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THE Editor of THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE begs to notify that he will not undertake to return any manuscripts forwarded to him for perusal.
THESE lines were written by the late Marquis Wellesley in his eighty-first year, and were intended to be engraved on the civic statue of the Duke of Wellington, erected by the citizens of London, in front of the Royal Exchange, in 1841. They appear in a small volume of classical poems, entitled "Primitiæ et Reliquiæ," privately printed by the noble marquis, and distributed amongst his intimate friends a short time before his death. The Latin flows easily and is not inelegant, but by no means equal to other specimens in the same collection. Lord Wellesley was an accomplished scholar, who retained his early love of Greek and Roman lore to the latest period of his existence. He valued, and solaced himself in the decline of life with his Etonian reminiscences, as much as he prized the fame and honours derived from his Indian government and other high public offices. A pen so gifted should have resumed the theme, and have composed a more elaborate eulogium on his illustrious brother. We have reason to believe that he meditated something of the kind, but died too soon for its accomplishment. The aim was ambitious, but might have missed the mark. A happy subject and a favouring will do not always produce the desired object, Genius is arbitrary and wayward, and sometimes refuses to be fettered by rule or inclination. Waller was exceedingly anxious to propitiate Charles
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II. by a complimentary ode, but it proved tame compared with his earlier panegyric on Cromwell; and when the good-tempered monarch told him this without being affronted, and inquired the reason, the poet adroitly answered, "May it please your Majesty, it is much easier to describe fic tion than truth." Personal friends, relatives, or intimate associates, are not always the happiest eulogists. Poets in particular write with more fervour, more genuine estro, when deal ing with imaginary or remote subjects, than when commemorating events and persons belonging to their own times. Claudian may be quoted as an exception. His praises of his patron, Stilicho, compete in style and composition with the best efforts of the Augustan age, and drew from Scaliger (no fenient critic) the admission, that he has compensated for the poverty of his matter by the purity of his language, the happiness of his expressions, and the me lody of his numbers.
In studying the character and transactions of the gifted few who have held in their hands the destinies of nations, and who may be looked upon as the selected instruments through whom the mighty schemes. which regulate the world are carried out to their ordained completion, it is equally instructive and agreeable to turn sometimes from the sustained, solemn seriousness of didactic or his
torical narrative, and to walk carelessly in the lighter fields of anecdote, everyday routine, or ordinary incident; to see greatness without its external attendants; to gaze closely on the objects of our habitual respect and admiration in their intervals of domestic privacy and familiar intercourse, when, for a season, they have put off the cumbrous panoply of command, and are no longer fenced in by the barriers of ceremony. In this view, such volumes as those we now propose to glance through hastily, are invested with a peculiar interest, which will never fail to prove acceptable to the general reader.* Great men are not always mounted on the stilts of office. They unbend like ordinary mortals, and recruit while they appear to relax the energies of mind and body by simple recreation.
The death of the Duke of Wellington naturally gave rise to many publications respecting his life and career, some of which, long written, had been suppressed for various reasons until that event occurred. Others sprang into existence on the spur of the mo ment, and not a few were suggested by the increased popularity of the subject, arising from his recent loss, and the deep, fervent, national regret with which men of all parties concurred in doing homage to his character, and in rendering a just tribute of respect and reverence to his memory. The subject will not easily tire, and many more volumes will yet be turned eagerly over before it may be pronounced effete or wearisome. When all is done, as everything must end at last-when eloquence and language have exhausted their power and variety, and when the historian has adorned impressive fact with the advantages of style and the charms ofcomposition, his own published despatches and orders will be selected in preference, as exhibiting the truest reflex of his mind and opinions, the most faithful
portrait of his talents, and the clearest index to his unexaggerated character. It was long said and thought that the great Duke had preserved a complete chain of memoranda, notes, and reflections, on which he intended, in the leisure of repose, when full of years and honours, to construct an autobiography of his public career; and then, when this idea was abandoned, that his papers either were, or would be committed to the late Sir George Murray, his confidential quartermaster-general, to be revised and published under his auspices. Whatever may have been the intention, neither of these plans were ever carried into effect; nor has it yet transpired that any papers were left by his Grace which may become valuable for historical purposes, beyond those with which the public are already familiar. William Napier's "History of the Peninsular War" may seem to render any future commentary on those memorable campaigns (comprised between 1808 and 1814) equally hopeless and superfluous; yet it has been stated in print that Sir George Murray considered it incomplete, and said, emphatically, that it was not the book; and the Duke of Wellington himself recorded in a published letter, that although he entertained the highest respect for the author, he had not read his history, lest he should become entangled in an endless controversy. Biographies of illustrious monarchs and ministers, of great generals and statesmen, written during their lives, must of necessity be incomplete, and composed with reserve, or from one-sided information. Important documents are often withheld through delicacy, which ceases to influence with the lapse of time, and when the parties referred to are no longer actors in the busy scene. Such memoirs cannot be entirely divested of partisanship, and must be tinged by the very diversified feelings of in
1. "Private Journal of F. S. Larpent, Esq., Judge Advocate-General of the British Forces in the Peninsula, from 1812 to the close of the Peninsular War." Edited by Sir George Larpent, Bart. 3 vols. Crown 8vo. London: Bentley. 1853.
