« ZurückWeiter »
divine light, a harbinger of peace and a pledge of safety. Mysterious powers everywhere at work receive ample record in the same antique pages. A leper was cured by using water which had been used by Anselm ; and miracles were wrought at the tomb, in Hereford Cathedral, of St. Thomas, the son of a Cantelupe by a Gournay, the last Englishman canonized by the Holy Soe.
Sometimes such chroniclers' tales of the supernatural are more tragie, yet with a dash of the grotesque in their tragedy. The cellarer of a certain monastery had been defrauding the defunct members of their masses, in order to feed more sumptuously the living brotherhood. One time that he was passing the empty chapter-house, as he thought it, a voice that made his flesh creep summoned him to come in. He entered trembling, as well he might; for there sat the dead abbot at the head of the table, with the dead monks around him, and the cowering sinner who had robbed them was first rebuked and then flogged. But the most awful stories are those in which the Devil and his subordinate devils appear : sometimes dragging corpses from their graves ; sometimes vainly attempting to bully good and pions men; almost always triumphant over those who by wickedness had become their legitimate prey. The Devil was no abstraction, no principle of evil, no figure of speech, in the days of the chroniclers, but a real ubiquitous being, ever on the watch to ruin man, and endowed with indefinite powers of metamorphosis for the purpose. All mischief that was done, was done Diabolo suadente or instigante ; and even in politics he was so influential that he fairly ranked as a European Power, like the Emperor or the King of France. Long after the dates of which we have been chiefly speaking, that is, the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, Luther habitually talked of the Devil along with the Pope and the Turk, as the chief of a kind of Triple Alliance. This materialistic view, so to speak, of the Enemy is the real explanation of the intense credulity of our ancestors about witchcraft, which ceased to be believed in when the rigidity of the conception they had formed of him began to be refined away. In reading story after story illustrative of the prodigious superstitions which the chroniclers recorded and shared, --how, when Richard the First approached his father's corpse, it began to bleed, and the Lion-Heart, who feared nothing human, instantly wept with horror like a child, --in reading such things, we say, it is diflicult to fancy how men breathed freely or enjoyed life at all. But the truth is that the counteracting elements were proportionately vigorous. There was a very active animal life, and a great deal of rude roystering jollity, for one thing; while, of course, if one set of superstitions stimulated fear, another set encouraged hope; and the Church was a vast standing army against the powers of hell, just as the feudal militia was always ready for service at short notice against foreigners.
The point of view, then, from which the chroniclers regarded things in general was the antithesis of the scientific one. They did not deal with “causes," " tendencies," "currents of opinion," and so on, like the modern philosophical historian, at all. With an ever-living sense of the continuous action of Infinite Power on human affairs, they hardly grasped at all tho idea of Law. They saw in Providence a force like that of the kings and barons under whom they lived, striking in at every moment to do justice in some incomprehensible way; and they saw such special intervention in a thousand cases in which nobody now would venture to say that he sees anything but the operation of general principles long since recognized as universal and unchangeable. But, for this very reason, their spiritual life was intensely sensitive and quick; and, with all their superstitions, they have a keen feeling of man's infinite responsibility and high destiny : a feeling elevating in itself, and which has certainly always been strong in the ages in which man has done anything great. The inspiration of their writing was avowedly religious; not to show “philosophy teaching by examples," but, as we may put it, " Providence teaching by examples." " The attentive reader," says Henry of Huntingdon, one of the most remarkable of them in the twelfth century, “ will learn in this work both what he ought to imitate and what he ought to eschew; and if he becomes the better for this .... it is the fruit of my labour which I most desire." Examples being best furnished by individuals, the chroniclers bestow their chief attention on the conduct of the conspicuous personages of each genenation, the sovereigns, nobles, and high churchmen. It is not that they are indifferent to the condition of the masses, as we call them now. On the contrary, they are, as a rule, careful in noting the harvests and weather of each year, and their effects upon the price of provisions and the public health. But they do all this kind of thing in a very elementary way, natural to times when a dearth was met by sending the poor off for relief in divisions to the large proprietors, and when many died of hunger in spite of such precautions. Their principal force is expended on the moral and ecclesiastical side of life, and on the doings of those who were at the head of the kingdom; and what we learn from them of social, domestic, and economical details, is conveyed in their books incidentally. Some institutions which have made a great noise in the world are not expressly mentioned by tho chroniclers at all. None of them tell us how and why heraldry arose, for one thing. And most of our definite knowledge about the formation of Parliament, the status of the baronage, and so forth, is drawn rather from legal documents than from the chronicler's page. Naturally, he occupied himself with the developed powers, the prominent establishments, of his day; and could not be expected to deal with growths the future importance of which it was impossible that he could foresee.
