Изображения страниц

the river, and invested Silistria. The heroic defence of this town, under Butler and Nasmyth, worked the first change in the military plans of the Allies. It had been thought that Russia might repeat the advance of Diebitsch in 1828, and the Allies were busy constructing lines so as to defend Constantinople and the Thracian Chersonese from a coup-de-main, and secure the retreat of the fleets from the Black Sea. The defence of Silistria enabled Omar Pasha to take up a strong fortified position at Schumla, and determined the allied generals to move up to Varna. It would have been scarcely possible for an advancing Russian force to leave a fortified port and such an army unconquered on its flank. But here Mr. Kinglake pauses to etch the characters of Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud. Our estimate of the military capacity of both these commanders will sufficiently appear in the residue of this paper. But the elaborate portraiture of the French marshal it is desirable to examine at length, because, while it is one of Mr. Kinglake's most brilliant efforts, it affords a fair specimen of the reliance which is to be placed on his statements about the French Emperor and his supporters; it being, as we undertaké to show, substantially inaccurate.

Mr. Kinglake, who is a perfect Lord Llanover in his dislike to persons who bear names not "resulting in the usual way from marriages and baptisms,” but which they have “ chosen for the sake of euphony,” first falls foul of the marshal because he had changed his name from James Arnold to Achilles, and from Leroy to St. Arnaud. What authority he has for the first statement we do not know, but the second is apparently inaccurate. The marshal and his brother appended to their family name of Leroy the suffix de St. Arnaud. This change, if not instigated was, at all events, recognised by their relatives, and, as appears from the marshal's published letters, in his case at least, took place before he was twenty-four. It can scarcely, therefore, have had any very sinister object. Of respectable parentage, St. Arnaud entered the guard of Louis XVIII. in 1815, being then seventeen years of age. His extravagance compelled his friends to get him removed into the line; but in 1822, his embarrassments coming to a head, he relinquished his commission, and started to offer his sword to the cause of the revolution in Greece. He did not, however, remain there long, and seems to have lived pretty much by his wits in Italy, England, and Belgium, until the revolution of 1830. The number of resignations at this time caused a demand for officers, and St. Arnaud reëntered the army in his thirty-third year. Whatever may have been the vices and follies of the “stormy youth,” which his brother, M. Adolphe Leroy de St. Arnaud, an advocate at the Paris bar, attributes to him, the lieutenant of infantry was a very accomplished man. During his sojourn abroad he acquired several languages, especially Italian and English very perfectly, and he had some skill in music and taste for verse-making. By an impromptu song at a military dinner he attracted the attention of General Meunier; by a translation into three languages of a little pamphlet by Marshal Bugeaud on the art of war, he made that commander his patron for life. Mr. Kinglake mentions these incidents as if they were discreditable to him.

In St. Arnaud's letters to his family there is a break from the 18th September 1835, when he had evidently no intention of leaving his regiment, till the 19th November 1836, when we find him on his way to join the foreign legion in Algeria. His brother accounts for this as follows: “Au mois d'octobre 1835 le maréchal vint en semestre à Paris, et fut attaché au gymnase militaire. Il était au milieu de sa famille, la correspondance s'arrêta. Au mois de mars 1836 il perdit sa première femme. Il demanda alors à passer dans la légion étrangère pour aller en Afrique. Après beaucoup de difficultés il entra

. dans la légion avec son grade de lieutenant.” Mr. Kinglake's equivalent for this is: “He seemed to be in a fair road to promotion, but again the clouds passed over him. In 1836, for the third and last time, being then forty years of age, he entered the military profession.”

