1 AUGUST 1952, Page 12


CaLcurr' presented a sword of honour to the young major-general who had routed the Mahrattas at Assaye, and there was a silver table- service from his victorious- Deccan army. Sword and silver were the first manifestations of that flood of monarchical, municipal and military gratitude that was to engulf the sepoy general, in the course of little more than a decade, in dukedoms and marshals' batons, portraits and porcelain, the Golden Fleece and the Garter.

It was a great age in which to be a great captain. Mr. Osbert Lancaster's phrase, " full-blooded yet intellectual, aristocratic and at the same time slightly vulgar " is pretty well as true of le style Empire as of English Regency, and at Apsley House—now, happily, the Wellington Museum—is the style in all its splendour, speaking loudly and in a variety of accents from monumental Portuguese silver and Berlin and Vienna porcelain, Meissen and Sevres. The table that carried the Waterloo banquets is flanked by tall candelabra of Siberian porphyry, the gift of the Tsar of all the Russias. In the place of honour among the old masters taken from a fleeing Bonaparte's baggage at Vittoria is the contemporary portrait of the conqueror who had ridden in triumph into Madrid, and been painted. there by Goya.

London's latest museum is one not so much of the Duke and his victories—not at all of Wellington the private gentleman—as of the- florid taste of his florid time. The taste, indeed, of florid princes. Here are the gifts and the portraits of the corpulent monarch whose armies he commanded and of the corpulent monarch whose throne he restored, but nothing, save a campaign medal or so, to recall the Peninsular veterans he led, and only a couple of tricolor standards to speak for the veterans he defeated. There are the Garter robes, but not the plain blue coat and the low cocked hat he wore at Waterloo.

What truly personal pieces there are among the splendours are all- the mdre appealing in their simplicity : the travelling canteen' with its plain silver teapot, the cheap deal travelling-desk, and the slips of treated parchment on which he pencilled his orders in the field.. And along with the dressing-case and its tooth- and shaving-brushes are the three little boxes, each still with a pill or two inside, the prescription still legible on their lids : three grains of rhubarb, one of James powder, one of calomel and one of Castile soap. It is among such few homelier exhibits generally, rather than the gold collars and the ceremonial silver, that old soldiers will think of Wellington as an old soldier, and it is here especially that one cart imagine the more costive campaigners of a couple of world wars experiencing a twinge of fellow-feeling for the field-marshal.