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RAMBLINGS OF A DESULTORY MAN, NO. VI. .
The Field of Poitiers. --The Diligence. " It is very strange," said I, " that no one can tell me where it lies."
But I forgot that the French nerer remember the battles they lose; and as here, their kingdom' was overthrown, and its king taken prisoner, they of course made the more haste to forget it. So I desired my guide to conduct me to the Pierre Levée, and resolved to seek the fiuld of battle by myself.
It is simply a Celtic monument the Pierre Levée, and is only curious from its insulated situation ; but as I always like to have the best information going, I asked the guide what he thought of it. .
Common people have two ways of disposing of things that they would not else know what to do with. If they want to send them away, they send them to the devil. If they do not know where they come from, they bring them from heaven. This latter was the case with my guide and the Pierre Levée; so he told me, that it had dropped from the skies four hundred thousand years ago!
As this is a more probable account than any I have read or heard of concerning these Celtic monuments, and as it fixes the date precisely, I feel myself bound not to withhold it from the world.
I sought for the field of battle by myself, and a long and weary search it was. No one could give me any account of it, and many had never heard of any battle there at all. There was a spot siruek me at length, as offering the most probable position. I pitched the Black Prince's camp on a small rising ground, and disposed King John's army round about him, so that he could not escape. There was a wood that covered the archers just in front; and a wide open space, having the advantage of the field, which I filled up with horse. Then there was a body of strong men-at-arms resting on the village below, flanked by the spears of the guard ; and down between the English and the river, was the whole division of Ribemont and Clermont. I drew it out in my own mind as clearly as possible. It was as fine a battle as ever was seen; and I set my heart on its being just there."
There was a group of peasants playing at the door of a grange, and as I saw one whose face I liked, I went up and asked him whether there had not once been a famous battle there. But he made me half angry by telling me, “ No, that it was farther on." He overthrew all my host, as completely as Edward did that of France. “ Tenez, Monsieur," said he, “ you see that high tree in the distance; if you walk straight towards it, about a quarter of a league on this side, you will find a heap of large stones, which we call les pierres brunes. You are then on the field of battle.” I asked “If he was sure ?” He was certain, he said ; for that he had ploughed there often, and many a large bone and rusty piece of armour had he turned up with the ploughshare. They were almost the words of Virgil :
“ Scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis
Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro,
1 followed the peasant's directions, and found myself certainly in the midst of that field where the few struggled against the many, and conquered; where the mild warrior received his fallen enemy as a brother, and taught him, if not to forget, to bear his captivity. Were there many such adversaries, mankind would blush to draw a sword.
And it was here that there were deeds of valour and of strength, of cruelty and generosity, and fury and calmness, of inconsiderate daring and cool, calculating wisdom, and all that sum of good and evil which buys the bauble glory.
And for what did they bleed, for what did they fall-the heroes of that splendid field of carnage? To be forgotten ? to have their bones turned up and ground by the iron of the plough, and their unhonoured dust trodden by the peasant's heel! The knight's sword rusting in peace beside his enemy's corslet, and the ashes of the coward and the brave amicably mingling in their native earth. To be forgotten! Their very burial-place unknown but to the hind whose ground they fattened with their blood, and the pale antiquary who rakes amongst their bones for something ancient! The deeds that, even in dying, they fondly fancied would be immortal, overwbelmed beneath the lumber of history, or blotted out by fresher comments on the same bloody theme ! The names they thought engraved deeply in the column of Fame, erased by Time's sure destroying hand! The thrones they fought for, and the realms they won, passed unto other dynasties; and all the object of their mighty daring as unachieved as if they had not been!
Such is the history of every field of battle.
By this time we had given up the system of posting. A man who does not travel in tbe diligence loses one half of what he ought to see. From Poitiers to Angouleme, we had two places in the coupé, or front part. Our companion was a tall, good-looking man, who at first did not make any great show of politeness. He had been a military man, and perhaps took us for wbat French soldiers were accustomed to call Pekins. Marshal - once being invited to dine with Talleyrand, was much after the hour appointed. “We have waited for you, Sir,” said Talleyrand, on his arrival. The Marshal said he could not help it, that he had been detained by a Pekin just as he was going out. “ What do you call a Pekin?” asked the statesman.
