A Short Narrative of the Life and Actions of His Grace John, D. of Marlborogh
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And thus then you see, that our General wants neither Conduct or Courage: And as 'twas once said to that Renown'd Captain Epaminondas, who having no Children, and being about to die of his honourable Wounds, that his two Battels of Leuctra and Mantin?a should be as two fair Daughters to preserve his Memory. So may we say, that the many Battles and Sieges, fought and won by our Great Marlborough, in the Provinces of Gelders, of Limbourg, of Brabant, of Flanders, of Artois, of Hainault, shall be far excelling the most numerous Progeny to eternize his Name.
The other false Reports that are spread among the People, by the Enemies of the Duke, are these; That his way of Living in the Army is Mean and Parsimonious, unbecoming the Honour and Dignity of his Post. That the Income and Revenue from the Profits of his Places are too much for a Subject: And that he minds nothing so much as getting of Riches. All which Reports are false and malicious, and only the Designs of his secret Enemies.
Wo be to them that call Evil Good, and Good Evil. Some of this was part of the False Accusation that was urged against Scipio the Asiatic, by the Malice and ill Nature of Cato and his Accomplices; That he had squandred away the Money of the Government, in a great measure, by his excessive Way of Living; for so his Magnificence was termed by them: That his vast Treats and luxurious Tables had some popular Design. And, to be sure, if our General should offer to live after any such manner, the Nation would be fill'd with perpetual Clamour, that he treated the Officers to make them his Creatures, and in a short time would set up for himself; for, without doubt, those things which other Men might do, tho' much inferior to the Duke, with a general Applause, in him would be Criminal, and of bad Consequence.
In all ancient Histories nothing is more highly prais'd in Princes and great Captains, than Temperance and Moderation in Meat and Drink. The Commander of the Army ought to be vigilant, that (as a good Prince once said) the People committed to his Charge may sleep more safely; and 'tis not to be conceiv'd how such a Person, who is loaded continually with foggy Intemperance, can be Careful, Active, Watchful, Alert, Thoughtful, Foreseeing, being all Qualities necessary for so great a Charge.
His Grace governs his Family abroad like a wise Master, with good Order and Method; every thing about him shines with a temperate Use, and a daily chearful Plenty, not only for his own Domesticks, but for many others; but then all this is in due time and season: He has no Constitution for an Intemperate Life, and the Loads of it would soon destroy him.
As for his great Profits in the Army, let us take a view of them: There is an Author call'd, The Examiner, who has been very diligent in searching into His Grace's Revenue: But I am sure, in his Perquisites belonging to the Army he can be no Judge; the Pay of a Captain General, by the Day, may be known to any one, I suppose 'tis set down in the Present State of England, as well as Master of the Ordnance, and Colonel of a Regiment of Foot-Guards; these are all his Military Employments, and the Pay of them as much his due, as the Pay of Three Shillings and Six-Pence is to an Ensign.The Earl of Rumney had all these Places except Captain-General; he was both a Lieutenant-General and an Ambassador, and enjoy'd them a long time, and yet I never heard of any Man that envied him, or found fault that he had too many Places. And 'tis a common thing for a great Mareschal of France to have many more Posts, and of much greater Profits.
Any young Clerk, who belongs to an Agent, can presently show how many Regiments of Horse, Foot, and Dragoons are in the Pay of Her Majesty, under the Duke; and everyone there, from a General to a Drummer, what their proper Pay is, nor can they be deceived. The Hospitals and the Artillery are paid accordingly, in an exact Method. The Pay of each particular Body is issued out to the Pay-masters of the Army, from the Pay-Master-General; and the Duke touches not a Farthing but what properly belongs to him. And whereas abundance of People complain, that almost all the Money of the Nation was, by the late Lord Treasurer, sent into Flanders to pay the Troops there; no matter what became of the other parts of the War. This I know to be true, That the mercenary or hired Forces, which are in our Pay, and are the greatest part of our Army under the Duke, being most of them Danes, Swiss, Saxons, and Palatines, all of the German kind, will not march one Foot, notwithstanding all the Perswasions that any General can use; no, not to save any King or Prince in the World, unless they are duly paid, at the appointed times, according to their first Agreement: but then, as soon as you shew the Gheldt, they presently Shoulder, and Stalk wheresoever you please.
What the Queen is pleas'd to allow the Duke for his Secret Service, because his Eyes and Ears must be in all Secret Cabinets, (and, without doubt, his Intelligence must be very good) it is not fit for me or the Examiner to know; or, for ought I can judge, any one else besides in the World.
The Perquisites of Safeguards and Contributions, which in all Times have belong'd to Generals, can't easily be valued, they are according to the Countries in which the War is carried. But for all these Profits to be ascrib'd to the Duke, (as in several Pamphlets 'tis evident they are) is very unreasonable; because there are two other Chief Generals besides, the Prince of Savoy for the Imperialists, and Count Tilly for the States, each of which will claim their Parts as well as His Grace; besides the gross of them, which are given to the States themselves: and yet we hear of no Complaint, or Papers printed against them, or in the least envied by any of the Nations under whom they serve.
In short, 'tis all the Reason that a conquering General, who fights our Battels, and must look the Powers of Europe in the Face, as he is distinguish'd by Titles of Honour, so where-ever he goes he ought to be attended with Plenty and Riches.
A Sea-Captain, after the Service of Nine or Ten Years, is usually Master of a very great Fortune, he Sails in his Coach with rich Liveries for his Colours, and Steers from his City to his Country-House unenvied, and without unmerciful Remarks. The honest Gentlemen in Town, call'd Agents, most of whom are risen from a mean Condition to be Members of Parliament, Justices of the Peace, and to purchase Estates, where-ever they can find out Land to be dispos'd of, who never ventur'd their Lives farther than from the Pay-Office to the Tavern; and yet they make a Figure in the World with a very good Grace, untouch'd, or not mark'd by any Observator.
But this has been the Fortune of the most glorious Persons, to be envied and persecuted whilst they are alive, and when taken away from us by some unlucky Accident, are desir'd too late, and lamented with a Witness.
If we observe, through the whole Nation, either here in this Capital, or in any other Parts of England, allowing but for proportion of Merit and Dignity, we shall find more People belonging to Offices of Docks and Yards, to Offices of Stores and Victualling, who have made as good use of the Places in which they serve, and with no greater Fatigue and Danger than Figuring and Writing, as the best and richest General in Europe.
When my Lord Marlborough had escap'd the Wars, and was return'd to the quiet of the Country, no Word was heard of him in Court or Town, no one talked of his Money, or Riches, or Estate; but no sooner was he again call'd to the High Station in which he now Acts, but Envy had presently found him out, even in the midst of Guards and Arms, and ever since has follow'd him close with all sorts of False-Reports, to this very time; as if nothing but his most excellent Qualities, and growing Glory, could make him Unfortunate.
Indeed Generals, tho' the most accomplish'd Heroes, are but Men, they are not Infallible, but may be mistaken as well as other Mortals, they are subject to Faults and Infirmities as well as their Fellow-Creatures; but then their great Services for the good of their Country ought to be cast into the Ballance, against their humane Mistakes; and not only Charity, but Self-consideration should give them very good Quarter, unless their Faults are prov'd to be Wilful and Contumacious.
I know not how it might happen to the Duke if he should chance to Miscarry, or be beaten in a Battle; God be prais'd, as yet he has never been foil'd: but then we must not suppose that he is Invincible, that Fortune will always be confin'd to the Pomel of his Sword. But this is certain, that the French King has not been severe to any of his Great Captains, tho', in their turns, they have been all beaten by the Prince of Savoy and the Duke, the Prince taking one of his chief Mareschals a Prisoner with him out of the midst of his Garison; the Duke another of them on the Banks of the Danube, with the greatest part of the Banners and Trophies of his almost captiv'd Army: there are no Outcries of the Common People for a Sacrifice to the Publick, nor base Reflections made on their Courage or Conduct; because 'tis suppos'd in all those fiery Ordeals of Battles, a General exerts all the Faculties and Powers of Body and Soul; he puts Nature on the stretch. And as my Lord Duke, at the conclusion of the great Battle of Blenheim said, I think to his Honour, that he believed he had pray'd more that Day than all the Chaplains of his Army.
Therefore let not People think, that those Gentlemen who are call'd to fight Battles make use of those Employments, in the heat of a bloody War, for Diversion or Pleasure. They who have been Spectators of what they do and what they suffer, will soon be perswaded, that no People under Heaven purchase their Profits and Honours at a dearer rate.
'Tis a great happiness to a Nation to have a generous Race of Warlike People, who, at all times, are ready to venture their Lives in the defence of it. Cowardice is the highest Scandal to a Country, and exposes it to be a Prey to every Invader, as well as a Scorn to their Neighbours. In all Histories of the World, they who dare die for the sake of their Country, have been esteem'd as a sort of Martyrs: And the People who are protected at Home in their Estates, Ease, Safety, and Liberties, ought not to grudge them of any of their Perquisites; but to bless God for such a gallant number of Martial Brethren, who drive the War at a great distance, so that we see none, we do but hear of it; for 'tis a sad thing to behold the Ravages, the Ruine, the Spoils, the Devastations of those Countries which happen to be the Seats of War.
When the Officers, coming from Flanders, after the Campaign, appear in the newest Fashions, which they bring over with them, with a good Ayre and genteel Mien, which is almost common to them, the People, who never saw the Hardships which they undergo, think them only design'd for Pleasure and Ease, and their Profession to be desir'd above any thing in the World besides. They often hear of Fights and Sieges, and of a great many Men kill'd in a few Hours; but because they see not the Actions, the Talk leaves but a small and transient Impression, and so in a small time is wip'd off and forgotten. But if they did but see them in a Rainy Season, when the whole Country about them is trod into a Chaos, and in such intolerable Marches, Men and Horses dying and dead together, and the best of them glad of a bundle of Straw to lay down their wet and weary Limbs: If they did but see a Siege, besides the daily danger and expectation of Death, which is common to all, from the General to the Centinel; the Watches, the Labours, the Cares which attend the greatest; the ugly Sights, the Stinks of Mortality, the Grass all wither'd and black with the Smoke of Powder, the horrid Noises all Night and all Day, and Spoil and Destruction on every side; I am sure they would be perswaded, that a State of War, to those who are engag'd in it, must needs, be a state of Labour and Misery; and that a great General, I mean such a one as the Duke of Marlborough, weak in his Constitution, and well stricken in Years, would not undergo those eating Cares, which must be continually at his Heart; the Toils and Hardships which he must endure, and the often Sorrows which must prick his Heart for ugly Accidents, if he has the least Spark of humane Commiseration, I say, he would not engage himself in such a Life, if not for the sake of his Queen and Country, and his Honour.
I come now to add a word or two of the government of the Forces under his Care. His own Example gives a particular Life to his Orders; and as no indecent Expression, unbecoming, unclean, or unhandsome Language ever drops from his Lips, so he is imitated by the genteel part of his Army: His Camps are like a quiet and well-govern'd City; and, I am apt to believe, much more Mannerly; Cursing and Swearing, and boisterous Words being never heard among those who are accounted good Officers: And, without doubt, his Army is the best Academy in the World to teach a young Gentlemen Wit and Breeding; a Sot and a Drunkard being scorn'd among them.
These poor Wretches, that are (too many of them) the refuse and off-scowrings of the worst parts of our Nation, after two Campaigns, by the Care of their Officers, and good Order and Discipline, are made Tractable, and Civil, and Orderly, and Sensible, and Clean, and have an Ayre and a Spirit that is beyond vulgar People.
The Service of GOD, according to the Order of our Church, is strictly enjoin'd by the Dukes special Care; and in all fixed Camps, every Day, Morning and Evening, there are Prayers; and on Sundays Sermons are duly perform'd with all Decency and Respect, as well as in Garisons. And, to be sure, the Good-Nature, and Compassion, and Charity of Officers express'd to the poor sick and wounded Soldiers, and to their Families in Garison, is more Liberal, and Generous, and Free, than usually we meet with in our own Country.
And now then I hope my good Country-men will not suffer themselves any longer to be impos'd on by false Reports, which are cunningly spread abroad among them, against a Gentleman, a Patriot, who ventures his Life, every Day, for their Safety, and is endeavouring to the utmost of his Power, under his Most Gracious Sovereign, by his Courage, his Skill, and his Wisdom, to bring the Common Enemy to Reason, and to procure them and our Allies, an honourable and lasting Peace.
'Tis a thing of ill Consequence to bring a Disreputation on the good Name of a General; and to lessen his Honour is to dispirit his Army: for when the Forces under his Command have once a mean Opinion of the Integrity, and Honour, and Conduct of their General, they may be drawn out and forced to Battle, but never be perswaded to think of Laurels and Victory.
'Tis an old Piece of Policy for an Enemy, if possible, to bring an Odium on the Honour of a General against whom he is to act. Thus did Hannibal, who, in his moroding Marches, had spared some Grounds belonging to the Dictator Fabius, not out of any respect or kindness to his Person, but to bring him into Envy and Suspicion among the People at Rome; and so 'twas given out by one of the Tribunes, that Hannibal and he had, as it were, made a Truce; that the drift of Fabius could be nothing else but to prolong the War, that he might be long in Office, and have the sole Government both of City and Armies. And, without doubt, the French King would have been very well satisfied, if this same Aspersion, which was lately spread abroad concerning our General, had taken the effect of having him laid aside, and put out of his Places. A Finish'd Hero does not grow up every Day, they are scarce Plants, and do not thrive in every Soil; He may be easily lost, but then that Loss cannot easily be repair'd; therefore there is great Reason to Value and Esteem him.
To conclude, As our great Commander is known to the World, or at least to the greatest part of it, to be Temperate, Sober, Careful, Couragious, Politick, Skilful, so he is Courteous, Mild, Affable, Humble, and Condescending to People of the meanest Condition. And as 'tis said of Moses, the Great, the Valiant Captain-General of Almighty God, for an immortal Title of Honour, that he was one of the Meekest Men upon the Earth; so, without doubt, our Captain-General, John Duke of Marlborough, has a great share of it.
Authorship of A Short Narrative
While no direct contemporary corroboration exists as evidence for Defoe's authorship, a considerable number of literary mannerisms, interests, and opinions appear to establish it conclusively.
As Professor John Robert Moore said, The Life is "exceptionally characteristic" of Defoe, so characteristic in fact that "one can recognize his style and manner as one would a familiar voice."2121
At the same time, Defoe has great stylistic virtuosity. He is always direct and forceful. Although he is attacking some of the most powerful men in politics and literature in The Life, there is nothing at all deferential. He includes trivial and often superfluous details which give whatever he writes an authentic tone; these details may be places ("After several Marches, we came to the Confines of Haynault, within a League of a small Town call'd Walcourt…"), names of people ("Mr. Sizar was our Pay-Master General…"), or observations ("twas supposed we would have a long and a late Fatigue"). The same sort of verisimilitude which deceived the readers of Memoirs of Captain Carleton and Journal of the Plague Year supports the illusion of an eye witness account. Defoe's metaphors are also distinctive. While there are no great number, they are graphic, often simplify and condense an idea, and join image and idea in much the same way that seventeenth-century conceits do. Drawing on the common place, the originality and force comes from their aptness ("'tis easie to guess out of what Quiver this Arrow of Scandal was drawn," "For the most eminent Virtues are but as so many fair Marks set up on high for Envy to shoot at with her poysonous darts"). Characteristic idioms – "Engineer that stands behind the curtains," "the Lord knows who and where" – can be found on every page. Small touches such as an allusion to one of Defoe's favorite jokes (Lord Craven's retort to de Vere concerning his ancestry) can also be identified.
Furthermore, the allusions to historical and Biblical figures are consistent with Defoe's life-long usage, opinions and interests. Sir Walter Raleigh and Hannibal, Moses and Solomon are referred to for the same purposes in writings from The Shortest Way with Dissenters to Atalantis Major (a typically explicit analog: from The Shortest Way– "Moses was a merciful meek man" and from The Life– "Moses … one of the Meekest Men upon the Earth"). Defoe habitually commented on the policies of military men and statesmen, traced topography, and included the large features of military campaigns which could be found in printed records. Defoe's opinions on drinking, swearing, reliance on Providence, leadership qualities, gratitude, and courage, to mention a few, are consistent throughout his life and found in this pamphlet. For example, he makes the same distinctions in types of courage in Journal of the Plague Year, the Review, Robinson Crusoe, Atalantis Major, and Memoirs of Captain Carleton that he does in The Life ("True courage cannot proceed from what Sir Walter Raleigh finely calls the art or philosophy of quarrel. No! It must be the issue of principle…").
Moreover, the pamphlet itself bears certain marks indicative of Defoe's hand. It was published by John Baker, "at the Black-Boy in Pater-noster-Row," Defoe's usual publisher for that year. Had it been published by, say, Tonson, the immediate conclusion would be that it was not Defoe's. Baker appeared to take greater care with Defoe's pamphlets than he did with some others; A Defence of Dr. Sacheverell, for example, has fifty lines of small type to the page. Six other tracts by Defoe have titles beginning with "Short" or "Shortest." The use of the eye witness narrator and the soldier narrator are recurring devices which Defoe used to protect himself or his sources and to add weight to what he was purporting to be factual.
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