Daniel Defoe.

Memoirs of a Cavalier A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England. From the Year 1632 to the Year 1648 online

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A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England.
From the Year 1632 to the Year 1648.

By Daniel Defoe

Edited with Introduction and Notes by Elizabeth O'Neill



Daniel Defoe is, perhaps, best known to us as the author of _Robinson
Crusoe_, a book which has been the delight of generations of boys and
girls ever since the beginning of the eighteenth century. For it was
then that Defoe lived and wrote, being one of the new school of prose
writers which grew up at that time and which gave England new forms
of literature almost unknown to an earlier age. Defoe was a vigorous
pamphleteer, writing first on the Whig side and later for the Tories
in the reigns of William III and Anne. He did much to foster the
growth of the newspaper, a form of literature which henceforth became
popular. He also did much towards the development of the modern novel,
though he did not write novels in our sense of the word. His books
were more simple than is the modern novel. What he really wrote were
long stories told, as is _Robinson Crusoe_, in the first person and
with so much detail that it is hard to believe that they are works of
imagination and not true stories. "The little art he is truly master
of, is of forging a story and imposing it upon the world as truth." So
wrote one of his contemporaries. Charles Lamb, in criticizing Defoe,
notices this minuteness of detail and remarks that he is, therefore,
an author suited only for "servants" (meaning that this method can
appeal only to comparatively uneducated minds). Really as every boy
and girl knows, a good story ought to have this quality of seeming
true, and the fact that Defoe can so deceive us makes his work the
more excellent reading.

The _Memoirs of a Cavalier_ resembles _Robinson Crusoe_ in so far as
it is a tale told by a man of his own experiences and adventures. It
has just the same air of truth and for a long time after its first
publication in 1720 people were divided in opinion as to whether it
was a book of real memoirs or not. A critical examination has shown
that it is Defoe's own work and not, as he declares, the contents of
a manuscript which he found "by great accident, among other valuable
papers" belonging to one of King William's secretaries of state.
Although his gifts of imagination enabled him to throw himself into
the position of the Cavalier he lapses occasionally into his own
characteristic prose and the style is often that of the eighteenth
rather than the seventeenth century, more eloquent than quaint. Again,
he is not careful to hide inconsistencies between his preface and the
text. Thus, he says in his preface that he discovered the manuscript
in 1651; yet we find in the _Memoirs_ a reference to the Restoration,
which shows that it must have been written after 1660 at least. There
is abundant proof that the book is really a work of fiction and that
the Cavalier is an imaginary character; but, in one sense, it is a
true history, inasmuch as the author has studied the events and spirit
of the time in which his scene is laid and, though he makes many
mistakes of detail, he gives us a very true picture of one of the most
interesting periods in English and European history. The _Memoirs_
thus represent the English historical novel in its beginnings, a much
simpler thing than it was to become in the hands of Scott and later

The period in which the scene is laid is that of the English Civil
War, in which the Cavalier fought on the side of King Charles I
against the Puritans. But his adventures in this war belong to the
second part of the book. In the first part, he tells of his birth and
parentage, the foreign travel which was the fashionable completion
of the education of a gentleman in the seventeenth century, and his
adventures as a volunteer officer in the Swedish army, where he gained
the experience which was to serve him well in the Civil War at home.
Many a real Cavalier must have had just such a career as Defoe's hero
describes as his own. After a short time at Oxford, "long enough for
a gentleman," he embarked on a period of travel, going to Italy by
way of France. The Cavalier, however, devotes but little space to
description, vivid enough as far as it goes, of his adventures in
these two countries for a space of over two years. Italy, especially,
attracted the attention of gentlemen and scholars in those days,
but the Cavalier was more bent on soldiering than sightseeing and he
hurries on to tell of his adventures in Germany, where he first really
took part in warfare, becoming a volunteer officer in the army of
Gustavus Adolphus, the hero King of Sweden, and where he met with
those adventures the story of which forms the bulk of the first part
of the _Memoirs_.

To appreciate the tale, it will be necessary to have a clear idea
of the state of affairs in Europe at the time. The war which was
convulsing Germany, and in which almost every other European power
interfered at some time, was the Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648), a
struggle having a special character of its own as the last of the
religious wars which had torn Europe asunder for a century and the
first of a long series of wars in which the new and purely political
principle of the Balance of Power can be seen at work. The struggle
was, nominally, between Protestant and Catholic Germany for, during
the Reformation period, Germany, which consisted of numerous states
under the headship of the Emperor, had split into two great camps. The
Northern states had become Protestant under their Protestant princes.
The Southern states had remained, for the most part, Catholic or had
been won back to Catholicism in the religious reaction known as the
Counter-Reformation. As the Catholic movement spread, under a Catholic
Emperor like Ferdinand of Styria, who was elected in 1619, it was
inevitable that the privileges granted to Protestants should be
curtailed. They determined to resist and, as the Emperor had the
support of Spain, the Protestant Union found it necessary to call in
help from outside. Thus it was that the other European powers came to
interfere in German affairs. Some helped the Protestants from motives
of religion, more still from considerations of policy, and the long
struggle of thirty years may be divided into marked periods in which
one power after another, Denmark, Sweden, France, allied themselves
with the Protestants against the Emperor. The _Memoirs_ are
concerned with the first two years of the Swedish period of the war
(1630 - 1634), during which Gustavus Adolphus almost won victory
for the Protestants who were, however, to lose the advantage of his
brilliant generalship through his death at the battle of Lützen in
1632. Through the death of "this conquering king," the Swedes lost the
fruits of their victory and the battle of Lützen marks the end of what
may be termed the heroic period of the war. Gustavus Adolphus stands
out among the men of his day for the loftiness of his character as
well as for the genius of his generalship. It is, therefore, fitting
enough that Defoe should make his Cavalier withdraw from the Swedish
service after the death of the "glorious king" whom he "could never
mention without some remark of his extraordinary merit." For two years
longer, he wanders through Germany still watching the course of the
war and then returns to England, soon to take part in another war at
home, namely the Civil War, in which the English people were divided
into two great parties according as they supported King Charles I or
the members of the Long Parliament who opposed him. According to the
_Memoirs_, the Cavalier "went into arms" without troubling himself "to
examine sides." Defoe probably considered this attitude as typical
of many of the Cavalier party, and, of course, loyalty to the king's
person was one of their strongest motives. The Cavalier does not enter
largely into the causes of the war. What he gives us is a picture of
army life in that troubled period. It will be well, however, to bear
in mind the chief facts in the history of the times.

From the beginning of his reign, Charles had had trouble with his
parliaments, which had already become very restless under James I.
Charles's parliaments disapproved of his foreign policy and their
unwillingness to grant subsidies led him to fall back on questionable
methods of raising money, especially during the eleven years
(1629 - 1640) in which he ruled without a parliament. Charles had no
great scheme of tyranny, but avoided parliaments because of their
criticism of his policy. At first the opposition had been purely
political, but the parliament of 1629 had attacked also Charles's
religious policy. He favoured the schemes of Laud (archbishop of
Canterbury 1633 - 1649) and the Arminian school among the clergy, who
wished to revive many of the old Catholic practices and some of the
beliefs which had been swept away by the Reformation. Many people
in England objected not only to these but even to the wearing of the
surplice, the simplest of the old vestments, on the use of which Laud
tried to insist. This party came to be known as Puritans and they
formed the chief strength of the opposition to the King in the Long
Parliament which met in 1640. For their attack on the Church led many
who had at first opposed the King's arbitrary methods to go over to
his side. Thus, the moderate men as well as the loyalists formed a
king's party and the opposition was almost confined to men who hated
the Church as much as the King. The Puritans who loved simplicity
of dress and severity of manners and despised the flowing locks and
worldly vanities which the Cavaliers loved were, by these, nicknamed
Roundheads on account of their short hair. Defoe, in the _Memoirs_,
gives us less of this side of the history of the times than might have
been expected. The war actually began in August, 1642, and what
Defoe gives us is military history, correct in essentials and full
of detail, which is, however, far from accurate. For instance, in his
account of the battle of Marston Moor, he makes prince Rupert command
the left wing, whereas he really commanded the right wing, the left
being led by Lord Goring who, according to Defoe's account, commanded
the main battle. He conveys to us, however, the true spirit of the
war, emphasizing the ability and the mistakes on both sides, showing
how the king's miscalculations or Rupert's rashness deprived the
Royalist party of the advantages of the superior generalship and
fighting power which were theirs in the first part of the war and how
gradually the Roundheads got the better of the Cavaliers. The detailed
narrative comes to an end with the delivery of the King to the
Parliament by the Scots, to whom he had given himself up in his
extremity. A few lines tell of his trial and execution and the
_Memoirs_ end with some pages of "remarks and observations" on the
war and a list of coincidences which had been noted in its course.
The latter, savouring somewhat of superstition, appear natural in
what purports to be a seventeenth century text, but the summing up of
conclusions about the war is rather such as might be made by a more or
less impartial observer at a later date than by one who had taken an
active part in the struggle. In reading the _Memoirs_ this mixture of
what belongs to the seventeenth century with the reflections of Defoe,
in many ways a typical eighteenth century figure, must be borne in
mind. The inaccuracies are pointed out in the notes, but these need
not prevent us from entering with zest into the spirit of the story.


4 _March_ 1908.


TEXT: Part I.
Part II.


