Page images

you afraid ? Why, they must reload before they can fire again.' I have witnessed many and various actions of the king, in situations of great peril; and I can affirm, without flattery, that I never saw a man, not to say a king, more cool and undaunted. The late king, his father, who was, as every body knows, celebrated for his valour, did not display equal intrepidity.”

It is not the degree but the kind of courage, which is remarkable at his age. We have, however, another example of equal coolness, in a boy who had not the strong motives to selfpossession furnished by the consciousness of being the object of attention to millions. • The enemy

had constructed a barricade in the foss, on the side of the sea, and a palissade before it, which hindered us from being entirely masters of their foss. I sent my volunteer, a boy of sixteen, lo reconnoitre it. This lad, with some of the camp boys, had last year executed the most hazardous works at the siege of Montauban, which the soldiers would not undertake. He had received several wounds; among others, a musket ball through the body, of which I got him cured. This young rogue undertook a number of the most dangerous works, by the piece; the camp boys worked under him; and they made a great deal of money. He went to reconnoitre this barricade with the same port and firmness as the best sergeant in the army could have done. After having a musket ball through his breeches, and another through the brim of his hat, he came and made his report, which was extremely judicious.”

We shall have frequent occasion to quote incidents illustrative of the distracted and wretched condition of the kingdom, during this reign. The state of tutelage, in which Louis chose to live, was one cause and pretext for continual warfare and destruction. Religion was used to cover the intrigues, or the resentments, of the principal nobles, and to inflame the passions of the miserable and ignorant multitude. How little most of the leaders of either party really cared about it, may be inferred from numerous facts. The sudden conversion of Lesdiguières, , one of the most celebrated of the Huguenot chiefs, is a flagrant instance of this. He received the Constable's sword, as the price of his apostacy; the bribe, which, in a succeeding age, was held out, with the same effect, to the great Turenne. Our author suffers this remarkable man, like so many others, to pass over the stage without one characteristic anecdote, or one remark on their characters. Not only does he present us with no portraits ; not only do we look in vain for colouring and life ; the very outlines are faint and incomplete. The whole career of Lesdiguières’ still more extraordinary predecessor, Luines, passed under his immediate observation ; yet there is not a single sentence from which we could discover how

extraordinary that career was, or how matchless the audacity,and how ruinous to France the ascendancy, of that powerful favorite. We might mention many others, but let this suffice. Most of his characters glide in without introduction or explanation; and, without a previous acquaintance with them, they are mere empty names. If, however, we lose all the brilliancy and grace of pictures, we are, at any rate, secure against any suspicion of decoration; and whatever there is, is important, from its simplicity and evident authenticity.

At the capitulation of Lunel, in the autumn of this year, we see to what the wretched people were exposed, and what, at the best, was the sort of justice which prevailed.

“ There was some degree of order in their marching out of the town, till the baggage came in sight; but, when that appeared, the disbanded soldiers of our army rushed upon it, before it was possible for the Marshal, or for Portes, or Narillac, to prevent them, and stripped the poor soldiers,—inhumanly killing four hundred; and with such impunity, that eight soldiers, of different countries and regiments, presented themselves at the gates of Lunel, with more than twenty prisoners, whom they led tied together. Their swords were covered with the blood of those they had massacred; and they were so loaded with booty that they could hardly walk. Finding the gate of Lunel shut, they called out to the sentinels, to go and tell me to give orders for them to be let in. I went to the gate, in consequence of what I heard, which I found to be true; I let them in, and immediately ordered them to be bound with the same cords with which they had tied their twenty prison

After giving these men the plunder of the eight soldiers, whom I immediately, and without any form of trial, ordered to be hanged upon a tree before their eyes, I sent an escort of my carabineers with them, as far as the road to Cauvisson. The prince thanked me for this, the following day.”

In the autumn of this year, Bassompierre received the dignity of Marshal of France. About the same time, the king raised the siege of Montpellier, and entered the town on condition of confirming the Edict of Nantz, and some other privileges it enjoyed. This partial suspension of hostilities was soon followed by the general peace, concluded by the Duke de Rohan, at Privas.

At the conclusion of this year, the author enters, at some length, into the details of an intrigue against the Marshal de Schomberg, who had recently lost one of his most faithful and powerful friends, the Cardinal de Retz. The heads of this cabal were, M. de Puisieux, one of the men who possessed the greatest influence over the king, and Commartin, who had just been appointed Garde des Sceaux.

• They told the king,” says Bassompierre, “that he (Schomberg) was so occupied with his duties as grand master of the artillery, that


he neglected those of the minister of finance, and that he suffered the treasurers to rob with impunity; in short, that he was incompetent, and ruined the king's affairs. The king is of a nature very obnoxious to the unfavorable reports which men make of each other, and especially when his interest is concerned; he is economical, even to avarice, in little things; and, yet, there never was a king of France, who gave away or expended so much, and, consequently, so drained his kingdom : but, as he attaches great weight to the opinions of others, and trusts implicitly to those whom he has once chosen as counsellors, this is to be attributed to the advice he has received."

The king intended to remove M. de. Schomberg from his place of minister of finance. Every one about him had, of course, some candidate for the office, to propose. The

suggestion of Bassompierre does honour both to his disinterestedness and judgment.

“I,” says he, “named M. de Sully, as a person already known, tried, and esteemed by every body as the most able and well-informed in the duties of that department.

This illustrious statesman was, however, formally excluded from office, on account of his religion. The affair ended in justification of M. de Schomberg, and the disappointment of his enemies, who, accordingly, lui firent beaucoup de protestations d'amitié.

