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Charles did intend to have instituted an order of knighthood, under the title of Knights of the Royal Oak, selected from those families which had particularly befriended him in this time of need. But it was afterwards well judged, that it would tend to perpetuate national discords, better allowed to descend to the tomb of the Capulets.” The following doggrel was written on a piece of the Royal oak, sent to a gentleman as a tobacco-stopper :
“I send you, Sir, this poor remain of wood,
Jane Lane, afterwards Lady Fisher, a woman of uncommon sense and spirit, subsequently aided the escape of the royal fugitive, who, disguised in her father's livery, rode before her on horseback, from Bentley Hall in Staffordshire, to Mr. Norton's near Bristol. After several hair-breadth escapes, he ultimately embarked at Brighthelmston, and safely landed at Havre. Charles, evidently, knew how to play his part, and exhibited, on various occasions of detection and suspicion, great presence of mind and address. In the autobiography of Major Bernardi, we are informed, that after the king arrived at Sir George Norton's house, near Bristol, he went into the kitchen, by the advice of his supposed mistress, the better to conceal himself: and that, as he was “standing by the fire side, near the jack, the cook desired him to wind it up; and he fumbling until the spit stood still, the maid struck him, and called him a black blockhead; asked where the devil he had lived, that he had not learnt to wind up a jack? The king modestly answered her, with a blush, that he was a poor tradesman's son, and had not been long in his lady's service.”
ART. IV.-1. Ambassade du Marechal de Bassompierre en Suisse,
Pan 1625. Cologne, chez Pierre du Marteau. 1688.
2. Memoirs of the Embassy of the Marshal de Bassompierre, to
the Court of England in 1626; translated, with Notes. London. John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1818.
We must redeem the promise given in our last number, of bringing to a close the splendid and beautiful career of Marshal de Bassompierre.
It is difficult to account for the extreme barrenness of these latter volumes, when we reflect on the character, reputation, and history of their author. His education was, as we have seen, remarkably complete and elaborate for that age, or, indeed, forany that has succeeded it, considering that he belonged to a class in which the means of predominating over the wills of men are so amply afforded by the hereditary advantages of birth and fortune, that the members of it are dispensed from the labour of acquiring that sort of superiority, by which alone those who possess no other influence can hope to guide the will by convincing the reason.
His natural endowments seem to have been above the common order ;-„his good sense is conspicuous in the general conduct of the important affairs, civil and military, entrusted to him; his wit was as celebrated as his valour; and, perhaps, no man was ever in possession of such rich and varied materials for a brilliant and comprehensive picture of European manners and politics, in the age in which he lived. That age, too, was one of the most interesting with which modern history presents us.
Gothic institutions were every where tottering, if not overthrown. The pretensions of the church to sovereignty over the reason, and of monarchs to absolute power over the persons and properties, of men, were canvassed, or openly disputed. England, the foremost in this race of mental activity, had shaken off the yoke of foreign and ecclesiastical tyranny, and was agitated, from her heart to her farthest extremities, by that awful spirit of determined resistance to arbitrary power which was soon to burst forth against the monarch who was deaf to the mutterings of that portentous storm, which, though rolled back again for a time, at length gathered all its strength, and utterly overwhelmed his race.
Literature and the arts had made vast strides. England, when Bassompierre visited it, was still radiant with the glory of the statesmen, philosophers, and poets of the Elizabethan
France had been, and still was, the scene of the fiercest struggles, religious and political; and her court teemed with men and women, whose names cannot be pronounced without interest and curiosity. Italy had not yet fallen from the pre-eminence she had so long maintained over the rest of Europe, as the seat of politeness, arts, and letters. Thither the young nobles of France and England resorted, as the school of manners and accomplishments. Urban VIII.
was a liberal and enlightened patron of the arts, and contributed to the embellishment of Rome, which was still the capital of the civilized world. But the seeds of her ruin were scattered throughout her numerous states. The domination of Spain, and the destruction of the liberties of Florence, by the Medici, had prepared her downfall. Holland had achieved her glorious deliverance from the yoke of Spain, and of the church, and was fast rising in wealth and consideration. The empire was torn by those fierce divisions, civil and religious, which, for thirty years, devastated the centre and North of Europe. Before the death of Bassompierre, Gustavus Adolphus, Duke Bernard of Weimar, Prince Thomas of Savoy, Picolomini, Tully, Wallstein, Mansfield, and many other illustrious commanders, were actors on this busy and bloody scene. The sketch he has given us of Spain, slight as it is, prepares us for the place she was soon to sink to, in the scale of nations. It is true, that he professed not to write a contemporaneous history; but connected, as he was, with France and Germany, and personally acquainted with Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and England, we cannot but deplore the causes which led him to suffer so much matter of the highest interest and instruction to perish with him.
