« AnteriorContinua »
Art. I.— The Life of Arthur Duke of Wellington. By G.
R. Gleig, M.A., F.R.G.S., &c. &c., Chaplain-General of
himself exactly as he was appearing as the People's edition, and from the pen of the Chaplain-General of the Forces, ought to be as attractive a volume as could be placed in the hands of a British subject. With ample materials already published, with sources of observation and information superior to those enjoyed by the majority of the Duke's biographers,—the author of those charming military pictures, “The Subaltern' and * Washington and New Orleans, and of many other valuable works-himself a soldier, as well as a scholar and a divineMr. Gleig might be expected to produce a model work, worthy of imitation by all future chroniclers. And his heart was surely in his task : for had he not previously written, “There was a time when the thought of becoming, sooner or later, the biographer of the Great Duke “haunted me like a passion.” I even went so far as to open the subject to his Grace during his lifetime; but the proposal was met with so much of wisdom, mixed with great kindness, that I could not do otherwise than abandon the idea on the instant'? But though deterred for the time, Mr. Gleig's passion had its way in the end; for when the work of M. Brialmont, a Belgian officer, appeared to him (after the Duke's death) to steer between the 'wild' criticisms of French, and the ‘not less wild praise' of most of the English writers'—Mr. Gleig translated it from the French, added considerably to the text, and wrote a translator's preface to it, from which we have taken the above quotation. He tells us in that preface that the book of M. Brialmont is executed in more than its military details with singular ability,' and that M. Brialmont writes of the Duke of Wellington as if the public and private character of that illustrious man had been with him a life study. Mr. Gleig next wrote a large volume, partly from Brialmont, partly from other sources, Vol. 120.- No. 239.
and he afterwards (in 1864) realised his original idea by bringing out a smaller revised edition, in which the name of M. Brialmont disappears altogether. We regret that this should have been thought necessary; for although fuller information has enabled Mr. Gleig to enrich his biography with a great deal of matter which is not to be found in Brialmont, yet it is to be remembered that his works grew out of his translation of Brialmont, and the name of an accomplished and judicious foreign writer seemed to afford an additional guarantee for the fairness and impartiality of the Life. Indeed there appeared to be a special propriety in the concurrence of a continental with a British pen in recording the career of one who was in truth the friend and benefactor of all Europe, and not least of France, whose interests, and even whose feelings, found in him a wise and fearless champion in the hour of her deepest humiliation. Nor do we think that in dealing with the difficulties which are presented by the history of a life so varied, so mixed up with public events in different countries through a long series of years, even the People's Edition can be said to have yet attained that high degree of accuracy which we hope Mr. Gleig will ultimately succeed in imparting to the work. It is with a view to contribute in some degree to this end that we shall employ ourselves rather in pointing out matters for correction than in noticing the passages in which Mr. Gleig has been most happy. His work contains more abundant personal details than any other writer has attempted to bring together, and we propose at the same time to avail ourselves of it, in combination with other sources,' to study more particularly the character of the Great Duke throughout his career.
This subject has not yet, amidst the blaze of his deeds, received all the attention that it deserves. In the mean time we must tender our cordial thanks to the present Duke of Wellington for the costly and noble contribution which, by the publication of his father's 'Supplementary Despatches,' he is making to the historical literature of Europe.
The Duke's life naturally divides itself into three periods : the first, from his birth to his obtaining command of the 33rd Regiment; the second, from the commencement of his active service to the battle of Waterloo; and the third, from Waterloo to his death.
When a mother and a monthly nurse differ, not only in regard to the date but also as to the place of a child's birth, and when no evidence is given on behalf of the father, it is difficult for outsiders to come to a right judgment. Dangan Castle, in Westmcath, and Dublin are a long way apart; and from the 6th of