Page images

power of extremists to mar the efficacy of the best contrived schemes of improvement and progress we readily admit; and no one will be so rash as to assert that in a country so stored with combustibles as Ireland there is no danger of the outburst of an unexpected conflagration. Were we discussing politics it would be only too easy to indicate the elements of possible or even of probable difficulty and disturbance; and, as we said at the outset, the homage paid to the Queen must not be mistaken for satisfaction with the Queen's ministers. But it is something to be grateful for, that, for the moment at least, irritation against the Government finds an effectual vent in that safety-valve of perpetual grumbling which has always been found the sufficient resource of Saxon dissatisfaction, and has not needed the more destructive explosiveness which has hitherto been considered essential to the due expression of Celtic feeling. It is some evidence as well of the reality of the existing calm as of the interest of the people in practical measures that, whereas the Recess Committee, some four years back, failed to secure the co-operation of two-thirds of the Irish Nationalist representatives in its deliberations, the Act of Parliament which has given effect to its suggestions has commanded the goodwill of every section of the community.

ART. V.-1. The Life of Wellington : the Restoration of the

Martial Power of Great Britain. By the Right Hon. Sir
HERBERT MAXWELL, Bart., M.P., F.R.S. London :

Sampson Low & Co., 1899.
2. The Campaign of 1815, Ligny, Quatre-Bras, Waterloo. By

WILLIAM O'CONNOR MORRIS. London: Grant Richards,

1900. SIR IR HERBERT MAXWELL has produced a very interesting

and pleasant Life of the Duke of Wellington. For the purposes of drawing-room reading it is probably more accurate and valuable than any other of equal length that has been published. It is so charmingly written that it is difficult not to regret that to so great a theme Sir Herbert Maxwell was not allowed to devote almost as many years as he has devoted inonths. There is an air throughout it of hurry. Sir Herbert has made a genuine study of the Supplementary Despatches' and of a good many manuscripts which have been placed at his disposal. He has read most that has been written by those who endeavoured at different periods of Wellington's career to play the part of Boswell to him, and he has given us ihe advantage of his research in these respects. Otherwise he has generally trusted to secondary evidence, and in some cases this is conspicuously defective. In his preface he pays a high compliment to Colonel Gurwood as an excellent compiler of Wellington's military despatches.

He complacently pats on the back the second Duke of Wellington for his work on the "Supplementary Despatches.' Yet, throughout his biography, for once that he is able to quote Gurwood's despatches he quotes the ‘Supplementary Des'patches' a dozen times. Our fears that Sir Herbert's great powers as a writer had been hampered by the necessity of bringing out the volume at an opportune moment were roused by these compliments to Gurwood when we first read the preface. Gurwood has always seemed to us one of the worst compilers that ever undertook a great work. The second Duke of Wellington, as we think, edited his father's despatches nearly as well as they could have been done. The Duke supplied constant notes where notes were necessary. Often these are very useful in throwing light upon the text. Gurwood hardly ever furnishes us with such information. He freely contradicts himself, and he is often confused when he supplies

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

us with data. To take two instances which are easily verified: Sir Herbert Maxwell asserts that, when Colonel Wellesley first went out to India, he followed the 33rd regiment to the Cape in June, overtook them at the Cape, and arrived with his regiment at Calcutta in February 1797. It would be interesting to know to which of Colonel Gurwood's assertions on this subject he attaches importance. On page xiv of the Précis at the beginning of the despatches Colonel Gurwood tells us that LieutenantColonel Wellesley joined the 33rd regiment at the Cape of Good Hope in September 1796, and arrived in Bengal in February 1797. On p. 2 of the Introduction he tells us that Lieutenant-Colonel Wellesley followed shortly after his regiment had left England in April 1796, and joined his corps at the Cape of Good Hope, where he remained until March of the following year' [i.e. 1797]. 'He pro

ceeded with the 33rd to Bengal, and arrived in Calcutta ' in the beginning of 1797'-an operation which must have been difficult. To take another specimen: no doubt considerable difficulties were entailed on an editor of the Waterloo despatches by the loss of Sir William de Lancy's papers. It could not have been necessary to leave the orders given on pp. 142–44 of volume viii. of the despatches in the hopeless confusion in which they now stand, without any suggestion such as one would have supposed might have been introduced by a little painstaking inquiry at the time to explain the discrepancies. These are obvious even to a casual reader. Such illustrations are only fair specimens of Colonel Gurwood's editing. No one who has ever had to use that great book for the purposes of real study can fail to be familiar with similar instances. It is most unfair to the second Duke of Wellington that the fact should not be recognised that he was in the first place a very much abler man and a better soldier than Colonel Gurwood—so far, at all events, as his literary work was concerned—and that his memorial of his father is more valuable than Colonel Gurwood's not merely because he was freely able to employ materials which Colonel Gurwood was not allowed to make use of, but because he devoted pains and care such as Colonel Gurwood did not expend, or was perhaps not capable of turning to account.

