« PrécédentContinuer »
In scandal and indecency he has gone far beyond his predecessor, but without his good humour, without his knack of writing, and without even that very minor accomplishment, a knowledge of the art of compilation. Note is heaped upon note, like Pelion upon Ossa, and a more clumsy and unworkmanlike performance than is produced by such a process we have seldom witnessed.
We could however forgive this want of method, if there were no more serious cause for reprehension. The book, in its present state, is too gross for perusal, and the author ought to have known, though the prurient descriptions and indelicacies with wbich it abounds might be less offensive in a foreign tongue, they would by no means bear translation into ours. We
in a foreign tongue; for, in spite of the strenuous disavowal in the Preface, the whole iş little better than a compilation, and the Danish Manuscript found on board the Dapper,' and the Swedish Manuscript, written by a person belonging to the Household of the King,' are equally to be relied upon as authentic documents.
During a residence of some months in Sweden, Mr. Brown contrived to scrape together a variety of tales, (whether true or false it mattered not, provided they were tales,) relating to the histories of Sweden and Denmark during the late reigns; and these imperfect memorials he has eked out by copious extracts from every work which has been published for the last century, from the Annual Register to Sir John Carr, and above all, by a frequent recurrence to Ristel's Characters and Anecdotes of the Court of Sweden.'
What circumstance originally led Mr. Brown to Sweden does not appear, though he speaks of it as ' a secure and agreeable asylum in the hour of persecution. Without inquiring into particulars, therefore, we shall proceed at once to the most prominent feature of his history, and the origin, we presume, of his book. In the beginning of 1808, a revolution of some kind, that should take the reins of government from the feeble hands of Gustavus IV., was amditted to be mdispensable by all parties in Sweden. Independently of those who favoured the French or Russian faction, a new class had sprung up since the accession of Gustavus I. who owed their importance to commercial pursuits, and were altogether unrepresented in the estates of the kingdom: and the principal persons of this third party were the chief actors on the present occasion.
The causes which led to the unhappy state of things we are now about to describe, have been already explained in our Sixteenth Number; it will be sufficient therefore to mention, that something rotten evidently appearing in the state of Sweden, it was resolved to send to England for assistance, and to endeavour to transplant on Swedish soil some of the benefits of the English constitution. • The author of these pages was the person selected to introduce the subject by letter to the British cabinet. He was already personally known to Mr. Spencer Perceval, with whom he had had much intercourse relative to the forgery in Great Britain, and by British subjects, of American ship's papers and seamen's certificates; and more especially respecting the absurd and ruinous order in council, which Mr. Brown éver considered and treated as more likely to strike at the root of our manufactures, than seriously to distress the foe. On these subjects Mr. Spencer Perceval more than once conferred the honour of asking his opinion, and the almost matchless suavity of manners by which that minister was distinguished, induced Mr. Brown, on the 15th April, 1808, to address the overture in question to that gentleman.' After some previous correspondence, Mr. Perceval officially agreed to receive Mr. Brown'as an accredited agent from the constitutional party in Sweden.'
These were critical times for Sweden! Mr. Brown, on the one hand, dispatched to England to offer, as he tells us afterwards, the reversion of the Swedish crown to the Duke of Gloucester; and a confidential person at the same moment sent to France, “ to ascertain whether, in case of the dethronement of Gustavus, Buonaparte would permit the people of Sweden to form an independent government. The answer which arrived first, if favourable, was to be immediately accepted. The aukward dilemma of two kings in real life smelling to one nosegay was however happily avoided by the laconic manner in which the overture made to Napoleon was received. The application comes too late,' says he ; 'niy word is pledged to the Crown Prince of Denmark, and to the Emperor of Russia. • The reply,' observes Mr. Brown,' was short and pithy,' and this comprizes the whole of his observation upon it; while the failure (as might be expected) of his negociations with the British government leads him to inveigh at great length against the affected delicacy' of Messrs. Perceval and Canning, as he professionally calls them, and to tax the former with placing an insuperable bar in the way of any definite arrangement—by having, with a degree of feeling strongly contrasted with the conduct of Buonaparte, refused to treat with Mr. Brown, until it was fully ascertained that any attempt against the life of Gustavus formed no part of the plot.
This, as far as we know, was Mr. Brown's first exploit in the diplomatic line, and we hope, for the sake of others, that it will be the last; for though the contemptuous tone in which he speaks of all kingly government, the distempered sensibility with which he sobs over the fall of Buonaparte, and sundry other never-failing symptoms, clearly point out the enlightened class of politicians to which he belongs; we should not have been enabled so decidedly to proclaim his total unfitness for the task upon which he was employed, had he not taken the trouble of informing us that he is an advocate for what he is pleased to call the pristine, purity' of the
House of Commons, as faithfully depicted by the lively and learned pencil of the venerable Major Cartwright.-We bear no ill will to Mr. Brown, and are willing therefore to hope that his gloomy anticipations of the ruin inipending over this ill-fated country may have a due effect on his future conduct, and induce him to consult his personal safety, by timely seeking a permanent abode elsewhere.
The antipathy shewn by the unfortunate Gustavus towards Buonaparte (which, however impolitic it might be in a king of Sweden openly to profess, ought not to prejudice him in the eyes of an Englishman) has injured him irreparably in the eyes of Mr. Brown. His aversion too was the less accountable, because Buonaparte, according to our author's view of the matter, always seemed desirous of sparing this monarch, and even offered an increase of territory as the recompense of his remaining at peace.' In other words, it was of importance to this merciful conqueror that Sweden should not appear in the lists against him, and he would therefore have been glad to purchase her neutrality.
