« PreviousContinue »
The glare which scorches vegetation, and flings barrenness abroad, exalts mud and ordure into life, expands the reptile into the mounting insect of the day, gives him wings to fly, invests him with a gaudy coat, till, in his turn, he sinks beneath that glory from which he der ed his existence.
That state, on the contrary, where the progress from obscurity is slow and laborious,-where the imagination is not amused with the vicissitudes of sudden rises and sudden falls,-where the subordination of ranks is most strictly preserved, is like those regions which, enjoying a mild sky and temperate suns, exhibit the refreshing spectacle of greenness and fertility, but can boast neither of the magnificence of storms nor the splendour of
I shall just notice some of the books from which I collected the history which follows.
I received from Spain a translation of a Life of Ripperda which appeared in Holland, plentifully interspersed with notes, tending to correct the errors of the original. The translator seems to be a man of good judgment and industrious research. The name of Mr. le Margne in the title-page is, I am informed, fictitious. His real name was
Don Salvador Maner, which is to be found in the privilege prefixed. Why he made use of a fictitious name, when his real one meets the eye a page or two after, I have not been able to discover; but under one or the other, I believe he is equally a stranger to the English reader. For this reason, when I have occasion to refer to him in the course of the work, I mention him generally as the Spanish author.
I am indebted to him for several curious particulars; and I have availed myself of many of his corrections in the original Life of Ripperda.
I have however preferred the original to part of his narrative of Ripperda's African transactions.
His supposition, that Ripperda went to Barbary merely for the purpose of security and retirement, is nowise probable.
Lord Harrington's correspondence attests the smarting resentment with which he was agitated at his fall.
The constant warfare carried on by the States of Barbary against Spain, points out that views of revenge carried him thither. This is perfectly agreeable to the rest of his character.
He could not accomplish any of these views without renouncing his religion. That he did so, was the prevailing opinion at the time. The edict of the King of Spain, taking away his dignities and titles, speaks of his "crimen tan feo," which may be supposed to refer to something more than merely his residing in Barbary.
We shall not be disposed to think, with the Spanish author, that a man who had twice renounced his religion, would sacrifice ambition, which had been the passion of his life, and the thirst of vengeance, to his religious scruples, at least, whilst his health was tolerably good, and death seemed at a distance.
There is an evident disposition in the Spanish author to soften Ripperda's conduct as much as possible to the Spanish nation, with much too favourable an opinion of the general complexion of his character.
Though, however, I have preferred the original Life in these two circumstances,-the views which carried him to Barbary and the religion he professed there; I have followed the translator in other particulars.
Lord Harrington's correspondence, which forms
a part of the very curious and valuable correspondence published by Mr. Coxe, and l'Abbé Montgon's Mémoires, furnish as good materials as could be desired for the history of Ripperda's ministry.
Gibbon, in the journal of his readings, gives a character of Montgon's Mémoires. They are, as he says, prolix and tedious enough in all conscience: but he happened to be at Madrid during the time of Ripperda's power, on a secret political mission in the service of the Duke of Bourbon, and had good opportunities of knowing the whole truth. This mission was not very pleasing to Cardinal Fleury, who disappointed all his ambitious speculations, and reduced him to the necessity of abandoning France. The pains he takes to disguise his ambitious speculations are curious. The motive he assigns for the undertaking his Spanish journey, to edify himself by contemplating King Philip in his retirement of St. Ildephonso, coupled with the circumstance, that in reality he did not set out till after he knew Philip had re-ascended the throne, exposes him to the derision of the reader.
The Spanish author has supplied me, too, with
some circumstances relating to the early part of Alberoni's residence in Spain. The Mémoires of the Duke de St. Simon and of Duclos frequently speak of him. The latter appear to me written with more of solid sense and sober judgment than are commonly met with in French authors.
The Mémoires of the Marquis de St. Philippe contain the bulky facts in Alberoni's public transactions, heavily delivered, and with little critical discernment, but with much appearance of patient and accurate investigation.
In relating the plot or conspiracy of Cellamare, the Mémoires of Mademoiselle Launay, afterwards Madame de Staël, assisted me. They are lively and entertaining. She was in the service of the Duchess de Maine, and entrusted with her secrets. A certain Chevalier, Menil, who was confined with her in the Bastile, and amused himself during the confinement in writing sentimental letters to her, for whom she conceived a violent passion, to which he made no return after he got his liberty, and of whom she speaks incessantly, appears indeed to have been an insipid kind of a personage. The good woman was certainly unreasonable to expect any one should fall in love