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him to be as a bear robbed of her whelps." The
Admiral was right. Farnese was transported with
rage, and he had cause to be so. The miscarriage was
no fault of his. He had all along told Philip that he
could not possibly come out with his soldiers unless
the sea were cleared. His boats, he had urged, were
mere transports, only fit to float in calm weather;
and that, as for fighting, four ships of war would
destroy them all. The idea, that with these open
boats he could put out in the face of the Dutch fleet,
he had denounced as the wildest folly ; and he had
foretold the failure of the expedition if such a delusion
were entertained. The delusion was entertained, and
Farnese's prophecies came true. Philip insisted on
regarding the rebellious Dutchmen as of no account :
the " Beggars of the Sea " convinced him of his mis-



166 MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS.

take. Farnese had made his arrangements with won-
derful forethought and skill. So complete were his
preparations, that he could have embarked all his men
in a single day. He actually did embark a large
portion of his troops, and kept them in the boats,
" like sacks of corn," for two days. But the " Beggars"
were always there, filling every outlet; and the soldiers
would not face them. For the only time in his life,
Farnese forgot generalship in his anger. He ordered
a thousand musketeers to attack the Dutchmen. Their
officers remonstrated. Alexander struck them dead
with his own hand. The men reluctantly advanced
to a hopeless contest, and not one returned alive. At
last came the news of the flight of the Armada ; and
Farnese, of all men least to blame, yet most of all
men bearing the reproach, disembarked his troops,
and turned to new projects with the patient energy of
genius.

The service which the Hollanders had rendered in
preventing his putting to sea was incalculable. Had
a man of his ability stood on the decks of the Armada,
even without the soldiers who so devotedly loved him,
affairs would have worn a very different aspect. This
service has not, we think, been sufficiently acknow-
ledged by English writers. The careless Hume, and
the painstaking Lingard alike, pass it over in almost
total silence. Mr. Motley brings it prominently for-
ward, in no unfair spirit towards England, but simply
from a love of justice. He puts the question in its
true light when he claims for the Dutch sailors an
equal share of honour with the English. And the
sailors of the two countries must share all the honour
between them. That England would, in any case,
have been permanently conquered, Mr. Motley does
not for a moment insinuate. But no candid man can
doubt, that had a landing been effected, Leicester and



MOTLEYS UNITED NETHERLANDS. 1G7

his four thousand men would not have stood before
Parma for an hour. London would have been stormed,
and misery altogether inconceivable would have been
spread over England. That such horrors were averted,
is to be ascribed, under Providence, to Philip's obstinate
neglect of the advice of Farnese, and to the heroism of
the Dutch and English sailors, in no way whatever, as
we read the story, to the measures of a Government
deficient both in wisdom and in energy.

To whatsoever cause attributable, the deliverance had
been wrought, and all the land was glad with the sound
of pious thanksgiving. Spain was humbled in the dust,
her maritime power was overthrown, another invasion
of England could never be attempted. Holland, indeed,
continued to be pressed by Parma for some eighteen
months more ; but, when Mr. Motley closes his second
volume, in 1590, Holland also was secure. Changes
had occurred in France which transferred thither the
struggle between freedom and despotism, and left to
the Netherlands a breathing space. The assassination
of the Duke of Guise, and of the last Yalois, brought
prominently on the stage the greatest character of the
time. Mr. Motley has laboured much in portraying
Henry of Navarre : we can only quote some portions
of a very brilliant delineation :

" We see, at once, a man of moderate stature, light, sinewy,
and strong ; a face browned with continual exposure ; small,
mirthful, yet commanding blue eyes, glittering from beneath
an arching brow, and prominent cheekbones ; a long hawk's
nose, almost resting upon a salient chin, a pendent moustache,
and a thick, brown, curly beard, prematurely grizzled ; we
see the mien of frank authority and magnificent good-
humour, we hear the ready sallies of the shrewd Gascon
mother-wit, we feel the electricity which flashes out of him,
and sets all hearts around him on fire, when the trumpet
sounds to battle. The headlong desperate charge, the snow-
white plume waving where the fire is hottest, the large



168 MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS.

capacity for enjoyment of the man, rioting without affecta-
tion in the certaminis gaudia, the insane gallop, after the
combat, to lay its trophies at the feet of the Cynthia of the
minute, and thus to forfeit its fruits ; all are as familiar to
us as if the seven distinct wars, the hundred pitched battles,
the two hundred sieges, in which the Bearnese was personally
present, had been occurrences of our own day. . . . Beneath
the mask of perpetual, careless good-humour, lurked the
keenest eye, a subtle, restless, widely-combining brain, and
an iron will. Native sagacity had been tempered into con-
summate elasticity by the fiery atmosphere in which feebler
natures had been dissolved. His wit was as flashing and as
quickly unsheathed as his sword. Desperate, apparently
reckless, temerity on the battle-field was deliberately in-
dulged in, that the world might be brought to recognise a
hero and a chieftain in a king. . . . Thus courageous, crafty,
far-seeing, consistent, untiring, imperturbable, he was born
to command, and had a right to reign. He had need of the
throne, and the throne had still more need of him." Vol. i.
pp. 45, 51-2.

Such was the man who now laid his iron grasp
upon the Crown of France. His success would be
fatal to the designs of Philip. The sluggish Mayenne,
who spent as much time in eating as the Bearnese did
in sleep, wielded the strength of the League in vain.
Farnese turned to encounter an antagonist worthy
even of his genius, and Holland was blessed with
comparative repose. Some fifty years of strife, indeed,
had still to be endured, before the times of her great
trouble should be ended. But the struggle which
remained, was a struggle for recognition, not for exist-
ence. In 1590 the victory was won. The foundations
of the Batavian Commonwealth were secure. Freedom
had made her home on those bleak and barren shores,
from whence she was to go forth to bless the nations.
That noble Republic was destined, in the years to
come, to check the overgrown power of France as it



MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS. 169

had checked the overgrown power of Spain ; to
humble the pride of Louis as it had defeated the
craft of Philip ; to send a deliverer to England ; to
bear her share in the Triple Alliance, and in the
great War of the Succession.

It was a glorious future. And, even at the time of
which we write, the promise of that future was bright
in the sky. Despite a desolating war which had
raged unceasingly for twenty-five years, Holland was
exhibiting strange signs of prosperity. Population
was increasing, property rising in value, labour was in
demand, wages were high. The beautiful manufac-
tures for which Brussels and Valenciennes had long
been celebrated, were becoming known in the cities
of the Netherlands. Their commerce was extending
itself every day. Their traffic with the Baltic was
immense ; nay, in spite of the most stringent regula-
tions, they maintained a constant intercourse with the
Spanish possessions in the west ; and the power of
trade brought the products of the mines of Potosi to
sustain rebellion against the Lord of Peru. Nor was
learning forgotten amid the horrors of the time. The
Universities of Franeker and Leyden were founded,
with all fitting academic pomp and circumstance, as
if peace had been smiling on the State. "Truly,"
says Meternen, "the war had become a great bene-
diction to the inhabitants." With peculiar pleasure
the mind reposes on the spectacle of a people who had
ventured so much for the best interests of mankind,
reaping such a great and unexpected reward. Far
other was the aspect of the provinces which had
stooped to the yoke of Spain. "La K&vocation de
T^dit de Nantes," says Michelet, " fut pr^cis&nent
1'exil de 1'industrie francaise." The "reconciliation,"
as it was called, of 1583 had been the same to the
Walloon Provinces. The successes of Farnese brought



170 MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS.

a like evil fortune on Flanders and Brabant. Troops
of exiles, skilled in the most productive branches of
industry, fled from Popery and oppression, to enrich
Holland, Friesland, and England. Great cities were
depopulated ; fertile tracts of country had been turned
into desert. Wolves littered in the deserted farm-
houses ; men were torn to pieces by wild beasts at the
very gates of Ghent. Nobles were converted into
savage robbers, or supported life by degrading beggary
in the towns which they once had ruled. The hum
of busy labour was silent ; the trim gardens, the rich
pastures, the blooming orchards, once the admiration
of all strangers, had become wildernesses. Prices
were high, employment impossible ; utter misery
overspread the land, and barbarism seemed im-
pending.

Such was the contrast, then, between free and
servile states. The after careers of both were in har-
mony with the beginning. Holland advanced in
glory and in well-being; the "reconciled" provinces
languished through long years under the alien domi-
nation of the Empire. In our own time we have seen
them raised to independence ; and Belgium is, on the
whole, a prosperous and a happy country. But even
now the traveller, as he gazes on the deserted quays
of Antwerp, and hears his footfall sound strangely
loud amid the desolation of Ghent and Bruges, can
hardly realise, by any effort of imagination, the grand
tumult of life which filled these Flemish cities in the
days when they were welcomed as allies by our own
Edward in., when they scattered the chivalry of
France at Courtrai, and held their ground so stub-
bornly on the field of Eosebecque. The history of the
Netherlands is an illustration of the priceless value of
freedom as well as a record of the great things which
men have done to win it. It is a lesson fraught with



MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS. 171

instruction especially worthy of study now-a-days,
when so many shallow thinkers, echoing the words of
one or two men of genius, endeavour to appear wiser
than their neighbours by under-estimating the blessings
of constitutional government.

Mr. Motley has done his work well. His research
has been unwearied and extensive, and he has given
us the results of that research clearly and powerfully.
If we compare him with Mr. Prescott, we shall find
occasion to admire the good fortune by which each
of these American historians has been led to select
subjects best suited to his ability. Mr. Prescott is a
beautiful and picturesque writer ; but he is somewhat
deficient in political feeling and political knowledge.
This appears strikingly in his Life of Philip IT.,
unhappily left incomplete. He celebrates worthily
the great defence of Malta against the Turks ; he
narrates, with almost unnecessary detail, the savage
crusades against the Moriscoes ; but he labours reluc-
tantly when he has to penetrate the tortuous policy
of the prince, when he has to unravel the complex
web of European affairs. So, too, his edition of
Kobertson's Charles v. has not greatly aided us to an
understanding of that most difficult period, when the
whole system of modern politics had its birth. He is
most at home among the scenes of adventures through
which the early Spanish discoverers passed ; and his
genius has achieved its most signal triumphs in depict-
ing the varying fortunes of Cortes and Pizarro. Mr.
Motley, on the other hand, has far keener political
sympathies; and is altogether, we venture to think,
possessed of more intellectual vigour. He is never so
happy as when exposing the incompetency of Burleigh,
vindicating the sagacity of his favourite Walsingham,
or detecting the subtle wiles of Farnese. Not that
he wants the power of graphic narration. On the



172 MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS.

contrary, he possesses it in a very high degree. His
battle-pieces are almost Homeric in the vividness with
which individual prowess is brought out. Nothing
can be more exciting than the fight under the walls
of Zutphen, or the desperate struggle on the dikes
which sealed the fate of Antwerp.

We have alluded to Mr. Motley's research. His
investigations into the manuscript records of the time
have been so laborious, and he has brought to light so
much curious and novel information, that it seems
almost ungrateful to hint that we have somewhat too
much of it. But the readers of this generation are
an impatient race ; and Mr Motley does tell us of
intrigues, and abortive negotiations, and diplomatic
nothings with a painful minuteness. Prolixity, indeed,
seems the vice of American writers. Whether it be
that art strives to imitate the gigantic scale on which
nature manifests herself in the New World ; or
whether, as we rather fancy, all Americans are
demoralised by the awful length of that message
which is yearly delivered to them by their President,
the fact is at once certain and deplorable. Two
volumes of a "History of New England/' by Mr.
Palfrey, have lately appeared a most valuable work,
but which has failed to obtain popularity owing to
this fault alone. Mr. Motley has not erred quite so
fatally, but we must say that he tries the patience of
his readers severely. The latter half of the first
volume is far too full of quotations from letters and
reports, and of dialogues which are given at full
length. This last is a very favourite device. Through-
out these volumes, we have repeated instances of
" imaginary conversations " between the chief per-
formers, after the fashion of that dreadful "contro-
versy " at Melos, which, in the pages of Thucydides,
has vexed the hearts of so many mortals. Against



MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS. 173

this style of writing history we beg to enter our most
decided protest. We value highly dramatic power in
an historian. Its presence, indeed, makes all the
difference between an historian and a mere annalist.
But it must not develop itself in this particular way.
The introduction of speeches and dialogues, purporting
to be set forth in the very language used at the time,
is now-a-days utterly out of place. It is intended to
give an air of life ; it only succeeds in giving an air
of unreality. We fully believe Mr. Motley's assertion,
that " no personage in these pages is made to write or
speak any words save those which, on the best his-
torical evidence, he is known to have written or
spoken." Yet, even with this confidence, suspicions
of unconscious invention will intrude upon the reader's
mind. We feel ourselves brought back to the manner
of Herodotus. We are told what Walsingham said to
Bodman, and what the Queen said to Shirley, exactly
after the fashion in which the Father of History tells
us what Candaules said to Gyges, and how Solon
moralised to Croesus. If Mr. Motley will indulge in
this sort of thing, he should do it thoroughly. He
should remember that, according to the best models
of this style, no battle can be fought without much
preliminary speechifying. The great William himself
should have broken his accustomed silence, ere he
entered the Meuse at the head of his troops ; and we
must anticipate, that even the fiery Maurice will be
made to improve the occasion by an encouraging
address before he leads the last charge at Nieuport.
Seriously, in writings of the present time, all this is
utterly incongruous. The effect produced by it is
simply grotesque. It is a mere trick, and an un-
successful one a trick to which Mr. Motley need
not condescend. It is in his power to give life to his
pages by other and more legitimate means.



174 MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS.

Neither is it worthy of Mr. Motley to seek a source
of attraction in strange contortions of style. As he
advances with his work, he improves in this respect.
The History of the United Netherlands is far less dis-
figured with uncouth expressions, meant to be effective,
than was the Kise of the Dutch Kepublic. Yet, even
in the latter work, a very superficial search will detect
many eccentricities of language. We would not make
much of a habit of speaking of " Henry Tudor," and
" Elizabeth Tudor ; " though we confess that this
sounds somewhat strangely in our loyal, or perhaps
we should say in our enslaved and degraded, ears.
But such phrases as, a " champion to the utterance,"
" England was palpitating with the daily expectation,"
etc., and " Howard determined to wrestle no farther
pull," are, to say the least, very inelegant. It is at
once confused and tawdry writing to speak of the Earl
of Leicester as "that luxuriant, creeping, flaunting,
all-pervading existence, which struck its fibres into the
mould, and coiled itself through the whole fabric of
Elizabeth's life and reign." Nor is it much more
accurate to describe canals as " those liquid highways,
along which glide in phantom silence the bustle, and
traffic, and countless cares of a stirring population."
Will Mr. Motley think us very matter-of-fact, if we
ask him how a bustle can possibly glide, or at all
progress, or, indeed, do anything in phantom silence ?
We regret this passage the more, that what we must
venture to call its absurdity spoils an otherwise faithful
and picturesque description of the Hague. Neither
can we think it a very fitting representation of the
state of Holland after the death of William the Silent,
to say that "the newly-risen Eepublic remained for a
season nebulous, and ready to unsphere itself so soon
as the relative attraction of other great powers should
determine its absorption." We would really impress



MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS. 175

on Mr. Motley the importance of cultivating simplicity
of style, and of not reading one word of Carlyle until
his own historical labours are concluded.

Should these remarks be read by Mr. Motley, we
trust he will not misunderstand the spirit in which
they are made. They spring from no vain love of
fault-finding, but from a sincere desire that what we
regard as blemishes should disappear from a great
historical work. And we think it the more incum-
bent on us to make them, that Mr Motley proposes to
write so much that will be valuable. It is his pur-
pose to carry on the present book to the date of the
Synod of Dort. He then hopes to take up the his-
tory of the Thirty Years 7 War, which broke out im-
mediately thereafter, and to end the whole when
repose was given to wearied Europe by the Peace of
Westphalia. He will thus tell the story of a conflict
which lasted, with one short interval, for about eighty
years. He will accomplish this ambition all the more
successfully if he strives after condensation and
simplicity. That he will accomplish it well in any
case, no one can doubt.

In addition to the other excellencies which we
have already mentioned, Mr. Motley possesses the
rare merit of being able to sympathise with all
the various characteristics of the era of which he
writes. Nor is this a slight matter; for he has
selected an era which presents, perhaps, more varied
characteristics than any other in the history of the
world. There are certain periods of history in which
the course of events seems to be regulated by in-
dividual actors to follow the dictates of some im-
perial will. We come best to understand the epoch
by studying the character of the man or men who
ruled it. Such an epoch was the downfall of the
Roman Republic. Again, there are other periods



176 MOTLEYS UNITED NETHERLANDS.

of history in which national life is vigorous, over
which the individual has little power; of these we
can only form an intelligent conception by studying
the influences brought to bear upon the masses, and
the emotions which excited them to action. The
times of which Mr. Motley has chosen to write com-
bine both these characteristics in a very striking
degree. National life was then coming into being ;
and the leaders of the time were among the greatest
of the rulers of mankind. William the Silent, the
Prince of Parma, Henry of Navarre, have left the
impress of their characters indelibly on the history
of their era. All Holland was then learning to be
free, England was fighting for existence ; and the
spirit of Protestantism moved on the face of the
waters. Mr. Motley has seen all this. He rightly
estimates both the influence of individuals and the
strength of popular feeling. He sympathises with
both, and he makes his readers do the same. There-
fore, from a study of his pages, we arrive at a true
understanding of the whole marvel of the epoch.
The great men live and move before us ; yet the
people, " as a lion, creeping nigher," are visible in the
background. We are made to know the statesman-
ship and valour of William and his brothers, all dying
for the infant State of Henry of Navarre of Norris
and Walsingham ; we appreciate even the reckless
defiance which animated men like Brederode and
Hohenlo ; yet we are never allowed to forget the
dogged resistance of the lowest Hollander ; we are
taught to admire the austere enthusiasm of the French
Huguenots ; and the determination which nerved all
England, and made a hero of every English ship-boy,
is always present to our minds. Even on the other
side, the genius and influence of Farnese, is Mr.
Motley's favourite theme ; yet he delineates vividly



MOTLEY'S UNITED NETHERLANDS. 177

the mingled virtues and vices which gave such a
peculiar power to the soldiery whom Farnese led.
Higher praise can be bestowed on no historian ; and
it is only Mr. Motley's due.

We heartily hope that health and strength will be
given to him to accomplish the great task which he
has set before himself. When accomplished, it will
be a valuable addition to our historical literature, and
will win for its author an enduring title to fame.
Meanwhile we are truly grateful for what we have
got. Eeaders of Mr. Motley's five volumes will not
only find a most instructive and entertaining narra-
tive ; they will also find a book written with the
feeling and fervour with which all history should
be written a book which cannot fail to communicate,
even to the most indifferent, some portion of the love
of freedom and of truth which glows along its eloquent
pages.



VOL. I. M



LORD MACAULAY'S PLACE IN ENGLISH
LITERATURE. 1

ALL the writings of Lord Macaulay, which, in his
own judgment and in the judgment of his
friends, seem worthy of a permanent place in English
literature, have now been given to the world. His
whole literary career, from an epitaph on Henry
Martyn, written at the age of twelve, to the bio-
graphy of William Pitt, the work of mature fifty-nine,
is before us. Unfortunately we have nothing more to
look for. It is well known that but little of the His-
tory has been left in a state which will allow of its
publication ; and Lord Macaulay 's place in the world
of letters must therefore be determined by what we
already possess. His " Biography," it is true, has yet
to be written. From that source, however, we can
hope to hear nothing more of the writer ; and it may
even be doubted whether any very valuable addition
will thereby be made to our knowledge of the man.
The lives of most public men reveal their characters,
and this was, in an especial degree, true of Lord
Macaulay. Without being in any sense an egotist, he
yet felt so warmly on public affairs, that in writing
and speaking on them he unconsciously revealed
himself. No one can handle themes of which his
heart is full, without affording glimpses of his real

1 " Lord Macaulay's Place in English Literature." [Reprinted from
the " North British Review," No. 66. November 1860.1



MACAULAY'S PLACE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE. 179

nature. Lord Macaulay never wrote or spoke except
on themes of which his heart was full ; and hence in
his writings and speeches the character of the man is
more truly, because less intentionally, portrayed than
in the writings of professed egotists like Byron or
Eousseau. Nor should it be forgotten, that in politi-



Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 14 of 38)