MR. KINGLAKE'S CRIMEA.* [Fitter Norms.]
AT length we enjoy the luxury of praising without reserve. Mr. Kinglake has fulfilled and surpassed the expectations excited by six years' delay, and won for himself a place in the front rank of English historians. Dealing with a subject so great and so near that ordinary descriptions seem to his readers tame and poor by the side of their own recollections, and with materials so vast that most intellects would be exhausted in the mere effort to collate them, he has produced a story which seems, even to men of this generation, to illustrate his theme, and which henceforward will cause a great war to be more keenly remembered for the sake of the brilliant pen which first embodied in history its causes and its events. Simple, till its simplicity almost suggests affectation, • The lattasion (Irk Crises. By A. W. Kinglake. Wm. Blackwood and Bona. careless to a degree not unfrequently fatal to grammar, and underlaid with a tone of scorn unusual and often unbecoming in history, Mr. Kinglake's style has, in this book, a strange corre- lation to its subject, which fascinates and almost disarms the critic. Take the fourteenth chapter, the digression in which, contrary to all rules of historic art, Mr. Kinglake undertakes to write the story of the French coup d'etat. The narrative has no business there ; no man will doubt that its writer was ac- tuated by motives stronger than the mere crave for abstract historic truth ; the diatribe often passes the limits which an instinctive sense of the value of social bonds sets to the con- temporary biographer ; yet we venture to say that, as that chapter circulates slowly among the educated circle of Europe, its effect upon the Lower Empire, upon Louis Napoleon, and the men who built in blood the throne they support by terror, will be heavier than that of a great defeat. For the interests of the ruler of France, General Forey had better have lost the Mexican Army, than an English gentleman have written those hun- dred plainspoken pages. Thera has been nothing like them since the Roman senator closed his sketch of Tiberius, and so stamped the Cmsar's portrait into the minds of men, that seventeen hundred years after his death he, a man who performed no deeds, and left no monuments, who bought no panegyrics, and founded no dynasty, is as familiar to cultivated men, as if he were still living to impale them for exciting his suspicion. Hundreds will read Mr. Kinglake's account with a violent dis- trust of his facts, for Mr. Kinglake's reckless speeches have long since destroyed the confidence of the class to
which he chiefly appeals. Hundreds more will protest almost savagely against his deductions, believing that, if they are true, the goodness of Providence is arraigned by the triumph of such a scheme. But no man who reads that chapter, whether foe or admirer of Louis Napoleon, will ever regard him again in the light he was regarded before ; will ever be free from the im- pression produced by that description, so withering in its restrained yet sufficing scorn, will ever again think of the man who bears sway in France, save as the centre of a knot of suc- cessful but undeserving conspirators. The judgment of history is anticipated, and should posterity ever, by miracle, incline to celebrate the perfections of the French Csesar Augustus, it, must first heal up the scars left by the terrible scourge of his humble English foe. To this generation, at least, it will seem that thought is avenged on power, that Ithuriel's spear, if it cannot destroy Satan, can, at least, compel hint to appear in his true form as the enemy of mankind. Mr. Kinglako may well ask the most prejudiced advocate of the Emperor, who instinctively deems this description overcharged, to read the fourteenth chapter, with a mind open to nothing save what it thence re- ceives, and may abide by his award.
We mention this chapter first, for besides its marvel- lous power, it is the most perfect specimen of Mr. King- lake's historic style. He writes upon what we may call a double idea, that of Buckle and that of Carlyle. Believ- ing always with the former that every great event is but the culmination of whole series of a minor facts, the flos and outcome of long chains of circumstances inextricably linked together, he with the latter never forgets that the interest of events rests in the human beings who create, or direct; or endure them. The hostility of Russia to Turkey is the result of centuries of past history, of causes rooted in the growth, and the character, and the creeds of the two great races who, with the Holy Sepulchre for a war cry, are contending for the sway of the East. But he does not forget, because these circumstances are powerful, that the final cr;sis was ruled by individuals ; that the Czar and the French Emperor, Menschikoff and the English Am- bassador, the "pale" Sultan, and the "calm" Divan, were all men; that, despite years of concurring history, the- character of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe made to the empire of Turkey the differ- ence between safety and utter defeat. He has endeavoured, therefore, in every case so to sketch the great charac- ters which crowd his canvas, that observers should see not a portrait but a man, should study form and not outline, features and not strokes of paint, and retire satisfied that thence forward they know men whose names were before but phrases. In some instances he has succeeded to a marvel ; and many English politicians will probably feel that for the first time they comprehend the causes of the power and of the blunders of the great Czar they fought. In others, his success must be pronounced less equal. Lord Stratford moves and breathes, an intelligible though awe-inspiring figure, with his wealth of anger compressed till it becomes a working force; and Louis Napoleon lives to tlie-readir as to the intimates of his own court, gloomy and reserved; with high intellect and splendid closet audacity, which is chilled only when the emergency leaves no time or room for thought, when the resolve must be an instinct, and not the out- come of meditation. But Lord Aberdeen is a picture merely, and one in which, though we see the features, we do not perceive the link between them and the brain. Menschikaff we can understand, and the Duke of Newcastle, though the photograph of the latter may flatter, and St. Arnaud is for the first time clothed in flesh and blood ; but there is a haze round Lord Raglan still. It is possible that this is intended ; that the curtain is not to be wholly removed till the last touch of the chisel has been given ; but this, though high art, is not dramatic art, and Mr. Kinglake is essentially a dramatist. We know Hamlet better when the king dies than when the ghost ap- pears; but Hamlet is not produced with a veil, with features half completed, or eyes artificially deprived of lustre. There are more volumes yet to come, for the second ends with the Alma; but the spectator would have watched Lord Raglan with a more gratified sense of insight, had his figure been visible in all its strength and weakness from the moment of his appearance.
Our business for the present is with the first volume alone, a monograph complete and exhaustive of the causes which pro- duced the Crimean war. Mr. Kinglake had special means for investigating them fully. All Lord Raglan's papers, those he received, as well as those which he wrote, down to intercepted correspondence and the hot and excited memoranda of allies and subordinates, were placed in the author's hands. Whenever he wanted elucidations, they were supplied at once front the best living authorities. Every French commander responded fully to his inquiries. A French officer of singular experience was sent over specially to explain to him French operations. The Russians sent him the reports of Prince Men:thikoff's nearest subordi- nates. He had evidently, though he does not say so, the cordial assistance of the Duke of Newcastle ; he was himself present on some most important occasions, and he has other sources of in- formation, each of which he will hereafter, as soon as be can without involving the safety of individuals, indicate to the world. His study of this vast mass of materials, pursued through years, has brought to his mind a view, accurate or otherwise, but wonderfully defined and clear. Apart from causes long in operation, the Crimean war was owing to the personal character of the Emperor Nicholas, acted upon by a religious idea, a per- sistent miscalculation as to the state of English opinion, and by a personal hate of his inexorable and ultimately victorious rival, the British Ambassador to the Porte. Had Nicholas been a weak man, the war would never have been commenced ; had he been of the that order of strength, able to control his own notion of his attributes as Pontiff, or to fight Lord Stratford without detesting him, he might have gained a victory sufficient to render war at once imbecile and superfluous. As it was the Emperor "Was of a stern, unrelenting nature. He displayed, when he came to be tried, a sameness of ideas and of language and a want of resource which indicated poverty of intellect ; but this dearth within was masked by the brilliancy of the qualities which adorned the surface, and he was so capable of business, and had such a vast activity, that he was able to arrogate to himself an immense share of the actual governance of his subjects. Indeed, by striving to extend his manage- ment beyond the proper compass of a single mind he disturbed the march of business, and so far superseded the responsibility of his servants, that he ended by lessening to a perilous extent the number of gifted men who in former times had taken part in the counsels of the State."
"He had discarded in some measure his predecessor's system of governing Russia through the aid of foreigners ; and took a pride in his own people, and understood their worth. In the great empire of the North religion is closely blended with the national sentiment, and in this composite shape it had a strong hold upon the Czar. It did not much govern him in his daily life, and his way of joining in the service of the Church seemed to disclose something like impatience and disdain, but no one doubted that faith was deeply rooted in his mind. He had the air of a man raised above the level of common worshippers, who imagined that he was appointed to servo the cause of his Church by great imperial achievements, and not by humble feats of morality and devotion. It will be seen but too plainly that tho Emperor Nicholas could be guilty of saying one thing and doing another, and it may be supposed, therefore, that at once and in plain terms he ought to be charged with duplicity ; yet there are circumstances which make one falter in coining to such a conclusion. He had reigned, and had personally governed for some seven-and-twenty years, and although during that period he had done much to raise bitter hatred, the Most sagacious statesmen in Europe placed faith in his personal honour. It is certain that he had the love of truth. When he sought to speak of what he deemed fair and honourable, he travelled into our language for the word which spoke his meaning, and claimed to have the same standard of uprightness as an English 'gentleman.' It is known also that his ideal of human grandeur was the character of the Duke of
Wellington. No man could have made that cholas withostAmving truth in him."
Under all this, however, lay the possibility of falseness inherent in all minds of the Asiatic type, and an idea that he, as Pontiff of the Greek Church, was bound to do imperial deeds on behalf of the men of his faith. It was this belief in his Christian
responsibility as a potentate not wholly of this world, which made it so hard for 'him not to be unreasonable on the question of the Holy Sepulchre, which induced him to order Menschikoff 'to claim rather than negotiate for the protectorate of Greek Christians, and which, when maddened by news that his hated rival, Sir Stratford Canning, was actually exercising this protectorate, impelled him to order the slaughter of Sinop°, and to incur the hazards which ultimately overwhelmed hint, and sent him raging but saddened to his grave.
His hatred for Sir Stratford Canning took twenty years to grow. The English Ambassador was a man possessed of that singular force, a force apart f.om intellect, before which Orientabe. have at all times instinctively crouched.
"How" to negotiate with a perfected skill never degenerating into craft, how to form such a scheme of policy that his country might be brought to adopt it without swerving, and how to pursue this always, promoting it steadily abroad, and gradually forcing the home Govern- ment to go all lengths in its support, this he knew ; and he was, more- over, so gifted by nature that, whether men studied his despatches or whether they listened to his spoken words, or whether they were Only bystanders caught and fascinated by the grace of his presence, they could scarcely help thinking that if the Rnglish nation wawto be main- tained in peace or drawn into war by the will of a single mortal, there was no man who looked so worthy to fix its destiny as Sir Stratford. Canning. He had faults which made him an imperfect Christian, for his temper was fierce and his assertion of self was so closely involved in his conflicts that he followed up his opinions with his feelings and with the whole strength of his imperious nature. But his fierce temper being always under control when purposes of State so required, VMS far from being an infirmity, and was rather a weapon of exceeding sharpness, for it was so wielded by him as to have more tendency to cause dread and surrender than to generate resistance. Then, too, every judgment which he pronounced was enfolded in words so complete as to exclude the idea that it could ever be varied, and to convey theme- fore the idea of duration. As though yielding to fate itself, the Turkish mind used to bend and fall down before him.'
His sway latterly became so absolute, that his return to Cons stantinople during the contest for the Holy Places was that of an "angry king," that the Divan dared not tell him all Prince, Menschikoffs demands, and that, from his arrival at Therapia till the declaration of war, he, was as absolutely master of Turkey as if he had been Sultan. The Turks could not resist an ascendancy which Russians thought almost " or refuse to enjoy the calm which his presence and coun- sels always produced in their minds, and which seemed to the infuriated Czar to leave him no alternative between physical force and ridicule. The diplomatic war directed from St. Petersburg and Therapia, in which Nicholas and Lord Stratford were the sole, though the concealed combatants, is described by Mr. Kinglake in passages of rare felicity. Such contests suit his genius, for they justify that spirit of sarcasm which he can never entirely lay aside, and which sometimes mars the effect of noble passages by suggesting that the writer is half inclined to smile at the effect his own sentences will,. ha feels, produce. So bitter was the contest that the men seem to change characters, the imperious but wily Russian sending week by week sterner orders, the haughty Englishman meeting them, always with a finesse, which as his rage waxed higher and hotter seemed to grow more refined. Mr. Kinglake's lucidity of statement, too, that faculty of putting a case which marks the born special pleader, and which, from Herodotus to Macaulay,. has been one attribute of the littlrateurs who have had to ex- plain and not merely recount history, tells heavily in his favour, and negotiations as involved as those for the Holy Places become as clear as the plot of a French vaudeville.
We are writing on Mr. Kinglake as an historian, not the history of the Crimean war, and have no inclination to follow every step in his narrative. Suffce it to say that Nicholas, baffled and en- raged, was further impelled to war by two great European facts*. Lord Aberdeen was ruling England and Louis Napoleon, France. One strange idea, which to us seems to indicate the sort of intellectual poverty common in men with great brains but no. imagination, was always present to the Russian Emperor's min& He firmly believed that Englishmen had as a nation abjuredswast and devoted themselves to commerce. All the past history-of: the island had been erased from his mind by the loud talk of thee, party of peace, the events of 1851, and the marvellous emerges with which England, after 1845, threw herself into the path of; physical improvement and civilization. The people would noti fight, and of Lord- Aberdeen he felt sure.
Even this strange blunder, this confusion between English delight in progress, and English love of quiet ; this assumption that Eng- land, like Russia was ruled by a personal government, would have mattered little, had France still been guided by the Bourbons or the men who ruled the Republic. Nicholas was not prepared to encounter Europe; and till the Emperor Napoleon intervened Europe was united in resisting Russian designs. Even Prussia nad warned him that he stood alone, and Austria, was ready to pour overwhelming forces upon the communications between his army in Wallachia and its base. But the Emperor of the French wanted war, wanted more than war, a hearty alliance with England in some conspicuous cause. He proposed and secured a separate and more stringent alliance between two Powers out of the four, and it is in explaining his motives for this course that Mr. Kinglake writes that terrible diatribe which, if out of place, or far-fetched, is still the intellectual gem of his work. It is vain to make extracts from an effort the force of which con- sists in the impression it makes as a whole; we might as well chip a finger from a statue to prove the sculptor's skill ; and we are not blind to the personal hate (a hate which has in- fluenced the exquisite sketch of the struggle between the Ambassador and the Czar, a struggle in which Mr. Kinglake saw a reflection of his own attitude) which breathes through every line. Nevertheless we repeat, this chapter is one more added to the thousand proofs of the living political power which can reside in a p,en.