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SIR RICHARD STEELE. The taste for Italian music was now every day increasing; singers of that nation appeared with great applause at most concerts. In 1703 Italian music was introduced into the theatres as intermezzi, or interludes, consisting of singing and dancing; then whole operas appeared, the music Italian, the words English; and, in 1707, Urbani, a male soprano, and two Italian women, sang their parts all in Italian, the other performers using English. Finally, in 1710, a complete Italian opera was performed at the Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, and from that time the Italian opera was regularly established in London. This led to the arrival of the greatest composer whom the world had yet seen. George Frederick Handel was born at Halle, in Germany, in 1685. He had displayed wonderful genius for music as a mere child, and having, at the age of seven years, astonished the Duke of Saxe Weissenfelsat whose court his brother-in-law was a valetwho found him playing the organ in the chapel, he was, by the Duke's recommendation, regularly educated for the profession of music. At the age of ten, Handel composed the church service for voices and instruments; and after acquiring a great reputation in Hamburgwhere, in 1705, he brought out his "Almira"he proceeded to Florence, where he produced the opera of "Rodrigo," and thence to Venice, Rome, and Naples. After remaining in Italy four years, he was induced to come to England in 1710, at the pressing entreaties of many of the English nobility, to superintend the opera. But, though he was enthusiastically received, the party spirit which raged at that period soon made it impossible to conduct the opera with any degree of self-respect and independence. He therefore abandoned the attempt, having sunk nearly all his fortune in it, and commenced the composition of his noble oratorios. Racine's "Esther," abridged and altered by Humphreys, was set by him, in 1720, for the chapel of the Duke of Chandos at Cannons. It was, however, only by slow degrees that the wonderful genius of Handel was appreciated, yet it won its way against all prejudices and difficulties. In 1731 his "Esther" was performed by the children of the chapel-royal at the house of Bernard Gates, their master, and the following year, at the king's command, at the royal theatre in the Haymarket. It was fortunate for Handel that the monarch was German too, or he might have quitted the country in disgust before his fame had triumphed over faction and ignorance. So far did these operate, that in 1742, when he produced his glorious "Messiah," it was so coldly received that it was treated as a failure. Handel, in deep discouragement, however, gave it another trial in Dublin, where the warm imaginations of the Irish caught all its sublimity, and gave it an enthusiastic reception. On its next presentation in London his audience reversed the former judgment, and the delighted composer then presented the manuscript to the Foundling Hospital, where it was performed annually for the benefit of that excellent institution, and added to its funds ten thousand three hundred pounds. It became the custom, from 1737, to perform oratorios[156] on the Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent. Handel, whose genius has never been surpassed for vigour, spirit, invention, and sublimity, became blind in his latter years. He continued to perform in public, and to compose, till within a week of his death, which took place on April 13, 1759.

