George Croly.

Marston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) online

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form remains, but the living principle is gone. — It is
the study of the human figure, among the cases of a
museum.

But the contrasts of his style were his alone. To
me, his eloquence now resembles those midsummer-
night dreams, in which all is contrast, and all is
magical. — Shapes, diminutive and grotesque for a
moment, and then suddenly expanding into majesty
and beauty ; topics the most trifling and hopeless ;
converted, at a touch, into superb and solemn
themes ; like deserts, in the dream ; — changed, at a
glance, into all the luxury of landscape. The power
of his creations still haunts me ; Aladdin^s palace,
starting from the sands, was not more sudden,



MARSTON. 159

fantastic, or glittering. Where all seemed barren,
and where a thousand other minds would have tra-
versed the waste a thousand times, and left it as
wild and unpeopled as ever ; no sooner had he
spoken the spell, than up sprang the fabric of fancy,
the field was bright with living character, and the air
was filled with visions.

On returning to London, I found the world in tlie
"transition state." The spirit of the people was
changed ; the nature of the war was changed ; the
principle of the great parties in the legislature was
changed. A new era of the contest had arrived ;
and, in the midst of general perplexity as to the
nature of the approaching events, every one exhi-
bited a conviction, that when they came, their mag-
nitude would turn all the struggles of the past into
child's play.

I, too, had my share in the change. I had now
passed my public noviciate, and had obtained my
experience of statesmanship, on a scale, if too small
for history, yet sufficiently large to teach me the
working of the machinery. National conspiracy,
the council-chamber, popular ebullition, and the
tardy but powerful action of public justice, had been
my tutors ; and I was now felt, by the higher
powers, to be not unfit for trust in a larger field.
My exertions in the Legislature soon enabled me to
give satisfactory evidence, that I had not altogether
overlooked the character of the crisis ; and, after some
interviews with the premier, his approval of my



160 MARSTON.

conduct in Ireland was followed by the proposal of
office, with a seat in the cabinet.

I had thus attained, in the vigour of life, a
distinction for which hundreds, perhaps thousands,
had laboured through life, in vain. But mine was
no couch of silken prosperity. The period was
threatening. The old days of official repose were
past, never to return. The state of Europe was
hourly assuming an aspect of the deepest peril.
The war had hitherto been but the struggle of
armies ; it now threatened to be the struggle of
nations. It had hitherto lived on the natural re-
sources of public expenditure ; it now began to prey
upon the vitals of kingdoms. The ordinary
finance of England was to be succeeded by imposts
pressing heavily on the existing generation, and
laying a hereditary burden on all that were to follow.
The nature of our struggle deepened the difficulty.
All the common casualties of nations were so far
from breaking the enemy down, that they only gave
him renewed power. — Defeat swelled his ranks ;
confiscation enriched his coffers ; bankruptcy gave
him strength ; faction invigorated his government ;
and insubordination made him invincible. In the
midst of this confusion, even a new terror arose.

The democracy of France, after startling Europe,
had seemed to be sinking into feebleness and apathy;
when a new wonder appeared in the political hemi-
sphere, too glaring and too ominous, to suffer our
eyes to turn from it for a moment. — The Consulate
assumed the rule of France. Combining the fiery



MARSTON. ]Ql

rashness of republicanism with the perseverance of
monarchy, it now carried the whole force of the
country into foreign fields. Every foreign capital
began to tremble. The whole European system
shook, before a power which smote it with the force
of a cannon-ball against a crumbling bastion. The
extraordinary man who now took the lead in France,
had touched the string which vibrated in the heart
of every native of the soil. — He had found them
weary of the crimes of the democracy ; he told them
that a career of universal supremacy was open before
them. He had found them degraded by the con-
sciousness of riot and regicide ; he told them that
they were the chevaliers of the new age, and destined
to eclipse the chevaliers of all the ages past. His
Italian campaigns, by their rapidity, their fine com-
binations, and their astonishing success, had created
a new art of war. He had brought them romantic
triumphs from the land of romance.

Day by day the populace of the capital had been
summoned to see pageants of Italian standards,
cannon, and prisoners. Every courier that galloped
through the !=treets had brought tidings of some new
conquest; and every meeting of the Councils was
employed in announcing the addition of some classic
province, the overthrow of some hostile diadem, or
the arrival of some convoy of those most magnificent
of all the spoils of war, the treasures of the Italian arts.
France began to dream of the conquest of the world.

The contrast between her past calamities and her
present splendour, powerfully heightened the illusion.
France loves illusion ; she has always rejoiced in



1 QO « MARSTON.

glittering deceptions, even with the perfect know-
ledge that they were deceptions ; and here stood the
most dazzling of political charlatans, the great
wonder-worker, raising phantoms of national glory,
even out of the charnel. The wrecks of faction, the
remnants of the monarchy, and the corpses lying
headless in the shadow of the guillotine, gave full
semblance to the conception — The Republic ivas a
charnel. But, her people, by nature in extremes, wild
and fierce, yet gallant and generous, had become at
length conscious of the national fall in the eyes of
Europe. They were utterly scandalized by the rude-
ness, the baseness, and the brutishness, of rabble
supremacy. They gazed upon their own crimsoned
hands and tarnished weapons, with intolerable dis-
gust ; and it was in this moment of depression, that
they saw a sudden beam of military renown blaze
across the national darkness.

After a lassitude, so long, that it had extinguished
all but the memory of her old triumphs, France was
a conqueror ; after an age of helpless exhaustion,
she had risen into almost supernatural vigour ; after
a hundred years, scarcely marked by a single victory,
her capital rang with the daily sound of successful
battles against the veterans of Frederick and Maria
Theresa ; after lingering, for generations, in the ob-
scurity so bitter to the popular heart, France had
been suddenly raised into the broadest lustre of
European sovereignty. — The world ivas changed ;
and the limits of that change offered only a more
resistless lure to the popular passion, for their being
still indistinct to the keenest eve of man.



MARSTON. ](53

But our chief struggle Avas at home, and the
reaction of our foreign disasters came with terrible
weight upon a cabinet akeady tottering. We saw
our fate. Days and niglits of the most anxious con-
sultation, could not relieve us from the hourly
increasing evidence, that the Continent was on the
verge of ruin. The voice of Opposition, reinforced
by the roar of the multitude, could no longer be shut
out by the curtains of the council-chamber. Fox,
always fonnidable, was never more confident and
more popular, than when he made the House ring
with prophecies of national downfall. His attacks
were now incessant. He flung his hand-grenades
night after night into our camp, and constantly with
still greater damage.

We still fought, but it was the fight of despair.
Pitt was imperturbable ; but there w^as not one among
his colleagues, who did not feel the hopelessness of
calling for public reliance, when, in every successive
debate, we heard the leader of Opposition con-
temptuously asking, — vv^hat answer we had to the
Gazette crowded with ban1


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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 19)