Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

title of Baron Macaulay of Rothley, in 1857. His principal literary work is a History of England, in five volumes, the last a fragmentary volume published since his lamented death. No historical work in the English language has ever enjoyed so wide a popularity. It is written in a most animated and attractive style, and abounds with brilliant pictures. It embodies the results of very thorough research, and its tone and spirit are generous and liberal.

His essays, most of which were originally contributed to the “Edinburgh Review," have had a popularity greater even than that of his History. They are remarkable for brilliant rhetorical power, splendid coloring, and affluence of illustration.

Lord Macaulay has also written “Lays of Ancient Rome," and some ballads in the same style, which are full of animation and energy, and have the true trumpet ring which stirs the soul and kindles the blood. His parliamentary speeches have been also collected and published, and are marked by the same brilliant rhetorical energy as his writings.

The following account of the death and character of John Hampden, the great English patriot, is taken from a review of Lord Nugent's Memorials of Hampden, published in the “ Edinburgh Review” in 1831.

In June, 1643, Prince Rupert, a nephew of Charles I., and a general in his service, had sallied out from Oxford on predatory expedition, and, after some slight successes, was preparing to hurry back with his prisoners and booty. The Earl of Essex was the Parliamentary commander-in-chief.

A

S soon as Hampden received intelligence of Rupert's

incursion, he sent off a horseman with a message to the general. In the mean time he resolved to set out with all the cavalry he could muster, for the purpose of impeding the march of the enemy till Essex could take measures for cutting off their retreat. A considerable body of horse and dragoons volunteered to follow him. He was not their commander. He did not even belong to their branch of the service. “But he was," says Lord Clarendon, “second to none but the general himself in the observance and application of all men.” On the field of Chalgrove he came up with Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge Hampden was struck in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone and lodged in his body. The troops of the Parliament lost heart and gave way. Rupert, after pursuing them for a short time, hastened to cross the bridge, and made his retreat unmolested to Oxford.

Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands lean

ing on his horse's neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been inhabited by his father-inlaw, and from which, in his youth, he had carried home his bride Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an affecting tradition that he looked for a moment towards that beloved house, and made an effort to go thither and die. But the enemy lay in that direction. He turned his horse towards Thame, where he arrived almost fainting with agony. The surgeons dressed his wounds. But there was no hope. The pain which he suffered was most excruciating. But he endured it with admirable firmness and resignation.

His first care was for his country. He wrote from his bed several letters to London, concerning public affairs, and sent a last pressing message to the head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be concentrated. When his public duties were performed, he calmly prepared himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England, with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of the Buckinghamshire Greencoats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as a famous and excellent divine.

A short time before his death, the sacrament was administered to him. His intellect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over, he lay murmuring faint prayers for himself, and for the cause in which he died. Lord Jesus," he exclaimed, in the moment of the last agony, "receive my soul. O Lord, save my country! O Lord, be merciful to In that broken ejaculation passed away his noble and fearless spirit.

He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bareheaded, with reversed arms and muffled drums and colors, escorted his body to the grave, singing, as they

marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm in which the fragility of human life is contrasted with the immutability of Him to whom a thousand years are as yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in the night.

The news of Hampden's death produced as great a consternation in his party, according to Clarendon, as if their whole army had been cut off. The journals of the time amply prove that the Parliament and all its friends were filled with grief and dismay. Lord Nugent has quoted a remarkable passage from the next“ Weekly Intelligencer”: “The loss of Colonel Hampden goeth near the heart of every man that loves the good of his king and country, and makes some conceive little content to be at the army, now that he is gone. The memory of this deceased colonel is such, that in no age to come but it will more and more be had in honor and esteem; a man so religious, and of that prudence, judgment, temper, valor, and integrity, that he hath left few his like behind.” He had indeed left none his like behind him.

There still remained, indeed, in his party many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues, many brave and honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish soldier, half fanatic, half buffoon,* whose talents, discerned as yet only by one penetrating eye, were equal to all the highest duties of the soldier and the prince. But in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were united all the qualities which, at such a crisis, were necessary to save the state, — the valor and energy of Cromwell, the discernment and eloquence of Vane, the humanity and moderation of Manchester, the stern integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sidney. Others might possess the qualities which were necessary to save the popular party in

* Cromwell.

the crisis of danger; he alone had both the power and the inclination to restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer; he alone could reconcile.

A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skillful an eye as his watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But it was when, to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles had succeeded the fierce conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendency and burning for revenge, — it was when the vices and ignorance which the old tyranny had generated threatened the new freedom with destruction, that England missed the sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone.

XLIV. - A TASTE FOR READING

GEORGE S. HILLARD.

WE

E cannot linger in the beautiful creations of in

ventive genius, or pursue the splendid discoveries of modern science, without a new sense of the capacities and dignity of human nature, which naturally leads to a sterner self-respect, to manlier resolves and higher aspirations. We cannot read the ways of God to man as revealed in the history of nations, of sublime virtues as exemplified in the lives of great and good men, without falling into that mood of thoughtful admiration, which, though it be but a transient glow, is a purifying and elevating influence while it lasts.

The study of history is especially valuable as an antidote to self-exaggeration. It teaches lessons of humility, patience, and submission. When we read of realms smitten with the scourge of famine or pestilence, or strewn with the bloody ashes of war; of grass growing in the streets of great cities; of ships rotting at the wharves; of fathers burying their sons; of strong men begging their bread; of fields untilled, and silent workshops, and despairing countenances, - we hear a voice of rebuke to our own clamorous sorrows and peevish complaints. We learn that pain and suffering and disappointment are a part of God's providence, and that no contract was ever yet made with man by which virtue should secure to him temporal happiness.

In books, be it remembered, we have the best products of the best minds. We should any of us esteem it a great privilege to pass an evening with Shakespeare or Bacon, were such a thing possible. But, were we admitted to the presence of one of these illustrious men, we might find him touched with infirmity, or oppressed with weariness, or darkened with the shadow of a recent trouble, or absorbed by intrusive and tyrannous thoughts. To us the oracle might be dumb, and the light eclipsed.

But, when we take down one of their volumes, we run no such risk. Here we have their best thoughts, embalmed in their best words; immortal flowers of poetry, wet with Castalian dews, and the golden fruit of wisdom that had long ripened on the bough before it was gathered. Here we find the growth of the choicest seasons of the mind, when mortal cares were forgotten, and mortal weaknesses were subdued; and the soul, stripped of its vanities and its passions, lay bare to the finest effluences of truth and beauty. We may be sure that

« PředchozíPokračovat »