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and their splendid palaces turned into hotels for the convenience of a passing archæologist, and our own country, whose maritime commerce is equal to that of all the rest of the world, and whose greatness is, according to modern ideas, dependent on the continuance of that commerce, and of the manufactures which it encourages. That the extreme wealth and luxury which these support would perish with them, may be considered certain ; but England was a free and powerful state long before that commerce attained its present development; and her naval strength is founded, not on the cold calculations of commercial prudence, but on the enterprise, the vigour, and the steadfastness of her sons.
Art. VI.- Fifty Years of my Life. By GEORGE Thom ,
Earl of ALBEMARLE. 2 vols. 8vo. 1876.
it eminently biographical. We are not able to boast of many writers of original and commanding genius. But everybody who has done anything in this world is sure to have his life written; and everybody who has anything to recollect writes down his own recollections. The public are interested and amused by these revelations, which sometimes revive old impressions and sometimes explain circumstances which had been imperfectly understood ; and when the history of the age we live in comes to be written, it will be the duty and the task of some future Macaulay to weave out of these personal traditions a connected representation of English Society. They may be as useful to him as Plutarch's Lives are to the student of antiquity. The late Lord Clarendon used to say that all history was to be found in the Universal Biography’; and so in truth it is, though broken up into endless personal divisions.
If we are asked why we select from the mass of biographical literature—the lives of statesmen, soldiers, prelates, artists, judges, and men of letters—which loads the bench of critical justice, these volumes of Lord Albemarle's in preference to many other works of greater pith and pretension, our answer is a ready and conclusive one. This book is one of the most amusing of its class; it is written in a cheerful good-humoured spirit; it contains a good many capital anecdotes; and it will preserve the traditions of one of the best old Whig families in England.
A young Keppel, as everyone knows, came over to this
country with William of Orange in 1688 ; but for six or seven hundred years a Keppel of that ilk ’had occupied the wellwooded islet on the river Issel in Guelderland, which is the Hoofdslot of the race, and the family had played a considerable part in the Low Countries ever since the crusades. Arnold Joost van Keppel was thirteenth in descent from the founder of the house. At the age of thirteen he had already succeeded his father Oswald in the lordship of Voorst, and he was also a page of honour to the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. In this capacity, being then sixteen, he accompanied his illustrious countryman and master to England -the youngest, liveliest, and handsomest of the Dutchmen who landed with William at Torbay on November 5, 1688. His career is thus described by his descendant and living representative :
On the accession of William to the throne he employed Keppel chiefly as an amanuensis; but his charming disposition, added to his good looks and winning manners, so won the affections of his royal master that he soon became the dispenser of his patronage, the depositary of his secrets, and his inseparable companion in peace or war. When he came of age, in 1695, he was raised to the peerage by the titles of Baron Ashford, Viscount Bury of St. Edmund's
, and Earl of Albemarle. Three years later the King made him a grant of 100,000 acres of confiscated property in Ireland, which grant, however, the Commons of England very properly refused to ratify. The following year His Majesty sent some of the first English artificers to Holland to beautify the house and grounds of his country seat.
A few years ago I paid a visit to the Voorst, but it was sadly shorn of its beams. I looked in vain for the “avenues, terrace walks, fountains, cascades, canals," &c., of which I had read the description. The former pleasure grounds were wholly occupied by a field of rye. The offices had disappeared, the house even was stripped of its wings, and the Albemarle arms on the pediment of the body of the building furnished the only memento of its former possessor. William III. may be said to have died in the arms of his favourite, and to him he gave, in his last moments, the keys of his chest and private drawers.
After the death of his patron, the first Lord Albemarle returned to Holland, and was appointed a lieutenant-general of the Dutch forces. It was in this command that he actively co-operated with Marlborough in the glorious campaigns of 1705 and 1706. He died, however, in 1718 at the early age of forty-six.
The second and the third Earls of Albemarle were not undistinguished in their military career, but their good fortune was not equal to their valour. Villars carried the lines of Denain at the head of very superior forces in 1712, in spite of
the first Lord Albemarle's vigorous resistance. At Fontenoy, in 1745, the second Lord Albemarle (William Anne) commanded the celebrated attack on the centre of the French line. The division consisted of the Brigade of Guards and seven other infantry regiments. Lord Albemarle posted himself with the colours of the Third Guards. Being in this forward position his descendant, the present Earl, argues that he must have been the identical officer to whom the well-known mot, Messieurs les Gardes Françaises, tirez les premiers,' should be attributed, if indeed any such'speech was made at all, because he thinks that no officer of inferior rank would have ventured to enter upon such a dialogue in the immediate presence of the French and English generals of division. The received version of this anecdote is that Lord Charles Hay was the British officer who gave the challenge, and M. d'Auteroches the French officer who made the gallant reply. Even the scepticism of M. Fournier, who has destroyed so many historical repartees, accepts the story, and M. Alexis de Valon has written an article on the subject. Lord Albemarle is, as far as we know, the first writer who attributes the speech to his own ancestor, and the reply to the Duc de Biron. General Sir Frederic Hamilton in his excellent history of the Grenadier Guards omits the speech altogether, but he says that when the opposing French and English battalions reached the crest of the ridge they suddenly found themselves within fifty paces of each other. Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Charles Hay, captain of the King's Company of the First Guards, stepping forward, recognised his opponents in an instant, and taking out his flask drank to them, saluting them at the same time with his hat, and added some bantering expressions. The British cheered, upon which the officers of the French Guards hurried to the front, with the Duke de Biron at their head, to return the salute of the British Guardsmen, and M. d'Auteroches, captain of the grenadier company, called for a counter cheer. • French Guards then fired' (says Hamilton), when Hay was wounded : the British Guards replied with a deadly volley. Lord Albemarle was certainly on the spot, for he says in a letter to the Duke of Newcastle that he and the officer commanding the brigade of Foot Guards under himself were close * afoot together till the time of his death, and that of “five officers belonging to one platoon only Ensign Prideaux and • himself escaped. But we are not aware that Lord Albemarle was at that time a guardsman at all, though he was shortly afterwards appointed to the colonelcy of the Coldstream Guards; and, if the alleged dialogue took place, it seems to us
VOL. CXLIII. NO. CCXCII.
