In surgery, artificial trance is capable of playing a not less important part than in medicine.
For, as it has been already mentioned, an ordinary feature of trance is the entire suspension of common feeling. As long as the trance is maintained, the patient is impassive to all common impressions on the touch; the smartest electric shock, a feather introduced into the nose, burning, or cutting with a knife, excite no sensation. So that surgical operations may be performed without suffering during trance just as in the stupor produced by the ether inhalation. Then, as trance soothes the nerves, the patient, over and above the extinction of pain, is in a fitter state than otherwise for the infliction of physical violence. Likewise the trance may be induced not only at the time of the operation, but with equal safety on all the subsequent occasions when the wound has to be disturbed and dressed,—so that, in addition, all the after suffering attendant upon great operations may be thus avoided. The drawback against the method, is the uncertainty there exists of being able to induce trance artificially in any given case. But the trial is always worth making; and the number who can, with a little patience, be put thus as it were to sleep, is undoubtedly greater than is imagined.
The most celebrated case in which an operation has been performed upon a patient in the state of artificial trance, is that of Madame Plantin. She was sixty-four years of age, and laboured under scirrhus of the breast. She was prepared for the operation by M. Chapelain, who on several successive days threw her into trance by the ordinary mesmeric manipulations. She was then like an ordinary sleep-walker, and would converse with indifference about the contemplated operation, the idea of which, when she was in her natural state, filled her with terror. The operation of removing the diseased breast was performed at Paris on the 12th of April 1829, by M. Jules Cloquet: it lasted from ten to twelve minutes. During the whole of this time, the patient in her trance conversed calmly with M. Cloquet, and exhibited not the slightest sign of suffering. Her expression of countenance did not change, nor were the voice, the breathing, or the pulse, at all affected. After the wound was dressed, the patient was awakened from the trance, when, on learning that the operation was over, and seeing her children round her, Madame Plantin was affected with considerable emotion: whereupon M. Chapelain, to compose her, put her back into the state of trance.
I copy the above particulars from Dr Foissac's "Rapports et Discussions de l'Academie Royale de Medicine sur le Magnetisme Animal."—Paris, 1833. "My friend, Dr Warren of Boston, informed me that, being at Paris, he had asked M. Jules Cloquet if the story were true. M. Cloquet answered, "Perfectly." "Then why," said Dr Warren, "have you not repeated the practice?" M. Cloquet replied, "that he had not dared: that the prejudice against mesmerism was so strong at Paris, that he probably would have lost his reputation and his income by so doing."
Here, then, we discover two purposes of partial, indeed, but signal utility, compassable by the induction of trance, at the very outset of our inquiry into its utility. It will appear by-and-by that this resource promises to afford yet farther assistance to the physician. In the mean time, let us look at a relation of the subject which may appear more interesting to the general reader.
It has been mentioned that, in ordinary trance, the relations of consciousness to the nervous system are altered; that the laws of sensation and perception are suspended, or temporarily changed; that the mind appears to gain new powers. For a long time we had to trust to the chance turning up of cases of spontaneous trance, in the experience of physicians of observation, for any light we could hope would be thrown on those extraordinary phenomena. Now we possess around us, on every side, adequate opportunities for completely elucidating these events, if we please to employ them. The philosopher, when his speculations suggest a new question to be put, can summon the attendance of a trance, as easily as the Jupiter of the Iliad summoned a dream. Or, looking out for two or three cases to which the induction of trance may be beneficial, the physician may have in his house subjects for perpetual reference and daily experiment.
A gentleman with whom I have long been well acquainted, for many years Chairman of the Quarter Sessions in a northern county, of which the last year he was High Sheriff, has, like M. de Puysegur, amused some of his leisure hours, and benevolently done not a little good, by taking the trouble of mesmerising invalids, whom he has thus restored to health. In constant correspondence with, and occasionally having the pleasure of seeing this gentleman, I have learned from him the common course in which the new powers of the mind which belong to trance are developed under its artificial induction. The sketch which I propose to give of this subject will be taken on his descriptions, which, I should observe, tally in all essential points with what I meet with in French and German authors. The little that I have myself seen of the matter, I will mention preliminarily; the most astounding things, it appears to me safer to shelter under the authority of Petetin, who, towards the close of the last century, in ignorance of mesmerism, described these phenomena as they came before him spontaneously in catalepsy.
The method of inducing trance that is found to be most successful, is to sit immediately fronting, and close to the patient, holding his hands or thumbs, or pointing the extended hands towards his forehead, and slowly moving them in passes down his face, shoulders, and arms. It is now clear that the force brought into operation on this occasion, is the Od force of Von Reichenbach. So the patients sometimes speak of seeing the luminous aura proceeding from the finger-points of the operator, which Von Reichenbach's performers described. There are many who are utterly insensible to this agency. Others are sensible of it in slight, and in various ways. A small proportion, three in ten perhaps, are susceptible to the extent of being thrown into trance.
In some, a common fit of hysterics is produced. In others, slight headach, and a sense of weight on the eyebrows, and difficulty of raising the eyelids supervene.
In one young woman, whom I saw mesmerized for the first time by Dupotel, nothing resulted but a sense of pricking and tingling wherever he pointed with his hand; and her arm on one or two occasions jumped in the most natural and conclusive manner, when, her eyes being covered, he directed his outstretched finger to it.
A gentleman, about thirty years of age, when the mesmerizer held his outstretched hands pointed to his head, experienced no disposition to sleep; but in two or three minutes, he began to shake his head and twist his features about; at last, his head was jerked from side to side, and forwards and backwards, with a violence that looked alarming. But he said, when it was over, that the motion had not been unpleasant; that he had moved in a sort voluntarily; although he could not refrain from it. If the hands of the operator were pointed to his arm instead of his head, the same violent jerks came in it, and gradually extended to the whole body. I asked him to try to resist the influence, by holding his arm out in strong muscular tension. This had the effect of retarding the attack of the jerks, but, when it came on, it was more violent than usual.
A servant of mine, aged about twenty-five, was mesmerized by Lafontaine, for a full half hour, and, no effect appearing to be produced, I told him he might rise from the chair, and leave us. On getting up, he looked uneasy and said his arms wore numb. They were perfectly paralysed from the elbows downwards, and numb to the shoulders. This was the more satisfactory, that neither the man himself, nor Lafontaine, nor the four or five spectators, expected this result. The operator triumphantly drew a pin and stuck-it into the man's hand, which bled but had no feeling. Then heedlessly, to show it gave pain, Lafontaine stuck the pin into the man's thigh, whose flashing eye, and half suppressed growl, denoted that the aggression would certainly have been returned by another, had the arm which should have done it not been really powerless. However, M. Lafontaine made peace with the man, by restoring him the use and feeling of his arms. This was done by dusting them, as it were, by quick transverse motions of his extended hands. In five minutes nothing remained of the palsy but a slight stiffness, which gradually wore off in the course of the evening.
Genuine and ordinary trance, I have seen produced by the same manipulations in from three minutes, to half an hour. The patient's eyelids have dropped, he has appeared on the point of sleeping, but he has not sunk back upon his chair; then he has continued to sit upright, and seemingly perfectly insensible to the loudest sound or the acutest and most startling impressions on the sense of touch. The pulse is commonly a little increased in frequency; the breathing is sometimes heavier than usual.
Occasionally, as in Victor's case, the patient quickly and spontaneously emerges from the state of trance-sleep into trance half-waking; a rapidity of development which I am persuaded occurs much more frequently among the French than with the English or Germans. English patients, especially, for the most part require a long course of education, many sittings, to have the same powers drawn out. And these are by far the most interesting cases. I will describe from Mr Williamson's account, the course he has usually followed in developing his patient's powers, and the order in which they have manifested themselves.
On the first day, perhaps, nothing can be elicited. But after some minutes the stupor seems as it were less embarrassing to the patient, who appears less heavily slumbrous, and breathes lighter again; or it may be the reverse, particularly if the patient is epileptic; after a little, the breathing may be deeper, the state one of less composure. Pointing with the hands to the pit of the stomach, laying the hands upon the shoulders, and slowly moving them on the arms down to the hands, the whole with the utmost quietude and composure on the part of the operator, will dispel the oppression.
And the interest of the first sitting is confined to the process of awakening the patient, which is one of the most marvellous phenomena of the whole. The operator lays his two thumbs on the space between the eyebrows, and as it were vigorously smooths or irons his eyebrows, rubbing them from within, outwards seven or eight times. Upon this, the patient probably raises his head and his eyebrows, and draws a deeper breath as if he would yawn; he is half awake, and blowing upon the eyelids, or the repetition of the previous operation, or dusting the forehead by smart transverse wavings of the hand, or blowing upon it, causes the patient's countenance to become animated; the eyelids open, he looks about him, recognises you, and begins to speak. If any feeling of heaviness remains, any weight or pain of the forehead, another repetition of the same manipulations sets all right. And yet this patient would not have been awakened, if a gun had been fired at his ear, or his arm had been cut off.
