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Art. IV.-History of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,
illustrated by original documents. By Frederic von Raumer. Translated from the German by Lord Francis Egerton. In 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1835. R. Von RAUMER, well known in Germany as a historical
writer on many subjects, but most distinguished by his • History of the House of Hohenstauffen, (which we reviewed at some length a few years ago,) went from Berlin to Paris in March, 1830, on what may be termed a professional tour. Ile remained six months in that capital, which he principally employed in examining the manuscripts of the Bibliothèque Royale. His main object was to collate original authorities, with a view to those labours on general European history in which he is at present engaged. He found time, however, on his return from his journey, to present the world with two volumes of Letters from Paris,' describing his route and pursuits; and with two more of • Letters from the Royal Library,' forming the work of which Lord Francis Egerton bas now executed the translation.
The first of these publications is but a series of hasty sketches and loose anecdotes, thrown together, as the author affirms, and we do not doubt sincerely, without the slightest view to the press. We wish, however, that it were in our power to give a slight notice of their contents on the present occasion : for, unless we
are much mistaken, they contain, under an unpretending shape and unpolished exterior, a very unusual quantity of sound and shrewd remark. They are written with an energy and heartiness which gives a colouring even to the commonest details ; they display, too, the impressions produced on a mind of no ordinary cast; giving, without affectation of any kind, the sentiments of a man devoted to literature and especially to the chronicles of past ages, who is placed, by accident, in a scene of busy actors and great events passing without the sphere of his own immediate activity. He makes no sort of pretension to superior information; he sought no society, and professes to have seen and known no more than the streets, hotels, and theatres afforded to every observer: unlike ordinary tourists, he exhibits no endeavour to make the most of all that he has done and witnessed, because his pursuits were of a solitary and engrossing nature, and the contingencies of the modern world were to him only secondary matters.
Yet there is so much of unaffected interest in all that was passing ; views everywhere so original and occasionally so sagacious, as to the causes, progress, and effects of the revolution which was then enacted; so impartial and just a portrait of the French character as viewed by a steady German eye, in the compass of these two
little volumes, that we have met with few narratives of tourists or politicians by profession, concerning Paris in 1830, so attractive as this, the mere digression of a literary mind from its ordinary occupations. Mr. von Raumer was, and continued throughout, strongly prepossessed against the ministers and measures of Charles X. But even in the dawn of that revolution, so usually calm and prosperous, he brought more of apprehension than of contidence to the prospects before him. And no one feature in the character of the times produced more distrust in him, whom the discipline of historical research had taught to look, more constantly than other men, for the source of human events in the great cause which directs them, than the overweening presumption which attributed all honour to human actors, and seemed systematically to reject, even with contempt, the notion of that Providential assistance which the more pious temper of former times sought in distress, and acknowledged in victory.
The same impartial and scrutinizing spirit, the same absence of all exaggeration, the same discrimination of right, and sensibility to misfortune, is yet more strongly shown in our author's ‘Polen's Untergang,' in which is traced, in the short compass of an essay, the progress of the misfortunes of Poland from the death of Aigustus III. to the first capture of Warsaw by Souvarof. Although there is not a sentence in the work implying anything short of the severest condemnation of the acts of the three usurping powers in that long and atrocious conspiracy, yet so high is the character of its author in his native land, that the government of Prussia has recently offered for his inspection the whole mass of documents relative to the entry and reception in that country of the defeated corps of Poles during the late Russian invasion. A fact honourable to Germany, as showing the value which is placed there on the sentiments of the better class of literary men-to the writer intrusted with such a commission--and above all-if (as we have no reason to doubt) these documents have been delivered honestly and without reserve--to the Prussian government itself.
The work before us is, as we have said, another result of its author's residence in Paris, containing a series of extracts from MSS. in the Royal Library on historical subjects, chiefly the despatches of ambassadors. It is a singular collection of undigested materials, bearing in many points, it cannot be denied, the marks of haste in the compiler; but containing, with much that was known before, a considerable proportion of matter which had never yet been laid before the public. One obvious disadvantage attends works of so miscellaneous a description: it is impossible that the author, or editor, however deeply read in general history, can be acquainted with all that mass of private annals, memoirs
biographies, biographies, essays on particular points, which constitute, in fact, the most valuable portion of each nation's historical library. He cannot, therefore, but frequently imagine that he has made a discovery, where he is, in fact, only going over ground which had been trodden before. This the English reader will soon perceive in attentively perusing that portion of the book which relates to our own country.
We have to thank Lord F. Egerton, whose devotion to literature confers grace on his station, for a careful translation of Von Raumer's collection—and for some notes which render the text much more intelligible to the ordinary reader than it would otherwise have been. It is obvious, however, that many passages in old French, Italian, and Spanish letters must have lost point in the course of a double transfusion, first into German, and then from German into English; and we cannot but think that this accomplished nobleman would have adopted a better course had he employed some properly-qualified persons to retranslate such documents from the original MSS., and reserved for himself only the task of revision and annotation. As it is, we must take the work as we have it—and be thankful.
Amongst so miscellaneous a collection of trifles and serious mattery, arranged with scarcely any reference to continuity either of time, place, or object,-in which the reader is carried backwards and forwards between France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Naples, and Venice,the notices respecting Philip II. and III. of Spain, Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. of England, the Valois Kings in France, and the insurrection of Massaniello and subsequent transactions at Naples, have appeared to us the most pregnant with interest and novelty. The extracts from the despatches of ambassadors, respecting the personal characteristics of Philip 11., his court, and retinue, are curious; the former especially, because they seem strongly at variance with the impressions generally formed of that famous monarch. Most of our readers, we imagine, have pictured to themselves the tyrant of the Netherlands, and the supposed murderer of his son, with something of a romantic colouring; as an • ame forte,' an energetic, fiery spirit, a dark but profound politician, and nourishing under a cold exterior suppressed but vehement passions. Very few features of this imaginary portrait seem to have belonged to the royal original. Philip appears to have been, like his father, more of a Fleming than a Spaniard; possessing the cold and phlegmatic complexion of his paternal race, but deprived, perhaps, of its sound mental constitution by the depressing effects of a climate unsuited to its development, and a religion which subdued all independence of thought. Industrious and active in ordinary business, but with little capacity for more important exertions, he seems to have spent his life in a sort of laborious idleness, minutely sedulous about trifles; while the more serious concerns of government were miserably mismanaged from the want of efficient superintendence-except when, as occurred once or twice in the course of his long reign, his proper fuuctions were entrusted to some administrator of consummate ability. Some personal traits will remind the reader of a widelydifferent character, the unfortunate Louis XVI. There was in both the same homely activity and regularity in small matters, the same reserve, proceeding more from timidity than pride, the same singular gaucherie, and want of ordinary address and self-management. This absence of grace and dexterity seems, indeed, to have characterized Philip, in business of all sorts, from the beginning of his career. His various mischances in Germany, when he was brought forward in order to win favourable opinions of that nation, with a view to succeeding his father in the imperial authority, seemed typical of the maladroitness with which more important affairs were to be conducted throughout his life
· Philip,' (writes the French ambassador Marillac from Augsburg, in 1550,) accompanied by ten of a colour, tilted with ten of another colour in the great market-place, under the windows of the emperor and princesses. All the ambassadors were invited to attend this festivity; but, to make the matter short, I must observe that worse lance play, according to the universal judgment, was never seen. Also, on a second occasion (Feb. 3, 1551), Philip broke not a single lance, nor even once struck his antagonist.'
Just as little fortune (adds Raumer) as at the tournament for the princess's sake, had Philip in his feasting with the German princes. Marillac writes, October 21
• According to the challenge of the Cardinal of Trent, Philip has given a banquet to the electors here present, and also eat with them; he sought to show himself in every respect a willing scholar, and drank twice, thrice, as much as he could bear; whereupon the cardinal, as his preceptor, observed, he took good hope that, if the prince should persevere in this course, he would in time win the hearts of the Germans!'
The genius of the man may be observed in these ludicrous failures, as well as in more important misadventures : the unsuccessful knight and reluctant carouser was the same prince whose reign of forty years exhibits but one prospect of opportunities neglected, impracticable plans obstinately followed, vast means entirely misapplied. Twice the march on Paris was open to him, and each time his heart failed him when one step forward would have laid the rival power at his feet. Once, at least, he might have made good a footing in this island, when his armada had reached our shores without interruption; but he had left no discretion to his admiral, who was forced to wait for the co-operation VOL. LIV. NO, CVII.
of Parma, and thereby, as Herrera observes, let the great occasion by for ever. * He lost Holland by fanaticism, France by his own suspicious and vacillating conduct; mistrusting and deceiving the leaders of the religious movement, who were ready to place their native crown beneath his feet as the price of his assistance. From Spain he extirpated almost everything that ennobles a nation ; independence of mind, creative or productive energy, even valour, all withered away under the touch of his paralysing sceptre. Yet this monarch-one of the few whose evil influence has lasted not through generations, but through centuries —is still regarded, by most historians, with a degree of mysterious veneration, as a consummate, although dangerous, politician! The following amusing ritratto of his personal appearance and accompaniments is from the pen of Badoero. It is remarkable how universally the most spirited and characteristic sketches—those evincing most knowledge of the world, and most power of expression—seem to come from the pens of Venetian ambassadors :
King Philip is now thirty years old, of small stature and fine limbed. The forehead tolerably fair; azure eyes, tolerably large; strong eyebrows, not much parted; well shaped nose, great mouth, with a heavy, somewhat disfiguring under lip; white and fair beard; in exterior a Fleming, but in haughty deportment a Spaniard. His temperament is melancholy and phlegmatic. He suffers from stomach pains and side stitches, on account of which, by advice of his physicians, he goes much to the chace, as affording the best means of strengthening the body and ridding the spirit of melancholy thoughts. He hears mass daily, and on Sundays sermon and vespers. He gives alms regularly, or on special occasions. As nature has made this king of weak body, so has she constituted him of timorous mind. He eats sometimes too much, particularly pastry, and likes variety in his food. With women he is intemperate, and likes to go about at night in disguise. His expenses in dress, furniture, liveries, &c., are not great. Out of doors he wears a mantle and cap; often also suits cut in the French fashion, or with large buttons, and feathers in his сар.
· He shows himself rather composed than passionate, and tolerates persons and pretensions of unusual and not very befitting description. He speaks sometimes with sharpness and wit, and loves jesting and nonsense. Yet he shows this disposition less at table, where buffoons are present, than when in the privacy of his apartment he lets himself loose and is merry. He possesses a good capacity, and one equal to great affairs, but is not active enough to rule over dominions so ex
* Philip has been much praised for the composure with which he received the news of his armada's dispersion. But there was little moral dignity, though much phlegm, in his disposition. • He will,' says Granvelle, writing shortly after this event, do everything, and yet does little or nothing. He shrinks from every decision, troubles himself as little for his own good fame as that of others, and thinks he has gained everything when he only gains time.'—vol, i, p. 205.