« AnteriorContinuar »
not feel equally inclined to bestow honor on contemporary greatness. Ingratitude, or voluntary blindnes in respect of it, is the cominon rule. Mill ions of Germans, no doubt, continued to profess sincere and grateful admiration for Bismarck; but these men, mostly of a quiet, contented, conservative turn. of mind, who had been slow to trust him, but now stood firmly by him, did not, as a rule, make themselves heard ; whereas the opposition, encouraged by their success with the disinherited of the nation," became daily louder and more aggressive. Political content generally keeps quiet, whereas the essence of opposition is to be noisy. In the press, as well as in Parliament, it soon became the fashion to direct violent attacks against the Chancellor; and many politicians of no personal value, and who had never done anything for their country's good, obtained by degrees a certain political position merely as the opponents of Bismarck, and were noticed because they moved in the luminous circle which surrounded him. These politicians never proposed anything; they were either too timid or too obscure for that. What they might have liked to propose they dared not openly avow, or perhaps they had nothing to avow or to propose. But it required neither great intellect nor great boldness to say "No" to every proposal emanating from the Chancellor, and to prove that those proposals, like every human project, had their faults. Among the opponents of Bismarck there were, no doubt, good and thoroughly honest men who really considered it their duty to stand up against him; but there were many others who had discovered that "opposition" might be made a profitable business, raising those who carried it on cleverly, to wealth and reputation. Some of this latter class of men were, moreover, low-bred and illmannered; and to such faults Bismarck is sensitively alive and specially intoler
He had no right to expect that everything he proposed would pass without opposition, and his clear mind could not ignore the fact that discussion is the very soul of constitutionalism; but every German owed him respect and gratitude for what he had actually
achieved, and no German ought to have opposed him otherwise than most respectfully. This has not been the case. Men have been found, who, apparently, have thought it very fine to contradict and criticise the Chancellor roughly, so as to goad him into impatience and bitterness; while many others have applauded such meanness, and enjoyed the spectacle of Bismarck's wrath.
It was probably about this time that certain sharp sayings of the Chancellor's about newspaper writers and public speakers as agitators became generally known; but it should be remembered that most of those sayings date from the very time when Bismarck was most popular, and were founded on deeply rooted convictions and opinions, instead of being, as is supposed, the outcome of irritation and ill-humor.
Prince Bismarck is thoroughly monarchical. Loyalty to the sovereign is considered by him not only as a cardinal virtue, but as the first of all political virtues in a man in his position. He has frequently prided himself on being a faithful "vassal" to his king. To him this is a question of personal honor. He could be on the very best terms with a foreign republican: for M. Thiers, for instance, he professed sincere sympathy-and he still honors the memory of that statesman, whose warm, selfish, and, at the same time, prudent patriotism, was congenial to him; but toward a German who, judged by his standard, fails in loyalty to his sovereign, his feelings are those of contempt or pity. He is so sincerely convinced that Germany's greatness and power are bound up with the greatness and power of the monarchy, that he considers any attack on the sovereign's rights, dignity, or privileges, as treason against Germany. against Germany. If a German makes it, he becomes Bismarck's personal enemy; for he considers him as one who has either no judgment or no patriotism, and who, at all events, commits a bad action. The majority of Germans are certainly monarchical; but there are many discontented people in Germany -as everywhere else and discontented people, of course, wish for change, and willingly listen to those who propose it. To propose changes of all kinds is the chief business of a chief business of a certain class of
obscure irresponsible newspaper writers, who daily proffer advice which, if followed, would gradually diminish the rights and privileges of the sovereign, and lead Germany to republicanism. The same writers who propose these anti-monarchical reforms are naturally those who most violently attack the Chancellor as the chief champion of royalty; but if Bismarck treats such men with bitter contempt, it is because he sees them undermining monarchism, which he considers the key-stone of Germany's greatness. Prince Bismarck knows a good deal about the power of the press, and appreciates it fully, but he thoroughly hates those who make a bad use of it. The abuse of such power is easy for he who wields it can, if he so wishes, with a little cleverness and discretion remain anonymous. There are little men, gifted with that facility of style so much appreciated by newspaper editors, who would scarcely dare to lift their eyes in the presence of that great Chancellor, and who nevertheless daily inform their readers-and some of them have a great many readers-that Away with Bismarck !" should be the cry of every true German. Away with Bismarck!" will become a fact one day, for one day he will be gone; but for the sake of Germany and for the peace of Europe, it is to be hoped that day is far off; for Bismarck at the head of German affairs means nothing less than the perfect security of Germany. His prestige is such that, as long as he directs the political destinies of Germany, one may safely assert that no foreign Power will seriously think of attacking or injuring her. And it is quite as certain that the hopes of the enemies of Germany rest chiefly on the fact that one day the wish of those newspaper writers will be realized, and Bismarck will be away. Have the Germans who join in that cry reflected what care and sorrow may ensue ? Germany's power will not be lost on that day. To say so would be to cast unjust doubts on her national greatness, the tenacity, valor, and patriotism of her citizens: but the feeling of perfect security which Germany now enjoys will assuredly be gone, and then perhaps the immense advantage of the present immunity from fear will be apNEW SERIES.-VOL. XL., No. 4
preciated. Nothing, in my opinion, proves more strikingly the greatness of Bismarck than the fact that he actually personifies the "Watch on the Rhine' of the popular German song, and that Germany feels she is safe so long as Bismarck stands in arms and keeps watch.
I have sometimes wondered what sum France, for instance, would be ready to pay, and justified in paying, to secure the services of a Bismarck. These are idle speculations! Maybe; but Germans might do worse than to indulge in them: it would show them, at any rate, that they have in their leading statesman a priceless possession, which they would do well to keep carefully as long as possible.
Some of the foregoing remarks are also applicable to Bismarck's feeling toward parliamentary government, or rather, I should say, toward a certain class of members of Parliament. listens to a fine speech just as he reads a cleverly written or sensational leader, and neither makes great impression on him. In a word, he does not hold eloquence in high esteem. He is of opinion that in these days of parliamentary government every politician should be able to state clearly to an assembly the reason why a measure should be adopted or opposed; but he seems to think that there need be no art in such a speech: it should be a sober and clear report, appealing to the judgment, not to the feelings, of those who listen to it. Sentiment, according to Bismarck, is a superfluity and a danger in politics. No statesman should allow himself to be guided by it. Eloquence appeals chiefly to sentiment; its object is often to make people do something which their cooler and better judgment would reject, and to carry them away "almost against their will." A report, to be good, should be clear, accurate, and truthful. Now a masterpiece of eloquence may be inaccurate and deceitful,-may, in fact, be a lie. The lawyer who defends a prisoner whom he knows to be guilty, and who by his ability persuades the jury to pronounce an acquittal, may be a very great orator, but he is not sincere. Prince Bismarck does not esteem such a man; he considers him a dangerous being. A fine speech, judged
merely as a speech, may be a vile action. Bismarck, of whose sincerity as a patriotic German nobody can doubt, and whose best and most powerful speeches are simply sober, accurate, and sincere reports, appealing solely to the commonsense and the judgment of his audience, may well be of opinion that, in some cases where by their cleverness and eloquence his political opponents have been successful, they have acted as unscrupulously as the lawyer.
There is another point to be noted in connection with Bismarck's opinions on parliamentarianism: if you were to strip some of the most popular parliamentary leaders of their eloquence, or rather of their peculiar facility for talking fluently about every possible subject, you would often find that as political characters they are without any real value, and are, in fact, mere dilettanti. Now Prince Bismarck himself is a professional statesman, a practical man of business, and as such has a strong dislike to dilettanteism. He served a long apprenticeship before becoming a master; and as a master, knowing well all the secrets of his trade, he has but a poor opinion of amateur work, and strongly objects to statesmanship being considered, as it is by most people, as a kind of heavenly gift. It is evident that a man may be a first-rate scholar, a clever writer, a meritorious banker, and an eloquent speaker, and at the same time a very poor politician. To the account of some of Prince Bismarck's most influential opponents may be placed certain political blunders which no professional would have committed, and which ought to shake the confidence that they and their friends continue undauntedly to feel in their own wisdom. It is certain that the German Parliament contains a great many political dilettante, who nevertheless exercise considerable influence on parliamentary resolutions; and it is not surprising that Prince Bismarck, looking back on his own success as a statesman, and on the numerous shortcomings of his opponents, should show himself in no way inclined to acknowledge the superior wisdom of the opposition. Hence the open and violent hostility shown toward him by certain political leaders. They resent as a personal injury the fact that whatever
their scholarship, eloquence, or popularity may be, the Chancellor stands high above them on the eminence to which his intellect and character have raised him, and where public opinion not only in Germany but throughout Europe maintains him. Fame and history cannot take into account the mass of smaller men who, united, may succeed now and again, in turning the scale in their favor against the one great weighty man who stands alone opposed to them all. Fame and history record great actions and the names of the few great men who did them. Greatness consists in the power to will, to dare, and to do. There is no living man who equals the German Chancellor in power and tenacity of purpose and in fearless daring; and that he can do what he wills and dares, the history of his life, the contemporary history of Germany and of Europe, have shown. There are, doubtless, men of great ability to be found among Bismarck's political opponents; but not only as politicians, but even simply as men, none of them can be weighed against him. In all civilized countries you will find many other scholars, writers, orators, artists, and distinguished men of every description, to whom they can well be compared-you will not find a second Bismarck. He is a most extraordinary man and you must go back to the heroic type to find others belonging to the same grand species of humanity. In common with all members of the heroic family-so sparsely spread over the earth, but in whose deeds is written the history of the world, he possesses an inflexible will, dauntless courage, and that singular elevation of mental faculties which allows him to judge rightly the intentions of others while his own designs remain a secret for every one. Like the really great men of all times, he shows, moreover, a marvellous absence of vulgar egotism, an utter want of con sideration for his personal position, and a never-failing readiness to risk again and again all he has won for the furtherance of the impersonal objects of his life.
I have been led to speak of Bismarck as a resident in Berlin; but Bismarck is a general" subject, and has carried me far away from Berlin, the special
subject of this essay. I return to it, but merely to add a few closing words.
A few weeks ago, there was laid in Berlin the first stone of the building in which the Parliament of the United German Empire is to hold its sittings in future. At that ceremony three men were present on whom the attention of all was centred the Emperor William, the Chancellor Prince Bismarck, and General Field-Marshal Count Moltke the noblest representatives of Germany's unity, greatness, and power, embodying
German tenacity, German fearlessness, and German discipline and sense of duty; three rare men-a great Sovereign, a great Statesman, a great Soldier! As I looked at them, it suddenly struck me that Berlin did indeed possess something to be proud of; that a great sight was to be seen there; and that those poor people who come to Berlin and see nothing to admire, finding all things common, mean, and ugly, must themselves be very small.-Blackwood's Magazine.
FERNANDO MENDEZ PINTO.
BY P. R. HEAD.
"Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude !"-CONGREVE, Love for Love, Act 2, Scene 5.
So wrote Mistress Dorothy Osborne, in the year 1653 or 1654, to her accepted lover, Mr. (not yet Sir) William Temple, the perverseness of elder Osbornes keep ing a young gentleman of such uncertain prospects aloof as yet from his lady's side. But we are not at present concerned with Mistress Dorothy, consoling herself with romances and poetry and Pinto's travels in the absence of her lover; nor with the great Sir William in uncertain youth, with all the possibilities before him; nor yet with. Macaulay, king of reviewers, who, reading their letters when they were first printed by Mr. Courtenay in 1836, found them strong to touch a reviewer's heart, and fell in love with Dorothy a hundred and fifty years after she was dead and buried. For present purposes Dorothy is chiefly interesting to us because she was reading and enjoying Pinto's book in the old days when his fame was some two centuries fresher than it is now.
The book was much in the mouths of men in those times, but the author was rather hardly dealt with in the nature of the fame he acquired. Like the mythical Munchausen, Pinto's name became proverbial for a liar. We have seen him gibbeted by Congreve; Johnson has a similar reference to him somewhere; and Carlyle, in the "French Revolution," rackets him with Cagliostro as a foil to the superlative mendacity
Barrère. Tastes and fashions change, and it has become increasingly difficult since 1653 for young ladies, or any other type of that frivolous being known as the general reader, to get much diversion out of a closely printed folio. So Pinto's books ceased to be read, but his fame remained, and his reputation grew worse as there were ever fewer to expostulate on behalf of an author whom they found diverting. His fame has become extremely dim nowadays, whether for good or evil. Nobody cares now whether he lied or not, and few will have the curiosity to wade through his yellow pages and discover what he had to tell that gained him such an unenviable notoriety. Nevertheless there is much that is interesting in Pinto. His narrative, although often confused and often exaggerated, has the vivacity that comes of direct contact with the facts. He was no scientific observer, but an unlettered adventurer, and his
untruthfulness is of a kind that must not be confounded with the moral obliquity of deliberate deceit. Many of the marvels he recounts, indeed, incredible as they were to his contemporaries, have been confirmed by the reports of subsequent travellers. The rest are generally such as our scientific age has learnt to distinguish from intentional perversions of the truth. He expected to see wonders; he saw them, and they appeared to him very wonderful. Nor did they lose any of their strangeness from being viewed through the haze of crowded memories when the time came to sit at home and write them down. His book contains abundant evidence of ignorance, confusion, inaccuracy; here and there, the chronology is impossible; here and there he seems to mix up accounts which belong to different parts of the story. But there is nothing incompatible with a conscientious desire to tell the truth. We cannot accept his narrative as evidence of the highest class concerning the state of the countries he describes-not because he meant to give a misleading account, but because to give an exact account was beyond his powers. Such a writer is now judged from a new standpoint. In the seventeenth century he was read with avidity, and abused as a liar. Now that he has ceased to be reproached, he is neglected.
Pinto's Peregrination," as he called it, was first published at Lisbon in 1614, when, as will be seen, the author must have been dead some years. It speedily became popular. A Spanish translation was published at Madrid in 1620, a French one at Paris in 1628, an English one in London in 1653, and one into German (Hochteutsche," High German, not Dutch) at Amsterdam in 1671. There are many reprints, both of the original work and the several translations. Bibliographical Dibdin gives the date of the English translation, 1663; but bibliographical Dibdin is mistaken. The edition of 1663 was the second edition, and differs from the first only in some minute points of typography. Pinto had been introduced to the English reader as early as 1625, by Samuel Purchas, the industrious compiler of the five huge folios of Purchas his Pilgrimes"; an epitome
of the of the "Peregrination," with amusing marginal comments, forms part of the third volume..
Was Dorothy Osborne reading the French translation or the English in those days of true love not running smoothly? The French is a little more likely; but I prefer to think of her as musing over the pages, fragrant with the delightful fragrance of books fresh from the press, of the same edition which today exhales it venerable mustiness before me.
It is a volume in small folio,
not very thick, tolerably well printed, and introduced, after the fashion of the time, by a title-page as long as a moderate essay. On the title-page the translator is modestly veiled under initials; but he plucks up courage to sign his full name at the foot of his dedication, and reveals the identity of "H. C. Gent.' in the person of Henry Cogan. He supplies his author with an elaborate Apologetical Defence; for have there not been some who in regard of the stupendious things which he delivers, will seem to give no credit thereunto ?" Such incredulous persons shall be refuted by citations from many several authentick Authors," confirming Pinto's marvels, and shall doubt no more. Then he gives a very copious list of authorities, by book and chapter, making a really dazzling show of research. If only incredulity were banished from the world, and one could feel quite sure that Cogan did not get his authorities at second hand! All things have an end, and so has the Apologetical Defence, the sceptics being left in a sadly battered condition; while Cogan handsomely bows his author in :
"By all this now is my Author thoroughly vindicated from all aspersions of falsehood, that may be cast up this his Work, which, were it otherwise, and meerly devised, yet it is so full of variety, and of strange, both Comick and Tragic Events, as cannot chuse but delight far more than any Romance, or other of that kind. But being accompanied with the truth, as I have sufficiently proved, it will no doubt give all the satisfaction that can be desired of the Reader."
Pinto begins the "rude and unpolished discourse" which he purposes to leave to his children for a memorial