But Tolly did not mean to remain longer than was necessary for the inhabitants to have made a safe distance; he was afraid of Napoleon making a flank movement and cutting off his way to Moscow. In the night fires broke out all over Smolensk: they could not be the effect only of the French shells; and Buonaparte sat watching them till morning. Soon bridges, houses, church spires, all of wood, were enveloped in roaring flames. The next day, the 18th of August, the French entered the place whilst it was still burning around them. The dead, half consumed, lay around the smoking ruins; and the French army marched through this ghostly scene with military music playing, but with hearts struck with consternation and despair at this proof of the inveterate determination of the Russians to destroy their whole country rather than suffer it to be conquered. Here they were left without shelter, without provisions, without hospitals for the sick, or dressings for the wounded, without a single bed where a man might lie down to die; and all before them was the same. The Cossacks beset the flanks of march, and burnt down all villages, and laid waste all fields ere the French could reach them. Again the officers entreated that they might form an encampment and remain; but Buonaparte replied still, "They must make all haste to Moscow." During this summer the island of Corsica fell into our hands, and that by conduct as brilliant on the part of Nelson and the troops and seamen under him, as was at the time the formal inefficiency of our generals there. The Corsicans soon experienced the insolence and rapacity of the godless French Republicans, and rose in general insurrection. The patriot Paoli was the first to advise them to renounce all connection with such a race of fiends, and was, in consequence, proscribed by the Convention, but at the same time appointed General-in-Chief and President of the Council of Government by his own people. As he well knew that little Corsica was no match for France, he applied to the British for assistance. Lord Hood was then engaged in the defence of Toulon, but he sent a few ships and troops during the summer and autumn to Paoli's aid, and by this assistance the French were driven out of every part of the island except San Fiorenzo, Calvi, and Bastia. The mother of Buonaparte, and part of the family, who were living at Ajaccio, fled to France, imploring the aid of the Convention for her native island. Lord Hood, however, having evacuated Toulon, made haste to be beforehand with them. By the 7th of February, 1794, he had blockaded the three ports still in the hands of the French, and had landed five regiments, under the command of General Dundas, at San Fiorenzo. The French were soon compelled to evacuate the place, but they retreated to Bastia, without almost any attempt on the part of Dundas to injure or molest them. Lord Hood now urged the immediate reduction of Bastia, but Dundas, an incompetent officer, and tied up by all the old formal rules of warfare, declared that he could not attempt to carry the town till the arrival of two thousand fresh troops from Gibraltar. But there was a man of very different metal and notions serving there, namely, Nelson, who was indignant at this timid conduct. He declared that if he had five hundred men and the Agamemnon ship-of-war, he could take the place. Lord Hood was resolved that he should try, whilst he himself blockaded the harbour. Nelson, who declared his own seamen of the Agamemnon were of the right sort, and cared no more for bullets than for peas, had one thousand one hundred and eighty-three soldiers, artillerymen, and marines, with two hundred and fifty sailors, put under his command, with the title of brigadier. They landed on the 4th of April, dragged their cannon up to the tops of the rocks overhanging Bastia, to the astonishment of French, Corsicans, and the timid Dundas. On the 10th Nelson was aloft with his whole force, and with all his cannon in position. A body of Corsicans rather kept guard than gave any active assistance on another side of the town; for they had no cannon, or could not drag them up precipices like British seamen. On the 11th Lord Hood summoned the town to surrender; but the French commander and Commissioner, Lacombe-Saint-Michel, replied that he had red-hot shot for the ships and bayonets for the British soldiers, and should not think of yielding till he had two-thirds of his garrison killed. But Nelson, ably seconded by Colonel Vilettes, plied his artillery to such purpose, that, on the 10th of May, Lacombe-Saint-Michel made offer of surrender, and on the 19th the capitulation was completed. The French forces and the Corsicans in their interest were shipped off to Toulon, after the signing of the capitulation on the 21st; and now General D'Aubant, who had succeeded General Dundas, but who had continued lying at San Fiorenzo instead of assisting at the siege, came up with his troops and took possession of Bastia. The whole loss of the British in this brilliant affair was only fourteen men killed and thirty-four wounded. Calvi, the most strongly-situated and fortified[432] place, still remained to be taken. By the middle of June it was thoroughly invested, both by sea and land, and Nelson again serving on shore, assisted by Captains Hallowell and Serecold, was pouring shells and red-hot shot into the fort. Captain Serecold was killed at the very outset; but Nelson and Hallowell, chiefly with the sailors and marines, continued the bombardment through the terrible heat of the dog-days, and the enervating effects of malaria from stagnant ponds in the hills, and compelled the surrender on the 10th of August, but not before one-half of the two thousand men engaged were prostrated by sickness. The island was now, by the advice of Paoli, offered to the British Crown and by it accepted; but a gross blunder was made in not appointing Paoli Governor, as was expected both by himself and his compatriots. Instead of this most proper and conciliatory measure, Sir Gilbert Elliot was appointed Governor, to the disappointment and disgust of the Corsicans. Sir Gilbert attempted to gratify the islanders by framing a new Constitution for them, and granting them trial by jury; but neither of these institutions was adapted to their ideas, and both failed to heal the wound which the ignominious treatment of their great patriot occasioned. The Allies now determined to close in on all sides, and compel the French to a surrender. But Buonaparte, after some man?uvres to bring Blucher to actionthat general and the Crown Prince of Sweden having crossed to the left bank of the Elbefound it at length necessary to retreat to Leipsic. He reached that city on the 15th of October, and learned, to his great satisfaction, that whilst his whole force would be under its walls within twenty-four hours, the Austrians were advancing considerably ahead of the Prussians; and he flattered himself that he should be able to beat the Austrians before the other Allies could reach them.

