« AnteriorContinuar »
lished fame ; and with my most hearty admiration of your talents, and delight in your conversation, you are already acquainted. In availing myself of your friendly permission to inscribe this poem to you, I can only wish the offering were as worthy your acceptance as your regard is dear to-Yours, most affectionately and faithfully,
ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY, Woolwich, July 1861. The Duke of Wellington left to his countrymen a great legacy, greater even than his glory. He left them the contemplation of his character. I will not say his conduct revived the sense of duty in England. I will not say that of our country. But that his conduct inspired public life with a purer and more masculine tone I cannot doubt. His career rebukes restless vanity, and reprimands the irregular ebullitions of a morbid egotism. I doubt not that, among all orders of Englishmen, from those with the highest responsibilities of our society, to those who perform the humblest duties, I daresay there is not a man who, in his toils and his perplexity, has not sometimes thought of the duke, and found in his example support and solace. Though he lived so much in the hearts and minds of his countrymen—though he occupied such eminent posts and fulfilled such august duties, it was not till he died that we felt what a place he filled in the feelings and thoughts of the people of England. Never was the influence of real greatness more completely asserted than on his decease.
ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY, WOOLWICH, July 1865. DURING the siege of Constantinople, the words of peace and capitulation had been sometimes pronounced, and several embassies had passed between the camp and the city. The Greek Emperor was humbled by adversity, and would have yielded to any terms compatible with religion and royalty. The Turkish Sultan was desirous of sparing the blood of his soldiers, still more desirous of securing for his own use the Byzantine treasures ; and he accomplished a sacred duty in presenting to the gabours the choice of circumcision, of tribute, or of death. The avarice of Mahomet might have been satisfied with an annual sum of one hundred thousand ducats ; but his ambition grasped the capital of the East : to the prince he offered a rich equivalent, to the people a free toleration or a safe departure ; but after some fruitless treaty, he declared his resolution of finding either a throne or a grave under the walls of Constantinople. A sense of honour and fear of universal reproach forbade Palæologus to resign the city into the hands of the Ottomans, and he determined to abide the last extremity of war. Several days were employed by the Sultan in the preparations for the assault, and a respite was granted by his favourite science of astrology, which had fixed on the 29th of May as the fortunate and fatal hour. GIBBON.
ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY, WOOLWICH, July 1866. I PARTICULARLY noticed one young woman of humble dress, but interesting demeanour. She was leaning forward from among the crowd ; her eye hurried over the ship as it neared the shore, to catch some wished-for countenance. She seemed disappointed and agitated when I heard a faint voice call her name. It was from a poor sailor who had been ill all the voyage, and had excited the sympathy of every one on board. When the weather was fine, his messmates had spread a mattress for him on deck in the shade, but of late his illness had so increased, that he had taken to his hammock, and only breathed a wish that he might see his wife before he died. He had been helped on deck as we came up the river, and was now leaning with a countenance so wasted, so pale, so ghastly, that it was no wonder even the eye of affection did not recognise him. But at the sound of his voice, her eye darted on his features ; it read at once a whole volume of sorrow. She uttered a faint shriek, clasped her hands, and stood wringing them in silent agony. WASHINGTON IRVING.
by some of the best troops of France, commanded by an old experienced general, and furnished with every necessary for vigorous resistance. When General Stewart, the commander-inchief, who was a witness of the attack, perceived the grenadiers ascending, he rode up to the fort, and quitting his horse, mounted the breach. Finding the troops in possession of the place, he flew into the arms of Colonel Moore. The surrounding soldiers shouted and threw their hats into the air for joy.
