« AnteriorContinuar »
indulgence; a breach of instructions which, as he says, he "had been induced to take upon his own responsibility." In another instance he says, vol. 3, p. 231—"I have been opposing somewhat more difficulty than heretofore, by refusing passes," &.c. We may mention, under this head, his insisting upon the repulsive right—which, however, even he did not think proper to exercise—of examining the prisoner's soiled clothes on their way to the washerwoman, a privilege used too late by the jealous Ford; his constant opening of letters, which he did not understand, and from which he derived undefinable charges against Balcombe, Stokoe, and indeed all and sundry whom he disliked; his most unintelligible refusal to send sealed letters to the Prince Regent and other persons known and above possible suspicion; his repeated insinuations of malingering or exaggeration of alleged illness; the abrupt dismissal of two servants without cause assigned; the empty threat which he himself tells us he uttered to Baron Sturmer, in asserting that "an inhabitant might be hanged for bringing such communications" as the letter handed by Welle, a botanist in the Baron's suite, to Marchaud, Bonaparte's valet, containing a lock of the hair of the Duke of Reichstadt, his son—an assertion which, of course, he knew to be false ; and his refusal to permit Bonaparte to converse with this man, who had seen his child. When a bust of this only son was sent to him by some considerate person, Forsyth tells us that " Sir Hudson Lowe at first hesitated as to his course, and was inclined not to permit the bust to be forwarded until he had communicated with Lord Bathurst on the subject." Why he changed his mind as to this refinement of tyranny, does not clearly appear; but we are left to infer that he yielded to the persuasions of Sir T. Reade, in allowing the marble to be sent to Longwood. Too much, perhaps, was said on both sides about plate and money; but even Lord Bathurst was ashamed to learn that Napoleon had been obliged, with the sanction of Sir Hudson, to borrow four thousand gold pieces from Las Cases on his departure, and urges the interception of the bills of exchange offered. Among the frequent and striking admissions of his indiscretion and unjustifiable captiousness that occur in these volumes, take the following:—"Admiral Malcolm," says Sir Hudson, "considered the regulation in the same light they wished to view it at Longwood." Hence, obviously, the coolness, almost an absolute rupture, between him and Sir Pulteney. Does this difference of opinion, concerning some regulation instituted by Sir H. Lowe, account for Admiral Sir P. Malcolm's refusal, before mentioned, to convey a message from Bonaparte to the Duke of Bedford and Lady Holland? of which Lord Bathurst himself says, that " the excuse was not very obvious for declining to execute the commission." His unscrupulous hatred of Bertrand, which shows itself at every turn, is glaringly exhibited in the story told as follows, by Forsyth. A letter written by Bertrand, at the dictation of Bonaparte, for which, of course, the former was in no sense responsible, contains reasons for objecting to an officer appointed by the Governor of St. Helena. These reasons were, it seems, highly offensive to the officer, Col. Lyster, but they were urged privately, and, as far as was possible under the circumstances, confidentially. "Unfortunately," says Forsyth—observe the exquisite mildness of the phrase—" unfortunately, Sir Hudson Lowe showed Bertrand's letter to Col. Lyster, an act both uncalled for and indiscreet." Is this all? Indiscreet! uncalled for! It was an atrocious violation of every propriety, and produced, as was probably intended, a challenge from Col. L. to Bertrand, and a threat of personal chastisement to be inflicted on an unarmed prisoner. Bertrand coolly informs Sir Hudson of the affair, and intimates his willingness to meet the principal, though he can take no notice of the secondary instrument of malice. Sir H. L. comments, sneeringly, upon Bertrand's non-acceptance of Lyster's defiance to mortal combat, while he quietly ignores the challenge -offered to himself. We afterwards find him magnanimously refusing to receive a similar cartel from Las Cases, Junior, and with Christian meekness submitting not to a mere threat, but to the actual infliction of personal chastisement in the streets of London, by a horsewhipping at the hands of the young Frenchman. A most impressive commentary is afforded by this incident, upon the nature of the sentiments entertained towards him by the unhappy captives so long under his custody—of whom Col. Jackson says, "that he never heard any one complain ;" and of whom, with his peculiar stolidity or affected insensitiveness, Sir Hudson Lowe himself affirms, "that the absence of all severity is the real grievance."
We must not omit here to notice, briefly, the ridiculous discussion concerning Montholon's offer to Count Montchenu, the French Commissioner, of a few "haricots verts" or "haricots blancs," white beans or green, the product of the exEmperor's boasted success in gardening, and Montchenu's answer, that he "might send a little of both." Upon which, Sir Hudson Lowe solemnly and diplomatically remarks:— "Whether the haricots verts and haricots blancs, bear any reference to the drapeau blanc of the Bourbons, and the habit vert of Gen. Bonaparte, and the livery of his servants, I am unable to say; but the Marquis of Montchenu, it appears to me, would have acted with more propriety if he had declined receiving either, or confined himself to the white alone." On this niaiserie Forsyth thus comments: —" It certainly does seem ludicrous to suppose that there could have been any concealed motive in the offer of a few bean-stalks, and it may be thought that it would have been caricaturing caution to have declined, on political grounds, Count Montholon's polite offer. But Sir H. L. thought the matter of some importance, and again alluded to it in another letter to Lord Bathurst."
Not less ridiculous is the fuss afterwards made by Forsyth himself, about a ride or two on horseback taken by the Priest Vignali, dressed somewhat in Bonaparte's style, instead of his own clerical costume; "but"—as he gravely adds— "with a straw hat not the least like the General's."
In fact, there was a constant disposition to dwell upon the chances of Napoleon's escape, and to circulate rumours of every kind on this ticklish subject. Gourgaud's "revelations," as Forsyth calls them, afforded some food to this gossiping appetite, which was, doubtless, excited and nourished for the purpose of justifying "stringency of regulations," increased at will, and "difficulty opposed by refusing papers," &c., whenever the Governor was in an ill humour. Nothing is too absurd to be listened to and repeated. Some skipper tells a story of a bribe offered him, for what object does not appear, "by some person, but whom he did not recollect." This recalls the famous non mi ricordo of the Queen's trial. Gourgaud, it will be remembered, either could not, or would not, point out the channel of clandestine communication with the prisoners, and conveyance of money, which he had asserted to have taken place, nor give any names; yet, nevertheless, Sir Hudson Lowe affected to believe him, and rewarded him for his traitorous falsehood. A running notice occurs in the third volume, of the reports current now and then, concerning a fast-sailing vessel seen about St. Helena, "chased often, but in vain, by the British cruisers." Even Forsyth sneers at these nonsensical rumours; "it would appear," he says, "as if they had a vision of the Flying Dutchman, supposed to frequent those seas."
Longwood—the wretched abode of fallen greatness— seems, indeed, to have been surrounded with an atmosphere of suspicion, distrust and hatred, which spread its baleful influence over the whole island. It was universally felt and known to be unsafe to hold any other than hostile communication with its inmates. The intimidation of the medical men seems to have been as complete as it is shameful. Dr. Verling and Mr. Livingston refuse, at one time, "to sign a certificate of Bonaparte's state of health, fearing that it might be considered a political question, and that they might compromise themselves." We know not in what terms to speak of Dr. Arnott's evasive course, which seems to have astonished even those whom it was intended to conciliate. We cannot ascribe to ignorance his gross misrepresentations of Napoleon's condition, even when almost moribund; his inhuman and taunting indifference to sufferings, which the bitterest enmity could not look upon without pity. No! it was too palpably dictated by the base fear that any expression of sympathy with, or even attention to, the complaints of the dying Emperor, might offend his malignant jailor, and exercise some unfavourable influence upon his own future fortunes.
When Antommarchi arrives from Europe to take professional charge of the illustrious patient, he invites his medical brethren on the island to dine with him, but is amazed and mortified to find that his invitation is refused or evaded unanimously, under the apprehensive dread of the dark frown of the despot that kept watch over all their movements. Becoming shocked and alarmed himself, he asks leave to abandon his post of honour and high responsibility, and make his escape from this vile despotism—but is refused peremptorily.
When O'Meara put forth his "Voice from St. Helena," eighteen sets of the book were sent as presents to persons on the island. "They were not retained," we are told, "by a single individual, but sent back to the publisher, with their leaves uncut." Thus was he condemned unheard, unread; clearly because to read or hear him, would have incurred the marked displeasure of the insular tyrant, Governor Sir Hudson Lowe, who at that period was labouring most philanthropically to bring about the emancipation of the few slaves—the black slaves, we mean—then living on the island, and procure there the total and permanent aboli• tion of slavery.
It scarcely seems possible that Forsyth should have been conscious of the purport of the above anecdote, strangely introduced into an eulogistic biography and carefully laboured defence of his hero, or of the tendency of the following, with which we shall close our critical disquisition.
Theodore Hook, landing for a short time at St. Helena, prepares a book, which he publishes on his arrival in England, entitled "Facts illustrative of the treatment of Napoleon Bonaparte in St. Helena; being the result of minute inquiries and personal research." Sir Hudson Lowe evidently shrinks under the laudatory representations of this literary sycophant. Was he afraid of being suspected by the British ministry of too gentle jailorship, or was he aware that the gross misstatements of the work would recoil upon him rather than its author? "I am sensible," he says, "of his good intentions, although he appears to have drawn some matters in rather too glowing colours. I believe he