« AnteriorContinuar »
succeeded in checking Russia by compelling her to abandon the most objectionable clauses of the Treaty of San Stefano, she would not renounce her secular policy with respect to the final possession of Constantinople and the Ottoman dominions in Europe and Asia. She had, indeed, acquired a better position, than she had held before the war, for furthering her designs as soon as she saw a favourable occasion for doing so. He deemed it, therefore, of vital importance to England, that she should be possessed of some station in the Levant, from which she could be ready to meet Russia, should the latter attempt to advance upon the Bosphorus and the Euphrates Valley through Armenia, for which she had prepared the way by acquiring Kars and Batoum. His thoughts reverted to Cyprus, where nearly fifty years before he had landed, and had apparently conceived the idea, that the occupation of this island by England would enable her to maintain that preponderating influence and position in the East, which were necessary to the retention of her Indian Empire. Whether Cyprus was the most favourable position to establish what Lord Beaconsfield described as a place d'armes,' may be open to question. But as to the wisdom of his policy there can scarcely be a doubt.
A proposal was made to the Sultan for the temporary cession of Cyprus to England, who, in return, was to guarantee to him the possession of his Asiatic territories, and to be prepared to aid him in resisting any attempt that Russia might make to invade them; the Porte undertaking, at the same time, to introduce certain reforms for the improvement of the condition of its Christian population. Lord Beaconsfield bas been accused of having taken undue advantage of the fears of the Sultan, consequent upon the disasters which he had experienced, to impose upon him by threats the Cyprus Convention. Nó charge could be more unfounded or unjust. The Sultan himself, fully alive to the importance to Turkey of an agreement which would secure to him the help of England in repelling an invasion by Russia of his Asiatic provinces, was most anxious for the speedy conclusion of the Convention. He personally superintended the negociations for it, which were carried through with a secrecy and promptitude of which we doubt whether the annals of diplomacy in Turkey furnish any example. The advantages to be obtained by it were reciprocal, and the arrangement was a just and equitable one. If it has not hitherto had all the results that were expected from it, the fault does not lie with us but with the Sultan himself, who has weakened, if not annulled, the obligations we imposed upon ourselves, by neglecting to put into execution the reforms for
the amelioration of the condition of his Armenian subjects, which he had solemnly pledged himself to introduce, and by listening to the perfidious counsels of those whose object it has ever been to create suspicion and distrust in his mind of the motives and objects of England.
Lord Beaconsfield had now reached the highest pinnacle of power and fame that a British subject can hope to attain. He had, indeed, exceeded all that his imagination, vast and romantic as it was, could have conceived possible even in its most heated moments. To one who had known him in his youth-the object of ridicule and contempt as a wild visionary and a fop, and as belonging to a despised race, beginning life without powerful friends or the influence of station and wealth, and having to struggle with every disadvantage that could impede a successful public career; to see him preside at a banquet in that historic house in which the most illustrious of our statesmen had dwelt before him, with the heir to the Crown of England at his side as his guest, an Earl with the Garter at his knee, and the blue riband of this ancient order and the star, usually resplendent with diamonds, on his breast, the Prime Minister of the most powerful Empire on the face of the earth, just returned from representing his country in a European Congress, the most important since that of Vienna, and the chief of a great party which he had himself formed, and which he had led to victory—was more marvellous than the wildest and most improbable fiction that ever issued from his imaginative and fertile brain, more wonderful than even the achievements of Sidonia,' the favourite creation of his youth! Whatever may have been his reflections and emotions, and they must have been mingled with legitimate feelings of pride and triumph, they were veiled by that imperturbable and impassive countenance which, in the hours of sorest disappointment as in those of the most signal success, never deserted him. We are inclined to think that, with his romantic disposition, he would have been even more proud and more triumphant, could he have foreseen that he was to become a popular hero, whose memory was to be annually recorded throughout England by the display, by high and low, rich and poor, of his favourite flower—the Primrose.
ART. II.—Mémoires d'un Royaliste. Par le Comte de Falloux.
In two volumes. Paris, 1888. N these Memoirs we have a record of the feelings, thoughts, and of transparent character. Count de Falloux was a thorough Frenchman; unlike his friend Montalembert, he had no English blood in his veins, yet he possessed, in an exceptional degree, those characteristics which Englishmen most admire. Untiring in his fidelity, he tempered his zeal with prudence. His conservatism was intelligent; his philanthropy was replete with common sense, and eminently practical, and his religious sentiments were manly and sincere. His zeal for the Church never led him to sanction or desire an act of bigotry or intolerance, and his devotion to the Comte de Chambord never restrained him froin opposing various acts of that prince and of his friends, with a vigour which the circumstances of his parentage and early education make the more noteworthy. Over and above the value that the work possesses as the picture of a noble life, and as a revelation of a special type of French thought and character, it has another and much wider interest; for it shows how great is the delusion of those who think, with the late Mr. Buckle, that the influence of individuals on the course of history is small. The influence of two men, extremely divergent in character, acting in opposite ways from opposite motives, are here shown to have unconsciously concurred in bringing about a calamitous result. Perhaps no personage in history so gratuitously ruined his own cause and that of his friends as did the Comte de Chambord. He was the main founder of the present French Republic. Its second author was M. Thiers.