much more likely to have been held by the regimental officers on each side than by the generals. Our biographer, however, doubts the whole story, and thinks that it originated in the practice of the French army to reserve their fire. He
He says: Although I hold the story to be a myth, I am inclined to believe that it arose from the practice then prevalent in the French army of receiving the enemy's fire before they fired themselves. I have already shown that the Duc de Noailles gave such an order to the infantry at Dettingen, and I find that later in the day, at Fontenoy, the FrancoIrish Brigade “ marched up to the British line without firing." Hence I infer that the Duc de Biron, in conformity with military precedent, gave like instructions to his men—not, however, with either the knowledge or approval of the Commander-in-Chief, Marshal de Saxe, who, in his memoirs, has entered a strong protest against the then prevailing custom.'
However this may be, the first discharge of the artillery and small arms of the British line at Fontenoy, killed 18 officers, and placed hors de combat 600 of the French Guards. But in spite of this spirited commencement, the skill of Marshal Saxe won the day, the Dutch troops having left their allies to sustain the brunt of the battle alone. In this celebrated action the 42nd Highlanders and the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers displayed conspicuous valour ; 'seventy years after Fontenoy,' says our gallant author, 'I had the honour of being brigaded • with the same regiments on the slopes of Waterloo.'
Laffeldt, in 1747, must be reckoned as another check. But in the meantime Lord Albemarle had shared in the victory of Culloden, where he commanded the front line of infantry; and a silver punch-bowl found in Prince Charles'tent after the battle was given by the Duke of Cumberland to Lord Bury, and is still an heirloom in the Keppel family.
The crowning military exploit of the Keppel family was undoubtedly the siege of the Moro and the capture of Havana in 1762. Lord Albemarle commanded the expedition; Major General George Keppel took an active and successful part in the military operations; and Commodore Keppel (acting under Sir George Pococke) distinguished himself not less in the fleet. To convey an army of 10,000 men to the West Indies in 150 transports, to land them in the island of Cuba at midsummer, to commence the siege of a fortress of great strength, gallantly defended, in the tropics, and to carry the place by assault after working by sap and mine for forty-four days, was an achievement not unworthy to be compared with the siege of Sebastopol itself, if the relative condition of our forces and resources be taken into account; and it shows what could be done, and was
done, by the navy and the troops of Great Britain 114 years ago, when our strength was not one-tenth of what it is at present. It is true that Chatham had planned the expedition and Albemarle conducted it to a triumphant result, though Lord Bute was not very grateful for it.
The following letter from the Duke of Cumberland to the victorious general deserves to be quoted, though the royal style and modes of spelling are rather eccentric. 'H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland to George, Lord Albemarle.
* Windsor Great Lodge, Oct' ye 24, 1762. My Dear ALBEMARLE,—You have made me the happiest of men existing, nay, you have almost repaid me for the severe anxieties I have gone through for this last three months, beside the disagreeable and tedious your absence gave without reflection of what you was to go through; upon the whole no joy equall mine, and I strut and plume myself as if it was I that had taken the Havannah.
In short, you have done your king and country the most materiall service that any millitary man has ever done since we were a country, and you
have shewn yourself an excellent officer; all this I knew was in you, but now the whole world see it and own it.
* Millitarily speaking, I take your siege to have been the most difficult that has been since the invention of artillery. Sixty-eight days in that climate is alone prorligious; without my partiallity to you, 'tis a great action in itself, setting aside the imense service you have done your country, I am so wrap'd up still in your share of honour and glory, that I don't yet quite feall that pleasure I have to come to as an Inglishman and an old soldier. Pray make my most sincere compliments to both the brothers; I hope before you receive this they will be both recovered. The storin of the Moro does William's heart and hedd great honor.' But we must hasten to pass from these family recollections, which the writer relates in a very agreeable and unpretending manner, to the more immediate subject of these volumes.
George Thomas Keppel, the present Lord Albemarle, tells us that he was born in June 1799, in the parish of Marylebone. His childhood was spent at Elden Hall, Suffolk, a country house near Euston, where as a boy he remembers to have seen the ‘Junius? Duke of Grafton--an old friend of the Keppels, for about 130 years ago this same Duke was a guest of William Anne, Lord Albemarle, then Ambassador in Paris.
'It was while fishing sometimes for roach and dace in the stream that runs through the Park, that I used to see an elderly gentleman pass by mounted on a thoroughbred horse, which he bestrode with much
grace and dignity. He was of low stature and spare figure, had lank silver hair, a long nose, high cheek-bones and a stern expression of countenance, which a picture of him at Euston forcibly recalls to me.