Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that it is inconceivable that these defects did not injure him. In the midst of the court of Louis XIV., at one time gallant, at another time devout as it was, he openly gave himself up to the most filthy and culpable pleasures; and Louis XIV., who knew how much he stood in need of him, never dared to reproach him with a kind of debauchery which, at all times of his reign, would have ruined any one else. Things were done openly in the little court of Anet which would have made every body blush at Versailles.

People who served under him in Italy have assured me that he missed more than twenty times the finest opportunities of beating the enemy, through mere laziness, and that he as often put his army in jeopardy of being destroyed by his negligence: but luckily those who commanded on the wings or the rear were more attentive and vigilant.

Every body has heard of the fraîcheur of the Duke of Vendome, a phrase used to signify a march made in the greatest heat of the day. The cause of this was, that Vendome always announced in the evening that he was to start very early next morning: but when the time came he remained so long in bed, that they never marched until noon, and that in the warmest countries and seasons.

This was his greatest advantage over Prince Eugene; for he overthrew all the Prince's calculations by never making any. As he never started at the day or hour appointed, no spy could tell the moment he was to march: as he never held a council of war, nobody ever knew what he intended doing. He began a campaign without any fixed plans, and troubled himself very little with those pointed out by the court; therefore it might well be said that his designs were impenetrable. His boldness and coup d'œil in great operations repaired every thing. In fact, at decisive moments, he roused himself, as we may say, appeared to call all his genius about him, adopted measures equally wise and vigorous, and showed more heroism and intelligence than his rival, Prince Eugene, could have done in similar circumstances.'

His death was worthy of his life.

He died of indigestion; a death, in fact, little worthy of a hero, but in every other respect quite accordant with his habits and mode of life.

After having triumphed over the adversaries of Philip V. at Villa-Viciosa, in 1700, and put the young king into the finest bed ever made for a sovereign, for it was composed of the colors of his enemies, the Duke of Vendome soon got tired of the enthusiasm of the Spaniards, and the honors which their king poured on his liberator (the title of Highness, precedence over all the grandees of Spain; in short, the same distinctions which had been formerly enjoyed by the famous Don John of Austria). He was sick of all this Spanish grandeur, and leaving the court of Madrid and the army to the management of his Lieutenant-generals, he retired into a town of Catalonia called Vinaros. There, surrounded by. a little

a little circle of parasites and debauchees, he gave himself up to all those pleasures to which he was so much inclined: he gorged himself with fish, of which he was extravagantly fond, whether it were good or bad, well or ill dressed. He drank thick, heady, smoky wine, and at last earned a violent fit of indigestion, or rather an illness, the result of repeated indigestions, for which diet and exercise might have been the true remedies. But he was treated in a manner quite unfit for his situation, and he was soon past remedy. Then the most honest of his courtiers left him; the others set about pillaging his furniture and equipages. It is even said that a few moments before he expired, seeing his servants about to take off his bed-clothes and divide them among themselves, he begged it as a favor that they would at least permit him to breathe his last sighs in his bed. He was only fifty-eight at his death (in 1712). His body was placed in the royal sepulchre at the Escurial. Superb funeral orations were made over him both in France and Spain, which have served to deceive posterity with respect to his character; and no historian, that I know of, has taken the trouble of disabusing it.'

D'Argenson foresaw the Revolution, and pointed out its real causes. In his Considerations on the Government of France he shewed the poverty and oppression of the lower orders, and suggested a good government as the means of preventing their misery, and the re-action it would occasion. France, he said, was like a whitened sepulchre, the outward pomp of which concealed all kinds of impurity and wretchedness. The King, he justly remarked, had no real interest in despotism. Power was really in the hands of a satrapy of ignorant and proud nobles, whose influence was alike pernicious to prince and people. It is astonishing how little attention writers on the French Revolution pay to this most important circumstance.

There are some lively letters of Voltaire at the end of the volume, and some bon mots, not many, scattered up and down.

D'Argenson did not shine in conversation, and the prating wits of the court accordingly gave him the nickname of Argenson la béte. His observations on books, manners, and conversation, are, nevertheless, very sensible. He spent most of his time reading in his great library, which now belongs to the public. It is easy to see that he was a little bitten with bibliomania..

This work forms one of a collection of memoirs connected with the history of the Revolution. Almost forty memoirs have been published already; and it will be a most valuable collection. We cannot, however, compliment the editors,

or

or those whom they employ, on the matter with which they accompany the writings which they publish. We should prefer them without the additions.