"Nous appellons Pekin," replied the Marshal, "tout ce qui n'est pas militaire."
“ C'est comme nous," said Talleyrand, coolly; “nous appellons militaire, tout ce qui n'est pas civil."
Our companion, however, soon fell into conversation. It is a bait that a Frenchman cannot resist; and now he was as polite and agreeable as he had at first been repulsive; but when he found that I was not only acquainted with many persons he himself knew, but was also fond of all field sports, bis civility knew no bounds. Nothing would satisfy him but a promise that we would visit him at M- , where he was Receiver-general, and there he would give us inexhaustible amusement both in hunting and shooting. Pardon me, my dear Count, if this ever falls into your hands; but when you can be so amiable a companion as you afterwards proved, you ought never to repel a poor stranger, who lies at your mercy for the comfort of a long journey! . We stayed but a day at Angouleme. Indeed, there is nothing beau. tiful in the town, except the view from the height on which it is placed ;
vernment has placed here, in the most inland position it could find.
On the arrival of the diligence which was to carry us on to Bordeaux, we found that all the places were taken but four. I forget who was in the coupé; in the centre there was the strangest mixture that can be imagined. There was a Bordeaux merchant, three nuns, a libertine officer of dragoons, and two pointer dogs his companions.
In the rotonde with us were the keeper of the bureau des diligences, (or stage-coach office,) and his daughter. If any one was to draw her picture from the same class in England, how much mistaken they would be. She was every thing that youth, and beauty, and simple elegance could make her. Set her in a drawing-room and call her a princess, and there was nothing in her manners to give the lie to the appellation. She had never before been from her home, and was now going to see the great fair at Bordeaux ; and she was as eager upon it as youth and curiosity could make her. But there was no inelegance about it; her sensations were always gracefully expressed, and seemed to amuse her as much as any one else.
As the sun rose the next morning, and shone in at the window of the diligence, the light fell upon her fair face and braided dark hair, as she lay asleep upon the shoulder of her father, who gazed upon her closed eyes and motionless features, with that peculiar look of soft affection alone to be seen in the face of a parent. It was as lovely a picture as I ever saw.
FAREWELL TO LOVE.
RICHELIEU : A TALE. The Cardinal de Richelieu has, we think, at last met with a competent historian. His eminence (his “bad eminence,") required a Pliny to show forth in proper colours the sad doings of his reign, and lo! one has started forth suddenly in the person of Mr. James. The times of Richelieu were fertile in events,--so fertile, indeed, that we ourselves (be it said in modesty) have frequently had it in design to try the patience of the town with a story or a drama on the subject. We are very willing, however, to resign our pen to the agreeable author before us, whose work we will now proceed to consider.
The faults of a book form, to our mind, the most tedious part of the critic's labour : unless, in truth, they are of that racy and florid sort which we once were accustomed to meet with, when some gentleman of the Emerald isle, or Shakspeare-clipping clergy man, ventured out for the first time, and wrote himself down “goose" in pompous print. Then it was sport, as well as justice, to tame the rashness of the one and diminish the conceit of the other. But now the Irish are, (with one single exception,) perhaps our best novel-writers; and even the Church has sent forth its powerful children, who have gathered abundant laurels in the fields of letters. Neither does our author afford us any opportunity of manifesting our wit at his expense ; his faults being of a somewhat ordinary character, and bearing, we think, but a very slender proportion to his excellencies. To sum them up in a few words and dismiss them, they are, occasional flippancies, (especially at the heads of his chapters), now and then a want of purpose and consequent tediousness in the narrative, and a too great generosity in bestowing upon his inferior characters more opportunity than they deserve of wearying the reader with their conversation.
To make amends for these things, however, (and he makes rich amends,) our author has thrown together a series of characters and scenes which bear extraordinary promise. The book is a book of performance also, but it is a first work, and there is therefore, at times, a show of immaturity about it, which detracts somewhat from its positive merit, at the same time that it raises greater hopes of the future. And we confess that we do not care to see the first work of a young man carrying an air of precision and completeness about it. We prefer something spontaneous,-a daring and a confidence in the subject,-a strong, although irregular, exhibition of talent—alternating from excellence into defect, beyond a more level accomplishment of purpose, which leads one to suspect that the writer has cautiously put forth his uttermost strength at the outset, and that we must look for nothing greater hereafter.
The story of Richelieu is the story of the decline and fall of the great Cardinal of that name, who, according to all account, appears to have combined the talent and ambition of Wolsey with all the tyranny and ferocity of Nero. The main interest of the book consists in the developement of the fortunes of the Comte de Blenau and Pauline de Beaumont, --relieved, however, and enriched by some account of the transactions and characters of the period. All these are sketched easily and
• Richelieu, a Tale of France. In 3 vols. 8vo.
unaffectedly, and some of them with uncommon felicity. Indeed, we are not sure but that a considerable portion of the pleasure which we derive from reading the volumes before us, consists in the want of pretension of the author, and in the non-exhibition of that morbid sensibility which runs through the works of so many contemporary writers. This, and the talent for painting and separating characters, in which our author may challenge a comparison with any writer of the time,-excepting only the great Scotch novelist, and perhaps one or two Irish authors, are the distinguishing good qualities of Mr. James. He does not strug. gle too much for effects, nor sacrifice one portion of his bistory, in order to make a few points tell with redoubled force; but steers on quietly and gallantly to the main objects, and when there, wisely trusts to the circumstances before him for inspiration. This is the safer and more legitimate plan; and we cannot forget how well it has answered in the Waverley novels, or how much it excels those feverish and unnatural displays of passion which occur occasionally in the works of our present writers, betraying weakness in themselves, and yielding almost as much pain as pleasure to their readers. They are, to the interest excited by the Scotch novels, what the German horrors are to the dramas of Shakspeare-more exciting for the moment possibly, but revolting to our common-sense, and seldom impressing us with a permanent interest.
But we have spoken of the character of Richelieu, and it is but fair to specify those which we consider as good. They are Louis the Thirteenth in the latter part of whose reign the story is cast); Anne of Austria, his wife; the Cardinal de Richelieu, and his élère Chavigni; Cing Mars; Fontrailles ; Lafemas, and others, of the bigher class, together with Marteville, the governor of the Bastile; Jacques Chatpilleur ; Villa Grande ; and various other worthies of a lower grade. There is no mistaking one for the other of these personages. Louis, the king, is touched with very great skill, we think-he is not overdone. We do not think that any one (we make no exception) need be ashamed of having drawn this character. Anne of Austria, his wise, is well-managed; and the portrait of the heroine is agreeable enough. Of Richelieu himself there is but a slight sketch, but what there is, is good ; and Chavigni is admirably imagined. If the execution of his character had been equal to the conception of it, (and we scarcely think that this is the case,) it might have stood a competition with any thing of the kind. It is, as far as we recollect, original; and the elements of good and ill --of prejudice and good sense--of kindness of heart and cruel policy, are so intimately mingled, and so true to nature, as to compel from us the acknowledgment of our unqualified approbation. The Sieur Marteville, too, who writes himself “gentleman," (a Norman gentleman,) is a capital compound of the bully and the bravo; the liberality of his actions and opinions, his unconstrained air, the ease with which he shifts from his rusty cuirass into a silken doublet; his pride of birth (which he recollects only when he is required to marry a waiting-maid), and, finally, his roistering, swaggering, lordly character after marriage, together with his unaffected contempt for the sixth Madame Marteville, stamp him as one of the most amusing as well as effective personages whom we have lately encountered in the land of fiction.
The reader will conclude, from what we have said, that the merit of