We read in these pages, with increasing wonder, authentic revelations of the lamentable vanity, weakness, and shortsightedness, of M. Thiers. From 1830 to 1880, his defects of character were most injurious to France ; and yet it must be affirmed that, but for the action of the Count de Chambord himself, M. Thiers would have performed an act of self-abnegation which might have gone far to compensate for the errors of his earlier years, and have saved him from the political degradation which attended the end of his career. We see in these pages how, after the Revolution of 1848 and the disasters of 1870, the most enlightened and patriotic Frenchmen united, with extraordinary unanimity and accord, in an endeavour to found a stable system of free government, as we understand it in England ; and how in each case one or two persons, on whose action all depended, ruined everything by their vanity or folly. Every Englishman
who reads this book must feel, that he has indeed cause to be both grateful to Providence, and proud of his country, which has so long been happily preserved from calamity by the good sense and moderation of most of its politicians, and especially has escaped that evil combination of opposite extremes, which has again
and again proved so fatal to the prosperity of France. M. de Falloux was born at Angers on the 7th of May, 1811, in a small house near the old family residence, which his parents were not then wealthy enough to inhabit. In summer they dwelt at Bourg d'Iré, a village in a picturesque but most primitive part of Anjou, close to Brittany. His parents had each good cause to detest the French Revolution. His father had emigrated when only fourteen (serving in the TalleyrandPérigord regiment at Maestricht and Quiberon), and had returned, under the Consulate, to find but a small part of his fortune left. His mother was the daughter of the Marquis de Soucy, who held a command at Cherbourg when the Duc de la Rochefoucauld was planning a retreat there for Louis XVI. The King had said, 'Soucy, I count upon you,' and this had prevented his emigrating, and cost him his life. His wife had been governess to the royal children, and was called to the Temple when the young Princess was exchanged for the Olmutz hostages. Born and brought up as a child in Versailles, she and her mother, the Baroness de Mackau,* also refused to emigrate, in order to be near the Queen. They stood by her on the 20th of June, and when violently separated from her on the fatal 10th of August, they retired to Vitry to be still near her. M. de Falloux's paternal grandmother died in prison, in consequence of having received in her house General de La Rochejacquelin.
Thus M. de Falloux's childhood was passed amongst persons who either after having lived at Court had made all sorts of sacrifices for royalty, or who professed and practised the same devotion without even having known Court life, and whose conversation was a reiterated eulogium of either the splendour of Versailles, or the courage and merits of royal occupants.
Young De Falloux began his education at the Lycée of Angers ; and while there was greatly taken with pulpit eloquence. He showed some juvenile oratorical talent, and his parents, who had inherited a large property from a cousin who died intestate,
* A sister of the Baroness had married the Marquis de Bombelles, who had four children by her, and became a priest after her death. He was named Bishop of Amiens at the Restoration, and used to relate how, in 1814, on visiting the Hôtel de Rougé, he was asked by an old servant, 'Que dois-je annoncer ?' ‘Annoncez l'évêque d'Amiens et ses nfants.'- Monsieur, je n'annoncerai jamais cela à Madame la Marquise !' Afterwards the Bishop, in introducing bis sons, would playfully say, 'Je vous présente les neveux de mon frère.'
removed him to Paris for study, but under the superintendence of a private tutor from Angers. This tutor sometimes took his pupil to the Théâtre Français, where the dramatic genius of Talma soon caused his love for sermons to yield to a new-born passion for tragedy. So enthusiastic was his admiration for the great actor, that one day he played truant from school to pay a clandestine visit in the Rue Tour-des-Dames, where the tragedian resided. He soon got access to him, but, once in his presence, he could say nothing, and began to cry. Talma spoke to him with extreme gentleness, and when he had drawn forth the confession that the boy's one object had been to see him, he said : • Mon enfant, j'ai reçu beaucoup d'hommages, mais je vous assure que le vôtre me touche tout à fait. He did not dismiss him till he had made kind enquiries about his studies, and encouraged him to work hard. A little time afterwards, having persuaded his mother to leave the theatre as soon as the tragedy had ended, while waiting for their carriage, Talma passed them, and, recognizing the boy, saluted him, saying, to the astonishment of the mother and the embarrassment of the lad: Eh bien! mon petit ami, avez-vous été content ce soir?' Confession, reproof, and ready pardon followed, and shortly afterwards Talma died. A few years passed, and the days of the Restoration were drawing towards their close.
In June 1830 the dull Court of Charles X. was enlivened by the visit of the King and Queen of Naples, the parents of the Duchesse de Berri, who were going to Spain with their daughter Christina, the great-grandmother of the present child-King. This visit offered young De Falloux his solitary experience of Court splendour; he was present at a ball given by the Duke of Orleans, and for a few moments even close to the King himself, who was walking on the terrace and rejoicing in the fine weather for his fleet then on its way to Algiers. The Opera of lu Muette de Portici (Masaniello) first appeared at that time; and its lively airs, so soon to be popular with Belgian revolutionists, were played frequently at Paris as a compliment to the King and Queen of Naples.
M. de Falloux having, after the fall of Charles X., no more chance, which he had previously anticipated, of a residence abroad in the character of a diplomatist, determined to travel; and having passed rapidly through Belgium and Holland, he went up the Rhine to Mayence, and thence to Prague by Frankfort. It was at Prague, in the palace of the Hradschin, that Charles X., the Dauphin and his wife, with the Duc de Bordeaux and his sister resided, with a small number of followers. The little exiled Court, which seemed lost in the innumerable chambers