图书图片
PDF
ePub

1

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

Six

OUR readers are no doubt aware, that a collection of Lord Wellington's despatches has been for some time past in process of publication. volumes of the work have already appeared, and as the documents they contain reach only to the latter part of 1810, it is probable that at least an equal number will be required for its completion. Colonel Gurwood, the editor, is well known to be one of the most distinguished officers of his rank in the service, and having gained his honours under Wellington, may be supposed to discharge his duties con amore. The volumes before us prove that he is fully qualified for the task he has undertaken. His own contributions are always marked by good taste and sound judgment, and the prefatory notice of the state of India,

at the period of Lord Wellington's arrival, is-just what it ought to beclear, concise, and comprehensive.

Though the work be announced simply as a collection of "despatches," that title affords a very inadequate idea of its contents. In fact, it contains not merely the despatches-taking the word in its ordinary signification-but the whole mass of Lord Wellington's letters relative to the public service, which it has been found possible to recover.* Of those contained in the volumes already published many are of course official, but the great majority are of a nature strictly private, and communicate his impressions of passing events with a freedom only to be expected in the confidential intercourse of friends. It is needless to say how much this entire

The Despatches of Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington, K. G., during his various Campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, the Low Countries, and France, from 1799 to 1818. Compiled from official and authentic documents, by Lieut-Colonel Gurwood, Esquire to his Grace as Knight of the Bath. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. 1834-6.

We have been informed within these few days, that Sir Frederick Adam has discovered Three Volumes of His Grace's Letters in his own handwriting in the Mysore Residency. These letters embrace the period immediately subsequent to the Duke's taking command of Seringapatam in 1799, up to his illness at Bombay in 1801. They are all addressed to Colonel Barry Close, and there appears to be only one of them which has found its way into print. Some of these are of the highest interest, and they all afford proof, it is said, of the versatility and extent of the Duke's capacity.

VOL. XLI. NO. CCLV.

A

absence of premeditation enhances their interest and value. We read with the gratifying consciousness of being admitted to the full confidence of the writer, and are often placed in a situation to observe the entire progress of his plans, from the first moment of their conception to that of their execution. We learn how he wrote, how he felt, how he acted, under circumstances of high and singular interest, and are enabled to trace the progressive developement of those qualities which have led to the acquisition of the highest honours attainable by a British subject, and the most splendid reputation in Europe. By the military student the work will be found full of the most important instruction, which he could hope to obtain from no other source. He will find in it a lofty example of high talents devoted to high objects—of dangers braved—privations cheerfully submitted to difficulties encountered and overcome an activity that never tired -and a professional zeal which shrank from the performance of no duty however irksome and laborious. Nor will the statesman find the time unprofitably spent which he devotes to these pages. Be his pretensions what they may, we are sure he cannot read of the negotiations conducted by Wellington with consummate skill; of the important and complicated interests he was often called on to arrange or to protect; or observe how completely his military operations were guided by the most subtle and comprehensive views of political expediency, without gaining some valuable knowledge and some enlargement of thought.

But apart from such considerations, and regarding the work merely as a collection of historical documents illus

trative of events of the highest interest and importance, it would be difficult to over-estimate its value. His

tory in general can deal only in results, and whenever it attempts more, the truth of its conclusions is even proverbially admitted to be precarious. To military history, in particular, the observation is applicable in its broadest extent. The latter will be found in many instances to be little more than a system of ingenious conjecture. The reason is obvious. Even where we are in possession of a minute and authentic record of the proceedings of two hostile armies (a circumstance,

which rarely happens), our conclusions as to the motives which produced them, must frequently be dubious and imperfect. The decisions of a commander are necessarily influenced by many transient circumstances, which born of the moment, pass with it, and leave no trace of their existence. Rumours often false-anticipations not realized and never recorded—and a multitude of petty but important facts which never reach the historian, constitute, in many cases, the only key by which the circumstances of a campaign can be satisfactorily explained. Without a knowledge of these, the records of war afford but scanty instruction, and an imperfect lesson. The premises reasoned from are necessarily imperfect, and of course little reliance can be placed even on the most logical deductions from partial truth.

It is not, however, in the public despatches of a general that we can look for the minute and circumstantial details, so essential to accurate judgment. They can be discovered only by examination of his private records,

where such exist, and his secret and confidential communications with the higher officers of his army. Possessing these valuable materials, however, we are placed as it were on an eminence which commands the whole events of the war, and are enabled to decide with accuracy on the merits of the general.

There are probably, however, very few generals who would feel solicitous that the world should be furnished with a knowledge so capable of being used as an instrument of offence. The power of scrutiny which it must necessarily carry with it is felt to be too severe. Even where their operations have been successful in result, many generals are conscious of errors and miscalculations, towards which they are by no means desirous that public attention should be directed. To military men, at least, the assertion will not seem incredible, that victories have been gained by a fortunate mistake, and blunders on one side have been occasionally successful, through greater miscalculations on the other. In such circumstances, of course, the victor has the prudence to wear his honours in silence. He writes no history of his achievements he publishes no documents connected with them-he

« 上一页继续 »