Page images

a con

Regiment of the Line at Breslau, and Silesia was one of his favourite provinces. Always fond of clever novels, he was specially charmed with the graphic pictures of Silesian life which Freytag painted in . Soll und Haben.' It was the first German novel which he read with his young wife. Admiring Freytag's genius, sympathising with much of his Liberalism, reciprocating his ardent desire for the unification of Germany, the Crown Prince and Princess distinguished the popular author with proofs of personal kindness. As he says himself in the Preface to these * Reminiscences,'' I am indebted both to the dead and the living for many flattering marks of their gracious favour.'

This rapid sketch of Freytag's career before 1870 explains why he was invited by the Crown Prince to accompany him in the impending campaign. Freytag joined the head-quarters of the Third Army at Spire on the 1st of August. At this date the * Reminiscences' commence. They terminate on the 8th of September, 1870, shortly after the battle of Sedan. In his Preface, Freytag tells us of the materials of which the book is composed, the object it is intended to serve, and the reasons for the delay in its appearance. The material of the • Reminiscences' consists of notes made in the camp, and of letters written to a friend during the campaign. Their object is to make tribution to the history of the origin of the German Imperial dignity, and to give an estimate, formed without fear, yet with reverent affection, of the character of the late Emperor. Finally, their appearance has been delayed by the period of unhappy excitement, which the Emperor's death occasioned. In none of these three points do the contents exactly correspond with the Preface. Only a few pages of the volume consist of genuine first impressions, noted down at the time, or embodied in letters written on the spot; the original strokes have been touched, retouched, altered, or obliterated, till they are but dimly visible. In the second place, scarcely one-eighth part of the · Reminiscences' deals with the subject which Freytag proposes to himself by his title. In the third place, if the appearance of the volume was delayed on account of the unhappy excitement arising out of circumstances connected with the Emperor's death, it would have been wiser to abstain altogether from its publication. The feeling which then prompted delay, would now equally dictate silence. The title of the volume re-opens the whole conflict; the tone of the author revives every bitter feeling which was aroused by the insulting memorial of Prince Bismarck on the late Emperor's Diary ('Immediats-Bericht' of September 23, 1888); the new facts that he contributes to history are of infinitesimal value. If Freytag were indeed a loyal friend of the Crown Vol. 171.–No. 341.



Prince, he would have remained silent, instead of reviving, under the cloak of affection, the charges of the · Reptile Press and Prince Bismarck's memorial. He has, however, chosen to renew the controversy that raged round the grave of the Emperor Frederick, and he has done so in a spirit which necessitates a reply.

The volume is divided into three portions : (1) pp. 6–65, with the Headquarters of the Third Army;' (2) pp. 68-86, • after the War; (3) pp. 89-126, consisting of appendices. The second portion contains Freytag's estimate of the Crown Prince's character after the war. After 1870 the Crown Prince only saw Freytag once a year, or once every other year, at Wiesbaden, and he never wrote to him except to thank him for copies of his works as they from time to time appeared. In this portion of the volume, Freytag therefore speaks with no authority. He has no special knowledge of the subject. The third portion is made up of three articles, republished from the • Grenzenboten’in 1870, or. In Neuen Reich' of 1871. None of these republications have any special bearing upon the subjectmatter of the volume. The forebodings of Freytag in 1870respecting the Imperial Crown, have no interest in 1890, when they have been falsified by experience. The first part alone possesses any original value. But even this portion contains a quantity of miscellaneous matter, which has little connection with the Crown Prince or the Imperial Crown. Not more than an eighth part of the Reminiscences,' as we have already said, is really relevant to the subject, and even this eighth part mainly consists of a long monologue by Freytag upon the impolicy of assuming the Imperial dignity. The Crown Prince's. arguments on behalf of the project occupy lines, while Freytag's objections fill pages. If the subject of this conversation is important enough to give a title to the book, the title should at least be changed from the Crown Prince and the Imperial Crown' to · Freytag and the Imperial Crown.'

In this first portion, which, as the Preface tells us, is mainly taken from notes made in the camp or from letters written from there, Freytag takes occasion to give his opinion upon the Morier incident. We allude to this for three reasons. In the first place, the digression illustrates the palpable fact that the notes of the original impressions are carefully revised and • written up to date.' In the second place, it exemplifies Freytag's tendency to speak with authority on subjects of which he knows no more than ordinary outside observers. He devotes a page to the vindication of Bismarck's imaginary opposition to Sir R. Morier's mission to Berlin. As a matter of fact, the in its support.


suggested mission was never seriously contemplated or discussed, and Freytag's commentaries are therefore entirely superfluous. In the third place, Freytag's treatment of the subject is a fair sample of the attitude which he assumes to all the controverted points in his biography. He admits that, if Sir Robert Morier in 1870 had wished success to France, he would have acted directly in opposition to his own interests. He admits also, that the statement of Marshal Bazaine did not necessarily imply that the English envoy at Darmstadt sent him any intelligence, either directly or indirectly. He is aware that Sir Robert Morier emphatically and categorically denies the accusation made against him. The accusation, therefore, is, on Freytag's own showing, primâ facie in the highest degree improbable; it is emphatically denied by the accused ; it is not necessarily implied by the language of the only witness called

What opinion would any fair-minded man express of such a charge? Would he not say that Sir Robert Morier was fully acquitted ? But what says Freytag? We Germans, therefore, are not obliged by the published statements to impute a gross breach of trust to the English envoy in 1870.' Freytag implies, that though Germans are not obliged to believe in Sir R. Morier's treachery, they still are justified in doing so. From a man who is capable of penning so ungenerous a judgment, we cease to expect sympathetic, or even impartial, criticism. Freytag shows himself to be a blind devotee of Prince Bismarck. In this passage he supports the late Chancellor by an insinuation, which he dare not explicitly formulate. Similarly, throughout his carping estimate of the Emperor Frederick, he endeavours to support the • Immediats-Bericht' of September 1880—a document which many of the staunchest supporters of Prince Bismarck strongly condemned, and which has inflicted a cruel injury both upon the Emperor Frederick and his widow among those persons who are not in a position to know the truth.

