Page images
PDF
EPUB

During three hours that I was once in his company, while he was watching some experiments in steam artillery, I saw that he regarded only results and had no curiosity about details. Here he differed from his great antagonist, Napoleon, who would master every detail if possible. Sir Robert Peel, and several officers from Woolwich, about a dozen in all, had assembled on the occasion. His observations were very limited. “ Well, cavalry could not approach that,” said the Duke, referring solely to the noise. “ Nor infantry either," some one said. “Why not?” “ The intense heat of the steam only flashes out when it is twenty or thirty yards from the gun-at its exit it is cold.” ..

This singular fact the Duke did not notice, though a phenomenon strange to all present except the engineer. His observations were confined solely to the effect. When he saw fifty balls discharged successively, and hitting the same spot exactly, he said, “ Ay, that will do.”. The gun being moved laterally, and perforating boards placed end to end horizontally, with holes not a foot apart from one extremity to the other, so that it would take down a company of soldiers, he only remarked, “Ay, that is effective, if it can be used in the field." He took little further notice of the experiments in any other sense, conversing with Sir Robert Peel all the time upon indifferent subjects; and when asked if he did not wish to see how the effect was brought about, and the steam generated, he replied, “No, no; those gentlemen," pointing to the officers of artillery and engineers who were presents those gentlemen will look after that.” Nor did he evince the slightest curiosity on the matter. I therefore formed an opinion from this incident that the Duke's mind was seldom directed to objects not required to enable him to fulfil his own part of a public duty. He did not wander from the immediate object of pursuit, nor was he curious about causes. He confined his efforts within strict limits. His mind was more capable: of high concentration than of great expansion--of energetic movements on the field rather than of the scientific details of a siege, which last he could not so readily feel the necessity of; hence, perhaps, the fact of his losing more men in his Peninsular sieges than in his battles. He was curious about nothing that led him aside from the main end, or burdened his mind with aught foreign to divert his attention from it. He blended the useful and powerful together, and moved the mass. He was perfect master, too, of the effect of moral considerations in war, in which his countrymen are generally so deficient. He was not imaginative, but practical. Hisreserve and decision were conjoined with unequalled professional sagacity in the employment sometimes of very scanty means. He hated indirect replies to questions, because it led him to uncertainties. His occasional slowness of operation was only a masterly prudence; his inaction, a patience that was watching its opportunity; while the secrecy of his plans was the key to his successes, acting with materials the peculiar application of which he understood better than any other man. How he brought his troops suddenly into action at a given point, when the corps themselves were unaware of their position, was a wonder in the Peninsular army.

To their astonishment heights were crowned with his troops at the oppor . tune moment, that had come nobody knew from whence.

He always duly appreciated talent, of which two instances may suffice. Riding down the lines in Spain one day, and in need of an engineer

officer, he suddenly addressed the officers of the regiments near him, with an inquiry if any one of them could draw. For some time he got a negative reply. At last a modest young infantry officer stepped out, and said he could draw a little. The Duke made him mount a dragoon horse, and being provided with pencil and paper, he was told to go in a certain direction and make a sketch of what he saw, and of the profile of the country, and bring it to head-quarters. The officer obeyed, and succeeded so well that the Duke made him acting engineer on the spot, and he was pushed up in the army by his interest until he became a distinguished field officer.

The late Sir Thomas Tomlins was another instance of the Duke's attention to men of ability who served him. When he was secretary for Ireland he wanted a bill drawn, and asked for a professional person who could do it without that confusion of words by which legal men rendered such drafts unintelligible to all but themselves. Mr. Tomlins was recommended to him for the purpose, being at that time a parliamentary draftsman. “Can you draw an Act of Parliament that a plain man can understand? By God, I never can discover the meaning of their words they have no meanings. Can you draw a bill that will hold water?” Mr. Tomlins said he would try. “I understand English,” said the Duke, “ but I cannot understand the bills as they are now drawn, using ten words where one will do.” Mr. Tomlins succeeded in pleasing him, the Duke being satisfied with the draft he presented. Other lawyers crammed words into them until they were past his understanding, the Duke said, swearing hardly at their mystifications, as was his custom on many occasions. He recommended Mr. Tomlins to the Treasury, and got him appointed draftsman there, with a very fine income. Nor was this all, for being at Wanstead soon after Mr. Tilney Long Pole Wellesley was married, and George IV. being there also, the Duke recommended Mr. Tomlins to the king for knighthood, and he was knighted. On this occasion the king handsomely told Sir Thomas that had he not known of his professional merits he should have knighted him upon the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington alone, as he was fully sensible it would not have been given unless it was well deserved.

The Spanish general Alava was a great friend of the Duke of Wellington's, and while resident here had the misfortune to break his leg, on which occasion the Duke visited him almost every day. General Alava was a near relative of Manuel de Goristoza, the distinguished Spanish writer, who, exiled by Ferdinand VII., afterwards entered the service of Mexico, and concluded the first treaties made by that country with England and France. He also used to call upon the general, and there to meet the Duke of Wellington. General Alava introduced him as his relative, adding that he was un fou pour la libertie. The Duke smiled at the observation. “If M. de Goristoza is extravagant in his love of liberty, he is best here, at present.” He then inquired after several distinguished men whom he had known in the country, and finding they were exiled, observed that he thought Spain had paid enough in trouble already not to seek more.

ON THE DEATH OF THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON.

