Page images
[ocr errors]


utterly weary of criticism ; that he know-all the matter and value. I had hoped to produce something shall only put it in order and add a which some young hearts might few necessary links. Then, if you welcome; that he had not the like it, you shall give it to the energy now to do it alone. John world.” He paused, and there came listened full of strange thoughts.

a doubtful sniff in answer. He felt some contempt and much “I tell you," said John, impapity for this hero, at whose feet he tiently, “that there are great things had hoped to sit, and whom he now

in it. We all want them, we young saw palpitating like a great jelly be

We shall buzz about you like fore his own. There crossed his bees." He gave the great shoulder mind a whimsical fancy that here a slight shove. A large limp hand was that great critic who had de- was pushed out sidewise, and began voured all other critics, who had moving round blindly. The young devoured all literature, until the man grasped it with his nervous wide field of culture was a desert, fingers. Then at last the man of and on it one monster with a chronic culture lo up, and there was in indigestion. But his face was ani- his eyes a look of dumb entreaty mated and his eye bright once more, and trust, as of an old dog who can as he laid his hand upon the mon- follow his master no farther. ster's pulpy shoulder. He felt that “We will carry it through," cried he could do something after all. John, who felt a strange sensation “Look here,” he said; “let me take in his throat. away those papers which I have Thus it came to pass that the collected, and form out of them a disciple sat no more at the feet of complete book. Let me take what his master, but rose to take him on I like and reject what I like.” his shoulders : and hence came the Here his host heaved under his book, without which, as you judihand, and John inferred a sigh; ciously remark, no gentleman's but as no objection was made he library is complete. went on : “It will all be yours, you



To the Editor.

MY DEAR EDITOR,—When I sur- lustration, and some thirty or forty veyed, as I often did of late, the more equally attractive to childhood, historical plains around Leipzig, I was a mock-heroic poem by Dr Synwas impressed by the thought of tax—though whether Combe was how strangely different parts of our or was not the author of it I cannot lives may be associated in our con- tell-giving a popular and humorsciousness, though as regards time ous account of Napoleon's career they are pushed asunder by years (who was generally spoken of therein and years of action and passion. as “ Nap or “Boney "), from his Twelve months ago I had not the earliest days to his landing in Elba. least idea that I should ever behold By the time I was in my teens the town of Leipzig or its battle- this much-thumbed work was in plain : nevertheless here I am in tatters, the last stage of its hisSaxony, occupying myself with both tory that I remember being hard of these ; and, as I look at them, I upon “mere oblivion,” and very remember again and again how I melancholy indeed; yet, before sucwas familiar with the name of Leip- cumbing, it had done marvellous zig, and with the idea that a battle good service in delighting succeswas fought there, long before I knew sively a whole brood of inquiring where Leipzig might be, or compre- minds, and probably in appeasing hended what the battle was about. an unknown quantity of gathering What I did know was, that a bridge squalls. I have never heard the was there blown up in such man- work mentioned out of my own ner as to produce most gorgeous family for very many years,

and effects of fire and smoke; also, that therefore I conclude that my counNapoleon made rather a hurried re- trymen in general have not thought treat therefrom, -my information it so well worthy of regard as the being derived from a coloured illus- tours of Dr Syntax; but for me, tration bearing the name of George and those who cried in concert with Cruickshank, which exhibited the me, though we entertained a readiscomfited Emperor plying whip sonable respect for the Doctor, and and spur, and galloping off as if the condescended sometimes to turn devil were behind him (a following over his plates, there was nothing which he probably would have been in the world of letters like this hismore cool about, though as a figure tory of Napoleon. Years on yearsof speech to denote his hurry and all the active part of my life-have alarm the devil's pursuit does very passed since I delighted in these well) — riding down everything ; pictures; and here I am, after exwhile behind him the dreadful ploring by an accidental opportubridge was flying into the air, and nity the field of Leipzig, with my the miserable thousands whom its mind once more occupied by Napodestruction cut off from hope of leon, and Cruickshank's rendering escape stood agonised on the bank. of the battle coming to remembrance The book which contained this il- as if it were yesterday only that