This seems to be one of the most astounding blunders on record. Nothing can be clearer than that St. Arnaud never quitted the army at all. He comes to Paris with six months' leave, and while there gets attached to the military gymnasium. Mr. Kinglake may not be aware that gymnastics are a recognised part of military training in France, and that a gymnasium exists in every large garrison town in France. Appointments in them are much sought for, and while holding them the officer is detached from his regiment, but can always rejoin it. Instead of doing so, St. Arnaud exchanges into the foreign legion; not a strange determination in a lieutenant of forty, whose home had just been destroyed by his wife's death, and who had two children to provide for. In Algeria troubles were just then breaking out, and a command in the foreign legion-the forlorn hope, so to speak, of the Algerian army—meant for a brave man promotion or death. In eight years from this time he had attained to a general's command.

He was a captain at the taking of Constantine in 1837. When the breach was assaulted, a mine was sprung and a panic ensued; St. Arnaud distinguished bimself in rallying the fugitives and leading them again to the assault. Combes, Bedeau, and himself, with cries of " En avant! à la baïonette !" Aung themselves into the gulf which had just swallowed their comrades; and “our soldiers lowered their heads and crossed bayonets, with cries of Hourra ! en avant !"" The breach was carried. Later in the day, St. Arnaud came on a barricade in the interior of the town. He first occupied the houses on either side with sharp-shooters; “then," he continues, “sword in hand, with cries of Hourra!' better known by my foreign soldiers—with shouts of • En avant, la légion !—I threw myself on the barricade, which I cleared." These two incidents Mr. Kinglake works up into the following marvellous myth.

“When a great explosion took place, and many were blown into the air, the French soldiers ran back with a cry that all was ruined ; but Bedeau and Combes, withstanding the madness of the common terror, strove hard to rally the crowd, and St. Arnaud having with him in his company of the legion some bold reckless outcasts of the North, he bethought him of the shout, very strange to the ears of Frenchmen, which he had heard in other climes. Skilled in the art of imitation, he uttered the warlike cry. Instantly from the Northmen around him, whether Germans or Swedes, or English, Scots, Irish, or Danes, there sprang their native ‘Hurrah !' and with it came the thronging of men who must and would go forward. It was mainly the torrent of this new onslaught by St. Arnaud and his men of the 'stormy youth' which carried the breach, and brought about the fall of the city.”

At a fire in 1835, where St. Arnaud saved the life of an infant—for which he received a decoration—he was on the roof of the burning house when his retreat was cut off by the flames. Some one thrust a pole to him from a window opposite, and hanging from it by his hands, he managed to escape across the street. « Il s'est fait un moment de silence pendant que je voyageais en l'air.” This incident is thus glossed by Mr. Kinglake: ** If there chanced to be a fire at night, he would fly to the spot, would scale the ladders, mount the roof, and contrive to appear aloft in seeming peril. Then he would disappear, and then suddenly he would be seen again, suspended in the air, and passing athwart the sky that divided one roof from another by the help of a rope or pole.

We now come to another strange incident in the life of St. Arnaud :

“In the summer of 1845 he received private information that a body of Arabs had taken refuge in the cave of Shelas. Thither he marched a body of troops. Eleven of the fugitives came out and surrendered, but it was known to St. Arnaud, though not to any other Frenchman, that five hundred men remained in the cave. All these people Colonel St. Arnaud determined to kill, and so far he perhaps felt


that he was only an imitator of Pelissier ; but the resolve which accompanied the formation of this scheme was original. He determined to keep the deed secret even from the troops engaged in the operation. Except his brother, and Marshal Bugeaud, whose approval was the prize he sought for, no one was to know what he did. He contrived . to execute both his purposes. • Then,' he writes to his brother, ‘I had all the apertures hermetically stopped up. I made one vast sepulchre. No one went into the caverns. No one but myself knew that under there, there are five hundred brigands who will never again slaughter Frenchmen. A confidential report has told all to the Marshal without terrible poetry or imagery. Brother, no one is so good as I am by taste and by nature. * From the 8th to the 12th I have been ill, but my conscience does not reproach me. I bave done my duty as a commander, and to-morrow I would do the same over again ; but I have taken a disgust to Africa.'