We are afraid that we must say also that Sir Herbert Maxwell does not in most cases leave the impression that he has ever really understood the nature of the Duke's skill in handling armies, and that in very few instances


does he at all do justice to the military genius which was displayed in the conduct of the different battles or campaigns. Many excellent sketches of the Duke's career have been published. Hitherto he has not been fortunate in his fuller biographers. The three volumes by Sir Herbert's namesake, the Prebendary of Balla, which formed the first large record of the military career of the Duke, cause one to anathematise on nearly every second page. Probably, as time goes on, the really great biography of the Duke which has been left in the despatches will induce some historian of the twentieth century to take up the study of his life, not with a view to its appropriateness to a period when warlike questions are interesting the nation, but as one of the eyes' of the history of the nineteenth century. That Sir Herbert Maxwell certainly has not attempted.

To take as a test specimen the greatest period of the Duke's career, so far as the interest of mankind in it is concerned, the Waterloo campaign, Sir Herbert appears to have contented himself almost entirely with two recent studies, those of Mr. Ropes and of M. Houssaye. M. Houssaye's is a most valuable contribution to the history of the Waterloo campaign; but, like Mr. Ropes's, it should have led Wellington's biographer to the examination of the original sources which M. Houssaye suggests, rather than to the mere acceptance of what he tells us. Though Sir Herbert, who apparently does not read German, is aware of the existence of Von Ollech's Waterloo,' he does not seem to have heard of the Life of Gneisenau,' but it is very unfortunate that he should not have done so. biography of the Duke of Wellington must be to a large extent an international book. More than any other man of his time Wellington stood out as the representative of Great Britain before foreign nations. With his honour and his character are largely bound up the honour and character of his country. Seeing therefore that, in regard to the particular period of the Waterloo campaign, there has arisen almost a literature in Germany, the cause of England ought to have been put forward with reference to this. In order that justice should be done both to the Duke of Wellington and to Great Britain, it is a misfortune that Sir Herbert should not have examined the case as it has been stated by German writers. He has alluded incidentally to the charge, wbich has, unknown to him, been specially formulated in the Life of Gneisenau,' that the Prussians were induced to fight at Ligny by deceptive promises on the

A great part of the Duke of Wellington. He has not in the least degree examined the grounds on which that charge rests.

For Prussia, as much as for Britain, Waterloo is one of the epoch-making periods of history. We hardly think that we exaggerate when we say that one of the chief causes of the soreness which has arisen against us recently in Germany has been the sense that Prussia was not fairly treated by us at the time, and that since then we have not done historical justice to her part in that great period of our common history. Apparently it is only from Mr. Ropes that Sir Herbert Maxwell is aware of the existence of a certain letter written by the Duke of Wellington froin the heights of Frasnes on June 16, 1815. He does not seem to know anything of what has been said about that letter in Germany. In his comments he entirely misses the points which ought to have been dealt with in order to put us right with foreign military opinion. The fact is that, for some reason or other, the Duke was led to make a statement in that letter as to the position of his troops which was not accurate. It would have been better for us frankly to face the truth that that was so, and to show how the mistake arose, than merely to put our head in the sand and imagine that we can thereby conceal what was undoubtedly an unfortunate error. Von Ollech bad a genuine admiration for the Duke of Wellington, and, when he first published the letter, of which Sir Herbert Maxwell has given us a translation, not the French original, on page 19 of his second volume, Von Ollech did so in the most courteous spirit. It is impossible for anybody who has examined the evidence to suppose that our troops were actually in the positions assigned to them in that letter by the Duke of Wellington. Von Ollech never for a moment on that account imputed any bad faith to the Duke, nor did he think that it had been written with a view to induce Blücher to stand and fight at Ligny. Very different was the case when the question passed into the hands of Gneisenau's biographer. Sir Herbert has altogether misunderstood the relations between Gneisenau and the Duke of Wellington. He does not seem to know that Gneisenau had been the Prussian military attaché at Wellington's headquarters during the Peninsular campaign, or that for some personal reason or other, which is now difficult to discover, he had during that campaign acquired a profound distrust of the Duke. We ourselves have always been inclined to believe that in some way, during the period that



« PreviousContinue »