As an evidence that 'tis very probable these Memorials were written
many years ago, the persons now concerned in the publication assure
the reader that they have had them in their possession finished, as
they now appear, above twenty years; that they were so long ago found
by great accident, among other valuable papers, in the closet of an
eminent public minister, of no less figure than one of King William's
secretaries of state.

As it is not proper to trace them any farther, so neither is there any
need to trace them at all, to give reputation to the story related,
seeing the actions here mentioned have a sufficient sanction from all
the histories of the times to which they relate, with this addition,
that the admirable manner of relating them and the wonderful variety
of incidents with which they are beautified in the course of a private
gentleman's story, add such delight in the reading, and give such a
lustre, as well to the accounts themselves as to the person who was
the actor, that no story, we believe, extant in the world ever came
abroad with such advantage.

It must naturally give some concern in the reading that the name of a
person of so much gallantry and honour, and so many ways valuable
to the world, should be lost to the readers. We assure them no small
labour has been thrown away upon the inquiry, and all we have been
able to arrive to of discovery in this affair is, that a memorandum
was found with this manuscript, in these words, but not signed by any
name, only the two letters of a name, which gives us no light into the
matter, which memoir was as follows: -


"I found this manuscript among my father's writings, and I understand
that he got them as plunder, at, or after, the fight at Worcester,
where he served as major of - - 's regiment of horse on the side of
the Parliament. I.K."

As this has been of no use but to terminate the inquiry after the
person, so, however, it seems most naturally to give an authority to
the original of the work, viz., that it was born of a soldier; and
indeed it is through every part related with so soldierly a style, and
in the very language of the field, that it seems impossible anything
but the very person who was present in every action here related,
could be the relater of them.

The accounts of battles, the sieges, and the several actions of which
this work is so full, are all recorded in the histories of those
times; such as the great battle of Leipsic, the sacking of Magdeburg,
the siege of Nuremburg, the passing the river Lech in Bavaria; such
also as the battle of Kineton, or Edgehill, the battles of Newbury,
Marston Moor, and Naseby, and the like: they are all, we say, recorded
in other histories, and written by those who lived in those times, and
perhaps had good authority for what they wrote. But do those relations
give any of the beautiful ideas of things formed in this account?
Have they one half of the circumstances and incidents of the actions
themselves that this man's eyes were witness to, and which his memory
has thus preserved? He that has read the best accounts of those
battles will be surprised to see the particulars of the story so
preserved, so nicely and so agreeably described, and will confess
what we allege, that the story is inimitably told; and even the great
actions of the glorious King GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS receive a lustre
from this man's relations which the world was never made sensible of
before, and which the present age has much wanted of late, in order to
give their affections a turn in favour of his late glorious successor.

In the story of our own country's unnatural wars, he carries on the
same spirit. How effectually does he record the virtues and glorious
actions of King Charles the First, at the same time that he frequently
enters upon the mistakes of his Majesty's conduct, and of his friends,
which gave his enemies all those fatal advantages against him, which
ended in the overthrow of his armies, the loss of his crown and life,
and the ruin of the constitution!

In all his accounts he does justice to his enemies, and honours
the merit of those whose cause he fought against; and many accounts
recorded in his story, are not to be found even in the best histories
of those times.

What applause does he give to gallantry of Sir Thomas Fairfax, to his
modesty, to his conduct, under which he himself was subdued, and to
the justice he did the king's troops when they laid down their arms!

His description of the Scots troops in the beginning of the war, and
the behaviour of the party under the Earl of Holland, who went over
against them, are admirable; and his censure of their conduct, who
pushed the king upon the quarrel, and then would not let him fight, is
no more than what many of the king's friends (though less knowing as
soldiers) have often complained of.

In a word, this work is a confutation of many errors in all the
writers upon the subject of our wars in England, and even in that
extraordinary history written by the Earl of Clarendon; but the
editors were so just that when, near twenty years ago, a person
who had written a whole volume in folio, by way of answer to and
confutation of Clarendon's "History of the Rebellion," would have
borrowed the clauses in this account, which clash with that history,
and confront it, - we say the editors were so just as to refuse them.

There can be nothing objected against the general credit of this work,
seeing its truth is established upon universal history; and almost all
the facts, especially those of moment, are confirmed for their general
part by all the writers of those times. If they are here embellished
with particulars, which are nowhere else to be found, that is the
beauty we boast of; and that it is that much recommend this work to
all the men of sense and judgment that read it.

The only objection we find possible to make against this work is, that
it is not carried on farther, or, as we may say finished, with the
finishing the war of the time; and this we complain of also. But then
we complain of it as a misfortune to the world, not as a fault in the
author; for how do we know but that this author might carry it on, and
have another part finished which might not fall into the same hands,
or may still remain with some of his family, and which they cannot
indeed publish, to make it seem anything perfect, for want of the
other parts which we have, and which we have now made public? Nor is
it very improbable but that if any such farther part is in being, the
publishing these two parts may occasion the proprietors of the third
to let the world see it, and that by such a discovery the name of the
person may also come to be known, which would, no doubt, be a great
satisfaction to the reader as well as us.

