Page images

me, I resolved to descend, myself, to the cornice, and see if I could effect it. This I did, but with so much danger, that without a sort of miracle, I could not have escaped with my life. Holding my spontoon, I let myself down gently to the cornice by the side of the ladder. I lay upon my breast and rested the ends of my feet upon the side of the marble gutter. In this position I had strength enough to raise the ladder half a foot, and, pushing it forward, I had the satisfaction to see it enter the window to the length of a foot. This considerably diminished the weight. I had now only to push it in two feet more by raising it to that height, and I was certain that it would enter. In order to effect this, I attempted to rise upon my knees, but the effort which I made to do this made me slip, and I found my lower extremities thrown over the edge of the roof, upon which I now supported myself upon my elbows and breast.

"At the recollection of that moment I still shudder, and it would be impossible to describe it in all its horrors. The natural instinct of self-preservation made me instantaneously use all the strength I had in my arms and body to stop my descent, and I hardly know by what miracle it was that I succeeded. I had nothing to fear as to the ladder, for in the unfortunate effort which I had just made, I had pushed it in three feet, and thus rendered it immoveable. I now perceived that if I could raise my right leg, so as to place the knee upon the gutter, and then the other in the same way, I should be out of danger; but I had not yet reached the end of my troubles. The effort that I made to raise my leg occasioned such a violent muscular contraction that it brought on a cramp, which deprived me for a moment of the use of the limb. I retained my selfpossession, and having often experienced that the best remedy for an accidental cramp is to remain entirely motionless, I applied it in the present instance. What a fearful interval! In about two minutes I renewed my attempt, and gradually placed myself on both knees upon the gutter. When I had taken breath I carefully raised the ladder to the proper height, and then returning to the window with the help of my spontoon in the same way in which I first ascended the roof, I pushed it in to the full length. My companion received the end of it in his arms, and, after throwing down the rope and our parcels, I descended myself without any difficulty. We then proceeded to reconnoitre our position.

"At one end of the room we found a large door composed of iron bars. This was no very good sign, but when I placed my hand on a latch in the middle it yielded and the door opened. We then made the tour of the next room, and crossing it encountered a table and some chairs. We also found some windows and opened one of them, from which we could see nothing but domes and perpendicular walls. Not knowing where we were, I could not think of letting myself down outside, and having closed the window again, we returned to the place where we had left our parcels. Being now completely exhausted, I threw myself upon the floor, and placing a parcel of ropes under my head, fell asleep. Had death itself been the immediate consequence I could not have held out longer. I slept about three hours and a half, when the monk roused me, but with difficulty. He could not conceive how I could sleep in the situation in which we were. This was, however, not at all surprising. For the two days preceding, my agitation had prevented me from taking either food

or rest, and the efforts which I had just made were enough of themselves to exhaust the strength of any man. Sleep, however, recruited me entirely, and I found on waking, that we had now light enough to proceed with assurance.

"As soon as I had cast my eyes around, I said to the monk that this room was no part of the prisons and that we could easily make our escape. We took the direction opposite to the iron door and found another. I felt about it till I put my finger upon the key-hole, and introducing the end of my spontoon, I soon opened the door. This conducted us into another chamber out of which we passed through another door that was not locked, into a gallery covered with pigeon-holes filled with papers. These were the public archives. At the end of this gallery we found a little stone staircase, which we descended, and then a second, at the bottom of which a glass door opened into the ducal chancery. I opened one of the windows of this room and might easily have let myself down, but not knowing where I should fall, I did not like to take the risk. I went to the door of the chancery and attempted to unlock it with the point of my spontoon, but finding this impossible I proceeded to cut an opening through it with that instrument. The monk, who aided me as well as he could, was alarmed at the noise I made, which might have been heard at a considerable distance. I felt the danger myself, but it was inevitable.

