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Tranquilla per virtutem patet unica vitæ.'
We are compelled to dwell upon this subject: for future ages, while our language is remembered, will demand of this why Lord Byron was unhappy? We retort this query on the noble poet himself while it is called 'to-day.' He does injustice to the world, if he imagines he has left it exclusively filled with those who rejoice in his sufferings. If the voice of consolation be in cases like his less loudly heard than that of reproach or upbraiding, it is because those who long to conciliate, to advise, to mediate, to console, are timid in thrusting forward their sentiments, and fear to exasperate where they most seek to soothe; while the busy and officious intrude, without shame or sympathy, and embitter the privacy of affliction by their rude gaze and importunate clamour. But the pain which such insects can give only lasts while the wound is raw. Let the patient submit to the discipline of the soul enjoined by religion, and recommended by philosophy, and the scar will become speedily insensible to their stings. Lord Byron may not have loved the world, but the world has loved him, not perhaps with a wise or discriminating affection, but as well as it is capable of loving any one. And many who do not belong to the world, as the word is generally understood, have their thoughts fixed on Lord Byron, with the anxious wish and eager hope that he will bring his powerful understanding to combat with his irritated feelings, and that his next efforts will shew that he has acquired the peace of mind necessary for the free and useful exercise of his splendid talents.
'I decus, i nostrum, melioribus utere fatis.'
ART. X. Letters written on Board His Majesty's Ship the Northumberland, and at Saint Helena; in which the Conduct and Conversations of Napoleon Buonaparte, and his Suite, during the Voyage, and the first months of his Residence in that Island, are faithfully described and related. By Willian Warden, Surgeon on Board the Northumberland. London: Published for the Author. No date. 8vo.
ANECDOTES of the private life of remarkable persons are
one of the most amusing and not least valuable departments of history; they bring the reader more intimately acquainted with the character of the individual than public events can do. The latter are never entirely a man's own; a thousand circumstances generally influence or contribute to them; it is in familiar life alone that a man is himself; there his character exhibits all its various shades, and thence we become best acquainted with the familiar chivalry of Henry the Fourth-the ingenuous and simple magnanimity of
Turenne the flegmatic temper and fiery courage of William the Third-and the mean and audacious spirit of Buonaparte. But of this species of history, minute truth and accuracy ought to be, more than of any other, the essential characteristics: because the traits are painted by faint and scattered touches, the falsehood of any one of which tends to destroy the value of the whole; and because the most important anecdote may depend on the single testimony of an individual; and we know, in the most ordinary occurrence of life, how much men are in the habit of colouring their report of any particular event.
It has been under these impressions that we have hitherto✶ traced the course of Buonaparte, from the Russian campaign down to his seclusion in St. Helena. While we have admitted all those interesting and authenticated facts, which displayed his real character, we have rejected all that was apocryphal, and have not condescended to repeat even the minutest circumstance, of the truth of which an accurate inquiry had not previously satisfied us. Of the necessity for this precision, Mr. Warden is so convinced,' that of the Letters before us, he says, every fact related in them' is true; and the purport of every conversation correct. It will not, I trust, be thought necessary for me to say more, and the justice I owe to myself will not allow me to say less.'-Int. vii.
Now we are constrained to say, that, notwithstanding this pompous asseveration, we shall be able to prove that this work is founded in falsehood, and that Mr. Warden's profession of scrupulous accuracy is only the first of the many fictions which he has spread over his pages. 'It will not, we trust, be thought necessary for us to say more, and the justice which we owe to our readers will not allow us to say less.'
Our first proof will astound our readers, and, perhaps, decide
Mr. Warden's first letter is dated at sea; he has indeed cautiously omitted to prefix to any of his letters the day or the month, the latitude or the longitude; but this prudence will not save him from detection. In this he announces to his correspondent the surprize he must feel at receiving a letter which, instead of the common topics of a sea voyage, should contain an account of the conduct and information respecting the character of Napoleon Buonaparte, from the personal opportunities which Mr. Warden's situa-" tion so unexpectedly afforded him.'-(p. 2.) And again he says, 'such has been the general curiosity about Buonaparte, that he feels himself more than justified in supposing that particulars relative to him and his suite, will be welcome to the correspondent, and
* Art. X. Vol. X.- -Art. XI, Vol. XII,- -Art. XXIII, Vol. XIV. VOL. XVI. NO. XXXI.
those of their common friends to whom he may chuse to communicate the letters. p. 3.
From this it is evident that Mr. Warden is addressing a person who had not expected such a communication, and he accounts to him for his motive in commencing a series of letters so different from what might have been expected. All this is very well: but when the second letter, also dated at sea, came to be fabricated, Mr. Warden had forgot his first professions, and writes as if he were answering the inquiries of a person who had entreated him to give a daily journal of Buonaparte's proceedings:
I renew my desultory occupation-la tache journaliere, telle que vous la voulez,' (p. 27)- the daily task which you enjoin me. Mr. Warden did not recollect that between the first letter at sea and the second letter at sea, he could not possibly have had an answer from his correspondent enjoining the daily task.' In a subsequent letter he falls into the same blunder, by calling Buo-. naparte the object of his friend's inquisitive spirit,' (p. 93)— and he in consequence gives a description of his person.
In another letter, dated from St. Helena, but without a date of time, there is this passage:
I answered Buonaparte, that there was not, I thought, a person in England who received Sir Robert Wilson, or his companions, with a diminution of regard for the part they had taken in La Valette's business. p. 165.
