« AnteriorContinuar »
it. I cannot say how happy I feel that the bust has given you so much satisfaction. As knowing your affection to Mr. Fox (both in public and private), it struck me that you would like to have it, and I was therefore particularly anxious for its success.
Nor shall I now stand in need of being reminded of his great name or his great deeds while there are such able men, though few in number (comparatively speaking), who make it their study as well as their pride to follow as closely as possible the precepts of their late great leader. Which to admire most I am at a loss to know, for turn to either side one beholds so much that calls forth unqualified praise, that it would be a difficult task imposed. He has been one of those few those very few—who have really had the good of their country at heart, and in view, not in words only, but who both in thought and deed acted for that alone; who by his uncorrupted integrity proved what a patriot and a statesman was, and united these two different characters (which ought never to have been divided). Of all his numerous deeds none are so to be cherished as that most cruel and disgraceful procedure (particularly to this country which is called a free one) the slave trade, * and his laudable exertions for universal toleration and comfort to our unfortunate and grossly-abused sister kingdom, which, alas, was not crowned with success; and this is the man who, after devoting his time, health, and at length life, is called a revolutionist; one who subverts, at least tries to subvert, the laws and liberties of this country. Who would, who could, and who can believe this? No one who have their eyes opened and an unprejudiced judgment, but the short-sighted and jaundiced eye of the people. Many there are who say they understand the word toleration. I will grant they do, but not in deed. There are dignitaries in the Churcht who pique themselves on their learning, but do not seem, no more than the temporal peers, to comprehend its meaning, or else they who are to preach meekness and charity would certainly not, I should conceive, seem to rejoice so at the sufferings of Ireland, nor utter such virulent protests against their just claims. In fine, the word bishopric includes everything that is the touchstone of action, the spring from whence all that holy fire issues ; that God that they teach (or at least feign to do, who enjoins charitableness and forgiveness) is wholly forgotten in their rancorous hatred towards an oppressed and unfortunate people, whose crime is following other ceremonies, not owning these dignitaries, but above all having the name of Irishman. It is with honest pride, the pride of a trueborn English person, that I avow these sentiments, principles that I am convinced are the only true foundation of this country, and the spirit of the constitution, nor shall I be ashamed to broach them before the whole world, should I ever be called upon. Thank God there are some young of both sexes, some that I have the happiness to know personally, as well as from report, that feel firm at this state of things, and that are
* The Princess evidently means to refer to the abolition of the slave trade; this sentence is incorrect.
+ This is aimed at the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Fisher, her tutor, whom she hated, and always called the great U.P.'
from their hearts and minds followers of your late inestimable friend. Happy, thrice happy, will the moment be when the plans Mr. Fox pursued and planned are put into full force; then indeed England will have cause to rejoice, she may lift up her head in conscious superiority and pre-eminence. • But I must plead my excuses for having detained you so long. Believe me, with the greatest esteem,
“My dear Lord Albemarle,
Your most sincere,
CHARLOTTE. Mr. Keppel, to drop the schoolboy's appellation, was about two months short of sixteen when he was gazetted to a comunission in the 14th Regiment of the line. In March 1815, when Napoleon had just escaped from Elba, nobody seems to have appreciated the gravity of the event. It was not till five weeks after he had landed in France that the London Gazette contained a batch of military appointments, and amongst them the first commission of our young hero. Before the end of April, however, he and the troops were on their way to Flanders.
The third battalion of the 14th Foot, which I now joined, was one which in ordinary times would not have been considered fit to be sent on foreign service at all, much less against an enemy in the field. Fourteen of the officers and three hundred of the men were under twenty years of age. These last consisted principally of Buckinghamshire lads, fresh from the plough, whose rustic appearance procured for them the appellation of the “ Peasants.”
'In my commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Skelly Tidy, I found a good-looking man, above the middle height, of soldier-like appearance, of a spare but athletic figure, of elastic step, and of frank, cheerful, and agreeable manners. The battalion had been drawn up in the Square at Brussels the day before, to be inspected by an old general of the name of Mackenzie, who no sooner set eyes on the corps than he called out “ Well, I never saw such a set of boys, both officers and men.” Tidy asked the general to modify the expression _"I called you boys,” said the veteran, “and so you are, but I should have added, I never saw so fine a set of boys, both officers and men." Still the general could not reconcile it to his conscience to declare the raw striplings fit for active service, and ordered the colonel to march them off the ground, and to join a brigade then about to proceed to garrison Antwerp. Tidy would not budge a step. Lord Hill happening to pass by, our colonel called out, “My lord, were you satisfied with the behaviour of the 14th at Corunna ?” “Of course I was; but why ask the question ?” “Because I am sure your lordship will save this fine old regiment from the disgrace of garrison duty." Lord Hill went to the Duke, who had arrived that same day at Brussels, and brought him to the window. The regiment was afterwards inspected by his Grace and their sentence reversed. In the meanwhile a priggish staff officer, who knew nothing of the countermand, said to Tidy in
mincing tones, “Sir, your brigade is waiting for you. Be pleased to march off your men.” “Ay, ay, sir," was the rough reply, and with a look of defiance, my colonel gave the significant word of command, “ Fourteenth, TO THE FRONT ! Quick march.” From henceforth our regiment formed part of Lord Hill's corps.' On June 13th our author completed his sixteenth year. He celebrated the day by amateur races at Grammont with some old Westminsters, little knowing that within two days' march lay a hostile army of 122,000 men, commanded by the greatest captain of the age. On the 16th and 17th the regiment was marching to Waterloo. Mr. Keppel was the youngest officer on that memorable field, and he has outlived almost every other officer who fought there. At the last Waterloo banquet, in the year of the Duke of Wellington's death, eighty-four veterans still gathered round the board at Apsley House. Of these only three, Sir Charles Yorke, Lord Rokeby, and Lord Albemarle are still with us.
The 14th regiment was attached on the day of the battle to the 2nd Infantry division, commanded by Sir William Clinton : they therefore occupied a position on the extreme right of the British line; but later in the day they moved towards the left, and formed square in the middle of the plain, but still not far from the Nivelles chaussée. This movement brought the regiments under heavy fire, and several casualties occurred.
"We were now ordered to lie down. Our square, hardly large enough to hold us when standing upright, was too small for us in a recumbent position. Our men lay packed together like herrings in a barrel. Not finding a vacant spot, I seated myself on a drum. Behind me was the colonel's charger, which, with his head pressed against mine, was mumbling my epaulette ; while I patted his cheek. Suddenly my drum capsized and I was thrown prostrate, with the feeling of a blow on the right cheek. I put my hand to my head, thinking half my face was shot away, but the skin was not even abraded. A piece of shell had struck the horse on the nose exactly between my hand and my head, and killed him instantly. The blow I received was from the embossed crown on the horse's bit.
'The French artillerymen had now brought us so completely within range, that if we had continued much longer in this exposed situation I should probably not have lived to tell my tale. We soon received the order to seek the shelter of a neighbouring hill.
'Looking back to the part of the field we had lately quitted, we saw another brigade of artillery hurrying into position—a howitzer shell had penetrated one of their ammunition waggons which exploded, drowning for a moment the roar of the artillery, and dealing death and destruction on all around. Our sympathies were for the moment principally excited by the sufferings of some poor horses, which were the principal sufferers by the catastrophe, and were galloping about the field. Some would suddenly stop, and nibble the grass within their reach till they fell backwards and died. One poor animal, horribly mutilated, kept hovering about us, as if to seek the protection of our square.
Then follows a passage which might serve for a description of Miss Thompson's well-known picture of the British square repelling a cavalry charge which was exhibited last year in the Royal Academy-peasant lads and all.
• We now occupied the crest of a gentle eminence, and looked down upon what, from a few blades still standing, was shown to have been in the morning a field of rye, ripe for the sickle. It had now, from the action of horse, foot, and artillery, been beaten down into the consistency and appearance of an Indian mat.
From the reverse side of the hill in front of us there now appeared the enemy our colonel had been taught to expect. They were a magnificent body of horsemen, wore black helmets, and, if my memory does not deceive me, black cuirasses. As soon as they reached the ascent of our hill they advanced towards us at the pas de charge. For a moment they left us in doubt which square they intended to honour, but gave the preference to our left-hand neighbour, a regiment of Brunswickers, which was at wheeling distance from ours. After one or two vain attempts to pierce the square, they went some fifty yards to our rear. Their presence amongst us procured us a momentary respite from the fire of the enemy's artillery. They now repassed between the two battalions. As soon as they were clear of our battalion, two faces of the attacked square opened fire. At the same instant the British gunners on our right who, at the approach of the Cuirassiers had thrown themselves at the feet of our front rank men, returned to their guns and poured in a murderous fire of grape into the flying enemy. For some seconds the smoke of the cross fire was so dense that not a single object in front of us was discernible. When it cleared away the Imperial horsemen were seen flying in disorder. The matted hill was strewed with dead and dying, horses galloping away without riders, and dismounted. Cuirassiers running out of the fire as fast as their heavy armour would allow them.' The young Ensign, safe and sound after the battle, bivouacked that night under one of the big elms of Hougoumont—the trees now in the avenue of the farm are of more recent growth ; and so ended his experience in war. Forty years elapsed before another shot was fired by a British army in Europe, and for a long time to come the duties of an active and intelligent officer merged in those of an equerry or an aide-de-camp. It is a curious fact that the warlike enthusiasm of the nation had so cooled, and the desire of peace was so great, that the soldiers who returned from France after the campaign of 1815 were very coldly received. They were detained and rigidly searched at Dover custom-house, and marched off without a supper to the gloomiest barrack in Dover Castle. The troops sent on by sea to Ireland fared even worse. In those ante-Plimsoll days the transports were rotten, being merchant vessels taken at the lowest tender, with ignorant skippers to command them. The Seahorse,' with the 59th Regiment on board, sailed from the Downs, and was wrecked off Kinsale ; 394 souls perished. The 'Lord Melville' and the Boadicea 'were lost in the same manner; out of 280 in the latter ship, only 60 were saved. • Beyond a short paragraph in the papers,' says Lord Albemarle,
no public notice was taken of this catastrophe. These are the things that lead us to hope that in “Fifty Years of my Life,' matters have, upon the whole, improved.
We do not propose to accompany Lord Albemarle, or Lieutenant Keppel, as he was then more familiarly called, in his rambles, whether on service, or on pleasure bent, all over the world ; but few men have seen life under more varied forms, and related what they have seen more agreeably. Soon after the Peace he went with his regiment to the Ionian Isles, then under the stern but salutary reign of King Tom. His next post was at the Mauritius, where he was appointed aidede-camp to the Governor, Sir John Dalrymple; and on his return to England in 1820, he became an honorary equerry to the Duke of Sussex, in constant attendance on that Prince. He owed this promotion, no doubt, to the Duke's friendship for the great Whig families of Norfolk; for although Lord Albemarle is better known as a soldier and a traveller than as a politician, no man has ever stuck more firmly to the hereditary principles of his ancestors. The name of Keppel has long been a war-cry of the Whig party. The great dispute as to Admiral Keppel's conduct at Ushant had been fought on party grounds, and led to a popular commotion. When the Admiral stood for Windsor, after his honourable acquittal, the King in person canvassed the town against him, and from that day onwards royalty had not been very popular either at Holkham or Quidenham, with one exception-we mean of course the Duke of Sussex. In January 1820 (erroneously printed 1819), in the height of Tory ascendancy, when Sidmouth, Eldon, and Castlereagh had just carried the · Six Acts, and the country lay prostrate beneath their unconstitutional policy, the then Earl of Albemarle (father of the present writer) took the chair at a great public dinner held in St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich, ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of Mr. Fox, but in truth to denounce the measures of the Government; and the principal guest at this dinner was no other than the brother of the Regent, the Duke of Sussex. The King,
of the witors. * more on