THE EYE-WITNESS by Belloc, Hilaire, 1908

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WITNESS H.BELLOGTHE EYE-WITNESS BY.h!bellocBEING A SERIES OF DESCRIPTIONSAND SKETCHESIN WHICH IT IS ATTEMPTED TO REPRODUCE CER-TAIN INCIDENTS AND PERIODS IN HISTORY, AS FROM THE TESTIMONYOF A PERSON PRESENT AT EACHIThe greater part of the sketches inthisfrom the Morning Post, to Proprietor and Editor of ichich paperare reprintedbook the theauthor owes his thanks for the permission to reproduce themhere.'iLONDONEVELEIGH NASH FAWSIDE HOUSE 19081.53^TOLORD LUCASPREFACE book the sketches of which IN the author has attempted, upon thisiscomposed, the modelof one vivid experience, to reconstructcertainpassages of the past.In each he has accumulated as well as he could such evidence for detail as would make an actualpresentment of history rather than an aid to realisation.Theitshours, the colours, the landscape,the weather, the language, are, as far as his learning permitted, the hours, the colours, the landscape,the weather, the language of the times and placeshe describes.The readerwill of course distinguishbetweenthose episodes in which the actors and events are purely imaginary (as, for example, in " The Christian ") ; those in which some part only of the actors are real (as in " The Familiar ") and those ;in which every detail of person rigidlyhistorical" The Ark-Royall(asin"). viiand" Drouet'sof scene isRide "orPREFACEviiiInall of these,from the purely imaginative tothe purely historical, whatever the author could verify has been verified;but he well knows theimpossibility of arriving at a complete accuracywhere such minuteHedetails are attempted.has desired in these pages to present suc-cessive pictures stretching across the 2000 years ofChristian history;in so doing he hasbeen com-pelled to restrict himself to places with which hewas himself familiarly acquainted and to authorities Thus the sail light wind crossing of the Channel by under awhich he had the power to consult. (as in "The Twofrom experience.Soldiers ") he can claim toknowHehas visited the arena in Southern Tunisia which is the scene of " Theand the coast of the Narbonese which is The Pagans." He is familiar with the banks of the Itchen on which " The Saxon School was built and the voyage of the Greek traveller whose progress is imagined in " The Barbarians " Christian,"that of ";He has sailed, as did " The Danish Boat," from the North Sea over took place in his own county.the bar of the Three Rivers up Breydon, and so toNorwich, and before the same wind.Hehas oftenwalked through the thickets in the valley of the Brede, where the soldiers came in " The Night after Hastings."Likeallthe world he knows thePREFACE Romanixroad to Staines, which"isthe road toRunny mede " the way up from the Weald, through Combe on to Mount Harry, and the aspect ;of"Lewes" from that heightisalso the approach from the Vale of Glyndefor the flying buttresses ofappear in " TheEndisfamihar to him, as :asWestminster (whichHenry IV.") he knows them well. The Madrid of The Famihar " he has visited in just such a blinding summer and in those shoals between Calais and Dunkirk, where " The Ark-Roy air^ watched the Armada, he has dropped a little anchor more than once for a few hours. He has passed from the Lakes to the Hudson where was the tragedy of " Saratoga " he has paced the " ranges upon the field where " The Guns at Valmy were unlimbered and he has gone upon his feet over the "Guadarrama" by that same road which of '';;;Napoleon took with mutinous armysomesixithisindomitablemen whobut half-further followedhimthousand miles.This longspace:list isonly permitted to occupy thedoes in order to assure the reader thatthe writer has not presumed to setdown fancyandofcUmates whichreferences,Imust beg thedescriptions of landscapeshe did not know.As tohistoricalindulgence of thecritic,but I believe I have notPREFACEXdown a minute but entertainingpositively asserted an error nor failed to setconsiderablenumberoftruths.Thus the 10th Legion (which I have called a regiment in " The Two Soldiers ") did sail under Caesar for Britain from Boulogne, and from no other port. There was in those days a great landlocked harbour from Pont-de-Briques right up to the Narrows, as the readers of the " Gaule Romaine " must know. The moon was at her last quarter (though presuming her not to be hiddenby clouds JustisThere was a highbut fancy).at the place where shesetting that nightRoman and themany—youmaysee it to-day.soldiers were recruitedCeltic portions ofhillwould have beenThefrom the TeutonicGaul; of the latterknow of that grotto under Chartres which is among the chief historical interests of Europe. The tide was, as I have said, on the didflow at midnight Similarly, the—andso whofollowed the Queen ofFrance's tumbril in the Revolution were the slouching guard I have described in " Mr. Barr's Annoyance " ; and that scratching of the pens, thatupon the floor over into " Thermidor," which put the maps, I have sight of Carnot at full lengthistrue to the evidencewehave, asisthe furniturePREFACE roomof that greatinxiwhich Europe was trans-formed.Thereanother category of description con-istained in this book. Apart from detail ascertainableby researchhas been necessary, for work of thisitupon and exists. Thus so great an places the blowing up of description, to decidedoubtful points, whereevidencewhere room for doubtisconflictingDukeauthority as Chuquet the limbers atValmyand have followed what seems to me the plain conclusion from Kellermann. Similarly, there is no direct evidence as to the exact ajtertheof Brunswick's abortive chargeprobably in the afternoonI:spot in the pass where the disaster of Roncesvallestook place—weonlyknownorthern side of the range:itwas on themy guessat the place,thatthough drawn from a close observation, is but an opinion. There are many such direct assertions (inseparable from the form of narrative) where strict history would state the thing tentatively, admitargument and defend a conclusion by reference and appendix but none, I think, for which I have not evidence or analogy, nor one which I have not ;adopted myself only after a close reading of others' views.Imust not further extendthisapology for aPREFACExiichanceseries of historical essays;itmay, however,be of interest to the reader to know that the scene from "The Barricade " has been described by men still living, who fought and while the scene drawn from were wounded there our English party politics in " The PoUtician " was carefully studied upon the platform so recently as to the author;the year 1906.King's Land, 1908.SYNOPSIS PAOSMotive of this BookThe Two1Soldiers (August 26,Upon August26,B.C.55,55)b.c.Julius.Cfesar.13.sailedfromBoulogne with two legions for the Invasion of BritainThe Christian(179a. d.)...In the year 17D A.D. the Emperoramong...25Marcus Aurelius,the worst of the enemies of the Faith,still lived.The townof Thyrsus in the Province of AfricaDjemTunis) was the most important of the greatinAtowns near the Desert. It has disappeared. is here supposed suffering martyrdomThe General Officer (About 370 At the endofthe fourtha.d.)century,(now ElChristian...about370 A.D.,The official language England was highly populated. was Latin the large garrisons were those of a Roman The Catholic Faith was officially accepted, army. though many of the governing class rejected or smiled at This wealthy province (of which East Anglia was one it. of the wealthiest and most populous parts) was annoyed by incursions of petty barbarian tribes from the north, east and west, eager to enjoy the advantage of a high civilisation. None of these incursions were more irritating than the descent of small pirate boats under the northeast winds of spring from the savage countries beyond the North Sea ;37SYNOPSISxivFAOBThe Pagans (About 42049a.d.)Certain old families maintained a Pagan loyalty long after the Empire was officially Christian. The Narbonese,where this scene Eomanised partwas a very wealthy and highlyis laid,Fromof Gaul.this part sprang thefamily of Charlemagne, whose ancestors were of the kind The name "Port of Venus" has been here described. " preserved in " Port-VendresThe Barbarians (About 700 In thelatter part of the fifthcivilised parts offrontiers of the.Roman...61century (towards 500 A.D.) theWestern Europe werefinallyoverrun byfrom beyond the Their numbers were nottribeshalf-civilisedorunciviliseda.d.)Empire.great, but the disturbance sufficed to upset the balance ofand everything decayed. No part suffered where savages from Scotland and uncouth pirates from the North Sea joined with halfsubdued tribes in the province itself to pillage and ruin For over a hundred years the anarchy was such society. that Britain disappears from history. Some few of the great towns were not only sacked but actually destroj'ed, and among these appears to have been Anderida, a garrison and port upon the site of Pevensey in Sussex. In the second half of the sixth century (a hundred years later) there was something of a reaction after all this anarchy the Roman armies reorganised Africa, and the Roman religion and civilisation re-entered Britain with St. Augustine. Some parts, however, were neglected, and none more than the Sussex seaboard, which did not get back the Mass and the Latin Order till a hundred years after Kent and London. I here suppose a Greek from Constantinople or New Rome, which was the seat of Empire and highly civilised, visiting social order,more thanBritain,:Sussex just after theRomanfirstreligion there.from Londonfeeble re-establishment of theHeto Chichester,goes doAvn the Stane Streetand then, withlettersfromSYNOPSISXV PAGEthe Bishop of Selsey, he goes along the sea-plain to themouth of the Ouse, where he takes a boat round Beachy Head to PevenseyRoNCESVALLES (778A.D.)......73The Mohammedans having conquered Spain, Charlemagne, the greatestmemberof the greatest of Gallic Christiando no more than contain them by holding the valley of the Ebro, as upon another frontier he controlled the enemies of Europe by holding the valley of the Elbe. Eeturning to Gaul by way of the Roman Boad and pass (the Imus Pyrenseus) from a campaign in the Spanish March, his rear-guard under Roland was overwhelmed by the mountaineers in the midst of the Pyrenees. This disaster gave rise to the noblest of Christian epics families, couldThe Danish Boat (About 780a.d.)Hardly was Europe cre^ing back to....83when, in far worsecivilisationthe eighth century, a furious assault uponit,than any earlier attack, broke from every side. Scandinavian and Pagan Germans, the Mohammedans, and later roving bands of Mongols attempted to destroy it. The energy of the Gaulish and German ruling femily, which culminated in Charlemagne, checked the disaster, but after Charlemagne's death it was renewed more fiercely than ever, and Europe was barely saved by the resistance of Alfred and the Count of Paris more than a hundred years after the first attack. The Faith was the particular object of this invasion of "Roman Land," whether by Arabs and Moors as in Spain, or by Scandinavian pirates as in Britain. In what follows I presume one of the first raidsThe Saxon School (The Summerof 1002)..Winchester was the centre of Saxon England Hyde, the great Abbey outside the gates, was to Winchester what :Westminster was later to London.In what follows ab95SYNOPSISxviPAQK school In the neighbourhood, and attached to the Abbey, isimagined, just before the last Danish conquest andharrying of that valleyThe Night after Hastings (October OnOctober14, 1066, a greatbodyEurope, a few of them Italian,14,IO66)men fromofmanyall parts.108ofBreton, but most ofthem French, led by William the Duke of Normandy, who claimed Edward the Confessor's inheritance, defeated, upon ahillside called " Hastings Plain "above the riverBrede, the less civilised supporters of Harold, who, under that provincial noble, had marched at full speed fromYorkshire to meet the invaders.detemiinedtillThe contest was notvery late in the day, and while there wasno regular pursuit, the cutting oflF of laggards and the attempt to prevent the information and reorganisation of theenemy could only be pursuedRuNNYMEDE (Juneafter sunset11315, 1215)On June 15, 1215, the League of Officials, wealthy merchants, higher clergy and Barons met the King, John (againstwhom they hadrisen after the defeat of his foreign policy),on the far side of the Thames, opposite Staines, having marched that morning from London. He there assented to a Oreat Charter confirming their privileges, which they had drawn up for him to sign. John, after signing, took the field, hammered the rebels, and would, but for an untimely death, have easily recovered the rights of the central government against the aristocracy ,The Armies before Lewes (May13, 1264)..125John's son. King Henry III., a man turbed by yet another rebellion of his Barons and the of great piety, dis-wealthy of London, after certain successes came down to the Cinque Ports and so up over Cuckmere from the east toLewes witharmy andhisarmytheir alliesin earlyMay1264.The Barons'from London lay at Fletching inSYNOPSISxvii PAGEthe Weald of Sussex to the north of Lewes and of the Downs,under the guidance of Simon de Montfort, a mystic, son French noble who, a generation before, hadof that greatOn May 12,destroyed the Albigensian Heretics.this rebelarmy received the challenge of the king and on the 13th it broke camp and approached the escarpment of the Downs, in order to reach Lewes, where the King's army layThe Battle of Lewes (May On May and14, 1264,14, 1264)Simon de Montfort,...135his rebel Baronsfrom London, though losing the left of on the Downs above Lewes, were successful upon their right and so gained the day taking prisoner the king himself. In this way the nobles and the wealthy of London, who had already partially succeeded against John and had obtained from him the signing of Magna Charta, laid a foundation for what was much later to become the aristocratic constitution of England their alliestheir battle:Crbssy (August 26,Upon August1147346)26, 1346,twenty-five thousandEdwardmenIII.Ponthieu.Heretreating withsomeor less upon the sea after asuccessful raid in Northern France,French king, in,was caught up by the French Crecy), inpursuit, at Cressy (thebeat off this host, quite four times hisownin number, with complete successThe EndofOn MarchHenryIV. (March 19, 1413)19 (or 20), 1413,HenryIV.,..who had usurpedthe crown by treason from his cousin Richard fourteen years before, died in the Abbot'sHe wasChamberat Westminster.prematurely aged, affected with a horrible diseaseand suffering from epileptic fits, the last of which seized him as he prayed, on March 19, at King Edward's shrine in the Abbey. In his time and just before it, the division between poor and rich had been violent religious visionaries had accentuated this feeling and mixed it with Messianic, Apocalyptical and Mystical solutions of social ;159SYNOPSISxviiiPAQX problems.Also in his time and thence onward the officialsuppression of philosophical discussion became habitual.In one contemporary account sailors boasted that his body, on its way to funeral, had been thrown overboardThe Familiar (MayIn the second week of (thel691588)MayArmada) which was1588, the fleet of transportsto sailfrom Spain and to carrytroops from the Netherlands to invade England, lay readyIn what follows is imagined a scene in the Koyal Palace at Madrid where council is held as to the in the of sailingThe "Ark- Royall"(July 27, 1588)...181The Arh-Royall was, during the struggle with the Armada, the flag-ship of the English Lord Admiral, a landsman, one of the Howards, a family recently grown very powerful through wealth taken from the ChurchThe Apprentice(January 30, 1649)....191was executed on this day upon a scaffold outside the second window on the north of Whitehall Banqueting CharlesI.Hall, at four in the afternoonThe End of the Stuarts (December10, 1688).201England had held by legitimate descent, or on the plea of it, from the Conquest to the close of 1688, when the landed and rich merchant classes, relying on the strong religious support of London and upon the unpopularity of the king in the West, called in a foreign army and transferred the crown from James II., the last legitimate king, to his daughter and her husband. The prime act of James's fall was to send away his wife and child,The kingsofhimself followingSaratoga (October6,1777)General Burgoyue, in progress to cut the American Rebellion in two by a march from the 8t. Lawrence to the sea,213SYNOPSISxix PAGEwas successful iuallthepart of his campaign.firstHisgross dilatoriness iu effecting the short portage betweenthe lakes and theHudson gave the euemy time to conHe was hemmed in on thecentrate upon that river.heights of Saratoga;discovered, in a reconnaissance uponOctober 6 (here described)that he could not retreat,and on the 16th surrendered to support the rebels,;the French were thus ledwho obtainedtheir independencewithin six yearsDrouet's Ride (June 21, 1791).••.223Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette, King and Queen of fly from Paris in the midst of theFrance, attempting toRevolution, were intercepted, just as they reached safety, by one Dronet, who galloped near midnight by a short cut through the forest to the town of Varennes androused the populaceThe Guns at Valmy (September21, 1792)..233and Austrian armies, advancing without difficulty against a French force of little military value, easily turned its position, and were within striking distance of Paris, there to put an end to the Kevolution. When, in turning to destroy the French force left behind them after the turning movement, they met with a check, due to rapid French artillery fire from the plateau of Valmy. This slight interference with the elaborateTheallied PrussianPrussianplansthrew suchconfusioninto the alliedarmies as soon necessitated a retreat, which changed the history of the worldMr. Barr's Annoyance (October16, 1793)..Marie Antoinette, formerly Queen of France, was executed just after midday on October 16, 1793. Negotiations for the import of American grain into France (then sufferingfrom war and famine) were being conducted by the Revolutionary Government. An American agent is here supposed suffering an adventure on that day243SYNOPSISXXPAOXGoRNAY (June 1794)......265Amongthe prisoners executed at the end of the Terror was a young cavalryman, Gornay, whose name was not upon the list of the condemned, though it was upon that of the imprisoned. It is not known how the error wascommitted, norwhyitsThermidor (July 1794)A committeevictim did not protest...:..267was chosen the war with Europe to be Dictatorof the Eevolutionary Parliamentin the worst crisis ofand to administer martial law. Robespierre, the idol the moment, was nominally a member, but his loveof ofpopularity interfered with the desire of each of the others tomakemanlilte.own department (War, Finance, &c.) workHe came more and more rarely, at last only tohisask for favours for protigis, and finally the committeewas determinedNapoleoninto be rid ofhim and hefellfrom powerthe Guadarrama (December 22-23,2791808) Napoleon in Madrid, believing the English army with Sir John Moore to be at Valladolid, and rightly judging that they must retreat at full speed to the sea through Astorga, determined to cut them off by forced marches, the first ofwhich was undertaken three days before Christmas 1808, and is here described. He failed to intercept the English retreat because his information was er
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