should be any misunderstanding of this sort of borrowing, which he justifies, he again refers to the practice of Raffaelle in this his borrowing from Masaccio. The two figures of St Paul, he doubted if Raffaelle could have improved; but "he had the address to change in some measure without diminishing the grandeur of their character." For a serene composed dignity, he has given animation suited to their employment. "In the same manner, he has given more animation to the figure of Sergius Paulus, and to that which is introduced in the picture of Paul preaching, of which little more than hints are given by Masaccio, which Raffaelle has finished. The closing the eyes of this figure, which in Masaccio might be easily mistaken for sleeping, is not in the least ambiguous in the Cartoon. His eyes, indeed are closed, but they are closed with such vehemence, that the agitation of a mind perplexed in the extreme is seen at the first glance; but what is most extraordinary, and I think particularly to be admired, is, that the same idea is continued through the whole figure, even to the drapery, which is so closely muffled about him, that even his hands are not seen: By this happy correspondence between the expression of the countenance and the disposition of the parts, the figure appears to think from head to foot. Men of superior talents alone are capable of thus using and adapting other men's minds to their own purposes, or are able to make out and finish what was only in the original a hint or imperfect conception. A readiness in taking such hints, which escape the dull and ignorant, makes, in my opinion, no inconsiderable part of that faculty of mind which is called genius." He urges the student not even to think himself qualified to invent, till he is well acquainted with the stores of invention the world possesses; and insists that, without such study, he will not have learned to select from nature. He has more than once enforced this doctrine, because it is new. He recommends, even in borrowing, however, an immediate recurrence to the model, that every thing may be finished from nature. Hence he proceeds to give some directions for placing the model and the drapery—first to impress upon the model the purpose of the attitude required—next, to be careful not to alter drapery with the hand, rather trusting, if defective, to a new cast. There is much in being in the way of accident. To obtain the freedom of accident Rembrandt put on his colours with his palette-knife; a very common practice at the present day. "Works produced in an accidental manner will have the same free unrestrained air as the works of nature, whose particular combinations seem to depend upon accident." He concludes this Discourse by more strenuously insisting upon the necessity of ever having nature in view—and warns students by the example of Boucher, Director of the French Academy, whom he saw working upon a large picture, "without drawings or models of any kind." He had left off the use of models many years. Though a man of ability, his pictures showed the mischief of his practice. Mr Burnet's notes to this Discourse add little to the material of criticism; they do but reiterate in substance what Sir Joshua had himself sufficiently repeated. His object seems rather to seize an opportunity of expressing his admiration of Wilkie, whom he adduces as a parallel example with Raffaelle of successful borrowing. It appears from the account given of Wilkie's process, that he carried the practice much beyond Raffaelle. We cannot conceive any thing very good coming from so very methodical a manner of setting to work. Would not the fire of genius be extinguished by the coolness of the process? "When he had fixed upon his subject, he thought upon all pictures of that class already in existence." The after process was most elaborate. Now, this we should think a practice quite contrary to Raffaelle's, who more probably trusted to his own conception for the character of his picture as a whole, and whose borrowing was more of single figures; but, if of the whole manner of treating his subject, it is not likely that he would have thought of more than one work for his imitation. The fact is, Sir David Wilkie's pictures show that he did carry this practice too far—for there is scarcely a picture of his that does not show patches of imitations, that are not always congruous with each other; there is too often in one piece, a bit of Rembrandt, a bit of Velasquez, a bit of Ostade, or others. The most perfect, as a whole, is his "Chelsea Pensioners." We do not quite understand the brew of study fermenting an accumulation of knowledge, and imagination exalting it. "An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind, fermented by study, and exalted by imagination;" this is very ambitious, but not very intelligible. He speaks of Wilkie attracting the attention of admirers and detractors. It is very absurd to consider criticism that is not always favourable, detraction. The following passage is well put. "We constantly hear the ignorant advising a student to study the great book of nature, without being biassed by what has been done by other painters; it is as absurd as if they would recommend a youth to learn astronomy by lying in the fields, and looking on the stars, without reference to the works of Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or of Newton." There is indeed a world of cant in the present day, that a man must do all to his own unprejudiced reason, contemning all that has been done before him. We have just now been looking at a pamphlet on Materialism (a pamphlet of most ambitious verbiage,) in which, with reference to all former education, we are "the slaves of prejudice;" yet the author modestly requires that minds—we beg his pardon, we have no minds—intellects must be trained to his mode of thinking, ere they can arrive at the truth and the perfection of human nature. If this training is prejudice in one set of teachers, may it not be in another? We continually hear artists recommend nature without "a prejudice in favour of old masters." Such artists are not likely to eclipse the fame of those great men, the study of whose works has so long prejudiced the world.
The THIRTEENTH DISCOURSE shows that art is not imitation, but is under the influence and direction of the imagination, and in what manner poetry, painting, acting, gardening, and architecture, depart from nature. However good it is to study the beauties of artists, this is only to know art through them. The principles of painting remain to be compared with those of other arts, all of them with human nature. All arts address themselves only to two faculties of the mind, its imagination and its sensibility. We have feeling, and an instantaneous judgment, the result of the experience of life, and reasonings which we cannot trace. It is safer to trust to this feeling and judgment, than endeavour to control and direct art upon a supposition of what ought in reason to be the end or means. We should, therefore, most carefully store first impressions. They are true, though we know not the process by which the first conviction is formed. Partial and after reasoning often serves to destroy that character, the truth of which came upon us as with an instinctive knowledge. We often reason ourselves into narrow and partial theories, not aware that "real principles of sound reason, and of so much more weight and importance, are involved, and as it were lie hid, under the appearance of a sort of vulgar sentiment. Reason, without doubt, must ultimately determine every thing; at this minute it is required to inform us when that very reason is to give way to feeling." Sir Joshua again refers to the mistaken views of art, and taken too by not the poorest minds, "that it entirely or mainly depends on imitation." Plato, even in this respect, misleads by a partial theory. It is with "such a false view that Cardinal Bembo has chosen to distinguish even Raffaelle himself, whom our enthusiasm honours with the name divine. The same sentiment is adopted by Pope in his epitaph on Sir Godfrey Kneller; and he turns the panegyric solely on imitation as it is a sort of deception." It is, undoubtedly, most important that the world should be taught to honour art for its highest qualities; until this is done, the profession will be a degradation. So far from painting being imitation, he proceeds to show that "it is, and ought to be, in many points of view, and strictly speaking, no imitation at all of external nature." Civilization is not the gross state of nature; imagination is the result of cultivation, of civilization; it is to this state of nature art must be more closely allied. We must not appeal for judgment upon art to those who have not acquired the faculty to admire. The lowest style of all arts please the uncultivated. But, to speak of the unnaturalness of art—let it be illustrated by poetry, which speaks in language highly artificial, and "a construction of measured words, such as never is nor ever was used by man." Now, as there is in the human mind "a sense of congruity, coherence, and consistency," which must be gratified; so, having once assumed a language and style not adopted in common discourse, "it is required that the sentiments also should be in the same proportion raised above common nature." There must be an agreement of all the parts with the whole. He recognizes the chorus of the ancient drama, and the recitative of the Italian opera as natural, under this view. "And though the most violent passions, the highest distress, even death itself, are expressed in singing or recitative, I would not admit as sound criticism the condemnation of such exhibitions on account of their being unnatural." "Shall reason stand in the way, and tell us that we ought not to like what we know we do like, and prevent us from feeling the full effect of this complicated exertion of art? It appears to us that imagination is that gift to man, to be attained by cultivation, that enables him to rise above and out of his apparent nature; it is the source of every thing good and great, we had almost said of every virtue. The parent of all arts, it is of a higher devotion; it builds and adorns temples more worthy of the great Maker of all, and praises Him in sounds too noble for the common intercourse and business of life, which demand of the most cultivated that they put themselves upon a lower level than they are capable of assuming. So far, therefore, is a servile imitation from being necessary, that whatever is familiar, or in any way reminds us of what we see and hear every day, perhaps does not belong to the higher provinces of art, either in poetry or painting. The mind is to be transported, as Shakspeare expresses it, beyond the ignorant present, to ages past. Another and a higher order of beings is supposed, and to those beings every thing which is introduced into the work must correspond." He speaks of a picture by Jan Steen, the "Sacrifice of Iphigenia," wherein the common nature, with the silks and velvets, would make one think the painter had intended to burlesque his subject. "Ill taught reason" would lead us to prefer a portrait by Denner to one by Titian or Vandyke. There is an eloquent passage, showing that landscape painting should in like manner appeal to the imagination; we are only surprised that the author of this description should have omitted, throughout these Discourses, the greatest of all landscape painters, whose excellence he should seem to refer to by his language. "Like the poet, he makes the elements sympathize with his subject, whether the clouds roll in volumes, like those of Titian or Salvator Rosa—or, like those of Claude, are gilded with the setting sun; whether the mountains have hidden and bold projections, or are gently sloped; whether the branches of his trees shoot out abruptly in right angles from their trunks, or follow each other with only a gentle inclination. All these circumstances contribute to the general character of the work, whether it be of the elegant or of the more sublime kind. If we add to this the powerful materials of lightness and darkness, over which the artist has complete dominion, to vary and dispose them as he pleases—to diminish or increase them, as will best suit his purpose, and correspond to the general idea of his work; a landscape, thus conducted, under the influence of a poetical mind, will have the same superiority over the more ordinary and common views, as Milton's "Allegro" and "Penseroso" have over a cold prosaic narration or description; and such a picture would make a more forcible impression on the mind than the real scenes, were they presented before us." We have quoted the above passage, because it is wanted—we are making great mistakes in that delightful, and (may we not say?) that high branch of art. He pursues the same argument with regard to acting, and condemns the ignorant praise bestowed by Fielding on Garrick. Not an idea of deception enters the mind of actor or author. On the stage, even the expression of strong passion must be without the natural distortion and screaming voice. Transfer, he observes, acting to a private room, and it would be ridiculous. "Quid enim deformius, quum scenam in vitam transferre?" Yet he gives here a caution, "that no art can be grafted with success on another art." "If a painter should endeavour to copy the theatrical pomp and parade of dress and attitude, instead of that simplicity which is not a greater beauty in life than it is in painting, we should condemn such pictures, as painted in the meanest style." What will our academician, Mr Maclise, say of this remark? He then adduces gardening in support of his theory,—"nature to advantage dressed," "beautiful and commodious for the recreation of man." We cannot, however, go with Sir Joshua, who adds, that "so dressed, it is no longer a subject for the pencil of a landscape painter, as all landscape painters know." It is certainly unlike the great landscape he has described, but not very unlike Claude's, nor out of the way of his pencil. We have in our mind's eye a garden scene by Vander Heyden, most delightful, most elegant. It is some royal garden, with its proper architecture, the arch, the steps, and balustrades, and marble walks. The queen of the artificial paradise is entering, and in the shade with her attendants, but she will soon place her foot upon the prepared sunshine. Courtiers are here and there walking about, or leaning over the balustrades. All is elegance—a scene prepared for the recreation of pure and cultivated beings. We cannot say the picture is not landscape. We are sure it gave us ten times more pleasure than ever we felt from any of our landscape views, with which modern landscape painting has covered the walls of our exhibitions, and brought into disrepute our "annuals." He proceeds to architecture, and praises Vanburgh for his poetical imagination; though he, with Perrault, was a mark for the wits of the day.11 Sir Joshua points to the façade of the Louvre, Blenheim, and Castle Howard, as "the fairest ornaments." He finishes this admirable discourse with the following eloquent passage:—"It is allowed on all hands, that facts and events, however they may bind the historian, have no dominion over the poet or the painter. With us history is made to bend and conform to this great idea of art. And why? Because these arts, in their highest province, are not addressed to the gross senses; but to the desires of the mind, to that spark of divinity which we have within, impatient of being circumscribed and pent up by the world which is about us. Just so much as our art has of this, just so much of dignity, I had almost said of divinity, it exhibits; and those of our artists who possessed this mark of distinction in the highest degree, acquired from thence the glorious appellation of divine.
Mr Burnet's notes to this Discourse are not important to art. There is an amusing one on acting, that discusses the question of naturalness on the stage, and with some pleasant anecdotes.
The FOURTEENTH DISCOURSE is chiefly occupied with the character of Gainsborough, and landscape painting. It has brought about him, and his name, a hornet's nest of critics, in consequence of some remarks upon a picture of Wilson's. Gainsborough and Sir Joshua, and perhaps in some degree Wilson, had been rivals. It has been said that Wilson and Gainsborough never liked each other. It is a well-known anecdote that Sir Joshua, at a dinner, gave the health of Gainsborough, adding "the greatest landscape painter of the age," to which Wilson, at whom the words were supposed to be aimed, dryly added, "and the greatest portrait painter too." We can, especially under circumstances, for there had been a coolness between the President and Gainsborough, pardon the too favourable view taken of Gainsborough's landscape pictures. He was unquestionably much greater as a portrait painter. The following account of the interview with Gainsborough upon his death-bed, is touching, and speaks well of both:—"A few days before he died he wrote me a letter, to express his acknowledgments for the good opinion I entertained of his abilities, and the manner in which (he had been informed) I always spoke of him; and desired that he might see me once before he died. I am aware how flattering it is to myself to be thus connected with the dying testimony which this excellent painter bore to his art. But I cannot prevail upon myself to suppress that I was not connected with him by any habits of familiarity. If any little jealousies had subsisted between us, they were forgotten in these moments of sincerity; and he turned towards me as one who was engrossed by the same pursuits, and who deserved his good opinion by being sensible of his excellence. Without entering into a detail of what passed at this last interview, the impression of it upon my mind was, that his regret at losing life was principally the regret of leaving his art; and more especially as he now began, he said, to see what his deficiencies were; which, he said, he flattered himself in his last works were in some measure supplied." When the Discourse was delivered, Raffaelle Mengs and Pompeo Batoni were great names. Sir Joshua foretells their fall from that high estimation. Andrea Sacchi, and "perhaps" Carlo Maratti, he considers the "ultimi Romanorum." He prefers "the humble attempts of Gainsborough to the works of those regular graduates in the great historical style." He gives some account of the "customs and habits of this extraordinary man." Gainsborough's love for his art was remarkable. He was ever remarking to those about him any peculiarity of countenance, accidental combination of figures, effects of light and shade, in skies, in streets, and in company. If he met a character he liked, he would send him home to his house. He brought into his painting-room stumps of trees, weeds, &c. He even formed models of landscapes on his table, composed of broken stones, dried herbs, and pieces of looking-glass, which, magnified, became rocks, trees, and water. Most of this is the common routine of every artist's life; the modelling his landscapes in the manner mentioned, Sir Joshua himself seems to speak doubtingly about. It in fact shows, that in Gainsborough there was a poverty of invention; his scenes are of the commonest kind, such as few would stop to admire in nature; and, when we consider the wonderful variety that nature did present to him, it is strange that his sketches and compositions should have been so devoid of beauty. He was in the habit of painting by night, a practice which Reynolds recommends, and thought it must have been the practice of Titian and Coreggio. He might have mentioned the portrait of Michael Angelo with the candle in his cap and a mallet in his hand. Gainsborough was ambitious of attaining excellence, regardless of riches. The style chosen by Gainsborough did not require that he should go out of his own country. No argument is to be drawn from thence, that travelling is not desirable for those who choose other walks of art—knowing that "the language of the art must be learned somewhere," he applied himself to the Flemish school, and certainly with advantage, and occasionally made copies from Rubens, Teniers, and Vandyke. Granting him as a painter great merit, Sir Joshua doubts whether he excelled most in portraits, landscapes, or fancy pictures. Few now will doubt upon the subject—next to Sir Joshua, he was the greatest portrait painter we have had, so as to be justly entitled to the fame of being one of the founders of the English School. He did not attempt historical painting; and here Sir Joshua contrasts him with Hogarth; who did so injudiciously. It is strange that Sir Joshua should have characterised Hogarth as having given his attention to "the Ridicule of Life." We could never see any thing ridiculous in his deep tragedies. Gainsborough is praised in that he never introduced "mythological learning" into his pictures. "Our late ingenious academician, Wilson, has, I fear, been guilty, like many of his predecessors, of introducing gods and goddesses, ideal beings, into scenes which were by no means prepared to receive such personages. His landscapes were in reality too near common nature to admit supernatural objects. In consequence of this mistake, in a very admirable picture of a storm, which I have seen of his hand, many figures are introduced in the foreground, some in apparent distress, and some struck dead, as a spectator would naturally suppose, by lightning: had not the painter injudiciously, (as I think,) rather chosen that their death should be imputed to a little Apollo, who appears in the sky with his bent bow, and that those figures should be considered as the children of Niobe." This is the passage that gave so much offence; foolish admirers will fly into flame at the slightest spark—the question should have been, is the criticism just, not whether Sir Joshua had been guilty of the same error—but we like critics, the only true critics, who give their reason: and so did Sir Joshua. "To manage a subject of this kind a peculiar style of art is required; and it can only be done without impropriety, or even without ridicule, when we adopt the character of the landscape, and that too in all its parts, to the historical or poetical representation. This is a very difficult adventure, and requires a mind thrown back two thousand years, like that of Nicolo Poussin, to achieve it. In the picture alluded to, the first idea that presents itself is that of wonder, at seeing a figure in so uncommon a situation as that in which Apollo is placed: for the clouds on which he kneels have not the appearance of being able to support him—they have neither the substance nor the form fit for the receptacle of a human figure, and they do not possess, in any respect, that romantic character which is appropriated to such an object, and which alone can harmonize with poetical stories." We presume Reynolds alludes to the best of the two Niobes by Wilson—that in the National Gallery. The other is villanously faulty as a composition, where loaf is piled upon loaf for rock and castle, and the tree is common and hedge-grown, for the purpose of making gates; but the other would have been a fine picture, not of the historical class—the parts are all common, the little blown about underwood is totally deficient in all form and character—rocks and trees, and they do not, as in a former discourse—Reynolds had laid down that they should—sympathize with the subject; then, as to the substance of the cloud, he is right—it is not voluminous, it is mere vapour. In the received adoption of clouds as supporting figures, they are, at least, pillowy, capacious, and round—here it is quite otherwise; and Sir Joshua might well call it a little Apollo, with that immense cloud above him, which is in fact too much a portrait of a cloud, too peculiar, too edgy, for any subject where the sky is not to be all in all. We do not say it is not fine and grand, and what you please; but it is not subordinate, it casts its lightning as from its own natural power, there was no need of a god's assistance.
and the action does not take place in a "prepared" landscape. There is nothing to take us back to a fabled age. Reynolds is not unjust to Wilson's merits, for he calls it, notwithstanding this defect, "a very admirable picture;" which picture will, we suspect, in a few years lose its principal charm, if it has not lost it; the colour is sadly changing, there is now little aerial in the sky. It is said of Wilson, that he ridiculed the experiments of Sir Joshua, and spoke of using nothing but "honest linseed"—to which, however, he added varnishes and wax, as will easily be seen in those pictures of his which have so cracked—and now lose their colour. "Honest" linseed appears to have played him a sad trick, or he to have played a trick upon honest linseed. Sir Joshua, however, to his just criticism, adds the best precept, example—and instances two pictures, historical landscape, "Jacob's Dream"—which was exhibited a year or two ago in the Institution, Pall-Mall—by Salvator Rosa, and the picture by Sebastian Bourdon, "The Return of the Ark from Captivity," now in the National Gallery. The latter picture, as a composition, is not perhaps good—it is cut up into too many parts, and those parts are not sufficiently poetical; in its hue, it may be appropriate. The other, "Jacob's Dream" is one of the finest by the master—there is an extraordinary boldness in the clouds, an uncommon grandeur, strongly marked, sentient of angelic visitants. This picture has been recently wretchedly engraved in mezzotinto; all that is in the picture firm and hard, is in the print soft, fuzzy, and disagreeable. Sir Joshua treats very tenderly the mistaken manner of Gainsborough in his late pictures, the "odd scratches and marks." "This chaos, this uncouth and shapeless appearance, by a kind of magic at a certain distance, assumes form, and all their parts seem to drop into their places, so that we can hardly refuse acknowledging the full effect of diligence, under the appearance of chance and heavy negligence." The heavy negligence happily describes the fault of the manner. It is horribly manifest in that magnitude of vulgarity for landscape, the "Market Cart" in our National Gallery, and purchased at we know not what vast sum, and presented by the governors of the institution to the nation. We have a very high opinion of the genius of Gainsborough; but we do not see it in his landscapes, with very few exceptions. His portraits have an air of truth never exceeded, and that set off with great power and artistical skill; and his rustic children are admirable. He stands alone, and never has had a successful imitator. The mock sentimentality, the affected refinement, which has been added to his simple style by other artists, is disgusting in the extreme. Gainsborough certainly studied colour with great success. He is both praised and blamed for a lightness of manner and effect possessed "to an unexampled degree of excellence;" but "the sacrifice which he made, to this ornament of our art, was too great." We confess we do not understand Sir Joshua, nor can we reconcile "the heavy negligence" with this "lightness of manner." Mr Burnet, in one of his notes, compares Wilson with Gainsborough; he appears to give the preference to Wilson—why does he not compare Gainsborough with Sir Joshua himself? the rivalry should have been in portrait. There is a long note upon Sir Joshua's remarks upon Wilson's "Niobe." We are not surprised at Cunningham's "Castigation." He did not like Sir Joshua, and could not understand nor value his character. This is evident in his Life of the President. Cunningham must have had but an ill-educated classic eye when he asserted so grandiloquently,—"He rose at once from the tame insipidity of common scenery into natural grandeur and magnificence; his streams seem all abodes for nymphs, his hills are fit haunts for the muses, and his temples worthy of gods,"—a passage, we think, most worthy the monosyllable commonly used upon such occasions by the manly and simple-minded Mr Burchell. That Sir Joshua occasionally transgressed in his wanderings into mythology, it would be difficult to deny; nor was it his only transgression from his legitimate ground, as may be seen in his "Holy Family" in the National Gallery. But we doubt if the critique upon his "Mrs Siddons" is quite fair. The chair and the footstool may not be on the cloud, a tragic and mysterious vapour reconciling the bodily presence of the muse with the demon and fatal ministers of the drama that attend her. Though Sir Joshua's words are here brought against him, it is without attention to their application in his critique, which condemned their form and character as not historical nor voluminous—faults that do not attach to the clouds, if clouds they must be in the picture (the finest of Sir Joshua's works) of Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse. It is not our business to enter upon the supposed fact, that Sir Joshua was jealous of Wilson; the one was a polished, the other perhaps a somewhat coarse man. We have only to see if the criticism be just. In this Discourse Sir Joshua has the candour to admit, that there were at one time jealousies between him and Gainsborough; there may have been between him and Wilson, but, at all events, we cannot take a just criticism as a proof of it, or we must convict him, and all others too, of being jealous of artists and writers whose works they in any manner censure.
The FIFTEENTH DISCOURSE.—We come now to Sir Joshua's last Discourse, in which the President takes leave of the Academy, reviews his "Discourses," and concludes with recommending the study of Michael Angelo.
Having gone along with the President of the Academy in the pursuit of the principles of the art in these Discourses, and felt a portion of the enthusiasm which he felt, and knew so well how to impart to others, we come to this last Discourse, with a melancholy knowledge that it was the last; and reflect with pain upon that cloud which so soon interposed between Reynolds and at least the practical enjoyment of his art. He takes leave of the Academy affectionately, and, like a truth-loving man to the last, acknowledges the little contentions (in so softening a manner does he speak of the "rough hostility of Barry," and "oppositions of Gainsborough") which "ought certainly," says he, "to be lost among ourselves in mutual esteem for talents and acquirements: every controversy ought to be—I am persuaded will be—sunk in our zeal for the perfection of our common art." "My age, and my infirmities still more than my age, make it probable that this will be the last time I shall have the honour of addressing you from this place." This last visit seemed to be threatened with a tragical end;—the circumstance showed the calm mind of the President; it was characteristic of the man who would die with dignity, and gracefully. A large assembly were present, of rank and importance, besides the students. The pressure was great—a beam in the floor gave way with a loud crash; a general rush was made to the door, all indiscriminately falling one over the other, except the President, who kept his seat "silent and unmoved." The floor only sunk a little, was soon supported, and Sir Joshua recommenced his Discourse.
He compliments the Academy upon the ability of the professors, speaks with diffidence of his power as a writer, (the world has in this respect done him justice;) but that he had come not unprepared upon the subject of art, having reflected much upon his own and the opinions of others. He found in the art many precepts and rules, not reconcilable with each other. "To clear away those difficulties and reconcile those contrary opinions, it became necessary to distinguish the greater truth, as it may be called, from the lesser truth; the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the more narrow and confined: that which addresses itself to the imagination, from that which is solely addressed to the eye. In consequence of this discrimination, the different branches of our art to which those different truths were referred, were perceived to make so wide a separation, and put on so new an appearance, that they seemed scarcely to have proceeded from the same general stock. The different rules and regulations which presided over each department of art, followed of course; every mode of excellence, from the grand style of the Roman and Florentine schools down to the lowest rank of still life, had its due weight and value—fitted to some class or other; and nothing was thrown away. By this disposition of our art into classes, that perplexity and confusion, which I apprehend every artist has at some time experienced from the variety of styles, and the variety of excellence with which he is surrounded, is, I should hope, in some measure removed, and the student better enabled to judge for himself what peculiarly belongs to his own particular pursuit." Besides the practice of art, the student must think, and speculate, and consider "upon what ground the fabric of our art is built." An artist suffers throughout his whole life, from uncertain, confused, and erroneous opinions. We are persuaded there would be fewer fatal errors were these Discourses more in the hands of our present artists—"Nocturnâ versate manu, versate diurnâ."—An example is given of the mischief of erroneous opinions. "I was acquainted at Rome, in the early part of my life, with a student of the French Academy, who appeared to me to possess all the qualities requisite to make a great artist, if he had suffered his taste and feelings, and I may add even his prejudices, to have fair play. He saw and felt the excellences of the great works of art with which we were surrounded, but lamented that there was not to be found that nature which is so admirable in the inferior schools,—and he supposed with Felebien, Du Piles, and other theorists, that such an union of different excellences would be the perfection of art. He was not aware that the narrow idea of nature, of which he lamented the absence in the works of those great artists, would have destroyed the grandeur of the general ideas which he admired, and which was indeed the cause of his admiration. My opinions being then confused and unsettled, I was in danger of being borne down by this plausible reasoning, though I remember I then had a dawning suspicion that it was not sound doctrine; and at the same time I was unwilling obstinately to refuse assent to what I was unable to confute." False and low views of art are now so commonly taken both in and out of the profession, that we have not hesitated to quote the above passage; the danger Sir Joshua confesses he was in, is common, and demands the warning. To make it more direct we should add, "Read his Discourses." Again, without intending to fetter the student's mind to a particular method of study, he urges the necessity and wisdom of previously obtaining the appropriated instruments of art, in a first correct design, and a plain manly colouring, before any thing more is attempted. He does not think it, however, of very great importance whether or not the student aim first at grace and grandeur before he has learned correctness, and adduces the example of Parmegiano, whose first public work was done when a boy, the "St Eustachius" in the Church of St Petronius, in Bologna—one of his last is the "Moses breaking the Tables," in Parma. The former has grandeur and incorrectness, but "discovers the dawnings of future greatness." In mature age he had corrected his defects, and the drawing of his Moses was equally admirable with the grandeur of the conception—an excellent plate is given of this figure by Mr Burnet. The fact is, the impulse of the mind is not to be too much restrained—it is better to give it its due and first play, than check it until it has acquired correctness—good sense first or last, and a love of the art, will generally insure correctness in the end; the impulses often checked, come with weakened power, and ultimately refuse to come at all; and each time that they depart unsatisfied, unemployed, take away with them as they retire a portion of the fire of genius. Parmegiano formed himself upon Michael Angelo: Michael Angelo brought the art to a "sudden maturity," as Homer and Shakspeare did theirs. "Subordinate parts of our art, and perhaps of other arts, expand themselves by a slow and progressive growth; but those which depend on a native vigour of imagination, generally burst forth at once in fulness of beauty." Correctness of drawing and imagination, the one of mechanical genius the other of poetic, undoubtedly work together for perfection—"a confidence in the mechanic produces a boldness in the poetic." He expresses his surprise that the race of painters, before Michael Angelo, never thought of transferring to painting the grandeur they admired in ancient sculpture. "Raffaelle himself seemed to be going on very contentedly in the dry manner of Pietro Perugino; and if Michael Angelo had never appeared, the art might still have continued in the same style." "On this foundation the Caracci built the truly great academical Bolognian school; of which the first stone was laid by Pellegrino Tibaldi." The Caracci called him "nostro Michael Angelo riformato." His figure of Polyphemus, which had been attributed to Michael Angelo in Bishop's "Ancient Statues," is given in a plate by Mr Burnet. The Caracci he considers sufficiently succeeded in the mechanical, not in "the divine part which addresses itself to the imagination," as did Tibaldi and Michael Angelo. They formed, however, a school that was "most respectable," and "calculated to please a greater number." The Venetian school advanced "the dignity of their style, by adding to their fascinating powers of colouring something of the strength of Michael Angelo." Here Sir Joshua seems to contradict his former assertion; but as he is here abridging, as it were, his whole Discourses, he cannot avoid his own observations. It was a point, however, upon which he was still doubtful; for he immediately adds—"At the same time it may still be a doubt, how far their ornamental elegance would be an advantageous addition to his grandeur. But if there is any manner of painting, which may be said to unite kindly with his (Michael Angelo's) style, it is that of Titian. His handling, the manner in which his colours are left on the canvass, appears to proceed (as far as that goes) from congenial mind, equally disdainful of vulgar criticism. He is reminded of a remark of Johnson's, that Pope's Homer, had it not been clothed with graces and elegances not in Homer, would have had fewer readers, thus justifying by example and authority of Johnson, the graces of the Venetian school. Some Flemish painters at "the great era of our art" took to their country "as much of this grandeur as they could carry." It did not thrive, but "perhaps they contributed to prepare the way for that free, unconstrained, and liberal outline, which was afterwards introduced by Rubens, through the medium of the Venetian painters." The grandeur of style first discovered by Michael Angelo passed through Europe, and totally "changed the whole character and style of design. His works excite the same sensation as the Epic of Homer. The Sybils, the statue of Moses, "come nearer to a comparison with his Jupiter, his demigods, and heroes; those Sybils and prophets being a kind of intermediate beings between men and angels. Though instances may be produced in the works of other painters, which may justly stand in competition with those I have mentioned, such as the 'Isaiah,' and 'Vision of Ezekiel,' by Raffaelle, the 'St Mark' of Frate Bartolomeo, and many others; yet these, it must be allowed, are inventions so much in Michael Angelo's manner of thinking, that they may be truly considered as so many rays which discover manifestly the centre from whence they emanated." The style of Michael Angelo is so highly artificial that the mind must be cultivated to receive it; having once received it, the mind is improved by it, and cannot go very far back. Hence the hold this great style has had upon all who are most learned in art, and upon nearly all painters in the best time of art. As art multiplies, false tastes will arise, the early painters had not so much to unlearn as modern artists. Where Michael Angelo is not felt, there is a lost taste to recover. Sir Joshua recommends young artists to follow Michael Angelo as he did the ancient sculptors. "He began, when a child, a copy of a mutilated Satyr's head, and finished in his model what was wanting in the original." So would he recommend the student to take his figures from Michael Angelo, and to change, and alter, and add other figures till he has caught the manner. Change the purpose, and retain the attitude, as did Titian. By habit of seeing with this eye of grandeur, he will select from nature all that corresponds with this taste. Sir Joshua is aware that he is laying himself open to sarcasm by his advice, but asserts the courage becoming a teacher addressing students: "they both must equally dare, and bid defiance to narrow criticism and vulgar opinion." It is the conceited who think that art is nothing but inspiration; and such appropriate it in their own estimation; but it is to be learned,—if so, the right direction to it is of vast importance; and once in the right direction, labour and study will accomplish the better aspirations of the artist. Michael Angelo said of Raffaelle, that he possessed not his art by nature but by long study. "Che Raffaelle non ebbe quest' arte da natura, ma per longo studio." Raffaelle and Michael Angelo were rivals, but ever spoke of each other with the respect and veneration they felt, and the true meaning of the passage was to the praise of Raffaelle; those were not the days when men were ashamed of being laborious,—and Raffaelle himself "thanked God that he was born in the same age with that painter."—"I feel a self-congratulation," adds Sir Joshua, "in knowing myself capable of such sensations as he intended to excite. I reflect, not without vanity, that these Discourses bear testimony of my admiration of that truly divine man; and I should desire that the last words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place, might be the name of Michael Angelo." They were his last words from the academical chair. He died about fourteen months after the delivery of this Discourse. Mr Burnet has given five excellent plates to this Discourse—one from Parmegiano, one from Tibaldi, one from Titian, one from Raffaelle, and one from Michael Angelo. Mr Burnet's first note repeats what we have again and again elsewhere urged, the advantage of establishing at our universities, Oxford and Cambridge, Professorships of Painting—infinite would be the advantage to art, and to the public. We do not despair. Mr Burnet seems to fear incorrect drawing will arise from some passages, which he supposes encourages it, in these Discourses; and fearing it, very properly endeavours to correct the error in a note. We had intended to conclude this paper with some few remarks upon Sir Joshua, his style, and influence upon art, but we have not space. Perhaps we may fulfil this part of our intention in another number of Maga.
Sir Oliver.—How many saints and Sions dost carry under thy cloak, lad? Ay, what dost groan at? What art about to be delivered of? Troth, it must be a vast and oddly-shapen piece of roguery which findeth no issue at such capacious quarters. I never thought to see thy face again. Prythee what, in God's name, hath brought thee to Ramsey, fair Master Oliver?
Oliver.—In His name verily I come, and upon His errand; and the love and duty I bear unto my godfather and uncle have added wings, in a sort, unto my zeal.
Sir Oliver.—Take 'em off thy zeal and dust thy conscience with 'em. I have heard an account of a saint, one Phil Neri, who in the midst of his devotions was lifted up several yards from the ground. Now I do suspect, Nol, thou wilt finish by being a saint of his order; and nobody will promise or wish thee the luck to come down on thy feet again, as he did. So! because a rabble of fanatics at Huntingdon have equipped thee as their representative in Parliament, thou art free of all men's houses, forsooth! I would have thee to understand, sirrah, that thou art fitter for the house they have chaired thee unto than for mine. Yet I do not question but thou wilt be as troublesome and unruly there as here. Did I not turn thee out of Hinchinbrook when thou wert scarcely half the rogue thou art latterly grown up to? And yet wert thou immeasurably too big a one for it to hold.
Oliver.—It repenteth me, O mine uncle! that in my boyhood and youth the Lord had not touched me.
Sir Oliver.—Touch thee! thou wast too dirty a dog by half.
Oliver.—Yea, sorely doth it vex and harrow me that I was then of ill conditions, and that my name—even your godson's—stank in your nostrils.
Sir Oliver.—Ha! polecat! it was not thy name, although bad enough, that stank first; in my house, at least.13 But perhaps there are worse maggots in stauncher mummeries.
Oliver.—Whereas in the bowels of your charity you then vouchsafed me forgiveness, so the more confidently may I crave it now in this my urgency.
