Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

communicable and fall into commerce; we lend our goods

[It irks me not that men my garments wear.] and stake our lives for the necessities and service of our friends; but to communicate one's honour, and to robe another with one's own glory, is very rarely seen. And yet we have some examples of that kind. Catulus Luctatius, in the Cymbrian war, having done all that in him lay to make his flying soldiers face about upon the enemy, ran himself at last away with the rest, and counterfeited the coward, to the end that his men might rather seem to follow their captain, than to fly from the enemy;' and after several anecdotes full of that inner significance of which he speaks elsewhere, in which he appears, but only appears, to lose sight of this question of literary honour, for they relate to military conflicts, he ventures to approach, somewhat cautiously and delicately, the latent point of his essay again, by adducing the example of persons, not connected with the military profession, who have found themselves called

upon
in various

ways, and by means of various weapons, to take part in these wars; who have yet, in consequence of certain 'subtleties of conscience, relinquished the honour of their successes; and though there is no instance adduced of that particular kind of disinterestedness, in which an author relinquishes to another the honour of his title page, as the beginning might have led one to anticipate; on the whole, the not indiligent reader of this author's performances here and elsewhere, will feel that the subject which is announced as the subject of this chapter, ' Not to communicate a man's honour or glory,' has been, considering the circumstance, sufficiently illustrated.

' As women succeeding to peerages had, notwithstanding their sex, the right to assist and give their votes in the causes that appertain to the jurisdiction of peers; so the ecclesiastical peers, notwithstanding their profession, were obliged to assist our kings in their wars, not only with their friends and servants, but in their own persons. And he instances the Bishop of Beauvais, who took a gallant share in the battle of Bouvines, but did not think it fit for him to participate in the fruit and

glory of that violent and bloody trade. He, with his own hand, reduced several of the enemy that day to his mercy, whom he delivered to the first gentleman he met, either to kill or to receive them to quarter, referring that part to another hand. As also did William, Earl of Salisbury, to Messire John de Neale, with a like subtlety of conscience to the other, he would Kill, but not wound him, and for that reason, fought only with a mace. And a certain person in my time, being reproached by the king that he had laid hands on a priest, stiffly and positively denied it. The case was, he had cudgelled and kicked him.' And there the author abruptly, for that time, leaves the matter without any allusion to the case of still another kind of combatants, who, fighting with another kind of weapon, might also, from similar subtleties of conscience, perhaps think fit to devolve on others the glory of their successes.

But in a chapter on names, in which, if he has not told, he has designed to tell all ; and what he could not express, he has at least pointed out with his finger, this subject is more fully developed. In this chapter, he regrets that such as write chronicles in Latin do not leave our names as they find them, for in making of Vaudemont VaLLE-MONTANUS, and metamorphosing names to dress them out in Greek or Latin, we know not where we are, and with the persons of the men, lose the benefit of the story: but one who tracks the inner thread of this apparently miscellaneous collection of items, need be at no such loss in this case. But at the conclusion of this apparently very trivial talk about names, he resumes his philosophic humour again, and the subsequent discourse on this subject, recals once more, the considerations with which philosophy sets at nought the loss of fame, and forgets in the warmth that prompts to worthy deeds, the glory that should follow them.

But this consideration - that is the consideration that it is the custom in France, to call every man, even a stranger, by the name of any manor or seigneury, he

may

chance to come in possession of, tends to the total confusion of descents, so that surnames are no security,' --'for,' he says, 'a younger brother of a good family, having a manor left him by his father, by

the name of which he has been known and honoured, cannot handsomely leave it; ten years after his decease, it falls into the hand of a stranger, who does the same. Do but judge whereabouts we shall be concerning the knowledge of these men. This consideration leads me therefore into another subject. Let us look a little more narrowly into, and examine upon what foundation we erect this glory and reputation, for which the world is turned topsy-turvy. Wherein do we place this renown, that we hunt after with such infinite anxiety and trouble. It is in the end PIERRE or WILLIAM that bears it, takes it into his possession, and whom only it concerns. Oh what a valiant faculty is HOPE, that in a mortal subject, and in a moment, makes nothing of usurping infinity, immensity, eternity, and of supplying her master's indigence, at her pleasure, with all things that he can imagine or desire. And this Pierre or William, what is it but a sound, when all is done, [. What's in a name?'] or three or four dashes with a pen?'