SANDHURST, December 1860. As we lived near the road, we often had the traveller or stranger to visit us, to taste our gooseberry wine, for which we had great reputation ; and I profess, with the veracity of a historian, that I never knew one of them find fault with it. Our cousins, too, even to the fortieth remove, all remembered their affinity, without any help from the herald's office, and came frequently to see us. Some of them did us no great honour by these claims of kindred ; and we had the blind, the maimed, and the halt amongst the number. However, my wife always insisted that, as they were the same flesh and blood, they should sit with us at the same table, so that, if we had not very rich, we generally had very happy friends about us ; for this remark will hold good through life, that the poorer the guest the better pleased he ever is with being treated ; and as some men gaze with admiration at the colours of a tulip or the wing of a butterfly, so I was by nature an admirer of happy human faces. However, whenever any of our relations was found to be a person of very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding-coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes a horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction to find that he never came back to return them. By this the house was cleared of such as we did not like ; but never was the family of Wakefield known to turn the traveller or the poor dependant out of doors.
I do not remember to have met with any instance of modesty with which I am so well pleased, as that celebrated one of the young prince, whose father, being a tributary king to the Romans, had several complaints laid against him before the Senate, as a tyrant and oppressor of his subjects. The prince went to Rome to defend his father ; but coming into the Senate, and hearing a multitude of crimes proved against him, was so oppressed, when it came to his turn to speak, that he was unable to utter a word. The story tells us that the Fathers were more moved at this instance of modesty and ingenuousness, than they could have been by the most pathetic oration; and, in short, pardoned the father for this early promise of virtue in the son. This little historical fact affords an example not only of modesty, but of a becoming assurance ; qualities which are both amiable, and may very well meet in the same person. Without assurance, this prince would never have undertaken to plead before the most august assembly in the world; without modesty he would have pleaded the cause he had taken upon him, though it had appeared ever so scandalous.
DIRECT COMMISSIONS, July 1858. WAEN Lord Nelson sailed for Copenhagen, and the destination of the fleet was sufficiently known, some Danish soldiers, who were on board the Amazon frigate, went to Captain Riou, and requested that he would get them exchanged into a ship bound on some other service ; they had no wish, they said, to quit the British navy, but they entreated that they might not be led to fight against their country. There was not in the British navy a man who had a higher, or more chivalrous, sense of honour and duty than Riou. The tears came into his eyes while the men were addressing him ; he ordered his boat instantly, and did not return to the Amazon till he had procured their exchange. It was in this action that the gallant Riou fell. The frigates were hauling off, and at the moment the Amazon showed her stern to the
for a moment seemed to pierce even the resolute heart of the defendant. The ladies in the galleries, unaccustomed to such displays of eloquence, excited by the solemnity of the occasion, and perhaps not unwilling to display their taste and sensibility, were in a state of uncontrollable emotion. Handkerchiefs were pulled out ; smelling-bottles were handed round ; hysterical sobs and screams were heard ; and Mrs Sheridan was carried out in a fit. At length the orator concluded. Raising his voice till the old arches of Irish oak resounded, “ Therefore,” said he, “hath it with all confidence been ordered by the Commons of Great Britain, that I impeach Warren Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanours. I impeach him in the name of the Commons' House of Parliament, whose trust he has betrayed. I impeach him in the name of the English nation, whose ancient honour he has sullied. I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights he has trodden under foot, and whose country he has turned into a desert. Lastly, in the name of human nature itself, in the name of both sexes, in the name of every age, in the name of every rank, I impeach the common enemy and oppressor of all !”
IF ever despondency and asperity could be excused in any man, it might have been excused in Milton. But the strength of his mind overcame every calamity. Neither blindness, nor gout, nor age, nor penury, nor domestic afflictions, nor political disappointments, nor abuse, nor proscription, nor neglect, had power to disturb his sedate and majestic patience. His temper was serious, perhaps stern ; but it was a temper which no suffering could render sullen or fretful. Such as it was, when on the eve of great events, he returned from his travels, in the prime of health and manly beauty, loaded with literary distinctions, and glowing with patriotic hopes, such it continued to be—when, after having experienced every calamity which is incident to our nature, old, poor, sightless, and disgraced, he retired to his hovel to die !