2. "Passages from My Life; together with Memoirs of the Campaign of 1818 and 1814." By Baron Von Muffling. 8vo. London Bentley. 1853.
3. "Three Years with the Duke of Wellington in Private Life." By an Ex-Aid-de-Camp. Crown 8vo. 1853.
London: Saunders and Otley.
4. "The Duke of Wellington." By Jules Maurel. Translated by Lord Ellesmere. Cr. 8vo. London: Murray. 1853.
5. "Life and Character of the Duke of Wellington; a Discourse delivered by Lord Ellesmere." Crown 8vo. London: Murray. 1852.
terested supporters, or political opponents. In neither case are they to be depended on. Private friendship, or individual admiration, will colour highly on the one side; while party virulence, or personal dislike, will distort to utter deformity on the other. Historians reciprocate accusations of this bias in good set terms, and without ceremony. A noble contemporary, whose literary labours in the same walk are many and popular, pronounced of Sir Wm. Napier's work, that it was a good French history of the Peninsular war; and Napier has said of Southey's, that it would be difficult to apply to a more copious source of error. In all probability, some future Tacitus or Napier will give the next generation but one, "A History of the Life and Times of Arthur, Duke of Wellington," in a tone of clear, uncompromising truth, which shall endure while the language lasts, as a text-book for the youth of England to study from as they admire. We feel quite satisfied that when this book is written, the character it describes will stand on a more lofty pinnacle even than it does at present; tested by time and reflection, and like gold purified by fire, it will obtain additional value from the ordeal of increasing investigation. In the meanwhile, we hail with avidity and thankfulness, all that falls from the pens of those who knew and associated with him; who either served under his command, or enjoyed his personal confidence. From all we learn something new, and that something we should regret if it were lost. Poetry, too, has been summoned to do honour to the mighty dead; but we cannot say that the tuneful Nine, although invoked by many, have responded warmly to the call either Parnassus is slumbering or deserted. The present age is too deeply immersed in speculative science, in philosophical and theological theories, in calculations of worldly profit and loss, to become absorbed or enthusiastic in the higher regions of poetical imagination. Nothing in this way, in our humble
opinion, has gone beyond mediocrity, scarcely reaching the level of Addison's panegyric on Marlborough, which, judged by comparison, cannot rate at an exalted standard, and has but one passage of pretension-the well-known simile of the angel. We scarcely think the whole composition, even if we were to throw in the mass of the late effusions on the Duke of Wellington, worth the single impromptu epigram (by a writer whose name is not given), on hearing that the Duchess of Marlborough had offered £500 for the best poem on the Duke's life and actions. We never heard that he received the reward, although we certainly think his ready compliment deserved it. Even money, the universal talisman, the veritable aurum palpabile itself, cannot always awaken the fire of genius. Several years ago, the lessee of the Haymarket Theatre offered £500 for the best prize comedy. The pay was liberal, and the competitors many. The appointed committee selected the best specimen that offered, but the public set no seal on the decision. The play soon died, and never returned the manager the money it had cost him. When the real "Rejected Addresses" for the opening of Drury-lane were published, not one possessed a spark of poetry, or a single claim to consideration. Amongst the tributary odes and elegies on the Duke of Wellington, there are, of course, some two or three better than the rest; but none that will enhance the reputation of the writers, or the glory of the deceased. Shakspeare speaks of a "bad epitaph" as a very undesirable appendage. A commonplace commemorative poem is not more to be coveted. Heroic deeds demand, and should create exalted verse; but although the names and actions of Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon are much indebted to the majestic muse of Homer, it is surely better for departed greatness to remain unsung, than to be laboriously threnodised by harps that sound faintly, and without the swell of lofty inspiration.