Sir Oliver.—More confidently! What! hast got more confidence? Where didst find it? I never thought the wide circle of the world had within it another jot for thee. Well, Nol, I see no reason why thou shouldst stand before me with thy hat off, in the courtyard and in the sun, counting the stones of the pavement. Thou hast some knavery in thy head, I warrant thee. Come, put on thy beaver.
Oliver.—Uncle Sir Oliver! I know my duty too well to stand covered in the presence of so worshipful a kinsman, who, moreover, hath answered at baptism for my good behaviour.
Sir Oliver.—God forgive me for playing the fool before Him so presumptuously and unprofitably! Nobody shall ever take me in again to do such an absurd and wicked thing. But thou hast some left-hand business in the neighbourhood, no doubt, or thou wouldst never more have come under my archway.
Oliver.—These are hard times for them that seek peace. We are clay in the hand of the potter.
Sir Oliver.—I wish your potters sought nothing costlier, and dug in their own grounds for it. Most of us, as thou sayest, have been upon the wheel of these artificers; and little was left but rags when we got off. Sanctified folks are the cleverest skinners in all Christendom, and their Jordan tans and constringes us to the averdupoise of mummies.
Oliver.—The Lord hath chosen his own vessels.
Sir Oliver.—I wish heartily He would pack them off, and send them anywhere on ass-back or cart, (cart preferably,) to rid our country of 'em. But now again to the point: for if we fall among the potsherds we shall hobble on but lamely. Since thou art raised unto a high command in the army, and hast a dragoon to hold yonder thy solid and stately piece of horse-flesh, I cannot but take it into my fancy that thou hast some commission of array or disarray to execute hereabout.
Oliver.—With a sad sinking of spirit, to the pitch well-nigh of swounding, and with a sight of bitter tears, which will not be put back nor staid in anywise, as you bear testimony unto me, uncle Oliver.
Sir Oliver.—No tears, Master Nol, I beseech thee! Thou never art more pery than when it rains with thee. Wet days, among those of thy kidney, portend the letting of blood. What dost whimper at?
Oliver.—That I, that I, of all men living, should be put upon this work!
Sir Oliver.—What work, prythee?
Oliver.—I am sent hither by them who (the Lord in his loving-kindness having pity and mercy upon these poor realms) do, under his right hand, administer unto our necessities and righteously command us, by the aforesaid as aforesaid (thus runs the commission) hither am I deputed (woe is me!) to levy certain fines in this county, or shire, on such as the Parliament in its wisdom doth style malignants.
Sir Oliver.—If there is anything left about the house, never be over nice: dismiss thy modesty and lay hands upon it. In this county or shire, we let go the civet-bag to save the weazon.
Oliver.—O mine uncle and godfather! be witness for me.
Sir Oliver.—Witness for thee! not I indeed. But I would rather be witness than surety, lad, where thou art docketed.
Oliver.—From the most despised doth the Lord ever choose his servants.
Sir Oliver.—Then, faith! thou art his first butler.
Oliver.—Serving Him with humility, I may peradventure be found worthy of advancement.
Sir Oliver.—Ha! now if any devil speaks from within thee, it is thy own: he does not sniffle: to my ears he speaks plain English. Worthy or unworthy of advancement, thou wilt attain it. Come in; at least for an hour's rest. Formerly thou knewest the means of setting the heaviest heart afloat, let it be sticking in what mud-bank it might: and my wet-dock at Ramsey is pretty near as commodious as that over-yonder at Hinchinbrook was erewhile. Times are changed, and places too! yet the cellar holds good.
Oliver.—Many and great thanks! But there are certain men on the other side of the gate, who might take it ill if I turn away and neglect them.
Sir Oliver.—Let them enter also, or eat their victuals where they are.
Oliver.—They have proud stomachs: they are recusants.
Sir Oliver.—Recusants of what? of beef and ale? We have claret, I trust, for the squeamish, if they are above the condition of tradespeople. But of course you leave no person of higher quality in the outer court.
Oliver.—Vain are they and worldly, although such wickedness is the most abominable in their cases. Idle folks are fond of sitting in the sun: I would not forbid them this indulgence.
Sir Oliver.—But who are they?
Oliver.—The Lord knows. May-be priests, deacons, and such like.
Sir Oliver.—Then, sir, they are gentlemen. And the commission you bear from the parliamentary thieves, to sack and pillage my mansion-house, is far less vexatious and insulting to me, than your behaviour in keeping them so long at my stable-door. With your permission, or without it, I shall take the liberty to invite them to partake of my poor hospitality.
Oliver.—But, uncle Sir Oliver! there are rules and ordinances whereby it must be manifested that they lie under displeasure—not mine—not mine—but my milk must not flow for them.
Sir Oliver.—You may enter the house or remain where you are at your option; I make my visit to these gentlemen immediately, for I am tired of standing. If thou ever reachest my age,14 Oliver! (but God will not surely let this be,) thou wilt know that the legs become at last of doubtful fidelity in the service of the body.
Oliver.—Uncle Sir Oliver! now that, as it seemeth, you have been taking a survey of the courtyard and its contents, am I indiscreet in asking your worship whether I acted not prudently in keeping the men-at-belly under the custody of the men-at-arms? This pestilence, like unto one I remember to have read about in some poetry of Master Chapman's,15 began with the dogs and the mules, and afterwards crope up into the breasts of men.
Sir Oliver.—I call such treatment barbarous; their troopers will not let the gentlemen come with me into the house, but insist on sitting down to dinner with them. And yet, having brought them out of their colleges, these brutal half-soldiers must know that they are fellows.
Oliver.—Yea, of a truth are they, and fellows well met. Out of their superfluities they give nothing to the Lord or his Saints; no, not even stirrup or girth, wherewith we may mount our horses and go forth against those who thirst for our blood. Their eyes are fat, and they raise not up their voices to cry for our deliverance.
Sir Oliver.—Art mad? What stirrups and girths are hung up in college halls and libraries? For what are these gentlemen brought hither?
Oliver.—They have elected me, with somewhat short of unanimity, not indeed to be one of themselves, for of that distinction I acknowledge and deplore my unworthiness, nor indeed to be a poor scholar, to which, unless it be a very poor one, I have almost as small pretension, but simply to undertake awhile the heavier office of burser for them, to cast up their accounts; to overlook the scouring of their plate; and to lay a list thereof, with a few specimens, before those who fight the fight of the Lord, that his Saints, seeing the abasement of the proud and the chastisement of worldlymindedness, may rejoice.
Sir Oliver.—I am grown accustomed to such saints and such rejoicings. But, little could I have thought, threescore years ago, that the hearty and jovial people of England would ever join in so filching and stabbing a jocularity. Even the petticoated torch-bearers from rotten Rome, who lighted the faggots in Smithfield some years before, if more blustering and cocksy, were less bitter and vulturine. They were all intolerant, but they were not all hypocritical; they had not always "the Lord" in their mouths.
Oliver.—According to their own notions, they might have had at an outlay of a farthing.
Sir Oliver.—Art facetious, Nol? for it is as hard to find that out as any thing else in thee, only it makes thee look, at times, a little the grimmer and sourer.
But, regarding these gentlemen from Cambridge. Not being such as, by their habits and professions, could have opposed you in the field, I hold it unmilitary and unmanly to put them under any restraint, and so lead them away from their peaceful and useful occupations.
Oliver.—I alway bow submissively before the judgment of mine elders; and the more reverentially when I know them to be endowed with greater wisdom, and guided by surer experience than myself. Alas! those collegians not only are strong men, as you may readily see if you measure them round the waistband, but boisterous and pertinacious challengers. When we, who live in the fear of God, exhorted them earnestly unto peace and brotherly love, they held us in derision. Thus far indeed it might be an advantage to us, teaching us forbearance and self-seeking, but we cannot countenance the evil spirit moving them thereunto. Their occupations, as you remark most wisely, might have been useful and peaceful, and had formerly been so. Why then did they gird the sword of strife about their loins against the children of Israel? By their own declaration, not only are they our enemies, but enemies the most spiteful and untractable. When I came quietly, lawfully, and in the name of the Lord, for their plate, what did they? Instead of surrendering it like honest and conscientious men, they attacked me and my people on horseback, with syllogisms and centhymemes, and the Lord knows with what other such gimcracks, such venemous and rankling old weapons as those who have the fear of God before their eyes are fain to lay aside. Learning should not make folks mockers—should not make folks malignants—should not harden their hearts. We came with bowels for them.
Sir Oliver.—That ye did! and bowels which would have stowed within them all the plate on board of a galloon. Tankards and wassil-bowls had stuck between your teeth, you would not have felt them.
Oliver.—We did feel them; some at least: perhaps we missed too many.
Sir Oliver.—How can these learned societies raise the money you exact from them, beside plate? dost think they can create and coin it?
Oliver.—In Cambridge, uncle Sir Oliver, and more especially in that college named in honour (as they profanely call it) of the blessed Trinity, there are great conjurors or chemists. Now the said conjurors or chemists not only do possess the faculty of making the precious metals out of old books and parchments, but out of the skulls of young lordlings and gentlefolks, which verily promise less. And this they bring about by certain gold wires fastened at the top of certain caps. Of said metals, thus devilishly converted, do they make a vain and sumptuous use; so that, finally, they are afraid of cutting their lips with glass. But indeed it is high time to call them.
Sir Oliver.—Well—at last thou hast some mercy.
Oliver (aloud.)—Cuffsatan Ramsbottom! Sadsoul Kiteclan! advance! Let every gown, together with the belly that is therein, mount up behind you and your comrades in good fellowship. And forasmuch as you at the country-places look to bit and bridle, it seemeth fair and equitable that ye should leave unto them, in full propriety, the mancipular office of discharging the account. If there be any spare beds at the inns, allow the doctors and dons to occupy the same—they being used to lie softly; and be not urgent that more than three lie in each—they being mostly corpulent. Let pass quietly and unreproved any light bubble of pride or impetuosity, seeing that they have not alway been accustomed to the service of guards and ushers. The Lord be with ye!—Slow trot! And now, uncle Sir Oliver, I can resist no longer your loving-kindness. I kiss you, my godfather, in heart's and soul's duty; and most humbly and gratefully do I accept of your invitation to dine and lodge with you, albeit the least worthy of your family and kinsfolk. After the refreshment of needful food, more needful prayer, and that sleep which descendeth on the innocent like the dew of Hermon, to-morrow at daybreak I proceed on my journey Londonward.
Sir Oliver (aloud.)—Ho, there! (To a servant.)—Let dinner be prepared in the great diningroom; let every servant be in waiting, each in full livery; let every delicacy the house affords be placed upon the table in due courses; arrange all the plate upon the side-board: a gentleman by descent—a stranger, has claimed my hospitality. (Servant goes.)
Sir! you are now master. Grant me dispensation, I entreat you, from a further attendance on you.
The history of my youth is the history of my life. My contemporaries were setting out on their journey when my pilgrimage was at an end. I had drained the cup of experience before other men had placed it to their lips. The vicissitudes of all seasons occurred in one, and, before my spring had closed, I had felt the winter's gloominess and cold. The scattered and separated experiences that diversify and mark the passage of the "threescore years and ten," were collected and thrust into the narrow period of my nonage. Within that boundary, existence was condensed. It was the time of action and of suffering. I have passed from youth to maturity and decline gently and passively; and now, in the cool and quiet sunset, I repose, connected with the past only by the adhering memories that will not be excluded from my solitude. I have gathered upon my head the enduring snow of age; but it has settled there in its natural course, with no accompaniment of storm and tempest. I look back to the land over which I have journeyed, and through which I have been conveyed to my present humble resting-place, and I behold a broad extent of plain, spreading from my very feet, into the hazy distance, where all is cloud, mountain, tumult, and agitation. Heaven be praised, I can look back with gratitude, chastened and informed!
Amongst all the startling and stirring events that crowded into the small division of time to which I refer, none had so confounded, perplexed, alarmed, and grieved me, as the discovery of Mr Clayton's criminality and falsehood. There are mental and moral concussions, which, like physical shocks, stun and stupify with their suddenness and violence. This was one of them. Months after I had been satisfied of his obliquity, it was difficult to realize the conviction that truth and justice authoritatively demanded. When I thought of the minister—when his form presented itself to my mind's eye, as it did, day after day, and hour after hour, it was impossible to contemplate it with the aversion and distaste which were the natural productions of his own base conduct. I could see nothing but the figure and the lineaments of him, whose eloquence had charmed, whose benevolent hand had nourished and maintained me. There are likewise, in this mysterious state of life, paroxysms and intervals of disordered consciousness, which memory refuses to acknowledge or record; the epileptic's waking dream is one—an unreal reality. And similar to this was my impression of the late events. They lacked substantiality. Memory took no account of them, discarded them, and would connect the present only with the bright experience she had treasured up, prior to the dark distempered season. I could not hate my benefactor. I could not efface the image, which months of apparent love had engraven on my heart.
Thrust from Mr Clayton's chapel, and unable to obtain admission elsewhere, I felt how insecure was my tenure of office. I prepared myself for dismissal, and hoped that, when the hour arrived, I should submit without repining. In the meanwhile, I was careful in the performance of every duty, and studious to give no cause, not the remotest, for complaint or dissatisfaction. It was not long, however, before signs of an altered state of things presented themselves to view. A straw tells which way the wind blows, and wisps began to fly in all directions. I found at length that I could do nothing right. To-day I was too indolent; to-morrow, too officious:—now I was too much of a gentlemen; and now not half gentlemanly enough. The hardest infliction to bear was the treatment of my new friend and colleague—of him who had given me kind warning and advice, when mischief was only threatening, but who, on the first appearance of trouble, took alarm, and deserted my side. The moment that he perceived my inevitable fate, he decided upon leaving me alone to fight my hard battle. At first he spoke to me with shyness and reserve; afterwards coolly, and soon, he said nothing at all. Sometimes, perhaps, if we were quite alone, and there was no chance whatever of discovery, he would venture half a word or so upon the convenient subject of the weather; but these occasions were very rare. If a superior were present, hurricanes would not draw a syllable from his careful lips; and, under the eye of the stout and influential Mr Bombasty, it was well for me if frowns and sneers were the only exhibitions of rudeness on the part of my worldly and far-seeing friend. Ah, Jacob Whining! With all your policy and sagacious selfishness, you found it difficult to protract your own official existence a few months longer. He had hardly congratulated himself upon the dexterity which had kept him from being involved in my misfortunes, before he fell under the ban of his church, like me was persecuted, and driven into the world a branded and excommunicated outcast. Mr Whining, however, who had learnt much in the world, and more in his connexion, was a cleverer and more fortunate man than this friend and coadjutor. He retired with his experience into Yorkshire, drew a small brotherhood about him, and in a short time became the revered and beloved founder of the numerous and far-spread sect of Whiningtonians!
It was just a fortnight after my expulsion from the Church, that matters were brought to a crisis as far as I was concerned, by the determined tone and conduct of the gentleman at the head of our society. Mr Bombasty arrived one morning at the office, in a perturbed and anxious state, and requested my attendance in his private room. I waited upon him. Perspiration hung about his fleshy face—he wiped it off, and then began:
"Young man," said he, "this won't do at all."
"What, sir?" I asked.
"Come, don't be impudent. You are done for, I can tell you."
"How, sir?" I enquired. "What have I done?"
"Where are the subscriptions that were due last Saturday?"
"Not yet collected, sir."
"What money have you belonging to the society?"
"Not a sixpence, sir."
"Young man," continued the lusty president in a solemn voice, "you are in a woeful state; you are living in the world without a security."
"What is the matter, sir."
"Matter!" echoed the gentleman.—"Matter with a man that has lost his security! Are you positive you have got no funds about you? Just look into your pocket, my friend, and make sure."
"I have nothing, sir. Pray, tell me what I have done?"
"Young man, holding the office that I hold, feeling as I feel, and knowing what I know, it would be perfect madness in me to have any thing to do with a man who has been given over by his security. Don't you understand me? Isn't that very good English? Mr Clayton will have nothing more to say to you. The society gives you warning."
"May I not be informed, sir, why I am so summarily dismissed?"
"Why, my good fellow, what is the matter with you? You seem remarkably stupid this morning. I can't beat about the bush with you. You must go."
"Without having committed a fault?" I added, mournfully.
"Sir," said the distinguished president, looking libraries at me, "when one mortal has become security for another mortal, and suddenly annuls and stultifies his bond, to say that the other mortal has committed a fault is just to call brandy—water. Sir," continued Mr Bombasty, adjusting his India cravat, "that man has perpetrated a crime—a crime primy facey—exy fishio."
I saw that my time was come, and I said nothing.
"If," said Mr Bombasty, "you had lost your intellect, I am a voluntary contributor, and could have got you chains and a keeper in Bedlam. If you had broken a limb, I am a life-governor, and it would have been a pleasure to me to send you to the hospital. But you may as well ask me to put life into a dead man, as to be of service to a creature who has lost his security. You had better die at once. It would be a happy release. I speak as a friend."
"Thank you, sir," said I.
"I hear complaints against you, but I don't listen to them. Every thing is swallowed up in one remarkable fact. Your security has let you down. You must go about your business. I speak as the president of this Christian society, and not, I hope, without the feelings of a man. The treasurer will pay your salary immediately, and we dispense with your services."
"What am I to do?" I asked, half aloud.
"Just the best you can," answered the gentleman. "The audience is at an end."
Mr Bombasty said no more, but drew from his coat pocket a snuff-box of enormous dimensions. From it he grasped between his thumb and finger a moderate handful of stable-smelling dust. His nose and India handkerchief partook of it in equal shares, and then he rang his bell with presidential dignity, and ordered up his customary lunch of chops and porter. A few hours afterwards I was again upon the world, ready to begin the fight of life anew, and armed with fifteen guineas for the coming struggle. Mr Clayton had kept his word with me, and did not desert me until I was once more fairly on the road to ruin.
One of the first consequences of my unlooked-for meeting with the faithful Thompson, was the repayment of the five shillings which he had so generously spared me when I was about to leave him for Birmingham, without as many pence in my scrip. During my absence, however, fortune had placed my honest friend in a new relation to a sum of this value. Five shillings were not to him, as before, sixty pence. The proprietor of the house in which he lived, and which he had found it so difficult to let out to his satisfaction, had died suddenly, and had thought proper to bequeath to his tenant the bulk of his property, amounting, perhaps, to five thousand pounds. Thompson, who was an upholsterer by trade, left the workshop in which he was employed as journeyman immediately, and began to work upon his own account. He was a prosperous and a thriving man when I rejoined him. His manner was, as the reader has seen, kind and straightforward as ever, and the only change that his wealth had wrought in him, was that which gold may be supposed to work a heart alive to its duties, simple and honest in its intentions, and lacking only the means to make known its strong desire of usefulness. His generosity had kept pace with his success, his good wishes outstripped both. His home was finer, yet scarcely more sightly and happier than the one large room, which, with its complement of ten children, sire and dame, had still a nook for the needy and friendless stranger. The old house had been made over for a twelvemonth to the various tenants, free of all charge. At the end of that period it was the intention of Thompson to pull it down, and build a better in its place. A young widow, with her three orphans, lodged on the attic floor, and the grateful prayers of the four went far to establish the buoyancy of the landlord's spirit, and to maintain the smile that seldom departed from his manly cheek. Well might the poor creature, whom I once visited in her happy lodging, talk of the sin of destroying so comfortable a residence, and feel assured, that "let them build a palace, they would never equal the present house, or make a sleeping-room where a body might rest so peacefully and well." Thompson's mode of life had scarcely varied. He was not idle amongst his men. When labour was suspended, he was with his children; another had been added to the number, and there were now eleven to relieve him of the superabundant profits created in the manufactory. Mrs Thompson was still a noble housewife, worthy of her husband. All was care, cleanliness, and economy at home. Griping stint would never have been tolerated by the hospitable master, and virtuous plenty only was admitted by the prudent wife. Had there been a oneness in the religious views of this good couple, Paradise would have been a word fit to write beneath the board that made known to men John Thompson's occupation; but this, alas! was wanting to complete a scene that otherwise looked rather like perfection. The great enemy of man seeks in many ways to defeat the benevolent aims of Providence. Thompson had remained at home one Sunday afternoon to smoke a friendly pipe with an old acquaintance, when he should have gone to church. His wife set out alone. Satan took advantage of her husband's absence, drew her to chapel, and made her—a dissenter. This was Thompson's statement of the case, and severer punishment, he insisted, had never been inflicted on a man for Sabbath-breaking.
When I was dismissed by Mr Bombasty, it was a natural step to walk towards the abode of the upholsterer. I knew his hour for supper, and his long hour after that for ale, and pipe, and recreation. I was not in doubt as to my welcome. Mrs Thompson had given me a general invitation to supper, "because," she said, "it did Thompson good to chat after a hard day's work;" and the respected Thompson himself had especially invited me to the long hour afterwards, "because," he added, "it did the ale and 'baccy good, who liked it so much better to go out of this here wicked world in company." About seven o'clock in the evening I found myself under their hospitable roof, seated in the room devoted to the general purposes of the house. It was large, and comfortably furnished. The walls were of wainscot, painted white, and were graced with two paintings. One, a family group, consisting of Thompson, wife, and eight children, most wretchedly executed, was the production of a slowly rising artist, a former lodger of my friend's, who had contrived to compound with his easy landlord for two years and three quarters' rent, with this striking display of his ability. Thompson was prouder of this picture than of the originals themselves, if that were possible. The design had been his own, and had cost him, as he was ready and even anxious to acknowledge, more time and trouble than he had ever given before, or meant to give again, to any luxury in life. The artist, as I was informed, had endeavoured to reduce to form some fifty different schemes that had arisen in poor Thompson's brain, but had failed in every one, so difficult he found it to introduce the thousand and one effects that the landlord deemed essential to the subject. His first idea had been to bring upon the canvass every feature of his life from boyhood upwards. This being impracticable, he wished to bargain for at least the workshop and the private residence. The lodgers, he thought, might come into the background well, and the tools, peeping from a basket in the corner, would look so much like life and nature. The upshot of his plans was the existing work of art, which Thompson considered matchless, and pronounced "dirt cheap, if he had even given the fellow a seven years' lease of the entire premises." The situations were striking certainly. In the centre of the picture were two high chairs, on which were seated, as grave as judges, the heads of the establishment. They sat there, drawn to their full height, too dignified to look at one another, and yet displaying a fond attachment, by a joining of the hands. The youngest child had clambered to the father's knee, and, with a chisel, was digging at his nose, wonderful to say, without disturbing the stoic equanimity that had settled on the father's face. This was the favourite son. Another, with a plane larger than himself, was menacing the mother's knee. The remaining six had each a tool, and served in various ways to effect most artfully the beloved purpose of the vain upholsterer's heart—viz. the introduction of the entire workshop. The second painting in the centre of the opposite wall, represented Mr Clayton. The likeness was a failure, and the colours were coarse and glaring; but there needed no instruction to know that the carefully framed production attempted to portray the unenviable man, who, in spite of his immorality and shameless life, was still revered and idolized by the blind disciples who had taken him for their guide. This portrait was Mrs Thompson's peculiar property. There were no other articles of virtu in the spacious apartment; but cleanliness and decorum bestowed upon it a grace, the absence of which no idle decoration could supply. Early as the hour was, a saucepan was on the fire, whose bubbling water was busy with the supper that at half-past eight must meet the assault of many knives and forks. John Thompson and two sons—the eldest—were working in the shop. They had been there with little intermission since six that morning. The honest man was fond of work; so was he of his children—yes, dearly fond of them, and they must share with him the evening meal; and he must have them all about him; and he must help them all, and see them eat, and look with manly joy and pride upon the noisy youngsters, for whom his lusty arm had earned the bread that came like manna to him—so wholesome and so sweet! Three girls, humbly but neatly dressed, the three first steps of this great human ladder, were seated at a table administering to the necessities of sundry shirts and stockings that had suffered sensibly in their last week's struggle through the world. They were indeed a picture worth the looking at. You grew a better man in gazing on their innocence and industry. What a lesson stole from their quiet and contented looks, their patient perseverance, their sweet unity! How shining smooth the faces, how healthy, and how round, and how impossible it seemed for wrinkles ever to disturb the fine and glossy surface! Modesty never should forsake the humble; the bosom of the lowly born should be her home. Here she had enshrined herself, and given to simplicity all her dignity and truth. They worked and worked on; who should tell which was the most assiduous—which the fairest—which the most eager and successful to increase the happiness of all! And turn to Billy there, that half-tamed urchin! that likeness in little of his sire, rocking not so much against his will, as against conviction, the last of all the Thompsons—a six months' infant in the wicker cradle. How, obedient to his mother's wish, like a little man at first, he rocks with all his might, and then irregularly, and at long intervals—by fits and starts—and ceases altogether very soon, bobbing his curly head, and falling gently into a deep mesmeric sleep. The older lads are making wooden boats, and two, still older, stand on either side their mother. A book is in the hands of each, full of instruction and fine learning. It was the source of all their knowledge, the cause of all their earliest woes. Good Mrs Thompson had been neglected as a child, and was enthusiastic in the cause of early education. Sometimes they looked into the book, but oftener still they cast attentive eyes upon the fire, as if "the book of knowledge fair" was there displayed, and not a noisy saucepan, almost unable to contain itself for joy of the cod's head and shoulders, that must be ready by John Thompson's supper time. The whole family were my friends—with the boys I was on terms of warmest intimacy, and smiles and nods, and shouts and cheers, welcomed me amongst them.
"Now, close your book, Bob," said the mother, soon after I was seated, "and, Alec, give me yours. Put your hands down, turn from the fire, and look up at me, dears. What is the capital of Russia?"
"The Birman empire," said Alec, with unhesitating confidence.
"The Baltic sea," cried Bob, emulous and ardent.
"Wait—not so fast; let me see, my dears, which of you is right."
Mrs Thompson appealed immediately to her book, after a long and private communication with which, she emphatically pronounced both wrong.
"Give us a chance, mother," said Bob in a wheedling tone, (Bob knew his mother's weaknesses.) "Them's such hard words. I don't know how it is, but I never can remember 'em. Just tell us the first syllable—oh, do now—please."
"Oh, I know now!" cried Alec. "It's something with a G in it."
"Think of the apostles, dears. What are the names of the apostles?"
"Why, there's Moses," began Bob, counting on his fingers, "and there's Sammywell, and there's Aaron, and Noah's ark"——
"Stop, my dear," said Mrs Thompson, who was very busy with her manual, and contriving a method of rendering a solution of her question easy. "Just begin again. I said—who was Peter—no, not that—who was an apostle?"
"Oh, I know now!" cried Alec again, (Alec was the sharp boy of the family.) "It's Peter. Peter's the capital of Russia."
"No, not quite my dear. You are very warm—very warm indeed, but not quite hot. Try again."
"Paul," half murmured Robert, with a reckless hope of proving right.
"No, Peter's right; but there's something else. What has your father been taking down the beds for?"
There was a solemn silence, and the three industrious sisters blushed the faintest blush that could be raised upon a maiden's cheek.
"To rub that stuff upon the walls," said the ready Alec.
"Yes, but what was it to kill?" continued the instructress.
"The fleas," said Bob.
"Worse than that, my dear."
"Oh, I know now," shrieked Alec, for the third time. "Petersbug's the capital of Russia."
Mrs Thompson looked at me with pardonable vanity and triumph, and I bestowed upon the successful students a few comfits which I had purchased on my road for my numerous and comfit-loving friends. The mere sight of this sweet "reward of merit" immediately inspired the two boys at work upon the boats with a desire for knowledge, and especially for learning the capitals of countries, that was most agreeable to contemplate. The lesson was continued, more to my amusement, I fear, than the edification of the pupils. The boys were unable to answer a single question until they had had so many chances, and had become so very hot, that not to have answered at length would have bordered on the miraculous. The persevering governess was not displeased at this, for she would not have lost the opportunity of displaying her own skill in metaphorical illustration, for a great deal, I am very sure. The clock struck eight; there was a general movement. The three sisters folded their work, and lodged it carefully in separate drawers. The eldest then produced the table-cloth, knives, forks, and spoons. The second exhibited bibs and pinafores; and the third brought from their hiding-places a dozen modest chairs, and placed them round the table. Bob assured the company "he was so hungry;" Alec said, "so was he;" and the boatmen, in an under tone, settled what should be done with the great cod's eyes, which, they contended, were the best parts of the fish, and "shouldn't they be glad if father would give 'em one a-piece." The good woman must enquire, of course, how nearly the much-relished dainty had reached the critical and interesting state when it became most palatable to John Thompson; for John Thompson was an epicure, "and must have his little bits of things done to a charm, or not at all." Half-past eight had struck. The family were bibbed and pinafored; the easy coat and slippers were at the fire, and warmed through and through—it was a season of intenseness. "Here's father!" shouted Alec, and all the bibs and pinafores rushed like a torrent to the door. Which shall the father catch into his ready arms, which kiss, which hug, which answer?—all are upon him; they know their playmate, their companion, and best friend; they have hoarded up, since the preceding night, a hundred things to say, and now they have got their loving and attentive listener. "Look what I have done, father," says the chief boatman, "Tom and I together." "Well done, boys!" says the father—and Tom and he are kissed. "I have been locking baby," lisps little Billy, who, in return, gets rocked himself. "Father, what's the capital of Russia?" shrieks Alec, tugging at his coat. "What do you mean, you dog?" is the reply, accompanied by a hearty shake of his long flaxen hair. "Petersburg," cry Tom and Alec both, following him to the hearth, each one endeavouring to relieve him of his boots as soon as he is seated there. The family circle is completed. The flaky fish is ready, and presented for inspection. The father has served them all, even to little Billy—their plates are full and smoking. "Mother" is called upon to ask a blessing. She rises, and assumes the looks of Jabez Buster—twenty blessings might be asked and granted in half the time she takes—so think and look Bob, Alec, and the boatmen; but at length she pauses—the word is given, and further ceremony is dispensed with. In childhood, supper is a thing to look forward to, and to last when it arrives; but not in childhood, any more than in old age, can sublunary joys endure for ever. The meal is finished. A short half-hour flies, like lightning, by. The children gather round their father; and in the name of all, upon his knees, he thanks his God for all the mercies of the day. Thompson is no orator. His heart is warm; his words are few and simple. The three attendant graces take charge of their brethren, detach them from their father's side, and conduct them to their beds. Happy father! happy children! May Providence be merciful, and keep the grim enemy away from your fireside! Let him not come now in the blooming beauty and the freshness of your loves! Let him not darken and embitter for ever the life that is still bright, beautiful, and glorious in the power of elevating and sustaining thought that leads beyond it. Let him wait the matured and not unexpected hour, when the shock comes, not to crush, to overwhelm, and to annihilate, but to warn, to teach, and to encourage; not to alarm and stagger the untaught spirit, but to bring to the subdued and long-tried soul its last lesson on the vanity and evanescence of its early dreams!
It is half-past nine o'clock. Thompson, his wife, and two eldest boys are present, and, for the first time, I have an opportunity to make known the object of my visit.
"And so they have turned you off," said Thompson, when I had finished. "And who's surprised at that? Not I, for one. Missus," continued he, turning to his wife, "why haven't you got a curtain yet for that ere pictur? I can't abear the sight of it."
Mrs Thompson looked plaintively towards the painting, and heaved a sigh.
"Ah, dear good man! He has got his enemies," said she.
"Mrs Thompson!" exclaimed her husband, "I have done with that good man from this day for'ards; and I do hope, old 'ooman, that you'll go next Sunday to church with me, as we used to do afore you got that pictur painted."
"It's no good talking, Thompson," answered the lady, positively and firmly. "I can't sit under a cold man, and there's an end of it."
"There, that's the way you talk, missus."
"Why, you know, Thompson, every thing in the church is cold."
"No, not now, my dear—they've put up a large stove. You'll recollect you haven't been lately."
"Besides, do you think I can sit in a place of worship, and hear a man say, 'Let us pray,' in the middle of the service, making a fool of one, as if we hadn't been praying all the time? As that dear and persecuted saint says, (turning to the picture,) it's a common assault to our understandings."
"Now, Polly, that's just always how you go off. If you'd only listen to reason, that could all be made out right in no time. The clergyman doesn't mean to say, let us pray, because he hasn't been praying afore;—what he means is—we have been praying all this time, and so we'll go on praying again—no, not again exactly—but don't leave off. That isn't what I mean either. Let me see, let us pray. Oh, yes! Why—stay. Where is it he does say, let us pray? There, I say, Stukely, you know it all much better than I do. Just make it right to the missus."
"It is not difficult," said I.
"Oh no, Mr Stukely, I daresay not!" added Mrs Thompson, interrupting me. "Mr Clayton says, Satan has got his janysarries abroad, and has a reason for every thing. It is very proper to say, too, I suppose, that it is an imposition when the bishops ordain the ministers? What a word to make use of. It's truly frightful!"
"Well, I'm blessed," exclaimed Thompson, "if I don't think you had better hold your tongue, old girl, about impositions; for sich oudacious robbers as your precious brothers is, I never come across, since I was stopped that ere night, as we were courting, on Shooter's Hill. It's a system of imposition from beginning to end."
"Look to your Bible, Thompson; what does that say? Does that tell ministers to read their sermons? There can't be no truth and right feeling when a man puts down what he's going to say; the vital warmth is wanting, I'm sure. And then to read the same prayers Sunday after Sunday, till a body gets quite tired at hearing them over and over again, and finding nothing new! How can you improve an occasion if you are tied down in this sort of way."
"Did you ever see one of the brothers eat, Stukely?" asked Thompson, avoiding the main subject. "Don't you ask one of them to dinner—that's all. That nice boy Buster ought to eat for a wager. I had the pleasure of his company to dinner one fine afternoon. I don't mean to send him another invitation just yet, at all events."
"Yes," proceeded the fair, but stanch nonconformist; "what does the Bible say, indeed! 'Take no thought of what you should say.' Why, in the church, I am told they are doing nothing else from Monday morning to Saturday night but writing the sermon they are going to read on the Sabbath. To read a sermon! What would the apostles say to that?"
"Why, didn't you tell me, my dear, that the gentleman as set for that pictur got all his sermons by heart before he preached 'em?"
"Of course I did—but that's a very different thing. Doesn't it all pour from him as natural as if it had come to him that minute? He doesn't fumble over a book like a schoolboy. His beautiful eyes, I warrant you, ain't looking down all the time, as if he was ashamed to hold 'em up. Isn't it a privilege to see his blessed eyes rolling all sorts of ways; and don't they speak wolumes to the poor benighted sinner? Besides, don't tell me, Thompson; we had better turn Catholics at once, if we are to have the minister dressing up like the Pope of Rome, and all the rest of it."
"You are the gal of my heart," exclaimed the uxorious Thompson; "but I must say you have got some of the disgracefulest notions out of that ere chapel as ever I heard on. Why, it's only common decency to wear a dress in the pulpit; and I believe in my mind, that that's come down to us from time immemorable, like every thing else in human natur. What's your opinion, Stukely?"
"Yes; and what's your opinion, Mr Stukely," added the lady immediately, "about calling a minister of the gospel—a priest? Is that Paperistical or not?"
"That isn't the pint, Polly," proceeded John. "We are talking about the silk dress now. Let's have that out first."
"And then the absolution"——
"No, Poll. Stick to the silk dress."
"Ah, Thompson, it's always the way!" continued the mistress of the house, growing red and wroth, and heedless of the presence of the eager-listening children; "it's always the way. Satan is ruining of you. You'll laugh at the elect, and you'll not find your mistake out till it's too late to alter. Mr Clayton says, that the Establishment is the hothouse of devils; and the more I see of its ways, the more I feel he is right. Thompson, you are in the sink of iniquity."
"Come, I can't stand no more of this!" exclaimed Thompson, growing uneasy in his chair, but without a spark of ill-humour. "Let's change the topic, old 'ooman; I'm sure it can't do the young un's any good to hear this idle talk. Let's teach 'em nothing at all, if we can't larn 'em something better than wrangling about religion. Now, Jack," he continued, turning to his eldest boy, "what is the matter with you? What are you sitting there for with your mouth wide open?"
"What's the meaning of Paperist, father?" asked the boy, who had been long waiting to propose the question.
"What's that to you, you rascal?" was the reply; "mind your own business, my good fellow, and leave the Paperist to mind his'n; that's your father's maxim, who got it from his father before him. You'll learn to find fault with other people fast enough without my teaching you. I tell you what, Jack, if you look well after yourself, you'll find little time left to bother about others. If your hands are ever idle—recollect you have ten brothers and sisters about you. Look about you—you are the oldest boy—and see what you can do for them. Do you mind that?"
"Very well, old chap. Then just get out the bottle, and give your father something to coax the cod down. Poll, that fish won't settle."
The long hour was beginning. That bottle was the signal. A gin and water nightcap, on this occasion, officiated for the ale. Jack and his brother received a special invitation to a sip or two, which they at once unhesitatingly accepted. The sturdy fellows shook their father and fellow-labourer's hand, and were not loth to go to rest. Their mother was their attendant. The ruffle had departed from her face. It was as pleasant as before. She was but half a dissenter. So Thompson thought when he called her back again, and bade his "old 'ooman give her hobby one of her good old-fashioned busses, and think no more about it."
Thompson and I were left together.
"And what do you mean to do, sir, now?" was his first question.
"I hardly know." I answered.
"Of course, you'll cut the gang entirely—that's a nat'ral consequence."
"No, Thompson, not at present. I must not seem so fickle and inconstant. I must not seem so to myself. I joined this sect not altogether without deliberation. I must have further proof of the unsoundness of its principles. A few of its professors have been faithless even to their own position. Of what religious profession may not the same be said? I will be patient, and examine further."
"I was a-thinking," said Thompson, musingly, "I was a-thinking, 'till you've got something else to do——but no, never mind, you won't like that."
"What is it?"
"Why, I was thinking about the young un's. They're shocking back'ard in their eddication, and, between you and me, the missus makes them back'arder. I don't understand the way she has got of larning 'em at all. I don't want to make scholards of 'em. Nobody would but a fool. Bless 'em, they'll have enough to do to get their bread with sweating and toiling, without addling their brains about things they can't understand. But it is a cruelty, mind you, for a parent to hinder his child from reading his Bible on a Sunday afternoon, and to make him stand ashamed of himself before his fellow workman when he grows up, and finds that he can't put paid to a bill on a Saturday night. The boys should all know how to read and write, and keep accounts, and a little summut of human nature. This is what I wants to give 'em, and nobody should I like better to put it into 'em than you, my old friend, if you'd just take the trouble 'till you've got something better to do."
"Thompson," I answered instantly, "I will do it with pleasure. I ought to have made the offer. It did not occur to me. I shall rejoice to repay you, in this trifling way, for all your good feeling and kindness."
"Oh no!" answered my friend, "none of that. We must have an understanding. Don't you think I should have asked the question, if I meant to sneak out in that dirty sort of way. No, that won't do. It's very kind of you, but we must make all that right. We sha'n't quarrel, I dare say. If you mean you'll do it, I have only just a word or two to say before you begin."
"I shall be proud to serve you, Thompson, and on any terms you please."
"Well, it is a serving me—I don't deny it—but, mind you, only till you have dropped into something worth your while. What I wish to say is as this: As soon as ever my missus hears of what you are going to do, I know as well what she'll be at as I know what I am talking of now. She'll just be breaking my heart to have the boys larned French. Now, I'd just as soon bind 'em apprentice to that ere Clayton. I've seen too much of that ere sort of thing in my time. I'm as positive as I sit here, that when a chap begins to talk French he loses all his English spirit, and feels all over him as like a mounseer as possible. I'm sure he does. I've seen it a hundred times, and that I couldn't a-bear. Besides, I've been told that French is the language the thieves talk, and I solemnly believe it. That's one thing. Now, here's another. You'll excuse me, my dear fellow. In course you know more than I do, but I must say that you have got sometimes a very roundabout way of coming to the pint. I mean no offence, and I don't blame you. It's all along of the company you have kept. You are—it's the only fault you have got—you are oudaciously fond of hard words. Don't let the young uns larn 'em. That's all I have to say, and we'll talk of the pay some other time."
At this turn of the conversation, Thompson insisted upon my lighting a pipe and joining him in the gin and water. We smoked for many minutes in silence. My friend had unbuttoned his waistcoat, and had drawn the table nearer to his warm and hospitable fire. A log of wood was burning slowly and steadily away, and a small, bright—very bright—copper kettle overlooked it from the hob. My host had fixed his feet upon the fender—the unemployed hand was in his corduroys. His eyes were three parts closed, enjoying what from its origin may be called—a pure tobacco-born soliloquy. The smoke arose in thin white curls from the clay cup, and at regular periods stole blandly from the corner of his lips. The silent man was blessed. He had been happy at his work; he had grown happier as the sun went down; his happiness was ripening at the supper table; now, half-asleep and half-awake—half conscious and half dreaming—wholly free from care, and yet not free from pregnant thought—the labourer had reached the summit of felicity, and was at peace—intensely.
A few evenings only had elapsed after this interesting meeting, before I was again spending a delicious hour or two with the simple-hearted and generous upholsterer. There was something very winning in these moments snatched and secured from the hurricane of life, and passed in thorough and undisturbed enjoyment. My friend, notwithstanding that he had engaged my services, and was pleased to express his satisfaction at the mode in which I rendered them, was yet alive to my interests, and too apprehensive of injuring them by keeping me away from loftier employment. He did not like my being thrown out of the chapel, especially after he had heard my determination not to forsake immediately the sect to which I had attached myself. He was indifferent to his own fate. His worldly prospects could not be injured by his expulsion; on the contrary, he slyly assured me that "his neighbours would begin to think better of him, and give him credit for having become an honester and more trustworthy man." But with regard to myself it was a different thing. I should require "a character" at some time or another, and there was a body of men primed and ready to vilify and crush me. He advised me, whilst he acknowledged it was a hard thing to say, and "it went agin him to do it," to apply once more respectfully for my dismission. "It won't do," he pertinently said, "to bite your nose off to be revenged on your tongue." I was certainly in a mess, and must get out of it in the best way that I could. Buster and Tomkins had great power in the Church, and if I represented my case to either or both of them, he did hope they might be brought to consent not to injure me, or stand in the way of my getting bread. "In a quarrel," he said, in conclusion, "some one must give in. I was a young man, and had my way to make, and though he should despise his-self if he recommended me to do any thing mean and dirty in the business, yet, he thought, as the father of a numerous family, he ought to advise me to be civil, and to do the best for myself in this unfortunate dilemmy."
I accepted his advice, and determined to wait upon the dapper deacon. I was physically afraid to encounter Buster, not so much on account of what I had seen of his spiritual pretension, as of what I had heard of his domestic behaviour. It was not a very difficult task to obtain from Mrs Thompson the secret history of many of her highly privileged acquaintances and brethren. She enjoyed, in a powerful degree, the peculiar virtue of her amiable sex, and to communicate secrets, delivered to her in strictest confidence, and imparted by her again with equal caution and provisory care, was the choicest recreation of her well employed and useful life. It was through this lady that I was favoured with a glance into the natural heart of Mr Buster; or into what he would himself have called, with a most unfilial disgust, "HIS OLD MAN." It appeared that, like most great actors, he was a very different personage before and behind the curtain. Kings, who are miserable and gloomy through the five acts of a dismal tragedy, and who must needs die at the end of it, are your merriest knaves over a tankard at the Shakspeare's Head. Your stage fool shall be the dullest dog that ever spoiled mirth with sour and discontented looks. Jabez Buster, his employment being over at Mr Clayton's theatre, his dress thrown aside, his mask put by, was not to be recognised by his nearest friend. This is the perfection of art. A greater tyrant on a small scale, with limited means, never existed than the saintly Buster when his character was done, and he found himself again in the bosom of his family. Unhappy bosom was it, and a sad flustration did his presence, nine times out of ten, produce there. He had four sons, and a delicate creature for a wife, born to be crushed. The sons were remarkable chiefly for their hypocrisy, which promised, in the fulness of time, to throw their highly-gifted parent's far into the shade; and, secondarily, for their persecution of their helpless and indulgent mother. They witnessed and approved so much the success of Jabez in this particular, that during his absence they cultivated the affectionate habit until it became a kind of second nature, infinitely more racy and agreeable than the primary. In proportion to their deliberate oppression of their mother was their natural dread and terror of their father. Mrs Thompson pronounced it "the shockingest thing in this world to be present when the young blue-beards were worryting their mother's soul out with saying, 'I sha'n't' and 'I won't' to every thing, and swearing 'they'd tell their father this,' 'and put him up to that, and then wouldn't he make a jolly row about it,' with hollering out for nothing at all, only to frighten the poor timid cretur, and then making a holabaloo with the chairs, or perhaps falling down, roaring and kicking, just to drive the poor thing clean out of her wits, on purpose to laugh at her for being so taken in. Well, but it was a great treat, too," she added, "to hear, in the midst of all this, Buster's heavy foot in the passage, and to see what a scrimmage there was at once amongst all the young hypocrites. How they all run in different directions—one to the fire—one to the table—one out at the back-door—one any where he could—all of 'em as silent as mice, and afeard of the very eye of the blacksmith, who knew, good man, how to keep every man Jack of 'em in order, and, if a word didn't do, wasn't by no means behind hand with blows. Buster," she continued, "had his faults like other men, but he was a saint if ever there was one. To be sure he did like to have his own way at home, and wasn't it natural? And if he was rather overbearing and cruel to his wife, wasn't that, she should like to know, Satan warring with the new man, and sometimes getting the better of it? And if he was, as Thompson had hinted, rayther partial to the creature, and liked good living, what was this to the purpose? it was an infirmity that might happen to the best Christian living. Nobody could say that he wasn't a renewed man, and a chosen vessel, and faithful to his call. A man isn't a backslider because he's carnally weak, and a man isn't a saint because he's moral and well-behaved. 'Good works,' Mr Clayton said, 'was filthy rags,' and so they were. To be sure, between themselves, there were one or two things said about Buster that she couldn't approve of. For instance, she had been told—but this was quite in confidence, and really must not go further—that he was—that—that, in fact, he was overtaken now and then with liquor, and then the house could hardly hold him, he got so furious, and, they did say, used such horrid language. But, after all, what was this? If a man's elected, he is not so much the worse. Besides, if one listened to people, one might never leave off. She had actually heard, she wouldn't say from whom, that Buster very often kept out late at night—sometimes didn't come home at all, and sometimes did at two o'clock in the morning, very hungry and ill-tempered, and then forced his poor wife out of bed, and made the delicate and shivering creature light a fire, cook beefsteaks, go into the yard for beer, and wait upon him till he had even eat every morsel up. She for one would never believe all this, though Mrs Buster herself had told her every word with tears in her eyes, and in the greatest confidence; so she trusted I wouldn't repeat it, as it wouldn't look well in her to be found out telling other people's secrets." Singular, perhaps, to say, the tale did not go further. I kept the lady's secret, and at the same time declined to approach Mr Jabez Buster in the character of a suppliant. If his advocate and panegyrist had nothing more to say for him, it could not be uncharitable to conclude that the pretended saint was as bold a sinner as ever paid infamous courtship to religion, and as such was studiously to be avoided. I turned my attention from him to Tomkins. There was no grossness about him, no brutality, no abominable vice. In the hour of my defeat and desertion, he had extended to me his sympathy, and, more in sorrow than in anger, I am convinced he voted for my expulsion from the church when he found that his vote, and twenty added to it, would not have been sufficient to protect me. He could not act in opposition to the wishes of his friend and patron, Mr Clayton, but very glad would he have been, as every word and look assured me, to meet the wishes of us both, had that been practicable. If the great desire of Jehu Tomkins' heart could have been gratified, he never would have been at enmity with a single soul on earth. He was a soft, good-natured, easy man; most desirous to be let alone, and not uneasily envious or distressed to see his neighbours jogging on, so long as he could do his own good stroke of business, and keep a little way before them. Jehu was a Liberal too—in politics and in religion—in every thing, in fact, but the one small article of money, and here, I must confess, the good dissenter dissented little from the best of us. He was a stanch Conservative in matters connected with the till. For his private life it was exemplary—at least it looked so to the world, and the world is satisfied with what it sees. Jehu was attentive to his business—yes, very—and a business life is not monotonous and dull, if it be relieved, as it was in this case, by dexterous arts, that give an interest and flavour to the commonest pursuits. Sometimes a customer would die—a natural state of things, but a great event for Jehu. First, he would "improve the occasion" to the surviving relatives—condole and pray with them. Afterwards he would improve it to himself, in his own little room, at night, when all the children were asleep, and no one was awake but Mrs Tomkins and himself. Then he would get down his ledger, and turn to the deceased's account—
"For who could tell whether six shirts or twelve were bought in July last, and what could be the harm of making those eight handkerchiefs a dozen? He was a strange old gentleman; lived by himself—and the books might be referred to, and speak boldly for themselves." Yes, cunning Jehu, so they might, with those interpolations and erasures that would confound and overcome a lawyer. When customers did not die, it was pastime to be dallying with the living. In adding up a bill with haste, how many times will four and four make nine? They generally did with Jehu. The best are liable to errors. It cost a smirk or smile; Jehu had hundreds at command, and the accident was amended. How easy is it sometimes to give no bill at all! How very easy to apply, a few months afterwards, for second payment; how much more easy still to pocket it without a word; or, if discovered and convicted, to apologize without a blush for the mistake! No, Jehu Tomkins, let me do you justice—this is not so easy—it requires all your zeal and holy intrepidity to reach this pitch of human frailty and corruption. With regard to the domestic position of my interesting friend, it is painful to add, that the less that is said about it the better. In vain was his name in full, painted in large yellow letters, over the shop front. In vain was Bot. of Jehu Tomkins engraven on satin paper, with flourishes innumerable beneath the royal arms; he was no more the master of his house than was the small boy of the establishment, who did the dirty work of the place for nothing a-week and the broken victuals. If Jehu was deacon abroad, he was taught to acknowledge an archdeacon at home—one to whom he was indebted for his success in life, and for reminding him of that agreeable fact about four times during every day of his existence. I was aware of this delicate circumstance when I ventured to the linen-draper's shop on my almost hopeless mission; but, although I had never spoken to Mrs Tomkins, I had often seen her in the chapel, and I relied much on the feeling and natural tenderness of the female heart. The respectable shop of Mr Tomkins was in Fleet Street. The establishment consisted of Mrs Tomkins, première; Jehu, under-secretary; and four sickly-looking young ladies behind the counter. It is to be said, to the honour of Mrs Tomkins, that she admitted no young woman into her service whose character was not decided, and whose views were not very clear. Accordingly, the four young ladies were members of the chapel. It is pleasing to reflect, that, in this well-ordered house of business, the ladies took their turns to attend the weekly prayer meetings of the church. Would that I might add, that they were not severally met on these occasions by their young men at the corner of Chancery Lane, and invariably escorted by them some two or three miles in a totally opposite direction. Had Mrs Tomkins been born a man, it is difficult to decide what situation she would have adorned the most. She would have made a good man of business—an acute lawyer—a fine casuist—a great divine. Her attainments were immense; her self-confidence unbounded. She was a woman of middle height, and masculine bearing. She was not prepossessing, notwithstanding her white teeth and large mouth, and the intolerable grin that a customer to the amount of a halfpenny and upwards could bring upon her face under any circumstances, and at any hour of the day. Her complexion might have been good originally. Red blotches scattered over her cheek had destroyed its beauty. She wore a modest and becoming cap, and a gold eyeglass round her neck. She was devoted to money-making—heart and soul devoted to it during business hours. What time she was not in the shop, she passed amongst dissenting ministers, spiritual brethren, and deluded sinners. It remains to state the fact, that, whilst a customer never approached the lady without being repelled by the offensive smirk that she assumed, no dependent ever ventured near her without the fear of the scowl that sat naturally (and fearfully, when she pleased) upon her dark and inauspicious brow. What wonder that little Jehu was crushed into nothingness, behind his own counter, under the eye of his own wife!
In our last, we had occasion to speak sharply of that class of our aristocratic youth known by the name of fast fellows, and it may be thought that we characterized their foibles rather pointedly, and tinctured our animadversions with somewhat of undue asperity. This charge, however, can be made with no ground of reason or justice: the fact is, we only lashed the follies for which that class of men are pre-eminent, but left their vices in the shade, in the hope that the raw we have already established, will shame the fast fellows into a sense of the proprieties of conduct due to themselves and their station.
The misfortune is, that these fast fellows forget, in the pursuit of their favourite follies, that the mischief to society begins only with themselves: that man is naturally a servile, imitative animal; and that he follows in the track of a great name, as vulgar muttons run at the heels of a belwether. The poison of fashionable folly runs comparatively innocuous while it circulates in fashionable veins; but when vulgar fellows are innoculated with the virus, it becomes a plague, a moral small-pox, distorting, disfiguring the man's mind, pockpitting his small modicum of brains, and blinding his mind's eye to the supreme contempt his awkward vagaries inspire.
The fast fellows rejoice exceedingly in the spread of their servile imitation of fashionable folly, this gentlemanly profligacy at second-hand; and perhaps this is the worst trait in their character, for it is at once malicious and unwise: malicious, because the contemplation of humanity, degraded by bad example in high station, should rather be a source of secret shame than of devilish gratification: unwise, because their example is a discredit to their order, and a danger. To posses birth, fashion, station, wealth, power, is title enough to envy, and handle sufficient for scandal. How much stronger becomes that title—how much longer that handle—when men, enjoying this pre-eminence, enjoy it, not using, but abusing their good fortune!
We should not have troubled our heads with the fast fellows at all, if it were not absolutely essential to the full consideration of our subject, widely to sever the prominent classes of fashionable life, and to have no excuse for continuing in future to confound them. We have now done with the fast fellows, and shall like them the more the less we hear of them.
The SLOW SCHOOL of fashionable or aristocratic life, comprises those who think that, in the nineteenth century, other means must be taken to preserve their order in its high and responsible position than those which, in dark ages, conferred honour upon the tallest or the bravest. They think, and think wisely, that the only method of keeping above the masses, in this active-minded age, is by soaring higher and further into the boundless realms of intellect; or at the least forgetting, in a fair neck-and-neck race with men of meaner birth, their purer blood, and urging the generous contest for fame, regardless of the allurements of pleasure, or the superior advantages of fortune. In truth, we might ask, what would become of our aristocratic classes ere long, if they came, as a body, to be identified with their gambling lords, their black-leg baronets, their insolvent honourables, and the seedy set of Chevaliers Diddlerowski and Counts Scaramouchi, who caper on the platform outside for their living? The populace would pelt these harlequin horse-jockeys of fashionable life off their stage, if there was nothing better to be seen inside; but it fortunately happens that there is better.
We can boast among our nobles and aristocratic families, a few men of original, commanding, and powerful intellect; many respectable in most departments of intellectual rivalry; many more laborious, hard-working men; and about the same proportion of dull, stupid, fat-headed, crabbed, conceited, ignorant, insolent men, that you may find among the same given number of those commonly called the educated classes. We refer you to the aristocracies of other countries, and we think we may safely say, that we have more men of that class, in this country, who devote themselves to the high duties of their station, regardless of its pleasures, than in any other: men who recognize practically the responsibility of their rank, and do not shirk from them; men who think they have something to do, and something to repay, for the accidents of birth and fortune—who, in the senate, in the field, or in the less prominent, but not less noble, career of private life, act, as they feel, with the poet:
It has been admirably remarked, by some one whose name we forget, that the grand advantage of high birth is, placing a man as far forward at twenty-five as another man is at fifty. We might, as a corollary to this undeniable proposition, add, that birth not only places, but keeps a man in that advance of his fellows, which in the sum of life makes such vast ultimate difference in the prominence of their position.
This advantage enjoyed by the aristocracy of birth, of early enrolling themselves among the aristocracy of power, has, like every thing in the natural and moral world, its compensating disadvantage: they lose in one way what they gain in another; and although many of them become eminent in public life, few, very few, comparatively with the numbers who enter the arena, become great. They are respected, heard, and admired, by virtue of a class-prepossession in their favour; yet, after all, they must select from the ranks of the aristocracy of talent their firmest and best supporters, to whom they may delegate the heavy responsibilities of business, and lift from their own shoulders the burden of responsible power.
One striking example of the force of birth, station, and association in public life, never fails to occur to us, as an extraordinary example of the magnifying power of these extrinsic qualities, in giving to the aristocracy of birth a consideration, which, though often well bestowed, is yet oftener bestowed without any desert whatever; and that title to admiration and respect, which has died with ancestry, patriotism, and suffering in the cause of freedom, is transferred from the illustrious dead to the undistinguished living.
Without giving a catalogue raisonné of the slow fellows, (we use the term not disrespectfully, but only in contradistinction to the others,) we may observe that, besides the public service in which the great names are sufficiently known, you have poets, essayists, dramatists, astronomers, geologists, travellers, novelists, and, what is better than all, philanthropists. In compliment to human nature, we take the liberty merely to mention the names of Lord Dudley Stuart and Lord Ashley. The works of the slow fellows, especially their poetry, indicate in a greater or less degree the social position of the authors; seldom or never deficient in good taste, and not without feeling, they lack power and daring. The smooth style has their preference, and their verses smack of the school of Lord Fanny; indeed, we know not that, in poetry or prose, we can point out one of our slow fellows of the present day rising above judicious mediocrity. It is a curious fact, that the most daring and original of our noble authors have, in their day, been fast fellows; it is only necessary to name Rochester, Buckingham, and Byron.
Among the slow fellows, are multitudes of pretenders to intellect in a small way. These patronize a drawing-master, not to learn to draw, but to learn to talk of drawing; they also study the Penny Magazine and other profound works, to the same purpose; they patronize the London University, and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, as far as lending their names; for, being mostly of the class of fashionable screws, they take care never to subscribe to any thing. They have a refined taste in shawls, and are consequently in the confidence of dressy old women, who hold them up as examples of every thing that is good. They take chocolate of a morning, and tea in the evening; drink sherry with a biscuit, and wonder how people can eat those hot lunches. They take constitutional walks and Cockle's pills; and, by virtue of meeting them at the Royal Society, are always consulting medical men, but take care never to offer them a guinea. They talk of music, of which they know something—of books, of which they know little—and of pictures, of which they know less; they have always read "the last novel," which is as much as they can well carry; they know literary, professional, and scientific men at Somerset House, but, if they meet them in Park Lane, look as if they never saw them before; they are very peevish, have something to say against every man, and always say the worst first; they are very quiet in their manner, almost sly, and never use any of the colloquialisms of the fast fellows; they treat their inferiors with great consideration, addressing them, "honest friend," "my good man," and so on, but have very little heart, and less spirit.
They equally abhor the fast fellows and the pretenders to fashion. They are afraid of the former, who are always ridiculing them and their pursuits, by jokes theoretical and practical. If the fast fellows ascertain that a slow fellow affects sketching, they club together to annoy him, talking of the "autumnal tints," and "the gilding of the western hemisphere;" if a botanist, they send him a cow-cabbage, or a root of mangel-wurzel, with a serious note, stating, that they hear it is a great curiosity in his line; if an entomologist, they are sure to send him away "with a flea in his ear." If he affects poetry, the fast fellows make one of their servants transcribe, from Bell's Life, Scroggins's poetical version of the fight between Bendigo and Bungaree, or some such stuff; and, having got the slow fellow in a corner, insist upon having his opinion, and drive him nearly mad. All these, and a thousand other pranks, the fast fellows play upon their slow brethren, not in the hackneyed fashion which low people call "gagging," and genteel people "quizzing," but with a seriousness and gravity that heightens all the joke, and makes the slow fellow inexpressibly ridiculous.
It is astonishing, considering the opportunities of the slow fellows, that they do not make a better figure; it seems wonderful, that they who glide swiftly down the current of fortune with wind and tide, should be distanced by those who, close-hauled upon a wind, are beating up against it all their lives; but so it is;—the compensating power that rules material nature, governs the operations of the mind. To whom much is given of opportunity, little is bestowed of the exertion to improve it. Those who rely more or less on claims extrinsic, are sure to be surpassed by those whose power is from within. After all, the great names of our nation (with here and there an exception to prove the rule) are plebeian.
In their political capacity, people of fashion, among whom, for the present purpose, we include the whole of the aristocracy, are the common butt of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.
They are accused of standing between the mass of the people and their inalienable rights; of opposing, with obstinate resistance, the progress of rational liberty, and of——but, in short, you have only to glance over the pages of any democratic newspaper, to be made aware of the horrible political iniquity of the aristocracy of England.
The aristocracy in England, considered politically, is a subject too broad, too wide, and too deep for us, we most readily confess; nor is it exactly proper for a work of a sketchy nature, in which we only skim lightly along the surface of society, picking up any little curiosity as we go along, but without dipping deep into motives or habits of thought or action, especially in state affairs.
Since our late lamented friends, the Whigs, have gone to enjoy a virtuous retirement and dignified ease, we have taken no delight in politics. There is no fun going on now-a-days—no quackery, no mountebankery, no asses, colonial or otherwise. The dull jog-trot fellows who have got into Downing Street have made politics no joke; and now that silence, as of the tomb, reigns amongst quondam leaders of the Treasury Benech—now that the camp-followers have followed the leader, and the auxiliaries are dispersed, we really have nobody to laugh at; and, like our departed friends, have too little of the statesman to be serious about serious matters.
With regard to the aristocracy in their public capacity, this is the way we always look at them.
In the first place, they govern us through the tolerance of public opinion, as men having station, power, property, much to lose, and little comparatively to gain—men who have put in bail to a large amount for their good behaviour: and, in the second place, they govern us, because really and truly there are so many outrageously discordant political quacks, desirous of taking our case in hand, that we find it our interest to entrust our public health to an accomplished physician, even although he charges a guinea a visit, and refuses to insure a perfect cure with a box of pills costing thirteenpence-halfpenny. There can be no doubt whatever, that the most careful men are the men who have most to care for: he that has a great deal to lose, will think twice, where he that has nothing to lose, will not think at all: and the government of this vast and powerful empire, we imagine, with great deference, must require a good deal of thinking. In a free press, we have a never-dying exponent of public opinion, a perpetual advocate of rational liberty, and a powerful engine for the exposure, which is ultimately the redress, of wrong: and although this influential member of our government receives no public money, nor is called right honourable, nor speaks in the House, yet in fact and in truth it has a seat in the Cabinet, and, upon momentous occasions, a voice of thunder.
That the aristocracy of power should be in advance of public opinion, is not in the nature of things, and should no more be imputed as a crime to them, than to us not to run when we are not in a hurry: they cannot, as a body, move upwards, because they stand so near the top, that dangerous ambition is extinguished; and it is hardly to be expected that, as a body, they should move downwards, unless they find themselves supported in their position upon the right of others, in which case we have always seen that, although they descend gradually, they descend at last.
This immobility of our aristocracy is the origin of the fixity of our political institutions, which has been, is, and will continue to be, the great element of our pre-eminence as a nation: it possesses a force corrective and directive, and at once restrains the excess, while it affords a point of resistance, to the current of the popular will. And this immobility, it should never be forgotten, is owing to that very elevation so hated and so envied: wanting which the aristocracy would be subject to the vulgar ambitions, vulgar passions, and sordid desires of meaner aspirants after personal advantage and distinction. It is a providential blessing, we firmly believe, to a great nation to possess a class, by fortune and station, placed above the unseemly contentions of adventurers in public life: looked up to as men responsible without hire for the public weal, and, without sordid ambitions of their own, solicitous to preserve it: looked up to, moreover, as examples of that refinement of feeling, jealous sense of honour, and manly independence, serving as detersives of the grosser humours of commercial life, and which, filtering through the successive strata of society, clarify and purify in their course, leaving the very dregs the cleaner for their passage.
A body thus by habit and constitution opposed to innovation, and determined against the recklessness of inconsiderate reforms, has furnished a stock argument to those who delight in "going a-head" faster than their feet, which are the grounds of their arguments, can carry them. We hear the aristocracy called stumbling-blocks in the way of legislative improvements, and, with greater propriety of metaphor, likened to drags upon the wheel of progressive reform; and so on, through all the regions of illustration, until we are in at the death of the metaphor. How happens to be overlooked the advantage of this anti-progressive barrier, to the concentration and deepening of the flood of opinion on any given subject? how is it that men are apt altogether to forget that this very barrier it is which prevents the too eager crowd from trampling one another to death in their haste? which gives time for the ebullitions of unreasoning zeal, and reckless enthusiasm, and the dregs of agitation, quietly to subside; and, for all that, bears the impress of reason and sound sense to circulate with accumulated pressure through the public mind? Were it not for the barrier which the aristocracy of power thus interposes for a time, only to withdraw when the time for interposition is past, we should live in a vortex of revolution and counter-revolution. Our whole time, and our undivided energies, would be employed in acting hastily, and repenting at leisure; in repining either because our biennial revolutions went too far, or did not go far enough; in expending our national strength in the unprofitable struggles of faction with faction, adventurer with adventurer: with every change we should become more changeful, and with every settlement more unsettled: one by one our distant colonies would follow the bright example of our people at home, and our commerce and trade would fall with our colonial empire. In fine, we should become in the eyes of the world what France now is—a people ready to sacrifice every solid advantage, every gradual, and therefore permanent, improvement, every ripening fruit that time and care, and the sunshine of peace only can mature, to a genius for revolution.
This turbulent torrent of headlong reform, to-day flooding its banks, to-morrow dribbling in a half-dry channel, the aristocracy of power collects, concentrates, and converts into a power, even while it circumscribes it, and represses. So have we seen a mountain stream useless in summer, dangerous in winter, now a torrent now a puddle, wasting its unprofitable waters in needless brawling; let a barrier be opposed to its downward course, let it be dammed up, let a point of resistance be afforded where its waters may be gathered together, and regulated, you find it turned to valuable account, acting with men's hands, becoming a productive labourer, and contributing its time and its industry to advance the general sum of rational improvement.
From the material to the moral world you may always reason by analogy. If you study the theory of revolutions, you will not fail to observe that, wherever, in constructing your barrier, you employ ignorant engineers, who have not duly calculated the depth and velocity of the current; whenever you raise your dam to such a height that no flood will carry away the waste waters; whenever you talk of finality to the torrent, saying, thus long shalt thou flow, and no longer; whenever you put upon your power a larger wheel than it can turn—you are slowly but surely preparing for that flood which will overwhelm your work, destroy your mills, your dams, and your engines; in a word, you are the remote cause of a revolution.
This is the danger into which aristocracies of power are prone to fall: the error of democracies is, to delight in the absolutism of liberty; but thus it is with liberty itself, that true dignity of man, that parent of all blessings: absolute and uncontrolled, a tyranny beyond the power to endure itself, the worst of bad masters, a fool who is his own client; restrained and tempered, it becomes a wholesome discipline, a property with its rights and its duties, a sober responsibility, bringing with it, like all other responsibilities, its pleasures and its cares; not a toy to be played with, nor even a jewel to be worn in the bonnet, but a talent to be put out to interest, and enjoyed in the unbroken tranquillity of national thankfulness and peace.
Another defect in the aristocracy of power is, the narrow sphere of their sympathies, extending only to those they know, and are familiar with; that is to say, only as far as the circumference of their own limited circle. This it is that renders them keenly apprehensive of danger close at hand, but comparatively indifferent to that which menaces them from a distance. Placed upon a lofty eminence, they are comparatively indifferent while clouds obscure, and thunder rattles along the vale; their resistance is of a passive kind, directed not to the depression of those beneath them, nor to overcome pressure from above, but to preserve themselves in the enviable eminence of their position, and there to establish themselves in permanent security.
As a remedy for this short-sightedness, the result of their isolated position, the aristocracy of power is always prompt to borrow from the aristocracy of talent that assistance in the practical working of its government which it requires; they are glad to find safe men among the people to whom they can delegate the cares of office, the annoyances of patronage, and the odium of power; and, the better to secure these men, they are always ready to lift them among themselves, to identify them with their exclusive interests, and to give them a permanent establishment among the nobles of the land.
Perhaps we may be expected to say something of the dress of men of fashion, as it is peculiar, and not less characteristic than their manner. Their clothes, like their lives, are usually of a neutral tint; staring colours they studiously eschew, and are never seen with elaborate gradations of under waistcoats. They would as soon appear out of doors in cuerpo, as in blue coats with gilt buttons, or braided military frocks, or any dress smacking of the professional. When they indulge in fancy colours and patterns, you will not fail to remark that these are not worn, although imitated by others. The moment a dressy man of fashion finds that any thing he has patronized gets abroad, he drops the neckcloth or vest, or whatever it may be, and condemns the tailor as an "unsafe" fellow. But it is not often that even the most dressy of our men of fashion originate any thing outré, or likely to attract attention; of late years their style has been plain, almost to scrupulosity.
Notwithstanding that the man of fashion is plainly dressed, no more than ordinary penetration is required to see that he is excellently well dressed. His coat is plain, to be sure, much plainer than the coat of a Jew-clothesman, having neither silk linings, nor embroidered pocket-holes, nor cut velvet buttons, nor fur collar; but see how it fits him—not like cast iron, nor like a wet sack, but as if he had been born in it.
There is a harmony, a propriety in the coat of a man of fashion, an unstudied ease, a graceful symmetry, a delicacy of expression, that has always filled us with the profoundest admiration of the genius of the artist; indeed, no ready money could purchase coats that we have seen—coats that a real love of the subject, and working upon long credit, for a high connexion, could alone have given to the world—coats, not the dull conceptions of a geometric cutter, spiritlessly outlined upon the shop-board by the crayon of a mercenary foreman, but the fortunate creation of superior intelligence, boldly executed in the happy moments of a generous enthusiasm!
Vain, very vain is it for the pretender to fashion to go swelling into the atelier of a first-rate coat architect, with his ready money in his hand, to order such a coat! Order such a coat, forsooth! order a Raphael, a Michael Angelo, an epic poem. Such a coat—we say it with the generous indignation of a free Briton—is one of the exclusive privileges reserved, by unjust laws, to a selfish aristocracy!
The aristocratic trouser-cutter, too, deserves our unlimited approbation. Nothing more distinguishes the nineteenth century, in which those who can manage it have the happiness to live, than the precision we have attained in trouser-cutting. While yet the barbarism of the age, or poverty of customers, vested the office of trouser-cutter and coat architect in the same functionary, coats were without soul, and "inexpressibles" inexpressibly bad, or, as Coleridge would have said, "ridiculous exceedingly." In our day, on the contrary, we have attained to such a pitch of excellence, that the trouser-cutter who fails to give expression to his works, is hunted into the provinces, and condemned for life to manufacture nether garments for clergymen and country gentlemen.
The results of the minute division of labour, to which so much of the excellence of all that is excellent in London is mainly owing, is in nothing more apparent than in that department of the fine arts which people devoid of taste call fashionable tailoring. We have at the West End fashionable artistes in riding coats, in dress coats, in cut-aways; one is superlative in a Taglioni, another devotes the powers of his mind exclusively to the construction of a Chesterfield, a third gives the best years of his life to the symmetrical beauty of a barrel-trouser; from the united exertions of these, and a thousand other men of taste and genius, is your indisputably-dressed man of fashion turned out upon the town. Then there are constructors of Horse Guards' and of Foot Guards' jacket, full and undress; the man who contrives these would expire if desired to turn his attention to the coat of a marching regiment; a hussar-pelisse-maker despises the hard, heavy style of the cutters for the Royal Artillery, and so on. Volumes would not shut if we were to fill them with the infinite variety of these disguisers of that nakedness which formerly was our shame, but which latterly, it would seem, has become our pride. With the exception of one gentleman citywards, who has achieved an immortality in the article of box-coats, every contriver of men of fashion, we mean in the tailoring, which is the principal department, reside in the parish of St James's, within easy reach of their distinguished patrons. These gentlemen have a high and self-respecting idea of the nobleness and utility of their vocation. A friend of ours, of whom we know no harm save that he pays his tailors' bills, being one day afflicted with this unusual form of insanity, desired the artist to deduct some odd shillings from his bill; in a word, to make it pounds—"Excuse me, sir," said Snip, "but pray, let us not talk of pounds—pounds for tradesmen, if you please; but artists, sir, artists are always remunerated with guineas!"
To return to the outward and visible man of fashion, from whose peculiarities our dissertation upon the sublime and beautiful in tailoring has too long detained us. The same subdued expression of elegance and ease that pervades the leading articles of his attire, extends, without exception, to all the accessories; or if he is deficient in aught, the accessorial toggery, such as hats, boots, choker, gloves, are always carefully attended to; for it is in this department that so distinguished a member of the detective police as ourselves is always enabled to arrest disguised snobbery. You will never see a man of fashion affect a Paget hat, for example, or a D'Orsayan beaver: the former has a ridiculous exuberance of crown, the latter a by no means allowable latitude of brim—besides, borrowing the fashion of a hat, is with him what plagiarizing the interior furniture of the head is with others. He considers stealing the idea of a hat low and vulgar, and leaves the unworthy theft to be perpetrated by pretenders to fashion: content with a hat that becomes him, he is careful never to be before or behind the prevailing hat-intelligence of the time. Three hats your man of fashion sedulously escheweth—a new hat, a shocking bad hat, and a gossamer. As the song says, "when into a shop he goes" he never "buys a four-and-nine," neither buyeth he a Paris hat, a ventilator, or any of the hats indebted for their glossy texture to the entrails of the silk worm; he sporteth nothing below a two-and-thirty shilling beaver, and putteth it not on his head until his valet, exposing it to a shower of rain, has "taken the shine out of it."
In boots he is even more scrupulously attentive to what Philosopher Square so appropriately called the fitness of things: his boots are never square-toed, or round-toed, like the boots of people who think their toes are in fashion. You see that they fit him, that they are of the best material and make, and suitable to the season: you never see him sport the Sunday patent-leathers of the "snob," who on week-a-days proceeds on eight-and-sixpenny high-lows: you never see him shambling along in boots a world too wide, nor hobbling about a crippled victim to the malevolence of Crispin. The idiosyncrasy of his foot has always been attended to; he has worn well-fitting boots every day of his life, and he walks as if he knew not whether he had boots on or not. As for stocks, saving that he be a military man, he wears them not; they want that easy negligence, attainable only by the graceful folds of a well tied choker. You never see a man of fashion with his neck in the pillory, and you hardly ever encounter a Cockney whose cervical investment does not convey at once the idea of that obsolete punishment. A gentleman never considers that his neck was given him to show off a cataract of black satin upon, or as a post whereon to display gold-threaded fabrics, of all the colours of the rainbow: sooner than wear such things, he would willingly resign his neck to the embraces of a halter. His study is to select a modest, unassuming choker, fine if you please, but without pretension as to pattern, and in colour harmonizing with his residual toggery: this he ties with an easy, unembarrassed air, so that he can conveniently look about him. Oxford men, we have observed, tie chokers better than any others; but we do not know whether there are exhibitions or scholarships for the encouragement of this laudable faculty. At Cambridge (except Trinity) there is a laxity in chokers, for which it is difficult to account, except upon the principle that men there attend too closely to the mathematics; these, as every body knows, are in their essence inimical to the higher departments of the fine arts. There is no reason, however, why in this important branch of learning, which, as we may say, comes home to the bosom of every man, one Alma Mater should surpass another; since at both the intellects of men are almost exclusively occupied for years in tying their abominable white chokers, so as to look as like tavern waiters as possible.
Another thing: if a gentleman sticks a pin in his choker, you may be sure it has not a head as big as a potatoe, and is not a sort of Siamese Twin pin, connected by a bit of chain, or an imitation precious stone, or Mosaic gold concern. If he wears studs, they are plain, and have cost not less at the least than five guineas the set. Neither does he ever make a High Sheriff of himself, with chains dangling over the front of his waistcoat, or little pistols, seals, or trinketry appearing below his waistband, as much as to say, "if you only knew what a watch I have inside!" Nor does he sport trumpery rings upon raw-boned fingers; if he wears rings, you may depend upon it that they are of value, that they are sparingly distributed, and that his hand is not a paw.
A man of fashion never wears Woodstock gloves, or gloves with double stitches, or eighteen-penny imitation French kids: his gloves, like himself and every thing about him, are the real thing. Dressy young men of fashion sport primrose kids in the forenoon; and, although they take care to avoid the appearance of snobbery by never wearing the same pair a second day, yet, after all, primrose kids in the forenoon are not the thing, not in keeping, not quiet enough: we therefore denounce primrose kids, and desire to see no more of them.
If you are unfortunate enough to be acquainted with a snob, you need not put yourself to the unnecessary expense of purchasing an almanac for the ensuing year: your friend the snob will answer that useful purpose completely to your satisfaction. For example, on Thursdays and Sundays he shaves and puts on a clean shirt, which he exhibits as freely as possible in honour of the event: Mondays and Fridays you will know by the vegetating bristles of his chin, and the disappearance of the shirt cuffs and collar. These are replaced on Tuesdays and Saturdays by supplementary collar and cuffs, which, being white and starched, form a pleasing contrast with that portion of the original chemise, vainly attempted to be concealed behind the folds of a three-and-six-penny stock. Wednesdays and Fridays you cannot mistake; your friend is then at the dirtiest, and his beard at the longest, anticipating the half-weekly wash and shave: on quarter-day, when he gets his salary, he goes to a sixpenny barber and has his hair cut.
A gentleman, on the contrary, in addition to his other noble inutilities, is useless as an almanac. He is never half shaven nor half shorn: you never can tell when he has had his hair cut, nor has he his clean-shirt days, and his days of foul linen. He is not merely outwardly propre, but asperges his cuticle daily with "oriental scrupulosity:" he is always and ever, in person, manner, dress, and deportment, the same, and has never been other than he now appears.
You will say, perhaps, this is all very fine; but give me the money the man of fashion has got, and I will be as much a man of fashion as he: I will wear my clothes with the same ease, and be as free, unembarrassed, degagé, as the veriest Bond Street lounger of them all. Friend, thou mayest say so, or even think so, but I defy thee: snobbery, like murder, will out; and, if you do not happen to be a gentleman born, we tell you plainly you will never, by dint of expense in dress, succeed in "topping the part."
We have been for many years deeply engaged in a philosophical enquiry into the origin of the peculiar attributes characteristic of the man of fashion. A work of such importance, however, we cannot think of giving to the world, except in the appropriate envelope of a ponderous quarto: just now, by way of whetting the appetite of expectation, we shall merely observe, that, after much pondering, we have at last discovered the secret of his wearing his garments "with a difference," or, more properly, with an indifference, unattainable by others of the human species. You will conjecture, haply, that it is because he and his father before him have been from childhood accustomed to pay attention to dress, and that habit has given them that air which the occasional dresser can never hope to attain: or that, having the best artistes, seconded by that beautiful division of labour of which we have spoken heretofore, he can attain an evenness of costume, an undeviating propriety of toggery—not at all: the whole secret consists in never paying, nor intending to pay, his tailor!
Poor devils, who, under the Mosaic dispensation, contract for three suits a-year, the old ones to be returned, and again made new; or those who, struck with more than money madness, go to a tailor, cash in hand, for the purpose of making an investment, are always accustomed to consider a coat as a representative of so much money, transferred only from the pocket to the back. Accordingly, they are continually labouring under the depression of spirits arising from a sense of the possible depreciation of such a valuable property. Visions of showers of rain, and March dust, perpetually haunt their morbid imaginations. Greasy collars, chalky seams, threadbare cuffs, (three warnings that the time must come when that tunic, for which five pounds ten have been lost to them and their heirs for ever, will be worth no more than a couple of shillings to an old-clothesman in Holywell Street,) fill them, as they walk along the Strand, with apprehensions of anticipated expenditure. They walk circumspectly, lest a baker, sweep, or hodman, stumbling against the coat, may deprive its wearer of what to him represents so much ready money. These real and imaginary evils altogether prohibit the proprietor of a paid-up coat wearing it with any degree of graceful indifference.
But when a family of fashion, for generations, have not only never thought of paying a tailor, but have considered taking up bills, which the too confiding snip has discounted for them, as decidedly smacking of the punctilious vulgarity of the tradesman; thus drawing down upon themselves the vengeance of that most intolerant sect of Protestants, the Notaries Public; when a young man of fashion, taught from earliest infancy to regard tailors as a Chancellor of the Exchequer regards the people at large, that is to say, as a class of animals created to be victimized in every possible way, it is astonishing what a subtle grace and indescribable expression are conveyed to coats which are sent home to you for nothing, or, what amounts to exactly the same thing, which you have not the most remote idea of paying for, in secula seculorum. So far from caring whether it rains or snows, or whether the dust flies, when you have got on one of these eleemosynary coats, you are rather pleased than otherwise. There is a luxury in the idea that on the morrow you will start fresh game, and victimize your tailor for another. The innate cruelty of the human animal is gratified, and the idea of a tailor's suffering is never conceived by a customer without involuntary cachinnation. Not only is he denied the attribute of integral manhood—which even a man-milliner by courtesy enjoys—but that principle which induces a few men of enthusiastic temperament to pay debts, is always held a fault when applied to the bills of tailors. And, what is a curious and instructive fact in the natural history of London fashionable tailors, and altogether unnoticed by the Rev. Leonard Jenyns, in his Manual of British Vertebrate Animals, if you go to one of these gentlemen, requesting him to "execute," and professing your readiness to pay his bill on demand or delivery, he will be sure to give your order to the most scurvy botch in his establishment, put in the worst materials, and treat you altogether as a person utterly unacquainted with the usages of polite society. But if, on the contrary, you are recommended to him by Lord Fly-by-night, of Denman Priory—if you give a thundering order, and, instead of offering to pay for it, pull out a parcel of bill-stamps, and promise fifty per cent for a few hundreds down, you will be surprised to observe what delight will express itself in the radiant countenance of your victim: visions of cent per cent, ghosts of post-obits, dreams of bonds with penalties, and all those various shapes in which security delights to involve the extravagant, rise flatteringly before the inward eye of the man of shreds and patches. By these transactions with the great, he becomes more and more a man, less and less a tailor; instead of cutting patterns and taking measures, he flings the tailoring to his foreman, becoming first Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer to peers of the realm.
With a few more of the less important distinctive peculiarities of the gentleman of fashion, we may dismiss this portion of our subject. A gentleman never affects military air or costume if he is not a military man, and even then avoids professional rigidity and swagger as much as possible; he never sports spurs or a riding-whip, except when he is upon horseback, contrary to the rule observed by his antagonist the snob, who always sports spurs and riding-whip, but who never mounts higher than a threepenny stride on a Hampstead donkey. Nor does a gentleman ever wear a moustache, unless he belongs to one of the regiments of hussars, or the household cavalry, who alone are ordered to display that ornamental exuberance. Foreigners, military or non-military, are recognized as wearing hair on the upper lip with propriety, as is the custom of their country. But no gentleman here thinks of such a thing, any more than he would think of sporting the uniform of the Tenth Hussars.
There is an affectation among the vulgar clever, of wearing the moustache, which they clip and cut à la Vandyk: this is useful, as affording a ready means of distinguishing between a man of talent and an ass—the former, trusting to his head, goes clean shaved, and looks like an Englishman: the latter, whose strength lies altogether in his hair, exhausts the power of Macassar in endeavouring to make himself as like an ourang-outang as possible.
Another thing must be observed by all who would successfully ape the gentleman: never to smoke cigars in the street in mid-day. No better sign can you have than this of a fellow reckless of decency and behaviour: a gentleman smokes, if he smokes at all, where he offends not the olfactories of the passers-by. Nothing, he is aware, approaches more nearly the most offensive personal insult, than to compel ladies and gentlemen to inhale, after you, the ejected fragrance of your penny Cuba or your three-halfpenny mild Havannah.
In the cities of Germany, where the population almost to a man inhale the fumes of tobacco, street smoking is very properly prohibited; for however agreeable may be the sedative influence of the Virginian weed when inspired from your own manufactory, nothing assuredly is more disgusting than inhalation of tobacco smoke at second-hand.
Your undoubted man of fashion, like other animals, has his peculiar habitat: you never see him promenading in Regent Street between the hours of three and five in the afternoon, nor by any chance does he venture into the Quadrant: east of Temple Bar he is never seen except on business, and then, never on foot: if he lounges any where, it is in Bond Street, or about the clubs of St James's.
"Their conversation was altogether made up of Shakspeare, taste, high life and the musical glasses."—Vicar of Wakefield.
We will venture to assert, that in the course of these essays on the aristocracies of London life, we have never attempted to induce any of our readers to believe that there was any cause for him to regret, whatever condition of life it had pleased Providence to place him in, or to suppose, for one moment, that reputable men, though in widely different circumstances, are not equally reputable. We have studiously avoided portraying fashionable life according to the vulgar notions, whether depreciatory or panegyrical. We have shown that that class is not to be taken and treated of as an integral quantity, but to be analyzed as a component body, wherein is much sterling ore and no little dross. We have shown by sufficient examples, that whatever in our eyes makes the world of fashion really respectable, is solely owing to the real worth of its respectable members; and on the contrary, whatever contempt we fling upon the fashionable world, is the result of the misconduct of individuals of that order, prominently contemptible.
Of the former, the example is of infinite value to society, in refining its tone, and giving to social life an unembarrassed ease, which, if not true politeness, is its true substitute; and, of the latter, the mischief done to society is enhanced by the multitude of low people ready to imitate their vices, inanities, and follies.
Pretenders to fashion, who hang upon the outskirts of fashionable society, and whose lives are a perpetual but unavailing struggle to jump above their proper position, are horrid nuisances; and they abound, unfortunately, in London.
In a republic, where practical equality is understood and acted upon, this pretension would be intolerable; in an aristocratic state of society, with social gradations pointedly defined and universally recognized, it is merely ridiculous to the lookers-on; to the pretenders, it is a source of much and deserved misery and isolation.
There are ten thousand varying shades and degrees of this pretension, from the truly fashionable people who hanker after the exclusives, or seventh heaven of high life, down to the courier out of place, who, in a pot-house, retails Debrett by heart, and talks of lords, and dukes, and earls, as of his particular acquaintance, and how and where he met them when on his travels.
The exclusives are a queer set, some of them not by any means people of the best pretensions to lead the ton. Lady L—— and Lady B—— may be very well as patronesses of Almack's; but what do you say to Lady J——, a plebeian, and a licensed dealer in money, keeping her shop by deputy in a lane somewhere behind Cornhill? Almack's, as every body knows who has been there, or who has talked with any observing habitué of the place, contains a great many queer, spurious people, smuggled in somehow by indirect influence, when royal command is not the least effectual: a surprizing number of seedy, poverty-stricken young men, and, in an inverse ratio, women who have any thing more than the clothes they wear: yet, by mere dint of difficulty, by the simple circumstance of making admission to this assembly a matter of closeting, canvassing, balloting, black-balling, and so forth, people of much better fashion than many of the exclusives make it a matter of life and death to have their admission secured. Admission to Almack's is to a young débutante of fashion as great an object as a seat at the Privy Council Board to a flourishing politician: your ton is stamped by it, you are of the exclusive set, and, by virtue of belonging to that set, every other is open to you as a matter of course, when you choose to condescend to visit it. The room in which Almack's balls are held we need not describe, because it has been often described before, and because the doorkeeper, any day you choose to go to Duke Street, St James's, will be too happy to show it you for sixpence; but we will give you in his own words, all the information we could contrive to get from a man of the highest fashion, who is a subscriber.
"Why, I really don't know," said he, "that I have any thing to tell you about Almack's, except that all that the novel-writers say about it is ridiculous nonsense: the lights are good, the refreshments not so good, the music excellent; the women dress well, dance a good deal, and talk but little. There is a good deal of envy, jealousy, and criticism of faces, figures, fortunes, and pretensions: one, or at most two, of the balls in a season are pleasant; the others slow and very dull. The point of the thing seems to be, that people of rank choose to like it because it stamps a set, and low people talk about it because they cannot by any possibility know any thing about it."
Such is Almack's, of which volumes have been spun, of most effete and lamentable trash, to gratify the morbid appetites of the pretenders to fashion.
We must not omit to inform our rural readers, that no conventional rank gives any one in London a patent of privilege in truly fashionable society. An old baronet shall be exclusive, when a young peer shall have no fashionable society at all: a lord is by no means necessarily a man in what the fashionable sets call good society: we have many lords who are not men of fashion, and many men of fashion who are not lords.
Professional peers, whether legal, naval, or military, bishops, judges, and all that class of men who attain by talents, interest, and good fortune, or all, or any of these, a lofty social position, have no more to do with the exclusive or merely fashionable sets than you or I. A man may be a barrister in full practice to-day, an attorney-general to-morrow, a chief-justice the day after with a peerage: yet his wife and daughter visit the same people, and are visited by the same people, that associated with them before. If men of fashion know them, it is because they have business to transact or favours to seek for, or because it is part of their system to keep up a qualified intimacy with all whom they think proper to lift to their own level: but this intimacy is only extended by the man of birth to the man of talent. His family do not become people of fashion until the third or fourth generation: he remains the man of business, the useful, working, practical, brains-carrying man that he was; and his family, if they are wise, seek not to become the familiars of the old aristocracy, and if they are foolish, become the most unfortunate pretenders to fashion. They are too near to be pleasant; and the gulf which people of hereditary fashion place between is impassable, even though they flounder up to their necks in servile mud.
It is the same with baronets, M.P.'s, and all that sort of people. These handles to men's names go down very well in the country, where it is imagined that a baronet or an M.P. is, ex officio, a man of consequence, and that, rank being equal, consequence is also equal. In London, on the contrary, people laugh at the idea of a man pluming himself upon such distinctions without a difference: in town we have baronets of all sorts—the "Heathcotes, and such large-acred men," Sir Watkyn, and the territorial baronetage: then we have the Hanmers, and others of undoubted fashion, to which their patent is the weakest of their claims: then we have the military, naval, and medical baronet: descending, through infinite gradations, we come down to the tallow-chandling, the gin-spinning, the banking, the pastry-cooking baronetage.
What is there, what can there be, in common with these widely severed classes, save that they equally enjoy Sir at the head and Bart. at the tail of their sponsorial and patronymic appellations? Do you think the landed Bart. knows any more of the medical Bart. than that, when he sends for the other to attend his wife, he calls him generally "doctor," and seldom Sir James: or that the military Bart. does not much like the naval Bart.? and do not all these incongruous Barts. shudder at the bare idea of been seen on the same side of the street with a gin-spinning, Patent-British-Genuine-Foreign-Cognac Brandy-making Bart.? and do not each and every one of these Barts. from head to tail, even including the last-mentioned, look down with immeasurable disdain upon the poor Nova Scotia baronets, who move heaven and earth to get permission to wear a string round their necks, and a badge like the learned fraternity of cabmen?
Then as to the magic capitals M.P., which provincial people look upon as embodying in the wearer the concentrated essence of wisdom, eloquence, personal distinction, and social eminence. Who, in a country town, on a market day, has not seen tradesmen cocking their eye, apprentices glowering through the shop front, and ladies subdolously peeping behind the window-shutter to catch a glimpse of the "member for our town," and, having seen him, think they are rather happier then they were before? The greatest fun in the world is to go to a cul-de-sac off a dirty lane near Palace Yard, called Manchester Buildings, a sort of senatorial pigeon-house, where the meaner fry of houseless M.P.'s live, each in his one pair, two pair, three pair, as the case may be, and give a postman's knock at every door in rapid succession. In a twinkling, the "collective wisdom" of Manchester Buildings and the Midland Counties poke out their heads. Cobden appears on the balcony; Muntz glares out of a second floor, like a live bear in a barber's window; Wallace of Greenock comes to the door in a red nightcap; and a long "tail" of the other immortals of a session. You may enjoy the scene as much as you please; but when you hear one or two of the young Irish patriotic "mimbers" floundering from the attics, the wisest course you can take will be incontinently to "mizzle." These men, however, have one redeeming quality—that they live in Manchester Buildings, and don't care who knows it; they are out of fashion, and don't care who are in; they are minding their business, and not hanging at the skirts of people ever ready and willing to kick them off.
Then there are the "dandy" M.P.'s, who ride hack-horses, associate with fashionable actresses, and hang about the clubs. Then there is the chance or accidental M.P., who has been elected he hardly knows how or when, and wonders to find himself in Parliament. Then there is the desperate, adventuring, ear-wigging M.P., whose hope of political existence, and whose very livelihood, depend upon getting or continuing in place. Then there is the legal M.P., with one eye fixed on the Queen's, the other squinting at the Treasury Bench. Then there is the lounging M.P., who is usually the scion of a noble family, and who comes now and then into the House, to stare vacantly about, and go out again. Then there is the military M.P., who finds the House an agreeable lounge, and does not care to join his regiment on foreign service. Then there is the bustling M.P. of business, the M.P. of business without bustle, and the independent country gentleman M.P., who wants nothing for himself or any body else, and who does not care a turnip-top for the whole lot of them.
The aggregate distinction, as a member of Parliament, is totally sunk in London. It is the man, and not the two letters after his name, that any body whose regard is worth the having in the least regard. There are M.P.s never seen beyond the exclusive set, except on a committee of the House, and then they know and speak to nobody save one of themselves. There are other M.P.s that you will find in no society except Tom Spring's or Owen Swift's, at the Horse-shoe in Litchborne Street.
These observations upon baronets and M.P.s may be extended upwards to the peerage, and downwards to the professional, commercial, and all other the better classes. Every man hangs, like a herring, by his own tail; and every class would be distinct and separate, but that the pretenders to fashion, like some equivocal animals in the chain of animated nature, connect these different classes by copying pertinaciously the manners, and studying to adopt the tastes and habits of the class immediately above them.
Of pretenders to fashion, perhaps the most successful in their imitative art are the
SHEENIES.—By this term, as used by men of undoubted ton with reference to the class we are about to consider, you are to understand runagate Jews rolling in riches, who profess to love roast pork above all things, who always eat their turkey with sausages, and who have cut their religion for the sake of dangling at the heels of fashionable Christians. These people are "swelling" upon the profits of the last generation in St Mary Axe or Petticoat Lane. The founders of their families have been loan-manufacturers, crimps, receivers of stolen goods, wholesale nigger-dealers, clippers and sweaters, rag-merchants, and the like, and conscientious Israelites; but their children, not having fortitude to abide by their condition, nor right principle to adhere to their sect, come to the west end of the town, and, by right of their money, make unremitting assaults upon the loose fish of fashionable society, who laugh at, and heartily despise them, while they are as ashes in the mouths of the respectable members of the persuasion to which they originally belonged.
HEAVY SWELLS are another very important class of pretenders to fashion, and are divided into civil and military. Professional men, we say it to their honour, seldom affect the heavy swell, because the feeblest glimmerings of that rationality of thinking which results from among the lowest education, preserves them from the folly of the attempt, and, in preserving from folly, saves them from the self-reproaching misery that attends it. Men of education or of common sense, look upon pretension to birth, rank, or any thing else to which they have no legitimate claim, as little more than moral forgery; it it is with them an uttering base coin upon false pretences. It is generally the wives and families of professional men who are afflicted with pretension to fashion, of which we shall give abundant examples when we come to treat of gentility-mongers. But the heavy swell, who is of all classes, from the son and heir of an opulent blacking-maker down to the lieutenant of a marching regiment on half-pay, is utterly destitute of brains, deplorably illiterate, and therefore incapable, by nature and bringing-up, of respecting himself by a modest contented demeanour. He is never so unhappy as when he appears the thing he is—never so completely in his element as when acting the thing he is not, nor can ever be. He spends his life in jumping, like a cat, at shadows on the wall. He has day and night dreams of people, who have not the least idea that such a man is in existence, and he comes in time, by mere dint of thinking of nobody else, to think that he is one of them. He acquaints himself with the titles of lords, as other men do those of books, and then boasts largely of the extent of his acquaintance.
Let us suppose that he is an officer of a hard-fighting, foreign-service, neglected infantry regiment. This, which to a soldier would be an honest pride, is the shame of the Heavy Military Swell. His chief business in life, next to knowing the names and faces of lords, is concealing from you the corps to which he has the dishonour, he thinks, to belong. He talks mightily of the service, of hussars and light dragoons; but when he knows that you know better, when you poke him hard about the young or old buffs, or the dirty half-hundred, he whispers in your ear that "my fellows," as he calls them, are very "fast," and that they are "all known in town, very well known indeed"—a piece of information you will construe in the case of the heavy swell to mean, better known than trusted.
When he is on full pay, the heavy swell is known to the three old women and five desperate daughters who compose good society in country quarters. He affects a patronizing air at small tea-parties, and is wonderfully run after by wretched un-idea'd girls, that is, by ten girls in twelve; he is eternally striving to get upon the "staff," or anyhow to shirk his regimental duty; he is a whelp towards the men under his command, and has a grand idea of spurs, steel scabbards, and flogging; to his superiors he is a spaniel, to his brother officers an intolerable ass; he makes the mess-room a perfect hell with his vanity, puppyism, and senseless bibble-babble.
On leave, or half-pay, he "mounts mustaches," to help the hussar and light-dragoon idea, or to delude the ignorant into a belief that he may possibly belong to the household cavalry. He hangs about doors of military clubs, with a whip in his hand; talks very loud at the "Tiger" or the "Rag and famish," and never has done shouting to the waiter to bring him a "Peerage;" carries the "Red Book" and "Book of Heraldry" in his pocket; sees whence people come, and where they go, and makes them out somehow; in short, he is regarded with a thrill of horror by people of fashion, fast or slow, civil or military.
The Civil Heavy Swell affects fashionable curricles, and enjoys all the consideration a pair of good horses can give. He rides a blood bay in Rotten Row, but rides badly, and is detected by galloping, or some other solecism; his dress and liveries are always overdone, the money shows on every thing about him. He has familiar abbreviations for the names of all the fast men about town; calls this Lord "Jimmy," 'tother Chess, a third Dolly, and thinks he knows them; keeps an expensive mistress, because "Jimmy" and Chess are supposed to do the same, and when he is out of the way, his mistress has some of the fast fellows to supper, at the heavy swell's expense. He settles the point whether claret is to be drank from a jug or black bottle, and retails the merits of a plateau or epergne he saw, when last he dined with a "fellow" in Belgrave Square.
The Foreigneering Heavy Swell has much more spirit, talent, and manner, than the home-grown article; but he is poor in a like ratio, and is therefore obliged to feather his nest by denuding the pigeon tribe of their metallic plumage. He is familiarly known to all the fast fellows, who cut him, however, as soon as they marry, but is not accounted good ton by heads of families. He is liked at the Hells and Clubs, where he has a knack of distinguishing himself without presumption or affectation. He is a dresser by right divine, and dresses ridiculously. The fashionable fellows affect loudly to applaud his taste, and laugh to see the vulgar imitate the foreigneering swell. He is the idol of equivocal women, and condescends to patronize unpresentable gentility-mongers. He is not unhappy at heart, like the indigenous heavy swell, but enjoys his intimacy with the fast fellows, and uses it.
There is an infallible test we should advise you to apply, whenever you are bored to desperation by any of these heavy swells. When he talks of "my friend, the Duke of Bayswater," ask him, in a quiet tone, where he last met the Duchess. If he says Hyde-Park (meaning the Earl of) is an honest good fellow, enquire whether he prefers Lady Mary or Lady Seraphina Serpentine. This drops him like a shot—he can't get over it.
It is a rule in good society that you know the set only when you know the women of that set; however you may work your way among the men, whatever you may do at the Hells and Clubs, goes for nothing—the women stamp you counterfeit or current, and—
"Not to know them, argues yourself unknown."
The Military Operations at Cabul, which ended in the Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, January 1842; with a Journal of Imprisonment in Affghanistan. By Lieutenant Vincent Eyre, Bengal Artillery, late Deputy-Commissary of Ordnance at Cabul. London: John Murray.
This is the first connected account that has appeared of the military disasters that befell the British army at Cabul—by far the most signal reverse our arms have ever sustained in Asia. The narrative is full of a deep and painful interest, which becomes more and more intense as we approach the closing catastrophe. The simple detail of the daily occurrences stirs up our strongest feelings of indignation, pity; scorn, admiration, horror, and grief. The tale is told without art, or any attempt at artificial ornament, and in a spirit of manly and gentlemanlike forbearance from angry comment or invective, that is highly creditable to the author, and gives us a very favourable opinion both of his head and of his heart.
That a British army of nearly six thousand fighting men—occupying a position chosen and fortified by our own officers, and having possession, within two miles of this fortified cantonment, of a strong citadel commanding the greater part of the town of Cabul, a small portion only of whose population rose against us at the commencement of the revolt—should not only have made no vigorous effort to crush the insurrection; but that it should ultimately have been driven by an undisciplined Asiatic mob, destitute of artillery, and which never appears to have collected in one place above 10,000 men, to seek safety in a humiliating capitulation, by which it surrendered the greater part of its artillery, military stores, and treasure, and undertook to evacuate the whole country on condition of receiving a safe conduct from the rebel chiefs, on whose faith they placed, and could place, no reliance; and finally, that, of about 4500 armed soldiers and twelve thousand camp-followers, many of whom were also armed, who set out from Cabul, only one man, and he wounded, should have arrived at Jellalabad; is an amount of misfortune so far exceeding every rational anticipation of evil, that we should have been entitled to assume that these unparalleled military disasters arose from a series of unparalleled errors, even if we had not had, as we now have, the authority of Lord Ellenborough for asserting the fact.
But every nation, and more particularly the British nation, is little inclined to pardon the men under whose command any portion of its army or of its navy may have been beaten. Great Britain, reposing entire confidence in the courage of her men, and little accustomed to see them overthrown, is keenly jealous of the reputation of her forces; and, as she is ever prompt to reward military excellence and success, she heaps unmeasured obloquy on those who may have subjected her to the degradation of defeat. When our forces have encountered a reverse, or even when the success has not been commensurate with the hopes that had been indulged; the public mind has ever been prone to condemn the commanders; and wherever there has been reason to believe that errors have been committed which have led to disaster, there has been little disposition to make any allowances for the circumstances of the case, or for the fallibility of man; but, on the contrary, the nation has too often evinced a fierce desire to punish the leaders for the mortification the country has been made to endure.
This feeling may tend to elevate the standard of military character, but it must at the same time preclude the probability of calm or impartial examination, so far as the great body of the nation is concerned; and it is therefore the more obviously incumbent on those who, from a more intimate knowledge of the facts, or from habits of more deliberate investigation, are not carried away by the tide of popular indignation and invective, to weigh the circumstances with conscientious caution, and to await the result of judicial enquiry before they venture to apportion the blame or even to estimate its amount.
"The following notes," says Lieutenant Eyre in his preface, "were penned to relieve the monotony of an Affghan prison, while yet the events which they record continued fresh in my memory. I now give them publicity, in the belief that the information which they contain on the dreadful scenes lately enacted in Affghanistan, though clothed in a homely garb, will scarcely fail to be acceptable to many of my countrymen, both in India and England, who may be ignorant of the chief particulars. The time, from the 2d November 1841, on which day the sudden popular outbreak at Cabul took place, to the 13th January 1842, which witnessed the annihilation of the last small remnant of our unhappy force at Gundamuk, was one continued tragedy. The massacre of Sir Alexander Burnes and his associates,—the loss of our commissariat fort—the defeat of our troops under Brigadier Shelton at Beymaroo—the treacherous assassination of Sir William Macnaghten, our envoy and minister—and lastly, the disastrous retreat and utter destruction of a force consisting of 5000 fighting men and upwards of 12,000 camp-followers,—are events which will assuredly rouse the British Lion from his repose, and excite an indignant spirit of enquiry in every breast. Men will not be satisfied, in this case, with a bare statement of the facts, but they will doubtless require to be made acquainted with the causes which brought about such awful effects. We have lost six entire regiments of infantry, three companies of sappers, a troop of European horse-artillery, half the mountain-train battery, nearly a whole regiment of regular cavalry, and four squadrons of irregular horse, besides a well-stocked magazine, which alone, taking into consideration the cost of transport up to Cabul, may be estimated at nearly a million sterling. From first to last, not less than 104 British officers have fallen: their names will be found in the Appendix. I glance but slightly at the political events of this period, not having been one of the initiated; and I do not pretend to enter into minute particulars with regard to even our military transactions, more especially those not immediately connected with the sad catastrophe which it has been my ill fortune to witness, and whereof I now endeavour to portray the leading features. In these notes I have been careful to state only what I know to be undeniable facts. I have set down nothing on mere hearsay evidence, nor any thing which cannot be attested by living witnesses or by existing documentary evidence. In treating of matters which occurred under my personal observation, it has been difficult to avoid altogether the occasional expression of my own individual opinion: but I hope it will be found that I have made no observations bearing hard on men or measures, that are either uncalled for, or will not stand the test of future investigation."
After the surrender of Dost Mahomed Khan, there remained in Affghanistan no chief who possessed a dominant power or influence that made him formidable to the government of Shah Shoojah, or to his English allies; and the kingdom of Cabul seemed to be gradually, though slowly, subsiding into comparative tranquillity. In the summer of the year 1841, the authority of the sovereign appears to have been acknowledged in almost every part of his dominions. A partial revolt of the Giljyes was speedily suppressed by our troops. The Kohistan, or more correctly, Koohdaman of Cabul, a mountainous tract, inhabited by a warlike people, over whom the authority of the governments of the country had long been imperfect and precarious, had submitted, or had ceased to resist. A detachment from the British force at Kandahar, after defeating Akter Khan, who had been instigated by the Vezeer of Herat to rebel, swept the country of Zemindawer, drove Akter Khan a fugitive to Herat, received the submission of all the chiefs in that part of the kingdom, and secured the persons of such as it was not thought prudent to leave at large in those districts.
The Shah's authority was not believed to be so firmly established, that both Sir William Macnaghten, the British envoy at Cabul, who had recently been appointed governor of Bombay, and Sir Alexander Burnes, on whom the duties of the envoy would have devolved on Sir W. Macnaghten's departure, thought that the time had arrived when the amount of the British force in Affghanistan, which was so heavy a charge upon the revenues of India, might with safety be reduced, and General Sale's brigade was ordered to hold itself in readiness to march to Jellalabad, on its route to India.
Even at this time, however, Major Pottinger, the political agent in Kohistan, including, we presume, the Koohdaman, thought the force at his disposal too small to maintain the tranquillity of the district; and the chiefs of the valley of Nijrow, or Nijrab, a valley of Kohistan Proper, had not only refused to submit, but had harboured the restless and disaffected who had made themselves obnoxious to the Shah's government. But although Major Pottinger had no confidence in the good feelings of the people of his own district to the government, and even seems to have anticipated insurrection, no movement of that description had yet taken place.
Early in September, however, Captain Hay, who was with a small force in the Zoormut valley, situated nearly west from Ghuznee and south from Cabul, having been induced by the representations of Moollah Momin—the collector of the revenues, who was a Barikzye, and a near relation of one of the leaders of the insurrection, in which he afterwards himself took an active part—to move against a fort in which the murderers of Colonel Herring were said to have taken shelter, the inhabitants resisted his demands, and fired upon the troops. His force was found insufficient to reduce it, and he was obliged to retire; a stronger force was therefore sent, on the approach of which the people fled to the hills, and the forts they had evacuated were blown up. This occurrence was not calculated seriously to disturb the confident hopes that were entertained of the permanent tranquillity of the country; but before the force employed upon that expedition had returned to Cabul, a formidable insurrection had broken out in another quarter.
"Early in October," says Lieutenant Eyre, "three Giljye chiefs of note suddenly quitted Cabul, after plundering a rich cafila at Tezeen, and took up a strong position in the difficult defile of Khoord-Cabul, about ten miles from the capital, thus blocking up the pass, and cutting off our communication with Hindostan. Intelligence had not very long previously been received that Mahomed Akber Khan, second son of the ex-ruler Dost Mahomed Khan, had arrived at Bameean from Khooloom, for the supposed purpose of carrying on intrigues against the Government. It is remarkable that he is nearly connected by marriage with Mahomed Shah Khan and Dost Mahomed Khan, also Giljyes, who almost immediately joined the above-mentioned chiefs. Mahomed Akber had, since the deposition of his father, never ceased to foster feelings of intense hatred towards the English nation; and, though often urged by the fallen ruler to deliver himself up, had resolutely preferred the life of a houseless exile to one of mean dependence on the bounty of his enemies. It seems, therefore, in the highest degree probable that this hostile movement on the part of the Eastern Giljyes was the result of his influence over them, combined with other causes which will be hereafter mentioned."
The other causes here alluded to, appear to be "the deep offence given to the Giljyes by the ill-advised reduction of their annual stipends, a measure which had been forced upon Sir William Macnaghten by Lord Auckland. This they considered, and with some show of justice, as a breach of faith on the part of our Government."
We presume that it is not Mr Eyre's intention to assert that this particular measure was ordered by Lord Auckland, but merely that the rigid economy enforced by his lordship, led the Envoy to have recourse to this measure as one of the means by which the general expenditure might be diminished.
Formidable as this revolt of the Giljyes was found to be, we are led to suspect that both Sir W. Macnaghten and Sir A. Burnes were misled, probably by the Shah's government, very greatly to underrate its importance and its danger. The force under Colonel Monteath,16 which in the first instance was sent to suppress it, was so small that it was not only unable to penetrate into the country it was intended to overawe or to subdue, but it was immediately attacked in its camp, within ten miles of Cabul, and lost thirty-five sepoys killed and wounded.
Two days afterwards, the 11th October, General Sale marched from Cabul with H.M.'s 13th light infantry, to join Colonel Monteath's camp at Bootkhak; and the following morning the whole proceeded to force the pass of Khoord-Cabul, which was effected with some loss. The 13th returned through the pass to Bootkhak, suffering from the fire of parties which still lurked among the rocks. The remainder of the brigade encamped at Khoord-Cabul, at the further extremity of the defile. In this divided position the brigade remained for some days, and both camps had to sustain night attacks from the Affghans—"that on the 35th native infantry being peculiarly disastrous, from the treachery of the Affghan horse, who admitted the enemy within their lines, by which our troops were exposed to a fire from the least suspected quarter. Many of our gallant sepoys, and Lieutenant Jenkins, thus met their death."
On the 20th October, General Sale, having been reinforced, marched to Khoord-Cabul; "and about the 22d, the whole force there assembled, with Captain Macgregor, political agent, marched to Tezeen, encountering much determined opposition on the road."
"By this time it was too evident that the whole of the Eastern Giljyes had risen in one common league against us." The treacherous proceedings of their chief or viceroy, Humza Khan, which had for some time been suspected, were now discovered, and he was arrested by order of Shah Shoojah.
"It must be remarked," says Lieutenant Eyre, "that for some time previous to these overt acts of rebellion, the always strong and ill-repressed personal dislike of the Affghans towards Europeans, had been manifested in a more than usually open manner in and about Cabul. Officers had been insulted and attempts made to assassinate them. Two Europeans had been murdered, as also several camp-followers; but these and other signs of the approaching storm had unfortunately been passed over as mere ebullitions of private angry feeling. This incredulity and apathy is the more to be lamented, as it was pretty well known that on the occasion of the shub-khoon, or first night attack on the 35th native infantry at Bootkhak, a large portion of our assailants consisted of the armed retainers of the different men of consequence in Cabul itself, large parties of whom had been seen proceeding from the city to the scene of action on the evening of the attack, and afterwards returning. Although these men had to pass either through the heart or round the skirts of our camp at Seeah Sung, it was not deemed expedient even to question them, far less to detain them.
"On the 26th October, General Sale started in the direction of Gundamuk, Captain Macgregor having half-frightened, half-cajoled the refractory Giljye chiefs into what proved to have been a most hollow truce."
On the same day, the 37th native infantry, three companies of the Shah's sappers under Captain Walsh, and three guns of the mountain train under Lieutenant Green, retraced their steps towards Cabul, where the sappers, pushing on, arrived unopposed; but the rest of the detachment was attacked on the 2d November—on the afternoon of which day, Major Griffiths, who commanded it, received orders to force his way to Cabul, where the insurrection had that morning broken out. His march through the pass, and from Bootkhak to Cabul, was one continued conflict; but the gallantry of his troops, and the excellence of his own dispositions, enabled him to carry the whole of his wounded and baggage safe to the cantonments at Cabul, where he arrived about three o'clock on the morning of the 3d November, followed almost to the gates by about 3000 Giljyes.
The causes of the insurrection in the capital are not yet fully ascertained, or, if ascertained, they have not been made public. Lieutenant Eyre does not attempt to account for it; but he gives us the following memorandum of Sir W. Macnaghten's, found, we presume, amongst his papers after his death:—
"The immediate cause of the outbreak in the capital was a seditious letter addressed by Abdoollah Khan to several chiefs of influence at Cabul, stating that it was the design of the Envoy to seize and send them all to London! The principal rebels met on the previous night, and, relying on the inflammable feelings of the people of Cabul, they pretended that the King had issued an order to put all infidels to death; having previously forged an order from him for our destruction, by the common process of washing out the contents of a genuine paper, with the exception of the seal, and substituting their own wicked inventions."
But this invention, though it was probably one of the means employed by the conspirators to increase the number of their associates, can hardly be admitted to account for the insurrection. The arrival of Akber Khan at Bameean, the revolt of the Giljyes, the previous flight of their chiefs from Cabul, and the almost simultaneous attack of our posts in the Koohdaman, (called by Lieutenant Eyre, Kohistan,) on the 3d November—the attack of a party conducting prisoners from Candahar to Ghuznee—the immediate interruption of every line of communication with Cabul—and the selection of the season of the year the most favourable to the success of the insurrection, with many other less important circumstances, combine to force upon us the opinion, that the intention to attack the Cabul force, so soon as it should have become isolated by the approach of winter, had been entertained, and the plan of operations concerted, for some considerable time before the insurrection broke out. That many who wished for its success may have been slow to commit themselves, is to be presumed, and that vigorous measures might, if resorted to on the first day, have suppressed the revolt, is probable; but it can hardly be doubted that we must look far deeper, and further back, for the causes which united the Affghan nation against us.
The will of their chiefs and spiritual leaders—fanatical zeal, and hatred of the domination of a race whom they regarded as infidels—may have been sufficient to incite the lower orders to any acts of violence, or even to the persevering efforts they made to extirpate the English. In their eyes the contest would assume the character of a religious war—of a crusade; and every man who took up arms in that cause, would go to battle with the conviction that, if he should be slain, his soul would go at once to paradise, and that, if he slew an enemy of the faith, he thereby also secured to himself eternal happiness. But the chiefs are not so full of faith; and although we would not altogether exclude religious antipathy as an incentive, we may safely assume that something more immediately affecting their temporal and personal concerns must with them, or at least with the large majority, have been the true motives of the conspiracy—of their desire to expel the English from their country. Nor is it difficult to conceive what some of these motives may have been. The former sovereigns of Affghanistan, even the most firmly-established and the most vigorous, had no other means of enforcing their commands, than by employing the forces of one part of the nation to make their authority respected in another; but men who were jealous of their own independence as chiefs, were not likely to aid the sovereign in any attempt to destroy the substantial power, the importance, or the independence of their class; and although a refractory chief might occasionally, by the aid of his feudal enemies, be taken or destroyed, and his property plundered, his place was filled by a relation, and the order remained unbroken. The Affghan chiefs had thus enjoyed, under their native governments, an amount of independence which was incompatible with the system we introduced—supported as that system was by our military means. These men must have seen that their own power and importance, and even their security against the caprices of their sovereign, could not long be preserved—that they were about to be subjected as well as governed—to be deprived of all power to resist the oppressions of their own government, because its will was enforced by an army which had no sympathy with the nation, and which was therefore ready to use its formidable strength to compel unqualified submission to the sovereign's commands.
The British army may not have been employed to enforce any unjust command—its movements may have been less, far less, injurious to the countries through which it passed than those of an Affghan army would have been, and its power in the moment of success may have been far less abused; but still it gave a strength to the arm of the sovereign, which was incompatible with the maintenance of the pre-existing civil and social institutions or condition of the country, and especially of the relative positions of the sovereign and the noble. In the measures we adopted to establish the authority of Shah Shoojah, we attempted to carry out a system of government which could only have been made successful by a total revolution in the social condition of the people, and in the relative positions of classes; and as these revolutions are not effected in a few years, the attempt failed.17
But if the predominance of our influence and of our military power, and the effects of the system we introduced, tended to depress the chiefs, it must have still more injuriously affected or threatened the power of the priesthood.
This we believe to have been one of the primary and most essential causes of the revolt—this it was that made the insurrection spread with such rapidity, and that finally united the whole nation against us. With the aristocracy and the hierarchy of the country, it must have been but a question of courage and of means—a calculation of the probability of success; and as that probability was greatly increased by the results of the first movement at Cabul, and by the inertness of our army after the first outbreak, all acquired courage enough to aid in doing what all had previously desired to see done.
But if there be any justice in this view of the state of feeling in Affghanistan, even in the moments of its greatest tranquillity, it is difficult to account for the confidence with which the political authorities charged with the management of our affairs in that country looked to the future, and the indifference with which they appear to have regarded what now must appear to every one else to have been very significant, and even alarming, intimations of dissaffection in Cabul, and hostility in the neighbouring districts.
But it is time we should return to Lieutenant Eyre, whose narrative of facts is infinitely more attractive than any speculations we could offer.
"At an early hour this morning, (2d November 1841,) the startling intelligence was brought from the city, that a popular outbreak had taken place; that the shops were all closed; and that a general attack had been made on the houses of all British officers residing in Cabul. About 8 A.M., a hurried note was received by the Envoy in cantonments from Sir Alexander Burnes, stating that the minds of the people had been strongly excited by some mischievous reports, but expressing a hope that he should succeed in quelling the commotion. About 9 A.M., however, a rumour was circulated, which afterwards proved but too well founded, that Sir Alexander had been murdered, and Captain Johnson's treasury plundered. Flames were now seen to issue from that part of the city where they dwelt, and it was too apparent that the endeavour to appease the people by quiet means had failed, and that it would be necessary to have recourse to stronger measures. The report of firearms was incessant, and seemed to extend through the town from end to end.
"Sir William Macnaghten now called upon General Elphinstone to act. An order was accordingly sent to Brigadier Shelton, then encamped at Seeah Sung, about a mile and a half distant from cantonments, to march forthwith to the Bala Hissar, or royal citadel, where his Majesty Shah Shoojah resided, commanding a large portion of the city, with the following troops:—viz. one company of H.M. 44th foot; a wing of the 54th regiment native infantry, under Major Ewart; the 6th regiment Shah's infantry, under Captain Hopkins; and four horse-artillery guns, under Captain Nicholl; and on arrival there, to act according to his own judgment, after consulting with the King.
"The remainder of the troops encamped at Seeah Sung were at the same time ordered into cantonments: viz. H.M. 44th foot, under Lieutenant-Colonel Mackerell; two horse-artillery guns, under Lieutenant Waller; and Anderson's irregular horse. A messenger was likewise dispatched to recall the 37th native infantry from Khoord-Cabul without delay. The troops at this time in cantonments were as follows: viz. 5th regiment native infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver; a wing of 54th native infantry; five six-pounder field guns, with a detachment of the Shah's artillery, under Lieutenant Warburton; the Envoy's body-guard; a troop of Skinner's horse, and another of local horse, under Lieutenant Walker; three companies of the Shah's sappers, under Captain Walsh; and about twenty men of the Company's sappers, attached to Captain Paton, assistant-quartermaster-general.
"Widely spread and formidable as this insurrection proved to be afterwards, it was at first a mere insignificant ebullition of discontent on the part of a few desperate and restless men, which military energy and promptitude ought to have crushed in the bud. Its commencement was an attack by certainly not 300 men on the dwellings of Sir Alexander Burnes and Captain Johnson, paymaster to the Shah's force; and so little did Sir Alexander himself apprehend serious consequences, that he not only refused, on its first breaking out, to comply with the earnest entreaties of the wuzeer to accompany him to the Bala Hissar, but actually forbade his guard to fire on the assailants, attempting to check what he supposed to be a mere riot, by haranguing the attacking party from the gallery of his house. The result was fatal to himself; for in spite of the devoted gallantry of the sepoys, who composed his guard, and that of the paymaster's office and treasury on the opposite side of the street, who yielded their trust only with their latest breath, the latter were plundered, and his two companions, Lieutenant William Broadfoot of the Bengal European regiment, and his brother, Lieutenant Burnes of the Bombay army, were massacred, in common with every man, woman, and child found on the premises, by these bloodthirsty miscreants. Lieutenant Broadfoot killed five or six men with his own hand, before he was shot down.
"The King, who was in the Bala Hissar, being somewhat startled by the increasing number of the rioters, although not at the time aware, so far as we can judge, of the assassination of Sir A. Burnes, dispatched one of his sons with a number of his immediate Affghan retainers, and that corps of Hindoostanees commonly called Campbell's regiment, with two guns, to restore order: no support, however, was rendered to these by our troops, whose leaders appeared so thunderstruck by the intelligence of the outbreak, as to be incapable of adopting more than the most puerile defensive measures. Even Sir William Macnaghten seemed, from a note received at this time from him by Captain Trevor, to apprehend little danger, as he therein expressed his perfect confidence as to the speedy and complete success of Campbell's Hindoostanees in putting an end to the disturbance. Such, however, was not the case; for the enemy, encouraged by our inaction, increased rapidly in spirit and numbers, and drove back the King's guard with great slaughter, the guns being with difficulty saved.
"It must be understood that Captain Trevor lived at this time with his family in a strong bourge or tower, situated by the river side, near the Kuzzilbash quarter, which, on the west, is wholly distinct from the remainder of the city. Within musket-shot, on the opposite side of the river, in the direction of the strong and populous village of Deh Affghan, is a fort of some size, then used as a godown, or storehouse, by the Shah's commissariat, part of it being occupied by Brigadier Anquetil, commanding the Shah's force. Close to this fort, divided by a narrow watercourse, was the house of Captain Troup, brigade-major of the Shah's force, perfectly defensible against musketry. Both Brigadier Anquetil and Captain Troup had gone out on horseback early in the morning towards cantonments, and were unable to return; but the above fort and house contained the usual guard of sepoys; and in a garden close at hand, called the Yaboo-Khaneh, or lines of the baggage-cattle, was a small detachment of the Shah's sappers and miners, and a party of Captain Ferris's juzailchees. Captain Trevor's tower was capable of being made good against a much stronger force than the rebels at this present time could have collected, had it been properly garrisoned.
"As it was, the Hazirbash,18 or King's lifeguards, were, under Captain Trevor, congregated round their leader, to protect him and his family; which duty, it will be seen, they well performed under very trying circumstances. For what took place in this quarter I beg to refer to a communication made to me at my request by Captain Colin Mackenzie,19 assistant political agent at Peshawur, who then occupied the godown portion of the fort above mentioned, which will be found hereafter.20
"I have already stated that Brigadier Shelton was, early in the day, directed to proceed with part of the Seeah Sung force to occupy the Bala Hissar, and, if requisite, to lead his troops against the insurgents. Captain Lawrence, military secretary to the Envoy, was at the same time sent forward to prepare the King for that officer's reception. Taking with him four troopers of the body-guard, he was galloping along the main road, when, shortly after crossing the river, he was suddenly attacked by an Affghan, who, rushing from behind a wall, made a desperate cut at him with a large two-handed knife. He dexterously avoided the blow by spurring his horse on one side; but, passing onwards, he was fired upon by about fifty men, who, having seen his approach, ran out from the Lahore gate of the city to intercept him. He reached the Bala Hissar safe, where he found the King apparently in a state of great agitation, he having witnessed the assault from the window of his palace. His Majesty expressed an eager desire to conform to the Envoy's wishes in all respects in this emergency.
"Captain Lawrence was still conferring with the King, when Lieutenant Sturt, our executive engineer, rushed into the palace, stabbed in three places about the face and neck. He had been sent by Brigadier Shelton to make arrangements for the accommodation of the troops, and had reached the gate of the Dewan Khaneh, or hall of audience, when the attempt at his life was made by some one who had concealed himself there for that purpose, and who immediately effected his escape. The wounds were fortunately not dangerous, and Lieutenant Sturt was conveyed back to cantonments in the King's own palanquin, under a strong escort. Soon after this Brigadier Shelton's force arrived; but the day was suffered to pass without any thing being done demonstrative of British energy and power. The murder of our countrymen, and the spoliation of public and private property, was perpetrated with impunity within a mile of our cantonment, and under the very walls of the Bala Hissar.
"Such an exhibition on our part taught the enemy their strength—confirmed against us those who, however disposed to join in the rebellion, had hitherto kept aloof from prudential motives, and ultimately encouraged the nation to unite as one man for our destruction.
"It was, in fact, the crisis of all others calculated to test the qualities of a military commander. Whilst, however, it is impossible for an unprejudiced person to approve the military dispositions of this eventful period, it is equally our duty to discriminate. The most responsible party is not always the most culpable. It would be the height of injustice to a most amiable and gallant officer not to notice the long course of painful and wearing illness, which had materially affected the nerves, and probably even the intellect, of General Elphinstone; cruelly incapacitating him, so far as he was personally concerned, from acting in this sudden emergency with the promptitude and vigour necessary for our preservation.
"Unhappily, Sir William Macnaghten at first made light of the insurrection, and, by his representations as to the general feeling of the people towards us, not only deluded himself, but misled the General in council. The unwelcome truth was soon forced upon us, that in the whole Affghan nation we could not reckon on a single friend.
"But though no active measures of aggression were taken, all necessary preparations were made to secure the cantonment against attack. It fell to my own lot to place every available gun in position round the works. Besides the guns already mentioned, we had in the magazine 6 nine-pounder iron guns, 3 twenty-four pounder howitzers, 1 twelve-pounder ditto, and 3 5½-inch mortars; but the detail of artillerymen fell very short of what was required to man all these efficiently, consisting of only 80 Punjabees belonging to the Shah, under Lieutenant Warburton, very insufficiently instructed, and of doubtful fidelity."
The fortified cantonment occupied by the British troops was a quadrangle of 1000 yards long by 600 broad, with round flanking bastions at each corner, every one of which was commanded by some fort or hill. To one end of this work was attached the Mission compound and enclosure, about half as large as the cantonment, surrounded by a simple wall. This space required to be defended in time of war, and it rendered the whole of one face of the cantonment nugatory for purposes of defence. The profile of the works themselves was weak, being in fact an ordinary field-work. But the most strange and unaccountable circumstance recorded by Lieutenant Eyre respecting these military arrangements, is certainly the fact, that the commissariat stores, containing whatever the army possessed of food or clothing, was not within the circuit of these fortified cantonments, but in a detached and weak fort, the gate of which was commanded by another building at a short distance. Our author thus sums up his observations on these cantonments:—
"In fact, we were so hemmed in on all sides, that, when the rebellion became general, the troops could not move out a dozen paces from either gate without being exposed to the fire of some neighbouring hostile fort, garrisoned, too, by marksmen who seldom missed their aim. The country around us was likewise full of impediments to the movements of artillery and cavalry, being in many places flooded, and every where closely intersected by deep water-cuts.
"I cannot help adding, in conclusion, that almost all the calamities that befell our ill-starred force may be traced more or less to the defects of our position; and that our cantonment at Cabul, whether we look to its situation or its construction, must ever be spoken of as a disgrace to our military skill and judgment."
Nov. 3.—The 37th native infantry arrived in cantonments, as previously stated.
"Early in the afternoon, a detachment under Major Swayne, consisting of two companies 5th native infantry, one of H.M. 44th, and two H.A. guns under Lieutenant Waller, proceeded out of the western gate towards the city, to effect, if possible, a junction at the Lahore gate with a part of Brigadier Shelton's force from the Bala Hissar. They drove back and defeated a party of the enemy who occupied the road near the Shah Bagh, but had to encounter a sharp fire from the Kohistan gate of the city, and from the walls of various enclosures, behind which a number of marksmen had concealed themselves, as also from the fort of Mahmood Khan, commanding the road along which they had to pass. Lieutenant Waller and several sepoys were wounded. Major Swayne, observing the whole line of road towards the Lahore gate strongly occupied by some Affghan horse and juzailchees, and fearing that he would be unable to effect the object in view with so small a force unsupported by cavalry, retired into cantonments. Shortly after this, a large body of the rebels having issued from the fort of Mahmood Khan, 900 yards southeast of cantonments, extended themselves in a line along the bank of the river, displaying a flag; an iron nine-pounder was brought to bear on them from our southeast bastion, and a round or two of shrapnell caused them to seek shelter behind some neighbouring banks, whence, after some desultory firing on both sides, they retired.
"Whatever hopes may have been entertained, up to this period, of a speedy termination to the insurrection, they began now to wax fainter every hour, and an order was dispatched to the officer commanding at Candahar to lose no time in sending to our assistance the 16th and 43d regiments native infantry, (which were under orders for India,) together with a troop of horse-artillery and half a regiment of cavalry; an order was likewise sent off to recall General Sale with his brigade from Gundamuk. Captain John Conolly, political assistant to the Envoy, went into the Bala Hissar early this morning, to remain with the King, and to render every assistance in his power to Brigadier Shelton."
On this day Lieutenants Maule and Wheeler were murdered at Kahdarrah in Koohdaman; the Kohistan regiment of Affghans which they commanded, offering no resistance to the rebels. The two officers defended themselves resolutely for some time, but fell under the fire of the enemy. Lieutenant Maule had been warned of his danger by a friendly native, but refused to desert his post.
On this day also Lieutenant Rattray, Major Pottinger's assistant, was treacherously murdered at Lughmanee, during a conference to which he had been invited, and within sight of the small fort in which these two gentlemen resided. This act was followed by a general insurrection in Kohistan and Koohdaman, which terminated in the destruction of the Goorkha regiment at Charikar, and the slaughter of all the Europeans in that district except Major Pottinger and Lieutenant Haughton, both severely wounded, who, with one sepoy and one or two followers, succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the Affghan parties, who were patrolling the roads for the purpose of intercepting them, and at length arrived in cantonments, having actually passed at night through the town and bazars of Cabul. For the details of this interesting and afflicting episode in Mr Eyre's narrative, we must refer our readers to the work itself. Major Pottinger appears on this occasion to have exhibited the same high courage and promptitude and vigour in action, and the same resources in difficulty, that made him conspicuous at Herat, and Lieutenant Haughton was no unworthy companion of such a man.
"November 4.—The enemy having taken strong possession of the Shah Bagh, or King's Garden, and thrown a garrison into the fort of Mahomed Shereef, nearly opposite the bazar, effectually prevented any communication between the cantonment and commissariat fort, the gate of which latter was commanded by the gate of the Shah Bagh on the other side of the road.
"Ensign Warren of the 5th native infantry at this time occupied the commissariat fort with 100 men, and having reported that he was very hard pressed by the enemy, and in danger of being completely cut off, the General, either forgetful or unaware at the moment of the important fact, that upon the possession of this fort we were entirely dependent for provisions, and anxious only to save the lives of men whom he believed to be in imminent peril, hastily gave directions that a party under the command of Captain Swayne, of H.M.'s 44th regiment, should proceed immediately to bring off Ensign Warren and his garrison to cantonments, abandoning the fort to the enemy. A few minutes previously an attempt to relieve him had been made by Ensign Gordon, with a company of the 37th native infantry and eleven camels laden with ammunition; but the party were driven back, and Ensign Gordon killed. Captain Swayne now accordingly proceeded towards the spot with two companies of H.M.'s 44th; scarcely had they issued from cantonments ere a sharp and destructive fire was poured upon them from Mahomed Shereef's fort which, as they proceeded, was taken up by the marksmen in the Shah Bagh, under whose deadly aim both officers and men suffered severely; Captains Swayne and Robinson of the 44th being killed, and Lieutenants Hallahan, Evans, and Fortye wounded in this disastrous business. It now seemed to the officer, on whom the command had devolved, impracticable to bring off Ensign Warren's party without risking the annihilation of his own, which had already sustained so rapid and severe a loss in officers; he therefore returned forthwith to cantonments. In the course of the evening another attempt was made by a party of the 5th light cavalry; but they encountered so severe a fire from the neighbouring enclosures as obliged them to return without effecting their desired object, with the loss of eight troopers killed and fourteen badly wounded. Captain Boyd, the assistant commissary-general, having meanwhile been made acquainted with the General's intention to give up the fort, hastened to lay before him the disastrous consequences that would ensue from so doing. He stated that the place contained, besides large supplies of wheat and attah, all his stores of rum, medicine, clothing, &c., the value of which might be estimated at four lacs of rupees; that to abandon such valuable property would not only expose the force to the immediate want of the necessaries of life, but would infallibly inspire the enemy with tenfold courage. He added that we had not above two days' supply of provisions in cantonments, and that neither himself nor Captain Johnson of the Shah's commissariat had any prospect of procuring them elsewhere under existing circumstances. In consequence of this strong representation on the part of Captain Boyd, the General sent immediate orders to Ensign Warren to hold out the fort to the last extremity. (Ensign Warren, it must be remarked, denied having received this note.) Early in the night a letter was received from him to the effect that he believed the enemy were busily engaged in mining one of the towers, and that such was the alarm among the sepoys that several of them had actually made their escape over the wall to cantonments; that the enemy were making preparations to burn down the gate; and that, considering the temper of his men, he did not expect to be able to hold out many hours longer, unless reinforced without delay. In reply to this he was informed that he would be reinforced by two A.M.
"At about nine o'clock P.M., there was an assembly of staff and other officers at the General's house, when the Envoy came in and expressed his serious conviction, that unless Mahomed Shereef's fort were taken that very night, we should lose the commissariat fort, or at all events be unable to bring out of it provisions for the troops. The disaster of the morning rendered the General extremely unwilling to expose his officers and men to any similar peril; but, on the other hand, it was urged that the darkness of the night would nullify the enemy's fire, who would also most likely be taken unawares, as it was not the custom of the Affghans to maintain a very strict watch at night. A man in Captain Johnson's employ was accordingly sent out to reconnoitre the place. He returned in a few minutes with the intelligence that about twenty men were seated outside the fort near the gate, smoking and talking; and, from what he overheard of their conversation, he judged the garrison to be very small, and unable to resist a sudden onset. The debate was now resumed, but another hour passed and the General could not make up his mind. A second spy was dispatched, whose report tended to corroborate what the first had said. I was then sent to Lieutenant Sturt, the engineer, who was nearly recovered from his wounds, for his opinion. He at first expressed himself in favour of an immediate attack, but, on hearing that some of the enemy were on the watch at the gate, he judged it prudent to defer the assault till an early hour in the morning: this decided the General, though not before several hours had slipped away in fruitless discussion.
"Orders were at last given for a detachment to be in readiness at four A.M. at the Kohistan gate; and Captain Bellew, deputy-assistant quartermaster-general, volunteered to blow open the gate; another party of H.M.'s 44th were at the same time to issue by a cut in the south face of the rampart, and march simultaneously towards the commissariat fort, to reinforce the garrison. Morning had, however, well dawned ere the men could be got under arms; and they were on the point of marching off, when it was reported that Ensign Warren had just arrived in cantonments with his garrison, having evacuated the fort. It seems that the enemy had actually set fire to the gate; and Ensign Warren, seeing no prospect of a reinforcement, and expecting the enemy every moment to rush in, led out his men by a hole which he had prepared in the wall. Being called upon in a public letter from the assistant adjutant-general to state his reasons for abandoning his post, he replied that he was ready to do so before a court of enquiry, which he requested might be assembled to investigate his conduct; it was not, however, deemed expedient to comply with his request.
"It is beyond a doubt that our feeble and ineffectual defence of this fort, and the valuable booty it yielded, was the first fatal blow to our supremacy at Cabul, and at once determined those chiefs—and more particularly the Kuzzilbashes—who had hitherto remained neutral, to join in the general combination to drive us from the country."
"Nov. 5.—It no sooner became generally known that the commissariat fort, upon which we were dependent for supplies, had been abandoned, than one universal feeling of indignation pervaded the garrison. Nor can I describe," says Lieutenant Eyre, "the impatience of the troops, but especially of the native portion, to be led out for its recapture—a feeling that was by no means diminished by seeing the Affghans crossing and re-crossing the road between the commissariat fort and the gate of the Shah Bagh, laden with the provisions upon which had depended our ability to make a protracted defence."
That the whole commissariat should have been deposited in a detached fort is extraordinary and inexcusable, but that the garrison of that fort should not have been reinforced, is even more unintelligible; and that a sufficient force was not at once sent to succour and protect it when attacked, is altogether unaccountable. General Elphinstone was disabled by his infirmities from efficiently discharging the duties that had devolved upon him, but he appears to have been ready to act upon the suggestion of others. What then were his staff about?—some of them are said to have had little difficulty or delicacy in urging their own views upon their commander. Did they not suggest to him in time the importance, the necessity, of saving the commissariat at all hazards?
At the suggestion of Lieutenant Eyre, it was determined to attempt the capture of Mahomed Shereef's fort by blowing open the gate, Mr Eyre volunteering to keep the road clear for the storming party with the guns. "The General agreed; a storming party under Major Swayne, 6th native infantry, was ordered; the powder bags were got ready, and at noon we issued from the western gate." "For twenty minutes the guns were worked under a very sharp fire from the fort;" but "Major Swayne, instead of rushing forward with his men as had been agreed, had in the mean time remained stationary, under cover of the wall by the road-side." The General, seeing that the attempt had failed, recalled the troops into cantonments.
"Nov. 6.—It was now determined to take the fort of Mahomed Shereef by regular breach and assault." A practicable breach was effected, and a storming party composed of one company H.M. 44th, under Ensign Raban, one ditto 5th native infantry, under Lieutenant Deas, and one ditto 37th native infantry, under Lieutenant Steer, the whole commanded by Major Griffiths, speedily carried the place. "Poor Raban was shot through the heart when conspicuously waving a flag on the summit of the breach."
As this fort adjoined the Shah Bagh, it was deemed advisable to dislodge the enemy from the latter if possible. This was partially effected, and, had advantage been taken of the opportunity to occupy the buildings of the garden gateway, "immediate re-possession could have been taken of the commissariat fort opposite, which had not yet been emptied of half its contents."
In the mean time, our cavalry were engaged in an affair with the enemy's horse, in which we appear to have had the advantage. "The officers gallantly headed their men, and encountered about an equal number of the enemy who advanced to meet them. A hand-to-hand encounter took place, which ended in the Affghan horse retreating to the plain, leaving the hill in our possession. In this affair, Captain Anderson personally engaged and slew the brother in-law of Abdoolah Khan."
But the Affghans collected from various quarters; the juzailchees,21 under Captain Mackenzie, were driven with great loss from the Shah Bagh which they had entered; and a gun which had been employed to clear that enclosure was with difficulty saved. Our troops having been drawn up on the plain, remained prepared to receive an attack from the enemy, who gradually retired as the night closed in.
Nov. 8.—An attempt was made by the enemy to mine a tower of the fort that had been taken, which they could not have done had the gate of the Shah Bagh been occupied. The chief cause of anxiety now was the empty state of the granary. Even with high bribes and liberal payment, the Envoy could not procure sufficient for daily consumption. The plan of the enemy now was to starve us out, and the chiefs exerted all their influence to prevent our being supplied.
Nov. 9.—The General's weak state of health rendered it necessary to relieve him from the command of the garrison, and at the earnest request of the Envoy, Brigadier Shelton was summoned from the Bala Hissar, "in the hope that, by heartily co-operating with the Envoy and General, he would strengthen their hands and rouse the sinking confidence of the troops. He entered cantonments this morning, bringing with him one H.A. gun, one mountain-train ditto, one company H.M.'s 44th, the Shah's 6th infantry, and a small supply of attah (flour.)"
"November 10.—Henceforward Brigadier Shelton bore a conspicuous part in the drama, upon the issue of which so much depended. He had, however, from the very first, seemed to despair of the force being able to hold out the winter at Cabul, and strenuously advocated an immediate retreat to Jellalabad.
"This sort of despondency proved, unhappily, very infectious. It soon spread its baneful influence among the officers, and was by them communicated to the soldiery. The number of croakers in garrison became perfectly frightful, lugubrious looks and dismal prophecies being encountered every where. The severe losses sustained by H.M.'s 44th under Captain Swayne, on the 4th instant, had very much discouraged the men of that regiment; and it is a lamentable fact that some of those European soldiers, who were naturally expected to exhibit to their native brethren in arms an example of endurance and fortitude, were among the first to loose confidence, and give vent to feelings of discontent at the duties imposed on them. The evil seed, once sprung up, became more and more difficult to eradicate, showing daily more and more how completely demoralizing to the British soldier is the very idea of a retreat.
"Sir William Macnaghten and his suite were altogether opposed to Brigadier Shelton in this matter, it being in his (the Envoy's) estimation a duty we owed the Government to retain our post, at whatsoever risk. This difference of opinion, on a question of such vital importance, was attended with unhappy results, inasmuch as it deprived the General, in his hour of need, of the strength which unanimity imparts, and produced an uncommunicative and disheartening reserve in an emergency which demanded the freest interchange of counsel and ideas."
On the morning of this day, large parties of the enemy's horse and foot occupied the heights to the east and to the west of the cantonments, which, it was supposed, they intended to assault. No attack was made; but "on the eastern quarter, parties of the enemy, moving down into the plain, occupied all the forts in that direction. ... At this time, not above two days' provisions remained in garrison; and it was very clear, that unless the enemy were quickly driven out from their new possession, we should soon be completely hemmed in on all sides." At the Envoy's urgent desire, he taking the entire responsibility on himself, the General ordered a force, under Brigadier Shelton, to storm the Rikabashee fort, which was within musket-shot of the cantonments, and from which a galling fire had been poured into the Mission compound by the Affghans. About noon, the troops assembled at the eastern gate; a storming party of two companies from each regiment taking the lead, preceded by Captain Bellew, who hurried forward to blow open the gate—but missing the gate, he blew open a small wicket, through which not more than two or three men could enter abreast, and these in a stooping posture. A sharp fire was kept up from the walls, and many of the bravest fell in attempting to force their entrance through the wicket; but Colonel Mackerell of the 44th, and Lieutenant Bird of the Shah's 6th infantry, with a handful of Europeans and a few sepoys, forced their way in—the garrison fled through the gate which was at the opposite side, and Colonel Mackerell and his little party closed it, securing the chain with a bayonet; but, at this moment, some Affghan horse charged round the corner—the cry of cavalry was raised—"the Europeans gave way simultaneously with the sepoys—a bugler of the 6th infantry, through mistake, sounded the retreat—and it became for a time, a scene of sauve qui peut." In vain did the officers endeavour to rally the men, and to lead them back to the rescue of their commanding-officer and their comrades; only one man, private Stewart of the 44th, listened to the appeal and returned.
"Let me here (says Lieutenant Eyre) do Brigadier Shelton justice: his acknowledged courage redeemed the day." After great efforts, at last he rallied them—again advancing to the attack, again they faltered. A third time did the Brigadier bring on his men to the assault, which now proved successful; but while this disgraceful scene was passing outside the fort, the enemy had forced their way into it, and had cut to pieces Colonel Mackerell and all his little party, except Lieutenant Bird, who, with one sepoy, was found in a barricaded apartment, where these two brave men had defended themselves till the return of the troops, killing above thirty of the enemy by the fire of their two muskets.
Our loss on this occasion was not less than 200 killed and wounded; but the results of this success, though dearly purchased, were important. Four neighbouring forts were immediately evacuated by the enemy, and occupied by our troops: they were found to contain 1400 maunds of grain, of which about one-half was removed into cantonments immediately; but Brigadier Shelton not having thought it prudent to place a guard for the protection of the remainder, it was carried off during the night by the Affghans. "Permanent possession was, however, taken of the Rikabashee and Zoolfikar forts, and the towers of the remainder were blown up on the following day."
It cannot fail to excite surprise, that these forts, which do not seem to have been occupied by the enemy till the 10th, were not either occupied or destroyed by the British troops before that day.
Nov. 13.—The enemy appeared in great force on the western heights, where, having posted two guns, they fired into cantonments with considerable precision. At the entreaty of the Envoy, it was determined to attack them—a force, under Brigadier Shelton, moved out for that purpose—the advance, under Major Thain, ascended the hill with great gallantry; "but the enemy resolutely stood their ground at the summit of the ridge, and unflinchingly received the discharge of our musketry, which, strange to say, even at the short range of ten or twelve yards, did little or no execution."
The fire of our guns, however, threw the Affghans into confusion. A charge of cavalry drove them up the hill, and the infantry advancing, carried the height, the enemy retreating along the ridge, closely followed by our troops, and abandoning their guns to us; but, owing to the misconduct of the troops, only one of them was carried away, the men refusing to advance to drag off the other, which was therefore spiked by Lieutenant Eyre, with the aid of one artilleryman.
"This was the last success our arms were destined to experience. Henceforward it becomes my weary task to relate a catalogue of errors, disasters, and difficulties, which, following close upon each other, disgusted our officers, disheartened our soldiers, and finally sunk us all into irretrievable ruin, as though Heaven itself, by a combination of evil circumstances, for its own inscrutable purposes, had planned our downfall.
"November 16th.—The impression made by the enemy by the action of the 13th was so far salutary, that they did not venture to annoy us again for several days. Advantage was taken of this respite to throw magazine supplies from time to time into the Bala Hissar, a duty which was ably performed by Lieutenant Walker, with a resalah of irregular horse, under cover of night. But even in this short interval of comparative rest, such was the wretched construction of the cantonment, that the mere ordinary routine of garrison duty, and the necessity of closely manning our long line of rampart both by day and night, was a severe trial to the health and patience of the troops; especially now that the winter began to show symptoms of unusual severity. There seemed, indeed, every probability of an early fall of snow, to which all looked forward with dread, as the harbinger of fresh difficulties and of augmented suffering.
"These considerations, and the manifest superiority of the Bala Hissar as a military position, led to the early discussion of the expediency of abandoning the cantonment, and consolidating our forces in the above-mentioned stronghold. The Envoy himself was, from the first, greatly in favour of this move, until overruled by the many objections urged against it by the military authorities; to which, as will be seen by a letter from him presently quoted, he learned by degrees to attach some weight himself; but to the very last it was a measure that had many advocates, and I venture to state my own firm belief that, had we at this time moved into the Bala Hissar, Cabul would have been still in our possession.
"But Brigadier Shelton having firmly set his face against the movement from the first moment of its proposition, all serious idea of it was gradually abandoned, though it continued to the very last a subject of common discussion."
"Nov. 18. Accounts were this day received from Jellalabad, that General Sale, having sallied from the town, had repulsed the enemy with considerable loss.... The hope of his return has tended much to support our spirits; our disappointment was therefore great, to learn that all expectation of aid from that quarter was at an end. Our eyes were now turned towards the Kandahar force as our last resource though an advance from that quarter seemed scarcely practicable so late in the year."
The propriety of attacking Mahomed Khan's fort, the possession of which would have opened an easy communication with the Bala Hissar, was discussed; but, on some sudden objection raised by Lieutenant Sturt of the engineers, the project was abandoned.
On the 19th, a letter was addressed by the Envoy to the General, the object of which seems not to be very apparent. He raises objections to a retreat either to Jellalabad or to the Bala Hissar, and expresses a decided objection to abandon the cantonment under any circumstances, if food can be procured; but, nevertheless, it is sufficiently evident that his hopes of successful resistance had even now become feeble, and he refers to the possibility that succours may arrive from Kandahar, or that "something might turn up in our favour."
The village of Beymaroo, (or Husbandless, from a beautiful virgin who was nursed there,) within half a mile of the cantonments, had been our chief source of supply, to which the enemy had in some measure put a stop by occupying it every morning. It was therefore determined to endeavour to anticipate them by taking possession of it before their arrival. For this purpose, a party moved out under Major Swayne of the 5th native infantry; but the Major, "it would seem, by his own account, found the village already occupied, and the entrance blocked up in such a manner that he considered it out of his power to force a passage." It does not appear that the attempt was made. Later in the day there was some skirmishing in the plain, in the course of which Lieutenant Eyre was wounded.
"It is worthy of note that Mahomed Akber Khan, second son of the late Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, arrived in Cabul this night (22d Nov.) from Bameean. This man was destined to exercise an evil influence over our future fortunes. The crisis of our struggle was already nigh at hand."
"Nov. 23.—This day decided the fate of the Cabul force." It had been determined by a council, at the special recommendation of the Envoy, that a force under Brigadier Shelton should storm the village of Beymaroo, and maintain the hill above it against any numbers of the enemy that might appear. At two A.M., the troops22 moved out of cantonments, ascended the hill by the gorge, dragging up the gun, and moved along the ridge to a point overlooking the village. A sharp fire of grape created great confusion, and it was suggested by Captain Bellew and others to General Shelton, to storm the village, while the evident panic of the enemy lasted. To this the Brigadier did not accede.
When day broke, the enemy, whose ammunition had failed, were seen hurrying from the village—not 40 men remained. A storming party, under Majors Swayne and Kershaw, was ordered to carry the village; but Major Swayne missed the gate, which was open, and arrived at a barricaded wicket, which he had no means of forcing. Major Swayne was wounded, and lost some men, and was ultimately recalled. Leaving a reserve of three companies of the 37th native infantry, under Major Kershaw, at the point overhanging Beymaroo, the Brigadier moved back with the rest of the troops and the gun to the part of the hill which overlooked the gorge. It was suggested to raise a sungar or breastwork to protect the troops, for which purpose the sappers had been taken out, but it was not done. Immense numbers of the enemy, issuing from the city, had now crowned the opposite hill—in all, probably 10,000 men. Our skirmishers were kept out with great difficulty, and chiefly by the exertions and example of Colonel Oliver. The remainder of the troops were formed into two squares, and the cavalry drawn up en masse immediately in their rear, and all suffered severely—the vent of the only gun became too hot to be served. A party of cavalry under Lieutenant Walker was recalled to prevent its destruction, and a demonstration of the Affghan cavalry on our right flank, which had been exposed by the recall of Lieutenant Walker, was repulsed by a fire of shrapnell, which mortally wounded a chief of consequence. The enemy surrounded the troops on three sides. The men were faint with fatigue and thirst—the Affghan skirmishers pressed on, and our's gave way. The men could not be got to charge bayonets. The enemy made a rush at the guns, the cavalry were ordered to charge, but would not follow their officers. The first square and the cavalry gave way, and were with difficulty rallied behind the second square, leaving the gun in the hands of the enemy, who immediately carried off the limber and horses. News of Abdoolah Khan's wound spread amongst the Affghans, who now retired. Our men resumed courage, and regained possession of the gun; and fresh ammunition having arrived from cantonments, it again opened on the enemy: but our cavalry would not act, and the infantry were too much exhausted and disheartened to make a forward movement, and too few in number. The whole force of the enemy came on with renewed vigour—the front of the advanced square had been literally mowed down, and most of the gallant artillerymen had fallen. The gun was scarcely limbered up preparatory to retreat, when a rush from the Ghazees broke the first square. All order was at an end, the entreaties and commands of the officers were unheeded, and an utter rout ensued down the hill towards the cantonments, the enemy's cavalry making a fearful slaughter among the unresisting fugitives. The retreat of Major Kershaw's party was cut off, and his men were nearly all destroyed. The mingled tide of flight and pursuit seemed to be about to enter the cantonments together; but the pursuers were checked by the fire of the Shah's 5th infantry and the juzailchees, and by a charge of a fresh troop of cavalry under Lieutenant Hardyman, and fifteen or twenty of his own men rallied by Lieutenant Walker, who fell in that encounter. Osman Khan, too, a chief whose men were amongst the foremost, voluntarily halted them and drew them off, "which may be reckoned, indeed, (says Lieutenant Eyre,) the chief reason why all of our people who on that day went forth to battle were not destroyed." The gun and the second limber which had arrived from the cantonments, in attempting to gallop down hill, was overturned and lost. "Our loss was tremendous—the greater part of the wounded, including Colonel Oliver, having been left in the field, where they were miserably cut to pieces."23
Thus terminated in disaster the military struggle at Cabul, and then commenced that series of negotiations not less disastrous, which led to the murder of the Envoy, to the retreat of the army, and to its ultimate annihilation. In Lieutenant Eyre's account of their military operations, we look in vain for any evidence of promptitude, vigour, or decision, skill or judgment, in the commanders; and we have abundant evidence of a lamentable want of discipline and proper spirit in the troops, especially amongst the Europeans. Instances of high personal courage and gallantry amongst the officers are numerous, and they always will be, when the occasion requires them; but if the facts of this narrative had been given without the names, no man would have recognised in it the operations of a British army.
"Nov. 24.—Our troops (says Eyre) had now lost all confidence; and even such of the officers as had hitherto indulged the hope of a favourable turn in our affairs, began at last reluctantly to entertain gloomy forebodings as to our future fate. Our force resembled a ship in danger of wrecking among rocks and shoals, for want of an able pilot to guide it safely through them. Even now, at the eleventh hour, had the helm of affairs been grasped by a hand competent to the important task, we might perhaps have steered clear of destruction; but, in the absence of any such deliverer, it was but too evident that Heaven alone could save us by some unforeseen interposition. The spirit of the men was gone; the influence of the officers over them declined daily; and that boasted discipline, which alone renders a handful of our troops superior to an irregular multitude, began fast to disappear from among us. The enemy, on the other hand, waxed bolder every day and every hour; nor was it long ere we got accustomed to be bearded with impunity from under the very ramparts of our garrison.
"Never were troops exposed to greater hardships and dangers; yet, sad to say, never did soldiers shed their blood with less beneficial result than during the investment of the British lines at Cabul."
Captain Conolly now wrote from the Bala Hissar, urging an immediate retreat thither; "but the old objections were still urged against the measure by Brigadier Shelton and others," though several of the chief military, and all the political officers, approved of it. Shah Shoojah was impatient to receive them.
The door to negotiation was opened by a letter to the Envoy from Osman Khan Barukzye, a near relation of the new king, Nuwab Mahomed Zuman Khan, who had sheltered Captain Drummond in his own house since the first day of the outbreak. He took credit to himself for having checked the ardour of his followers on the preceding day, and having thus saved the British force from destruction; he declared that the chiefs only desired we should quietly evacuate the country, leaving them to govern it according to their own rules, and with a king of their own choosing. The General, on being referred to, was of opinion that the cantonments could not be defended throughout the winter, and approved of opening a negotiation on the basis of the evacuation of the country. On the 27th, two deputies were sent by the assembled chiefs to confer with Sir W. Macnaghten; but the terms they proposed were such as he could not accept. The deputies took leave of the Envoy, with the exclamation, that "we should meet again in battle." "We shall at all events meet," replied Sir William, "at the day of judgment."
At night the Envoy received a letter, proposing "that we should deliver up Shah Shoojah and all his family—lay down our arms, and make an unconditional surrender—when they might, perhaps, be induced to spare our lives, and allow us to leave the country on condition of never returning."
The Envoy replied, "that these terms were too dishonourable to be entertained for a moment; and that, if they were persisted in, he must again appeal to arms, leaving the result to the God of battles."
Active hostilities were not renewed till the 1st of December, when a desperate effort was made by the enemy to gain possession of the Bala Hissar; but they were repulsed by Major Ewart with considerable slaughter. On the 4th, they cannonaded the cantonment from the Beymaroo hills, but did little mischief, and at night they made an unsuccessful attempt on Mahomed Shereef's fort. On the 5th, they completed, without opposition, the destruction of the bridge over the Cabul river. On the 6th, the garrison of Mahomed Shereef's fort disgracefully abandoned it, the men of the 44th apparently being the first to fly; and a garrison of the same regiment, in the bazar village, was with difficulty restrained from following their example. On the 7th, this post of honour was occupied by the 37th native infantry; the 44th, who had hitherto been intrusted with it, being no longer considered worthy to retain it.
It is but justice to Mr Eyre to give in his own words some remarks which he has thought it right to make, with reference to what he has recorded of the conduct of that unhappy regiment:—
"In the course of this narrative, I have been compelled by stern truth to note down facts nearly affecting the honour and interests of a British regiment. It may, or rather I fear it must, inevitably happen, that my unreserved statements of the Cabul occurrences will prove unacceptable to many, whose private or public feelings are interested in glossing over or suppressing the numerous errors committed and censures deservedly incurred. But my heart tells me that no paltry motives of rivalry or malice influence my pen; rather a sincere and honest desire to benefit the public service, by pointing out the rocks on which our reputation was wrecked, the means by which our honour was sullied, and our Indian empire endangered, as a warning to future actors in similar scenes. In a word, I believe that more good is likely to ensue from the publication of the whole unmitigated truth, than from a mere garbled statement of it. A kingdom has been lost—an army slain;—and surely, if I can show that, had we been but true to ourselves, and had vigorous measures been adopted, the result might have been widely different, I shall have written an instructive lesson to rulers and subjects, to generals and armies, and shall not have incurred in vain the disapprobation of the self-interested or the proud."
The Envoy having again appealed to the General, again received an answer, stating the impossibility of holding out, and recommending that the Envoy should lose no time in entering into negotiations. This letter was countersigned by Brigadiers Shelton and Anquetil, and Colonel Chambers.
On the 11th December, the Envoy, accompanied by Captains Lawrence, Trevor, and Mackenzie, and a few troopers, went out by agreement to meet the chiefs on the plain towards the Seah Sung hills. A conciliatory address from the Envoy was met by professions of personal esteem and approbation of the views he had laid before them, and of gratitude for the manner in which the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan had been treated. The Envoy then read to them a sketch of the proposed treaty, which was to the following effect:—
"That the British should evacuate Affghanistan, including Candahar, Ghuznee, Cabul, Jellalabad, and all the other stations absolutely within the limits of the country so called; that they should be permitted to return not only unmolested to India, but that supplies of every description should be afforded them in their road thither, certain men of consequence accompanying them as hostages; that the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, his family, and every Affghan now in exile for political offences, should be allowed to return to their country; that Shah Shoojah and his family should be allowed the option of remaining at Cabul, or proceeding with the British troops to Loodiana, in either case receiving from the Affghan Government a pension of one lac of rupees per annum; that means of transport, for the conveyance of our baggage, stores, &c., including that required by the royal family, in case of their adopting the latter alternative, should be furnished by the existing Affghan Government: that an amnesty should be granted to all those who had made themselves obnoxious on account of their attachment to Shah Shoojah and his allies, the British; that all prisoners should be released; that no British force should be ever again sent into Affghanistan, unless called for by the Affghan government, between whom and the British nation perpetual friendship should be established on the sure foundation of mutual good offices."
After some objections on the part of Mahomed Akber Khan, the terms were agreed to, and it was further arranged that provisions should be supplied to our troops, and that they should evacuate the cantonment in three days.
Preparations were immediately commenced for the retreat. Arms were ordered to be distributed from the stores, now about to be abandoned, to some of the camp-followers, and such of the soldiers as might require them; and a disgraceful scene of confusion and tumult followed, which showed the fearful extent to which the army was disorganized.
The troops in the Bala Hissar were moved into cantonments, not without a foretaste of what they had to expect on their march to Jellalabad, under the safe conduct of Akber Khan.
The demands of the chiefs now rose from day to day. They refused to supply provisions until we should further assure them of our sincerity, by giving up every fort in the immediate vicinity of the cantonment. The troops were accordingly withdrawn, the forts were immediately occupied by the Affghans, and the cantonment thus placed at their mercy. On the 18th, the promised cattle for carriage had not yet been supplied, and a heavy fall of snow rendered the situation of the troops more desperate. On the 19th, the Envoy wrote an order for the evacuation of Ghuznee. On the 20th, the Envoy had another interview with the chiefs, who now demanded that a portion of the guns and ammunition should be given up. This also was agreed to. At this stage of the proceedings, Lieutenant Sturt of the engineers proposed to the General to break off the treaty, and march forthwith to Jellalabad; but the proposal was not approved. The arrangements for giving effect to the treaty were still carried on; and the Envoy again met Akber Khan and Osman Khan on the plain, when Captains Conolly and Airey were given up as hostages, and the Envoy sent his carriage and horses, and a pair of pistols, as presents to Akber Khan, who further demanded an Arab horse, the property of Captain Grant, assistant adjutant-general:—
"Late in the evening of the 22d December," (says Capt. Mackenzie, in a letter to Lieut. Eyre,) "Capt. James Skinner, who, after having been concealed in Cabul during the greater part of the siege, had latterly been the guest of Mahomed Akber, arrived in cantonments, accompanied by Mahomed Sudeeq Khan, a first cousin of Mahomed Akber, and by Sirwar Khan, the Arhanee merchant, who, in the beginning of the campaign, had furnished the army with camels, and who had been much in the confidence of Sir A. Burnes, being, in fact, one of our stanchest friends. The two latter remained in a different apartment, while Skinner dined with the Envoy. During dinner, Skinner jestingly remarked that he felt as if laden with combustibles, being charged with a message from Mahomed Akber to the Envoy of a most portentous nature.
"Even then I remarked that the Envoy's eye glanced eagerly towards Skinner with an expression of hope. In fact, he was like a drowning man catching at straws. Skinner, however, referred him to his Affghan companions, and after dinner the four retired into a room by themselves. My knowledge of what there took place is gained from poor Skinner's own relation, as given during my subsequent captivity with him in Akber's house. Mahomed Sudeeq disclosed Mahomed Akber's proposition to the Envoy, which was, that the following day Sir William should meet him (Mahomed Akber) and a few of his immediate friends, viz. the chiefs of the Eastern Giljyes, outside the cantonments, when a final agreement should be made, so as to be fully understood by both parties; that Sir William should have a considerable body of troops in readiness, which, on a given signal, were to join with those of Mahomed Akber and the Giljyes, assault and take Mahmood Khan's fort, and secure the person of Ameenoolah. At this stage of the proposition Mahomed Sudeeq signified that, for a certain sum of money, the head of Ameenoolah should be presented to the Envoy; but from this Sir William shrunk with abhorrence, declaring that it was neither his custom nor that of his country to give a price for blood. Mahomed Sudeeq then went on to say, that, after having subdued the rest of the khans, the English should be permitted to remain in the country eight months longer, so as to save their purdah, (veil, or credit,) but that they were then to evacuate Affghanistan, as if of their own accord; that Shah Shoojah was to continue king of the country, and that Mahomed Akber was to be his wuzeer. As a further reward for his (Mahomed Akber's) assistance, the British Government were to pay him thirty lacs of rupees, and four lacs of rupees per annum during his life! To this extraordinary and wild proposal, Sir William gave ear with an eagerness which nothing can account for but the supposition, confirmed by many other circumstances, that his strong mind had been harassed until it had in some degree lost its equipoise; and he not only assented fully to these terms, but actually gave a Persian paper to that effect, written in his own hand, declaring as his motives that it was not only an excellent opportunity to carry into effect the real wishes of Government—which were to evacuate the country with as much credit to ourselves as possible—but that it would give England time to enter into a treaty with Russia, defining the bounds beyond which neither were to pass in Central Asia. So ended this fatal conference, the nature and result of which, contrary to his usual custom, Sir William communicated to none of those who, on all former occasions, were fully in his confidence, viz. Trevor, Lawrence, and myself. It seemed as if he feared that we might insist on the impracticability of the plan, which he must have studiously concealed from himself. All the following morning his manner was distracted and hurried, in a way that none of us had ever before witnessed.
"After breakfast, Trevor, Lawrence, and myself were summoned to attend the Envoy during his conference with Mahomed Akber Khan. I found him alone, when, for the first time, he disclosed to me the nature of the transaction he was engaged in. I immediately warned him that it was a plot against him. He replied hastily, 'A plot! let me alone for that—trust me for that!' and I consequently offered no further remonstrance. Sir William then arranged with General Elphinstone that the 54th regiment, under Major Ewart, should be held in readiness for immediate service. The Shah's 6th, and two guns, were also warned."
Sir W. Macnaghten, halting the troopers of the escort, advanced about 500 or 600 yards from the eastern rampart of the cantonment, and there awaited Akber Khan and his party:—
"Close by where some hillocks, on the further side of which from the cantonment a carpet was spread where the snow lay least thick, and there the khans and Sir William sat down to hold their conference. Men talk of presentiment; I suppose it was something of the kind which came over me, for I could scarcely prevail upon myself to quit my horse. I did so, however, and was invited to sit down among the Sirdars. After the usual salutations, Mahomed Akber commenced business by asking the Envoy if he was perfectly ready to carry into effect the proposition of the preceding night? The Envoy replied, 'Why not?' My attention was then called off by an old Affghan acquaintance of mine, formerly chief of the Cabul police, by name Gholam Moyun-ood-deen. I rose from my recumbent posture, and stood apart with him conversing. I afterwards remembered that my friend betrayed much anxiety as to where my pistols were, and why I did not carry them on my person. I answered, that although I wore my sword for form, it was not necessary to be armed cap-à-pie. His discourse was also full of extravagant compliments, I suppose for the purpose of lulling me to sleep. At length my attention was called off from what he was saying, by observing that a number of men, armed to the teeth, had gradually approached to the scene of conference, and were drawing round in a sort of circle. This Lawrence and myself pointed out to some of the chief men, who affected at first to drive them off with whips; but Mahomed Akber observed, that it was of no consequence, as they were in the secret. I again resumed my conversation with Gholam Moyun-ood-deen, when suddenly I heard Mahomed Akber call out, 'Begeer, begeer,' (seize! seize!) and, turning round, I saw him grasp the Envoy's left hand, with an expression in his face of the most diabolical ferocity. I think it was Sultan Jan who laid hold of the Envoy's right hand. They dragged him in a stooping posture down the hillock; the only words I heard poor Sir William utter being, 'Az barae Khooda' (for God's sake!) I saw his face, however, and it was full of horror and astonishment. I did not see what became of Trevor, but Lawrence was dragged past me by several Affghans, whom I saw wrest his weapons from him. Up to this moment I was so engrossed in observing what was taking place, that I actually was not aware that my own right arm was mastered, that my urbane friend held a pistol to my temple, and that I was surrounded by a circle of Ghazees, with drawn swords and cocked juzails. Resistance was in vain, so, listening to the exhortations of Gholam Moyun-ood-deen, which were enforced by the whistling of divers bullets over my head, I hurried through the snow with him to the place where his horse was standing, being despoiled en route of my sabre, and narrowly escaping divers attempts made on my life. As I mounted behind my captor, now my energetic defender, the crowd increased around us, the cries of 'Kill the Kafir' became more vehement, and, although we hurried on at a fast canter, it was with the utmost difficulty Gholam Moyun-ood-deen, although assisted by one or two friends or followers, could ward off and avoid the sword-cuts aimed at me, the rascals being afraid to fire lest they should kill my conductor. Indeed he was obliged to wheel his horse round once, and taking off his turban, (the last appeal a Mussulman can make,) to implore them for God's sake to respect the life of his friend. At last, ascending a slippery bank, the horse fell. My cap had been snatched off, and I now received a heavy blow on the head from a bludgeon, which fortunately did not quite deprive me of my senses. I had sufficient sense left to shoot a-head of the fallen horse, where my protector with another man joined me, and clasping me in their arms, hurried me towards the wall of Mahomed Khan's fort. How I reached the spot where Mahomed Akber was receiving the gratulations of the multitude I know not, but I remember a fanatic rushing on me, and twisting his hand in my collar until I became exhausted from suffocation. I must do Mahomed Akber the Justice to say, that, finding the Ghazees bent on my slaughter, even after I had reached his stirrup, he drew his sword and laid about him right manfully, for my conductor and Meerza Bàoodeen Khan were obliged to press me up against the wall, covering me with their own bodies, and protesting that no blow should reach me but through their persons.
"Pride, however, overcame Mahomed Akber's sense of courtesy, when he thought I was safe, for he then turned round to me, and repeatedly said, in a tone of triumphant derision, 'Shuma moolk-i-ma me geered!' (You'll seize my country, will you!)—he then rode off, and I was hurried towards the gate of the fort. Here new dangers awaited me, for Moolah Momin, fresh from the slaughter of poor Trevor, who was killed riding close behind me—Sultan Jan having the credit of having given him the first sabre-cut—stood here with his followers, whom he exhorted to slay me, setting them the example by cutting fiercely at me himself. Fortunately a gun stood between us, but still he would have effected his purpose, had not Mahomed Shah Khan at that instant, with some followers, come to my assistance. These drew their swords in my defence, the chief himself throwing his arm round my neck, and receiving on his shoulder a cut aimed by Moollah Momin at my head. During the bustle I pushed forward into the fort, and was immediately taken to a sort of dungeon, where I found Lawrence safe, but somewhat exhausted by his hideous ride and the violence he had sustained, although unwounded. Here the Giljye chiefs, Mahomed Shah Khan, and his brother Dost Mahomed Khan, presently joined us, and endeavoured to cheer up our flagging spirits, assuring us that the Envoy and Trevor were not dead, but on the contrary quite well. They stayed with us during the afternoon, their presence being absolutely necessary for our protection. Many attempts were made by the fanatics to force the door to accomplish our destruction. Others spit at us and abused us through a small window, through which one fellow levelled a blunderbuss at us, which was struck up by our keepers and himself thrust back. At last Ameenoollah made his appearance, and threatened us with instant death. Some of his people most officiously advanced to make good his word, until pushed back by the Giljye chiefs, who remonstrated with this iniquitous old monster, their master, whom they persuaded to relieve us from his hateful presence. During the afternoon, a human hand was held up in mockery to us at the window. We said that it had belonged to an European, but were not aware at the time that it was actually the hand of the poor Envoy. Of all the Mahomedans assembled in the room discussing the events of the day, one only, an old moollah, openly and fearlessly condemned the acts of his brethren, declaring that the treachery was abominable, and a disgrace to Islam. At night they brought us food, and gave us each a postheen to sleep on. At midnight we were awakened to go to the house of Mahomed Akber in the city. Mahomed Shah Khan then, with the meanness common to all Affghans of rank, robbed Lawrence of his watch, while his brother did me a similar favour. I had been plundered of my rings and every thing else previously, by the understrappers.
"Reaching Mahomed Akber's abode, we were shown into the room where he lay in bed. He received us with great outward show of courtesy, assuring us of the welfare of the Envoy and Trevor, but there was a constraint in his manner for which I could not account. We were shortly taken to another apartment, where we found Skinner, who had returned, being on parole, early in the morning. Doubt and gloom marked our meeting, and the latter was fearfully deepened by the intelligence which we now received from our fellow-captive of the base murder of Sir William and Trevor. He informed us that the head of the former had been carried about the city in triumph. We of course spent a miserable night. The next day we were taken under a strong guard to the house of Zuman Khan, where a council of the Khans were being held. Here we found Captains Conolly and Airey, who had some days previously been sent to the hurwah's house as hostage for the performance of certain parts of the treaty which was to have been entered into. A violent discussion took place, in which Mahomed Akber bore the most prominent part. We were vehemently accused of treachery, and every thing that was bad, and told that the whole of the transactions of the night previous had been a trick of Mahomed Akber, and Ameenoollah, to ascertain the Envoy's sincerity. They declared that they would now grant us no terms, save on the surrender of the whole of the married families as hostages, all the guns, ammunition, and treasure. At this time Conolly told me that on the preceding day the Envoy's head had been paraded about in the court-yard; that his and Trevor's bodies had been hung up in the public bazar, or chouk; and that it was with the greatest difficulty that the old hurwah, Zuman Khan, had saved him and Airey from being murdered by a body of fanatics, who had attempted to rush into the room where they were. Also, that previous to the arrival of Lawrence, Skinner, and myself, Mahomed Akber had been relating the events of the preceding day to the Jeerga or council, and that he had unguardedly avowed having, while endeavouring to force the Envoy either to mount on horseback or to move more quickly, struck him; and that, seeing Conolly's eyes fastened upon him with an expression of intense indignation, he had altered the phrase and said, 'I mean I pushed him.' After an immense deal of gabble, a proposal for a renewal of the treaty, not, however, demanding all the guns, was determined to be sent to the cantonments, and Skinner, Lawrence, and myself were marched back to Akber's house, enduring en route all manner of threats and insults. Here we were closely confined in an inner apartment, which was indeed necessary for our safety. That evening we received a visit from Mahomed Akber, Sultan Jan, and several other Affghans. Mahomed Akber exhibited his double-barrelled pistols to us, which he had worn the previous day, requesting us to put their locks to rights, something being amiss. Two of the barrels had been recently discharged, which he endeavoured in a most confused way to account for by saying, that he had been charged by a havildar of the escort, and had fired both barrels at him. Now all the escort had run away without even attempting to charge, the only man who advanced to the rescue having been a Hindoo Jemadar of Chuprassies, who was instantly cut to pieces by the assembled Ghazees. This defence he made without any accusation on our part, betraying the anxiety of a liar to be believed. On the 26th, Captain Lawrence was taken to the house of Ameenoollah, whence he did not return to us. Captain Skinner and myself remained in Akber's house until the 30th. During this time we were civilly treated, and conversed with numbers of Affghan gentlemen who came to visit us. Some of them asserted that the Envoy had been murdered by the unruly soldiery. Others could not deny that Akber himself was the assassin. For two or three days we had a fellow-prisoner in poor Sirwar Khan, who had been deceived throughout the whole matter, and out of whom they were then endeavouring to screw money. He, of course, was aware from his countrymen, that not only had Akber committed the murder, but that he protested to the Ghazees that he gloried in the deed. On one occasion a moonshee of Major Pottinger, who had escaped from Charekhar, named Mohun Beer, came direct from the presence of Mahomed Akber to visit us. He told us that Mahomed Akber had begun to see the impolicy of having murdered the Envoy, which fact he had just avowed to him, shedding many tears, either of pretended remorse or of real vexation at having committed himself. On several occasions Mahomed Akber personally, and by deputy, besought Skinner and myself to give him advice as to how he was to extricate himself from the dilemma in which he was placed, more than once endeavouring to excuse himself for not having effectually protected the Envoy, by saying that Sir William had drawn a sword-stick upon him. It seems that meanwhile the renewed negotiations with Major Pottinger, who had assumed the Envoy's place in cantonments, had been brought to a head; for on the night of the 30th, Akber furnished me with an Affghan dress, (Skinner already wore one,) and sent us both back to cantonments. Several Affghans, with whom I fell in afterwards, protested to me that they had seen Mahomed Akber shoot the Envoy with his own hand; amongst them Meerza Báoodeen Khan, who, being an old acquaintance, always retained a sneaking kindness for the English.
"I am, my dear Eyre, yours very truly,
"Cabul, 29th July, 1842."
The negotiations were now renewed by Major Pottinger, who had been requested by General Elphinstone to assume the unenviable office of political agent and adviser.
"The additional clauses in the treaty now proposed for our renewed acceptance were—1st. That we should leave behind our guns, excepting six. 2nd. That we should immediately give up all our treasures. 3d. That the hostages should be all exchanged for married men, with their wives and families. The difficulties of Major Pottinger's position will be readily perceived, when it is borne in mind that he had before him the most conclusive evidence of the late Envoy's ill-advised intrigue with Mahomed Akber Khan, in direct violation of that very treaty which was now once more tendered for consideration."
A sum of fourteen lacs of rupees, about L.140,000, was also demanded, which was said to be payable to the several chiefs on the promise of the late Envoy.
Major Pottinger, at a council of war convened by the General, "declared his conviction that no confidence could be placed in any treaty formed with the Affghan chiefs; that, under such circumstances, to bind the hands of the Government by promising to evacuate the country, and to restore the deposed Ameer, and to waste, moreover, so much public money merely to save our own lives and property, would be inconsistent with the duty we owed to our country and the Government we served; and that the only honourable course would be, either to hold out at Cabul, or to force our immediate retreat to Jellalabad."
"This however, the officers composing the council, one and all declared to be impracticable, owing to the want of provisions, the surrender of the surrounding forts, and the insuperable difficulties of the road at the present season." The new treaty was therefore, forthwith accepted. The demand of the chiefs, that married officers with their families should be left as hostages, was successfully resisted. Captains Drummond, Walsh, Warburton, and Webb, were accepted in their place, and on the 29th went to join Captains Conolly and Airey at the house of Nuwab Zuman Khan. Lieutenant Haughton and a portion of the sick and wounded, were sent into the city, and placed under the protection of the chiefs. "Three of the Shah's guns, with the greater portion of our treasure, were made over during the day, much to the evident disgust of the soldiery." On the following day, "the remainder of the sick went into the city, Lieutenant Evans, H.M. 44th foot, being placed in command, and Dr Campbell, 54th native infantry, with Dr Berwick of the mission, in medical charge of the whole. Two more of the Shah's guns were given up. It snowed hard the whole day."
"January 5.—Affairs continued in the same unsettled state to this date. The chiefs postponed our departure from day to day on various pretexts.... Numerous cautions were received from various well-wishers, to place no confidence in the professions of the chiefs, who had sworn together to accomplish our entire destruction."
It is not our intention to offer any lengthened comments on these details. They require none. The facts, if they be correctly stated, speak for themselves; and, for reasons already referred to, we are unwilling to anticipate the result of the judicial investigation now understood to be in progress. This much, however, we may be permitted to say, that the traces of fatal disunion amongst ourselves will, we fear, be made every where apparent. It is notorious that Sir William Macnaghten and Sir Alexander Burnes were on terms the reverse of cordial. The Envoy had no confidence in the General. The General was disgusted with the authority the Envoy had assumed, even in matters exclusively military—and, debilitated by disease, was unable always to assert his authority even in his own family. The arrival of General Shelton in the cantonments does not appear to have tended to restore harmony, cordiality, or confidence, or even to have revived the drooping courage of the troops, or to have renovated the feelings of obedience, and given effect to the bonds of discipline, which had been too much relaxed. But, even after admitting all these things, much more still remains to be explained before we can account for all that has happened—before we can understand how the political authorities came to reject every evidence of approaching danger, and therefore to be quite unprepared for it when it came. Why no effort was made on the first day to put down the insurrection: Why, in the arrangements for the defence of the cantonments, the commisariat fort was neglected, and the other forts neither occupied nor destroyed: Why almost every detachment that was sent out was too small to effect its object: Why, with a force of nearly six thousand men, we should never on any one occasion have had two thousand in the field, and, as in the action at Beymaroo, only one gun: Why so many orders appear to have been disregarded; why so few were punctually obeyed.
"At last the fatal morning dawned (the 6th January) which was to witness the departure of the Cabul force from the cantonments in which it had endured a two months' siege.
"Dreary indeed was the scene over which, with drooping spirits and dismal forebodings, we had to bend our unwilling steps. Deep snow covered every inch of mountain and plain with one unspotted sheet of dazzling whiteness; and so intensely bitter was the cold, as to penetrate and defy the defences of the warmest clothing."
Encumbered with baggage, crowded with 12,000 camp-followers, and accompanied by many helpless women and children, of all ranks and of all ages—with misery before, and death behind, and treachery all around them—with little hope of successful resistance if attacked, without tents enough to cover them, and without food or fuel for the march, 4500 fighting men, with nine guns, set out on this march of death.
At 9 A.M. the advance moved out, but was delayed for upwards of an hour at the river, having found the temporary bridge incomplete; and it was noon ere the road was clear for the main column, which, with its long train of loaded camels, continued to pour out of the gate until the evening, by which time thousands of Affghans thronged the area of the cantonment rending the air with exulting cries, and committing every kind of atrocity. Before the rearguard commenced its march it was night; but by the light of the burning buildings the Affghan marksmen laid Lieut. Hardyman, and fifty rank and file, lifeless on the snow. The order of march was soon lost; scores of sepoys and camp-followers sat down in despair to perish, and it was 2 A.M. before the rearguard reached the camp at Bygram, a distance of five miles. Here all was confusion; different regiments, with baggage, camp-followers, camels, and horses, mixed up together. The cold towards morning became more intense, and thousands were lying on the bare snow, without shelter, fire, or food. Several died during the night, amongst whom was an European conductor; and the proportion of those who escaped without frostbites was small. Yet this was but the beginning of sorrows.
January 7th.—At 8 A.M. the force moved on in the same inextricable confusion. Already nearly half the sepoys, from sheer inability to keep their ranks, had joined the crowd of non-combatants. The rearguard was attacked, and much baggage lost, and one of the guns having been overturned, was taken by the Affghans, whose cavalry charged into the very heart of the column.
Akber Khan said, that the force had been attacked because it had marched contrary to the wish of the chiefs. He insisted that it should halt, and promised to supply food, forage, and fuel for the troops, but demanded six more hostages, which were given. These terms having been agreed to, the firing ceased for the present, and the army encamped at Bootkhak, where the confusion was indescribable. "Night again," says Lieutenant Eyre, "closed over us, with its attendant horrors—starvation, cold, exhaustion, death."
At an early hour on the 8th the Affghans commenced firing into the camp; and as they collected in considerable numbers, Major Thain led the 44th to attack them. In this business the regiment behaved with a resolution and gallantry worthy of British soldiers. Again Akber Khan demanded hostages. Again they were given, and again the firing ceased. This seems to prove that Akber Khan had the power, if he had chosen to exert it, to restrain those tribes. Once more the living mass of men and animals was put in motion. The frost had so crippled the hands and feet of the strongest men, as to prostrate their powers and to incapacitate them for service.
The Khoord-Cabul pass, which they were about to enter, is about five miles long, shut in by lofty hills, and by precipices of 500 or 600 feet in height, whose summits approach one another in some parts to within about fifty or sixty yards. Down the centre dashed a torrent, bordered with ice, which was crossed about eight-and-twenty times.
While in this dark and narrow gorge, a hot fire was opened upon the advance, with whom were several ladies, who, seeing no other chance of safety, galloped forwards, "running the gauntlet of the enemy's bullets, which whizzed in hundreds about their ears, until they were fairly out of the pass. Providentially the whole escaped, except Lady Sale, who was slightly wounded in the arm." Several of Akber Khan's chief adherents exerted themselves in vain to restrain the Giljyes; and as the crowd moved onward into the thickest of the fire, the slaughter was fearful. Another horse-artillery gun was abandoned, and the whole of its artillerymen slain, and some of the children of the officers became prisoners. It is supposed that 3000 souls perished in the pass, amongst whom were many officers.
"On the force reaching Khoord-Cabul, snow began to fall, and continued till morning. Only four small tents were saved, of which one belonged to the General: two were devoted to the ladies and children, and one was given up to the sick; but an immense number of poor wounded wretches wandered about the camp destitute of shelter, and perished during the night. Groans of misery and distress assailed the ear from all quarters. We had ascended to a still colder climate than we had left behind, and we were without tents, fuel, or food: the snow was the only bed for all, and of many, ere morning, it proved the winding-sheet. It is only marvellous that any should have survived that fearful night!
"January 9th.—Another morning dawned, awakening thousands to increased misery; and many a wretched survivor cast looks of envy at his comrades, who lay stretched beside him in the quiet sleep of death. Daylight was the signal for a renewal of that confusion which attended every movement of the force."
Many of the troops and followers moved without orders at 8 A.M., but were recalled by the General, in consequence of an arrangement with Akber Khan. "This delay, and prolongation of their sufferings in the snow, of which one more march would have carried them clear, made a very unfavourable impression on the minds of the native soldiery, who now, for the first time, began very generally to entertain the idea of deserting." And it is not to be wondered at, that the instinct of self-preservation should have led them to falter in their fealty when the condition of the whole army had become utterly hopeless.
Akber Khan now proposed that the ladies and children should be made over to his care; and, anxious to save them further suffering, the General gave his consent to the arrangement, permitting their husbands and the wounded officers to accompany them.
"Up to this time scarcely one of the ladies had tasted a meal since leaving Cabul. Some had infants a few days old at the breast, and were unable to stand without assistance. Others were so far advanced in pregnancy, that, under ordinary circumstances, a walk across a drawing-room would have been an exertion; yet these helpless women, with their young families, had already been obliged to rough it on the backs of camels, and on the tops of the baggage yaboos: those who had a horse to ride, or were capable of sitting on one, were considered fortunate indeed. Most had been without shelter since quitting the cantonment—their servants had nearly all deserted or been killed—and, with the exception of Lady Macnaghten and Mrs Trevor, they had lost all their baggage, having nothing in the world left but the clothes on their backs; those, in the case of some of the invalids, consisted of night dresses in which they had started from Cabul in their litters. Under such circumstances, a few more hours would probably have seen some of them stiffening corpses. The offer of Mahomed Akber was consequently their only chance of preservation. The husbands, better clothed and hardy, would have infinitely preferred taking their chance with the troops; but where is the man who would prefer his own safety, when he thought he could by his presence assist and console those near and dear to him?
"It is not, therefore, wonderful, that from persons so circumstanced the General's proposal should have met with little opposition, although it was a matter of serious doubt whether the whole were not rushing into the very jaws of death, by placing themselves at the mercy of a man who had so lately imbrued his hands in the blood of a British envoy, whom he had lured to destruction by similar professions of peace and good-will."
Anticipating an attack, the troops paraded to repel it, and it was now found that the 44th mustered only 100 files, and the native infantry regiments about sixty each. "The promises of Mahomed Akber to provide food and fuel were unfulfilled, and another night of starvation and cold consigned more victims to a miserable death."
January 10.—At break of day all was again confusion, every one hurrying to the front, and dreading above all things to be left in the rear. The Europeans were the only efficient men left, the Hindostanees having suffered so severely from the frost in their hands and feet, that few could hold a musket, much less pull a trigger. The enemy had occupied the rocks above the gorge, and thence poured a destructive fire upon the column as it slowly advanced. Fresh numbers fell at every volley. The sepoys, unable to use their arms, cast them away, and, with the followers, fled for their lives.
"The Affghans now rushed down upon their helpless and unresisting victims sword in hand, and a general massacre took place. The last small remnant of the native infantry regiments were here scattered and destroyed; and the public treasure, with all the remaining baggage, fell into the hands of the enemy. Meanwhile, the advance, after pushing through the Tungee with great loss, had reached Kubbur-i-Jubbar, about five miles a-head, without more opposition. Here they halted to enable the rear to join, but, from the few stragglers who from time to time came up, the astounding truth was brought to light, that of all who had that morning marched from Khoord-Cabul they were almost the sole survivors, nearly the whole of the main and rear columns having been cut off and destroyed. About 50 horse-artillerymen, with one twelve-pounder howitzer, 70 files H.M.'s 44th, and 150 cavalry troopers, now composed the whole Cabul force; but, notwithstanding the slaughter and dispersion that had taken place, the camp-followers still formed a considerable body."
Another remonstrance was now addressed to Akber Khan. He declared, in reply, his inability to restrain the Giljyes. As the troops entered a narrow defile at the foot of the Huft Kotul, they found it strewn with the dead bodies of their companions. A destructive fire was maintained on the troops from the heights on either side, and fresh numbers of dead and wounded lined the course of the stream. "Brigadier Shelton commanded the rear with a few Europeans, and but for his persevering energy and unflinching fortitude in repelling the assailants, it is probable the whole would have been there sacrificed." They encamped in the Tezeen valley, having lost 12,000 men since leaving Cabul; fifteen officers had been killed and wounded in this day's march.
After resting three hours, they marched, under cover of the darkness, at seven P.M. Here the last gun was abandoned, and with it Dr Cardew, whose zeal and gallantry had endeared him to the soldiers; and a little further on Dr Duff was left on the road in a state of utter exhaustion.
"Bodies of the neighbouring tribes were by this time on the alert, and fired at random from the heights, it being fortunately too dark for them to aim with precision; but the panic-stricken camp-followers now resembled a herd of startled deer, and fluctuated backwards and forwards, en masse, at every shot, blocking up the entire road, and fatally retarding the progress of the little body of soldiers who, under Brigadier Shelton, brought up the rear.
"At Burik-àb a heavy fire was encountered by the hindmost from some caves near the road-side, occasioning fresh disorder, which continued all the way to Kutter-Sung, where the advance arrived at dawn of day, and awaited the junction of the rear, which did not take place till 8 A.M."
January 11.— ...
"From Kutter-Sung to Jugdulluk it was one continued conflict; Brigadier Shelton, with his brave little band in the rear, holding overwhelming numbers in check, and literally performing wonders. But no efforts could avail to ward off the withering fire of juzails, which from all sides assailed the crowded column, lining the road with bleeding carcasses. About three P.M. the advance reached Jugdulluk, and took up its position behind some ruined walls that crowned a height by the road-side. To show an imposing front, the officers extended themselves in line, and Captain Grant, assistant adjutant-general, at the same moment received a wound in the face. From this eminence they cheered their comrades under Brigadier Shelton in the rear, as they still struggled their way gallantly along every foot of ground, perseveringly followed up by their merciless enemy, until they arrived at their ground. But even here rest was denied them; for the Affghans, immediately occupying two hills which commanded the position, kept up a fire from which the walls of the enclosure afforded but a partial shelter.
"The exhausted troops and followers now began to suffer greatly from thirst, which they were unable to satisfy. A tempting stream trickled near the foot of the hill, but to venture down to it was certain death. Some snow that covered the ground was eagerly devoured, but increased, instead of alleviating, their sufferings. The raw flesh of three bullocks, which had fortunately been saved, was served out to the soldiers, and ravenously swallowed."
About half-past three Akber Khan sent for Capt. Skinner, who promptly obeyed the call, hoping still to effect some arrangement for the preservation of those who survived. The men now threw themselves down, hoping for a brief repose, but the enemy poured volleys from the heights into the enclosures in rapid succession. Captain Bygrave, with about fifteen brave Europeans, sallied forth, determined to drive the enemy from the heights or perish in the attempt. They succeeded; but the enemy, who had fled before them, returned and resumed their fatal fire. At five P.M. Captain Skinner returned with a message from Akber Khan, requesting the presence of the General at a conference, and demanding Brigadier Shelton and Capt. Johnson as hostages for the surrender of Jellalabad. The troops saw the departure of these officers with despair, feeling assured that these treacherous negotiations "were preparatory to fresh sacrifices of blood." The General and his companions were received with every outward token of kindness, and they were supplied with food, but they were not permitted to return. The Sirdar put the General off with promises; and at seven P.M. on the 12th, firing being heard, it was ascertained that the troops, impatient of further delay, had actually moved off. Before their departure Captain Skinner had been treacherously shot. They had been exposed during the whole day to the fire of the enemy—"sally after sally had been made by the Europeans, bravely led by Major Thain, Captain Bygrave, and Lieutenants Wade and Macartney, but again and again the enemy returned to worry and destroy. Night came, and all further delay in such a place being useless, the whole sallied forth, determined to pursue the route to Jellalabad at all risks."
The sick and the wounded were necessarily abandoned to their fate. For some time the Giljyes seemed not to be on the alert; but in the defile, at the top of the rise, further progress was obstructed by barriers formed of prickly trees. This caused great delay, and "a terrible fire was poured in from all quarters—a massacre even worse than that of the Tunga Tarikee24 commenced, the Affghans rushing in furiously upon the pent-up crowd of troops and followers, and committing wholesale slaughter. A miserable remnant managed to clear the barriers. Twelve officers, amongst whom was Brigadier Anquetil, were killed. Upwards of forty others succeeded in pushing through, about twelve of whom, being pretty well mounted, rode on a-head of the rest with the few remaining cavalry, intending to make the best of their way to Jellalabad."
The country now became more open—the Europeans dispersed, in small parties under different officers. The Giljyes were too much occupied in plundering the dead to pursue them, but they were much delayed by the amiable anxiety of the men to carry on their wounded comrades. The morning of the 13th dawned as they approached Gundamuk, revealing to the enemy the insignificance of their numerical strength; and they were compelled, by the vigorous assaults of the Giljyes, to take up a defensive position on a height to the left of the road, "where they made a resolute stand, determined to sell their lives at the dearest possible price. At this time they could only muster about twenty muskets." An attempt to effect an amicable arrangement terminated in a renewal of hostilities, and "the enemy marked off man after man, and officer after officer, with unerring aim. Parties of Affghans rushed up at intervals to complete the work of extermination, but were as often driven back by the still dauntless handful of invincibles. At length, all being wounded more or less, a final onset of the enemy, sword in hand, terminated the unequal struggle and completed the dismal tragedy." Captain Souter, who was wounded, and three or four privates, were spared and led away captive. Major Griffiths and Captain Blewitt, having descended to confer with the enemy, had been previously led off. Of the twelve officers who had gone on in advance eleven were destroyed, and Dr Brydon alone of the whole Cabul force reached Jellalabad.
"Such was the memorable retreat of the British army from Cabul, which, viewed in all its circumstances—in the military conduct which preceded and brought about such a consummation, the treachery, disaster, and suffering which accompanied it—is, perhaps, without a parallel in history."
Since the day when Lord Auckland, by his famous proclamation in October 1838, "directed the assemblage of a British force for service across the Indus," we have never ceased to denounce the invasion and continued occupation of Affghanistan as equally unjust and impolitic25—unjust, as directed against a people whose conduct had afforded us no legitimate grounds of hostility, and against a ruler whose only offence was, that he had accepted26 the proffer from another quarter of that support and alliance which we had denied to his earnest entreaty—and impolitic, as tending not only to plunge us into an endless succession of ruinous and unprofitable warfare, but to rouse against us an implacable spirit of enmity, in a nation which had hitherto shown every disposition to cultivate amicable relations with our Anglo-Indian Government. In all points, our anticipations have been fatally verified. After more than two years consumed in unavailing efforts to complete the reduction of the country, our army of occupation was at last overwhelmed by the universal and irresistible outbreak of an indignant and fanatic population; and the restored monarch, Shah-Shoojah, ("whose popularity throughout Affghanistan had been proved to the Governor-general by the strong and unanimous testimony of the best authorities") perished, as soon as he lost the protection of foreign bayonets, by the hands of his outraged countrymen.27
The tottering and unsubstantial phantom of a Doorauni kingdom vanished at once and for ever—and the only remaining alternative was, (as we stated the case in our number of last July,) "either to perpetrate a second act of violence and national injustice, by reconquering Affghanistan for the vindication (as the phrase is) of our military honour, and holding it without disguise as a province of our empire—or to make the best of a bad bargain, by contenting ourselves with the occupation of a few posts on the frontier, and leaving the unhappy natives to recover, without foreign interference, from the dreadful state of anarchy into which our irruption has thrown them." Fortunately for British interests in the East, the latter course has been adopted. After a succession of brilliant military triumphs, which, in the words of Lord Ellenborough's recent proclamation, "have, in one short campaign, avenged our late disasters upon every scene of past misfortune," the evacuation of the country has been directed—not, however, before a fortunate chance had procured the liberation of all the prisoners who had fallen into the power of the Affghans in January last; and ere this time, we trust, not a single British regiment remains on the bloodstained soil of Affghanistan.
The proclamation above referred to,28 (which we have given at length at the conclusion of this article,) announcing these events, and defining the line of policy in future to be pursued by the Anglo-Indian Government, is in all respects a remarkable document. As a specimen of frankness and plain speaking, it stands unique in the history of diplomacy; and, accordingly, both its matter and its manner have been made the subjects of unqualified censure by those scribes of the Opposition press who, "content to dwell in forms for ever," have accustomed themselves to regard the mystified protocols of Lord Palmerston as the models of official style. The Morning Chronicle, with amusing ignorance of the state of the public mind in India, condemns the Governor-general for allowing it to become known to the natives that the abandonment of Affghanistan was in consequence of a change of policy! conceiving (we suppose) that our Indian subjects would otherwise have believed the Cabul disasters to have formed part of the original plan of the war, and to have veiled some purpose of inscrutable wisdom; while the Globe, (Dec. 3,) after a reluctant admission that "the policy itself of evacuating the country may be wise," would fain deprive Lord Ellenborough of the credit of having originated this decisive step, by an assertion that "we have discovered no proof that a permanent possession of the country beyond the Indus was contemplated by his predecessor." It would certainly have been somewhat premature in Lord Auckland to have announced his ultimate intentions on this point while the country in question was as yet but imperfectly subjugated, or when our troops were subsequently almost driven out of it; but the views of the then home Government, from which it is to be presumed that Lord Auckland received his instructions, were pretty clearly revealed in the House of Commons on the 10th of August last, by one whose authority the Globe, at least, will scarcely dispute—by Lord Palmerston himself. To prevent the possibility of misconstruction, we quote the words attributed to the late Foreign Secretary. After drawing the somewhat unwarrantable inference, from Sir Robert Peel's statement, "that no immediate withdrawal of our troops from Candahar and Jellalabad was contemplated," that an order had at one time been given for the abandonment of Affghanistan, he proceeds—"I do trust that her Majesty's Government will not carry into effect, either immediately or at any future time, the arrangement thus contemplated. It was all very well when we were in power, and it was suited to party purposes, to run down any thing we had done, and to represent as valueless any acquisition on which we may have prided ourselves—it was all very well to raise an outcry against the Affghan expedition, and to undervalue the great advantages which the possession of the country was calculated to afford us—but I trust the Government will rise above any consideration of that sort, and that they will give the matter their fair, dispassionate, and deliberate consideration. I must say, I never was more convinced of any thing in the whole course of my life—and I may be believed when I speak my earnest conviction—that the most important interests of this country, both commercial and political, would be sacrificed, if we were to sacrifice the military possession of the country of Eastern Affghanistan." Is it in the power of words to convey a clearer admission, that the pledge embodied in Lord Auckland's manifesto—"to withdraw the British army as soon as the independence and integrity of Affghanistan should be secured by the establishment of the Shah"—was in fact mere moonshine: and the real object of the expedition was the conquest of a country advantageously situated for the defence of our Indian frontier against (as it now appears) an imaginary invader? Thus Napoleon, in December 1810, alleged "the necessity, in consequence of the new order of things which has arisen, of new guarantees for the security of my empire," as a pretext for that wholesale measure of territorial spoliation in Northern Germany, which, from the umbrage it gave Russia, proved ultimately the cause of his downfall: but it was reserved for us of the present day, to hear a British minister avow and justify a violent and perfidious usurpation on the plea of political expediency. It must indeed be admitted that, in the early stages of the war, the utter iniquity of the measure met with but faint reprobation from any party in the state: the nation, dazzled by the long-disused splendours of military glory, was willing, without any very close enquiry, to take upon trust all the assertions so confidently put forth on the popularity of Shah-Shoojah, the hostile machinations of Dost Mohammed, and the philanthropic and disinterested wishes of the Indian Government for (to quote a notable phrase to which we have more than once previously referred) "the reconstruction of the social edifice" in Affghanistan. But now that all these subterfuges, flimsy as they were at best, have been utterly dissipated by this undisguised declaration of Lord Palmerston, that the real object of the war was to seize and hold the country on our own account, the attempt of the Globe to claim for Lord Auckland the credit of having from the first contemplated a measure thus vehemently protested against and disclaimed by the late official leader of his party, is rather too barefaced to be passed over without comment.
Without, however, occupying ourselves further in combating the attacks of the Whig press on this proclamation, which may very well be left to stand on its own merits, we now proceed to recapitulate the course of the events which have, in a few months, so completely changed the aspect of affairs beyond the Indus. When we took leave, in July last, of the subject of the Affghan campaign, we left General Pollock, with the force which had made its way through the Khyber Pass, still stationary at Jellalabad, for want (as it was said) of camels and other means of transport: while General Nott, at Candahar, not only held his ground, but victoriously repulsed in the open field the Affghan insurgents, (as it is the fashion to call them,) who were headed by the prince Seifdar-Jung, son of Shah Shoojah! and General England, after his repulse on the 28th of March at the Kojuck Pass, remained motionless at Quettah. The latter officer (in consequence, as it is said, of peremptory orders from General Nott to meet him on a given day at the further side of the Pass) was the first to resume active operations; and on the 28th of April, the works at Hykulzie in the Kojuck, which had been unaccountably represented on the former occasion as most formidable defences,29 were carried without loss or difficulty, and the force continued its march uninterrupted to Candahar. The fort of Khelat-i-Ghiljie, lying about halfway between Candahar and Ghazni, was at the sane time gallantly and successfully defended by handful of Europeans and sepoys, till relieved by the advance of a division from Candahar, which brought off the garrison, and razed the fortifications of the place. Girishk, the hereditary stronghold of the Barukzye chiefs, about eighty miles west of Candahar, was also dismantled and abandoned; and all the troops in Western Affghanistan were thus concentrated under the immediate command of General Nott, whose success in every encounter with the Affghans continued to be so decisive, that all armed opposition disappeared from the neighbourhood of Candahar; and the prince Seifdar-Jung, despairing of the cause, of which he had perhaps been from the first not a very willing supporter, came in and made his submission to the British commander.
During the progress of these triumphant operations in Western Affghanistan, General Pollock still lay inactive at Jellalabad; and some abortive attempts were made to negotiate with the dominant party at Cabul for the release of the prisoners taken the preceding winter. Since the death of Shah-Shoojah, the throne had been nominally filled by his third son, Futteh-Jung, the only one of the princes who was on the spot; but all the real power was vested, with the rank of vizier, in the hands of Akhbar Khan, who had not only possessed himself of the Bala-Hissar and the treasure of the late king, but had succeeded in recruiting the forces of the Affghan league, by a reconciliation with Ameen-ullah Khan,30 the original leader of the outbreak, with whom he had formerly been at variance. All efforts, however, to procure the liberation of the captives, on any other condition than the liberation of Dost Mohammed, and the evacuation of Affghanistan by the English, (as hostages for which they had originally been given,) proved fruitless; and at length, after more than four months' delay, during which several sharp affairs had taken place with advanced bodies of the Affghans, General Pollock moved forward with his whole force, on the 20th of August, against Cabul. This city had again in the mean time become a scene of tumult and disorder—the Kizilbashes or Persian inhabitants, as well as many of the native chiefs, resisting the exactions of Akhbar Khan; who, at last, irritated by the opposition to his measures, imprisoned the titular shah, Futteh-Jung, in the Bala-Hissar; whence he succeeded after a time in escaping, and made his appearance, in miserable plight, (Sept. 1,) at the British headquarters at Futtehabad, between Jellalabad and Gundamuck. The advance of the army was constantly opposed by detached bodies of the enemy, and several spirited skirmishes took place:—till, on the 13th of September, the main Affghan force, to the number of 16,000 men, under Akhbar Khan and other leaders, was descried on the heights near Tazeen, (where the slaughter of our troops had taken place in January,) at the entrance of the formidable defiles called the Huft-Kothul, or Seven Passes. It is admitted on all hands that in this last struggle, (as they believed, for independence,) the Affghans fought with most distinguished gallantry, frequently charging sword in hand upon the bayonets; but their irregular valour eventually gave way before the discipline of their opponents, and a total rout took place. The chiefs fled in various directions, "abandoning Cabul to the avengers of British wrongs," who entered the city in triumph on the 15th, and hoisted the British colours on the Bala-Hissar. The principal point now remaining to be effected was the rescue of the prisoners whom Akhbar Khan had carried off with him in his flight, with the intention (as was rumoured) of transporting them into Turkestan; but from this peril they were fortunately delivered by the venality of the chief to whose care they had been temporarily intrusted; and on the 21st they all reached the camp in safety, with the exception of Captain Bygrave, who was also liberated, a few days later, by the voluntary act of Akhbar himself.31
General Nott, meanwhile, in pursuance of his secret orders from the Supreme Government, had been making preparations for abandoning Candahar; and, on the 7th and 8th of August, the city was accordingly evacuated, both by his corps and by the division of General England—the Affghan prince, Seifdar-Jung, being left in possession of the place. The routes of the two commanders were now separated. General England, with an immense train of luggage, stores, &c., directed his march through the Kojuck Pass to Quettah, which he reached with little opposition;—while Nott, with a more lightly-equipped column, about 7000 strong, advanced by Khelat-i-Ghiljie against Ghazni. This offensive movement appears to have taken the Affghans at first by surprise; and it was not till he arrived within thirty-eight miles of Ghazni that General Nott found his progress opposed (August 30) by 12,000 men under the governor, Shams-o-deen Khan, a cousin of Mohammed Akhbar. The dispersion of this tumultuary array was apparently accomplished (as far as can be gathered from the extremely laconic despatches of the General) without much difficulty; and, on the 6th of September, after a sharp skirmish in the environs, the British once more entered Ghazni. In the city and neighbouring villages were found not fewer than 327 sepoys of the former garrison, which had been massacred to a man (according to report) immediately after the surrender; but notwithstanding this evidence of the moderation with which the Affghans had used their triumph, General Nott, (in obedience, as is said, to the positive tenor of his instructions,) "directed the city of Ghazni, with the citadel and the whole of its works, to be destroyed;" and this order appears, from the engineer's report, to have been rigorously carried into effect. The mace of Mamood Shah Ghaznevi, the first Moslem conqueror of Hindostan, and the famous sandal-wood portals of his tomb, (once the gates of the great Hindoo temple at Somnaut,32) were carried off as trophies: the ruins of Ghazni were left as a monument of British vengeance; and General Nott, resuming his march, and again routing Shams-o-deen Khan at the defiles of Myden, effected his junction with General Pollock, on the 17th of September, at Cabul; whence the united corps, together mustering 18,000 effective men, were to take the route for Hindostan through the Punjab early in October.
Such have been the principal events of the brief but brilliant campaign which has concluded the Affghan war, and which, if regarded solely in a military point of view, must be admitted to have amply vindicated the lustre of the British arms from the transient cloud cast on them by the failures and disasters of last winter.
The Affghan tragedy, however, may now, we hope, be considered as concluded, so far as related to our own participation in its crimes and calamities; but for the Affghans themselves, "left to create a government in the midst of anarchy," there can be at present little chance of even comparative tranquillity, after the total dislocation of their institutions and internal relations by the fearful torrent of war which has swept over the country. The last atonement now in our power to make, both to the people and the ruler whom we have so deeply injured, as well as the best course for our own interests, would be at once to release Dost Mohammed from the unmerited and ignominious confinement to which he has been subjected in Hindostan, and to send him back in honour to Cabul; where his own ancient partisans, as well as those of his son, would quickly rally round him; and where his presence and accustomed authority might have some effect in restraining the crowd of fierce chiefs, who will be ready to tear each other to pieces as soon as they are released from the presence of the Feringhis. There would thus be at least a possibility of obtaining a nucleus for the re-establishment of something like good order; while in no other quarter does there appear much prospect of a government being formed, which might be either "approved by the Affghans themselves," or "capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states." If the accounts received may be depended upon, our troops had scarcely cleared the Kojuck Pass, on their way from Candahar to the Indus, when that city became the scene of a contest between the Prince Seifdar-Jung and the Barukzye chiefs in the vicinity; and though the latter are said to have been worsted in the first instance, there can be little doubt that our departure will be the signal for the speedy return of the quondam Sirdars, or rulers of Candahar, (brothers of Dost Mohammed,) who have found an asylum in Persia since their expulsion in 1839, but who will scarcely neglect so favourable an opportunity for recovering their lost authority. Yet another competitor may still, perhaps, be found in the same quarter—one whose name, though sufficiently before the public a few years since, has now been almost forgotten in the strife of more mighty interests. This is Shah Kamran of Herat, the rumours of whose death or dethronement prove to have been unfounded, and who certainly would have at this moment a better chance than he has ever yet had, for regaining at least Candahar and Western Affghanistan. He was said to be on the point of making the attempt after the repulse of the Persians before Herat, just before our adoption of Shah-Shoojah; and his title to the crown is at least as good as that of the late Shah, or any of his sons. It will be strange if this prince, whose danger from Persia was the original pretext for crossing the Indus, should be the only one of all the parties concerned, whose condition underwent no ultimate change, through all the vicissitudes of the tempest which has raged around him.
Nor are the elements of discord less abundant and complicated on the side of Cabul. The defeat of Tazeen will not, any more than the preceding ones, have annihilated Akhbar Khan and his confederate chiefs:—they are still hovering in the Kohistan, and will doubtless lose no time in returning to Cabul as soon as the retreat of the English is ascertained. It is true that the civil wars of the Affghans, though frequent, have never been protracted or sanguinary:—like the Highlanders, as described by Bailie Nicol Jarvie, "though they may quarrel among themselves, and gie ilk ither ill names, and may be a slash wi' a claymore, they are sure to join in the long run against a' civilized folk:"—but it is scarcely possible that so many conflicting interests, now that the bond of common danger is removed, can be reconciled without strife and bloodshed. It is possible, indeed, that Futteh-Jung (whom the last accounts state to have remained at Cabul when our troops withdrew, in the hope of maintaining himself on the musnud, and who is said to be the most acceptable to the Affghans of the four sons33 of Shah-Shoojah) may be allowed to retain for a time the title of king; but he had no treasure and few partizans; and the rooted distaste of the Affghans for the titles and prerogatives of royalty is so well ascertained, that Dost Mohammed, even in the plenitude of his power, never ventured to assume them. All speculations on these points, however, can at present amount to nothing more than vague conjecture; the troubled waters must have time to settle, before any thing can be certainly prognosticated as to the future destinies of Affghanistan.
The kingdom of the Punjab will now become the barrier between Affghanistan and our north-western frontier in India; and it is said that the Sikhs, already in possession of Peshawer and the rich plain extending to the foot of the Khyber mountains, have undertaken in future to occupy the important defiles of this range, and the fort of Ali-Musjid, so as to keep the Affghans within bounds. It seems to us doubtful, however, whether they will be able to maintain themselves long, unaided, in this perilous advanced post: though the national animosity which subsists between them and the Affghans is a sufficient pledge of their good-will for the service—and their co-operation in the late campaign against Cabul has been rendered with a zeal and promptitude affording a strong contrast to their lukewarmness at the beginning of the war, when they conceived its object to be the re-establishment of the monarchy and national unity of their inveterate foes. But the vigour of the Sikh kingdom, and the discipline and efficiency of their troops, have greatly declined in the hands of the present sovereign, Shere Singh, who, though a frank and gallant soldier, has little genius for civil government, and is thwarted and overborne in his measures by the overweening power of the minister, Rajah Dhian Singh, who originally rose to eminence by the favour of Runjeet. At present, our information as to the state of politics in the Punjab is not very explicit, the intelligence from India during several months, having been almost wholly engrossed by the details of the campaign in Affghanistan; but as far as can be gathered from these statements, the country has been brought, by the insubordination of the troops, and the disputes of the Maharajah and his Minister, to a state not far removed from anarchy. It is said that the fortress of Govindghur, where the vast treasures amassed by Runjeet are deposited, has been taken possession of by the malecontent faction, and that Shere Singh has applied for the assistance of our troops to recover it; and the Delhi Gazette even goes so far as to assert that this prince, "disgusted with the perpetual turmoil in which he is embroiled, and feeling his incapacity of ruling his turbulent chieftains, is willing to cede his country to us, and become a pensioner of our Government." But this announcement, though confidently given, we believe to be at least premature. That the Punjab must inevitably, sooner or later, become part of the Anglo-Indian empire, either as a subsidiary power, like the Nizam, or directly, as a province, no one can doubt; but its incorporation at this moment, in the teeth of our late declaration against any further extension of territory, and at the time when the Sikhs are zealously fulfilling their engagements as our allies, would be both injudicious and unpopular in the highest degree. An interview, however, is reported to have been arranged between Lord Ellenborough and Shere Singh, which is to take place in the course of the ensuing summer, and at which some definitive arrangements will probably be entered into, on the future political relations of the two Governments.34
The only permanent accession of territory, then, which will result from the Affghan war, will consist in the extension of our frontier along the whole course of the Sutlej and Lower Indus—"the limits which nature appears to have assigned to the Indian empire"—and in the altered relations with some of the native states consequent on these arrangements. As far as Loodeana, indeed, our frontier on the Sutlej has long been well established, and defined by our recognition of the Sikh kingdom on the opposite bank;—but the possessions of the chief of Bhawulpoor, extending on the left bank nearly from Loodeana to the confluence of the Sutlej with the Indus, have hitherto been almost exempt from British interference;35 as have also the petty Rajpoot states of Bikaneer, Jesulmeer, &c., which form oases in the desert intervening between Scinde and the provinces more immediately under British control. These, it is to be presumed, will now be summarily taken under the protection of the Anglo-Indian Government:—but more difficulty will probably be experienced with the fierce and imperfectly subdued tribes of Scindians and Belooches, inhabiting the lower valley of the Indus;—and, in order to protect the commerce of the river, and maintain the undisputed command of its course, it will be necessary to retain a sufficient extent of vantage-ground on the further bank, and to keep up in the country an amount of force adequate to the effectual coercion of these predatory races. For this purpose, a place d'armes has been judiciously established at Sukkur, a town which, communicating with the fort of Bukkur on an island of the Indus, and with Roree on the opposite bank, effectually secures the passage of the river; and the ports of Kurrachee and Sonmeani on the coast, the future marts of the commerce of the Indus, have also been garrisoned by British troops.
It has long since been evident36 that Scinde, by that principle of unavoidable expansion to which we had so often had occasion to refer, must eventually have been absorbed into the dominions of the Company; but the process by which it at last came into our hands is so curious a specimen of our Bonapartean method of dealing with reluctant or refractory neutrals, that we cannot pass it altogether without notice. Scinde, as well as Beloochistan, had formed part of the extensive empire subdued by Ahmed Shah, the founder of the Doorani monarchy; but in the reign of his indolent son Timour, the Affghan yoke was shaken off by the Ameers, or chiefs of the Belooch family of Talpoor, who, fixing their residences respectively at Hydrabad, Meerpoor, and Khyrpoor, defied all the efforts of the kings of Cabul to reduce them to submission, though they more than once averted an invasion by the promise of tribute. It has been rumoured that Shah-Shoojah, during his long exile, made repeated overtures to the Cabinet of Calcutta for the cession of his dormant claims to the suzerainté of Scinde, in exchange for an equivalent, either pecuniary or territorial; but the representations of a fugitive prince, who proposed to cede what was not in his possession, were disregarded by the rulers of India; and even in the famous manifesto preceding the invasion of Affghanistan, Lord Auckland announced, that "a guaranteed independence, on favourable conditions, would be tendered to the Ameers of Scinde." On the appearance of our army on the border, however, the Ameers demurred, not very unreasonably, to the passage of this formidable host; and considerable delay ensued, from the imperfect information possessed by the British commanders of the amount of resistance to be expected; but at last the country and fortress were forcibly occupied; the seaport of Kurrachee (where alone any armed opposition was attempted) was bombarded and captured by our ships of war; and a treaty was imposed at the point of the bayonet on the Scindian rulers, by virtue of which they paid a contribution of twenty-seven laks of rupees (nearly £300,000) to the expenses of the war, under the name of arrears of tribute to Shah-Shoojah, acknowledging, at the same time, the supremacy, not of Shah-Shoojah, but of the English Government! The tolls on the Indus were also abolished, and the navigation of the river placed, by a special stipulation, wholly under the control of British functionaries. Since this summary procedure, our predominance in Scinde has been undisturbed, unless by occasional local commotions; but the last advices state that the whole country is now "in an insurrectionary state;" and it is fully expected that an attempt will erelong be made to follow the example of the Affghans, and get rid of the intrusive Feringhis; in which case, as the same accounts inform us, "the Ameers will be sent as state-prisoners to Benares, and the territory placed wholly under British administration."
But whatever may be thought of the strict legality of the conveyance, in virtue of which Scinde has been converted into an integral part of our Eastern empire, its geographical position, as well as its natural products, will render it a most valuable acquisition, both in a commercial and political point of view. At the beginning of the present century, the East-India Company had a factory at Tatta, (the Pattala of the ancients,) the former capital of Scinde, immediately above the Delta of the Indus; but their agents were withdrawn during the anarchy which preceded the disruption of the Doorani monarchy. From that period till the late occurrences, all the commercial intercourse with British India was maintained either by land-carriage from Cutch, by which mode of conveyance the opium of Malwa and Marwar (vast quantities of which are exported in this direction) chiefly found its way into Scinde and Beloochistan; or by country vessels of a peculiar build, with a disproportionately lofty poop, and an elongated bow instead of a bowsprit, which carried on an uncertain and desultory traffic with Bombay and some of the Malabar ports. To avoid the dangerous sandbanks at the mouths of the Indus, as well as the intricate navigation through the winding streams of the Delta, (the course of which, as in the Mississippi, changes with every inundation,) they usually discharged their cargoes at Kurrachee, whence they were transported sixty miles overland to Tatta, and there embarked in flat-bottomed boats on the main stream. The port of Kurrachee, fourteen miles N.W. from the Pittee, or western mouth of the Indus, and Sonmeani, lying in a deep bay in the territory of Lus, between forty and fifty miles further in the same direction, are the only harbours of import in the long sea-coast of Beloochistan; and the possession of them gives the British the undivided command of a trade which, in spite of the late disasters, already promises to become considerable; while the interposition of the now friendly state of Khelat37 between the coast and the perturbed tribes of Affghanistan, will secure the merchandise landed here a free passage into the interior. The trade with these ports deserves, indeed, all the fostering care of the Indian Government; since they must inevitably be, at least for some years to come, the only inlet for Indian produce into Beloochistan, Cabul, and the wide regions of Central Asia beyond them. The overland carrying trade through Scinde and the Punjab, in which (according to M. Masson) not less than 6500 camels were annually employed, has been almost annihilated—not only by the confusion arising from the war, but from the absolute want of means of transport, from the unprecedented destruction of the camels occasioned by the exigencies of the commissariat, &c. The rocky defiles of Affghanistan were heaped with the carcasses of these indispensable animals, 50,000 of which (as is proved by the official returns) perished in this manner in the course of three years; and some years must necessarily elapse before the chasm thus made in the numbers of the species throughout North-western India can be supplied. The immense expenditure of the Army of Occupation, at the same time, brought such an influx of specie into Affghanistan, as had never been known since the sack of Delhi by Ahmed Shah Doorani—while the traffic with India being at a stand-still for the reasons we have just given, the superfluity of capital thus produced was driven to find an outlet in the northern markets of Bokhara and Turkestan. The consequence of this has been, that Russian manufactures to an enormous amount have been poured into these regions, by way of Astrakhan and the Caspian, to meet this increasing demand; and the value of Russian commerce with Central Asia, which (as we pointed out in April 1840, p. 522) had for many years been progressively declining, was doubled during 1840 and 1841, (Bombay Times, April 2, 1842,) and is believed to be still on the increase! The opening of the navigation of the Indus, with the exertions of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce to establish depots on its course, and to facilitate the transmission of goods into the surrounding countries, has already done much for the restoration of traffic in this direction, in spite of the efforts of the Russian agents in the north to keep possession of the opening thus unexpectedly afforded them; but it cannot be denied that the "great enlargement of our field of commerce," so confidently prognosticated by Lord Palmerston, from "the great operations undertaken in the countries lying west of the Indus," has run a heavy risk of being permanently diverted into other channels, by the operation of the causes detailed above.
Before we finally dismiss the subject of the Affghan war and its consequences, we cannot overlook one feature in the termination of the contest, which is of the highest importance, as indicating a return to a better system than that miserable course of reduction and parsimony, which, for some years past, has slowly but surely been alienating the attachment, and breaking down the military spirit, of our native army. We refer to the distribution, by order of Lord Ellenborough, of badges of honorary distinction, as well as of more substantial rewards, in the form of augmented allowances,38 &c., to the sepoy corps which have borne the brunt of the late severe campaign. Right well have these honours and gratuities been merited; nor could any measure have been better timed to strengthen in the hearts of the sepoys the bonds of the Feringhi salt, to which they have so long proved faithful. The policy, as well as the justice, of holding out every inducement which may rivet the attachment of the native troops to our service, obvious as it must appear, has in truth been of late too much neglected;39 and it has become at this juncture doubly imperative, both from the severe and unpopular duty in which a considerable portion of the troops have recently been engaged, and from the widely-spread disaffection which has lately manifested itself in various quarters among the native population. We predicted in July, as the probable consequence of our reverses in Affghanistan, some open manifestation of the spirit of revolt constantly smouldering among the various races of our subjects in India, but the prophecy had already been anticipated by the event. The first overt resistance to authority appeared in Bhundelkund, a wild and imperfectly subjugated province in the centre of Hindostan, inhabited by a fierce people called Bhoondelahs. An insurrection, in which nearly all the native chiefs are believed to be implicated, broke out here early in April; and a desultory and harassing warfare has since been carried on in the midst of the almost impenetrable jungles and ravines which overspread the district. The Nawab of Banda and the Bhoondee Rajah, a Moslem and a Hindoo prince, respectively of some note in the neighbourhood of the disturbed tracts, have been placed under surveillance at Allahabad as the secret instigators of these movements, "which," (says the Agra Ukhbar) "appear to have been regularly organized all over India, the first intimation of which was the Nawab of Kurnool's affair"—whose deposition we noticed in July. The valley of Berar, also, in the vicinity of the Nizam's frontier, has been the scene of several encounters between our troops and irregular bands of insurgents; and the restless Arab mercenaries in the Dekkan are still in arms, ready to take service with any native ruler who chooses to employ them against the Feringhis. In the northern provinces, the aspect of affairs is equally unfavourable. The Rohillas, the most warlike and nationally-united race of Moslems in India, have shown alarming symptoms of a refractory temper, fomented (as it has been reported) by the disbanded troopers of the 2d Bengal cavalry,40 (a great proportion of whom were Rohillas,) and by Moslem deserters from the other regiments in Affghanistan, who have industriously magnified the amount of our losses—a pleasing duty, in which the native press, as usual, has zealously co-operated. One of the newspapers printed in the Persian language at Delhi, recently assured its readers that, at the forcing of the Khyber Pass, "six thousand Europeans fell under the sharp swords of the Faithful"—with other veracious intelligence, calculated to produce the belief that the campaign must inevitably end, like the preceding, in the defeat and extermination of the whole invading force. The fruits of these inflammatory appeals to the pride and bigotry of the Moslems, is thus painted in a letter from Rohilcund, which we quote from that excellent periodical the Asiatic Journal for September:—"The Mahomedans throughout Rohilcund hate us to a degree only second to what the Affghans do, their interest in whose welfare they can scarcely conceal.... There are hundreds of heads of tribes, all of whom would rise to a man on what they considered a fitting opportunity, which they are actually thirsting after. A hint from their moolahs, and the display of the green flag, would rally around it every Mussulman. In March last, the population made no scruple of declaring that the Feringhi raj (English rule) was at an end; and some even disputed payment of the revenue, saying it was probable they should have to pay it again to another Government! They have given out a report that Akhbar Khan has disbanded his army for the present, in order that his men may visit their families; but in the cold weather, when our troops will be weakened and unfit for action, he will return with an overwhelming force, aided by every Mussulman as far as Ispahan, when they will annihilate our whole force and march straight to Delhi, and ultimately send us to our ships. The whole Mussulman population, in fact, are filled with rejoicing and hope at our late reverses."
It may be said that we are unnecessarily multiplying instances, and that these symptoms of local fermentation are of little individual importance; but nothing can be misplaced which has a tendency to dispel the universal and unaccountable error which prevails in England, as to the popularity of our sway in India. The signs of the times are tolerably significant—and the apprehensions of a coming commotion which we expressed in July, as well as of the quarter in which it will probably break out, are amply borne out by the language of the best-informed publications of India. "That the seeds of discontent" says the Delhi Gazette—"have been sown by the Moslems, and have partially found root among the Hindoos, is more than conjecture"—and the warnings of the Agra Ukhbar are still more unequivocal. "Reports have reached Agra that a general rise will erelong take place in the Dekkan. There have already been several allusions made to a very extensive organization among the native states41 against the British power, the resources of which will, no doubt, be stretched to the utmost during the ensuing cold season. Disaffection is wide and prevalent, and when our withdrawal from Affghanistan becomes known, it will ripen into open insurrection. With rebellion in Central India, and famine in Northern, Government have little time to lose in collecting their energies to meet the crisis." The increase of means which the return of the army from Affghanistan will place at the disposal of the Governor-General, will doubtless do much in either overawing or suppressing these insurrectionary demonstrations; but even in this case the snake will have been only "scotched, not killed;" and the most practical and effectual method of rendering such attempts hopeless for the future, will be the replacing the Indian army on the same efficient footing, as to numbers and composition, on which it stood before the ill-judged measures of Lord William Bentinck. The energies of the native troops have been heavily tasked, and their fidelity severely tried, during the Affghan war; and though they have throughout nobly sustained the high character which they had earned by their past achievements, the experiment on their endurance should not be carried too far. Many of the errors of past Indian administrations have already been remedied by Lord Ellenborough; and we cannot refrain from the hope, that the period of his Government will not be suffered to elapse without a return to the old system on this point also—the vital point on which the stability of our empire depends.
Such have been the consequences, as far as they have hitherto been developed, to the foreign and domestic relations of our Eastern empire, of the late memorable Affghan war. In many points, an obvious parallel may be drawn between its commencement and progress, and that of the invasion of Spain by Napoleon. In both cases, the territory of an unoffending people was invaded and overrun, in the plenitude of (as was deemed by the aggressors) irresistible power, on the pretext, in each case, that it was necessary to anticipate an ambitious rival in the possession of a country which might be used as a vantage ground against us. In both cases, the usurpation was thinly veiled by the elevation of a pageant-monarch to the throne; till the invaded people, goaded by the repeated indignities offered to their religious and national pride, rose en masse against their oppressors at the same moment in the capital and the provinces, and either cut them off, or drove them to the frontier. In each case the intruders, by the arrival of reinforcements, regained for a time their lost ground; and if our Whig rulers had continued longer at the helm of affairs, the parallel might have become complete throughout. The strength and resources of our Indian empire might have been drained in the vain attempt to complete the subjugation of a rugged and impracticable country, inhabited by a fierce and bigoted population; and an "Affghan ulcer." (to use the ordinary phrase of Napoleon himself in speaking of the Spanish war) might have corroded the vitals, and undermined the fabric, of British domination in the East. Fortunately, however, for our national welfare and our national character, better counsels are at length in the ascendant. The triumphs which have again crowned our arms, have not tempted our rulers to resume the perfidious policy which their predecessors, in the teeth of their own original declarations, have now openly avowed, by "retaining military possession of the countries west of the Indus;" and the candid acknowledgement of the error committed in the first instance, affords security against the repetition of such acts of wanton aggression, and for adherence to the pacific policy now laid down. The ample resources of India have yet in a great measure to be explored and developed, and it is impossible to foresee what results may be attained, when (in the language of the Bombay Times) "wisdom guides for good and worthy ends, that resistless energy which madness has wasted on the opposite. We now see that, even with Affghanistan as a broken barrier, Russia dares not move her finger against us—that with seventeen millions sterling thrown away, we are able to recover all our mischances, if relieved from the rulers and the system which imposed them upon us!"
The late proclamation of Lord Ellenborough has been so frequently referred to in the foregoing pages, that for the sake of perspicuity we subjoin it in full.
"Secret Department, Simla,
"Oct. 1, 1842.
"The Government of India directed its army to pass the Indus, in order to expel from Affghanistan a chief believed to be hostile to British interests, and to replace upon his throne a sovereign represented to be friendly to those interests, and popular with his former subjects.
"The chief believed to be hostile became a prisoner, and the sovereign represented to be popular was replaced upon his throne; but after events which brought into question his fidelity to the Government by which he was restored, he lost, by the hands of an assassin, the throne he had only held amidst insurrections, and his death was preceded and followed by still existing anarchy.
"Disasters, unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, have in one short campaign been avenged upon every scene of past misfortune; and repeated victories in the field, and the capture of the cities and citadels of Ghazni and Cabul, have again attached the opinion of invincibility to the British arms.
"The British army in possession of Affghanistan will now be withdrawn to the Sutlej.
"The Governor-General will leave it to the Affghans themselves to create a government amidst the anarchy which is the consequence of their crimes.
"To force a sovereign upon a reluctant people, would be as inconsistent with the policy, as it is with the principles, of the British Government, tending to place the arms and resources of that people at the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting a sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance.
"The Governor-General will willingly recognize any government approved by the Affghans themselves, which shall appear desirous and capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states.
"Content with the limits nature appears to have assigned to its empire, the Government of India will devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection of the sovereigns and chiefs its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness of its own faithful subjects.
"The rivers of the Punjab and the Indus, and the mountainous passes and the barbarous tribes of Affghanistan, will be placed between the British army and an enemy from the west, if indeed such an enemy there can be, and no longer between the army and its supplies.
"The enormous expenditure required for the support of a large force in a false military position, at a distance from its own frontier and its resources, will no longer arrest every measure for the improvement of the country and of the people.
"The combined army of England and of India, superior in equipment, in discipline, in valour, and in the officers by whom it is commanded, to any force which can be opposed to it in Asia, will stand in unassailable strength upon its own soil, and for ever, under the blessing of Providence, preserve the glorious empire it has won, in security and in honour.
"The Governor-General cannot fear the misconstruction of his motives in thus frankly announcing to surrounding states the pacific and conservative policy of his Government.
"Affghanistan and China have seen at once the forces at his disposal, and the effect with which they can be applied.
"Sincerely attached to peace for the sake of the benefits it confers upon the people, the Governor-General is resolved that peace shall be observed, and will put forth the whole power of the British Government to coerce the state by which it shall be infringed."
There are few things more painful connected with the increase of years in an established periodical like our own, than to observe how "friend after friend departs," to witness the gradual thinning of the ranks of its contributors by death, and the departure, from the scene, of those whose talents or genius had contributed to its early influence and popularity. Many years have not elapsed since we were called on to record the death of the upright and intelligent publisher, to whose energy and just appreciation of the public taste, its origin and success are in a great degree to be ascribed. On the present occasion another of these melancholy memorials is required of us; the accomplished author of "Cyril Thornton," whose name and talents had been associated with the Magazine from its commencement, is no more. He died at Pisa on the 7th December last.
Mr Hamilton exhibited a remarkable union of scholarship, high breeding, and amiability of disposition. To the habitual refinement of taste which an early mastery of the classics had produced, his military profession and intercourse with society had added the ease of the man of the world, while they had left unimpaired his warmth of feeling and kindliness of heart. Amidst the active services of the Peninsular and American campaigns, he preserved his literary tastes; and, when the close of the war restored him to his country, he seemed to feel that the peaceful leisure of a soldier's life could not be more appropriately filled up than by the cultivation of literature. The characteristic of his mind was rather a happy union and balance of qualities than the possession of any one in excess; and the result was a peculiar composure and gracefulness, pervading equally his outward deportment and his habits of thought. The only work of fiction which he has given to the public certainly indicates high powers both of pathetic and graphic delineation; but the qualities which first and most naturally attracted attention, were rather his excellent judgment of character, at once just and generous, his fine perception and command of wit and quiet humour, rarely, if ever, allowed to deviate into satire or sarcasm, and the refinement, taste, and precision with which he clothed his ideas, whether in writing or in conversation. From the boisterous or extravagant he seemed instinctively to recoil, both in society and in taste.
Of his contributions to this Magazine it would be out of place here to speak, further than to say that they indicated a wide range and versatility of talent, embraced both prose and verse, and were universally popular. "Cyril Thornton," which appeared in 1827, instantly arrested public attention and curiosity, even in an age eminently fertile in great works of fiction. With little of plot—for it pursued the desultory ramblings of military life through various climes—it possessed a wonderful truth and reality, great skill in the observation and portraiture of original character, and a peculiar charm of style, blending freshness and vivacity of movement with classic delicacy and grace. The work soon became naturally and justly popular, having reached a second edition shortly after publication: a third edition has recently appeared. The "Annals of the Peninsular Campaign" had the merit of clear narration, united with much of the same felicity of style; but the size of the work excluded that full development and picturesque detail which were requisite to give individuality to its pictures. His last work was "Men and Manners in America," of which two German and one French translations have already appeared; a work eminently characterized by a tone of gentlemanly feeling, sagacious observation, just views of national character and institutions, and their reciprocal influence, and by tolerant criticism; and which, so far from having been superseded by recent works of the same class and on the same subject, has only risen in public estimation by the comparison.
"Taille and the Gabelle." Sully thus describes these fertile sources of crime and misery:—"Taille, source principale d'abus et de vexations de toute espèce, sans sa repartition et sa perception. Il est bien à souhaiter, mais pas à espérer, qu'on change un jour en entier le fond de cette partie des revenus. Je mets la Gabelle de niveau avec la Taille. Je n'ai jamais rien trouvé de si bizarrement tyrannique que de faire acheter à un particulier, plus de sel qu'il n'en veut et n'en peut consommer, et de lui défendre encore de revendre ce qu'il a de trop."
Need we say to the general reader, that Oileus here alludes to the strife between Ajax and Ulysses, which has furnished a subject to the Greek tragic poet, who has depicted, more strikingly than any historian, that intense emulation for glory, and that mortal agony in defeat, which made the main secret of the prodigious energy of the Greek character? The poet, in taking his hero from the Homeric age, endowed him with the feelings of the Athenian republicans he addressed.
Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles.
Literally, "A judge (ein richter) was again upon the earth." The word substituted in the translation, is introduced in order to recall to the reader the sublime name given, not without justice, to Rudolf of Hapsburg, viz., "THE LIVING LAW."
This simile is nobly conceived, but expressed somewhat obscurely. As Hercules contended in vain against Antæus, the Son of Earth,—so long as the Earth gave her giant offspring new strength in every fall,—so the soul contends in vain with evil—the natural earth-born enemy, while the very contact of the earth invigorates the enemy for the struggle. And as Antæus was slain at last, when Hercules lifted him from the earth and strangled him while raised aloft, so can the soul slay the enemy, (the desire, the passion, the evil, the earth's offspring,) when bearing it from earth itself, and stifling it in the higher air.
Could Sir Joshua now be permitted to visit his own Academy, and our exhibitions in general, he would be startled at the excess of ornament, in defiance of his rule of repose, succeeding the slovenliness of his own day. Whatever be the subject, history, landscape, or familiar life, it superabounds both in objects and colour. In established academies, the faults of genius are more readily adopted than their excellences; they are more vulgarly perceptible, and more easy of imitation. We have, therefore, less hesitation in referring the more ambitious of our artists to this prohibition in Sir Joshua's Discourse. The greater the authority the more injurious the delinquency. We therefore adduce as examples, works of our most inventive and able artist, his "Macbeth" and his "Hamlet"—they are greatly overloaded with the faults of superabundance of ornament, and want unity; yet are they works of great power, and such as none but a painter of high genius could conceive or execute. In a more fanciful subject, and where ornament was more admissible, he has been more fortunate, and even in the multiplicity of his figures and ornaments, by their grouping and management, he has preserved a seeming moderation, and has so ordered his composition that the wholeness, the simplicity, of his subject is not destroyed. The story is told, and admirably—as Sir Joshua says, "at one blow." We speak of his "Sleeping Beauty." We see at once that the prince and princess are the principal, and they are united by that light and fainter fairy chain intimating, yet not too prominently, the magic under whose working and whose light the whole scene is; nothing can be better conceived than the prince—there is a largeness in the manner, a breadth in the execution of the figure that considerably dignifies the story, and makes him, the principal, a proper index of it. The many groups are all episodes, beautiful in themselves, and in no way injure the simplicity. There is novelty, variety, and contrast in not undue proportion, because that simplicity is preserved. Even the colouring, (though there is too much white,) and chiaro-scuro, with its gorgeousness, is in the stillness of repose, and a sunny repose, too, befitting the "Sleeping Beauty." Mr Maclise has succeeded best where his difficulty and danger were greatest, and so it ever is with genius. It is not in such subjects alone that our artists transgress Sir Joshua's rule; we too often see portraits where the dress and accessaries obtrude—there is too much lace and too little expression—and our painters of views follow the fashion most unaccountably—ornament is every where; we have not a town where the houses are not "turned out of windows," and all the furniture of every kind piled up in the streets; and as if to show a pretty general bankruptcy, together with the artist's own poverty, you would imagine an auction going on in every other house, by the Turkey carpets and odds and ends hanging from the windows. We have even seen a "Rag Fair" in a turnpike road.
The reader will remember the supposed epitaph,
A fresh-water spring rushing into the sea called Chewton Bunny.
See Forster's Life of Cromwell.
Sir Oliver, who died in 1655, aged ninety-three, might, by possibility, have seen all the men of great genius, excepting Chaucer and Roger Bacon, whom England has produced from its first discovery down to our own times. Francis Bacon, Shakspeare, Milton, Newton, and the prodigious shoal that attended these leviathans through the intellectual deep. Newton was but in his thirteenth year at Sir Oliver's death. Raleigh, Spenser, Hooker, Elliot, Selden, Taylor, Hobbes, Sidney, Shaftesbury, and Locke, were existing in his lifetime; and several more, who may be compared with the smaller of these.
Chapman's Homer, first book.
35th Reg. N.I.; 100 sappers; 1 squadron 5th Cav.; 2 guns.
The system, unpalatable as it was to the nation, might, no doubt, have been carried through by an overwhelming military force, if the country had been worth the cost; but if it was not intended to retain permanent possession of Affghanistan, it appears to us that the native government was far too much interfered with—that the British envoy, the British officers employed in the districts and provinces, and the British army, stood too much between the Shah and his subjects—that we were forming a government which it would be impossible to work in our absence, and creating a state of things which, the longer it might endure, would have made more remote the time at which our interference could be dispensed with.
The detachment under Captain Mackenzie consisted of about seventy juzailchees or Affghan riflemen, and thirty sappers, who had been left in the town in charge of the wives and children of the corps, all of whom were brought safe into the cantonments by that gallant party, who fought their way from the heart of the town.
"I am sorry to say that this document has not reached me with the rest of the manuscript. I have not struck out the reference, because there is hope that it still exists, and may yet be appended to this narrative. The loss of any thing else from Captain Mackenzie's pen will be regretted by all who read his other communication, the account of the Envoy's murder.—EDITOR."
Five companies 44th; six companies 5th native infantry; six companies 37th native infantry; 100 sappers; 2½ squadrons cavalry; one gun.
In Mr Eyre's observations on this disastrous affair, he enumerates six errors, which he says must present themselves to the most unpractised military eye. "The first, and perhaps the most fatal mistake of all, was the taking only one gun;" but he admits that there was only one gun ready, and that, if the Brigadier had waited for the second, he must have postponed the enterprise for a day. This would probably have been the more prudent course.
The second error was, that advantage was not taken of the panic in the village, to storm it at once in the dark; but it appears from his own account, that there were not more than forty men remaining in the village when it was attacked, after daylight, and that the chief cause of the failure of that attack, was Major Swayne's having missed the gate, a misfortune which was, certainly, at least as likely to have occurred in the dark.
The third was, that the sappers were not employed to raise a breastwork for the protection of the troops. This objection appears to be well founded.
The fourth was, that the infantry were formed into squares, to resist the distant fire of infantry, on ground over which no cavalry could have charged with effect. It appears to be so utterly unintelligible that any officer should have been guilty of so manifest an absurdity, that the circumstances seem to require further elucidation; but that the formation was unfortunate, is sufficiently obvious.
Fifthly, that the position chosen for the cavalry was erroneous; and sixthly, that the retreat was too long deferred. Both these objections appear to be just.
Strait of Darkness.
See the articles "Persia, Affghanistan, and India," in Jan. 1839—"Khiva, Central Asia, and Cabul," in April 1840—"Results of our Affghan Conquests," in Aug. 1841—"Affghanistan and India," in July 1842.
It now seems even doubtful whether the famous letter of Dost Mohammed to the Emperor of Russia, which constituted the gravamen of the charge against him, was ever really written, or at least with his concurrence.—Vide "Report of the Colonial Society on the Affghan War," p. 35.
The particulars of Shah-Shoojah's fate, which were unknown when we last referred to the subject, have been since ascertained. After the retreat of the English from Cabul, he remained for some time secluded in the Bala-Hissar, observing great caution in his intercourse with the insurgent leaders; but he was at length prevailed upon, by assurances of loyalty and fidelity, (about the middle of April,) to quit the fortress, in order to head an army against Jellalabad. He had only proceeded, however, a short distance from the city, when his litter was fired upon by a party of musketeers placed in ambush by a Doorauni chief named Soojah-ed-Dowlah; and the king was shot dead on the spot. Such was the ultimate fate of a prince, the vicissitudes of whose life almost exceed the fictions of romance, and who possessed talents sufficient, in more tranquil times, to have given éclat to his reign. During his exile at Loodiana, he composed in Persian a curious narrative of his past adventures, a version of part of which appears in the 30th volume of the Asiatic Journal.
It is singular that this proclamation was issued on the fourth anniversary of Lord Auckland's "Declaration" of Oct. 1, 1838; and from the same place, Simla.
"The fieldworks believed to be described in the despatch as 'consisting of a succession of breastworks, improved by a ditch and abattis—the latter being filled with thorns,' turned out to be a paltry stone wall, with a cut two feet deep, and of corresponding width, to which the designation of ditch was most grossly misapplied.... A score or two of active men might have completed the work in a few days."—(Letter quoted in the Asiatic Journal, Sept., p. 107.) On whom the blame of these misrepresentations should be laid—whether on the officer who reconnoitred the ground, or on the general who wrote the despatch—does not very clearly appear: yet the political agent at Quettah was removed from his charge, for not having given notice of the construction in his vicinity of works which are now proved to have had no existence!
It was this chief whose betrayal or destruction Sir William McNaghten is accused, on the authority of General Elphinstone's correspondence, of having meditated, on the occasion when he met with his own fate. We hope, for the honour of the English name, that the memory of the late Resident at Cabul may be cleared from this heavy imputation; but he certainly cannot be acquitted of having, by his wilful blindness and self-sufficiency, contributed to precipitate the catastrophe to which he himself fell a victim. In proof of this assertion, it is sufficient to refer to the tenor of his remarks on the letter addressed to him by Sir A. Burnes on the affairs of Cabul, August 7, 1840, which appeared some time since in the Bombay Times, and afterwards in the Asiatic Journal for October and November last.
The kindness and humanity which these unfortunate detenus experienced from first to last at the hands of Akhbar, reflect the highest honour on the character of this chief, whom it has been the fashion to hold up to execration as a monster of perfidy and cruelty. As a contrast to this conduct of the Affghan barbarians, it is worth while to refer to Colonel Lindsay's narrative of his captivity in the dungeons of Hyder and Tippoo, which has recently appeared in the Asiatic Journal, September, December, 1842.
The value still attached by the Hindoos to these relics was shown on the conclusion of the treaty, in 1832, between Shah-Shoojah and Runjeet Singh, previous to the Shah's last unaided attempt to recover his throne; in which their restoration, in case of his success, was an express stipulation.
The elder of these princes, Timour, who was governor of Candahar during the reign of his father, has accompanied General England to Hindostan, preferring, as he says, the life of a private gentleman under British protection to the perils of civil discord in Affghanistan. Of the second, Mohammed-Akhbar, (whose mother is said to be sister of Dost Mohammed,) we know nothing;—Futteh-Jung is the third, and was intended by Shah-Shoojah for his successor;—Seifdar-Jung, now at Candahar, is the youngest.
The war in Tibet, to which we alluded in July last, between the followers of the Sikh chief Zorawur Singh and the Chinese, is still in progress—and the latter are said to be on the point of following up their successes by an invasion of Cashmeer. As we are now at peace with the Celestial Empire, our mediation may be made available to terminate the contest.
Bhawulpoor is so far under British protection, that it was saved from the arms of the Sikhs by the treaty with Runjeet Singh, which confined him to the other bank of the Sutlej; but it has never paid allegiance to the British Government. Its territory is of considerable extent, stretching nearly 300 miles along the river, by 100 miles average breadth; but great part of the surface consists of sandy desert.
So well were the Scindians aware of this, that Burnes, when ascending the Indus, on his way to Lahore in 1831, frequently heard it remarked, "Scinde is now gone, since the English have seen the river, which is the road to its conquest."
Khelat (more properly Khelat-i-Nussear Khan, "the citadel of Nussear Khan," by whom it was strongly fortified in 1750,) is the principal city and fortress of the Brahooes or Eastern Baloochee, and the residence of their chief. It had never been taken by any of the Affghan kings, and had even opposed a successful resistance to the arms of Ahmed Shah;—but on November 13, 1839, it was stormed by an Anglo-Indian force under General Wiltshire, and the Khan Mihrab was slain sword in hand, gallantly fighting to the last at the entrance of his zenana. The place, however, was soon after surprised and recaptured by the son of the fallen chief, Nussear Khan, who, though again expelled, continued to maintain himself with a few followers in the mountains, and at last effected an accommodation with the British, and was replaced on the musnud. He has since fulfilled his engagements to us with exemplary fidelity; and as his fears of compulsory vassalage to the nominally restored Affghan monarchy are now at an end, he appears likely to afford a solitary instance of a trans-Indian chief converted into a firm friend and ally.
By a general order, issued from Simla October 4, all officers and soldiers, of whatever grade, who took part in the operations about Candahar, the defence of Khelat-i-Ghiljie, the recapture of Ghazni or Cabul, or the forcing of the Khyber Pass, are to receive a silver medal with appropriate inscriptions—a similar distinction having been previously conferred on the defenders of Jellalabad. What is at present the value of the Order of the Doorani Empire, with its showy decorations of the first, second, and third classes, the last of which was so rightfully spurned by poor Dennie?
The following remarks of the Madras United Service Gazette, though intended to apply only to the Secunderabad disturbances, deserve general attention at present:—"We attribute the lately-diminished attachment of the sepoys for their European officers to a diminished inclination for the service, the duties whereof have of late years increased in about the same proportion that its advantages have been reduced. The cavalry soldier of the present day has more than double the work to do that a trooper had forty years ago;... and the infantry sepoy's garrison guard-work has been for years most fatiguing at every station, from the numerical strength of the troops being quite inadequate to the duties.... These several unfavourable changes have gradually given the sepoy a distaste for the service, which has been augmented by the stagnant state of promotion, caused by the reductions in 1829, when one-fifth of the infantry, and one-fourth of the cavalry, native commissioned and non-commissioned officers, became supernumerary, thus effectually closing the door of promotion to the inferior grades for years to come. Hopeless of advancement, the sepoy from that time became gradually less attentive to his duties, less respectful to his superiors, as careless of a service which no longer held out any prospect of promotion. Still, however, the bonds of discipline were not altogether loosened, till Lord W. Bentinck's abolition of corporal punishment; and from the promulgation of that ill-judged order may be dated the decided change for the worse which has taken place in the character of the native soldiery."
This corps, it will be remembered, was broken for its misconduct in the battle of Purwan-Durrah, against Dost Mohammed, November 2, 1840.
The Nawab of Arcot, one of the native princes, whose fidelity is now strongly suspected, assured the Resident, in his reply to the official communication of the capture of Ghazni in 1839, that from his excessive joy at the triumph of his good friend the Company, his bulk of body had so greatly increased that he was under the necessity of providing himself with a new wardrobe—his garments having become too strait for his unbounded stomach! A choice specimen of oriental bombast.