The transition from the old chronicle to the history as we understand it
now, was made very slowly and gradually. Seven centuries and a half elapsed between the age of Bede and the age of Philippe de Comines, who is usually regarded as the founder of history proper. The last of the great chroniclers, a man so much connected with England that one almost thinks of him as half an Englishman, was Froissart, whom Gray called " the Herodotus of a barbarous age.” The comparison is a happy one; for both Herodotus and Froissart were chroniclers in soul, while they both give us the chronicle at that stage in which it is just passing into the history. Criticism is beginning in both, but has not attained full growth in either. Herodotus not unfrequently lets us understand that he does not quite believe all that he is reporting, but at the same time he has an obvious pleasure in narrating wonders, and his phantom galley at Salamis is an apparition quite after a chronicler's own heart. Froissart and he delight equally in making their heroes talk in their proper persons, and in reproducing the familiar aspects of heroic life; and they write with an obvious enjoyment of their subject which communicates itself to the reader, who, like the steed in Pope,
Shares with his lord the pleasure and the pride. They were both travellers and curious inquirers ; both of strong religious feelings, and deeply sympathetic with the generations in which their lot was cast. Herodotus was followed by Thucydides, whose “ first page” Hume thought “the beginning of real history.” So Froissart was followed, though at a greater distance of time, by historians whose school may be said still to exist. For the greatest of these, we must look, not to the Holinsheds and such as he, however useful in their way, but to one great in so many other fields,-Francis Bacon. Bacon's was, we think, the earliest first-rate intellect employed upon historical writing, and perfectly enjoyable still in modern England; and his History of Henry the Seventh is one of the master-pieces of literature. The education by which such men as he were produced was given by the classics, whose action upon the intellect of Europe in abolishing its superstitions, sharpening its scientific acumen, widening its range of vision, and refining its sense of taste, has hardly even yet received proper appreciation amongst us. The heresies of the school of Erasmus are become the commonplaces of to-day; and they were all derived from the inspiration of that ancient Greek and Roman literature on which Erasmus and the friends of Erasmus bestowed their honourable and laborious lives. But if the influence of the classics superseded the influence of the chroniclers, so that a Hume and not a Froissart is the type of a modern writer of history, and is much more like a Thucydides or Tacitus than Froissart is like either of the three, yet the chroniclers are even in our own days getting their revenge. The craving for a rich, personal, pictorial style of history, is in reality, as hinted before, a return to the chronicling spirit, of which there is infinitely more in Macaulay or Froude than in Hume or Robertson. It is even possible, as we have indicated, that the ridicule of the old school of “ Dryasdusts," which so many people now use at third-hand from Scott through Carlyle, may become a muisance in the hands of half-read charlatans; and it is certain that the Comic Histories with which we were plagued some years ago had a direct tendency to pollute the mind of the rising youth of the nation. On the other hand, there is one influence at work which will
act as a wholesome check upon any undue activity of the minds engaged in making history too merely pungent and rhetorically descriptive. We refer to the current of thought of which the late Mr. Buckle was the best known representative, and the aim of which is to reduce history to a science properly so called. It is obvious that a philosophy of this kind, labouring incessantly to prove the operation of general laws on the highly complicated course of human action, will leave us, as one result, a repressing effect on the vagaries of the imagination. Successful or not, it will do much good by the study and thought which it will render imperative. Nor need it, even if successful, rob history of its colour and grace; for the rainbow is not less beautiful now that its laws are known, than it was when the old poets saw in it an Iris
Mille trahens varios adverso sole colores. And, just so, if the impulse which gave birth to the Crusades could be explained with equal clearness, the human heart would still beat responsive to the tramp-tramp of the mailed warriors on the Syrian shore, whose banners outshone the glory of the Eastern palm-tree and the
But to produce this effect, the historical writer, scientific or not, will need a share of the genius common to the great historian with the great poet; and whoever possesses it will find something in himself akin to the ancient, simple, pious, half-cultivated old chroniclers, whose dust rests under the flag-stones of the cathedrals, and amidst the ruins of the monasteries, of the land for which they loved to labour and
Reminiscences of an English Cadet in the Austrian Service.
PART II. IN June, 1850, wo marched from Milan to take up our summer quarters in the neighbourhood of the Lago Maggiore, and go through the usual manæuvres, but on a larger scale, and under the eye of a field officer. The General in command on this occasion was Count Gyulai, afterwards so well known in the Italian War for his many retreats “for strategic purposes ;” and of course we saw a good deal of him. He was by no means a favourite with either officers or men, nor did he ever attain to any popularity in the service, whatever he might do at Court. In after days the news of his partial disgrace touched our hearts very differently to what the tidings of poor Benedek's disasters did. He was excessively haughty in his manner; the severity of his discipline was not uniform, nor was it always altogether just; and whereas the yearly muster of troops in summer was generally considered a kind of holiday, he literally exacted more from the men than they were accustomed to endure even in barracks. It was an article of our creed that the Count was as ill-disposed towards the Jägers as Radetzky was known to be the reverse. In an ordinary way
all those who were not told off for duty would be at liberty for the rest of the day after ten in the morning, but his Excellency used to have the Jägers out at all hours. He was very fond of throwing out the sharpshooters in all directions, and then when we were at a great distance the rallying call was sounded, the space for cavalry to attack was cleared, and we had to run at the top of our speed to form little clumps or larger squads. He would have this over two and three times in the same day; and under a broiling sun, with our knapsacks strapped on to our backs, it was fearful exertion. Our men were often regularly knocked up by it, and I have known them faint away with exhaustion after leaving the ground. When the alarm was given that Count Gyulai was coming through the camp, we used to scamper off-like rabbits to their holes; whereas when the word passed that the old General Shassoldos was about, men and officers used to try to throw themselves in his way, for he would talk to the former in their own patois, give them wine or Trinkgeld, and had always a pleasant word for us.
After some weeks spent in this kind of practice, we were told off to detached villages, or small towns, in the neighbourhood of the Ticino. It happened just then that I had not received any money from England for some time, and as, boy-like, I could not bear to give up our only luxury, i.e. an evening visit to the café, I ceased to subscribe to the soldiers' mess, in order to save my poor kreutzers for the café. For six weeks I literally lived on coffee, cakes, and walnuts, and my ration of bread I used