The noble sentiments and lofty rivalries of princes and marshals are beautifully set forth in the few words which follow. We give them literally.

“Thus we began the year 1623 with our arrival at Paris, where the king made a sort of entrée, in which, as Monsieur would not suffer Monsieur le Comte (de Soissons) to march with him, Monsieur le Comte did the same to M. de Guise, who retired. It happened also, that the Prevôt des Marchands claimed to march immediately before the king, on the plea that this was not an entrée, but a joyful arrival ; for which claim, the marshals of France had such contempt that they would not contest it, and we went away without accompanying the king.”

Unhappily, the prejudices of caste are not the only ones formed in an imperfect state of civilization, which lead men to look

upon the useful and laborious portion of society as inferior to the pernicious and the idle. We do not restrict the terms useful and laborious to those who toil with the hands to produce the necessaries, or the physical enjoyments, of human existence. By useful men, we mean men who discover or produce whatever may increase the sum of pleasure, or diminish the sum of pain, in the world ; by laborious men, men who employ their physical or mental powers in this kind of discovery or production. In this large acceptation of the word, it is clear that one man is more useful than another, only in proportion to the quantity of human enjoyment he has produced, or of human suffering he has averted. Whether the authors and the perpetrators of wars have


claim to the title of useful,- the most honorable to which man can attain,--we leave it to those who can weigh waste of life, waste of all the matter of enjoyment, and infliction of positive pain among the many, against the acquisition of reputation and power by the few, to determine. It is, however, certain, that, even within our own times, the prejudices or instincts of the savage have continued to bear down the reasonings of civilized and instructed man. Not in old France alone did her high-born marshals look with ineffable scorn upon the chief of a commercial body; the fierce soldiers whom Napoleon invested with that title had an equal disdain for all non-destructive employments. Pékin, the generic name for all but soldiers, was the lowest term of contempt in the mouths of men who were fitted, by their brutal ignorance, to subserve the purposes of an ambition so boundless in its grasp, so infinitely small in its object; but, in England, at least, people are gaining knowledge which will enable them to fling back this contempt on the contemners, and to discriminate between true courage, the result of reflection, on the value of an end to be attained by braving danger, and that monstrous offspring of levity, ennui, ferocity, and rapacity, which has so long passed under its name.

But to return to our narrative. The beginning of this year was marked by the conclusion of the offensive and defensive treaty of the duke of Savoy and the Signory of Venice, for restoring the Valteline to the Grisons. In the beginning of 1625, these allied powers resolved to commence hostilities against Spain, who had seized and retained possession of the Valteline. Louis was warmly urged to active measures, by the king of England and several princes of Germany, in alliance with Sweden and Denmark, and the Dutch ; nor was he at all reluctant to hearken to their suggestions. He, accordingly, sent an army, under the command of the Marquis de Cœuvres, who reconquered the Valteline without any resistance. This was the prelude to Bassompierre's embassy into Switzerland, of which we shall soon have occasion to speak.

“ Towards the end of February of this year, we received,” says he,“ the news of the death of King James of England. This, however, did not retard the marriage of his son with Madame Henrietta, which was celebrated after Easter. The Duke de Chevreux married her for King Charles, at Nôtre Dame, on the 1st of May. Some days after, the duke of Buckingham (Bouquinquam) arrived unexpectedly, who made an extraordinary figure, both from the beauty of his person and his dress and jewels, and from his liberality.”

This is the meagre account of that celebrated visit of the vain and haughty Buckingham, which was followed by his audacious declaration of love to Ann of Austria, and by the hostilities with France, in which his mortified vanity led him to involve his master. The French armies had now passed the Alps and joined those of their ally, the Duke of Savoy. The combined armies were to march against the duke of Feria, the Spanish governor of Milan.

We cannot refrain from quoting a passage, to which we feel extraordinary tenderness and gratitude, as one of the very few in these latter volumes, to which we are indebted for a laugh.

“While these things were going on, the Pope, indignant at the reconquest of the Valteline, which had been left as a deposit in his hands, sent his nephew, Cardinal Barberini, into France, as legate, to complain of this aggression, and also to endeavour to accommodate the affairs of Italy. He arrived while the English marriage was going on, and was received, lodged, and his expenses defrayed, with the honours usually paid to legates : but, after several conferences and propositions, finding that he could not gain his ends, he came to Fontainbleau, to take leave of the king, and immediately afterwards, without waiting to receive the accustomed ceremonies of escort and entertainment through France, he suddenly set off, having refused the king's present. The king, accordingly, sent for the princes and officers of the crown, with some presidents of his court of parliament, and held a famous council at Fontainbleau, concerning this extravagant departure, in which nothing was determined except to let him go.'

News was now brought that the Swiss were falling off from their attachment to the King of France, and had actually allowed a passage to the German troops marching to the succour of the Duke of Feria. It was, therefore, thought necessary to send an ambassador extraordinary to the Cantons, and Bassompierre, both from his situation as Colonel General of the Swiss, and froin the various qualities which fitted him for diplomacy, was fixed upon.

The journal of his embassy is utterly destitute of interest; nor is there any thing to be said about it, but that he was every where received with the highest possible honours, and that his mission was a successful one, in spite of the most violent and frantic opposition on the part of the Apostolic nuncio, Scapi, who was a remarkable, though not a singular, example of the humility and meekness of the churchmen of his age and country. His fury seems to have afforded some diversion to the well-bred and self-possessed courtier, during an embassy which he regarded as an honourable exile, and endured very impatiently. The letters in this volume are, generally, mere diplomatic dispatches.

« PreviousContinue »