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It would appear that early in September, 1814, a British officer, Colonel E. Nicholls, made overtures to Jean Lafitte, offering him the rank of captain in the British army, a grant of lands, and a sum of $30,000 if he would join forces with the British squadron then engaged in an attack on the coast of Louisiana. Lafitte begged for time to consider Colonel Nicholls's proposal, but immediately put himself in communication with Claiborne, offering, on condition of immunity for past offences, to place his resources at the disposal of the United States. Claiborne's reply to this patriotic offer seems to have been to despatch a strong naval force, under Commander Daniel Patterson, with orders to exterminate the pirates, and seize their fort on Grande Terre; and, on this occasion, though the brothers escaped, the authorities were successful. A proclamation was issued by General Andrew Jackson, in which the pirates were denounced as "h.e.l.lish banditti," and, to all appearances, their career was at an end. But circ.u.mstances were in their favour, and a few weeks later Jackson not only went back on his own mandate, but accepted the alliance and services of the brothers Lafitte and their captains at the siege of New Orleans, January 8, 1815.
Finally, when peace with Great Britain was concluded, President Madison publicly acknowledged the "unequivocal traits of courage and fidelity"
which had been displayed by the brothers Lafitte, and the once proscribed band of outlaws. Thenceforth Pierre Lafitte disappears from history; but Jean is believed to have settled first at Galveston, in Texas, and afterwards, in 1820, on the coast of Yucatan, whence "he continued his depredations on Spanish commerce." He died game, a pirate to the last, in 1826. See, for what purports to be doc.u.mentary evidence of the correspondence between Colonel E. Nicholls and Jean Lafitte, _Historical Memoirs of the War in West Florida and Louisiana_, by Major A. La Carriere Latour, 1816, Appendix III. pp. vii.-xv. See, too, _Fernando de Lemos_ (an historical novel), by Charles Gayarre, 1872, pp.
In [the Rev. Mark] n.o.ble's continuation of "Granger's _Biographical History_" [_of England_, 1806, iii. 68], there is a singular pa.s.sage in his account of Archbishop Blackbourne [1658-1743]; and as in some measure connected with the profession of the hero of the foregoing poem, I cannot resist the temptation of extracting it.--"There is something mysterious in the history and character of Dr. Blackbourne. The former is but imperfectly known; and report has even a.s.serted he was a buccaneer; and that one of his brethren in that profession having asked, on his arrival in England, what had become of his old chum, Blackbourne, was answered, he is Archbishop of York. We are informed, that Blackbourne was installed sub-dean of Exeter in 1694, which office he resigned in 1702; but after his successor Lewis Barnet's death, in 1704, he regained it. In the following year he became dean; and in 1714 held with it the archdeanery [i.e. archdeaconry] of Cornwall. He was consecrated Bishop of Exeter, February 24, 1716; and translated to York, November 28, 1724, as a reward, according to court scandal, for uniting George I. to the d.u.c.h.ess of Munster. This, however, appears to have been an unfounded calumny. As archbishop he behaved with great prudence, and was equally respectable as the guardian of the revenues of the see.
Rumour whispered he retained the vices of his youth, and that a pa.s.sion for the fair s.e.x formed an item in the list of his weaknesses; but so far from being convicted by seventy witnesses, he does not appear to have been directly criminated by one. In short, I look upon these aspersions as the effects of mere malice. How is it possible a buccaneer should have been so good a scholar as Blackbourne certainly was? He who had so perfect a knowledge of the cla.s.sics (particularly of the Greek tragedians), as to be able to read them with the same ease as he could Shakespeare, must have taken great pains to acquire the learned languages; and have had both leisure and good masters. But he was undoubtedly educated at Christ-church College, Oxford. He is allowed to have been a pleasant man; this, however, was turned against him, by its being said, 'he gained more hearts than souls.'"
[Walpole, in his _Memoirs of the Reign of King George II._, 1847, i. 87, who makes himself the mouthpiece of these calumnies, says that Hayter, Bishop of Norwich, was "a natural son of Blackbourne, the jolly old Archbishop of York, who had all the manners of a man of quality, though he had been a Buccaneer, and was a clergyman; but he retained nothing of his first profession except his seraglio."]
"The only voice that could soothe the pa.s.sions of the savage (Alphonso III.) was that of an amiable and virtuous wife, the sole object of his love; the voice of Donna Isabella, the daughter of the Duke of Savoy, and the grand-daughter of Philip II. King of Spain. Her dying words sunk deep into his memory [A.D. 1626, August 22]; his fierce spirit melted into tears; and, after the last embrace, Alphonso retired into his chamber to bewail his irreparable loss, and to meditate on the vanity of human life."--Gibbon's _Miscellaneous Works_ [1837, p. 831].
[This final note was added to the Tenth Edition.]
ODE TO NAPOLEON
"Expende Annibalem:--quot libras in duce summo Invenies?"
Juvenal, [Lib. iv.] _Sat._ x. line 147.
"The Emperor Nepos was acknowledged by the _Senate_, by the _Italians_, and by the Provincials of _Gaul_; his moral virtues, and military talents, were loudly celebrated; and those who derived any private benefit from his government announced in prophetic strains the restoration of the public felicity. * * By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life about five years, in a very ambiguous state, between an Emperor and an Exile, till!!!"--Gibbon's _Decline and Fall_, two vols. notes by Milman, i. 979.
INTRODUCTION TO THE _ODE TO NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE._
The dedication of the _Corsair_, dated January 2, 1814, contains one of Byron's periodical announcements that he is about, for a time, to have done with authorship--some years are to elapse before he will again "trespa.s.s on public patience."
Three months later he was, or believed himself to be, in the same mind.
In a letter to Moore, dated April 9, 1814 (_Letters_, 1899, iii. 64), he writes, "No more rhyme for--or rather, _from_--me. I have taken my leave of that stage, and henceforth will mountebank it no longer." He had already--_Journal_, April 8 (_Letters_, 1898, ii. 408)--heard a rumour "that his poor little paG.o.d, Napoleon" was "pushed off his pedestal,"
and before or after he began his letter to Moore he must have read an announcement in the _Gazette Extraordinary_ (April 9, 1814--the abdication was signed April 11) that Napoleon had abdicated the "throne of the world," and declined upon the kingdom of Elba. On the next day, April 10, he wrote two notes to Murray, to inform him that he had written an "ode on the fall of Napoleon," that Murray could print it or not as he pleased; but that if it appeared by itself, it was to be published anonymously. A first edition consisting of fifteen stanzas, and numbering fourteen pages, was issued on the 16th of April, 1814. A second edition followed immediately, but as publications of less than a sheet were liable to the stamp tax on newspapers, at Murray's request, another stanza, the fifth, was inserted in a later (between the second and the twelfth) edition, and, by this means, the pamphlet was extended to seventeen pages. The concluding stanzas xvii., xviii., xix., which Moore gives in a note (_Life_, p. 249), were not printed in Byron's lifetime, but were first included, in a separate poem, in Murray's edition of 1831, and first appended to the Ode in the seventeen-volume edition of 1832.
Although he had stipulated that the _Ode_ should be published anonymously, Byron had no objection to "its being said to be mine."
There was, in short, no secret about it, and notices on the whole favourable appeared in the _Morning Chronicle_, April 21, in the _Examiner_, April 24 (in which Leigh Hunt combated Byron's condemnation of Buonaparte for not "dying as honour dies"), and in the _Anti-Jacobin_ for May, 1814 (_Letters_, 1899, iii. 73, note 3).
Byron's repeated resolutions and promises to cease writing and publishing, which sound as if they were only made to be broken, are somewhat exasperating, and if, as he pleaded in his own behalf, the occasion (of Napoleon's abdication) was _physically_ irresistible, it is to be regretted that he did not _swerve_ from his self-denying ordinance to better purpose. The note of disillusionment and disappointment in the _Ode_ is but an echo of the sentiments of the "general." Napoleon on his own "fall" is more original and more interesting: "Il ceda," writes Leonard Gallois (_Histoire de Napoleon d'apres lui-meme_, 1825, pp. 546, 547), "non sans de grands combats interieurs, et la dicta en ces termes.
'Les puissances alliees ayant proclame que l'empereur Napoleon etait le seul obstacle au retabliss.e.m.e.nt, de la paix en Europe, l'empereur Napoleon fidele a son serment, declare qu'il renonce, pour lui et ses heritiers, aux trones de France et d'Italie, parce qu'il n'est aucun sacrifice personnel, meme celui de la vie, qu'il ne soit pret a faire a l'interet de la France.
ODE TO NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE.
'Tis done--but yesterday a King!
And armed with Kings to strive-- And now thou art a nameless thing: So abject--yet alive!
Is this the man of thousand thrones, Who strewed our earth with hostile bones, And can he thus survive?
Since he, miscalled the Morning Star,
Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.
Ill-minded man! why scourge thy kind Who bowed so low the knee?
By gazing on thyself grown blind, Thou taught'st the rest to see.
With might unquestioned,--power to save,-- Thine only gift hath been the grave To those that worshipped thee; Nor till thy fall could mortals guess Ambition's less than littleness!
Thanks for that lesson--it will teach To after-warriors more Than high Philosophy can preach, And vainly preached before.
That spell upon the minds of men
Breaks never to unite again, That led them to adore Those PaG.o.d things of sabre-sway, With fronts of bra.s.s, and feet of clay.
The triumph, and the vanity, The rapture of the strife--
The earthquake-voice of Victory, To thee the breath of life; The sword, the sceptre, and that sway Which man seemed made but to obey, Wherewith renown was rife-- All quelled!--Dark Spirit! what must be The madness of thy memory!
The Desolator desolate!
The Victor overthrown!
The Arbiter of others' fate A Suppliant for his own!
Is it some yet imperial hope That with such change can calmly cope?
Or dread of death alone?
To die a Prince--or live a slave-- Thy choice is most ign.o.bly brave!
He who of old would rend the oak, Dreamed not of the rebound;
Chained by the trunk he vainly broke-- Alone--how looked he round?
Thou, in the sternness of thy strength, An equal deed hast done at length.
And darker fate hast found: He fell, the forest prowlers' prey; But thou must eat thy heart away!
The Roman, when his burning heart Was slaked with blood of Rome, Threw down the dagger--dared depart, In savage grandeur, home.-- He dared depart in utter scorn Of men that such a yoke had borne, Yet left him such a doom!
His only glory was that hour Of self-upheld abandoned power.