BY MRS. BUSHBY.
The blow has fallen !—that deep stunning blow

Which smites all hearts, as if but one pulse beat
In myriads of human bosoms. Lo!

The mightiest spirit on the earth to meet
Its mightier Judge has gone! That matchless mind

Which soared o'er all, unscathed by lapse of years,
And seemed, like Time, the monarch of mankind,

Is quenched in this—to shine in higher spheres.
The faithful guardian of his country's weal-

The champion of her honour and her cause-
The noblest of her hero-sons,—the leal,

The stanch defender of her throne and laws,
Britannia's glory, and her loftiest pride,-

He, to whose world-revered, illustrious name
In doing homage every nation vied,

As, on the echoing trumpet-blasts of fame
To the wide earth's remotest bounds 'twas borne-

Even he insatiate Death has made its prey,
And once exulting Albion now must mourn
Her honoured warrior-statesman passed away!

The world seems less of him bereft!
How deep soe'er a people's wail,

Yet eloquence itself must fail
To tell the blank that he has left.
In lordly and in regal hall -

In every homestead through the land-
Seems spread, as by some spectral hand,
The shadow of a funeral pall.
Wherever British foot hath trod—

And can one name the distant spot
· Where Britain's wandering sons have not
Raised altars to the Christians' God?
'Midst India's plains—its palmy groves-

Its storied scenes—where erst began

That glorious race the hero ran-
To where the swarthy Tartar roves ;-

O’er far Australia's coral strands,

Where England's victor-flag unfurled
Waves proudly o’er a new-found world,
To burning Afric's golden sands ;-
From where the calm Pacific flows-

From the Atlantic's sunny isles,

Where an unchanging summer smiles-
To regions of eternal snows ;-
That chastening gloom shall widely spread,

And, mingling sad regret with praise,

Full many a tearful voice shall raise

A requiem to the honoured dead! 'Twere vain-and worse than vain-to speculate Upon the solemn mysteries of that state Which God hath willed to shroud from mortal eyes, Till, in loud thunders through the fading skies The Archangel's trump shall sound ; at whose dread call The shivering Earth's fast hills and rocks shall fall, And this creation, tottering to a close, Become once more the chaos whence it rose! Yet, in yon viewless realms-vast and sublimeBeyond the reach of Fancy, as of TimeIf the two mightiest once on earth may meet, How will each spirit its great rival greet ? Napoleon! Wellington! Oh! although here Their names as watchwords of their age appear, There, they will sink to nothingness beside The Cherubim and Seraphim who glide In light and glory all celestial—they Have never worn the garb of human clay! How fares that spirit in the shadowy land, Where all—the greatest on this orb must stand In trembling awe before the Eternal's throne ? Oh! there, may Christ have claimed him for His own, And, 'midst His mercy and His power to save, Have bid him rise victorious from the grave!

LITERARY LEAFLET S.

BY SIR NATHANIEL.

No. II.-A *SPLENDID” WRITER. THE vaulting ambition of “fine” diction too often overleaps itself, and falls o' the other side. Professus grandia turget. Modern critics retain Horace's distrust of the purpureus pannus, latè qui splendeat. “ Brilliant speakers and writers," says Archdeacon Hare, “ should remember that coach-wheels are better than Catherine-wheels to travel on."*** Tickling the fancy may be an amusing operation-occasionally ; but tickling of any kind soon wears out the energies, and be the tickler never so accomplished and unwearying, the ticklee will speedily sicken of his attentions. Painted roses, and violets with a superadded artificial perfume, are not “ the thing.” My Lord Noodle, indeed, may admire, in flowing lyrics,

Mighty Mr. Sol,

So tilted out, so glorious, Glittering like a beau in a new birthday embroidery ;t but weaker eyes are fain to put up with a lesser light than that demanded by the sun-gazers of Noodledom. Mr. Lockhart figuratively remarks, in reference to bravura displays of conversational prowess, that in passing from a gas-lit hall into a room with wax-candles, the guests sometimes complain that they have left splendour for gloom; but let them try by what sort of a light it is most satisfactory to read, write, or embroider, or consider at leisure under which of the two, either men or women look their best. Which things are an allegory. In the long run, no .66 splendid” writer will find his panni respected (except in Rag-fair), be they never so purpurei. Profusion of epithets does not always betoken opulence of thought ;--for though an epithet is an addition, an addition (as a witty author observes) may easily be an encumbrance, as even a dog finds out, when a kettle is tied to his tail. “ Stuff a man into a feather bed, and he will not move so lightly or nimbly. Yet many writers cram their thoughts into what might not inappropriately be called a feather bed of words." This is one of the splendid sins of splendid writers. And all bookworms have a deep interest in inserting into any revision of the liturgy, should it.come to pass, a litanical deprecation (libera nos !) of illud genus omne.

If dissenters and Scotchmen—to speak generally-or if certain sections of them—to speak more accurately—are to be credited, British literature is at this present enriched with a splendid” writer, in the person of Mr. George Gilfillan, of Dundee. “Waverley" enjoys no monopoly of the Gifted Gilfillan. Again and again have we perused glowing panegyrics, obstreperous eulogies, hyperbolic laudations of this gentleman's literary performances. How could bookworm resist appeals calculated to stir him as with the sound of a trumpet-though it be a penny one, and that cracked ? And how, having read what he was

*.« Guesses at Truth.” Second Series. # “ Life of Scott." Chap. xli.

of Fielding's “Tom Thumb." $ .J. C. Hare.

« PreviousContinue »