Nothing could be more wild and untractable than the conduct of Gustavus in all his dealings with the allied powers : he was beyond doubt physically unfit to play the great part which he had the ambition to attempt, but he was a high-minded and honourable gentleman, sincerely anxious for the welfare of Sweden, and jealous of her national fame; we cannot bring ourselves therefore to attach any credit to the statement made by Mr. Brown, that he seized a subsidy from this country in its way to Russia,' or that, during the time he was engaged with his army in Germany, he offered to sell to the Emperor Alexander, for seven millions of dollars, the whole of the territory which remained to Sweden of the German conquests made by the Great Gustavus. Whatever might be his errors and follies, (and they were manifold,) and however just his compulsory abdication, the circumstances of his fall have, in our opinion, fully expiated them, and ought to have secured him from such calumnies as those we have noticed. His career was vot sanguinary and remorseless, like that of Buonaparte, or perhaps the sensibilities of Mr. Brown might have been called forth in his favour; and it is amusing to observe that the introduction of the conscription, which was one of the most grievous charges against Gustavus, has been followed up by the present king without, as far as we know, any remonstrance or opposition.
That we may not be accused of enlisting Mr. Brown among the admirers of Buonaparte on slight grounds, we present our readers with the following passage.
The short-sighted policy adopted in 1807 by Napoleon Buonaparte towards the Bourbons of Spain has, in some degree, given a colouring of retributive justice to his present isolated and melancholy state.lt is however an act as little to be justified as that with which his enemies reproach the ex-emperor. Catherine, with provocations equal to the gaolers of Buonaparte, with political temptations as strong as those which seduced the latter, wisely abstained from confining or murthering her royal guests, although the crime might have thrown all Sweden into her hands. There is not in all Europe, at the present day, a single monarch who might not, five years back, as reasonably have anticipated the dreadful banishment inflicted on the great conqueror of Europe, as that it should ever be his fate. The example sets aside the finest qualities of the human mind; oppresses the fallen, and violates the law of honour and of nations ; as a precedent it is highly dangerous; and some of those princes by whom it has been adopted, or their descendants, may as bitterly rue the shortsighted policy that led to the incarceration of Buonaparte, as that great man certainly must have regretted his treatment of the Bourbons of Spain. Great moral principles are seldom, if ever, violated with impunity.'
Setting aside its want of grammar, this is fully equal to any thing in Mr. Hobhouse or Sir Robert Wilson! It does not however strike us that the laws of hospitality and nations were as much violated by the confinement of Buonaparte, as they would have been by the detention or murder of Gustavus the Fourth and the Duke of Sudermania, (the royal guests alluded to ;) nor have we heard that this great man,' as he is called, ever testified any very vehement symptoms of regret for his treatment of the Bourbons, or of any one else, after having injured and oppressed them; but Mr. Brown says he must have done so, and though this is not a very logical mode of argument, it certainly is one not easily disputed.
The notes of this work are so contrived as to present, as it were, the concentrated essence of Mr. Brown's opinions upon several momentous questions. There is a very choice one on the Copenhagen expedition, in which the severe blow which the author's feelings suffered by so wanton an aggression' is very pathetically depicted. The Swedes too, by his account, were equally shocked, though they blamed us for not retaining possession of Zealand. Now without looking farther than to the enmity which prevails between the two countries, we beg leave to doubt the former part of this statement, though we can well imagine there were a few old crab trees' at Stockholm who bėwailed the transaction, as some of ours did at home. That the king was hearty in our cause also was a sufficient reason with many to conspire against it-and that he was so there can be no question, in spite of Mr. Brown's insinuations respecting his distrust of the intentions of Great Britain,) or he would not have exposed himself, as he did, to the risk of invasion both by the Russians and Danes. This fidelity on his part however was not lost sight of by the
British government. With a degree of good faith and alacrity which merits the warmest commendation, such succours as could be spared were sent out, under the command of Sir John Moore, to our tottering ally in his utınost need; and they (as is well known) might have proved of essential service, had not his strange conduct entirely frustrated the scheme. The whole of this transaction, however, is unnoticed by Mr. Brown, and the name of Sir John Moore is not even mentioned in the book.
The greater part of the first volume is taken up with details of the Danish court and the unhappy queen Matilda ; they have been already touched upon by every traveller who has visited Copenhagen since her melancholy catastrophe, and have formed the outline of more than one romance. When he crosses the water Mr. Brown, if not more original, becomes at least more amusing, and though the character of Gustavus the Third has been often drawn more ably, and always with more decency of language, it certainly forms the best part of the book. We doubt indeed whether this profligate although able monarch would have received such severe measure at Mr. Brown's hands, had he not, with many very good men, had the misfortune to differ from his present biographer on the merits of the French revolution. In the opening of that portentous event, the sentiments of the people of Sweden, as might be expected, were much at variance with those of their sovereign. It was in vain,' says Mr. Brown, that knowing his subjects to be a religious race, the king denounced the French to them as a pation of atheists;'(by what term could they have been more fitly denominated?) the infection had spread too far, the cause of freedom had become too popular, and there cannot be a more damning proof of the dangerous nature of the doctrines which were afloat, and of the tendency of the new light which has such beauty in the eyes of Mr. Brown, than the statement which he subjoins as the opinion of several officers of long standing and great experience in the Swedish service,' that · if the king had not been cut off by Aukarstrom, the very army he was assembling with the view of invading France, in Normandy, and marching direct on Paris, would have hoisted the standard of revolt and destroyed the monarch whom once they adored.'
This has been asserted before, and we do not doubt the factwe are only surprised at the author's perversion of intellect in blaming Gustavus for endeavouring to oppose some barriers to a torrent which had already shaken the very foundations of his throne. The Swedish army however was saved, by the desperate resentment of Ankarstrom, from the eternal disgrace which would have fallen upon them had this black act of treachery been consummated. On the 16th March, 1792, the king was mortally wounded in the