« PoprzedniaDalej »
Besides the study of the art of the war itself, there are many collateral branches of literature; of which, as gentlemen and as soldiers, they should not be ignorant. Whoever bears a commission in the army, should be well read in history. The examples of Alexander,Cæsar, or Marlborough,however illustrious, are of little concern to the generality of readers, but are set up as so many landmarks, to direct those who are pursuing the same course to glory. A thorough knowledge of history would furnish a commander with true courage, inspire him with an honest emulation of his ancestors, and teach him to gain a victory without shedding blood.
Poetry too, more especially that of the ancients, seems particularly calculated for the perusal of those concerned in war. The subject of the Iliad is entirely martial; and the principal characters are distinguished from each other chiefly by their different exertion of the single quality of courage. It was, I suppose,
on account of this martial spirit, which breathes throughout the Iliad, that Alexander was so captivated with it, that he is said to have laid it every night under his pillow. The principal character in the Eneid is a general of remarkable piety and courage; and great part of the poem is made up of war. These studies cannot surely fail of animating a modern breast, which often kindled such a noble ardour in the ancients.
If we look into the lives of the greatest generals of antiquity, we shall find them no mean proficients in science. They led their armies to victory by their courage, and supported the state by their counsels. They revered the same Pallas, as the goddess of war and wisdom; and the Spartans in particular, before they entered on an engagement, always sacrificed to the Muses. The exhortations, given by commanders before the onset, are some of the most animated pieces of oratory in all antiquity, and fre
quently produced astonishing effects, rousing the soldiers from despair, and hurrying them on to victory. An illiterate commander would have been the contempt of Greece and Rome. Tully, indeed, was called the learned Consul in derision; but then, as Dryden observes," his head was turned another way. When
he read the tactics, he was thinking on the bar, which was his field of battle." I am particularly pleased with the character of Scipio Emilianus as drawn by Velleius Paterculus, and would recommend it to the serious imitation of our modern officers. He was so great an admirer of liberal studies, that he always retained the most eminent wits in his camp; nor did any one fill up the intervals of business with more elegance, retiring from war only to cultivate the art of peace: always employed in arms or study, always exercising his body with perils, or disciplining his mind with science. The author contrasts this amiable pourtrait with a description of Mummius; a general so little versed in the polite arts, that having taken at Corinth several pictures and statues of the greatest artists, he threatened the persons, who were intrusted with the carriage of them to Italy," that if they lost those, they should give new ones."
I would fain have a British officer looked upon with as much deference as those of Greece and Rome: But while they neglect the acquisition of the same accomplishments, they will never meet with the same respect. Instead of cultivating their minds, they are wholly taken up in adorning their bodies, and look upon gallantry and intrigue as essential parts of their character. To glitter in the boxes or at an assembly, is the full display of their politeness, and to be the life and soul of a lewd brawl, almost the only exertion of their courage; insomuch that there is a good deal of justice in Macheath's raillery, when he says, "if it was not for us, and the other gentlemen of the sword, Drury-Lane would be uninhabited."
It is something strange, that officers should want any inducement to acquire so gentleman-like an accomplishment as learning. If they imagine it would derogate from their good-breeding, or call off their attention from military business, they are mistaken. Pedantry is no more connected with learning, than rashness with courage. Cæsar, who was the finest gentleman and the greatest general, was also the best scholar of his age.
To say the truth, learning wears a more amiable aspect and winning air in courts and camps, whenever it appears there, than amid the gloom of colleges and cloisters. Mixing in genteel life files off the rust that may have been contracted by study, and wears out any little oddness or peculiarity, that may be acquired in the closet. For this reason the officer is more inexcusable, who neglects an accomplishment, that would sit so gracefully upon him: for this reason too, we pay so great deference to those few, who have enriched their minds with the treasures of antiquity. An illiterate officer either hardens into a bravo, or refines into a fop. The insipidity of the fop is utterly contemptible, and a rough brutal courage, unpolished by science and unassisted by reason has no more claim to heroism, than the case-hardened valour of a bruiser or prize-fighter. Agreeable to this notion, Homer in the fifth Iliad represents the goddes Minerva as wounding Mars, and driving the deity off the field of battle; implying allegorically, that wisdom is capable of subduing courage.
I would flatter myself, that British minds are still as noble, and British genius as exuberant, as those of any other nation or age whatever; but that some are debased by luxury, and others run wild for want of proper cultivation. If Athens can boast her Miltiades, Themistocles, &c. Rome her Camilius, Fabius, Cæsar, &c. England has had her Edwards, Henrys, and Marlbouroughs. It is to be hoped the
time will come, when learning will be reckoned as necessary to qualify a man for the army, as for the bar or pulpit. Then we may expect to see the British soldiery enter on the field of battle, as on a theatre, for which they are prepared in the parts they are to act. "They will not then, (as Milton expresses himself with his usual strength in his Treatise on Education) if intrusted with fair and hopeful armies, suffer them, for want of just and wise discipline, to shed away from about them like sick feathers, though they be never so oft supplied: They would not suffer their empty and unrecruitable colonels of twenty men in a company, to quaff out, or convey into secret hoards, the wages of a delusive list and a miserable remnant: yet in the mean while to be over-mastered with a score or two of drunkards, the only soldierly left about them, or else to comply with all rapines and violence. No certainly, IF THEY KNEW OUGHT OF THAT KNOWLEDGE, THAT BELONGS TO GOOD MEN AND GOOD GOVERNORS, they would not suffer these things."
THE principal character in Steele's comedy of the Lying Lover is young Bookwit; an Oxonian, who at once throws off the habit and manners of an academic, and assumes the dress, air, and conversation of a man of the town. He is, like other fine gentlemen, a coxcomb; but a coxcomb of learning and
parts. His erudition he renders subservient to his pleasures his knowledge in poetry qualifies him for a sonnetteer, his rhetoric to say fine things to the ladies, and his philosophy to regulate his equipage; for he talks of having "Peripatetic footmen, a follower of Astrippus for a valet de chambre, an Epicurean cook, with an Hermetical chymist (who are good only at making fires) for a scullion." Thus he is, in every particular, a fop of letters, a compleat classical beau.
By a review I have lately made of the people in this great metropolis, as Censor, I find that the town swarms with Bookwits. The playhouses, park, taverns, and coffee-houses are thronged with them. Their manner, which has something in it very characteristic, and different from the town-bred coxcombs, discovers them to the slightest observer. It is, indeed, no easy matter for one, whose chief employment is to store his mind with new ideas, to throw that happy vacancy, that total absence of thought and reflec tion, into his countenance, so remarkable in our modern fine gentlemen. The same lounging air too, that passes for genteel in an university coffee-house, is soon distinguished from the genuine careless loll, and easy saunter; and bring us over to the notion of Sir Wilful in The way of the world, “ that a man should be bound prentice to a maker of fops, before he ventures to set up for himself."
Yet, in spite of all these disadvantages, the love of pleasure, and a few supernumerary guineas, draw the student from his literary employment, and entice him to this theatre of noise and hurry, this grand mart of luxury; where, as long as his purse can supply him, he may be as idle and debauched as he pleases. I could not help smiling at a dialogue between two of these gentlemen, which I overheard a few nights ago at the Bedford coffee-house. "Ha! Jack? (says one accosting the other) is it you? How long