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- Pickle the Spy - 2/45 -

possession produced contending charges of disloyalty, forgery, and theft among certain of the Highland chiefs, and these may have helped to promote the spirit of treachery in Pickle the Spy. It is probable, though not certain, that he had acted as the agent of Cumberland before he was sold to Henry Pelham, and he was certainly communicating the results of his inquiries in one sense to George II., and, in another sense, to the exiled James III. in Rome. He was betraying his own cousins, and traducing his friends. Pickle is plainly no common spy or 'paltry vidette,' as he words it. Possibly Sir Walter Scott knew who Pickle was: in him Scott, if he had chosen, would have found a character very like Barry Lyndon (but worse), very unlike any personage in the Waverley Novels, and somewhat akin to the Master of Ballantrae. The cool, good-humoured, smiling, unscrupulous villain of high rank and noble lineage; the scoundrel happily unconscious of his own unspeakable infamy, proud and sensitive upon the point of honour; the picturesque hypocrite in religion, is a being whom we do not meet in Sir Walter's romances. In Pickle he had such a character ready made to his hand, but, in the time of Scott, it would have been dangerous, as it is still disagreeable, to unveil this old mystery of iniquity. A friend of Sir Walter's, a man very ready with the pistol, the last, as was commonly said, of the Highland chiefs, was of the name and blood of Pickle, and would have taken up Pickle's feud. Sir Walter was not to be moved by pistols, but not even for the sake of a good story would he hurt the sensibilities of a friend, or tarnish the justly celebrated loyalty of the Highlands.

Now the friend of Scott, the representative of Pickle in Scott's generation, was a Highlander, and Pickle was not only a traitor, a profligate, an oppressor of his tenantry, and a liar, but (according to Jacobite gossip which reached 'King James') a forger of the King's name! Moreover he was, in all probability, one fountain of that reproach, true or false, which still clings to the name of the brave and gentle Archibald Cameron, the brother of Lochiel, whom Pickle brought to the gallows. If we add that, when last we hear of Pickle, he is probably engaged in a double treason, and certainly meditates selling a regiment of his clan, like Hessians, to the Hanoverian Government, it will be plain that his was no story for Scott to tell.

Pickle had, at least, the attraction of being eminently handsome. No statelier gentleman than Pickle, as his faded portrait shows him in full Highland costume, ever trod a measure at Holyrood. Tall, athletic, with a frank and pleasing face, Pickle could never be taken for a traitor and a spy. He seemed the fitting lord of that castellated palace of his race, which, beautiful and majestic in decay, mirrors itself in Loch Oich. Again, the man was brave; for he moved freely in France, England, and Scotland, well knowing that the skian was sharpened for his throat if he were detected. And the most extraordinary fact in an extraordinary story is that Pickle WAS detected, and denounced to the King over the water by Mrs. Archibald Cameron, the widow of his victim. Yet the breach between James and his little Court, on one side, and Prince Charles on the other, was then so absolute that the Prince was dining with the spy, chatting with him at the opera-ball, and presenting him with a gold snuff-box, at about the very time when Pickle's treachery was known in Rome. Afterwards, the knowledge of his infamy came too late, if it came at all. The great scheme had failed; Cameron had fallen, and Frederick of Prussia, ceasing to encourage Jacobitism, had become the ally of England.

These things sound like the inventions of the romancer, but they rest on unimpeachable evidence, printed and manuscript, and chiefly on Pickle's own letters to his King, to his Prince, and to his English employers--we cannot say 'pay-masters,' for PICKLE WAS NEVER PAID! He obtained, indeed, singular advantages, but he seldom or never could wring ready money from the Duke of Newcastle.

To understand Pickle's career, the reluctant reader must endure a certain amount of actual history in minute details of date and place. Every one is acquainted with the brilliant hour of Prince Charles: his landing in Moidart accompanied by only seven men, his march on Edinburgh, his success at Prestonpans, the race to Derby, the retreat to Scotland, the gleam of victory at Falkirk, the ruin of Culloden, the long months of wanderings and distress, the return to France in 1746. Then came two years of baffled intrigues; next, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle insisted on the Prince's expulsion from France; last, he declined to withdraw. On December 10, 1748, he was arrested at the opera, was lodged in the prison of Vincennes, was released, and made his way to the Pope's city of Avignon, arriving there in the last days of December 1748. On February 28, 1749, he rode out of Avignon, and disappeared for many months from the ken of history. For nearly eighteen years he preserved his incognito, vaguely heard of here and there in England, France, Germany, Flanders, but always involved in mystery. On that mystery, impenetrable to his father, Pickle threw light enough for the purposes of the English Government, but not during the darkest hours of Charles's incognito.

'Le Prince Edouard,' says Barbier in his journal for February 1750, 'fait l'admiration et la curiosite de l'Europe.' This work, alas! is not likely to add to the admiration entertained for the unfortunate adventurer, but any surviving curiosity as to the Prince's secret may be assuaged. In the days of 1749-1750, before Pickle's revelations begin, the drafts of the Prince's memoranda, notes, and angry love- letters, preserved in Her Majesty's Library, enable us to follow his movements. On much that is obscurely indicated in scarcely decipherable scrawls, light is thrown by the French memoirs of that age. The names of Madame de Talmond, Madame d'Aiguillon, and the celebrated Montesquieu, are beacons in the general twilight. The memoirs also explain, what was previously inexplicable, the motives of Charles in choosing a life 'in a hole of a rock,' as he said after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). It is necessary, however, to study the internal feuds of the Jacobites at this period, and these are illuminated by the Stuart Papers, the letters of James and his ministers.

The plan of our narrative, therefore, will be arranged in the following manner. First, we sketch the character of Prince Charles in boyhood, during his Scottish expedition, and as it developed in cruelly thwarting circumstances between 1746 and 1749. In illustrating his character the hostile parties within the Jacobite camp must be described and defined. From February 1749 to September 1750 (when he visited London), we must try to pierce the darkness that has been more than Egyptian. We can, at least, display the total ignorance of Courts and diplomatists as to Charles's movements before Pickle came to their assistance, and we discover a secret which they ought to have known.

After the date 1752 we give, as far as possible, the personal history of Pickle before he sold himself, and we unveil his motives for his villany. Then we display Pickle in action, we select from his letters, we show him deep in the Scottish, English, and continental intrigues. He spoils the Elibank Plot, he reveals the hostile policy of Frederick the Great, he leads on to the arrest of Archibald Cameron, he sows disunion, he traduces and betrays. He finally recovers his lands, robs his tenants, dabbles (probably) in the French scheme of invasion (1759), offers further information, tries to sell a regiment of his clan, and dies unexposed in 1761.

Minor spies are tracked here and there, as Rob Roy's son, James Mohr Macgregor, Samuel Cameron, and Oliver Macallester. English machinations against the Prince's life and liberty are unveiled. His utter decadence is illustrated, and we leave him weary, dishonoured, and abandoned.

'A sair, sair altered man Prince Charlie cam' hame'

to Rome; and the refusal there of even a titular kingship.

The whole book aims chiefly at satisfying the passion of curiosity. However unimportant a secret may be, it is pleasant to know what all Europe was once vainly anxious to discover. In the revelation of manners, too, and in tracing the relations of famous wits and beauties with a person then so celebrated as Prince Charles, there is a certain amount of entertainment which may excuse some labour of research. Our history is of next to no political value, but it revives as in a magic mirror somewhat dim, certain scenes of actual human life. Now and again the mist breaks, and real passionate faces, gestures of living men and women, are beheld in the clear- obscure. We see Lochgarry throw his dirk after his son, and pronounce his curse. We mark Pickle furtively scribbling after midnight in French inns. We note Charles hiding in the alcove of a lady's chamber in a convent. We admire the 'rich anger' of his Polish mistress, and the sullen rage of Lord Hyndford, baffled by 'the perfidious Court' of Frederick the Great. The old histories emerge into light, like the writing in sympathetic ink on the secret despatches of King James.


Prince Charles--Contradictions in his character--Extremes of bad and good--Evolution of character--The Prince's personal advantages-- Common mistake as to the colour of his eyes--His portraits from youth to age--Descriptions of Charles by the Duc de Liria; the President de Brosses; Gray; Charles's courage--The siege of Gaeta--Story of Lord Elcho--The real facts--The Prince's horse shot at Culloden--Foolish fables of David Hume confuted--Charles's literary tastes--His clemency--His honourable conduct--Contrast with Cumberland--His graciousness--His faults--Charge of avarice--Love of wine--Religious levity--James on Charles's faults--An unpleasant discovery--Influence of Murray of Broughton--Rapid decline of character after 1746-- Temper, wine, and women--Deep distrust of James's Court--Rupture with James--Divisions among Jacobites--King's men and Prince's men-- Marischal, Kelly, Lismore, Clancarty--Anecdote of Clancarty and Braddock--Clancarty and d'Argenson--Balhaldie--Lally Tollendal--The Duke of York--His secret flight from Paris--'Insigne Fourberie'-- Anxiety of Charles--The fatal cardinal's hat--Madame de Pompadour-- Charles rejects her advances--His love affairs--Madame de Talmond-- Voltaire's verses on her--Her scepticism in religion--Her husband-- Correspondence with Montesquieu--The Duchesse d'Aiguillon--Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle--Charles refuses to retire to Fribourg--The gold plate--Scenes with Madame de Talmond--Bulkeley's interference--Arrest of Charles--The compasses--Charles goes to Avignon--His desperate condition--His policy--Based on a scheme of d'Argenson--He leaves Avignon--He is lost to sight and hearing.

'Charles Edward Stuart,' says Lord Stanhope, 'is one of those characters that cannot be portrayed at a single sketch, but have so greatly altered as to require a new delineation at different periods.' {12a} Now he 'glitters all over like the star which they tell you appeared at his nativity,' and which still shines beside him, Micat inter omnes, on a medal struck in his boyhood. {12b} Anon he is sunk in besotted vice, a cruel lover, a solitary tippler, a broken man. We study the period of transition.

Pickle the Spy - 2/45

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