I saw its colours and figures. Al- at this period. The commanding though at the date of the poem the ability which he had displayed in temptation was strong to minister his earlier years was wanting. If to the passions of the British pub- it had not deserted him altogether, lic rather than to regale it with ver- it had grown so dull that it could acious history, yet the poet and only flash forth fitfully, and rethe artist seem in this instance not quired a potent stimulus, as in to have been much carried away by 1814, to make it show itself contheir imaginations; and the reason tinuously. The campaign of 1812 of that is, perhaps, that the plight had been proved to be a mistake, of Napoleon could hardly be repre- but it was a mistake much more sented as much worse than it was easily recognised after the events at the commencement of the retreat. than before. It was a leap in the He undoubtedly escaped from Leip- dark. If it had been successful, zig with great difficulty, and almost its hazardous character would proif not quite alone; and he certain- bably have brought only the greater ly was not so far advanced in his glory to its projector.

It failed; flight when the bridge blew up but and the worst that could be said that he heard the explosion. At was, that if great geniuses were the moment of the demolition, how- always to be restricted to enterever, he is said to have been in a prises that were perfectly safe, there windmill at Lindenau, which he had would be an end of adventure and ascended to get a view of the re- of brilliant achievement. The subtreat; but that he "skedaddled" jugation of Russia proved to be with extreme precipitation till he more than the French army could reached the mill there can be no achieve; but, the error of making doubt.

the attempt once admitted, the To the merely military student, conduct of the campaign reflected who puts aside political considera- no discredit on the French leader. tions, and desires only to obtain a But when he waged war for the just idea of how the great battle, last time on German soil, the old and the campaign of which it was prudence, forethought, and sagacity the determining, if not the last, act, of Napoleon seem to have deserted were lost and won, these plains him. He advanced to the Elbe must necessarily be full of interest ; full of schemes of aggression and they must have a greater interest conquest, which he never relinstill for him who regards the events quished until he was on his way of 1813 as part of the history of back to the Rhine, although the Europe. I inform myself, accord- lesson derivable from the circuming to my ability, as to the fight- stances in which he then stood was ing, and as to its causes and effects; that he must secure his empire, or but I own that, while I do so, I am some fraction of it, in any way he continually enticed away to a con- could. His best troops were gone, templation which is neither histori- --left in Russia or brought back cal nor warlike, but rather biogra- from thence only for death or the phical. I am powerfully interested town's end : the new host, which in the personal history of Napoleon by great exertion he had got toas illustrated by this campaign. If gether, was for the most part too ever a man was presented to us as young for the requirements of war, one whom a deity desired to ruin and, moreover, uninstructed and unby clouding his understanding, we disciplined. His enemies were of must see such a man in the Emperor necessity taking heart from his


misfortunes : the Russians, elated of Leipzig, events, not excepting by the advantages they had gained the French victories, taught one over him, were pouring into west- only lesson--caution; but they eru Europe, where the States which taught in vain. he had subjugated were one and all An Englishman, who in Saxony kindling at the thought of deliver- may interest himself in inquiry conance from his yoke; his prestige cerning the events of 1813, will in and his physical power were both some sort realise the condition of seriously damaged. Surely consoli- Germany during the wars of the dation was what he should have French Revolution, and cannot fail aimed at; and as a means to that to become alive to the favoured end, moderation should, for the position which his own island entime at least, have been his rule. joyed in those days. England was But his desires, his overpowering the soul of the resistance that was will, had now become too strong made to the ambitious projects of for his discretion; he had no longer the Emperor. Without her the an ear for the warnings of prudence, nations must, many a time during but gave himself up to wild im- the contest, have discontinued their aginations. Wellington, in Spain, efforts ; and yet she, though like a was pressing his troops hard, and fate maintaining and directing the might any day deal him a heavy struggle, altogether escaped that blow there; between him and horrid acquaintance with its inciFrance lay subject nations whose dents which was burnt into the further submission had become hearts of the dwellers its doubtful, and who, he knew, might theatre. She sent forth her sons rise suddenly and separate him from to fight, and she spent her treasures his only refuge in case of disaster; liberally: those were her sacrifices a little time to instruct and season in the long war.