At the next sitting, or the next to that, the living statue begins to wake in its tranced life. The operator holds one hand over the opposite hand of his patient, and makes as if he would draw the patient's hand upwards, raising his own with short successive jerks, yet not too abrupt. Then the patient's hand begins to follow his; and often having ascended some inches, stops in the air cataleptic. This fixed state is always relieved by transverse brushings with the hand, or by breathing in addition, on the rigid limb. And it is most curious to see the whole bodily frame, over which spasmodic rigidness may have crept, thus thawed joint by joint. Then the first effect shown commonly is this motion, the patient's hand following the operator's. At the same sitting, he begins to hear, and there is intelligence in his countenance, when the operator pronounces his name: perhaps his lips move, and he begins to answer pertinently as in ordinary sleep-walking. But he hears the operator alone best, and him even in a whisper. Your voice, if you shout, he does not hear: unless you take the operator's hand, and then he hears you too. In general, however, now the proximity of others seems in some way to be sensible to him; and he appears uneasy when they crowd close upon him. It seems that the force of the relation between the operator and his patient naturally goes on increasing, as the powers of the sleep-walker are developed; but that this is not necessarily the case, and depends upon its being encouraged by much commerce between them, and the exclusion of others from joining in this trance-communion.
And now the patient—beginning to wake in trance, hearing and answering the questions of the operator, moving each limb, or rising even, as the operator's hand is raised to draw him into obedient following—enters into a new relation with his mesmeriser. He adopts sympathetically every voluntary movement of the other. When the latter rises from his chair, he rises; when he sits down, he sits down; if he bows, he bows; if he make a grimace, he makes the same. Yet his eyes are closed. He certainly does not see. His mind has interpenetrated to a small extent the nervous system of the operator; and is in relation with his voluntary nerves and the anterior half of his cranio-spinal chord. (These are the organs by which the impulse to voluntary motion is conveyed and originated.) Farther into the other's being, he has not yet got. So he does not what the other thinks of, or wishes him to do; but only what the other either does, or goes through the mental part of doing. So Victor sang the air, which M. de Puysegur only mentally hummed.
The next strange phenomenon marks that the mind of the untranced patient has interpenetrated the nervous system of the other a step farther, and is in relation besides with the posterior half of the cranio-spinal chord and its nerves. For now the entranced person, who has no feeling, or taste, or smell of his own, feels, tastes, and smells every thing that is made to tell on the senses of the operator. If mustard or sugar be put in his own mouth, he seems not to know that they are there; if mustard is placed on the tongue of the operator, the entranced person expresses great disgust, and tries as if to spit it out. The same with bodily pain. If you pluck a hair from the operator's head, the other complains of the pain you give him.
To state in the closest way what has happened—the phenomena of sympathetic motion and sympathetic sensation, thus displayed, are exactly such as might be expected to follow, if the mind or conscious principle of the entranced person were brought into relation with the cranio-spinal chord of the operator and its nerves, and with no farther portion of his nervous system. Later, it will be seen the interpenetration can extend farther.
But before this happens, a new phenomenon manifests itself, not of a sympathetic character. The operator contrives to wake the entranced person to the knowledge that he possesses new faculties. He develops in him new organs of sensation, or rather helps to hasten his recognition of their possession.
It is to be observed, however, that many and many who can be thrown into trance will not progress so far as to the present step. Others make a tantalising half advance towards reaching it thus; and then stop. They are asked, "Do you see any thing?" After some days at length, they answer, "Yes"—"What?" "A light." "Where is the light?" Then they intimate its place to be either before them, or at the crown of the head, or behind one ear, or quite behind the head. And they describe the colour of the light, which is commonly yellow. And each day it occupies the same direction, and is seen equally when the room is light or dark. Their eyes in the mean time are closed. And here, with many, the phenomenon stops.
But, with others, it goes thus strangely farther. In this light they begin to discern objects, or they see whatever is presented to them in the direction in which the light lies, whether before the forehead or at the crown of the head, or wherever it may be. Sometimes the range of this new sense is very limited, and the object to be seen must be held near to the new organ. Sometimes it must touch it; generally, however, the sense commands what the eye would, if it were placed there.
One tries first to escape the improbability of an extempore organ of sense being thus established, by supposing that the mind of the entranced person has only penetrated a little deeper than before into yours, and perceives what you see. But I had the following experiment made, which excludes this solution of the phenomenon. The party standing behind the entranced person, whose use it was to see with the back of her head, held behind him a pack of cards, and then, drawing one of them, presented it, without seeing it himself, to her new organ of vision. She named the card justly each time the experiment was repeated.
The degree of light suiting this new vision varies in different cases: sometimes bright daylight is best; generally they prefer a moderate light. Some distinguish objects and colours in a light so obscure that the standers-by cannot distinguish the same with their eyes.
The above phenomena have been, over and over again, verified by the gentleman whom I before referred to, Mr J. W. Williamson of Whickham; and not only have I received the accounts of them from himself, but from two other gentlemen, who repeatedly witnessed their manifestation in patients at Mr Williamson's residence.
A parallel transposition of the sense of hearing I will exemplify from the details of a case of catalepsy, or spontaneous trance, as they are given by the observer, Dr Petetin, an eminent civil and military physician of Lyons, where he was president of the Medical Society. The work in which they are given is entitled, "Memoire sur la Catalepsie. 1787."
M. Petetin attended a young married lady in a sort of fit. She lay seemingly unconscious; when he raised her arm, it remained in the air where he placed it. Being put to bed, she commenced singing. To stop her, the doctor placed her limbs each in a different position. This embarrassed her considerably, but she went on singing. She seemed perfectly insensible. Pinching the skin, shouting in her ear, nothing aroused attention. Then it happened that, in arranging her, the doctor's foot slipped; and, as he recovered himself, half leaning over her, he said, "how provoking we can't make her leave off singing!" "Ah, doctor," she cried, "don't be angry! I won't sing any more," and she stopped. But shortly she began again; and in vain did the doctor implore her, by the loudest entreaties, addressed to her ear, to keep her promise and desist. It then occurred to him to place himself in the same position as when she heard him before. He raised the bed-clothes, bent his head towards her stomach, and said, in a loud voice, "Do you, then, mean to sing forever?" "Oh, what pain you have given me!" she exclaimed—"I implore you speak lower;" at the same time she passed her hand over the pit of her stomach. "In what way, then, do you hear?" said Dr Petetin. "Like any one else," was the answer. "But I am speaking to your stomach." "Is it possible!" she said. He then tried again whether she could hear with her ears, speaking even through a tube to aggravate his voice;—she heard nothing. On his asking her, at the pit of her stomach, if she had not heard him,—"No," said she, "I am indeed unfortunate."
A cognate phenomenon to the above is the conversion of the patient's new sense of vision in a direction inwards. He looks into himself, and sees his own inside as it were illuminated or transfigured.
A few days after the scone just described, Dr Petetin's patient had another attack of catalepsy. She still heard at the pit of her stomach, but the manner of hearing was modified. In the mean time her countenance expressed astonishment. Dr Petetin inquired the cause. "It is not difficult," she answered, "to explain to you why I look astonished. I am singing, doctor, to divert my attention from a sight which appals me. I see my inside, and the strange forms of the organs, surrounded with a network of light. My countenance must express what I feel,—astonishment and fear. A physician who should have my complaint for a quarter of an hour would think himself fortunate, as nature would reveal all her secrets to him. If he was devoted to his profession, he would not, as I do, desire to be quickly well." "Do you see your heart?" asked Dr Petetin. "Yes, there it is; it beats at twice; the two sides in agreement; when the upper part contracts, the lower part swells, and immediately after that contracts. The blood rushes out all luminous, and issues by two great vessels which are but a little apart."
There are many cases like the above on record, perfectly attested. There is no escaping from the facts. We have no resource but to believe them. Things if possible still more marvellous remain behind. The more advanced patient penetrates the sensoria of those around her, and knows their thoughts and all the folds of their characters. She is able, farther, to perceive objects, directly, at considerable—indefinite distances. She can foresee coming events in her own health. Finally, she can feel and discern by a kind of intuition, what is the matter with another person either brought into her presence, or who is, in certain other ways, identified by her. As the evidence of the possession of these faculties by entranced persons is complete, and admits of no question, an important use, I repeat, of the artificial induction of trance is, that it will multiply occasions of sifting this extraordinary field of psychological inquiry.
In the mean time I will not trespass upon your patience farther, nor weary you with farther instances, beyond giving the sequel of the case of catalepsy of which I have above mentioned some particulars. You will see in it a shadowing out of most of the other powers, which I have said are occasionally manifested by persons in trance, which sometimes attain an extraordinary vigour and compass, and which are maintained, or are maintainable, for several years, being manifested for that time, though not without caprice and occasional entire failures, on the patient reverting to the entranced condition. One of the most interesting features in what follows is, that it is evident M. Petetin was entirely unacquainted with mesmerism; and, at the same time, that he had all but discovered and developed the art of mesmeric manipulation himself.
The following morning, (to give the latter part of the case of catalepsy,) the access of the fit took place, according to custom, at eight o'clock in the morning. Petetin arrived later than usual; he announced himself by speaking to the fingers of the patient, (by which he was heard.) "You are a very lazy person this morning, doctor," said she. "It is true, madam; but if you knew the reason, you would not reproach me." "Ah," said she, "I perceive, you have had a headach for the last four hours; it will not leave you till six in the evening. You are right to take nothing; no human means can prevent its running its course." "Can you tell me on which side is the pain?" said Petetin. "On the right side; it occupies the temple, the eye, the teeth: I warn you that it will invade the left eye, and that you will suffer considerably between three and four o'clock; at six you will be free from pain." The prediction came out literally true. "If you wish me to believe you, you must tell me what I hold in my hand?" "I see through your hand an antique medal."
Petetin inquired of his patient at what hour her own fit would cease: "at eleven." "And the evening accession, when will it come on?" "At seven o'clock." "In that case it will be later than usual." "It is true; the periods of its recurrence are going to change to so and so." During this conversation, the patient's countenance expressed annoyance. She then said to M. Petetin, "My uncle has just entered; he is conversing with my husband, behind the screen; his visit will fatigue me, beg him to go away." The uncle, leaving, took with him by mistake her husband's cloak, which she perceived, and sent her sister-in-law to reclaim it.
In the evening, there were assembled, in the lady's apartment, a good number of her relations and friends. Petetin had, intentionally, placed a letter within his waistcoat, on his heart. He begged permission, on arriving, to wear his cloak. Scarcely had the lady, the access having come on, fallen into catalepsy, when she said, "And how long, doctor, has it come into fashion to wear letters next the heart?" Petetin pretended to deny the fact; she insisted on her correctness; and, raising her hands, designated the size, and indicated exactly the place of the letter. Petetin drew forth the letter, and held it, closed, to the fingers of the patient. "If I were not a discreet person," she said, "I should tell the contents; but to show you that I know them, they form exactly two lines and a half of writing;" which, on opening the letter, was shown to be the fact.
A friend of the family, who was present, took out his purse and put it in Dr Petetin's bosom, and folded his cloak over his chest. As soon as Petetin approached his patient, she told him that he had the purse, and named its exact contents. She then gave an inventory of the contents of the pockets of all present; adding some pointed remark when the opportunity offered. She said to her sister-in-law that the most interesting thing in her possession was a letter;—much to her surprise, for she had received the letter the same evening and had mentioned it to no one.
The patient, in the mean time, lost strength daily, and could take no food. The means employed failed of giving her relief, and it never occurred to M. Petetin to inquire of her how he should treat her. At length, with some vague idea that she suffered from too great electric tension of the brain, he tried, fantastically enough, the effect of making deep inspirations, standing close in front of the patient. No effect followed from this absurd proceeding. Then he placed one hand on the forehead, the other on the pit of the stomach of the patient, and continued his inspirations. The patient now opened her eyes; her features lost their fixed look; she rallied rapidly from the fit, which lasted but a few minutes instead of the usual period of two hours more. In eight days, under a pursuance of this treatment, she entirely recovered from her fits, and with them ceased her extraordinary powers. But, during these eight days, her powers manifested a still greater extension; she foretold what was going to happen to her; she discussed, with astonishing subtlety, questions of mental philosophy and physiology; she caught what those around her meant to say, before they expressed their wishes, and either did what they desired, or begged that they would not ask her to do what was beyond her strength.
In conclusion, let me animadvert upon the injustice with which, to its own loss, society has treated mesmerism. The use of mesmerism in nervous disorders, its use towards preventing suffering in surgical operations, have been denied and scoffed at in the teeth of positive evidence. The supposition of physical influence existing that can emanate from one human being and affect the nerves of another, was steadily combated as a gratuitous fiction, till Von Reichenbach's discoveries demonstrated its soundness. And, finally, the marvels of clairvoyance were considered an absolute proof of the visionary character of animal magnetism, because the world was ignorant that they occur independently of that influence, which only happens to be one of the modes of inducing the condition of trance in which they spontaneously manifest themselves. Adieu, dear Archy.
HISTORY OF THE CAPTIVITY OF NAPOLEON AT ST HELENA.
Whatever may be the pursuits of our posterity, whether the mind of nations will turn on philosophy or politics, whether on a descent to the centre of the earth, or on the model of a general Utopia—whether on a telegraphic correspondence with the new planet, by a galvanised wire two thousand eight hundred and fifty millions of miles long, or on a Chartist government—we have not the slightest reason to doubt, that our generation will be regarded as having lived in the most brilliant time of the by-gone world.
The years from 1789 to 1815 unquestionably include the most stirring period since the great primal convulsion, that barbarian deluge, which changed the face of Europe in the fifth century. But the vengeance which called the Vandal from his forest to crush the Roman empire, and after hewing down the Colossus which, for seven hundred years, had bestrode the world, moulded kingdoms out of its fragments, was of a totally different order from that which ruled over our great day of Change. In that original revolution, man, as the individual, was scarcely more than the sufferer. It was a vast outburst of force, as uncircumscribed as uncontrollable, and as unconnected with motives merely human, as an inroad of the ocean. It was a vast expanse of human existence, rushing surge on surge over the barriers of fair and fertile empire. It was hunger, and love of seizure, and hot thirst of blood, embodied in a mass of mankind rushing down upon luxury and profligacy, and governmental incapacity embodied in other masses of mankind. An invasion from the African wilderness with all its lions and leopards in full roar, could scarcely have less been urged by motives of human nature.
But the great revolution which in our time shook Europe, and is still spreading its shock to the confines of the world, was human in the most remarkable degree. It was the work of impulses fierce and wild, yet peculiarly belonging to man. It was a succession of lights and shadows of human character, contrasted in the most powerful degree, as they passed before the eye of Europe—the ambition of man, the rage of man, the voluptuousness, the ferocity, the gallantry, and the fortitude of man, in all the varieties of human character. It was man in the robes of tragedy, comedy, and pantomime, but it was every where man. Every great event on which the revolution was suspended for the time, originated with some remarkable individual, and took its shape even from some peculiarity in that individual.
Thus, the period of mob-massacre began with the sudden ascendency of Marat—a hideous assassin, who regarded the knife as the only instrument of governing, and proclaimed as his first principle of political regeneration, that "half a million of heads must fall."
The second stage, the Reign of Terror, began with Robespierre, a village lawyer; in whose mingled cruelty and craft originated the bloody mockeries of that "Revolutionary Tribunal," which, under the semblance of trial, sent all the accused to the guillotine, and in all the formalities of justice committed wholesale murder.
The third stage was the reign of the Directory—the work of the voluptuous Barras—and reflecting his profligacy in all the dissoluteness of a government of plunder and confiscation, closing in national debauchery and decay.
The final stage was War—under the guidance of a man whose whole character displayed the most prominent features of soldiership. From that moment, the republic bore the sole impress of war. France had placed at her head the most impetuous, subtle, ferocious, and all-grasping, of the monarchs of mankind. She instantly took the shape which, like the magicians of old commanding their familiar spirits, the great magician of our age commanded her to assume. Peace—the rights of man—the mutual ties of nations—the freedom of the serf and the slave—the subversion of all the abuses of the ancient thrones—all the old nominal principles of revolutionary patriotism, were instantly thrown aside, like the rude weapons of a peasant insurrection, the pike and the ox-goad, for the polished and powerful weapons of royal armouries. In all the conquests of France the serf and the slave were left in their chains; the continental kingdoms, bleeding by the sword until they lay in utter exhaustion, were suffered to retain all their abuses; the thrones, stripped of all their gold and jewels, were yet suffered to stand. Every pretext of moral and physical redress was contemptuously abandoned, and France herself exhibited the most singular of all transformations.—The republic naked, frantic, and covered with her own gore, was suddenly seen robed in the most superb investitures of monarchy; assuming the most formal etiquette of empire, and covered with royal titles. This was the most extraordinary change in the recollections of history, and for the next hundred, or for the next thousand years, it will excite wonder. But the whole period will be to posterity what Virgil describes the Italian plains to have been to the peasant of his day, a scene of gigantic recollections; as, turning up with the ploughshare the site of ancient battles, he finds the remnants of a race of bolder frame and more trenchant weapons—the weightier sword and the mightier arm.
What the next age may develop in the arts of life, or the knowledge of nature, must remain in that limbo of vanity, to which Ariosto consigned embryo politicians, and Milton consigned departed friars—the world of the moon. But it will scarcely supply instances of more memorable individual faculties, or of more powerful effects produced by those faculties. The efforts of Conspiracy and Conquest in France, the efforts of Conservatism and Constitution in England, produced a race of men whom nothing but the crisis could have produced, and who will find no rivals in the magnitude of their capacities, the value of their services, in their loftiness of principle, and their influence on their age; until some similar summons shall be uttered to the latent powers of mankind, from some similar crisis of good and evil. The eloquence of Burke, Pitt, Fox, and a crowd of their followers, in the senate of England, and the almost fiendish vividness of the republican oratory, have remained without equals, and almost without imitators—the brilliancy of French soldiership, in a war which swept Europe with the swiftness and the devastation of a flight of locusts—the British campaigns of the Peninsula, those most consummate displays of fortitude and decision, of the science which baffles an enemy, and of the bravery which crushes him—will be lessons to the soldier in every period to come.
But the foremost figure of the great history-piece of revolution, was the man, of whose latter hours we are now contemplating. Napoleon may not have been the ablest statesman, or the most scientific soldier, or the most resistless conqueror, or the most magnificent monarch of mankind—but what man of his day so closely combined all those characters, and was so distinguished in them all? It is idle to call him the child of chance—it is false to call his power the creation of opportunity—it is trifling with the common understanding of man, to doubt his genius. He was one of those few men, who are formed to guide great changes in the affairs of nations. The celebrity of his early career, and the support given to him by the disturbances of France, are nothing in the consideration of the philosopher; or perhaps they but separate him more widely from the course of things, and assimilate him more essentially with those resistless influences of nature, which, rising from we know not what, and operating we know not how, execute the penalties of Heaven:—those moral pestilences which, like the physical, springing from some spot of obscurity, and conveyed by the contact of the obscure, suddenly expand into universal contagion, and lay waste the mind of nations.
In the earlier volumes of the Journal of Count Montholon, the assistance of Las Cases was used to collect the imperial dicta. But on the baron's being sent away from St Helena—an object which he appears to have sought with all the eagerness of one determined to make his escape, yet equally resolved on turning that escape into a subject of complaint—the duty of recording Napoleon's opinions devolved on Montholon. In the year 1818, Napoleon's health began visibly to break. His communications with O'Meara, the surgeon appointed by the English government, became more frequent; and as Napoleon was never closely connected with any individual without an attempt to make him a partisan, the governor's suspicions were excited by this frequency of intercourse. We by no means desire to stain the memory of O'Meara (he is since dead) with any dishonourable suspicion. But Sir Hudson Lowe cannot be blamed for watching such a captive with all imaginable vigilance. The recollection of the facility which too much dependance on his honour gave to Napoleon's escape from Elba, justly sharpened the caution of the governor. The fear of another European conflagration made the safeguard of the Ex-Emperor an object of essential policy, not merely to England, but to Europe; and the probability of similar convulsions rendered his detention at St Helena as high a duty as ever was intrusted to a British officer.
We are not now about to discuss the charges made against Sir Hudson Lowe; but it is observable, that they are made solely on the authority of Napoleon, and of individuals dismissed for taking too strong an interest in that extraordinary man. Those complaints may be easily interpreted in the instance of the prisoner, as the results of such a spirit having been vexed by the circumstances of his tremendous fall; and also, in the instance of those who were dismissed, as a species of excuse for the transactions which produced their dismissal. But there can be no doubt that those complaints had not less the direct object of keeping the name of the Ex-Emperor before the eyes of Europe; that they were meant as stimulants to partisanship in France; and that, while they gratified the incurable bile of the fallen dynasty against England, they were also directed to produce the effect of reminding the French soldiery that Napoleon was still in existence.
Yet there was a pettiness in all his remonstrances, wholly inconsistent with greatness of mind. He thus talks of Sir Hudson Lowe:—
"I never look on him without being reminded of the assassin of Edward II. in the Castle of Berkeley, heating the bar of iron which was to be the instrument of his crime. Nature revolts against him. In my eyes she seems to have marked him, like Cain, with a seal of reprobation."
Napoleon's knowledge of history was here shown to be pretty much on a par with his knowledge of scripture. The doubts regarding the death of Edward II. had evidently not come to his knowledge; and, so far as Cain was concerned, the sign was not one of reprobation, but of protection—it was a mark that "no man should slay him."
But all those complaints were utterly unworthy of a man who had played so memorable a part in the affairs of Europe. He who had filled the French throne had seen enough of this world's glory; and he who had fallen from it had been plunged into a depth of disaster, which ought to have made him regardless ever after of what man could do to him. A man of his rank ought to have disdained both the good and ill which he could receive from the governor of his prison. But he wanted the magnanimity that bears misfortune well: when he could no longer play the master of kingdoms, he was content to quarrel about valets; and having lost the world, to make a little occupation for himself in complaining of the want of etiquette in his dungeon. But the spirit of the intriguer survived every other spirit within him, and it is by no means certain that the return of O'Meara and Gourgaud to Europe was not a part of that intrigue in which Napoleon played the Italian to the last hour of his life. It is true that the general returned under a certificate of ill health, and it is also perfectly possible that the surgeon was unconscious of the intrigue. But there can be no doubt of the design; and that design was, to excite a very considerable interest in Europe, on behalf of the prisoner of St Helena. Gourgaud, immediately after his arrival, wrote a long letter to Marie Louise, which was palpably intended more for the Emperors of Russia and Austria than for the feelings of the Ex-Empress, of whose interest in the matter the world has had no knowledge whatever.
In this letter it was declared, that Napoleon was dying in the most frightful and prolonged agony. "Yes, Madame," said this epistle, "he whom Divine and human laws unite to you by the most sacred ties—he whom you have beheld an object of homage to almost all the sovereigns of Europe, and over whose fate I saw you shed so many tears when he left you, is perishing by a most cruel death—a captive on a rock in the midst of the ocean, at a distance of two thousand leagues from those whom he holds most dear."
The letter then proceeds to point out the object of the appeal. "These sufferings may continue for a long time. There is still time to save him: the moment seems very favourable. The Sovereigns are about to assemble at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle—passions seem calmed—Napoleon is now far from being formidable. In these circumstances let your Majesty deign to reflect what an effect a great step on your part would produce—that, for instance, of going to this Congress, and there soliciting a termination to the Emperor's sufferings, of supplicating your august father to unite his efforts with yours, in order to have Napoleon confided to his charge, if policy did not permit him to be restored to liberty; and how great would be your Majesty's own happiness: It would be said, the sovereigns of Europe, after having vanquished the great Napoleon, abandoned him to his most cruel enemies, they conducted him towards his grave by the most prolonged and barbarous torments, the continuation of his agony urged him even to demand more active executioners; he seemed forgotten, and without hope of aid; but Marie Louise remained to him, and he was restored to life."
Whether this letter ever reached its address is not clear; but if it did, it produced no discoverable effect.
But the absence of those confidants increased the troubles of the unlucky Montholon in a formidable degree, and Napoleon's habit of dictating his thoughts and recollections, (which he frequently continued for hours together, and sometimes into the middle of the night,) pressed heavily on the Count and Bertrand; the latter being excluded after six in the evening, when the sentinels were posted for the night, as he resided with his family, and thus devolving the task of the night on Montholon. Those dictations were sometimes on high questions of state, and on theories of war; sometimes on matters of the day, as in the following instance.
The death of the Princess Charlotte, which threw the mind of England into such distress, had just been made known at St Helena. Napoleon spoke of it as reminding him of the perilous child-birth of Marie Louise. "Had it not been for me," said he, "she would have lost her life, like this poor Princess Charlotte. What a misfortune! young and beautiful, destined to the throne of a great nation, and to die for want of proper care on the part of her nearest relations! Where was her husband? where was her mother? why were they not beside her, as I was beside Marie Louise? She, too, would have died, had I left her to the care of the professional people. She owes her life to my being with her during the whole time of danger; for I shall never forget the moment when the accoucheur Dubois came to me pale with fright, and hardly able to articulate, and informed me that a choice must be made between the life of the mother and that of the child. The peril was imminent; there was not a moment to be lost in decision. 'Save the mother,' said I—'it is her right. Proceed just as you would do in the case of a citizen's wife of the Rue St Denis.' It is a remarkable fact, that this answer produced an electric effect on Dubois. He recovered his sang froid, and calmly explained to me the causes of the danger. In a quarter of an hour afterwards, the King of Rome was born; but at first the infant was believed to be dead, he had suffered so much on coming into the world, and it was with much difficulty that the physicians recalled him to life."
It will probably be recollected as a similar instance of the advantage of care and decision, that Queen Caroline was rescued from the same hazard. Her accouchment was preceded by great suffering, and her strength seemed totally exhausted. The attendants were in a state of extreme alarm, when Lord Thurlow said, in his usual rough way, "Don't think of princesses here: treat her like the washerwoman, and give her a glass of brandy." The advice was followed, and the Princess speedily recovered.
Connected with the history of this short-lived son, is an anecdote, which Napoleon related as an instance of his own love of justice. When the palace was about to be built for the King of Rome at Passy, it was necessary to purchase some buildings which already stood on the ground. One of these was a hut belonging to a cooper, which the architects valued at a thousand francs. But the cooper, resolving to make the most of his tenure, now demanded ten times the sum. Napoleon ordered the money to be given to him; but when the contract was brought to him to sign, the fellow said, that "as an Emperor disturbed him," he ought to pay for turning him out, and must give him thirty thousand francs. "The good man is a little exacting," said Napoleon, "still there is some sense in his argument. Give him the thirty thousand, and let me hear no more about it." But the cooper, thinking that he had a fine opportunity, now said that he could not take less than forty thousand. The architect did not know what to say; he dared not again mention the matter to the Emperor, and yet it was absolutely necessary to have the house. Napoleon learned what was passing, and was angry, but allowed the offer of the forty thousand. Again the dealer retracted, and demanded fifty thousand. "He is a despicable creature," said the Emperor. "I will have none of his paltry hut: it shall remain where it is, as a testimony of my respect for the law."
The works were still going on at the time of the exile, in 1814; and, the cooper, finding himself in the midst of rubbish and building materials, groaned over the consequences of his folly, or rather of his extortion, for he had thus, deservedly, lost the opportunity of making his fortune.
The death of Cipriani, the maitre d'hotel, occurred about this time, and was startling from its suddenness. He was serving Napoleon's dinner, when he was attacked by such violent pains, that he was unable to reach his chamber without assistance. He rolled on the ground, uttering piercing cries. Four-and-twenty hours afterwards his coffin was carried to the cemetery of Plantation House! Cipriani had been employed in the secret police, and had distinguished himself by some difficult missions in the affairs of Naples and Northern Italy. It was only after the banishment to Elba that he had formed a part of the household. It was to Cipriani that the taking of Capri was owing. In 1806, Sir Hudson Lowe commanded at Capri, as lieutenant-colonel of a legion, composed of Corsican and Neapolitan deserters. The position of Capri in the Bay of Naples was of some importance for carrying on communications with those hostile to the French interest in Italy. Salicetti, prime minister of Naples, was vainly pondering on the capture of Capri; when it occurred to him to employ Cipriani, to put it into his power by surprise or treachery. Among the Corsicans under Sir H. Lowe's command, was one Suzanelli, a profligate, who had reduced himself by his debaucheries to acting as a spy. Cipriani soon ascertained that they had been fellow-students at college.
The whole story is curious, as an instance of the dexterity of Italian treachery, and of the difficulty which an honest man must always find in dealing with that people. Cipriani instantly found out Suzanelli, who was then in Naples, and said, "I know all, but we are fellow-countrymen—we have eaten the same soup: I do not desire to make you lose your head: choose between the scaffold, and making your fortune from your own country.—You are the spy of the English: help me to expel them from Capri, and your fortune is made. Refuse, and you are my prisoner, and will be shot within twenty-four hours." "I take your offer," was the answer. "What do you want with me?" Cipriani proposed to give him double what he received from the English, on condition of handing over all the letters which he received for Naples, and delivering the answers as if he had received them from the writers. Suzanelli thenceforth communicated all news relative to the movements of old Queen Caroline, and the British in the Mediterranean. Sir Hudson Lowe's confidence in Suzanelli was so much increased by the apparently important communications which the Neapolitan police had purposely made to him, that he rewarded him profusely, and at length accepted his offer of furnishing recruits to the Corsican legion at Capri. When the garrison was corrupted through the medium of those recruits, and an expedition was prepared at Naples, Suzanelli, in order to hoodwink the governor of Capri, whose vigilance might be awakened by the preparations, sent him a detailed report of the strength and object of the expedition, but telling him that it was meant to attack the Isle of Ponza. The expedition, under General La Marque, sailed at night, and the French effected their landing by surprise. The Royal Maltese regiment contained a great number of Suzanelli's recruits. They laid down their arms, and surrendered the forts in their charge. The commandant succeeded with difficulty in shutting himself up in the citadel with the royal Corsican regiment. It was inaccessible by assault, but the French dragged some heavy guns to a commanding height, and after a cannonade the garrison capitulated.
This story is not exactly true; for the capitulation was not the result of the cannonade; but water and provisions had totally failed. The attempt made by an English frigate to succour the island had been frustrated by a violent gale, and there was no resource but to give up the island. Yet, if our memory is exact, there was no capitulation; for the garrison escaped without laying down their arms.
It is proverbial, that great events frequently depend upon very little causes. All the world now blames the precipitancy of Napoleon in leaving Elba while the Congress was assembled. If he had waited until it was dissolved, he would have gained all the time which must have been lost by the Allies in reuniting their councils. The princes and diplomatists would have been scattered; the armies would have marched homewards; months would probably have elapsed before they could again have been brought into the field; and during that period, there would have been full opportunity for all the arts of intrigue and insinuation, which Napoleon so well knew how to use. Or, if he had delayed his return for a twelvemonth longer, he would have only found the obstacles so much the more diminished. In short, to him, the gain of time was every thing.
His own narrative on the subject now was, that he had been misled; that he was fully sensible of the advantages of delay, but that accident had betrayed him. He had established a secret correspondence with Vienna, through which he received weekly accounts of all that had passed in Congress, and was prepared to act accordingly. One of his agents, De Chaboulon, arrived at Elba, at the same period with the Chevalier D'Istria, (whom the King of Naples had sent with the despatch received from his ambassador at Vienna,) announcing the closing of the Congress, and the departure of the Emperor Alexander. On this intelligence Napoleon determined immediately to set sail for France, without waiting for the return of Cipriani, whom he had sent on a special mission. Had he waited for that return, the Emperor Alexander would have been on his way to Russia. But the result of his precipitancy was, that by rushing into France, while the emperors and diplomatists were still in combination, they were enabled to level the blow at him immediately. Instead of negotiations, he was pursued with a hue and cry; and instead of being treated as a prince, he was proclaimed an outlaw. Cipriani arrived in Elba on the 27th of February, but Napoleon had sailed on the evening of the 26th. So delicate was the interval between total ruin and what might have been final security; for Cipriani brought news of the Congress, and despatches from Vienna, which would have proved the importance of delaying the departure of the expedition.
But it must now be acknowledged that, if there ever was a human being under the influence of infatuation, that being was Napoleon, in the latter stages of his career. For ten years the favourite of fortune, the long arrear had begun to be paid in the year 1812. His expedition to Moscow was less a blunder than a frenzy. There was, perhaps, not one man in a thousand in Europe but foresaw the almost inevitable ruin of his army. We can recollect the rejoicing with which this perilous advance was viewed in England, and the universal prediction that the Russian deserts would be the grave of his army, if not of his empire. Poland had been conquered in a march and a month. The residence of Napoleon at Warsaw for the winter would have raised a Polish army for him, and would have given him a year for the march to Moscow. But he was infatuated: there is no other solution of the problem. He rushed on, captured the capital, and was ruined. Even with Moscow in ashes round him, he still persisted in the folly of supposing that he could persuade into peace an empire which had just given so tremendous an evidence of its fidelity and its fortitude. He was infatuated. He was detained amid the embers until it was impossible to remain longer, and equally impossible to escape the horrors of a Russian winter in a march of six hundred miles. His hour was come. Of an army which numbered four hundred thousand men on crossing the Niemen, probably not one thousand ever returned; for the broken troops which actually came back had been reinforcements which reached the Grand Army from time to time. He reached Paris with the stamp of fallen sovereignty on his brow: the remainder of his career was a struggle against his sentence. Waterloo was merely the scaffold: he was under irretrievable condemnation long before.
In his captivity, Napoleon was liberal in his donatives. On the departure of Balcombe, in whose house he had remained for some time on his arrival in the island, he gave him a bill for seventy-two thousand francs, with the grant of a pension of twelve thousand,—saying to him "I hear that your resignation of your employment is caused by the quarrels drawn upon you through the hospitality which you showed me: I should not wish you to regret ever having known me."
A quarrel relative to the bulletins of Napoleon's health, produced an order from the governor for the arrest of O'Meara. There was a vast quantity of peevishness exercised on the subject, and Napoleon attempted to raise this trifling affair into a general quarrel of the commissioners. But on his declaring that he would no longer receive the visits of O'Meara while under arrest, the governor revoked the order, and O'Meara continued his attendance until instructions were received from Lord Bathurst, to remove him from his situation in the household of the Emperor, and send him to England. This gave another opportunity for complaint. "I have lived too long," said Buonaparte; "your ministers are very bold. When the Pope was my prisoner, I would have cut off my arm rather than have signed an order for laying hands on his physician."
Before leaving the island, O'Meara drew up a statement of his patient's health, in which he seems to have regarded the liver as the chief seat of his disease. A copy of this paper reached home, when Cardinal Fesch and the mother of Napoleon had it examined by her own physician and four medical professors of the university. They also pronounced the disease to consist of an obstruction of the liver. So much for the certainty of medicine. The whole report is now known to have been a blunder. Napoleon ultimately died of a fearful disease, which probably has no connexion with the liver at all. His disease was cancer in the stomach.
The result of those quarrels, however, was to give a less circumscribed promenade to Napoleon. On the decline of his health being distinctly stated to Sir Hudson Lowe, he enlarged the circle of his exercise, and Napoleon resumed his walks and works. From this period, too, he resumed those dictations which, in the form of notes, contained his personal opinions, or rather those apologies for his acts, which he now became peculiarly anxious to leave behind him to posterity.
Whatever may be the historic value of those notes, it is impossible to read them without the interest belonging to transactions which shook Europe, and without remembering that they were the language of a man by far the most remarkable of his time, if not the most remarkable for the result of his acts, since the fall of the Roman empire. In speaking of the return from Elba—"I took," said he, "that resolution as soon as it was proved to me that the Bourbons considered themselves as the continuance of the Third Dynasty, and denied the legal existence of the Republic, and the Empire, which were thenceforth to be regarded only as usurping governments. The consequences of this system were flagrant. It became the business of the bishops to reclaim their sees; the property of the clergy, and the emigrants must be restored. All the services rendered in the army of Conde and in La Vendee, all the acts of treachery committed in opening the gates of France to the armies which brought back the king, merited reward. All those rendered under the standard of the Republic and the Empire were acts of felony." He then gave his special view of the overthrow of the French monarchy.
"The Revolution of 1789 was a general attack of the masses upon the privileged classes. The nobles had occupied, either directly or indirectly, all the posts of justice, high and low. They were exempt from the charges of the state, and yet enjoyed all the advantages accruing from them, by the exclusive possession of all honourable and lucrative employments. The principal aim of the Revolution was to abolish those privileges." He then declared the advantages of the Revolution. "It had established the right of every citizen, according to his merit, to attain to every employment; it had broken down the arbitrary divisions of the provinces, and out of many little nations formed a great one. It made the civil and criminal laws the same every where—the regulations and taxes the same every where. The half of the country changed its proprietors."
This statement is true, and yet the mask is easily taken off the Revolution. The whole question is, whether the means by which it was purchased were not wholly unnecessary. It cost seven years of the most cruel and comprehensive wickedness that the world ever saw; and, when at last its violence overflowed the frontiers, it cost nearly a quarter of a century of slaughter, of ruthless plunder and savage devastation, concluding with the capture of the French capital itself, twice within two years, and the restoration of the royal family by the bayonets of the conquerors.
Yet every beneficial change which was produced by the Revolution, at this enormous waste of national strength and human happiness, had been offered by the French throne before a drop of blood was shed; and was disdained by the leaders of the populace, in their palpable preference for the havoc of their species.
In the beginning of November, 1818, Sir Hudson Lowe communicated to Count Montholon a despatch from Lord Bathurst announcing the departure from Italy of two priests, a physician, a maitre d'hotel and cook, sent by Cardinal Fesch, for the service of Longwood. This news was received by the household with joy, in consequence of Napoleon's declining health. Towards the end of November he became worse; and Dr Stock, the surgeon of one of the ships on the station, was sent for, and attended him for a while. Liver complaint was Napoleon's disease in the opinion of the doctor; the true disease having escaped them all. The paroxysm passed off, and for six weeks his constitution seemed to be getting the better of his disease.
The complaints of the governor's conduct appear to have been kept up with the same restless assiduity. If we are to judge from a conversation with Montholon, those complaints were of the most vexatious order. "It is very hard," said Sir Hudson, "that I who take so much care to avoid doing what is disagreeable, should be constantly made the victim of calumnies; that I should be presented as an object of ridicule to the eyes of the European powers; that the commissioners of the great powers should say to me themselves, that Count Bertrand had declared to them that I was a fool; that I could not be sure that the Emperor was at Longwood; that I had been forty days without seeing him; and that he might be dead without my knowing any thing of it." He further said that the newspapers, and particularly the Edinburgh Review, were full of articles which represented him as an assassin. But in the mean time, it was necessary that the orderly officer should see Napoleon every day, and that this might be done in any way he pleased. All that was necessary was, that he should be seen.
Yet this demand of seeing him, which was thus expressed in moderate terms, and obviously essential to his safe keeping, was answered in the lofty style of a melodrama. "Count Bertrand and myself have both informed you, sir, that you should never violate the Emperor's privacy without forcing his doors, and shedding blood."
A great deal of the pretended irritation of Napoleon and his household, arose from the governor's omission of the word Emperor in his notes; and on this subject a cavil had existed even in England. Yet what could be more childish than such a cavil, either in England or in St Helena? It is a well-known diplomatic rule, that no title which a new power may give to itself can be acknowledged, except as a matter of distinct negotiation; and those Frenchmen must have known that the governor had no right to acknowledge a title, which had never been acknowledged by the British Cabinet.
At length the quarrel rose to bullying. The governor having insisted on his point, that Napoleon should be seen by the orderly officer; this was fiercely refused; and at length Bertrand made use of offensive language, filling up the offence by a challenge to the governor. The most surprising matter in the whole business is, that Sir Hudson did not instantly send the blusterer to the black-hole. It was obvious that the idea of fighting with men under his charge was preposterous. But he still, and we think injudiciously, as a matter of the code of honour, wrote, that if Count Bertrand had not patience to wait another opportunity, as he could not fight his prisoner, he might satisfy his rage by fighting Lieutenant-Colonel Lyster, the bearer of his reply, who was perfectly ready to draw his sword. Of this opportunity, however, the Count had the wisdom to avoid taking advantage.
The whole question now turned on the admission of the orderly officer, to have personal evidence that Napoleon was still in the island—a matter of obvious necessity, for Europe at that time teemed with the projects of Revolutionary Frenchmen for setting him free. His escape would have ruined the governor; but even if it had been a matter of personal indifference to him, his sense of the public evils which might be produced by the return of this most dangerous of all incendiaries would doubtless have made his detention one of the first duties.
However, finding at last that the state of Napoleon's health might afford a sufficient guarantee against immediate escape, and evidently with the purpose of softening the irritation between them as much as possible, it was finally, though "temporarily," agreed to take Montholon's word for his being at Longwood. On the 21st of September, the priests and Dr Antomarchi arrived. Napoleon, always active and inventive, now attempted to interest the Emperor of Russia in his liberation. It must be owned, that this was rather a bold attempt for the man who had invaded Russia, ravaged its provinces, massacred its troops, and finished by leaving Moscow in flames. But he dexterously limited himself to explaining the seizure of the Duchy of Oldenburg, which was the commencement of the rapacious and absurd attempt to exclude English merchandise from the Continent. Oldenburg was one of the chief entrances by which those manufactures made their way into Germany. Its invasion, and the countless robberies which followed, had been among the first insolences of Napoleon, and the cause of the first irritations of Alexander, as his sister was married to the reigning prince. Napoleon lays the entire blame on Davoust, whom he charges with both the conception and the execution. But if he had disapproved of the act, why had he not annulled it? "I was on the point of doing so," said Napoleon, "when I received a menacing note from Russia; but," said he, "from the moment when the honour of France was implicated, I could no longer disapprove of the marshal's proceedings." He glides over the invasion of Russia with the same unhesitating facility. "I made war," said he, "against Russia, in spite of myself. I knew better than the libellers who reproached me with it, that Spain was a devouring cancer which I ought to cure before engaging myself in a terrible struggle, the first blow of which would be struck at a distance of five hundred leagues from my frontiers. Poland and its resources were but poetry, in the first months of the year 1812." He then adroitly flatters the Russian nation. "I was not so mad as to think that I could conquer Russia without immense efforts. I knew the bravery of the Russian army. The war of 1807 had proved it to me." He then hints at the subject of his conversations at Erfurth, and discloses some of those curious projects, by which France and Russia were to divide the world. He says that Alexander offered to exchange his Polish provinces for Constantinople. Under this arrangement Syria and Egypt would have supplied to France the loss of her colonies. He then admits that he had desired to marry the Grand-duchess; and, finally asserting that the dynasty of the Bourbons was forced upon the people, he declares himself willing to accept of Russian intervention to save himself from the "martyrdom of that rock."
It is evident that the conduct of the governor was constantly guided by a wish to consult the convenience of his prisoner; but the most important point of all was to guard against his escape. Gradually the relaxations as to the limits of his movements became more satisfactory even to the household themselves; and for some time in the latter period of 1819 Napoleon was suffered to ride to considerable distances in the island, without the attendance of all English officer. He now took long rides—among others, one to the house of Sir William Doveton, on the other side of the island. In the evenings he dictated narratives relative to some of the more prominent points of his history, for the purpose of their being sent to Europe, where he was determined, at least, never to let the interest of his name die, and where, though he was practically forgotten, this clever but utterly selfish individual deceived himself into the belief that thousands and tens of thousands were ready to sacrifice every thing for his restoration. On one of these evenings he gave his own version of the revolt of Marshal Ney.
It will be remembered that Ney, when the command of the troops was given to him by Louis XVIII. made a dashing speech to the King, declaring that "he would bring back the monster in an iron cage." But it happened that he had no sooner seen the monster, than he walked over to him with his whole army. This was an offence not to be forgiven; and the result was, that on the restoration of the King, Ney was tried by a court-martial, and shot.
Of course, there could be but one opinion of this unfortunate officer's conduct; but it is curious to observe the romantic colour which Napoleon's dexterous fancy contrived to throw over the whole scene.
"Marshal Ney," said he, "was perfectly loyal, when he received his last orders from the King. But his fiery soul could not fail to be deeply impressed by the intoxicating enthusiasm of the population of the provinces, which was daily depriving him of some of his best troops, for the national colours were hoisted on all sides." Notwithstanding this, Ney, when the Emperor was ready at Lyons, resisted his recollections, until he received the following letter from the Emperor. "Then he yielded, and again placed himself under the banner of the empire."
The letter was the following pithy performance:—"Cousin, my major-general sends you the order of march. I do not doubt that the moment you heard of my arrival at Lyons, you again raised the tricolored standards among your troops. Execute the orders of Bertrand, and come and join me at Chalons. I will receive you as I did the morning after the battle of Moscow." It must be acknowledged that the man who could have been seduced by this letter must have been a simpleton: it has all the arrogance of a master, and even if he had been perfectly free, it was evident that obedience would have made him a slave. But he had given a solemn pledge to the King; he had been given the command of the army on the strength of that pledge; and in carrying it over to the enemy of the King, he compromised the honour and hazarded the life of every man among them. The act was unpardonable, and he soon found it to be fatally so.
Napoleon makes no reference to the pledge, to the point of honour or the point of duty, but pronounces his death a judicial assassination. Still, he is evidently not quite clear on the subject; for he says, that even if he had been guilty, his services to his country ought to have arrested the hand of justice.
Napoleon sometimes told interesting tales of his early career. One of those, if true, shows how near the world was to the loss of an Emperor. After the siege of Toulon, which his panegyrists regard as the first step to his good fortune, he returned to Paris, apparently in the worst possible mood for adventure. He was at this period suffering from illness. His mother, too, had just communicated to him the discomforts of her position.—She had been just obliged to fly from Corsica, where the people were in a state of insurrection, and she was then at Marseilles, without any means of subsistence. Napoleon had nothing remaining, but an assignat of one hundred sous, his pay being in arrear. "In this state of dejection I went out," said he, "as if urged to suicide by an animal instinct, and walked along the quays, feeling my weakness, but unable to conquer it. In a few more moments I should have thrown myself into the water, when I ran against an individual dressed like a simple mechanic, and who, recognising me, threw himself on my neck, and cried, 'Is it you, Napoleon? what joy to see you again!' It was Demasis, a former comrade of mine in the artillery regiment. He had emigrated, and had returned to France in disguise, to see his aged mother. He was about to go, when, stopping, he said, 'What is the matter? You do not listen to me. You do not seem glad to see me. What misfortune threatens you? You look to me, like a madman about to kill himself.'"
This direct appeal awoke Napoleon's feelings, and he told him every thing. "Is that all?" said he; opening his coarse waistcoat, and detaching a belt, he added, "here are thirty thousand francs in gold, take them and save your mother." "I cannot," said Napoleon, "to this day, explain to myself my motives for so doing, but I seized the gold as if by a convulsive movement, and ran like a madman to send it to my mother. It was not until it was out of my hands, that I thought of what I had done. I hastened back to the spot where I had left Demasis, but he was no longer there. For several days I went out in the morning, returning not until evening, searching every place where I hoped to find him."
The end of the romance is as eccentric as the beginning. For fifteen years Napoleon saw no more of his creditor. At the end of that time he discovered him, and asked "why he had not applied to the Emperor." The answer was, that he had no necessity for the money, but was afraid of being compelled to quit his retirement, where he lived happily practising horticulture.
Napoleon now paid his debt, as it maybe presumed, magnificently; made him accept three hundred thousand francs as a reimbursement from the Emperor for the thirty thousand lent to the subaltern of artillery; and besides, made him director-general of the gardens of the crown, with a salary of thirty thousand francs. He also gave a government place to his brother.
Napoleon, who seems always to have had some floating ideas of fatalism in his mind, remarked that two of his comrades, Demasis and Philipeau, had peculiar influence on his destiny. Philipeau had emigrated, and was the engineer employed by Sir Sydney Smith to construct the defences of Acre. We have seen that Demasis stopped him at the moment when he was about to drown himself. "Philipeau," said he, "stopped me before St Jean d'Acre: but for him, I should have been master of this key of the East. I should have marched upon Constantinople, and rebuilt the throne of the East."
This idea of sitting on the throne of the Turk, seems never to have left Napoleon's mind. He was always talking of it, or dreaming of it. But it may fairly be doubted, whether he could ever have found his way out of Syria himself. With his fleet destroyed by Nelson, and his march along the coast—perhaps the only practicable road—harassed by the English cruisers; with the whole Turkish army ready to meet him in the defiles of Mount Taurus; with Asia Minor still to be passed; and with the English, Russian, and Turkish fleets and forces ready to meet him at Constantinople, his death or capture would seem to be the certain consequence of his fantastic expedition. The strongest imaginable probability is, that instead of wearing the diadem of France, his head would have figured on the spikes of the seraglio.
Suicide is so often the unhappy resource of men indifferent to all religion, that we can scarcely be surprised at its having been contemplated more than once by a man of fierce passions, exposed to the reverses of a life like Napoleon's. Of the dreadful audacity of a crime, which directly wars with the Divine will, which cuts off all possibility of repentance, and which thus sends the criminal before his Judge with all his sins upon his head, there can be no conceivable doubt. The only palliative can be, growing insanity. But in the instance which is now stated by the intended self-murderer, there is no attempt at palliation of any kind.
"There was another period of my life," said Napoleon, "when I attempted suicide; but you are certainly acquainted with this fact." "No, sire," was Montholon's reply.
"In that case, write what I shall tell you: for it is well that the mysteries of Fontainbleau should one day be known."
We condense into a few sentences this singular narrative, which begins with an interview demanded by his marshals on the 4th of April 1815, when he was preparing to move at the head of his army to attack the Allies. The language of the marshals was emphatic.
"The army is weary, discouraged, disorganised; desertion is at work among the ranks. To re-enter Paris cannot be thought of: in attempting to do so we should uselessly shed blood."
Their proposal was, his resignation in favour of his son.
Caulaincourt had already brought him the Emperor Alexander's opinion on the subject. The envoy had thus reported the imperial conversation:—"I carry on no diplomacy with you, but I cannot tell you every thing. Understand this, and lose not a moment in rendering an account to the Emperor Napoleon of our conversation, and of the situation of his affairs here; and return again as quickly, bringing his abdication in favour of his son. As to his personal fate, I give you my word of honour that he will be properly treated. But lose not an hour, or all is lost for him, and I shall no longer have power to do any thing either for him or his dynasty."
Napoleon proceeds. "I hesitated not to make the sacrifice demanded of my patriotism. I sat down at a little table, and wrote my Act of Abdication in favour of my son." But on that day Marmont with his army had surrendered. The Allies instantly rejected all negotiation, after this decisive blow in their favour. The Act of Resignation had not reached them, and they determined on restoring the old monarchy at once. On this the desertion was universal; and every man at Fontainbleau was evidently thinking only of being the first to make his bargain with the Bourbons. Napoleon, as a last experiment, proposed to try the effect of war in Italy.
But all shook their heads, and were silent. He at length signed the unequivocal Abdication for himself, and his family.
"From the time of my retreat from Russia," said he, "I had constantly carried round my neck, in a little silken bag, a portion of a poisonous powder which Ivan had prepared by my orders, when I was in fear of being carried off by the Cossacks. My life no longer belonged to my country; the events of the last few days had again rendered me master of it. Why should I endure so much suffering? and who knows, that my death may not place the crown on the head of my son? France was saved."—
"I hesitated no longer, but, leaping from my bed, mixed the poison in a little water, and drank it, with a sort of happiness.
"But time had taken away its strength; fearful pains drew forth some groans from me; they were heard, and medical assistance arrived. It was not Heaven's will that I should die so soon—St Helena was in my Destiny."
It may easily be supposed that projects were formed for carrying the prisoner from St Helena. One of those is thus detailed. The captain of a vessel returning from India, had arranged to bring a boat to a certain point of the coast without running the risk of being stopped. This person demanded a million of francs, not, as he said, for himself, but for the individual whose concurrence was necessary. The million was not to be payable until the vessel had reached America. This renders it probable that the captain was a Yankee. At all events, it shows how necessary was the vigilance of the governor, and how little connected with tyranny were his precautions against evasion. Another project was to be carried out, by submarine vessels, and on this experiment five or six thousand Louis were expended in Europe. But Napoleon finished his inquiry into these matters by refusing to have any thing to do with them. It is probable that he expected his release on easier terms than those of breaking his neck, as Montholon observes, "in descending the precipices of St Helena," or being starved, shot, or drowned on his passage across the Atlantic. But as his object was constantly to throw obloquy on the Bourbons, he placed his fears to the account of their treachery.
"I should not," said he, "be six months in America without being assassinated by the Count d'Artois's creatures. Remember the isle of Elba. Did he not send the Chouan Brulard there to organise my assassination? And besides, we should always obey our destiny. Every thing is written in Heaven. It is my martyrdom which will restore the crown of France to my dynasty. I see in America nothing but assassination or oblivion. I prefer St Helena."
In the beginning of 1821, Napoleon began to grow lethargic. He had generally spent the day in pacing up and down his apartment, and dictating conversations and political recollections. But he now sat for hours listlessly and perfectly silent on the sofa. It required the strongest persuasion to induce him to take the air either on foot or en caleche.
Napoleon to the last was fond of burlesquing the hypocrisy or romance of the Revolution. The 18th of Brumaire, which made him First Consul, and had given him two colleagues, gave him the opportunity of developing the patriotism of the Republic. Shortly after that period, Sieyes, supping with the heads of the Republican party, said to them, at the same time throwing his cap violently on the ground, "There is no longer a Republic. I have for the last eight days been conferring with a man who knows every thing. He needs neither counsel nor aid; policy, laws, and the art of government are all as familiar to him as the command of an army. I repeat to you, there is no longer a Republic."
Sieyes was well known to be what the French call an idealogue. He was a theorist on governments, which he invented in any convenient number. For the Consulate he had his theory ready. The First Consul was to be like an epicurean divinity, enjoying himself and taking care for no one. But this tranquillity of position, and nonentity of power, by no means suited the taste of Napoleon. "'Your Grand Elector," said he (the title which seems to have been intended for his head of his new constitution,) "would be nothing but an idle king. The time for do-nothing kings is gone by—six millions of francs and the Tuilleries, to play the stage-king in, put his signature to other peoples work, and do nothing of himself, is a dream. Your Grand Elector would be nothing but a pig to fatten, or a master, the more absolute because he would have no responsibility.' It was on quitting me after this conversation," said Napoleon, "that Sieyes said to Roger Ducos, 'My dear Colleague, we have not a President, we have a master. You and I have no more to do, but to make our fortunes before making our paquets.'" This was at least plain speaking, and it discloses the secret of ninety-nine out of every hundred of the Republicans.
An amusing anecdote of the memorable Abbe is then told. He was Almoner to one of the Princesses of France. One day, while he was reading mass, the Princess, from some accidental circumstance, retired, and her ladies followed her. Sieyes, who was busy reading his missal, did not at first perceive her departure; but when he saw himself abandoned by all the great people, and had no auditory left but the domestics, he closed the book, and left the altar, crying, "I do not say mass for the rabble!" This certainly was not very democratic, and yet Sieyes was soon afterwards the most rampant of all possible democrats.
The history of his patriotism, however, alike accounted for his former contempt and his subsequent fraternisation. Previously to the Revolution he was poor, neglected, and angry; but, as he was known to be a man of ability, his name was mentioned to De Brienne, who, though an archbishop, was Prime Minister. He was desired to attend at his next levee; he attended, and was overlooked. He complained to his friend, who repeated the complaint to the archbishop, who desired him to appear at his levee; but was so much occupied with higher people, that the clever but luckless Abbe was again overlooked. He made a third experiment, on the promise that he should obtain audience; but he found the Archbishop enveloped in a circle of epaulets, grands cordons, and mitres. To penetrate this circle was impossible, and the Abbe, now furious at what he regarded as a mockery, rushed to his chamber, seized a pen, and wrote his powerful and memorable pamphlet entitled, "What is the third Estate?" a fierce, but most forcible appeal to the vanity of the lower orders, pronouncing them the nation. This was a torch thrown into a powder magazine—all was explosion; the church, the noblesse, and the monarchy were suddenly extinguished, and France saw this man of long views and powerful passions, suddenly raised from hunger and obscurity, to the highest rank and the richest sinecurism of the republic.
Antomarchi was not fortunate in his attendance on Napoleon. Of course he felt, like every other foreigner, the ennui of the island, and he grew impatient to return to Europe. At last he applied for permission, which Napoleon gave him in the shape of a discharge, with the following sting at the end. "During the fifteen months which we have spent in this country, you have given his Majesty no confidence in your moral character. You can be of no use to him in his illness, and your residing here for several months longer would have no object, and be of no use." However, a reconciliation was effected, and the doctor was suffered to remain. But all the household now began to be intolerably tired. Three of the household, including the Abbe, requested their conge.
There is in the spirit of the foreigner a kind of gross levity, an affectation of frivolity with respect to women, and a continual habit of vulgar vanity, which seems to run through all ranks and ages of the continental world. What can be more offensively trifling, than the conduct which Napoleon narrates of himself, when Emperor, at Warsaw.
A Madame Waleska seems to have been the general belle of the city. On the night when Napoleon first saw this woman, at a ball, General Bertrand and Louis de Perigord appeared as her public admirers. "They both," said he, "kept hovering emulously round her." But Napoleon, Emperor, husband, and mature as he was, chose to play the gallant on this evening also. Finding the two Frenchmen in the way of his attentions, he played the Emperor with effect on the spot. He gave an order to Berthier, then head of his staff, instantly to send off M. Perigord "to obtain news of the 6th corps," which was on the Passarge. Thus one inconvenience was got rid of, but Bertrand was still present, and during supper his attentions were so marked that, as he leaned over Madame's chair, his aiguilettes danced on her shoulders. "Upon this," said Napoleon, "my impatience was roused to such a pitch that I touched him on the arm and drew him to the recess of a window, where I gave him orders 'to set out for the head-quarters of Prince Jerome,' and without losing an hour to bring me a report of the siege of Breslau." Such it is to come in the way of Emperors. "The poor fellow was scarcely gone," adds Napoleon, "when I repented of my angry impulse; and I should certainly have recalled him, had I not remembered at the same minute that his presence with Jerome would be useful to me." And this was the conduct of a man then in the highest position of life, whose example must have been a model to the multitude, and in whom even frivolity would be a crime.
Napoleon had long lived in a state of nervous fear, which must have made even his high position comfortless to him. He had been for years in dread of poison. "I have escaped poisoning," said he, "ten times, if I have once." In St Helena he never eat or drank any thing which had not been tasted first by one of the household! Montholon, during the night, constantly tasted the drink prepared for him. On this subject, Napoleon told the following anecdote.
"He was one day leaving the dinner-table with the Empress Josephine, and two or three other persons, when, as he was about to put his hand in his pocket for his snuff-box, he perceived it lying on the mantel-piece, in the saloon which he was entering. He was about to open it and take a pinch, when his good star caused him to seat himself. He then felt that his snuff-box was in one of his pockets. This excited inquiry, and on sending the two boxes to be chemically tested, the snuff on the mantel-piece was discovered to be poisoned." After this, it is somewhat absurd in M. Montholon to give his hero credit for sang froid, and say of him, that no one could take fewer precautions against such dangers than the Emperor. His whole life seems to have been precautionary; still, he sententiously talked the nonsense of fatalism.
"Our last hour is written above," was his frequent remark. He had some absurdities on the subject of medicine, which would have very effectually assisted the fulfilment of this prediction. He had all idea that he should cure himself of his immediate disease, and perhaps of every other, by swallowing orange-flower water, and soup a la reine.
The governor, during this period, constantly offered the services of an English physician; and Dr Arnott was at last summoned, who pronounced the disease to be very serious, and to be connected with great inflammation in the region of the stomach. It was now, for the first time, ascertained that his disease was ulceration of the stomach. There is an occasional tribute to the humane conduct of the governor at this time. On April eleventh, there is this memorandum:—
"Sir Hudson Lowe has left us in perfect tranquillity, since Dr Arnott has been admitted, though he comes every day to the apartments of the orderly officer, for the purpose of conferring with the physician."
Napoleon, now conscious of the dangerous nature of his disease, made his will. He had conceived that he was worth in various property about two hundred millions of francs, which he left by will, but of which we believe the greater part was impounded by the French government, as being public property.
He now held a long conversation on the prospects of his son, whom he regarded as not altogether beyond the hope of ascending the throne of France. He predicted the fall of the reigning family. "The Bourbons," said he, "will not maintain their position after my death." With an exactness equally odd, but equally true, he predicted the rise of another branch of the dynasty: "My son will arrive, after a time of troubles; he has but one party to fear, that of the Duke of Orleans. That party has been germinating for a long time. France is the country where the chiefs of parties have the least interest. To rest for support on them, is to build their hopes on sand."
There is a brilliant shrewdness now and then, in his contempt of the showy exhibitors in public life. "The great orators," said he, "who rule the assemblies by the brilliancy of their eloquence, are in general men of the most mediocre talents. They should not be opposed in their own way, for they have always more noisy words at command than you. In my council there were men possessed of much more eloquence than I was, but I always defeated them by this simple argument,—Two and two make four.
"My son will be obliged to allow the liberty of the press. This is a necessity in the present day. My son ought to be a man of new ideas, and of the cause which have made triumphant every where.
"Let my son often read and reflect on history: that is the only true philosophy. Let him read and meditate on the wars of the great Captains. That is the only means of rightly learning the science of war."
In April, the signs of debility grew still more marked. On the 26th, at four in the morning, after a calm night, he had what Montholon regards as a dream, but what Napoleon evidently regarded as a vision. He said with extraordinary emotion, "I have just seen my good Josephine, but she would not embrace me; she disappeared at the moment when I was about to take her in my arms; she was seated there; it seemed to me that I had seen her yesterday evening; she is not changed—still the same, full of devotion to me; she told me that we were about to see each other again, never more to part. She assured me of that. Did you see her?"
Montholon attributed this scene to feverish excitement, gave him his potion, and he fell asleep; but on awaking he again spoke of the Empress Josephine.
It is difficult in speaking of dreams and actual visions, to know the distinction. That the mind may be so perfectly acted upon during the waking hours as to retain the impressions during sleep, is the experience of every day. And yet we know so little of the means by which truths may be communicated to the human spirit while the senses are closed, that it would be unphilosophical to pronounce even upon those fugitive thoughts as unreal. That Napoleon must have often reflected on his selfish and cruel desertion of Josephine, it is perfectly natural to conceive. That he may have bitterly regretted it, is equally natural, for, from that day, his good fortune deserted him. And he might also have discovered that he had committed a great crime, with no other fruit than that of making a useless alliance, encumbering himself with an ungenial companion, and leaving an orphan child dependant on strangers, and continually tantalised by the recollections of a fallen throne. Those feelings, in the solitude of his chamber, and the general dejection of his captivity, must have so often clouded his declining hours, that no miracle was required to embody them in such a vision as that described. And yet, so many visitations of this kind have undoubtedly occurred, that it would be rash to pronounce that this sight of the woman who had so long been the partner of his brilliant days might not have been given, to impress its moral on the few melancholy hours which now lay between him and the grave.