« AnteriorContinuar »
House of Commons, as faithfully depicted by the lively and learned pencil of the venerable Major Cartwright.-We bear no ill will to Mr. Brown, and are willing therefore to hope that his gloomy anticipations of the ruin impending over this ill-fated country may have a due effect on his future conduct, and induce him to consult his personal safety, by timely seeking a permanent abode elsewbere.
The antipathy shewn by the unfortunate Gustavus towards Buonaparte (which, however impolitic it might be in a king of Sweden openly to profess, ought not to prejudice him in the eyes of an Englishman) has injured him irreparably in the eyes of Mr. Brown. His aversion too was the less accountable, because Buonaparte, according to our author's view of the matter, ' always seemed desirous of sparing this monarch, and even offered an increase of territory as the recompense of his remaining at peace. In other words, it was of importance to this merciful conqueror that Sweden should not appear in the lists against him, and he would therefore have been glad to purchase her neutrality.
Nothing could be more wild and untractable than the conduct of Gustavus in all his dealings with the allied powers: be was beyond doubt physically untit to play the great part which he had the ambition to attempt, but he was a high-minded and honourable gentleman, sincerely anxious for the welfare of Sweden, and jealous of her national fame; we cannot bring ourselves therefore to attach any credit to the statement made by Mr. Brown, that “ he seized a subsidy from this country in its way to Russia,' or that, during the time he was engaged with his army in Germany, he offered to sell to the Emperor Alexander, for seven millions of dollars, the whole of the territory which remained to Sweden of the German conquests made by the Great Gustavus. Whatever might be his errors and follies, (and they were manifold,) and however just his compulsory abdication, the circunstances of his fall have, in our opinion, fully expiated them, and ought to have secured him from such calumnies as those we have noticed. His career was not sanguinary and remorseless, like that of Buonaparte, or perhaps the sensibilities of Mr. Brown might have been called forth in his favour; and it is amusing to observe that the introduction of the conscription, which was one of the most grievous charges against Gustavus, has been followed up by the present king without, as far as we know, any remonstrance or opposition.
That we may not be accused of eolisting Mr. Brown among the admirers of Buonaparte on slight grounds, we present our readers with the following passage.
• The short-sighted policy adopted in 1807 by Napoleon Buonaparte towards the Bourbons of Spain bas, in some degree, given a colouring of retributive justice to his present isolated and melancholy state. It
is however an act as little to be justified as that with which his enemies reproach the ex-emperor. Catherine, with provocations equal to the gaulers of Buonaparte, with political temptations as strong as those which seduced the latter, wisely abstained from confining or murther- ing her royal guests, although the crime might have thrown all Sweden into her bands. There is not in all Europe, at the present day, a single monarch who might not, five years back, as reasonably have anticipated the dreadful banishment inflicted on the great conqueror of Europe, as that it should ever be bis fate. The example sets aside the finest
quaJities of the human mind; oppresses the fallen, and violates the law of honour and of nations; as a precedent it is bighly dangerous; and some of those princes by whom it has been adopted, or their descendants, may as bitterly rue the shortsighted policy that led to the incarceration of Buonaparte, as that great man certainly must have regretted his treatment of the Bourbons of Spain. Great moral principles are seldom, if ever, violated with impunity.'
Setting aside its want of grammar, this is fully equal to any thing in Mr. Hobhouse or Sir Robert Wilson! It does not however strike us that the laws of hospitality and nations were as much violated by the confinement of Buonaparte, as they would have been by the detention or murder of Gustavus the Fourth and the Duke of Sudermania, (the royal guests alluded to ;) nor have we heard that this great man,' as he is called, ever testified any very vehement symptoms of regret for his treatment of the Bourbons, or of any one else, after having injured and oppressed them; but Mr. Brown says he must have done so, and though this is not a very logical mode of argument, it certainly is one not easily disputed.