And he has already written two paragraphs to show, that the name of William, at least, is not excepted from the general remarks he is making here on the vanity of names; while that of Pierre is five times repeated, apparently with the same general intention, and another combination of sounds is not wanting which serves with that free translation the author himself takes pains to suggest and defend, to complete what was lacking to that combination, in order to give these remarks their true point and significance, in order to redeem them from that appearance of flatness which is not a characteristic of this author's intentions, and in his style merely serves as an intimation to the reader that there is something worth looking for beneath it.

As to the name of William, and the amount of personal distinction which that confers upon its owners, he begins by telling us, that the name of Guienne is said to be derived from the Williams of our ancient Aquitaine, 'which would seem, he says, rather far fetched, were there not as crude derivations in Plato himself, to whom he refers in other places for similar precedents; and when he wishes to excuse his enigmatical style—the titles

E

of his chapters for instance. And by way of emphasizing this particular still further, he mentions, that on the occasion when Henry, the Duke of Normandy, the son of Henry the Second, of England, made a feast in France, the concourse of nobility and gentry was so great, that for sport's sake he divided them into troops, according to their names, and in the first troop, which consisted of Williams, there were found a hundred and ten knights sitting at the table of that name, without reckoning the simple gentlemen and servants.

And here he apparently digresses from his subject for the sake of mentioning the Emperor Geta, who distributed the several courses of his meats by the first letters of the meats themselves, where those that began with B were served up together; as brawn, beef, beccaficog, and so of the others.' This appears to be a little out of the way; but it is not impossible that there may be an allusion in it to the author's own family name of Eyquem, though that would be rather farfetched, as he says; but then there is Plato at hand, still to keep us in countenance.

But to return to the point of digression. “And this Pierre, or William, what is it but a sound when all is done? Or three or four dashes with a pen, so easy to be varied, that I would fain know to whom is to be attributed the glory of so many victories, to Guesquin, to Glesquin, or to Gueaguin. And yet there would be something more in the case than in Lucian that Sigma should serve Tau with a process, for · He seeks no mean rewards.' The quere is here in good earnest. The point is, which of these letters is to be rewarded for so many sieges, battles, wounds, imprisonment, and services done to the crown of France by this famous constable. Nicholas Denisot never concerned himself further than the letters of his name, of which he has altered the whole contexture, to build up by anagram the Count d'Alsinois whom he has endowed with the glory of his poetry and painting. [A good precedent—but here is a better one.] And the historian Suetonius looked only to the meaning of his; and so, cashiering his father's surname, Lenis left Tranquillus successor to the reputation of his writings. Who

would believe that the Captain Bayard should have no honour but what he derives from the great deeds of Peter (Pierre), Terrail, [the name of Bayard—the meaning'] and that Antonio Escalin should suffer himself, to his face, to be robbed of the honour of so many navigations, and commands at sea and land, by Captain Poulin and the Baron de la Garde. [The name of Poulin was taken from the place where he was born, De la Garde from a person who took him in his boyhood into his service.] Who hinders my groom from calling himself Pompey the Great? But, after all, what virtue, what springs are there that convey to my deceased groom, or the other Pompey ( who had his head cut off in Egypt), this glorious renown, and these so much honoured flourishes of the pen?' Instructive suggestions, especially when taken in connection with the preceding items contained in this chapter, apparently so casually introduced, yet all with a stedfast bearing on this question of names, and all pointing by means of a thread of delicate sounds, and not less delicate suggestions, to another instance, in which the possibility of circumstanees tending to countervail the so natural desire to appropriate to the name derived from one's ancestors, the lustre of one's deeds, is clearly demonstrated.

''Tis with good reason that men decry the hypocrisy that is in

war; for what is more easy to an old soldier than to shift in time of danger, and to counterfeit bravely, when he has no more heart than a chicken. There are so many ways to avoid hazarding a man's own person '--' and had we the use of the Platonic ring, which renders those invisible that wear it, if turned inwards towards the palm of the hand, it is to be feared that a great many would often hide themselves, when they ought most to appear.' 'It seems that to be known, is in some sort to have a man's life and its duration in another's keeping. I for my part, hold that I am wholly in myself, and that other life of mine which lies in the knowledge of my friends, considering it nakedly and simply in itself, I know very well that I am sensible of no fruit or enjoyment of it but by the vanity of a fantastic opinion; and, when I shall be dead, I shall be much

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »