« PreviousContinue »
from Elba, and I was carried over seas to renew hostilities on the plains of Waterloo. With this view I was stationed at Brussels, to be ready at a moment's warning. The caution was well timed, for late at night, when Lord Wellington was figuring at a ball-room, the roar of cannon was heard, the drums beat to arms, and in less than an hour the British army was on its march to Quatre-bras, The contest had commenced on their arrival, but the next day waned before they were enabled to engage in close conflict. The night was conse quently passed under arms, and is one that must ever be remembered. It was gloomy with the fogs of twilight, and lit only at intervals by the flash of cannons that thundered from the French quarters. By midnight, however, the two armies were silent, and thousands slumbered on the cold heath on whom no future evening should go down.
As day dawned in the horizon, the enemy began to move from their position, and the bugles of the British cavalry, announced that the fatal hour had arrived. An officer in a plain dress rode along the front of the English lines, and by the huzzas that welcomed his appearance, I recognized Lord Wellington. In an instant, the word to charge was given, and the battle commenced. It was one of extermination, but appeared to favor
the enemy. At this critical period, I was drawn up to oppose the formidable battalion of the Cuirassiers, and for one short moment was stationed in the immediate vicinity of my old commander, Napoleon. I watched his every movement. Not a word expressive of his feelings escaped him. He heeded not the din of battle that hurtled in the air; nor was his equanimity interrupted, until he beheld his Cuirassiers trampling upon those pieces of animated gingerbread, the British Hussars. But this exultation was momentary: for on the advance of the Prussians, Wellington gave orders for a general attack, and the same sun that set on the Plains of Waterloo, set for ever on the fortunes of Napoleon.
On the termination of this eventful contest, I was again restored to England. Other pieces of cannon had shared in my captivity, and it was resolved that the artillery taken in the battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Thoulouse, and Waterloo, should be moulded into some permanent memorial. A committee of ladies was accordingly appointed, and a figure of Achilles proposed for erection in the park. To be sure, in cases of this nature, it is foolishly thought requisite that the judges should be experienced in the fine arts. That they should have scrutinized the rarest specimens of classical
sculpture; have passed years in the study of the ancient and modern schools, and understand some little about the matter on which they were to decide. Here however the case was different. The committee were profoundly incompetent to their task; but then they were ladies of fashion; a term of such extensive import, that it embraces the whole circle of sciences within its comprehensive circumference.
On their first sitting, a statue of Minerva was proposed. A vast female majority however voted against her. Some shrewdly observed, that the Goddess of Wisdom was out of her element in London. Others remarked, that she was proverbially out of their line, and that they should derive no satisfaction from an exhibition of their own sex. The idea was accordingly abandoned, and after some further suggestions, Mr. Westmacott was desired to complete the original design. The expence was next calculated, and one thrifty member of the committee, laudably anxious to have the most for her money, requested that Sir William Curtis (if there was sufficient brass to furnish him) should be taken as a model. But this also was rejected, on the plea that the ladies would be accused of treason to the state, were they to ensnare the baronet from his invaluable public duties.
The apparel of Achilles now became a matter of serious discussion. Breeches were unanimously scouted, for, argued the committee, the Cossack trowsers of a fashionable statue will soon become antiquated, whereas a fig leaf is a species of scriptural evergreen. A wig was the next consideration, and Dr. Parr was applied to for the loan of his best Sabbath bob. He accordingly wrote them a very polite reply, (which to their infinite edification was indited in the Greek character,) in which he observed that as Homer makes no mention of Achilles' wig, it is fair to presume that he wore none. further particulars he referred them to Scholia in Homerum, vols. 1 and 2, to Ricardi Payne Knight Prolegomena; and a MS of his own, in which he confidently asserted that wigs, knee-breeches, and top-boots were unknown at the siege of Troy. The letter concluded with a parallel between sandals and shoe strings; one of which he derived from the other, a fact, he observed, that went a great way to prove the primeval sympathies of nations. Such a weight of learning completely subdued the committee, who, to prevent further discussion and at the same time to please all their countrywomen, ordered Achilles to be erected in a state of picturesque nudity.
Mr. Westmacott was now set seriously to work,
and I waxed vigorous apace.
moon added some new beauty to my form so that I soon became a favourite with the ladies. time my lineaments elicited all their present majesty, and but one finishing touch was requisite. I shall not easily forget the transports of my Prometheus as this last stroke was completed. It was on a calm summer morning; the sun shone brightly on my features, and I seemed to live in the splendor of his beams. Not a grace, not a charm was wanting; the hand of genius had passed over me, and I rose in beauty from its creative touch, as Venus from the spray of ocean. The artist beheld me with enthusiasm, and his heart beat with exultation, while he stood beside his elaborate immortality. And well indeed might he exult, for through countless ages I am doomed to survive, like a rock upon the sea of time. When London is whelmed in ruin, when the high grass waves in the palaces of its nobles, I shall still exist, the beacon that attracts attention to the past. Flushed with England's greatness, I shall reflect back her glory amid the dimness of remote ages, as the western cloud lends to twilight the lustre of departed day.
I was by this time completely finished; and after a temporary delay occasioned by the difficulty