The notes of this work are so contrived as to present, as it were, the concentrated essence of Mr. Brown's opinions upon several momentous questions. There is a very choice one on the Copenhagen expedition, in which the severe blow which the author's feelings suffered by ‘so wanton an aggression' is very pathetically depicted. The Swedes too, by his account, were equally shocked, though they blamed us for not retaining possession of Zealand. Now without looking farther than to the enmity which prevails between the two countries, we beg leave to doubt the former part of this statement, though we can well imagine there were a few old crab trees' at Stockholm who bewailed the transaction, as some of ours did at home. That the king was hearty in our cause also was a sufficient reason with many to conspire against it--and that he was so there can be no question, (in spite of Mr. Brown's insinuations respecting his distrust of the intentions of Great Britain,) or he would not have exposed himself, as he did, to the risk of invasion both by the Russians and Danes. This fidelity on his part however was not lost sight of by the
British government. With a degree of good faith and alacrity, which merits the warmest commendation, such succours as could be spared were sent out, under the command of Sir John Moore, to our tottering ally in his utmost need; and they (as is well known) might have proved of essential service, had not his strange conduct entirely frustrated the scheme. The whole of this transaction, however, is unnoticed by Mr. Brown, and the name of Sir John Moore is not even mentioned in the book.
The greater part of the tirst volume is taken up with details of the Danish court and the unhappy queen Matilda ; they have been already touched upou by every traveller who has visited Copenhagen since her melancholy catastrophe, and have formed the outline of more than one romance. When he crosses the water Mr. Brown, if not more original, becomes at least more amusing, and though the character of Gustavus the Third has been often drawn more ably, and always with more decency of language, it certainly forms the best part of the book. We doubt indeed whether this profiligate although able monarch would have received such severe measure at Mr. Brown's hands, had he not, with many very good men, had the misfortune to differ from his present biographer on the merits of the French revolution. In the opening of that portentous event, the sentiments of the people of Sweden, as might be expected, were much at variance with those of their sovereign. It was in vain,' says Mr. Brown, that knowing his subjects to be a religious race, the king denounced the French to them as a pation of atheists;' (by what term could they have been more fitly de nominated?) the infection had spread too far, the cause of freedom had become too popular, and there cannot be a more damning proof of the dangerous nature of the doctrines which were afloat, and of the tendency of the new light which has such beauty in the eyes of Mr. Brown, than the statement which he subjoins as 'the opinion of several officers of long standing and great experience in the Swedish service,' that“ if the king bad not been cut off by Ankarstrom, the very army he was assembling with the view of invading France, in Normandy, and marching direct on Paris, would have hoisted the standard of revolt and destroyed the monarch wbom once they adored.'
This has been asserted before, and we do not doubt the fact we are only surprised at the author's perversion of intellect in blaming Gustavus for endeavouring to oppose some barriers to a torrent which had already shaken the very foundations of his throne. The Swedish army however was saved, by the desperate resentment of Ankarstrom, from the eternal disgrace which would have fallen upon them had this black act of treachery been consummated. On the 16th March, 1792, the king was mortally wounded in the
Opera House at Stockholm, and expired after lingering a fortnight in torment. The opening of the chest at Upsal in which his papers were deposited, with the injunction that they should remain untouched for fifty years, may perhaps disclose some curious facts connected with the fate of this versatile monarch; meanwhile, as it is at all times both interesting and instructive to observe the deportment in critical emergencies of those who have played important parts in the transactions of the world, we subjoin the striking scene which ensued on the night the king was wounded, as given by Mr. Brown from a Swedish manuscript, which he considers authentic.