Sir Henry Hardinge, the new Governor-General of India, whom Sir Robert Peel recommended to the Board of Control, had been in the army since he was thirteen years of age. He had followed Wellington through all the battles of the Peninsular war, and had won all the military glory that could be desired, so that he was not likely to follow the example of Lord Ellenborough in opening fresh fields for the gathering of laurels in India. The Chairman of the East India Company, giving him instructions on his departure, cautioned him against following the example of Lord Ellenborough in appointing military officers as administrators in preference to the civil servants of the Crown. He reminded him that the members of the Civil Service were educated with a special view to the important duties of civil administration, upon the upright and intelligent performance of which so much of the happiness of the people depended. He expressed a hope that he would appreciate justly the eminent qualities of the civil servants of India; and that he would act towards the Sepoys with every degree of consideration and indulgence, compatible with the maintenance of order and obedience. He urged that his policy should be essentially pacific, and should tend to the development of the internal resources of the country, while endeavouring to improve the condition of the finances. Meanwhile, Bute was sedulously at work to clear the way for his own assumption, not merely of office, but of the whole power of the Government. He acted as already the only medium of communication with the king, and the depositary of his secrets. He opened his views cautiously to Bubb Dodington, who was a confidant of the Lichfield House party, and still hungering after a title. Dodington advised him to induce Lord Holderness to resign and take his place, which, at first, Bute affected to disapprove of, but eventually acted upon. The first object was to get rid of Pitt, who, by his talents and haughty independence of manner, was not more acceptable to the king and his counsellor, Bute, than by his policy, which they desired to abandon. Pamphlets were therefore assiduously circulated, endeavouring to represent Pitt as insatiable for war, and war as having been already too burdensome for the nation.

The audacity of Buonaparte still further excited the indignation of the British Government. Under the name of consuls, he sent over to England and Ireland a number of military officers, whose real business was to act as privileged spies, to prepare plans of all the chief ports, with soundings, and an exact account of the winds with which vessels could go out or come in with most ease, and also at what draught of water the harbours might be entered by large vessels. These agents had been instructed to maintain the utmost secrecy as to their real objects, but they became known, and Ministers announced that any person coming in such a character to this country should be ordered instantly to quit it. Neither was the temper of the nation at all improved by the irritating proceedings of the French authorities on the coasts of France. A law had been passed by the Jacobins, in the most rabid time of the Revolution, condemning any vessel under a hundred tons burden found within four leagues of the French shores, having on board British merchandise. It was taken for granted that this decree was virtually annulled by the Peace of Amiens; but repeated seizures were now made of British merchant vessels driven by stress of weather on the French coasts, and the mere fact of having plates, knives, and forks for the crew, of British make, was used as a plea for confiscation of ships. It was in vain that remonstrances were made to the First Consul: they passed without notice. Such a peace it was evident could not last long. Napoleon was in a mood to brook no control from any quarter; he at this time showed how completely he would crush any creature who offended him when he had the power.

With the war the manufacture of guns and arms of all kinds was greatly increased, and several important improvements were made in the construction of gun-barrels and their breeches. All kinds of cutlery were improved, but, at the same time, both Government, by contractors, and foreign countries, by merchants, were imposed on by articles that had more show than use, to the serious injury of the British reputation. Knives and razors were sent out of mere iron, and our pioneers and sappers and miners were often supplied with axes, picks, and shovels more resembling lead than iron.

FRANKFORT. (From a Photograph by Frith & Co., Reigate.)