There are few successful commanders, on whom Fame has shone so unwillingly, as upon John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire,—victor of Blenheim, Ramilies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet,—captor of Liege, Bonn, Limburg, Landau, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Oudenarde, Ostend, Menin, Dendermonde, Ath, Lille, Tournay, Mons, Douay, Aire, Bethune, and Bouchain; who never fought a battle that he did not win, and never besieged a place that he did not take. Marlborough's own character is the cause of this. Military glory may, and too often does, dazzle both contemporaries and posterity, until the crimes as well as the vices of heroes are forgotten. But even a few stains of personal meanness will dim a soldier's reputation irreparably; and Marlborough's faults were of a peculiarly base and mean order. Our feelings towards historical personages are in this respect like our feelings towards private acquaintances. There are actions of that shabby nature, that, however much they may be outweighed by a man's good deeds on a general estimate of his character, we never can feel any cordial liking for the person who has once been guilty of them. Thus, with respect to the Duke of Marlborough, it goes against our feelings to admire the man who owed his first advancement in life to the court-favour
Page:15 decisive battles of the world Vol 2 (London).djvu/176
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BATTLE OF BLENHEIM.