Now this answer to Buonaparte must have been made some time prior to the 10th of May, 1816, for a subsequent letter states itself to be written after the arrival of the fleet from India in which Lady Loudon was embarked, and this fleet arrived at St. Helena at the time we have just mentioned; when Sir R. Wilson, so far from being in London, enjoying the congratulations of his acquaintance for his success in La Valette's escape, was still a prisoner in the Conciergerie; his sentence was pronounced only on the 24th April; and could not, of course, have been known at St. Helena prior to the 10th of May; so that all Mr. Warden's statement, and Buonaparte's subsequent reply, (which conveys an infamous imputation against Sir Robert,) must be wholly and gratuitously false; nay, what makes the matter quite ridiculous, is that Sir Robert did not, we believe, return to England till after the return of Mr. Warden-he returned indeed before these precious letters from St. Helena were concocted; and Mr. Warden, or the person employed by him to forge the Correspondence, mistook the period at which he wrote for that at which he affected to write.
These are minute circumstances, but it is only by such that imposition can be detected; a jar arranges all the great course
of his story, and it is only by dates which he omits, and trifles which he records, that he is ever detected. This original imposture throws a general discredit over Mr. Warden's subsequent relations; some of them may be, and we know are, well-founded; but they are to be credited on better grounds than those of Mr. Warden's veracity. In fact we have heard, and we believe, that he brought to England a few sheets of notes, gleaned for the most part from the conversation of his better informed fellow-officers, and that he applied to some manufacturer of correspondence in London to spin them out into Letters from St. Helena;' a task which, it must be allowed, the writer has executed with some talent, and for which we hope (as the labourer is worthy of his hire) Mr. Warden has handsomely rewarded him.
Mr. Warden says, that in publishing these Letters 'he has yielded, rather reluctantly, to become an author, from persuasion he scarce knew how to resist, and to which he had some reasons to suspect resistance might be vain.' (p. vi.) He consented reluctantly to become an author!-if the letters had been written, he was already an author, though his work was unpublished; the fact is, no such Letters existed. We have also reason to believe that he did not yield reluctantly, but that he had, from the first moment, resolved to publish, and that he received with great dissatisfaction some advice which was given him to the contrary. How he could be forced by an irresistible power to publish, is more than we can comprehend, unless, as we shrewdly suspect, that irresistible power was a talismanic paper inscribed with certain figures of pounds, shillings, and pence, which were at once the object and reward of the imposture.
He affects to write colloquial French, and relates with great effrontery his direct conversations with Napoleon and his suite. The fact is, the surgeon is wholly ignorant of that language; and of this we find positive proof in his own book.
In the first place, no man who understood French could have written the words tâche journalière as he has done; in his mode they mean a spot, and not a task.
In the next place, Mr. Warden lets slip the avowal, (page 130,) that he spoke to Buonaparte by an interpreter, and that this interpreter was the veracious Count de las Cases, a kind of secretary and ame damnée of the Ex-emperor, (who is now said to be under arrest for attempting a secret correspondence,) and who seems to be, of the whole suite, the person who is the most careless of truth, and the most ready to say, not what he believes or knows, but what he thinks most convenient at the moment. This worthy person,' says Mr. Warden, 'interpreted with great aptitude and perspicuity, and afforded me time to arrange my answers.' Notwithstanding
this avowal, Mr. Warden describes himself as conversing with ease and volubility with Buonaparte, whom he represents as speaking English.
The moment his eye met mine, he started up and exclaimed in English, "Ah, Warden, how do you do?" I bowed in return, when he stretched out his hand, saying, "I've got a fever." I expressed,' &c. (page 131.) And so on for a long conversation, in which the interpreter is entirely sunk. When the Doctor replies, he replies, not like a person who wanted time to arrange his answer,' but rather quickly,' p. 135.-and is so far encouraged by the easy communicative manners of the Ex-emperor, (not a word of the interpreter,) that he continues to make his observations without reserve. (page 142.) I was resolved (he says) to speak my sentiments with freedom; and you may think I did not balk my resolution.'
Here Napoleon became very animated, and often raised himself on the sofa where he had hitherto remained in a reclining posture. The interest attached to the subject, and the energy of his delivery, combined to impress the tenor of his narrative so strongly on my mind, that you need not doubt the accuracy of this repetition of it.'-p. 144. and what follows for four pages is placed within inverted commas, as if Mr. Warden wished us to suppose that he gave the very words of the man.
All these are, we admit, only insinuations and equivocations; but in the second letter there is a direct and palpable falsehood.
Buonaparte is represented as inquiring after the health of Madame de Montholon, and attributing her illness to her horror of the idea of St. Helena-Mr. Warden says he repeated to his doctor the quotation of Macbeth in the following manner:
Can a physician minister to a mind diseased,
Or pluck from memory a rooted sorrow?'
At this time Buonaparte could not have pronounced the three first words of this quotation; he could as well have written Macbeth. Nay, in one of his last interviews, Mr. Warden represents his utmost efforts in English to be a stammering attempt to call Madam Bertrand his love, or his friend.-p. 161.
Mr. Warden says, 'that the British Government proscribed Bertrand from accompanying Buonaparte,' and 'that Lord Keith took on himself the responsibility of including such an attached friend in the number of his attendants.'-p. 20.-This is notoriously false. Again he says,
A delicacy was maintained in communicating to Buonaparte the contents of the English Journals. That truth is not to be spoken, or in any way imparted at all times, is a proverb which was now faithfully adhered to on board the Northumberland.-p. 26.