This, however, must be said, that if the same author should have
written another part of this work, and carried it on to the end of
those times, yet as the residue of those melancholy days, to the
Restoration, were filled with the intrigues of government, the
political management of illegal power, and the dissensions and
factions of a people who were then even in themselves but a faction,
and that there was very little action in the field, it is more than
probable that our author, who was a man of arms, had little share in
those things, and might not care to trouble himself with looking at

But besides all this, it might happen that he might go abroad again
at that time, as most of the gentlemen of quality, and who had an
abhorrence for the power that then governed here, did. Nor are we
certain that he might live to the end of that time, so we can give
no account whether he had any share in the subsequent actions of that

'Tis enough that we have the authorities above to recommend this part
to us that is now published. The relation, we are persuaded, will
recommend itself, and nothing more can be needful, because nothing
more can invite than the story itself, which, when the reader enters
into, he will find it very hard to get out of till he has gone through



It may suffice the reader, without being very inquisitive after my
name, that I was born in the county of Salop, in the year 1608, under
the government of what star I was never astrologer enough to
examine; but the consequences of my life may allow me to suppose some
extraordinary influence affected my birth.

My father was a gentleman of a very plentiful fortune, having an
estate of above £5000 per annum, of a family nearly allied to several
of the principal nobility, and lived about six miles from the town;
and my mother being at - - on some particular occasion, was surprised
there at a friend's house, and brought me very safe into the world.

I was my father's second son, and therefore was not altogether so much
slighted as younger sons of good families generally are. But my father
saw something in my genius also which particularly pleased him, and so
made him take extraordinary care of my education.

I was taught, therefore, by the best masters that could be had,
everything that was needful to accomplish a young gentleman for the
world; and at seventeen years old my tutor told my father an academic
education was very proper for a person of quality, and he thought me
very fit for it: so my father entered me of - - College in Oxford,
where I continued three years.

A collegiate life did not suit me at all, though I loved books well
enough. It was never designed that I should be either a lawyer,
physician, or divine; and I wrote to my father that I thought I had
stayed there long enough for a gentleman, and with his leave I desired
to give him a visit.

During my stay at Oxford, though I passed through the proper exercises
of the house, yet my chief reading was upon history and geography,
as that which pleased my mind best, and supplied me with ideas most
suitable to my genius; by one I understood what great actions had been
done in the world, and by the other I understood where they had been

My father readily complied with my desire of coming home; for besides
that he thought, as I did, that three years' time at the university
was enough, he also most passionately loved me, and began to think of
my settling near him.

At my arrival I found myself extraordinarily caressed by my father,
and he seemed to take a particular delight in my conversation. My
mother, who lived in perfect union with him both in desires and
affection, received me very passionately. Apartments were provided for
me by myself, and horses and servants allowed me in particular.

My father never went a-hunting, an exercise he was exceeding fond of,
but he would have me with him; and it pleased him when he found me
like the sport. I lived thus, in all the pleasures 'twas possible for
me to enjoy, for about a year more, when going out one morning with my
father to hunt a stag, and having had a very hard chase, and gotten
a great way off from home, we had leisure enough to ride gently back;
and as we returned my father took occasion to enter into a serious
discourse with me concerning the manner of my settling in the world.

He told me, with a great deal of passion, that he loved me above all
the rest of his children, and that therefore he intended to do very
well for me; and that my eldest brother being already married
and settled, he had designed the same for me, and proposed a very
advantageous match for me, with a young lady of very extraordinary
fortune and merit, and offered to make a settlement of £2000 per annum
on me, which he said he would purchase for me without diminishing his
paternal estate.

There was too much tenderness in this discourse not to affect me
exceedingly. I told him I would perfectly resign myself unto his
disposal. But as my father had, together with his love for me, a very
nice judgment in his discourse, he fixed his eyes very attentively on
me, and though my answer was without the least reserve, yet he
thought he saw some uneasiness in me at the proposal, and from thence
concluded that my compliance was rather an act of discretion than
inclination; and that, however I seemed so absolutely given up to what
he had proposed, yet my answer was really an effect of my obedience
rather than my choice.

So he returned very quick upon me: "Look you, son, though I give you
my own thoughts in the matter, yet I would have you be very plain with
me; for if your own choice does not agree with mine, I will be your
adviser, but will never impose upon you, and therefore let me know
your mind freely." "I don't reckon myself capable, sir," said I, with

Online LibraryDaniel DefoeMemoirs of a Cavalier A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England. From the Year 1632 to the Year 1648 → online text (page 1 of 24)