Concerning Henry IV., he has, as we have seen, furnished some new and curious details; yet these are little to what we might have hoped for. Of the character of his successor, which is scarcely less remarkable, and, in some points, singularly contrasted with his father's, we are left to form our judgment from the most scanty and thinly scattered incidents and remarks. In short, we may, with tolerable confidence, assure our readers, that we have put them in possession of all that would reward them for the perusal of these memoirs. The volumes from which we are now about to glean, consist, for the most part, of the driest military or diplomatic details. It is probable, that the author was afraid to relate what might, by possibility, offend some body in power; or to indulge in any reflexions or traits which might be turned to his disadvantage. It is also to be remembered, that he wrote these memoirs during a twelve years' imprisonment in the Bastille; throughout which, fortune was as relentless in her persecutions as she had been prodigal in her bounties. To his own fears, are, likewise, to be added those of his publishers; and, as we have already remarked, all the most amusing anecdotes were suppressed, until the beginning of this century,
The journal of his embassy-extraordinary to England has already appeared in an English dress, preceded by a short sketch of his life. It were to be wished, that the author of this slight memoir had been more attentive to the text from which he professes to extract his facts, or had not been influenced by the common desire to dress his hero in every possible perfection. In his account of the single combat with the Duke de Guise, which we have given in our last number, we find him asserting, that “Bassompierre believed his hurt to be mortal, and prepared to die with the piety and courage of a Christian knight.” This is a specimen of the art of getting up: unfortunately for his biographer, his own account of the matter is not quite so heroic or edifying: “ Je ne fis pas neanmoins” (says he)" mauvaise mine ni crús jamais mourir ;” and, just after, “ l'on me fit confesser et saigner quasi au même tems. Cependant, je ne croyois pas mourir et ne faisois que rire.” It is, perhaps, not very important, to point out the errors in so slight a work as that in question ; but the canting and stilted tone, in which biography is commonly written, ought to be hunted down wherever it is found. It is enough, that men should conceal their own faults and follies, or exaggerate their own merits, by means of hypocrisy and decoration ; let us, at least, try to shew human nature as it is, when we have no interest in disguising it, more cogent than the desire of turning a sentence, or manufacturing a clap-trap. We are indebted to the translator of this part of the memoir, for an interpretation of the English proper names, which appear in the original in a travesti, defying all our powers of guessing. In this matter, Frenchmen are unchanged. We really believe, they think the supremacy of their nation and language compromised by an accurate knowledge of the barbarous appellatives of other countries.
The third volume of the memoirs opens with the year 1622. As it is no part of our plan to unravel the intricate web of the intrigues which divided the court, nor to follow the tedious details of the wars which distracted the kingdom, we quote the following passage only to show how high Bassompierre then stood in his sovereign’s favour and estimation. This, too, was just after an attempt to ruin him with the king.
“ This same day, came the news of the dangerous illness of the Marshal de Roquelaure ; when these gentlemen, with the Prince (de Condé) at their
head, came to ask the king for the post of Marshal of France for M. de Schomberg, the king made no other answer than this; — And Bassompierre,—what will he ask for?'
This young monarch, whose physical courage was as remarkable as his moral timidity, took the command of the army, marching against the Huguenots of Poitou. Here he first displayed that cool and undaunted valour which distinguished him, and in spite of which, and of a considerable share of understanding, he was, through life, the slave and tool of those around him. Nor is this to be attributed, as his father's weaknesses were, to devotion to that sex which finds, or thinks it. finds, compensation for the inequality of its lot, by exerting an irregular and uncertain, but tyrannous sway over the great, the wise, and the brave. Louis was as cold as his father was inflammable; nor is it easy to account for the subjection in which he passed his whole life.
“ While the king, stretched on a miserable bed, was consulting with us about the passage, a violent alarm was spread throughout the camp that the enemy was upon us, and, in an instant, fifty people rushed into the king's room, crying out that the enemy was coming. I was quite sure that this was impossible, for it was high tide, and they could not pass. Instead, therefore, of taking the alarm, I wished to see how the king would behave, in order that I might know how to proportion the suggestions I might have to make to him to the firmness or the agitation I remarked in his deportment. This young prince, who was lying down, on hearing the rumour, sat up on the bed, and, with a countenance more animated than usual, said, “Gentlemen, the alarm is without, and not in my chamber, as you see; it is there you must go :' and, at the same time, he said to me, “Go, as quickly as you can, to the bridge of Avrouet, and send me intelligence directly. You, Zamet, go and find the Prince (de Condé); Monsieur de Praslin and Narillac will stay with me; I shall arm myself, and put myself at the head of my guards.' I was delighted to see the courage and judgment of a man of his age so mature and perfect. It was, as I supposed, a false alarm, arising from a very slight accident."
Another proof of the same calmness and presence of mind occurs within a few
pages. “That same evening, I went to visit the king, in his quarter, and he told me, that he would come to our trench, at four the next morning, and desired of me to be ready to receive him.
He came, accordingly, accompanied by M. de Espernon and M. de Schomberg. It was the first time he had been in the trenches. He did me the honour to say to me—' Bassompierre, I am new; tell me what I must do, not to make mistakes. In this, I found no difficulty; for he was more prodigal of his safety than any of us three should have been, and mounted, two or three times, on the crown of the trench, to reconnoitre from a commanding position; he staid there so long, that we shuddered at the peril, which he braved with more coolness and intrepidity than an old captain ; while he gave orders for the work of the following night, as if he had been an engineer. On his return, I saw him do what pleased me extremely. After we had got on our horses again, at a certain passage which the enemy knew, they fired a shot, which passed about two feet above the head of the king, who was speaking to M. d'Espernon. I was before him, and turned round, apprehending that it would hit him, and exclaimed, “My God, sire, that ball was near killing you!' No, not me,' said he, the Duke d'Espernon ;' he neither started nor stooped his head, as most men would have done. Seeing that some who accompanied him rode off, he said, 'How! are