« VorigeDoorgaan »
most high-minded deeds this ingenious historian supplies ignoble motives; and the art with which results are made to suggest causes, and the course of history susceptible of many prima facie upright explanations, is traced through subtle intricacies to some faithless scheme of this persecuted man, is more indicative of the theorizer than the historian, and does more credit to his subtlety than to his penetration. Schiller was himself deeply imbued with religious prejudice. So far are we to-day removed from the religious struggles of the middle ages that the feelings of the modern historian seldom exceed in force a moderate predilection, and are not apt to betray him into partisanship. But Schiller wrote the history of the Thirty Years' War with the feelings and vigor of a strong partisan. He loves the Reformer and loathes the Papist. Moreover he has a tender heart; the cruel system on which the war was conducted by the mercenary bands of such leaders as Wallenstein, Tilly, and Mansfield, sends a shudder through his generous soul; he sees demons rather than men in these leaders, and he is forever finding for them alien villainies to augment the melancholy list of those which cannot be denied. Common sense forces us to acknowledge that he is at any rate very premature in his efforts to make a traitor of Wallenstein at this period in his career.
Peace at last seemed possible when there were no longer any opponents in the field to dispute the mastery of the emperor; and it was concluded at Lubec, in January, 1919. "This event," says Mr. Mitchell, "left Wallenstein absolute master in Germany and without an equal in greatness; his spirit seemed to hover like a storm-charged cloud over the land, crushing to earth every hope of liberty and successful resistance." This ominous language is painfully fitting. Throughout the war the whole country had been ravaged by his rapacious soldiery, and desolation reigned supreme. Fire, sword, plunder, and brutality had woven their course to and fro over the face of the country, like the tortuous trail of a serpent. Now it remained to pay the leaders, not less greedy than the common soldiery. It is odd to see the various generals soliciting the desired grants and favors, not from Ferdinand, but at the hands of Wallenstein, perfectly trusting that in him lay all the power. But now, standing on the giddy pinnacle of human greatness, and hard pushed by the ascending crowd behind him, he was tottering to his fall. Mr. Mitchell's simile of the ship upon the breakers near the reef should have been saved for this spot. By his
own success he had robbed himself of his own importance. He was no longer needful to his master; and that master loved not overmuch the man to whom he owed overmuch.
Wallenstein might have learned a lesson from the disgrace of Maximilian of Bavaria, on whose ruin he had himself risen. Moreover, the foemen of the domineering chief were countless. The whole court of Vienna hated him; only his precious soldiery swore by him alone, and his officers were fascinated by the general whose star was never obscured; but these had no political influence, nor access to the imperial ear. Dependents he had many, but friends he had none. He was munificent, but cold. Little warmth of devotion was kindled in those mercenary days by a gift; the recipient seized his booty, made off with it like a greedy vulture, and if he hoped for no more from the same quarter there was an end to his gratitude. Wallenstein was the most undemonstrative, unimpressionable, of men. He scattered his donations broadcast like a Roman emperor; but of smiles, of kind words, of sympathetic deeds, he was chary. In the days of trial none stood by him a moment after the cloud seemed to have gotten fairly over the edge of his disk. The influences brought to bear against him were feebly opposed, and a the diet of Ratisbon his deposition was resolved upon. But it might be a hazardous matter to carry this decree into effect? If Wallenstein refused to be deposed, what was to be done. The mighty Austrian emperor had just subdued a vast army of foes, but his might lay in the tent and camp of Wallenstein. What his hair was to Samson that were this mercenary host and its leader to Ferdinand. They were the strength of his empire. What were the chances that the forces would refuse to revolt? Their allegiance was due to Wallenstein; he it was that had mustered and had paid them. They were for sale and he had bought them. They owed nothing, not even daily bread, to Ferdinand. At their head Wallenstein could have marched to Vienna, and chased the emperor on to the bayonets of the Turks. But the species of boldness required in this emergency was just what Ferdinand possessed; he dared to say anything, to order anything. So he hesitated not to bid Wallenstein to retire from the head of this army of his own raising, this army which he might look upon as his private, individual property, and settle himself in rustic comfort on his estates.
These were bold words, but there was no chance that they would be backed by bold acts. Such was not the
nature of the spokesman. Had Wallenstein refused, Ferdinand would have calmly waited till somebody came to help him out of jeopardy. But Wallenstein saved him all this tribulation. He calmly met the commissioners, of whose errand he was well aware, and he submitted at once to the decree. He left the army without a murmur, without an effort at sounding its fidelity. If others dreamed of disobedience, he at least did not. He retired to Gitchin, where he intended henceforth to fix his residence. What now can we think of the spirit of Schiller, who finds ground for mistrust in this very submission! This is cruelty. If an act, in itself perfectly virtuous, nay,magnanimously and strikingly so, is to be referred by subtle interpretation to a vicious motive and deep laid villany, we must require strong and overwhelming proof to justify us in accepting the explanation; the measure we mete is to be measured to us again. not one authority, not one syllable of proof, is adduced by Schiller. Though true it is that this is the principle upon which the whole History of the Thirty Years' War is written, no authorities are quoted; we take the story as Schiller has concluded to tell it; we can believe what he says, only provided that we are willing to put perfect trust in the correctness of his judgment. We must assume that he had the means of arriving at the truth; and that he was capable of using, and did use, these with infallible accuracy. An author who treats his reader in this manner demands a great deal, no matter what may be his reputation; and it is peculiarly improper when history is to be written by a poet and a dramatist, and when a great man is to be accused of black and ignoble crimes. In the nature of the case, too, Schiller's theory is improbable. It is not likely that a hotblooded warrior, who, astrologer though he was, could read the events and foresee the retributions of the future no more than other mortals, should have calmly allowed the power of present revenge to pass from his hands in anticipation of greater opportunities to come. Yet Schiller would have us believe that Wallenstein anticipated the invasion of Gustavus Adolphus; that he foresaw the successes of that prince; in short, that he read, with a prescience little less than divine, the course of German history for many years to come. absurd is this! Yet upon an assumption of its truth Schiller would explain the peaceful retirement of Wallenstein, and ask us to believe him at that very moment a traitor. Had Wallenstein really been a man of a genius in anywise ap
proaching that for which Schiller gives him credit, his success could never have been stayed by human power.
But be the cause what it might, the fact was simply that Wallenstein did, without an effort at disobedience, retire from. camp to Gitchin. But in military or domestic life the spirit of the man was the same. He scanned Germany with the eye of a Persian faoiλevs; a huge magnifying-glass seemed to be ever before his mental vision. Every movement of his mind was stately; every conception was colossal, and his performances were mighty. From magnificent destruction he turned to no less magnificent creation. Having accomplished among cities and hamlets a chaotic ruin, he now set himself to the organization of a busy, prosperous, and plentiful society, within the limits of his extensive domains.
Parks and palaces for his own glory, labor and agriculture for the prosperity of his dependents, were the tasks which he set himself to accomplish, upon his wonted, superb scale. He no longer commanded an army of soldiers; but his workmen seemed a mimic army, and were counted by thousands. The pomp of royalty encompassed him; many of his generals and officers had been pensioned by him with a munificence greater than royalty often exercises; gentlemen of the proudest blood, assembling in his halls, gave to his palace the appearance of a royal court; six noblemen were ever in waiting upon him; sixty accomplished pages, fifty stalwart men-at-arms, formed his retinue; and he never travelled without a hundred carriages, fifty led horses, and sixty state coaches to escort him. He himself, in his cold and haughty demeanor, displayed the inborn power to rule. Proud and uncommunicative, munificent but not genial, he moved amid all this glory without peer, comrade, or friend. Six gates conducted to his palace at Prague; and in his own apartment the silence of absolute solitude, his own dear luxury, was intently preserved. The palace of Sagan which he began, but which he was prevented from finishing, was reputed one of the wonders of the world. Horses were his especial passion, and his stud was always the finest that money and assiduity could obtain. But of pleasure, so-called, he knew not the charm. So seldom did he speak that the harsh tone of his voice seemed to have become rusty from disuse. Banquets and convivialities he loved not; so long as his twelve patrols secured to him unbroken stillness, he seemed to regale himself with the only pleasure of sense which he was capable of enjoying.
On what terms he was with his wisely-chosen wife it is hard to say. We hear almost nothing of her. Probably there was little of either love or hatred between them; probably she had what she asked for, and each followed his and her own course of life, little concerned in the other. Mr. Mitchell remarks that it is odd that in all the duke's correspondence, which ranges from crowned head down to the subaltern who managed his estates, we find not a single letter to his wife. But he seeks relief in the fact that the legacies bequeathed to her in his will and codicils" are in his usual style, splendid and munificent;" and he proceeds to inform us "that there is much more of real character evinced in testaments than might at first be supposed. "How often," he exclaims, "do we see these unhappy documents displaying the pride, fear, hatred, envy, or servility it had been the object, perhaps, of a long life to conceal, and exhibit after death all the poor and ignoble feelings which had lingered to the end in the dark recesses of the breast, and which the grave should in mercy have buried along with the last feeble remnants of mortality." The seeds planted by his youthful lessons from good Dr. Watts seem to have fallen upon good soil in his virtuous bosom, and at last have blossomed and borne fruit an hundred fold in these excellent reflections.
A few brief years rolled on in this manner, but they at last brought with them that event among the results of which was the restoration of Wallenstein to a greater than his former power and glory-that event which Schiller would have us believe his prophetic soul had long since distinctly foreseen. This was the advent upon the confused stage of German politics and religions of the famous Gustavus Adolphus. For a brief period of glory Sweden was now holding a foremost, place among the powers of Europe. Under the sway of the enthusiastic and valiant monarch a vigorous life was sent flashing through her veins; and in an age when France and England lay dormant, and when might in the field made the beginning and the end of a nation's greatness, a warlike king and a welldisciplined army gave to Sweden temporary force. Gustavus was the zealous champion of Protestantism; this was doubtless his sincere belief, not a mask or tool for political designs. He was impelled to assert it by force of arms at once; by his own spirit, which was thoroughly that of the warrior, and by the spirit of the age, which loved to seek proselytes beneath the edge of the sword. Moreover, the political