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horse, levied contributions all over the country, spreading dismay, and declaring that I was at his heels with my army. It was then that he is reported to have said: "If Landrecy is taken, I will put myself at the head of my nobility, and perish rather than see my kingdom lost." Would he have done so? I cannot tell. He wanted once to leave the trench, but was dissuaded. Henry IV. was formerly advised the contrary. He made the sign of the cross, and remained where he was.
Villars thinking himself not strong enough to attack me, as I had hoped he would, attempted the deliverance of Denain in another way. I have mentioned my vexation respecting the magazines at Marchiennes, upon which depended the continuation of the siege. Two leagues of ground were too much for the Dutch corps. Had it not been for the defection of the English, they might have been defended. The following circumstance demonstrated the talents of Villars, and a kind of fault with which I had to reproach myself. To conceal a movement made on his left toward the Scheldt, with the greatest pos sible secrecy and celerity, he, with his right, drew my attention to Landrecy, as if he designed to attack the lines of countervallation. All at once he drew back his right towards his left, which during the night had easily formed bridges, as the Scheldt is not wide at this place. These two wings united, advanced unknown to the earl of Albemarle, who attempt ed with his cavalry, but in vain, to fight what had passed. He relied upon me, but I reckoned upon him. On the first firing of his artillery, I marched to his succour, with a strong detachment of dragoons, at full trot, intending to make them dismount, if necessary, and followed by my infantry, which came up at a quick pace. The cowardice of the Dutch rendered my efforts unavailing. Had they but maintained them
selves half an hour in the post of Denain, I had been in time. So I had calculated, supposing matters at the worst, had I even been de ceived by the manoeuvre of Villars.
I found only eight hundred men, and three or four generals drowned in the Scheldt; and all those who had been surprised in the intrenchments, killed without making any defence. Albemarle, and all the princes and generals in the Dutch service, were taken prisoners, while endeavouring to rally their troops. The conduct of the former was represented in very black colours to the states-general. I wrote to Heinsius, the pensionary: "It would be my province, sir, to throw the faults or the disasters of that day on the earl of Albemarle, if I had a single reproach to make him. He behaved like a man of honour; but I defy the ablest general to extricate himself, when his troops, after a vile discharge, ignominiously run away. Your obstinacy in leaving your ma gazines at Marchiennes, is the cause of all this. Assure their high mightinesses of the truth of what I write you, of my dissatisfaction and profound mortification."
I was obliged to raise the siege of Landrecy, and to approach Mons, for the purpose of subsisting my army; so that I could not prevent Villars from retaking Douay, Quesnoi, and Bouchain.
I often examine myself with the utmost possible strictness.. It ap. pears to me, that if I had placed: twenty battalions more in the lines, which would have been necessary to defend them, Villars, who was stronger than I, would then have beaten me. Out of the lines, posted as I was, I provided for every contingency. Could I expect that an hour, at the utmost, more or less, would be decisive of my glory, of the war, and of the salvation of France? The artillery of the lines, which thickly planted with it, ought alone to have given me time to have come
up. Instead of being well served, it was abandoned in as cowardly a manner as the intrenchments. The two faults which I committed, were not disregarding the remonstrances of the deputies respecting Marchiennes, and confiding a post of such importance to their troops, the flower of which had perished at Malplaquet.
It may easily be supposed, that I was the subject of criticism at Vienna, London, and the Hague, and
of songs at Paris. Here is one which I thought pretty, because it gives my history in very few words:
THE plays in which we should contemplate the character of Falstaff, are the two Parts of Henry IV. We see him again, indeed, in the "Merry Wives of Windsor," and with great satisfaction; but he is in fetters. He might say of himself, as after the exploit at Gadshill: "Am not I fallen away? do not I bate? do not I dwindle? Why my skin hangs about me like an old lady's loose gown!" His meanderings are reduced to a straight course, and we scarcely recognise the beauty of the stream. Our memorable queen, when she requested to see Falstaff in love, appears to me (to use a vulgar but pertinent expression) to have "mistaken her man." Eccentricity of affection was expected; and, as might have been foreseen, we are presented only with his avarice.
But to return; the two Parts of
Eugene, opening the campaign,
Swore with air most furious, He'd march straightway to Champagne, To swig our wines so curious. The Dutchman for this journey gay His cheese to Marchienne sent away; But Villars, fir'd with glory, cried: "Faith, where you are you'd better bide; Scheldt's muddy water is, I think, Quite good enough for you to drink.”
ON THE CHARACTER OF SIR JOHN FALSTAFF.
Henry IV. are, beyond a doubt, the most diversified, in point of character and language, of any of the historical plays of our great dramatist. Who does not marshal in his mind the spirits of " that same mad fellow of the north, Percy;" " of him of Wales, that gave Amaimon the bastinado, Owen Glendower;" and "his son-in-law, Mortimer; and old Northumberland; and the sprightly Scot of Scots, Douglas?" Who cannot paint to himself" that goodly, portly man, sir John;" the chief justice (sir William Gascoigne); and that whoreson mad compound of majesty, prince Henry, who, as he himself observes, had "sounded the very base-string of humility?" Or, who cannot conjure up the manes of the knight's myrmidons, swaggering Pistol, Poins, Peto, and honest Bardolph,t" whose zeal burned in
Pistol is a very remarkable character. He seems to be a ranting spouter of sentences and hard words, unconnected and unintelligible; and was introduced by Shakspeare for the purpose of ridiculing the bombast absurdities of his cotemporary dramatick writers. If this was really the object of the character, it must have had a wonderful effect at its first performance, when the plays of Cophetua, Battle of Alcazer, Tamburlain's Conquests, &c. from all which Pistol makes quotations, were before the publick. It strikes me, likewise, as a very ingenious method of silencing the whole train of envious scribblers which his genius would otherwise have brought upon his own back.
The character of Bardolph is one of those bold dashes of the pencil, which our great painter from nature so frequently exhibits. His great attachment to Falstaff is admirably described. When he is told of the knight's death, he exclaims: “WouldVOL. V.
his nose;" and who, as his master remarks," but for the light in his face, would be the son of utter darkness:" and to close the catalogue, mine hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap, good mistress Quickly; Francis with his everlasting cry of "Anon, anon, sir!" the "genius of famine," master Robert Shallow; and Justice Silence, whom, as sir John told him, "it well befitted to be of the peace;" with the evermemorable list of Gloucestershire recruits. Amongst all these interesting personages, however, he who most attracts our notice, and best repays our attention, is sir John Falstaff.
- ανηρ νύς, μέγας τε, Αρνείω μεν εγωγε ἔισκω πηγεσιμάλλω.
Il. iii. 197.
Nor do those persons do him justice, who regard him as a character whose sole constituents are vice and low buffoonery. This was not the intention of Shakspeare. Those who are possessed of a natural vein of humour, no less than those who constantly affect it, will sometimes detect themselves in a strain of "quips and cranks," whose object is "to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh." Falstaff's wit is often, it must be confessed, of an illegitimate kind; yet the general character of his pleasantry, and the good sense so frequently sparkling from under his singular quaintness, prove that the poet intended him to have the credit of considerable abilities, however unusual or misemployed. To cancel the imputation of perpetual buffoonery, an idea originating in the misconception of those who personate him on the stage, or would paint him like Bunbury, we must recollect that, although he possessed none of those recommenda
tions which are implied in the term "gentleman," as the word was received in its better days, yet he had many which were not consistent with mere ribaldry and buffoonery. If we have an eye merely to his imperfections, which are no criterion of rank in society, our opinion of him will be mean and inadequate. He is represented as a captain of foot," intimate with men of the first title and authority, and, as may be inferred from the scenes into which he is introduced, as likewise from his be haviour to the lord chief justice, could value himself as highly as any of his friends. In the character of companion to the prince, however unworthy he must, in the eyes of the world have been thought deserying of some attention, I will not say respect; for it is in vain that we look for any virtues in him, calculated to inspire us with any thing like reverence. Those who might despise them both for their vices, must remember that Hal was heir to the crown, and that Falstaff was made companion to the future hero of Agincourt. The polite attentions of master Shallow to his old acquaintance, sir John, which may be accounted for without any uncommon sagacity, were returned in a manner consistent with the avarice of the latter, that would now be denominated by the rude name of "swindling." Yet the shadow of worthy affection existed in sir John, as we see throughout his conduct. He ascribes his fondness for Poins to a singular cause: "I am bewitched with the rogue's company. If the rascal has not given me medicines to make me love him, I'll be hanged; it could not be else.' "* But the affection of the prince for sir John Fal
I were with him wheresome'er he is, either in heaven or in hell!" The same insight into his character is given by another singular expression. When the prince tells Falstaff of his favour with his father, Falstaff recommends the robbery of the exchequer: "Rob me the exchequer, Hal, and do it with unwashed hands too?" Bardolph, pleased with the proposal, instantly seconds it with, "Do, my lord!”
*This and a number of other characteristick and unobjectionable passages, are injudiciously omitted in the play as represented on our theatres. I fancy these omissions
staff is more easily explained, and though manifest in the whole intercourse between them, is more feel ingly described by the poet in the prince's lamentation for his loss, when he views him extended for dead in the field of battle: "What! old acquaintance, could not all this flesh keep in a little life? Poor Jack! Farewell! I could have better spared a better man! Oh! I should have a heavy miss of thee, if I were much in love with vanity."
Indeed, we must think more humbly of the prince's judgment and good sense than we are justified in doing from his known character, if we suppose that he did not observe some amiable features in the man with whom the poet makes him spend the greater part of his time, and for whom he procured a "charge of foot," Similarity, in some degree, of dispositions, might be thought a sufficient cause; but where there was not a single praiseworthy object of mutual affection, the poet would not so have erred against human nature as to have represented a friendship. The inconsistency of the prince's future conduct to him, while it reflects somewhat of ingratitude on his poetical memory, was certainly necessary, and tended to the retrieving of his character in the publick mind. But to solve all difficulties on this head, it will be requisite only to select a single trait in this motley personage, which will ever awaken a partiality for him in every audience. The poet, to counterba lance his thirst of gold, and his more serious vices, has given him an insinuating air of frankness and simplicity of manners. It may be observed that in the first scene of his appear ance, you see a man from whom every subsequent part of his history might be expected. The nature displayed in this is too much for the
nerves of the audience. They aré delighted to see what they seem to themselves to have known in common life, and to find their acquaintance precisely what they imagined him to be. Falstaff's character is seen at once; he conceals no darker features than those exhibited on his first introduction; and however reprehensible in his vices, he seems willing to trust them to the mercy of his frail audience. This is natural, but it is no extenuation of crime. The prepossession in favour of such men arises from the love of truth and sincerity implanted in us by nature (not to mention the secret tribute paid to our vanity and self-love on such occasions) and every one, at some period or other of his life, must have felt it extorted from him. Such a man is Falstaff. Superlatively vitious and reprobate, he never ap pears without exposing some darling excess or evil propensity. Yet, in spite of all this, his habits savour so much of every-day profligacy, and his promises of reform and repentance are so frequent, that we cannot help feeling, against our better judgment, something like partiality.
As in the beautiful paintings of objects in themselves ugly or contemptible, such as are observable in the works of Murillo, Schalkens, Hemskerck, and the greater part of the Flemish school, the attention is forcibly drawn from the consideration of the minute parts and their deformity, and rests with pleasure on the natural colours, or striking proportions, of the whole; so, in a full view of the character of Falstaff, his vices seem completely in the back-ground. There is a charm, which withholds the spectator from the contemplation of them. Still, however, they are of no inconsider able magnitude; and it may well be objected, that moral propriety, which can never be too much attended to
were made by Colley Cibber: if so, they do him as much credit for poetical feeling as his own tragedies.
in dramatick composition, has been infringed, seriously, by giving inward turpitude to so alluring a disguise. Besides his avarice, cruelty, and voluptuousness, he has the glaring faults of a liar, a drunkard, and a robber.* But, in palliation of all this, you must hear his message to Mrs. Ford: "Bid her think what man is; let her consider his frailty, and then judge of my merit." His remarkable cowardice is an essential part of his character, and obliges us to remove our attention to the poet. It is a trite and indisputable truth, that fortitude is the offspring of none but virtuous principles. This feature of his character, therefore, while it is closely natural, the poet observed would likewise prove an endless source of ridicule and amusement to the audience. How ludicrous is it to see this egregious liar, who insists that "manhood, good manhood, will be forgotten upon the earth, when he dies," standing at a respectful distance, while his fellows are plundering the poor pilgrims, and exclaiming Strike! Down with them! Cut the villains' throats!" with all the energy of a bloodthirsty hero. Or who can refuse a smile, when he hears him request the prince, in the camp at Shrewsbury, in this ignoble form of words: "Hal, if thou see me down in the battle, and bestride me, so; 'tis a point of friendship?" Even his detestable cruelty, is rendered laughable, where he observes of his poor scare-crows, with whom he was ashamed to walk through Coventry, "I have led my ragamuffins where they are pepper'd: there's not three of my hundred and fifty left alive,
and they are for the town's-end to beg during life."
Thus all his faults and imperfections are so well depicted, and so effectually made the objects of de rision, that we can scarcely refrain from loving the company of the man who affords us so much diversion at his own expense. For we find he has always so much grace left as to be continually pleading and proclaiming his purposes of reform. In one place he says: "I must give over this life, and I will give it over;" and adds, "I'll be damned for never a king's son in Christendom." So he tells Bardolph he will repent, and that quickly, while he is in some "liking," &c. and, in his letter to the prince, he gives him this advice: "Repent at idle times as thou may'st, and so farewell." This is, indeed, holding the mirror up to Nature. Those who have most reason to reform their habits, talk violently of their resolutions, and are ever last to execute them. The same opportunities of indulgence recur, and always find the same complying weakness. This is specifically exemplified where sir John makes a long parade of his penitence; and, after he has finished, is asked by the prince: "Where shall we take a purse to morrow, Jack?" and the hoary sinner answers: "Where thou wilt lad, I'll make one; an I don't, call me villain, and baffle me."
He has, however, in a manner, no unnecessary or superfluous vices. They are all the natural excrescences of his character. We may be inclined to connive at his "drinking old sack," "unbuttoning after sup
* It is to be remembered that robbers, at that time of day, were very differently received in society from what they are at present. It could not be otherwise, when the example began around the king's person, by courtiers who pleaded in justification the scantiness of their allowance from their royal master. This made it a 66 vocation," as
sir John calls it, of less publick disgrace. Matthew Paris mentions two merchants of Brabant, in the time of Henry IT. who complained of an open robbery in the middle of the day, and after much trouble the perpetrators were discovered to be men of rank et court. Yet even then "resolution was fobbed by the rusty curb of old father Antick, the law," for no less than thirty of them were hanged.