Except as a suggestion of the weak cosmopolitanism of the Emperor Frederick, who was well acquainted with Sir R. Morier, and as an illustration of the peril of “foreign influences' to which the Bismarck Memorial alludes, the Morier incident can have no bearing upon the subject-matter of the volume. A large portion of the contents is, as has been said, equally

Yet this irrelevancy is to a great extent redeemed by the one splendid battle-picture which the volume contains. Few passages more graphic than Freytag's description of Sedan exist in military history. In justice to the writer we quote a portion of the description before we proceed to criticize in

D 2



detail his account of the origin of the Imperial Crown and his estimate of the character of the Emperor Frederick.

At twelve o'clock on the 24th of August, 1870, news had reached the Crown Prince at Ligny that Marshal MacMahon had left his camp at Chalons with the design of breaking through to Bazaine from the north, Plans were instantly made to surround him. They were executed with surprising rapidity; the troops marched as troops had never marched before; from one bivouac to another they hurried forward at from twenty to twenty-five miles a day. On the 28th of August the German vanguard again came up with the enemy, who retreated behind the line of the Meuse with the Belgian frontier in his rear. In the early morning of the 1st of September, the advance of the German army over the Meuse began.

A dense mist lay over the earth. Grey clouds hid the movements of the troops, whose endless columns, like enormous serpents, wound their way northwards in the twilight. Round the taller clumps of trees and among the wood on the hillsides, streamed torn wisps of mist in the earliest morning light; on the lower levels, the vapour lay thick and eddied upwards. Along the whole wayside twinkled the deserted bivouac fires, glimmering like glow-worms through the fog and smoke. Like heavy-laden trains upon invisible railways, the columns rattled and thundered on the highways; but infantry, horsemen, and guns only emerged from the spectator at a distance of a few feet, and vanished away again as they plunged once more into the mist.'

After marching a distance of nearly five miles, the Crown Prince reached his position, a long wooded hill above the Meuse near Donchéry. At five in the morning the attack began, and for hours the fight continued before the eyes of the spectators.

· More and more furious raged the artillery duel; long rows of batteries thundered, rattled, and roared ; the strange whirr of the shells, the white smoke-cloudlets of the French bursting bombs, the jets of vapour that rose from the earth as one ploughed its way into the ground and burst, the five-and-twentyfold crackle of the mitrailleuse, and, in the intervals, the dull rumble of the vehicles, wild shoutings, clouds of smoke bursting from burning buildings, and the glaro of the flames as they blazed up between the houses and above the trees all these terrible accompaniments of the conflicts filled both eye and ear. . . . Till past twelve the battle raged before our eyes with unabated fury. The mist had lifted; the landscape lay clear and bright before us in the hot light of the sun. Soon after noon the two German wings joined hands behind the French. The game was trapped ; its way out to the north was cut off. In the dark hill-forest the French infantry formed and re-formed, trying with desperate rushes to break through the ring of steel. Swift

volleys volleys met them as they charged forward, while, in the foreground on the right Prussian and Bavarian batteries drove up and poured their shot into the densely-packed masses.

Then it was that the French cavalry, to their enduring glory, made their last heroic effort. As the infantry recoiled, their regiments dashed against the Prussian foot and guns, bent upon forcing a road out to the west. In vain. The gallant fellows were mowed down, whole ranks at a time; again and again they charged; through our telescopes we could see the bright spot in front of the forest covered with the bodies of men and horses. From the wooded hills behind Sedan the enemy's retreat began. In dense masses the infantry came out, many of them with out arms.

And now ensued an almost sudden hush in the roll of the cannonthunder, It seemed as though the hot sun had robbed the combatants of their strength. But the lull was only the preparation for placing troops and guns in new positions. Still more closely, and from three sides at once, the wooded hill-range, on which the enemy were crowded, was now surrounded. Then the work of death began again; the roar of the artillery, the sharp crackle of the skirmishers' rifles, the volley-firing, the explosion of ammunition waggons recommenced. The German infantry poured into the forest, and out beyond on to the plateau of the enemy's position, and drove the French towards the town. In dense masses, amid the plunging rush of frightened horses, the enemy streamed down the hill; horse and foot, trains of waggons, and behind them long lines of prisoners. After about an hour, towards four o'clock, the battle ended.'

Strictly speaking, this description of the battle of Sedan is a digression from the Crown Prince and the Imperial Crown.' But its force and vividness, dissipated though they necessarily are in our imperfect version, plead its excuse. Our attention will be henceforward confined to the two objects, which Freytag tells us that he had in view in publishing his · Reminiscences -the origin of the assumption of the Imperial Crown, and the 'free, yet affectionate and reverential,' estimate of the character of the Crown Prince. And of these two objects we shall treat in their order.

It will be remembered that, in September 1888, Europe was excited by the publication in the • Deutsche Rundschau' of a series of extracts from the Diary of the late Emperor Frederick during the Franco-Prussian War. The most startling fact that this publication revealed was the part which the late Emperor had taken in the establishment of the German Empire. It was he who first adopted the idea of embodying the unity of Germany in the Imperial dignity; he who won over the sceptical Bismarck; he who successfully combated the scruples of King William. This important fact placed the character of the late Emperor in a new and striking light. The conception


« PreviousContinue »