Let us indulge the hope that Apollo may, hereafter, place his lyre in the hands of some future Virgil, Tasso, Milton, or Byron; and assist him to wreath a poetical chaplet in honour of the great Duke, which shall embellish and crown the long labours of the historian and biographer.
Mr. Larpent's journal consists of a series of letters written from headquarters, to which he was attached by his office, to his step-mother in England, solely for private information, and without any view to future publicity. The style is easy and familiar, exhibiting neither effort nor pretence at laboured effects, sometimes even homely and tautological, but we think the editor has done wisely in leaving the letters untouched and unrevised. He observes with truth, in a short preface, that the simplicity of the style, and the minute details, throw over the journal a charm of truth and reality, which a more studied composition would not have possessed. In their present state, the letters carry internal evidence of conveying impressions as they arose, and of detailing events as they occurred. The writer had no time to polish his sentences, or arrange them according to critical rules. The book reads freshly and agreeably, and we feel satisfied that the author invents nothing to give it a more attractive colouring. There are many who have accustomed themselves to think and read of war as of a grand melodramatic spectacle, composed almost entirely of "pride, pomp, and circumstance;" who lose sight of the groans, the tears and suffering, the crime, the license, and devastation; who hear and see only the imposing flourishes of trumpets, the thrilling sounds of triumphal marches, the glittering of variegated uniforms, and the loud pealing of artillery, with the waving of banners, and the shouts of excited multitudes. The perusal of these volumes will abate their admiration, and qualify their enthusiasm. There is enough of glory; but the true features of the appalling drama are here faithfully depicted, with the accompaniments of misery and privation-inflicted and endured to an extent, which may impress on all who look only on the surface, and suffer themselves to be carried away by
names, the fearful responsibility of aggressive war, the crime of inordinate ambition, and the evils thereby entailed on present and future generations. During the six years of the Peninsular struggle, there perished, in round numbers, and their bones lie bleaching on the hills of Spain, Portugal, and France, 40,000 British soldiers, and more than 400,000 Spaniards, Portuguese, and Frenchmen, including peasants, their wives and children, and other unoffending inha bitants. Nearly half a million souls, who otherwise might have lived and died in peaceful avocation and utility, and all for what?
"To swell one bloated chief's unwholesome reign, And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain."*
Mr. Larpent joined the army in Spain at a critical time, during the somewhat hurried retreat from Burgos, when a great triumph had been fol lowed by a temporary and unexpected reverse. The defection or disobedience of the Spanish generals, particularly Ballasteros, had enabled the French to unite the armies of the south, centre, and north, under Soult, forming one overwhelming mass, which Lord Wellington, from inferior numbers, was unable to meet, and was, therefore, obliged to relinquish his occupation of Madrid, and retire towards the northern frontiers of Portugal, retaining no immediate advantages from his great victory of Salamanca, beyond the raising of the siege of Cadiz, and the abandonment of Andalusia by the enemy. It is by no means evident that the capture of Burgos would have enabled the English general to hold his ground, although it would have given him a firm appui for his left, and might have sustained an advanced position. But as in the previous cases of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, it became necessary to snatch the fortress from the enemy by a given date, or not at all. The ordinary siege means, as usual, were deficient, and the irregular approaches by sap proved to be unavailing. The allied army was forced to retire, closely pursued by the French, who picked up many stragglers, but lost more than one favourable opportunity, and finally did nothing, with a powerful force, well concentrated, and
* "Childe Harold," Canto I.