In half an hour I had made an opening which was sufficiently large, and it was well that it was, for it could not have been made larger without the aid of a saw. It was rather a difficult and painful business to get through, for the sides of the hole were filled with sharp points that tore both clothes and flesh. We succeeded however, though not without several severe wounds. When I had got through, I collected our parcels, and descending two staircases, opened, without much trouble, the door which leads into the principal passage from the exterior of the building. The outer door which closes this entrance was locked, and I saw at once, that I could not think of forcing it. I therefore sat down quietly and resigned myself to my fate, advising the monk to do the same. My work is done,' said I. • It remains for Providence or fortune to do the rest. I know not whether the domestics will come here to sweep to-day or to-morrow, both being great festivals. If any one comes I shall make my escape as soon as I see the door open; if not, I shall stay here, and if I die with hunger, so much the worse.' The monk was furious; he called me madman, deceiver, and liar, but I paid no attention to him. At this time the clock struck six, and I found that one hour had passed since I awoke in the garret.

"I now proceeded to change my clothes, and with my laced hat and rich dress must have had at this time of day and under the circumstances, very much the appearance of a rake who had been carried in a drunken frolic to the watch-house. In this costume I went to a window and was seen there by some of the idlers in the court, who went and gave notice to the porter. I regretted, on reflection, that I had gone to the window, from a fear that I might have betrayed myself, but the effect proved to be good. The porter, hearing that a gentleman in full dress was seen at the window, supposed that he had accidently locked in somebody the night before, and came to open the outer door. I was seated near the monk, listening to his stupid abuse, when the rattling of the keys struck my ears. I rose immediately,

[ocr errors]

and looking through a crevice, I saw a single man with a wig on and without a hat, who was slowly mounting the steps, with a large bunch of keys in his hand. I told the monk in a very serious tone not to open his mouth, and to follow me. I held the spontoon in my right hand, under my coat, and placed myself near the door, in such a position that I could go out as soon as it should open. I devoutly prayed that the porter might not attempt to stop me, for if he had I was determined to despatch him.

"At length the door opened. On seeing me the porter stood aghast, but without stopping to explain the matter, I sprang out at once, followed by the monk. Without appearing to run, but walking as fast as I could, I went down the magnificent steps called the giant's stair, and proce e ed directly to the royal gate of the palace, and thence across the square to he quay. My object was to escape as soon as possible from the territory of the Most Serene Republic, and going on board the first gondola I saw, I gave directions to the boatman to row me to Fusina."

After clearing the palace, our author found but little difficulty in effecting his escape, although he was placed once or twice in rather a hazardous position, by his own imprudence and that of his comrade. He succeeded, not without some trouble, in ridding himself of this personage, and being still in the Venetian territory, he threw himself, alone and on foot, into some of the by-roads, in order to avoid observation. Being entirely exhausted, as night drew on, he sought hospitality in the nearest house, which proved, singularly enough, to be that of one of the principal police-officers, who with his whole suite were actually out at the time in pursuit of the fugitive. A good night's rest restored his strength, and in two or three days more he found himself in safety beyond the limits of the jurisdiction of the Most Serene Republic. He then repaired to Paris, where he was well received by Cardinal de Bernis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom he had known as Ambassador at Venice, and who procured him an appointment under government.'

We shall not pursue any further the detail of our author's adventures, which are in general of a wholly private character, and possessing no value, whether political or otherwise.

ART. XI.-The Life and Reign of William the Fourth. By the Rev. G. N. WRIGHT, M. A. 2 Vols. London: Fisher and Son.


We really did not expect that a life of our late Monarch upon a scale equal to the present, and published so soon after his decease could have possessed half the value which Mr. Wright has thrown. into these volumes. So much has been said and repeated within these few months or weeks concerning William the Fourth in newspapers and other publications, that we anticipated any two volumes devoted to the subject at this early date would be dull and heavy. But the contrary is the case, for if we may judge from the fact of

ourselves being carried forward from the first page to the last without langour or fatigue, the work is deserving both of the passing and the future consideration of the public, not merely as containing the biography of a prominent individual, but a summary of great historical events during nearly three-fourths of a century. Into this space of time an extraordinary amount of wonderful events was crowded and developed, with which Great Britain has been identified, while the chief family of the nation was remarkably numerous, illustrious, and widely connected in a variety of relationships; so that a plentiful harvest of materials was ready for our author's choice, of which he has aptly and for the most part felicitously taken advantage, weaving them with grace into a narrative that naturally circles round the life of our late sovereign. In such a record, personal and family anecdotes are to be expected, which, indeed, largely abound in these volumes; most of them, we believe, being authentic, or, at least, bearing the marks of authenticity. These are also, for the most part creditable to the personage who is the hero of the work; for although the author leans to the side of panegyric, it is not at the expense of truth, but rather in the exercise of a becoming charitableness of feeling and construction.

Of course there is in the work a great deal which is familiar to all; but there is also so much that has not hitherto been told, or been generally forgotten, or that can never become stale, that the reader must be instructed and entertained whatever be the portion of it which he peruses. The life of no human being if judiciously handled in narrative can be devoid of interest, or incapable of yielding useful lessons. That of William the Fourth, even among kings, we are inclined to regard, as possessed of several special attractions. Not that he was remarkable either for his talents or exploits, but because there was such an admixture of virtue and vice, of wisdom and folly in his history, as to render him a valuable example for the generality of mankind both as a beacon to avoid, and a model to copy. But without farther preamble, we proceed to lay before our readers a few passages, illustrative of the character in question, or that of some of his kindred, and also of contemporaneous history.

In reference to the month in which William the Fourth was born, viz. the 21st August, 1765, between the hours of three and four in the morning, our biographer says,

"Superstitious observers of hours, days, and years may remark, that the first three children of their Majesties were born in August, a month which had proved particularly auspicious to the House of Brunswick. On the first of August, 1714, corresponding with the twelfth of the new style, the death of the last sovereign of the family of Stuart, Queen Anne, gave George the First peaceable possession of the throne, On the 11th of August, 1737, Augusta, the eldest child of Frederick, Prince of Wales, was born; on the

1st of August, her husband, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, obtained the glorious victory of Minden over the French; in the same month were born Frederick, King of Bohemia, and his heroic consort Elizabeth, only daughter of James the First, from whom the present royal family are descended. And, lastly, Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV., was born in the month so propitious to the royal house."

There are several anecdotes introduced by our author in the early part of his work, concerning the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest child of George II., and who died soon after the birth of our late king. The duke was born in England, and we are told that one day, when not more than eleven years of age, as he accompanied his father to a review, an officer, as the royal party passed along the line, happened to exclaim, "What a charming boy!" To which the young prince replied, having mistaken the word" charming" for "German," "Gentlemen, you are wrong, I am not a German boy; I'm an English boy, and I beg you will never call me so any more."

Here is another anecdote of this military duke, that is not less indicative of considerate benevolence than the former was of his gallant spirit.

"When at the head of the army in Germany, he was particularly struck with the ability and valour displayed by a sergeant belonging to his own regiment. Having often noticed the gallantry, and made inquiries into the private character of the man, his Royal Highness took occasion, on an exploit performed by him, to give him a lieutenancy. Some time afterwards, this person, so favoured, entreated his royal patron to take back the commission, and restore him to his former station. Surprised at so extraordinary a request, the Duke demanded the reason; and was told by the applicant, that he was now separated from his old companions by his elevation, and could not gain admittance into the society of his brother officers, who considered themselves as degraded by his appointment. Oh ! is that the case?' said the Prince, let the matter rest, and I will soon find a way to give you satisfaction.'


"The next morning his Royal Highness went on the parade, where he was received by a circle of officers. While in conversation, he perceived the lieutenant walking by himself. On this, the Duke said, Pray, gentlemen, what has that officer done, that he should be drummed out of your councils?' Without deigning to wait for an answer, he went up, took the lieutenant by the arm, and in that posture of familiarity walked up and down the lines, followed with all humility by the whole staff, much to their own mortification, and the amusement of the privates. When the parade was over, Lord Ligonier respectfully requested that his Royal Highness would honour the mess with his presence that day. With all my heart,' replied the Duke, provided I bring my friend here with me.' His lordship bowed and said, 'I hope so.' After this no one presumed to treat the Duke's friend with contempt, but, on the contrary, all seemed eager to seek his acquaintance. He rose to the rank of a general; and, with more


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »