Imágenes de páginas

cannot but think that his extreme attention to the petty niceties of language was hardly worthy of so maniy and so capacious an understanding. There were purists of this kind at Rome; and their fastidiousness was censured by Horace with that perfect good sense and good taste which characterize all his writings. There were purists of this kind at the time of the revival of letters: and the two greatest. scholars of that time raised their voices, the one from within, the other from without the Alps, against a scrupulosity so unreasonable. "Carent," said Politian, "quæ scribunt isti viribus et vita, carent actu, carent affectu, carent indole. Nisi liber ille præsto sit ex quo quid excerpant, colligere tria verba non possunt. Horum semper igitur oratio tremula, vacillans, infirma. Quæso ne ista superstitione te alliges. Ut bene currere non potest qui pedum ponere studet in alienis tantum vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui tanquam de præscripto non audet egredi."- -"Posthac," exclaims Erasmus, "non licebit episcopos appellare patres reverendos, nec in calce literarum scribere annum a Christo nato, quod id nusquam faciat Cicero. Quid autem ineptius quam, toto seculo novato, religione, imperiis, magistratibus, locorum vocabulis, ædificiis, cultu, moribus, non aliter audere loqui quam locutus est Cicero ? Si revivisceret, ipse Cicero, rideret hoc Ciceronianorum genus."

While Mr. Fox winnowed and sifted his phraseology with a care, which seems hardly consistent with the simplicity and elevation of his mind, and of which the effect really was to debase and enfeeble his style, he was little on his guard against those more serious improprieties of manner into which a great orator, who undertakes to write history, is in danger of falling. There is about the whole book a vehement, contentious, replying manner. Almost every argument is put in the form of an interrogation, an ejaculation, or a sarcasm. The writer seems to be addressing himself to some imaginary audience; to be tearing in pieces a defence of the Stuarts which has just been pronounced by an imaginary Tory. Take, for example, his answer to Hume's remarks on the execution of Sydney; and substitute "the honourable gentleman," or "the noble lord," for the name of Hume. The whole passage sounds like a powerful reply, thundering at three in the morning from the Opposition Bench. While we read it, we can almost fancy that we see and hear the great English debater, such as he has been described to us by the few who can still remember the Westminster Scrutiny, and the Oczakow Negotiations, in the full paroxysm of inspiration, foaming, screaming, choked by the rushing multitude of his words. It is true that the passage to which we have referred, and several other passages which we could point out, are admirable, when considered merely as exhibitions of mental power. We at once recognise that consummate master of the whole art of intellectual gladiatorship, whose Speeches, imperfectly as they have been transmitted to us, should be studied day and night by every man who wishes to learn the science of legical defence. We find in several

parts of the History of James II. fine sprou mens of that which we conceive to have been the great characteristic of Demosthenes among the Greeks, and of Fox among the orators of England,-reason penetrated, and if we may venture on the expression, made red-hot by passion. But this is not the kind of excellence proper to history; and it is hardly too much to say, that whatever is strikingly good in Mr. Fox's Fragment is out of place.

With Sir James Mackintosh the case was reversed. His proper place was his library, a circle of men of letters, or a chair of moral and political philosophy. He distinguished himself highly in Parliament. But nevertheless Parliament was not exactly the sphere for him. The effect of his most successful speeches was small, when compared with the quantity of ability and learning which was expended on them. We could easily name men who, not possessing a tenth part of his intellectual powers, hardly ever address the House of Commons without producing a greater impression than was produced by his most splendid and elaborate orations. His lu minous and philosophical disquisition on the Reform Bill was spoken to empty benches. Those, indeed, who had the wit to keep their seats, picked up hints which, skilfully used, made the fortune of more than one speech. But "it was caviare to the general." And even those who listened to Sir James with pleasure and admiration, could not but acknowledge that he rather lectured than debated. An artist who should waste on a panorama, on a scene or on a transparency, the exquisite finishins which we admire in some of the small Dutch interiors, would not squander his powers more than this eminent man too often did. His au dience resembled the boy in the "Heart of MidLothian," who pushes away the lady's guineas with contempt, and insists on having the white money. They preferred the silver with which they were familiar, and which they were constantly passing about from hand to hand, to the gold which they had never before seen, and with the value of which they were unacquainted. It is much to be regretted, we think, that Sir James Mackintosh did not wholly devote his later years to philosophy and literature. His talents were not those which enable a speaker to produce with rapidity a series of striking but transitory impressions, to excite the minds of five hundred gentlemen at midnight, without saying any thing that any one of them will be able to remember in the morning. His argu ments were of a very different texture from those which are produced in Parliament at a moment's notice,-which puzzle a plain man who, if he had them before him in writing, would soon detect their fallacy, and which the great debater who employed them forgets with. in half an hour, and never thinks of again. Whatever was valuable in the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh, was the ripe fruit of study and of meditation. It was the same with his conversation. In his most familiar talk there was no wildness, no inconsistency, no amusing nonsense, no exaggeration for the sake of momentary effect. His mind was a vast magazine, admirably arranged; every


We have no hesitation in pronouncing thi Fragment decidedly the best history now ex tant of the reign of James the Second. It con tains much new and curious information, ot which excellent use has been made. The ac curacy of the narrative is deserving of high admiration. We have noticed only one mistake of the smallest importance, and that, we believe, is to be laid to the charge of the editor, who has far more serious blunders to answer for. The pension of 60,000 livres, which Lord Sunderland received from France, is said to have been equivalent to 2,500l. sterling. Sir James had perhaps for a moment forgotten,his editor had certainly never heard, that a great depreciation of the French coin took place after 1688. When Sunderland was in power, the livre was worth about eighteen pence, and his pension consequently amounted to about 4,500l. This is really the only inac curacy of the slightest moment that we have been able to discover in several attentive perusals.

thing was there, and every thing was in its place. His judgments on men, on sects, on books, had been often and carefully tested and weighed, and had then been committed, each to its proper receptacle, in the most capacious and accurately constructed memory that any human being ever possessed. It would have been strange indeed, if you had asked for any thing that was not to be found in that immense storehouse. The article which you required was not only there. It was ready. It was in its own proper compartment. In a moment it was brought down, unpacked, and displayed. If those who enjoyed the privilege-for privilege indeed it was-of listening to Sir James Mackintosh, had been disposed to find some fault in his conversation, they might perhaps have observed that he yielded too little to the impulse of the moment. He seemed to be recollecting, not creating. He never appeared to catch a sudden glimpse of a subject in a new light. You never saw his opinions in the making, still rude, still inconsistent, and requiring to be fashioned by thought and discus- We are not sure that the book is not in some sion. They came forth, like the pillars of that degree open to the charge which the idle cititemple in which no sound of axes or hammers zen in the Spectator brought against his pudwas heard, finished, rounded, and exactly suit-ding. "Mem. too many plums, and no suet." ed to their places. What Mr. Charles Lamb has said with much humour and some truth, of the conversation of Scotchmen in general, was certainly true of this eminent Scotchman. He did not find, but bring. You could not cry halves to any thing that turned up while you were in his company.

There is perhaps too much disquisition and too little narrative; and, indeed, this is the fault into which, judging from the habits of Sir James's mind, we should have thought him most likely to fall. What we assuredly did not anticipate was, that the narrative would be better executed than the disquisitions. We The intellectual and moral qualities which expected to find, and we have found, many just are most important in an historian, he possessed delineations of character, and many digres in a very high degree. He was singularly sions full of interest, such as the account mild, calm, and impartial, in his judgments of of the order of Jesuits, and of the state of men and of parties. Almost all the distin- prison discipline in England a hundred and guished writers who have treated of English fifty years ago. We expected to find, and we history are advocates. Mr. Hallam and Sir have found, many reflections breathing the James Mackintosh are alone entitled to be spirit of a calm and benignant philosophy. call d judges. But the extreme austerity of But we did not, we own, expect to find that Mr. Hallam takes away something from the Sir James could tell a story as well as Voltaire pleasure of reading his learned, eloquent, and or Hume. Yet such is the fact; and if any judicious writings. He is a judge, but a hang-person doubts it, we would advise him to read ing judge, the Page or Buller of the high court the account of the events which followed the of literary justice. His black cap is in con- issuing of King James's famous declaration,-stant requisition. In the long calendar of the meeting of the clergy, the violent scene at these whom he has tried, there is hardly one the Privy Council, the commitment, trial, and who has not, ir spite of evidence to charac-acquittal of the bishops. The most superficial ter and recommendations to mercy, been sentenced and left for execution. Sir James, perhaps, erred a little on the other side. He liked a maiden assize, and came away with white gloves, after sitting in judgment on batches of the most notorious offenders. He had a quick eye for the redeeming parts of a character, and a large toleration for the infirmities of men exposed to strong temptations. But this lenity did not arise from ignorance or neglect of moral distinctions. Though he allowed, perhaps, too much weight to every extenuating circumstance that could be urged in favour of the transgressor, he never disputed the authority of the law, or showed his ingenuity by refining away its enactments. On every occasion he showed himself firm wnere principles were in question, but full of charity towards individuals.


reader must be charmed, we think, by the liveliness of the narrative. But no person who is not acquainted with that vast mass of intractable materials, of which the valuable and inte resting part has been extracted and condensed, can fully appreciate the skill of the writer. Here, and indeed throughout the book, we find many harsh and careless expressions, which the author would probably have removed if he had lived to complete his work. But, in spite of these blemishes, we must say that we should find it difficult to point out, in any modern nis. torian, any passage of equal length, and at the same time of equal merit. We find in it the diligence, the accuracy, and the judgment of Hallam, united to the vivacity and the colouring of Southev. A history of England, written througnout in tnis manner, would be the mos fascinating book in the language. It would be

more in request at the circulating libraries than the last novel.

shock us more than this Supplement. The Memoir contains much that is worth read ing; for it contains many extracts from the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh. But when we pass from what the biographer has done with his scissors, to what he has done with his pen, we find nothing worthy of appro

Sr James was not, we think, gifted with poetical imagination. But the lower kind of imagination which is necessary to the historian, he had in large measure. It is not the business of the historian to create new worlds and to people them with new races of beings.bation. Instead of confining himself to the He is to Homer and Shakspeare, to Dante and Milton, what Nollekens was to Canova, or Lawrence to Michel Angelo. The object of the historian's imagination is not within him; it is furnished from without. It is not a vision of beauty and grandeur discernible only by the eye of his own mind; but a real model which he did not make, and which he cannot alter. Yet his is not a mere mechanical imitation. The triumph of his skill is to select such parts as may produce the effect of the whole, to bring out strongly all the characteristic features, and to throw the light and shade in such a manner as may heighten the effect. This skill, as far as we can judge from the unfinished work now before us, Sir James Mackintosh possessed in an eminent degree.

The style of this Fragment is weighty, manly, and unaffected. There are, as we have said, some expressions which seem to us harsh, and some which we think inaccurate. These would probably have been corrected, if Sir James had lived to superintend the publication. We ought to add that the printer has by no means done his duty. One misprint in particular is so serious as to require notice. Sir James Mackintosh has paid a high and just tribute to the genius, the integrity, and the courage of a good and great man, a distinguished ornament of English literature, a fearless champion of English liberty, Thomas Burnet, Master of the Charter-House, and author of that most eloquent and imaginative work, the Telluris Theoria Sacra. Wherever the name of this celebrated man occurs, it is printed "Bennet," both in the text and in the index. This cannot be mere negligence: it is plain that Thomas Burnet and his writings were never heard of by the gentleman who has been employed to edite this volume; and who, not content with deforming Sir James Mackintosh's text by such blunders, has prefixed to it a calumnious Memoir, has appended to it a most unworthy Continuation, and has thus succeeded in expanding the volume into one of the thickest, and debasing it into one of the worst that we ever saw. Never did we see so admirable an illustration of the old Greek proverb, which tells us that half is sometimes more than the whole. Never did we see a case in which the increase of the bulk was so evidently a diminution of the value.

Why such an artist was selected to deface so fine a Torso, we cannot pretend to conjecture. We read that, when the Consul Mummius, after the taking of Corinth, was preparing to send to Rome some works of the greatest Grecian sculptors, he told the packers that if they broke his Venus or his Apollo, he would force them to restore the limbs which should be wanting. A head by a hewer of milestones, joined to a Losom by Praxiteles. would not surprise or

only work which he is competent to performthat of relating facts in plain words-be fa vours us with his opinions about Lord Bacon, and about the French literature of the age of Louis XIV.; and with opinions, more absurd still, about the poetry of Homer, whom it is evident, from his criticisms, that he cannot read in the original. He affects, and for aught we know, feels something like contempt for the celebrated man whose life he has under taken to write, and whom he was incompetent to serve in the capacity even of a corrector of the press. Our readers may form a notion of the spirit in which the whole narrative is composed, from expressions which occur at the beginning. This biographer tells us that Mackintosh, on occasion of taking his medical degree at Edinburgh, "not only put off the writing of his Thesis to the last moment, but was an hour behind his time on the day of examina tion, and kept the Academic Senate waiting for him in full conclave." This irregularity, which no sensible professor would have thought deserving of more than a slight reprimand, is described by the biographer, after a lapse of nearly half a century, as an incredible instance "not so much of indolence as of gross negli gence and bad taste." But this is not all. Our biographer has contrived to procure a copy of the Thesis, and has sate down with hi As in præsenti and his Propria quæ maribus at his side, to pick out blunders in a composition written by a youth of twenty-one, on the occasion al luded to. He finds one mistake-such a mistake as the greatest scholar might commit when in haste, and as the veriest schoolboy would detect when at leisure. He glories over this precious discovery with all the exultation of a pedagogue. "Deceived by the passive termination of the deponent verb defungor, Mackintosh misuses it in a passive sense." He is not equally fortunate in his other discovery. "Laude conspurcare," whatever he may think, is not an improper phrase. Mackintosh meant to say that there are men whose praise is a disgrace. No person, we are sure, who has read this Memoir, will doubt that there are men whose abuse is an honour.

But we must proceed to more important matters. This writer evidently wishes to im press his readers with a belief that Sir James Mackintosh, from interested motives, abandoned the doctrines of the "Vindicia Gallica." Had his statements appeared in their natural place, we should leave them to their natu ral fate. We would not stoop to defend Sir James Mackintosh from the attacks of fourthrate magazines and pothouse newspapers. But here his own fame is turned against him. A book, of which not one copy would ever have been bought but for his name in the title-page, is made the vehicle of the slander. Under


such circumstances we cannot help exclaiming, in the words of one of the most amiable of Homer's heroes,

“ Νυν τις ενηειης Πατροκληος δειλοιο

Μνησάσθω, πασιν γαρ επίστατο μείλιχος είναι
Ζωος εων', νυν δ' αν θανατος και μοιρα κιχανει.”

à aucune forme de gouvernement. Il pense
que la meilleure constitution pour un peuple
est celle à laquelle il est accoutumé.
Le vice fondamental des théories sur les con
stitutions politiques, c'est de commencer par
attaquer celles qui existent, et d'exciter tout au
moins des inquiétudes et des jalousies de pou-
voir. Une telle disposition n'est point favor-
able au perfectionnement des lois. La seule
époque où l'on puisse entreprendre avec suc
cès de grandes réformes de législation, est
celle où les passions publiques sont calmes, et
où le gouvernement jouit de la stabilité la plus
grande. L'objet de M. Bentham, en cherchant
dans le vice des lois la cause de la plupart des
maux, a été constamment d'éloigner le plus
grand de tous, le bouleversement de l'autorité,
les révolutions de propriété et de pouvoir."

We have no difficulty in admitting that, during the ten or twelve years which followed the appearance of the "Vindicia Gallica," the opinions of Sir James Mackintosh underwent some change. But did this change pass on him alone? Was it not common? Was it not almost universal? Was there one honest friend of liberty in Europe or in America whose ardour had not been damped, whose faith in the high destinies of mankind had not been shaken? Was there one observer to whom the French Revolution, or revolutions in general, appeared To so conservative a frame of mind had the exactly in the same light on the day when the excesses of the French Revolution brought the Bastille fell and on the day when the Girond- most uncompromising reformers of that time. ists were dragged to the scaffold-the day when And why is one person to be singled out from the Directory shipped off their principal oppo- among millions and arraigned before posterity nent for Guiana, or the day when the Legisla- as a traitor to his opinions, only because events tive Body was driven from its hall at the point produced on him the effect which they proof the bayonet? We do not speak of enthu- duced on a whole generation? This biographer siastic and light-minded people-of wits like may, for aught we know, have revelations from Sheridan, or poets like Alfieri, but of the most Heaven like Mr. Percival, or pure anticipated virtuous and intelligent practical statesmen, cognitions like the disciples of Kant. But such and of the deepest, the calmest, the most im- poor creatures as Mackintosh, Dumont, and partial political speculators of that time. What Bentham had nothing but observation and reawas the language and conduct of Lord Spen- son to guide them, and they obeyed the guidance ser, of Lord Fitzwilliam, of Mr. Grattan? What of observation and reason. How is it in phyis the tone of Dumont's Memoirs, written just sics? A travelier falls in with a fruit which at the close of the eighteenth century? What he had never before seen. He tastes it, and Tory could have spoken with greater disgust finds it sweet and refreshing. He praises it, and contempt of the French Revolution and its and resolves to introduce it into his own counauthors? Nay, this writer, a republican, and try. But in a few minutes he is taken violently the most upright and zealous of republicans, sick; he is convulsed; he is at the point of has gone so far as to say that Mr. Burke's death; no medicine gives him relief. He of work on the Revolution had saved Europe. course pronounces this delicious food a poison, The name of M. Dumont naturally suggests blames his own folly in tasting it, and cautions that of Mr. Bentham. He, we presume, was not his friends against it. After a long and violent ratting for a place; and what language did he struggle he recovers, and finds himself much hold at that time? Look at his little treatise exhausted by his sufferings, but free from some entitled "Sophismes Anarchiques." In that trea- chronic complaints which had been the torment tise he says, that the atrocities of the Revolu- of his life. He then changes his opinion again, tion were the natural consequences of the ab- and pronounces this fruit a very powerful resurd principles on which it was commenced;-medy, which ought to be employed only in exthat while the chiefs of the constituent assem- treme cases, and with great caution, but which bly gloried in the thought that they were pull- ought not to be absolutely excluded from the ing down an aristocracy, they never saw that " Pharmacopoeia." And would it not be the their doctrines tended to produce an evil a height of absurdity to call such a man fickle hundred times more formidable-anarchy;- and inconsistent because he had repeatedly that the theory laid down in the "Declaration altered his judgment? If he had not altered of the Rights of Man" had, in a great measure, his judgment, would he have been a rational Iroduced the crimes of the Reign of Terror;- being? It was exactly the same with the hat none but an eye-witness could imagine French Revolution. That event was a new the horrors of a state of society in which com- phenomenon in politics. Nothing that nad ments on that Declaration were put forth by gone before enabled any person to judge with men with no food in their bellies, with rags on certainty of the course which affairs might their backs, and with arms in their hands. He take. At first the effect was the reform of great praises the English Parliament for the dislike abuses, and honest men rejoiced. Then came which it has always shown to abstract reason- commotion, proscription, confiscation, the bank ings, and to the affirming of general principles. ruptcy, the assignats, the maximum, civil war In M. Dumont's preface to the "Treatise on the foreign war, revolutionary tribunals, guillotin Principles of Legislation"-a preface written ades, noyades, fusillades. Yet a little while, under the eye of Mr. Bentham and published and a military despotism rose out of the con. with his sanction--are the following still more fusion, and threatened the independence of remarkable expressions :--" M. Bentham est every state in Europe. And yet again a litt.e bien loin d'attacher une préférence exclusive while, and the old dynasty returned, foilowed


by a train of emigrants eager to restore the old abuses. We have now, we think, the whole before us. We should therefore be justly accused of levity or insincerity if our language concerning those events were constantly changing. It is our deliberate opinion that the French Revolution, in spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing to mankind. But it was not only natural, but inevitable, that those who had only seen the first act should be ignorant of the catastrophe, and should be alternately elated and depressed as the plot went on disclosing itself to them. A man who had held exactly the same opinion about the Revolution in 1789, in 1794, in 1804, in 1814, and in 1834, would have been either a divinely inspired prophet or an obstinate fool. Mackintosh was neither. He was simply a wise and good man; and the change which passed on his mind was a change which passed on the mind of almost every wise and good man in Europe. In fact, few of his contemporaries changed so little. The rare moderation and calmness of his temper preserved him alike from extravagant elation and from extravagant despondency. He was never a Jacobin. He was never an Antijacobin. His mind oscillated undoubtedly; but the extreme points of the oscillation were not very remote. Herein he differed greatly from some persons of distinguished talents who entered into life at nearly the same time with him. Such persons we have seen rushing from one wild extreme to another-out-Paining Paine--out-Castlereagh

his course through those times. Exposed suc cessively to two opposite infections, he took both in their very mildest form. The consti tution of his mind was such that neither of the diseases which committed such havoc all around him could, in any serious degree, or for any great length of time, derange his intellectual health. He, like every honest and enlightened man in Europe, saw with delight the great awakening of the French nation. Yet he never, in the season of his warmest enthusiasm, proclaimed doctrines inconsistent with the safety of property and the just authori. ty of governments. He, like almost every honest and enlightened man, was discouraged and perplexed by the terrible events which fol lowed. Yet he never, in the most gloomy times, abandoned the cause of peace, of liber ty, and of toleration. In that great convulsion which overset almost every other understanding, he was indeed so much shaken that he leaned sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other; but he never lost his balance. The opinions in which he at last reposed, and to which, in spite of strong temptations, he adhered with a firm, a disinterested, an ill-re quited fidelity, were a just mean between those which he had defended with a youthful ardour and with more than manly prowess against Mr. Burke; and those to which he had inclined during the darkest and saddest years in the history of modern Europe. We are much mistaken if this be the picture either of a weak or of a dishonest mind.

ing Castlereagh-Pantisocratists-ultra-Tories What his political opinions were in his lat -Heretics-Persecutors-breaking the old ter years is written in the annals of his country laws against sedition-calling for new and Those annals will sufficiently refute the calum sharper laws against sedition-writing demo- ny which his biographer has ventured to pub eratic dramas--writing laureate odes--pane-lish in the very advertisement to his work gyrizing Marten-panegyrizing Laud-consist- "Sir James Mackintosh," says he, was avow ent in nothing but in an intolerance which in edly and emphatically a Whig of the Revo any person would be offensive, but which is lution: and since the agitation of religious altogether unpardonable in men who, by their liberty and parliamentary reform became a na own confession, have had such ample experi- tional movement, the great transaction of 1688 ence of their own fallibility. We readily con- has been more dispassionately, more correctly, cede to some of these persons the praise of elo- and less highly estimated."-While we tran quence and of poetical invention, nor are we scribe the words, our anger cools down into by any means disposed, even where they have scorn. If they mean any thing, they must been gainers by their conversion, to question mean that the opinions of Sir James Mackin their sincerity. It would be most uncandid to tosh concerning religious liberty and parlia attribute to sordid motives actions which ad- mentary reform went no further than those of mit of a less discreditable explanation. We the authors of the Revolution,-in other words think that the conduct of these persons has that Sir James Mackintosh opposed Catholic been precisely what was to be expected from Emancipation, and quite approved of the old men who were gifted with strong imagination constitution of the House of Commons. The and quick sensibility, but who were neither allegation is confuted by twenty volumes of accurate observers nor logical reasoners. It parliamentary debates, nay, by innumerable was natural that such men should see in the passages in the very fragment which this wri victory of the third estate in France the dawn ter has done his little utmost to deface. We of a new Saturnian age. It was natural that tell him that Sir James Mackintosh has often the disappointment should be proportioned to done more for religious liberty and for parlia the extravagance of their hopes. Though the mentary reform in a quarter of an hour than direction of their passions was altered, the vio- the feeble abilities of his biographer will ever lence of those passions was the same. The effect in the whole course of a long life. force of the rebouna was proportioned to the force of the original impulse. The pendulum swung furiously to the left because it had been drawn too far to the right.

We own that nothing gives us so high an idea of the judgment and temper of Sir James Mackintosh as the manner in which he shaped

The Continuation which follows Sir James Mackintosh's Fragment is as offensive as the Memoir which precedes it. We do not pretend to have read the whole, or even one half of it. Three hundred quarto pages of such matter are too much for human patience. It would be unjust to the writer to present

« AnteriorContinuar »