ART. XIII. Fridolin; or, the Road to the Iron-Foundery, a Ballad: and the Fight with the Dragon, a Romance. By F. SCHILLER. Translated by J. P. Collier, Esq. Illustrated with Twenty-four Engravings in Outline, by Henry Moses, from the Designs of Retsch. London. Prowett, Old Bond-Street. 1825.

THROUGHOUT his celebrated outlines to Goethe's Faustus,

Morris Retsch succeeded beyond any thing that could have been anticipated, in embodying those ideas and images of the poet which were most spiritual. Indeed it has been said that he is so minute and so expressive in his illustrations, as to diminish, in some degree, the charms of that wonderful drama. He supplies us with a magnifying glass, which brings, perhaps, too near the eye many of those objects, whose forms, so long as they appeared undefined and wrapped in the sombre hues of distance, excited and pleased the imagination by an air of mystery.

If, however, the outlines to Faustus reduced that splendid creation in any degree to the resemblance of ordinary life, those to Fridolin and The Fight with the Dragon have quite an opposite tendency. In their unadorned state these two ballads would never, perhaps, have been read out of Germany. They have no intrinsic attractions, beyond those of local tradition and great poetic simplicity, to give them distinction. But, accompanied by these outlines, they assume a new and a more exalted character. Their scenes and incidents being wholly free from mystic embellishments, and presenting to the artist nothing but tangible and living objects, he has, nevertheless, in many instances, given them an airy dimness which softens what is beautiful, and deepens all that is terrific. The ballads might, in truth, be looked upon rather as the exposition of the outlines, than as illustrated by them; compared with those productions, they have all the tameness of a copy from the original of a master.

Fridolin was a gentle page, of the most blameless innocence of manners, whose rank in the favor of his mistress, the Lady of Savern, excited the envy of a fellow-domestic, Robert the huntsman. Returning one day from the chase with his master, Robert insinuated into his mind suspicions as to the nature of the Page's assiduities towards his lady, and inflamed his jealousy to such an extent, that the Lord of Savern

5*

"

Savern rode back to an iron-foundery in the depths of the forest, and ordered his vassals who worked there to thrust into the furnace the first person who should ask them "whether they had obeyed their Lord's commands?" He then returned to his castle, and meeting Fridolin, he directed him to go to the Foundery and ask the question, which he repeated. Fridolin, always anxious in his attentions to his mistress, repaired first to her presence to know if, on the way, he could perform any service for her. She desired him to go to church and pray for her, as she was detained at home by the illness of her child. While Fridolin was engaged at the church, Robert, urged, as it is told, by the judgment of God, went to the Foundery and asked the fatal question, and when Fridolin arrived there the sacrifice was already completed. The story is related with a beautiful simplicity by SCHILLER, and rendered highly picturesque and interesting by the illustrations, which are admirably engraved by Moses. It would afford little pleasure to the reader to describe these beautiful plates, unless we could also transfer them to these pages; and, as that is impossible, we must content ourselves with a few specimens of the ballad, premising that Mr. Collier has happily imitated the measure, and almost literally rendered the sense, of the original stanzas. The Foundery is thus described :

The fire's rage, the water's force,
Were here united found:

The river in its rushing course

The wheels whirl'd round and round.
The engines rattled day and night,
The hammers beat with measured might;
The stunning strokes repeated often
Compell'd the iron itself to soften.'

In the plate which illustrates this scene we see only the exterior of the Foundery, at which two of the workmen are standing they are hideous beyond description, and seem ready to execute any deed, however horrible. The Lord of Savern, clothed in his hunting garb and mounted on a magnificent horse, (which is drawn with singular truth and boldness,) gives them his orders.

'He beckoned two: when they came near
He thus imposed their task:
"The first that shall approach ye here,
And who shall also ask,

'Your Lord's hest have ye follow'd well ?"
Thrust him within that burning hell,
The fire, to ash to burn him, double,
That he my sight no more may trouble!"

The

The two succeeding scenes are skilfully contrasted with this Cyclopean den of fire. In one the Page is seen prepared for his journey, and receiving the commands of his lady. She is sitting in a gallery by the side of her sick child, whose cradle seems to have been brought thither for the air: her drapery is gracefully disposed; and the maternal anxiety which is portrayed on her countenance is delicately distinguished from the menial fondness of the nurse, who watches over the infant. The other contrast is the church, to which Fridolin repaired on his way to the Foundery. But this scene is too fascinating to be described in any other words than those of the ballad.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »