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ART. I.-The Life of Arthur Duke of Wellington. By G. R. Gleig, M.A., F.R.G.S., &c. &c., Chaplain-General of the Forces and Prebendary of St. Paul's. The People's
A GOOD of pa as the People's
GOOD personal life of Wellington, "painting the Duke himself exactly as he was,' appearing as
edition,' and from the pen of the Chaplain-General of the Forces, ought to be as attractive a volume as could be placed in the hands of a British subject. With ample materials already published, with sources of observation and information superior to those enjoyed by the majority of the Duke's biographers,—the author of those charming military pictures, 'The Subaltern' and 'Washington and New Orleans,' and of many other valuable works himself a soldier, as well as a scholar and a divineMr. Gleig might be expected to produce a model work, worthy of imitation by all future chroniclers. And his heart was surely in his task for had he not previously written, There was a time when the thought of becoming, sooner or later, the biographer of the Great Duke "haunted me like a passion." I even went so far as to open the subject to his Grace during his lifetime; but the proposal was met with so much of wisdom, mixed with great kindness, that I could not do otherwise than abandon the idea on the instant'? But though deterred for the time, Mr. Gleig's passion had its way in the end; for when the work of M. Brialmont, a Belgian officer, appeared to him (after the Duke's death) to steer between the 'wild' criticisms of French, and the 'not less wild praise' of 'most of the English writers'-Mr. Gleig translated it from the French, added considerably to the text, and wrote a translator's preface to it, from which we have taken the above quotation. He tells us in that preface that the book of M. Brialmont is executed in more than its military details with singular ability,' and that 'M. Brialmont writes of the Duke of Wellington as if the public and private character of that illustrious man had been with him a life study.' Mr. Gleig next wrote a large volume, partly from Brialmont, partly from other sources, Vol. 120.-No. 239.
and he afterwards (in 1864) realised his original idea by bringing out a smaller revised edition, in which the name of M. Brialmont disappears altogether. We regret that this should have been thought necessary; for although fuller information has enabled Mr. Gleig to enrich his biography with a great deal of matter which is not to be found in Brialmont, yet it is to be remembered that his works grew out of his translation of Brialmont, and the name of an accomplished and judicious foreign writer seemed to afford an additional guarantee for the fairness and impartiality of the Life. Indeed there appeared to be a special propriety in the concurrence of a continental with a British pen in recording the career of one who was in truth the friend and benefactor of all Europe, and not least of France, whose interests, and even whose feelings, found in him a wise and fearless champion in the hour of her deepest humiliation. Nor do we think that in dealing with the difficulties which are presented by the history of a life so varied, so mixed up with public events in different countries through a long series of years, even the People's Edition can be said to have yet attained that high degree of accuracy which we hope Mr. Gleig will ultimately succeed in imparting to the work. It is with a view to contribute in some degree to this end that we shall employ ourselves rather in pointing out matters for correction than in noticing the passages in which Mr. Gleig has been most happy. His work contains more abundant personal details than any other writer has attempted to bring together, and we propose at the same time to avail ourselves of it, in combination with other sources,' to study more particularly the character of the Great Duke throughout his career. This subject has not yet, amidst the blaze of his deeds, received all the attention that it deserves. In the mean time we must tender our cordial thanks to the present Duke of Wellington for the costly and noble contribution which, by the publication of his father's Supplementary Despatches,' he is making to the historical literature of Europe.
The Duke's life naturally divides itself into three periods: the first, from his birth to his obtaining command of the 33rd Regiment; the second, from the commencement of his active service to the battle of Waterloo; and the third, from Waterloo to his death.
When a mother and a monthly nurse differ, not only in regard to the date but also as to the place of a child's birth, and when no evidence is given on behalf of the father, it is difficult for outsiders to come to a right judgment. Dangan Castle, in Westmeath, and Dublin are a long way apart; and from the 6th of
March to the 1st of May is too long a period for the pangs of motherhood to have, or have been, endured. An old Dublin newspaper,' of which neither name nor date are given, is not a satisfactory authority for the 3rd of April in Dublin. The entry in the register-book of the parish of St. Peter's, in Dublin, which records that Arthur, son of the Right Honourable Earl and Countess of Mornington, was christened there by Isaac Mann, Archdeacon,' on the 30th of April, 1769, can certainly not have been intended to apply to a baby born on the 1st of May of the same year at Dangan. Nevertheless, the Duke showed perhaps a right feeling in accepting the 'persistent' assertions of his mother and keeping his own anniversary on the latter day, which was also adopted in Gurwood's précis; and there seems at all events to be no reason to disbelieve that Arthur Wesley's birth occurred in one of the three months referred to of the year which also ushered Napoleon Buonaparte into the world-1769. It hardly matters which, as between March, April, and May, but it is worth while to recapitulate these discrepancies, which have been often enough repeated, and sometimes made worse, in order that we may be once more reminded-with a special view to the remainder of our narrative of the difficulty of ascertaining past events with accuracy, and of the caution with which we should receive and found conjectures upon accounts that are handed down on authority of far less value.
The Duke was not appreciated by his mother in childhood, and he naturally felt no great pleasure in looking back upon that period. Mr. Gleig says 'she seems to have taken it into her head that he was the dunce of the family, and to have treated him harshly, if not with marked neglect.' He was sent, being very young,' though we are not told at what age, to a preparatory school-not an expensive establishment'—in Chelsea, where he learned little,' and 'to which the only references which he was ever known to make were the reverse of flattering.' He was transferred to Eton, where he only remained long enough to make his way into the remove. Having been ill-prepared he never took a good place there, and his habits, in school and out of school,' are stated to have been those of a 'dreamy, idle, and shy lad.' He achieved no success as a scholar, contracted few special intimacies, and laid the foundation of no lasting friendships. He lived, indeed, a life of contemplative solitude. He walked alone, bathed alone, and seldom took part in cricketmatches or boat-races. In proof of a somewhat combative disposition,' two fights are recorded the one with 'Bobus Smith,' at whom, whilst swimming, he had-according to the old and questionable story-thrown a stone or (only) a clod, and the other
with a young blacksmith near Brynkinalt, in North Wales, where he spent some of his holidays with his mother's father, Lord Dungannon. But if these were his only two fights as a schoolboy he must, we should think, have been the reverse of quarrel
Lady Mornington found it difficult, on a small jointure, to maintain him at Eton after the death of her husband, which occurred in 1781, and she took him to Brussels * with her in 1784. They were accompanied, as a mutual advantage, by John Armytage, a youth of about the same age, the second son of a Yorkshire baronet, an old friend of Lord Mornington. And Armytage's diary is to the effect, that Wesley was extremely fond of music and played well upon the fiddle, though he never gave indication of (or, in other words, Armytage was not aware of his possessing) any other species of talent. There was no intention at that time of sending him into the army, and his own wishes, if he had any, were in favour of civil life. They studied in a desultory manner under M. Goubert, in whose house they lodged, until Lady Mornington's return to England in 1785, when Wesley was sent to the Military School at Angers. He remained there a year and a half or two years under Pignerol, an engineer of eminence; but there are no records of his mode of life there, though he made, it would appear, better use of his time than at Eton or Chelsea, and learnt to speak French well, not only from his schoolfellows but also from people whose acquaintance he made in the neighbourhood. He was appointed in his eighteenth year to an Ensigncy-not, as Mr. Gleig says, in the 41st, but in the 73rd Regiment, on the 7th March, 1787, not long after his return home. In the same year he was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the 76th, and he was transferred from that regiment, first to the 41st Foot, and afterwards to the 12th Light Dragoons, all within eighteen months.† In June, 1791, he obtained a company in the 58th Foot; and in October, 1792, he exchanged into the 18th Light Dragoons--which Mr. Gleig omits to mention. He was promoted on the 30th April, 1793, to a Majority in the 33rd, and he remained in that regiment, as is well known, for many years. In the early part of 1790, when a Lieutenant in the 12th Light Dragoons, he was returned to the Irish Parliament as member for the family borough of Trim. He could hardly have had much experience either in infantry or cavalry until he joined the 33rd Regiment, though the success of his subsequent career has been partly attributed to the advantage which he derived from
* Other authors represent him to have gone from Eton to a tutor in Brighton. † According to some writers by the interest of Lord Westmorland, on whose staff he served in Dublin.
serving in both; because he appears to have joined the staff of Lord Westmorland, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, soon after he received his commission, and to have remained at the Viceregal Court till April, 1793.
Having been unable to obtain, for want of pecuniary means, the hand of the Lady Catherine Pakenham, he volunteered on the earliest opportunity, as young officers are accustomed to do under such circumstances, for active service. With that view he applied to his brother, Lord Mornington, to procure for him a majority in a battalion of Guards about to proceed to Holland. It was on the refusal of this application that he was appointed, as above described, to the 33rd Regiment. He gained the command of it by purchase, his brother advancing the necessary funds, on the 30th September, 1793.
To prove that he was, as a young officer, 'a shy and awkward lad, in whom the fair sex in particular saw nothing to admire," Mr. Gleig relates, at page 8 of the People's Edition,' an anecdote, without date or place, on the authority of the late Lady Aldborough, in the following words:
'He was at a ball one night, and as usual could not find a partner. Inheriting his father's taste for music, he consoled himself by sitting down near the band, which happened to be a remarkably good one. By and by the party broke up, when the other officers present were taken home by their lady friends, while young Wesley was by common consent left to travel with the fiddlers. Old Lady Aldborough on one occasion put the Duke in mind of the circumstance, after he had become a great man, at which he laughed heartily, while she added with naïveté, we should not leave you to go home with the fiddlers
But Gleig and Brialmont give a different account of the young officer at page 9 of their work, when they state that Lord Camden's court was particularly gay, and that 'young Wellesley, whose good humour and devotion to the service of the ladies was remarkable, plunged headlong into the vortex, and as he had little to depend upon except his military pay, he soon found that the game was as costly as it was agreeable.'
The change of name from Wesley to Wellesley, which will be observed in this extract, but which is afterwards stated by Mr. Gleig, at page 16 of the People's Edition,' to have occurred in India,* can certainly not have produced so great a change of character. Could the 'young officer' have emerged from hobble
* We find in a note by the present Duke, at p. 52 of the 'Supplementary Despatches,' that Lord Mornington's family adopted the ancient spelling of their name about this time,' 19th May, 1798. The first despatch in which the change of signature occurs bears that date.