But such appear his new troops would have been light afflictions indeed, to them most invaluable. More than all who have known what it was to this, he had, by very rough school

“Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.” ing, taught his opponents how to make war as he did. But he shut The town of Leipzig was simply his eyes to these considerations— ruined by the French occupation in would not regard them when they 1813. Dresden suffered the same were presented by his generals — fate. The cruelties, exactions, and talked only of astonishing his foes oppressions were most horrible. as he had done in former days, and When we read of the universal of executing vengeance when he joy which was diffused over the himself it was who was daily and towns when the French evacuated hourly liable to find himself at the or were driven out of them, we are mercy of others. He was no longer apt to imagine that, once the disable to overcome himself, and so agreeable visitors withdrew, things the chance of his confounding his returned to their former condition, adversaries was small indeed. Thus and all went merrily again. But the undertaking of this German the universal joy must be a mere campaign was a blunder. In the figure of speech, or it must mean course of it, blunder after blunder, the joy of the opposing forces who interspersed among flashes of the entered, or of the nations generally old ability and promptitude, led to whose forces were victorious. As its inevitable failure. All through for the wretched towns themselves, the campaign up to the catastrophe they never got rid of the French until everything they had had been rupts the vapidity of the great flat, or consumed or destroyed, and famine occupies a hand's-breadth that should and pestilence were legacies left be the husbandman's. The colours behind the visitors. I am told of the crops alone, in this springthat it is hardly too much to say time, brighten and vary the scene a that not one of those who had little. I suppose no warrior ever arrived at man's estate at the time thought of giving these places hisof the occupation ever lived to re- torical renown to compensate their cover from the destitution in which want of beauty; yet warriors have they were at that time plunged. amply done this for them. These Very many families which enjoyed plains of Leipzig, of what grand wealth and position in the last events have they been the theatre century remain to this day little —what turning acts in the world's better than paupers; and their des- history have they witnessed ! titution is due to the French, who Very near to Lützen, but rather deprived them of everything they to the north of Napoleon's battlehad. It must be remembered, too, field, a plain stone, which modern that the French and Saxons were reverence has surmounted by a more allies : the Saxon monarch stood showy monument, marks the deathby Napoleon throughout the cam- spot of Gustavus Adolphus. If the paign, and until towards the very ground had had no other interest, end of the battle of Leipzig the the last battle-field of the Protestant Saxon troops fought on the French champion would have been worthy side. The treatment which I have of a pilgrimage ; and very glad am I been describing was that which to have surveyed the scene, where Napoleon's friends received at his he closed his career. Shall I, howhands.

ever, make a confession to


dear It is a drive of two hours at most Editor? While I paused near the from Leipzig to Lützen, over monument, thinking of what is now country possessing as few elements an old, old story, the character which of the picturesque as can well be presented itself most pertinaciously imagined. The great plain extends in my memory was not the great to points far beyond Lützen. It is Gustavus, nor any being that ever diversified by no alternation of hill walked this earth, but the creation of and dale; scarcely a grove or clump a great magician, never perceived by of trees breaks the monotony of the human sense, how beit a distinct figlandscape. All is flat and bald.

ure in many a human mind nevertheThere is sublimity in the immensity less. It was Captain Dugald Dalgetty, of the plain, but beauty is altogether of voracious and loquacious fame, wanting. The villages—scarce in that would intrude himself into my the neighbourhood of Lindenau, but thoughts. I found that I had never more plentiful around Lützen-are pictured to myself Gustavus—had about as unadorned and ugly as they not, in truth, an idea what he looked can be.

Railways have not yet like; while of the sagacious captain found their way as far as Lützen and I possessed as clear an image as was its adjacent villages ; and, except possible in the mind's eye. Thus, where they have penetrated, it may by a very intelligible chain of ideas, be assumed that the aspect of things I, a pilgrim at the stone of the is much what it was in 1813. The Swedish hero, was spirited away soil of the plain seems to be very among the scenes of the Legend of rich, and is entirely cultivated. No Montrose'; for Gustavus was Duhedge or material demarcation inter- gald's constant theme, his preceptor


[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »