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Charles Ashton ; the Boy that would be a Soldier. Boston: N.
S. and J, Simpkins. 1823. This little book completely answers its purpose. The object of the author is to contribute something towards the dissemination of true and Christian views on the subject of War. To do this, he employs the most effectual means, and employs them well. A single plain, natural, unvarnished story, like those in this book, placing in a true light the character of the persons that make up armies, and describing faithfully their vicious and miserable mode of life, will evidently do more towards producing in the minds of children a correct idea of the profession of a soldier and the nature of war, than the most eloquent and logical essay that could be written. In addressing children and common men on a subject like this, the appeal must be made to the ima. gination. Misery on a great scale affects only a philosopher. The sufferings of an individual interest us, even though he be a stranger. Troy falls, and is numbered with the hundred cities that have fallen before : while the death of Priam, the weak and injured old man, the helpless avenger of his murdered son, the unprotected survivor of his children--of Priam struck down at the altar-excites our indignation and abhorrence. Cæsar modestly relates the story of bis wars, and we exult in his bravery and victories, and the glory of his native city, though that glory is purchased by the death of four hundred thousand wretched barbarians, and the captivity and servitude of myriads more. But the figure, though in marble, of a dying gladiator, his thoughts on his hot by the Danube,' his young barbarians at play, their Dacian mother left desolate, awaken sympathy in the most un feeling heart.
It is individual pictures like these, that the writer of this book holds up to us. They are prominent and often horrible, but not unnatural nor overcoloured. The effect produced is single and very powerful. There is no idle declamation, nor tedious reasoning, nothing to shock the feelings of a boy strongly prepossessed in favour of a soldier's life, nothing indeed which such a boy would not willingly read.
The love of military glory, of danger and war—is the legitimate growth of the fearless enthusiasm which is natural to high minded children and men. It is foolish to ridicule it, and worse than foolish, for it is the germ of whatever is greatest and noblest in the best character. It is idle to endeavour to intimidate it by tales of pain and difficulties and death. These but add to its strength, they are what it lives upon. To depise pain and difficulty and death is glorious, and that is a bad education which does not strengthen
the feeling. We have need enough of it in the formation of the Christian character, to induce us to cherish it in all its strength. But the lesson to be taught is, that the pure glory which the young aspirant sighs for, is not to be found in camps—that it is there debased by meanness and brutality, heartless cruelty and real cowardice—that the high spirit of patriotism dwells not with such companions; that Tell and Washington were not bred in the tented field, and are only found there, when they have left the fireside of domestic affections and unob. trusive virtue to deliver their countrymen from oppression.
Such is the lesson which the author endeavors, and that very successfully, to convey.
We shall give a few extracts, with only enough of the story, to render them intelligible. They will show that the book not only impresses an excellent lesson, but is uncommonly well written.
Charles Ashton, the son of a worthy clergyman in England, is a bright, forward boy, full of courage and ardour, who knew he should be allowed to choose his own profession, and had set his heart upon being a general, from having bis imagination dazzled with the danger, magnificence, and glory of war.
But youth and inexperience prevented him from being aware
that there was yet another side to this gorgeous picture. He did not know that the noble qualities of his heroes, even the most faultless
, were often stained by cruelty, oppression and tyranny. That they were, like other men, capable of the mean passions of avarice, envy, and revenge. He did not know that the glittering ranks of war were formed of a mass of hirelings, whom servitude and the severities of discipline had degraded to the rank of machines, who took no pride in the cause for which they fought, or were even ignorant that there was one. He did not reflect, that although a battle was a stirring and interesting theme of contemplation as a scene of activity, bustle, and grandeur, yet that it was, on the other hand, a horrid and degrading spectacle when the attention is directed to its victims, the subjects of inhuinan and wanton butchery,maimed, wounded or dashed in pieces by every discharge of the artillery, trampled under foot at every charge of horse, and transfixed with the bayonet by the remorseless hands of fellow men.'—Pp. 12, 13.
His father endeavours very gently to change his feelings in relation to a soldier's life. Charles yields so far only as to resolve that he will be a good soldier-such as Washington was.
One day, after he had formed this resolution, a miserably ragged and maimed old soldier hobbles by his father's door, and solicits his charity. Charles has him fed ; and gives him money ; but this only furnishes him with the means of intoxication, and before the fit is over, he steals from Mr. Ashton. He is however detected and brought before Mr. Ashton who releases him after he has told his story. Jamie's story is a common one--but well told; with occasional touches of eloquence and pathos. He had been prevailed upon to enlist in order to screen himself from punishment, which he supposed he had incurred by wounding a recruiting serjeant. Some of the descriptions in this story are very powerlul.
The following scene is described as taking place at the storming of a town.
"“ Among the rest, a party, of which I was one, attempted to enter a large and rich house, which seemed to promise an abundant booty. We were opposed in a determined manner.
Every sort of means of defence was resorted to; furniture, stones, tiles, boiling water, and a thousand other articles of every kind were showered upon our beads. Many of our number were killed, or desperately wounded. We became almost frantic with rage, and swore that not a soul should escape with their lives. Foiled in all our attempts to enter, we determined to set fire to the building, and having completely surrounded it, it was lighted in several places, and was soon in a blaze. The inhabitants, perceiving their impending destruction, now implored for mercy. The doors were thrown open, and, to our astonishment, we perceived that we had been thus worsted by a band of females, headed by an old man. This sight served only to aggravate our wrath. They were either cut down as they rushed out, or driven back with shouts and curses into the blazing ruins. Their shrieks mingled with the hissing of the fire, and the crackling and tumbling of the beams as they fell one after another. All seemed to have perished; but at last one more female form was seen standing at the entrance of the portico, which was on fire over her head, and stretching out her arms to implore assistance and mercy.
6" She is the last one, save her,” cried some among us. “ Throw her into the fire,” cried others; “ let her die with the rest of them."
""I was perfectly drunk with liquor and with rage. I heard the vociferated cries, and rushed forward through the crowd, with the intention of executing the last horrible threat of my companions. God disappointed me in my hellish attempt. I had already reached the upper step of the flight that led into the house, and seized her in my arms to hurl her back into the flames, when the pillars began to give way around me, and the timbers from the roof came crashing down about my head. I thought myself lost, and a moment more would have decided my destruction. But still holding my prize in my arms, I made an effort to reach the stairs, which I had ascended, and had just gained them, when a blow from a falling beam laid me prostrate. Fortunately its force sent us rolling down the descent, or we should have been crushed by the ruin which immediately followed. As it was, I was stunned by the fall.'”—PP. 44-46.
He and the female are rescued from the flames and he is richły rewarded on the supposition that he had exposed his life to save hers.
666 In a few years my money was gone, and I was left to shift for myself. The habits of drinking and gambling had got so fast hold of me, that I could not leave them off, and between the two, I soon became a beggar, as you see me. I am now an old man, and bare lived these twenty years this wandering, vagabond life. I went once to my native village, but nobody knew me, and I was ashamed that any body should. I found that my father and mother were both dead, my brothers and sisters grown up, married, and established in life. Fanny I saw, a lovely matron, with a family of smiling children about her. And like my brothers, I thought to myself, I might have been, had I not, in an evil hour, become a soldier. She might hare been my wife, and her children my children, had it not been for war. Ilonged to disclose myself to them all, and should have done so, had I been any thing betier than I was; but I did not care to be a shame and disgrace to people I loved so well in spite of my wickedness, and so I wandered away never to see them again. I am weary of life, and yet afraid to die. I wish death to have past, but fear to have it come; and yet, come when it may, it will never find me any better-I must die in my sins ; they have so fast a hold of