* The king's surgeons having examined the wound, and the direction in which the pistol had been fired, saw at once how small was the chance of their royal patient's recovery. During this operation, which was excruciatingly painful, the king displayed that intense fortitude which few mortals ever possessed in a higher degree. As the surgeon applied his probe, the king thought his hand shook; suppressing the sense of pain, he said with a firm voice, “ Do not suffer your sorrow to affect your hand! Remember, sir, it is not possible I can survive if the balls are not extracted.” The surgeon paused a moinent, as if to collect all his courage, and extracted a ball and some slugs. On his way from his palace to the Opera House a few hours before, Gustavus stepped lightly down the broad Hights of granite stairs to the vestibule below. He was now carried slowly back, stretched on a litter borne on the shoulders of grenadiers, whose slightest motion gave him inexpressible pain-like the palace itself, the grand stair-case is of stupendous dimensions. The massive balustrades are composed of polished marble ; the broad steps of hewn granite, and the ornaments of colossal proportions finely drawn and executed, are in strict conformity to the vast and beautiful outline of this grand editice. The king's unwieldy statecoach, with a triple row of guards on either side, might, apparently, have ascended. Although the portals were closed as soon as the king had entered, and none but courtiers and soldiers admitted, and even those not without selection, the whole of the colossal stairs were crowded to excess. Not a few of the ministers were clad in state dresses, and most of the courtiers and household officers still had on the fanciful robes worn at the fatal masquerade. This great diversity of splendid costume, the melancholy state of the king, stretched on the bier, lying on his side, his pale face resting on his right hand, his features expressive of pain subdued by fortitude, the varied countenances of the surrounding throng, wherein grief, consternation and dismay were forcibly depicted; the blaze of the numerous torches and fambeaux borne aloft by the military; the glitter of burnished helmets, embroidered and spangled robes, mixed with the flashes of drawn sabres and fixed bayonets; the strong and condensed light thrown on the king's figure, countenance, litter and surrounding group; the deep dark masses of shade that seemed to fitter high above, and far below the principal group, and the occasional illumination of the vast and magnificent outline of the structure, formed, on the whole, a spectacle more
grand, impressive and picturesque than any state or theatrical procession, in the arrangement of which the tasteful Gustavus had ever been engaged. In the midst of excruciating agonies his eyes lost not their brilliancy, and his finely expressive features displayed the triumph of fortitude over pain. Terrible and sudden as was ihis disaster, it did not deprive him of self-possession; he seemed more affected by the tears that trickled down the hard yet softened features of the veterans wbo had fought by his side, than by the wound which too probably would soon end his life. As the bearers of the royal litter ascended from flight to flight he raised his head, evidently to obtain a better view of the grand spectacle of which he formed the principal and central object. When he arrived at the grand gallery level with the state apartments, he made a sign with his hand that the bearers should halt, and looking wistfully around him, he said to Baron Armfelt, (who wept and sobbed aloud,)“ How strange it is I should rush upon my fate after the recent warnings I had received ! my mind foreboded evil; I went reluctantly, impelled, as it were, by an invisible hand !-I am fully persuaded when a man's hour is come, it is in vain he strives to elude it! After a short pause he continued, “ Perhaps my hour is not yet arrived. I would willingly live, but am not afraid to die. If I survive, I may yet trip down these flights of steps again, and if I die-why then, enclosed in my coffin, my next descent will be on my road to the mausoleum in the Ridderholm church." '- vol. ii. p. 168.
In the character of Ankarstrom, and in his conduct during his last moments, a striking similarity may be traced to the wretched Bellingham; the same fanatical satisfaction at the perpetration of the crime, the same presumptuous confidence of pardon from the Almighty. That, as Mr. Brown observes, this dreadful selfdelusion is by no means peculiar to Sweden is sufficiently clear, as well from the case to which we have adverted, as from other instances of more recent date, where criminals, condemned for the worst of crimes, have exhibited, in their last moments, a most disgusting mixture of hardened guilt and contident security.
With the explanation given of it by Mr. Brown we comprehend why, as he says, “ the gallows saves many a soul,' should be a common expression; but that ' muny instances should occur in Sweden of honest and respectable persons' committing crimes with a view to place themselves in a predicament where they may fairly be entitled to the aid of clergy, and thereby ensure their future salvation, can only be credited by those who believe, with Sir John Sinclair, that the inhabitants of a certain salubrious valley in Norway frequently quit it from a premature apprehension of the pains and penalties attendant on longevity.
On the death of the king, his brother the Duke of Sudermania succeeded as regent. Economy, according to Mr. Brown, now took the place of profusion, and a stop was put to the strong measures adopted by Gustavus to check the revolutionary spirit so ra