Page images
PDF
EPUB

Now sombre red, now amber bright,
Till upward breaks the blazing light ;
Like floating fire the gleamy billows burn:
Far distant on the ruddy tide,
A black’ning sail is seen to glide;
Loud bursts their eager joyful cry,
Their hoisted signal waves on high,
And life and strength and happy thoughts return."

CHAP. XXXV.

PRINCE EUGENE. « GENERAL history is, after all that may be said about its dignity, but the index to biography," was the observation with which Egeria laid down the Memoirs of Prince Eugene. “ In this little work, the great affairs in which the Prince bore so distinguished a part appear now but as the incidents of his personal adventures. One thinks as little of the battles of Blenheim and Oudenarde in these pages, as of the frolics of Tom Jones, or of Roderick Random, in the novels of Fielding and Smollett.”

“ I have heard it surmised,” replied the Bachelor, “ that the book is not authentic."

66 In the strictest sense of the term," said the Nymph, “ perhaps it may be so, but, philosophically speaking, I would say, that, by whomsoever it may have been written or compiled, it is assureda ly authentic. The spirit and vivacity with which it is drawn up are so admirably conceived, that the author seems to have possessed himself of the very nature and character of the Prince-if he was not the Prince himself. But however that may have been, this is an excellent piece of personal history. It is written with a cheerful and masterly candour. Every thing is treated with freedom and energy; and there is throughout a tone of decision, as well as of enthusiasm, which I think particularly engaging. Can any thing be more brisk and worldly, yet withal, simple, than the preface ?”

“ Some historians, good or bad, will probably take the trouble of entering into the details of my youth; which I no longer remember. At all events, they will speak of my mother; a little too intriguing, to be sure; driven from the Court, exiled from Paris, and suspected, I believe, of sorcery, by people who were no great conjurers. They will tell, too, how I was born in France, and how I left it, burning with fury against Louis XIV. who refused me a company of cavalry, because, he said, I had too weak a constitution ; and an abbey, because he pretended (on I do not know what stories respecting me, current in the gallery of Versailles) that my vocation was rather to pleasure than piety. But, however that was, no Huguenot, banished by the revocation of the edict of Nantes, ever cherished a stronger hatred against him: and when Louvois said, on hearing of my departure, “It is all the better, he will never see France again,'- I vowed that I never would, except as a conquering enemy-and I KEPT MY WORD. I have seen it on more sides than one ; and it has not been my fault if I have not penetrated farther. But for the English, I should have given law in the capital of the Grand Monarque, and shut up his MAINTENON in a convent for life!"

“ The same gay nonchalance pervades the whole. work. Take, for example, his account of the battle of Staffarde :"

“ The ministers of the Emperor had promised to let me have seven thousand men, to support Victor Amadeus. I knew the slowness with which every thing is decided and ordered at Vienna ; and, eager to engage the French, whom I had never yet seen opposed to me, I went to join the Duke of Savoy at his camp of Villa Franca. "You are in good time,' said he; 'I am just going to give battle to Catinat.'— Then you must take care of your movements,' said I ; "he is an excellent general, and commands the old troops, the flower of the French infantry. Your's are new levies, and mine are not yet come up.'— What does that signify?' said the Duke; “I know the country better than Catinat: to-morrow I shall advance with my army to the Abbey of Staffarde. Instead of making the attack, however, we had to sustain it. The right wing, where the Duke was placed, was attacked in front. The French wing crossed marshes which were believed to be impracticable; and after having turned, and beaten ours, both their wings united, and fell upon our left, where I commanded. I made my retreat in as good order as I could; and in the rear-guard, composed of gendarmes, and the lifeguards of Savoy, I was slightly wounded by a spent ball. I did not choose to remind my dear cousin of his presumption, or my prediction; but I endeavoured to repair matters a little, at least in point of glory; for, some time after, I had the good fortune to cut off a large detachment, which had pillaged Tivoli. It fell into an ambuscade, from which, hearing the French coming, who sung to the utmost stretch of their throats, I sallied out to fall upon them. I scolded my soldiers for treating the prisoners à la Turque. But they had been so

long on that service, that they had forgot that it was usual to give quarter to Christians.”

“ But the description of Oudenarde is still better: it makes one an actor in the bustle and the business of the battle:"

net had only Go, I push myself cados e thatendaela

that a

Cadogan

and that 14 surprised eestrich.

iew with very touch Asch, betw had

“ The French had 100,000 men in the Low Countries; Marlborough had only 60,000. I received orders to march to his assistance. I pushed on my troops by forced marches, and rode post myself, fearing that a battle might be fought without me. Cadogan came to compliment me at Maestrich. He told me that the French had surprised Ghent, Bruges, and Plaskendael, and that I was wanted. I passed through Brussels, where my interview with my mother, after a separation of twenty-five years, was very touching, but very short. I found Marlborough encamped at Asch, between Brussels and Alost ; and, learning that the enemy had their left on the other side of the Dender, I asked Marl. borough, on arriving, whether he did not intend to give battle? It is my intention,' said he, immediately; and I see with pleasure, but without surprise, that the same reflection has occurred to us both, that, without fighting, they might cut off our communication with Brussels. I should like, however, to wait for your troops." "I would not advise it,' replied I; ' for the French would have time to retreat.

“ Vendome wished to oppose our passage of the Dender. He said to the Duke of Burgundy, whom bad advisers inclined to march towards Ghent, 'When you let Prince Eugene see that you wish to avoid an action, he knows how to force you to it.' I saw this phrase in his justificatory letter, which he printed on his return to Paris.

“ Cadogan went to Oudenarde ; and, in a few hours,

threw a bridge across the Scheldt. " It is still time,' said Vendome to the Duke of Burgundy, 'to countermand your march, and to attack, with the troops we have here, that part of the enemy's army which has passed the river.' The Duke hesitated, --stopped on the height of Garves,-lost time,-wished to turn back, sent twenty squadrons to dispute the passage,-recalled them, and finally said, 'Let us march to Ghent'- It is now too late,' said Vendome ; ' you cannot move at present,-in half an hour you will have the enemy upon your hands.'- Why did you stop me then ?' said the Duke of Burgundy. In the hope that you would attack immediately,' replied he; but there is Cadogan already master of the village of Hurne with six battalions. Let us draw up at least as well as we can.' Rantzaw began the attack. He overthrew a column of cavalry, and would have been defeated in his turn, but for the electoral Prince of Hanover, who, in the charge, had his horse killed under him. Grimaldi ordered a charge too early and unskilfully. " What are you doing ?' cried Vendome, who came up at full speed,'you are wrong:- The Duke of Burgundy has ordered it,' replied he.- Ah! the Duke is angry at having been contradicted, and only thinks of contradicting others. Vendome wished the left to charge. • What are you doing?' said the Duke of Burgundy, - I forbid it, there is a ravine, and an impassable marsh. One may imagine the anger of Vendome, who had passed over the ground a moment before. Without this misunderstanding, we should perhaps have been beaten; for our cavalry was more than half an hour in order of battle before the infantry could join. For this reason, I abandoned the village of Hurne to send the battalions to support the squadrons on the right wing. But the Duke of Argyle came up, with all possible speed, at the head of the

« PreviousContinue »