The officer who could cause French soldiery to be the unconscious instruments for putting to death five hundred fugitive men, and who could afterwards keep concealed from the whole force all knowledge of what it had done, was likely to be the very person for whom Fleury was seeking.”

It will scarcely be believed that this is another blunder. How could the French soldiers be ignorant of what they were doing? If the letter of St. Arnaud (tome ii. 37) be consulted, all becomes clear. The soldiers certainly knew there were Arabs in the cave, for after the eleven came out, the residue (les autres) continued to fire on them. What the soldiers did

. not know was the number of Arabs in the cave. They had no notion there were 500 people in there. St. Arnaud, moreover, makes no request for secrecy of his brother. This is the summary of the marshal's character :

“He impersonated with singular exactness the idea which our forefathers had in their minds when they spoke of what they called 'a Frenchman;' for although (by cowing the rich, and by filling the poor with envy) the great French revolution had thrown a lasting gloom on the national character, it left this one man untouched. He was bold, gay, reckless, and vain ; but beneath the mere glitter of the surface there was a great capacity for -administrative business, and a more than common willingness to take away human life. In Algerine warfare he had proved himself from the first an active, enterprising officer, and in later years a brisk commander. He was skilled in the duties of a military governor, knowing how to hold tight under martial law a conquered or a half-conquered province. The empire of his mind over his actions was so often interrupted by bodily pain and weakness, that it is hard to say whether, if he had been gifted with health, he would have been a firm, stedfast man; but he had violent energies, and a spirit so elastic, that when for any interval the pressure of misery or of bodily pain was lifted off, he seemed as strong and as joyous as though he had never been crushed. He chose to subordinate the lives and the rights of other men to his own advancement. Therefore he was ruthless; but not in any other sense cruel. No one, as he himself said, could be more good-natured. In the intervals between the grave deeds that he did, he danced and sung. To men in authority no less than to women he paid court with flattering stanzas and songs. He had extraordinary activity of body, and was highly skilled in the performance of gymnastic feats; he played the violin ; and, as though he were resolved in all things to be the Frenchman of the old time, there was once at least in his life a time of depression, when to the astonishment of the good priest, who fell on his knees and thanked God as for a miracle wrought) he knelt down and confessed himself, seeking comfort and absolution from his Church."

* “ Personne n'est bon par goût et par nature comme moi.” Perhaps more exactly, “There is no kinder-hearted man than I am by taste and by nature.”

Just noticing the extraordinary literary skill with which bodily activity and a taste for music are made to appear degrading, we have no quarrel with this estimate of the man. But we appeal to Mr. Kinglake's readers whether the impression produced on their minds by the last sentence is not, that St. Arnaud, after the confession alluded to, returned to his old life, and that the priest gave thanks for the conversion of so hardened a sinner. Now the whole story is to be found in an article by M. Veuillot, published, after the marshal's death, in the Univers. We have no extreme veneration for M. Veuillot's facts; but if the story he tells is to be told, let it be as he told it. To M. Veuillot, like other devotees, the spectacle of an old sinner turning devout, and trying to conciliate God with the devil's leavings, seems peculiarly edifying; and the whole gist of his article is, that after St. Arnaud was a marshal of France and minister of war, he completely changed his life. Being ill at Hyéres, he sent for the cure and made open confession, not in secret, as he might have done, but openly, in the presence of his officers, his household, and even the soldier who was messenger at his door. “ The good priest, surprised, falls on his knees and gives thanks to God, who deigns thus to speak to the hearts of the powerful of the world.” M. Veuillot then distinctly states that he never again "neglected his duties as a Christian;" and the marshal's subsequent letters to his wife and relatives—to whom a man can scarcely play the hypocrite-support the assertion.

We think we have now established our statement that this sketch is substantially inaccurate. Anyhow, whatever his antecedents may have been, if not a general, St. Arnaud was at least a soldier, and his amiability was remarkable. “ To know the marshal,” wrote Lord Cowley, “was to love him.” Even Mr. Kinglake admits his freedom“ from all admixture of spite


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »