Imágenes de páginas

a portion of their legislative power, and allow | tion in former days used to be the envy of the it to incapacitate without their consent. This, world; it was the pattern for politicians; the indeed, Mr. Burke clearly perceived. "When theme of the eloquent; the meditation of the the House of Commons," says he, "in an en-philosopher in every part of the world. As to deavour to obtain new advantages at the ex- Englishmen, it was their pride, their consola pense of the other orders of the state, for the tion. By it they lived, and for it they were benefit of the commons at large, have pursued ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, were strong measures, if it were not just, it was at partly covered by partiality, and partly borne least natural, that the constituents should con- by prudence. Now all its excellencies are nive at all their proceedings; because we our-forgot, its faults are forcibly dragged into day, exaggerated by every artifice of misrepresenta tion. It is despised and rejected of men; and every device and invention of ingenuity or idleness is set up in opposition, or in preference to it." We neither adopt nor condemn the language of reprobation which the great orator here employs. We call him only as witness to the fact. That the revolution of public feeling which he described was then in

selves were ultimately to profit. But when this submission is urged to us in a contest between the representatives and ourselves, and where nothing can be put into their scale which is not taken from ours, they fancy us to be children when they tell us that they are our representatives, our own flesh and blood, and that all the stripes they give us are for our good." These sentences contain, in fact, the whole explanation of the mystery. The conflict of the seven-progress is indisputable; and it is equally in teenth century was maintained by the Parlia- disputable, we think, that it is in progress still. ment against the crown. The conflict which commenced in the middle of the eighteenth century, which still remains undecided, and in which our children and grandchildren will probably be called to act or suffer, is between a large portion of the people on the one side, and the crown and the Parliament united on the other.

To investigate and classify the cause of so great a change, would require far more thought, and far more space, than we at present have to bestow. But some of them are obvious. During the contest which the Parliament carried on against the Stuarts, it had only to check and complain. It has since had to govern. As an attacking body, it could select its points of atThe privileges of the House of Commons, tack, and it naturally chose those on which it those privileges which, in 1642, all London was likely to receive public support. As a rose in arms to defend, which the people con- ruling body, it has neither the same liberty of sidered as synonymous with their own liberties, choice, nor the same interest to gratify the and in comparison with which they took no people. With the power of an executive goaccount of the most precious and sacred prin-vernment, it has drawn to itself some of the ciples of English jurisprudence, have now be- vices and all the unpopularity of an executive come nearly as odious as the rigours of mar government. On the House of Commons, tial law. That power of committing, which above all, possessed as it is of the public purse, the people anciently loved to see the House of and consequently of the public sword, the naCommons exercise, is now, at least, when em- tion throws all the blame of an ill-conducted ployed against libellers, the most unpopular war, of a blundering negotiation, of a disgrace. power in the constitution. If the Commons ful treaty, of an embarrassing commercial crisis. were to suffer the Lords to amend money-bills, The delays of the Court of Chancery, the miswe do not believe that the people would care conduct of a judge at Van Diemen's land, any one straw about the matter. If they were to thing, in short, which in any part of the admi suffer the Lords even to originate money-bills, nistration any person feels as a grievance, is we doubt whether such a surrender of their attributed to the tyranny, or at least to the constitutional rights would excite half so negligence, of that all-powerful body. Private much dissatisfaction as the exclusion of individuals pester it with their wrongs and strangers from a single important discussion. claims. A merchant appeals to it from the courts The gallery in which the reporters sit has be- of Rio Janeiro or St. Petersburg. A painter, come a fourth estate of the realm. The pub- who can find nobody to buy the acre of spoiled lication of the debates, a practice which canvass, which he calls an historical picture, seemed to the most liberal statesmen of the old pours into its sympathizing ear the whole story school full of danger to the great safeguards of his debts and his jealousies. Anciently the of public liberty, is now regarded by many Parliament resembled a member of opposition, persons as a safeguard, tantamount, and more from whom no places are expected, who is not than tantamount, to all the rest together. required to confer favours and propose measures, but merely to watch and censure; and who may, therefore, unless he is grossly injudicious, be popular with the great body of the community. The Parliament now resembles the same person put into office, surrounded by petitioners, whom twenty times his patronage would not satisfy, stunned with complaints, buried in memorials, compelled by the duties of his station to bring forward measures similar to those which he was formerly accustomed

Burke, in a speech on parliamentary reform, which is the more remarkable because it was delivered long before the French Revolution, has described, in striking language, the change in public feeling of which we speak. "It suggests melancholy reflections," says he, "in consequence of the strange course we have long held, that we are now no longer quarreling about the character, or about the conduct of men, or the tenour of measures; but we are grown out of humour with the English to observe and to check, and perpetuaily en constitution itself; this is become the object of countered by objections similar to those which the animosity of Englishmen. This constitu- it was formerly his business to raise. VOL 1.-13 I

Perhaps it may be laid down as a general on the subject is loud and vehement. But it rule, that a legislative assembly, not constituted seems to us that, during the remissions, the on democratic principles, cannot be popular feeling gathers strength, and that every suc long after it ceases to be weak. Its zeal for cessive burst is more violent than that which what the people, rightly or wrongly, conceive preceded it. The public attention may be for to be their interest, its sympathy with their a time diverted to the Catholic claims or the mutable and violent passions, are merely the mercantile code; but it is probable that at no effects of the particular circumstances in which very distant period, perhaps in the lifetime of it is placed. As long as it depends for exist- the present generation, all other questions will ence on the public favour, it will employ all merge in that which is, in a certain degree, the means in its power to conciliate that favour. connected with them all. While this is the case, defects in its constitution are of little consequence. But as the close union of such a body with the nation is the effect of an identity of interest, not essential, but accidental, it is in some measure dissolved from the time at which the danger which produced it ceases to exist.

Already we seem to ourselves to perceive the signs of unquiet times, the vague presentiment of something great and strange which pervades the community; the restless and turbid hopes of those who have every thing to gain, the dimly-hinted forebodings of those wh have every thing to lose. Many indications might be mentioned, in themselves indeed as insignificant as straws; but even the direction of a straw, to borrow the illustration of Bacon, will show from what quarter the hurricane is

Hence, before the Revolution, the question of parliamentary reform was of very little importance. The friends of liberty had no very ardent wish for it. The strongest Tories saw no objections to it. It is remarkable that Cla-setting in. rendon loudly applauds the changes which A great statesman might, by judicious and Cromwell introduced, changes far stronger timely reformations, by reconciling the two than the Whigs of the present day would in great branches of the natural aristocracy, the general approve. There is no reason to think, capitalists and the landowners, by so widening however, that the reform effected by Cromwell the base of the government as to interest in its made any great difference in the conduct of defence the whole of the middling class, that the Parliament. Indeed, if the House of Com- brave, honest, and sound-hearted class, which mons had, during the reign of Charles the Se-is as anxious for the maintenance of order and cond, been elected by universal suffrage, or if the security of property as it is hostile to corall the seats had been put up to sale, as in the ruption and oppression, succeed in averting a French Parliaments, it would, we suspect, have struggle to which no rational friend of liberty acted very much as it did. We know how or of law can look forward without great apstrongly the Parliament of Paris exerted itself prehensions. There are those who will be in favour of the people on many important contented with nothing but demolition; and occasions; and the reason is evident. Though there are those who shrink from all repair. it did not emanate from the people, its whole There are innovators who long for a President consequence depended on the support of the and a National Convention; and there are people. From the time of the Revolution the bigots who, while cities larger and richer than House of Commons was gradually becoming the capitals of many great kingdoms are callwhat it now is a great council of state, con- ing out for representatives to watch over their taining many members chosen freely by the interests, select some hackneyed jobber in bopeople, and many others anxious to acquire roughs, some peer of the narrowest and smallthe favour of the people; but, on the whole, est mind, as the fittest depositary of a forfeited aristocratical in its temper and interest. It is franchise. Between these extremes there lies very far from being an illiberal and stupid oli- a more excellent way. Time is bringing around garchy; but it is equally far from being an another crisis analogous to that which occurred express image of the general feeling. It is in the seventeenth century. We stand in a influenced by the opinion of the people, and situation similar to that in which our ancestors influenced powerfully, but slowly and circuit- stood under the reign of James the First. It ously. Instead of outrunning the public mind, will soon again be necessary to reform, that as before the Revolution it frequently did, it we may preserve; to save the fundamental now follows with slow steps and at a wide principles of the constitution, by alterations in distance. It is therefore necessarily unpopu- the subordinate parts. It will then be possible, lar; and the more so, because the good which as it was possible two hundred years ago, to it produces is much less evident to common protect vested rights, to secure every useful perception than the evil which it inflicts. It institution-every institution endeared by anbears the blame of all the mischief which is tiquity and noble associations; and, at the done, or supposed to be done, by its authority same time, to introduce into the system imor by its connivance. It does not get the provements harmonizing with th criginal credit, on the other hand, of having pre-plan. It remains to be seen whether two hunvented those innumerable abuses which do dred years have made us wiser. not exist solely because the House of Commons exists.

A large part of the nation is certainly desirous of a reform in the representative system. How large that part may be, and how strong its desires on the subject may be, it is difficult which mall minorities are engaged, the outto say. It is only at intervals that the clamour | breakings of popular violence unconnected

We know of no great revolution which might not have been prevented by compromise early and graciously made. Firmness is a grea virtue in public affairs, but it has its proper sphere. Conspiracies and insurrections in

with any extensive project or any durable prin- contents which have agitated the country durciple, are best repressed by vigour and decision. ing the late and the present reign, and which, To shrink from them is to make them formida- though not always noisy, are never wholly ble. But no wise ruler will confound the per- dormant, will again break forth with aggravated vading taint with the slight local irritation. symptoms, is almost as certain as that the tides No wise ruler will treat the deeply-seated dis-and seasons will follow their appointed course. contents of a great party as he treats the con- But in all movements of the human mind duct of a mob which destroys mills and power-which tend to great revolutions, there is a crilooms. The neglect of this distinction has sis at which moderate concession may amend, been fatal even to governments strong in the conciliate, and preserve. Happy will it be for power of the sword. The present time is in-England if, at that crisis, her interests be condeed a time of peace and order. But it is at fided to men for whom history has not recorded such a time that fools are most thoughtless, the long series of human crimes and follies in and wise men most thoughtful. That the dis- vain.


[EDINBURGH Review, 1830.]

"Stormy pity, and the cherish'd lure Of pomp, and proud precipitance of soul." Hindostan, with its vast cities, its gorgeous

Ir would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey's talents and acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before us, which should be wholly destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not remember to have read with so little satisfaction any equal quanty of matter, written by any man of real abilities. We have, for some time past, observed with great regret the strange infatuation which leads the Poet-laureate to abandon those departments of literature in which he might excel, and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still the very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The subject, which he has at last undertaken to treat, is one which demands all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a philosophical statesman-an understanding at once comprehensive and acute-a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe, vouch-pagodas, its infinite swarms of dusky popula safed in measure so copious to any human be- tion, its long-descended dynasties, its stately ing; the faculty of believing without a reason, imaginative, and so susceptible, the most inetiquette, excited in a mind so capacious, so and the faculty of hating without a provoca- tense interest. The peculiarities of the costume, of the manners, and of the laws, the very mystery which hung over the language and origin of the people seized his imagination. To plead in Westminster Hall, in the name of the English people, at the bar of the English nobles, for great nations and kings separated from him by half the world, seemed to him the height of human glory. Again, it is not difficult to perceive, cipally arose from the vexation which he felt, that his hostility to the French Revolution prinat having all his old political associations disturbed, at seeing the well-known boundarymarks of states obliterated, and the names and distinctions with which the history of Europe like an antiquary whose shield had been had been filled for ages, swept away. He felt scoured, or a connoisseur who found his Ti


It is, indeed, most extraordinary that a mind like Mr. Southey's, a mind richly endowed in many respects by nature and highly cultivated by study, a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most enlightened generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed, should be utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from falsehood. Yet such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine arts. He judges of a theory or a public measure, of a religion, a political party, a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and what he calls his opinions, are in fact merely his tastes.

tian retouched. But however he came by an best to make out a legitimate title to it. His opinion, he had no sooner got it than he did his reason, like a spirit in the service of an en.

• Sir Thomas More; or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., LL.D. Poet Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1829.

Part of this description might, perhaps, apply to a much greater man, Mr. Burke. But Mr. Burke, assuredly possessed an understanding admirably fitted for the investigation of truth-an understanding stronger than that of any statesman, active or speculative, of the eighteenth century-stronger than every thing, except his own fierce and ungovernable sensibility. Hence, he generally chose his side like a fanatic, and defended it like a philosopher. His conduct, in the most important events of his life, at the time of the impeachment of Hastings, for example, and at the time of the French Revolution, seems to have been prompt ed by those feelings and motives which Mr. Coleridge has so happily described:



chanter, though spell-bound, was still mighty.
It did whatever work his passions and his
imagination might impose. But it did that
work, however arduous, with marvellous dex-
terity and vigour. His course was not de-
termined by argument; but he could defend
the wildest course by arguments more plausi-
ble than those by which common men support
pinions which they have adopted, after the
fullest deliberation. Reason has scarcely ever
displayed, even in those well-constituted minds
of which she occupies the throne, so much
power and energy as in the lowest offices of
that imperial servitude.

Now, in the mind of Mr. Southey, reason has
no place at all, as either leader or follower, as
either sovereign or slave. He does not seem
to know what an argument is. He never uses
arguments himself. He never troubles himself
to answer the arguments of his opponents. It
has never occurred to him, that a man ought
to be able to give some better account of the
way in which he has arrived at his opinions,
than merely that it is his will and pleasure to
hold them, that there is a difference between
assertion and demonstration, that a rumour
does not always prove a fact, that a fact does
not always prove a theory, that two contradic-
tory propositions cannot be undeniable truths,
that to beg the question is not the way to set-
tle it, or that when an objection is raised, it
ought to met with something more convincing
than "scoundrel" and "blockhead."

therefore an advantage to him to be furnished
with an outline of characters and events, and
to have no other task to perform than that of
touching the cold sketch into life. No writer,
perhaps, ever lived, whose talents so precisely
qualified him to write the history of the great
naval warrior. There were no fine riddles of
the human heart to read, no theories to found,
no hidden causes to develope, no remote con-
sequences to predict. The character of the
hero lay on the surface. The exploits were
brilliant and picturesque. The necessity of
Southey from those faults which deform the
adhering to the real course of events saved Mr.
original plan of almost every one of his poems,
and which even his innumerable beauties of
detail scarcely redeem. The subject did not re-
quire the exercise of those reasoning powers
the want of which is the blemish of his prose.
It would not be easy to find, in all literary his-
tory, an instance of a more exact hit between
wind and water. John Wesley, and the Penin-
sular War, were subjects of a very different
kind, subjects which required all the qualities
of a philosophic historian. In Mr. Southey's
works on these subjects, he has, on the whole,
failed. Yet there are charming specimens of
the art of narration in both of them. The Life
of Wesley will probably live. Defective as it
is, it contains the only popular account of a
most remarkable moral revolution, and of a man
have rendered him eminent in literature, whose
whose eloquence and logical acuteness might
genius for government was not inferior to that
of Richelieu, and who, whatever his errors may
have been, devoted all his powers, in defiance
of obloquy and derision, to what he sincerely
considered as the highest good of his species.
The History of the Peninsular War is already
dead: indeed the second volume was dead-
born. The glory of producing an imperishable
record of that great conflict seems to be re-
served for Colonel Napier.

It would be absurd to read the works of such
a writer for political instruction. The utmost
that can be expected from any system promul-
gated by him is, that it may be splendid and
affecting, that it may suggest sublime and
pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is
a mere daydream, a poetical creation, like the
Domdaniel caverns, the Swerga, or Padalon;
and, indeed, it bears no inconsiderable resem-
blance to those gorgeous visions. Like them
it has something of invention, grandeur, and
brilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and
extravagant, and perpetually violates that con-
ventional probability which is essential to the
effect even of works of art.

The Book of the Church contains some stoThe adventure was manifestly one ries very prettily told. The rest is mere rubbish. thinker, and in which even a profound thinker which could be achieved only by a profound The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will might have failed, unless his passions had scarcely, we think, deny that his success has been kept under strict control. In all those almost always borne an inverse proportion to works in which Mr. Southey has completely On such the degree in which his undertakings have re- abandoned narration, and undertaken to argue quired a logical head. His poems, taken in moral and political questions, his failure has the mass, stand far higher than his prose been complete and ignominious. We find, we conworks. The Laureate Odes, indeed, among occasions his writings are rescued from utter which the Vision of Judgment must be classed, contempt and derision, solely by the beauty are, for the most part, worse than Pye's and as and purity of the English. bad as Cibber's; nor do we think him generally fess, so great a charm in Mr. Southey's style, happy in short pieces. But his longer poems, that, even when he writes nonsense, we geHe very often atthough full of faults, are nevertheless very ex-nerally read it with pleasure, except indeed We doubt greatly when he tries to be droll. A more insufferatraordinary productions. whether they will be read fifty years hence; ble jester never existed. remember a single occasion on which he has but that if they are read, they will be admired, tempts to be humorous, and yet we do not we have no doubt whatever.

But though in genera! we prefer Mr. Sou-succeeded farther than to be quaintly and flipthey's poetry to his prose, we must make one pantly dull. In one of his works, he tells us exception. The Life of Nelson is, beyond all that Bishop Sprat was very properly so called, doubt, the most perfect and the most delightful inasmuch as he was a very small poet. And of his works. The fact is, as his poems most in the book now before us, he cannot quote abundantly prove, that he is by no means so Francis Bugg without a remark on his unsa It was vory name. A man might talk folly like this skilful in designing as filling up.

Ly his own fireside; but that any human being, | Jew, delivered over to the secular arın after a after having made such a joke, should write it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the printer, and correct the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world, is enough to make us ashamed of our species.


We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey is a very amiable and humane man; nor do we intend to apply to him personally any of the remarks which we have made on the spirit of his writings. Such are the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle Toby troubled himself very little about the French grenadiers who fell on the glacis of Namur. And when Mr. Southey takes up his pen, he changes his nature as much as Captain Shandy when he girt on his sword. The only opponents to whom he gives quarter are those in whom he finds something of his own character reflected. He seems to have an instinctive antipathy for calm, moderate menfor men who shun extremes, and who render reasons. He has treated Mr. Owen of Lanark,

The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey manifests towards his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attribute i to the manner in which he forms his opinions. Differences of taste, it has often been remarked, produce greater exasperation than differences on points of science. But this is not all. A peculiar austerity marks almost all Mr. Southey's judgments of men and actions. We are far from blaming him for fixing on a high standard of morals, and for applying that standard to every case. But rigour ought to be accompanied by discernment, and of discernment Mr. Southey seems for example, with infinitely more respect than to be utterly destitute. His mode of judging he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Linis monkish; it is exactly what we should ex-gard; and this for no reason than we can dispect from a stern old Benedictine, who had cover except that Mr. Owen is more unreabeen preserved from many ordinary frailties sonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any by the restraints of his situation. No man speculator of our time. out of a cloister ever wrote about love, for ex- Mr. Southey's political system is just what ample, so coldly and at the same time so we might expect from a man who regards po grossly. His descriptions of it are just what litics, not as a matter of science, but as a mat we should hear from a recluse, who knew the ter of taste and feeling. All his schemes of passion only from the details of the confes-government have been inconsistent with themsional. Almost all his heroes make love selves. In his youth he was a republican; either like seraphim or like cattle. He seems yet, as he tells us in his preface to these Colto have no notion of any thing between the loquies, he was even then opposed to the CaPlatonic passion of the Glendoveer, who gazes tholic claims. He is now a violent Ultrawith rapture on his mistress's leprosy, and the Tory. Yet while he maintains, with vehemence brutal appetite of Arvalan and Roderick. In approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. harsher parts of the Ultra-Tory theory of go He is first all clay, and then all spirit, he goes vernment, the baser and dirtier part of that forth a Tarquin, and comes back too ethereal theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution, to be married. The only love-scene, as far as severe punishments for libellers and demawe can recollect, in Madoc, consists of the gogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if delicate attentions which a savage, who has necessary, rather than any concession to a drunk too much of the Prince's metheglin, discontented people-these are the measures offers to Goervyl. It would be the labour of a which he seems inclined to recommend. A week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr. Sou- severe and gloomy tyranny, crushing opposithey's poetry, a single passage indicating any tion, silencing remonstrance, drilling the minds sympathy with those feelings which have con- of the people into unreasoning obedience, has secrated the shades of Vaucluse and the rocks in it something of grandeur which delights his of Meillerie. imagination. But there is nothing fine in the shabby tricks and jobs of office. And Mr. Southey, accordingly, has no toleration for them. When a democrat, he did not perceive that his system led logically, and would have

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal tenderness and filial duty, there is scarcely any thing soft or humane in Mr. Southey's poetry. What theologians call the spiritual sins are his cardinal virtues-led practically, to the removal of religious dishatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of ven- tinctions. He now commits a similar error. geance. These passions he disguises under He renounces the abject and paltry part of the the name of duties; he purifies them from the creed of his party, without perceiving that it is alloy of vulgar interests; he ennobles them by also an essential part of that creed. He would uniting them with energy, fortitude, and a have tyranny and purity together; though the severe sanctity of manners, and then holds most superficial observation might have shown them up to the admiration of mankind. This him that there can be no tyranny without coris the spirit of Thalaba, Ladurlad, of Ado- ruption. Linda, of Roderick after his regeneration. It is the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Southey appears to effect. "I do well to be angry," seems to be the predominant feeling of his mind. Almost the only mark of charity which he vouchsafes to his opponents is to pray for their conversion, and this he does in terms not unlike those in which we can imagine a Portuguese priest interceding with Heaven for a

It is high time, however, that we should pro ceed to the consideration of the work, which is our more immediate subject, and which, in. deed, illustrates in almost every page our general remarks on Mr. Southey's writings. In the preface, we are informed that the author, notwithstanding some statements to the con trary, was always opposed to the Catholic claims. We fully believe this; both because

« AnteriorContinuar »