Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

pansion of her existence, like the cloudless heaven, affords little variety of light and shade, and none of the changeful features which a grosser atmosphere exhibits.

If, then, the book before us is not a publication of any interest for its anecdotes, as we have before observed, her late Majesty is alone to be charged with the deficiency. The author has shown a disposition to make the most of every thing. The public are certainly to be acquitted; the people have, as usual, done their part towards making their late Queen an interesting subject of biography. The fate of the wise and virtuous, and especially of the temperate and chaste, has been eminently hers. Calumny, and malignant hate of virtue in exalted station, have done their utmost to asperse a character whose great provocation has consisted in her doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with her God. We forget she was certainly guilty of some minor offences: she lived to be an old woman, loved her husband, took snuff, and maintained an affectionate intercourse with her relatives of Mecklenburg Strelitz. If Dr. Watkins had chosen to avail himself of the numerous anecdotes concerning our late Queen dispersed and credited among the good people of England, especially the more patriotic portion of them, he might have told us, with the certainty of being pretty widely believed, that, by a long course of parsimonious thrift, she had accumulated vast stores of personal wealth, the progressive increase of which had never been retarded by a single act of charity or bounty; that she had deprived her royal husband of his reason by her ill behaviour; and that the death of the Princess Charlotte was the consequence of her injuries and persecutions. These would have been great discoveries, and would have secured an extensive sale of the work. It would have been announced and labelled at the shop of every vender of moral poisons through the kingdom. Dr. Watkins has taken the honest course, and has presented a true, though somewhat tedious, account of our lost Queen, whose excellent qualities the spirit of factious malevolence does not yet allow to be justly appreciated.

The author of the work before us, however, in spite of his good intentions, by his undertaking to make a volume, has been constrained to exhibit, in one respect, a deceptious view of the late Queen. Being totally incapable, consistently with truth, of mixing her with the politics, or party-history, of the country, so wise and prudent was her conduct; and having nothing to record of intrigue or quarrel, of irregular affection or contentious emotion, no secret history, no private disputes, no incidents, such as disorderly habits or feelings engender and multiply; he has felt himself obliged to fill out his narrative by a series of royal visits, journeys, and fêtes, which, when considered as spread over a long reign of near sixty years, were hardly sufficient to content the people, but which, by following each other in the narrative through half the volume in an uninterrupted succession, have given a portrait of her Majesty, as to this part of her character, extremely unlike the original. Mother of twelve children, she thought it her first duty to her husband, and to the public, to take good care of their education; an affectionate and devoted wife, she felt and answered the demand which the King, her husband, made upon her time for sweetening his hours of relaxation; a gentle nurse of the state, she watched over all its charities, and beneficent institutions; a pious protestant princess she felt the value of her own soul, and the value of her example to the souls of others; and with the duties which flowed from these principles and obligations the time of this excellent person was almost wholly engrossed. But what does time so passed afford to the pen of the biographer ? Some festivities, the fashion of the times demanded of her; some entertainments, the laws of hospitality imposed upon her; some journeys, and these were few and circumscribed, cheerfulness allowed and health prescribed ;---in these transactions consisted the public and most observable part of her life, except, indeed, in the patronage and the encouragement of useful institutions : so that the few prominent particulars of her life, and such as served the purpose of popular narrative, were principally those which were foreign and contingent with respect to her true character and substantial merits. Her private charities fell like the dew, unseen, unheard, in silent, seasonable relief, upon the bosom of sorrow, without tribute or return, save in the indulgence of tender feelings, and the refreshing contemplation of the effects of her bounty.

If there was aught that leaned towards severity in the deportment of this great lady, it was in the sternness with which she repelled the libertinism of the great, and sustained the conservative pride of the female character. Courtly depravity found its most effectual check in the dignity of her example. We have indeed long known her only as a woman advanced in years, standing in disadvantageous comparison, for thus it will always be in this fickle state of being, with young and hopeful expectants : but her career as Queen of England was begun when her years were green, and the dew was upon her branch; and from youth to age, surrounded at all times by much illnature, and in the midst of a people the most credulous upon earth of every rumour affecting the honour of their rulers, she so lived as to afford no colour for slander, nor materials for the superstructures of falsehood. The restless humour of the nation has left it a debtor to this most amiable and virtuous of its queens in a large arrear of gratitude, to be answered now only by vain regrets, as experience brings with it accumulating proofs of what the real importance is of having a pure and honourable female at the head of British matrons.

The author has introduced his Memoirs with a genealogical account of the House of Mecklenburg; and has brought before us a succession of active and respectable princes, distinguished for their attachment to the reformed religion. The father of our Queen: was Charles Lewis Frederic, the younger son of Adolphus Frederic, the second Duke of Mecklenburgh Strelitz. His elder brother having no issue, the ducal sovereignty in 1751 came to the younger branch. Charles Lewis Frederic married the Princess Albertina Elizabeth, daughter of Ernest Frederic, Duke of Saxe Hilburghausen, of which marriage there were born six children-Christina Sophia Albertina in 1735; Adolphus Frederic in 1738, heir to the ducal honours of Mecklenburg Strelitz; Charles Lewis Frederic in -1741, who survived and succeeded his brother; Ernest Gottlob Albert in the year following; Sophia Charlotte, the subject of the Memoir, in 1744; and George Augustus in 1748. Å pleasing account is then given us of the domestic discipline and manners of this princely house, which appears to have supplied an admirable model to the cultivators of the difficult art of maintaining family subordination and union without the sacrifice of cheerfulness. These cares devolved entirely upon the Duchess on the death of the Duke, which took place in 1751, from which period, with the assistance of well-selected teachers, the Duchess dowager devoted herself with remarkable zeal and prudence to the formation and improvement of her children; and the elder daughter being at this time of an age to require less of the mother's immediate superintendance, the Princess Sophia Charlotte became the principal object of her solicitude, and derived from this excellent mother those principles of which this country so long experienced the practical blessing without an adequate sense of its worth and importance.

All accounts bear the same testimony to the virtuous and ' amiable economy of the palace of Mecklenburg Strelitz under the mother of our Qu. n. The character of the ducal family became the character of the court, and pervaded the whole principality, which continued to enjoy its happy state until the war, called the seven years' war, which lasted from 1756 to 1763, spread desolation through the territories of the minor princes of Germany. The ducal states of Mecklenburg Schwerin and Mecklenburg Strelitz preserved a strict neutrality, and for this offence the troops of the King of Prussia were allowed to march without restraint through the territory of these unoffending princes, levying contributions upon the villages and farms, forcing the young men into their armies, plundering the churches and private habitations, and acting in all respects as an enemy proceeding through a conquered country. The misery of this once happy people was extreme, trade was abandoned, the land was left uncultivated, and those who possessed moveable property, the ducal family among the rest, conveyed it to Hamburg and Lubec for security. Every thing was done by the reigning family to alleviate the sufferings of the people till the resources of charity were exhausted, and the afficted Duchess, if she did not immediately sink under her misfortunes, is said to have been thrown by them into a state of bodily infirmity which ended in her death.

By the victory gained by the Prussian arms over Marshal Daun at Torgau, in 1760, the fortune of Frederic was raised to its summit, and this was the moment chosen by the younger Princess of Strelitz for tendering that celebrated epistle to the monarch, which appears to have had some influence in rendering his conduct towards her oppressed country more considerate and just. This letter, the genuineness of which we have not heard disputed, is neither eloquent nor brilliant, but it is unpretendingly and naturally written, exhibiting much good sense, and good feeling, clearly and succinctly expressed. There is also something in it of a feminine cast that renders the magnanimity which belongs to the proceeding particularly affecting. She thus recommends the situation of her unhappy country to the consideration of the victorious king. -7*** It was but a very few years ago that this territory wore the most pleasing appearance. The country was cultivated, the peasant looked cheerful, and the townis abounded with riches and festivity. What an alteration at present from such a charming scene! I am not expert at description, nor can my fancy add any horrors to the picture; but surely even conquerors themselves would weep at the hideous prospects now before nie. The whole country, my dear country, lies one frightful waste, presenting only objects to excite terror, pity, and despair.

The employments of the husbandman and the shepherd are quite suspended; for the husbandman and the shepherd are become soldiers themselves, and help to ravage the soil which they formerly cultivated. The towns are inhabited only by old men, women, and children; while perhaps here and there a warrior, by wounds or loss of limbs rendered unfit for service, is left at his door, where his little children hang round him, ask the history of every wound, and grow themselves soldiers before they find strength for the field. But this were nothing, did we not feel the alternate insolence of either army as it happens to advance or retreat, in pursuing the operations of the campaign. It is impossible, indeed, to express the confusion which they who call themselves our friends create, for even those from whom we might expect relief only oppress us with new calamities. From your justice, there, fore, it is, Sire, that we hope redress: to you even children and women may complain, whose humanity stoops to the meanest petition, and whose power is capable of repressing the greatest wrong." (P. 56, 57.)

It is well known that George the Second had designed a marriage for his grandson with a niece of the King of Prussia, that this union was regarded by the dowager Princess of Wales with much aversion, and that the young Prince of Wales, after many efforts of his grandfather to overcome his repugnance, put an end to the project by a decided refusal, chiefly, it is surmised, on account of the libertine principles of the proposed family, refusal which is said to have occasioned the remark of the English monarch, “ that the boy was only fit to read the Bible to his mother.” The truth was, that by the wise, maxims and judicious management of this most respectable and muchcalumniated princess, the moral sanctity of the throne of these realms was secured for more than half a century.

With a thinking and virtuous people, it ought to have been strong evidence of the sound judgment and correct principles of the princess dowager, that, careless of the seeming advantages of an interested or splendid alliance, she looked into the family of this petty princedom of Mecklenburg for a woman educated as a woman should be to take her station at the head of the female society of this great empire, that is to say, in the strict observance of all those conservative rules which are the defence and ornament of the female character. Such a person she found in the second daughter of the duchess dowager, to whose excellent discharge of the mother's duty to her family Dr. Watkins has not given exaggerated praise. For her sound and sober views of the interests: of her royal son the dowager princess was in discredit with the court of George the Second, and for some time lived in some neglect at Kew and Leicester House, but on the commencement of the new reign it was soon seen that the young King adopted her views of his own best interests, and manifested an edifying respect, and duty to his mother. Dr. Watkins is right enough in his observation that these proofs of good, disposition are of no avail in factious times. There is not a virtue, however pure, that is not easily transformed into reproach by party-rancour. The dutifulness of the son was construed into weakness, and the mother's dist interestedness was stigmatized with every imputation which the inventiveness of malice could suggest. Things went on, however, under the guidance of a firm band, in their proper train. The young King was married to the woman of his

« НазадПродовжити »