Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

man, and had, ever since the coalition in 1784, estrangel himself particularly from the Whigs as a body of statesmen, though he retained his attachment to their principles.

- The ostensible reason of their dismission was, the King's dislike of a measure which they had brought forward in parliament respecting the Irish Catholic officers. The ministers were wisely moved, by a liberal and prospective policy, to endeavour to consolidate as much as possible the strength of the empire, by opening to Catholic officers in the army and navy the same road to honour and emolument which had always been open to Protestants. They were sensible that almost every Gazette which announced the success of our enterprises, made distinguished mention of the gallantry of the inferior Catholic officers; and they wished to confirm the loyalty, and to stimulate the ambition, of such men, by putting them on a level with their fellows in arms.

Unfortunately the King did not see this measure in the same light that his Whig ministers did, and he required them to give him a pledge that they would never more bring forward the question of granting further indulgence to the Irish Catholics. This requisition was not only unprecedented in the annals of the house of Brunswick since its accession to the throne of Great Britain, but it was considered by many as of a tendency dangerous to the constitution ; and to me it appeared to be, not in words but in fact, a declaration of a sic volo. Had His Majesty dismissed his ministers because he disliked their measures, no one would have denied such an exertion of his prerogative to have been perfectly constitutional, (how much soever he might have individually questioned the discretion of using it in such a crisis); but to require from privy councillors, and much more to require from confidential servants of the Crown, that they would at any time cease to advise His Majesty for what they esteemed the public good, was to brand them as unprincipled slaves to the royal will, and traitors to the country. The ministers refused to cover themselves with the infamy which would justly have attended their submission to such a demand : they refused, and were dismiss, ed: such sort of ministers would have lost their heads at Constantinople; at London, they, as yet, only lose their places. Whilst there remained a competitor of the Stuart family to the throne of Great Britain, the kings of the house of Brunswick were perhaps afraid of the competition; and were satisfied with having been elevated, from an arbitrary dominion over a petty principality in Germany, to the possession of a limited monarchy, over the most enlightened and the most commercial nation in the world. That competition being now extinguished, it could not be thought unnatural were they to indulge a desire of emancipating themselves from the restraints of Parliament : but there is no way of effecting this, so secret, safe, and obvious, as by corrupting it. When Rome possessed the empire of the world, its emperor had ample means of corrupting the integrity of the whole senate, and it soon became subservient to his will : public liberty was swallowed up by private profligacy. The first Lord Chatham was a Cato when he declared that Hanover was a millstone about the neck of Great Britain ; but he became a supple courtier when he boasted of having conquered America in Germany; and he forfeited the esteem of good men when he attempted to adorn the sepulchre of his patriotism by a pension and a peerage. · Since his time, for one Cato, one Rockingham, one Saville, one Chatham (in his honourable days), we have had, and have, and probably always shall have (as long as we remain an opulent and luxurious nation) hundreds resembling him in the decline of his political virtue.' p. 459–461. . Dur general opinion of the value of this work may be gathered from the foregoing pages. As a mere literary performance, it ranks very high, from the excellence of the language. It is good, pure, elegant English; free from affectation of every sort, and always adapted to the subject. To the specimens which we have already given, may now be added a letter to Mr Hayley, on a variety of topics, of a miscellaneous nature, and written with peculiar ease and gracefulness.

I sit down to account to you for a long seeming neglect, and to beg you to accept the narration as an excuse for it. When your letter (I am ashamed to look at the date) of June the 23d arrived at Calgarth Park, I was visiting my diocese; after my return, a good deal of business, and an incessant flux of Lakers (such is the deno. mination by which we distinguish those who come to see our country, intimating thereby not only that they are persons of taste, who wish to view our lakes, but idle persons who love laking-the old Saxon word to lake, or play, being of common use among schoolboys in these parts), left me for several weeks no time to think of any thing but hospitality; and your letter lay hidden among a mass of papers which overspread my table. When I discovered it about a month ago, I was labouring with hands and knees to get rid of the gout which had seized both another guest, you will suppose, of my hospitality. This is the first fit that I have had ; it has not yet quite left me. I am not conscious of having deserved it by any intemperance, yet I blush for having introduced.so great a malady into my family,

I think Cowper's works are his best monument, and most of the subscribers will probably be of the same opinion. But as you desire me to speak frankly, I must say, that I think many of them will not be pleased with your change of purpose. Your intention of doing something for Mr Rose's family is highly laudable, and of a piece with your general philanthropy ; but a subscriber may justly say, If my subscription is to go in charity, I myself have many objects as deserving, and more connected with me than any godson of Mr Cowper. As to my own subscription, I beg it may go, should you priņt no part of Milton, to the orphans you so kindly proteçt.

" I return my best thanks for the present of your Ballads; the subjects are well chosen, and the tales are sweetly told. On one of our highest mountains (Helvellyn) a man was lost last year: two months after his disappearance his body was found, and his faithful dog sitting by it; a part of the body was eaten, but whether hunger had compelled the dog to the deed is not known. I remember the late Duke of Northumberland having told me, that a young antelope of his had by accident been killed by a fall from the top of his house at Sion, to which it had ascended by a trap-door being left open at the head of a staircase, and that its mother, which was feeding in the pasture, refusing to quit the body, died of grief and hunger.

"A book concerning the habitudes of animals, by Mr Bindley, was lately advertised: I have not yet seen it. The subject is curious, but difficult : it requires long and patient attention to come to any certain conclusion respecting the manners and perhaps the nascent morals of animals; for a well-trained pointer, and other domesticated and well-educated animals, seem to have a knowledge of what may be called their duty to their master. I leave this hint to your philosophy concerning the gradation of beings. :: I do not know of any book giving an account of institutions for the support of orphans : you probably may meet with something to your purpose in Justinian's Institutes, or in some of the Roman writers after the empire became Christian ; for it is to Christianity, principally, that the world is indebted for charitable institutions. Widows, indeed, and orphans, were at an early period of the Roman history exempted from taxation, to which all other persons were subjected : this curious fact is mentioned by Plutarch in his life of Publicola.

• Persius (Sat. iv. lib. 3.) calls Alcibiades the pupil of Pericles ; but whether the term pupillus always means an orphan, I am not cer. tain: perhaps the time of the death of his father Clinius, may be mentioned by Plutarch or Nepos. Coriolanus's father died when he was an infant. Alcibiades and Coriolanus would, with Demosthenes, make as noble a trio of orphans as all antiquity could furnish. If you wish for a partie quarré, and have no objection to the man, Mahomet is at your service. : The ophthalmia, I hope, has left you. Without doubt this com, plaint has been occasioned in yourself from the too great use you have made of your eyes; but a similar one, which afflicted our troops in Egypt, proceeded, I think, from a too great glare of light. My reason for this conjecture is founded on what happens to sheep : When our mountains continue for a long time covered with snow, a great many sheep become blind, and gradually receive their sight on the melting of the snow.' p. 439–442. 1. We see, on the other hand, very little to reprove or complain

of in this publication, if it be not that, perhaps, too querulous a strain is indulged in, upon the subject of the injustice he experienced. We may also regret a plan which he pursues of

[ocr errors]

giving very few letters written to himself, by the many eminent persons with whom he was in correspondence. Almost all the letters are his own. We should have expected, too, a good many more striking anecdotes of the remarkable men whom he associated with; and a greater portion of information touching the history of the times, from so many of the chief actors in it, whose conversation he enjoyed. Of this there is very little indeed in the work. But, of that little, we must not pass over a curious fact, rather staggering from its import, and from the high nature of the evidence by which it is supported.- On " the day,' says Bishop Watson, speaking of Lord Shelburne, • in which the peace was to be debated in the two Houses of • Parliament, I happened to stand next him in the House of

Lords, and asked him, whether he was to be turned out by " the disapprobation of the Commons; he replied, that he could • not certainly tell what would be the temper of that House,

but he could say that he had not expended a shilling of the • public money to procure its approbation, though he well I knew that above sixty thousand pounds had been expended o in procuring an approbation of the peace in 1763:

Art. IX. Women ; or Pour et Contre: A Tale. By the Au

thor of Bertram, &c. Edinburgh and London. 1818.

The author of a successful tragedy has, in the general decay

of the dramatic art which marks our age, a good right to assume that distinction in his title-page, and claim the attention due to superior and acknowledged talent. The faults of Bertram are those of an ardent and inexperienced author; but its beauties are undeniably of an high order; and the dramatist who has been successful in exciting pity and terror in audiences assembled to gape and stare at shows and processions, rather than to weep or tremble at the convulsions of human passion, has a title to the early and respectful attention of the critic.

Mr Maturin, the acknowledged author of Bertram, is a clergyman on the Irish establishment, employed chiefly, if we mistake not, in the honourable task of assisting young persons during their classical studies at Trinity College, Dublin. He has been already a wanderer in the field of fiction, and is the author of the House of Montorio, a romance in the style of Mrs Ratcliffe, the Wild Irish Boy, and other tales. The present work is framed upon a different and more interesting model, pre

tending to the merit of describing the emotions of the human heart, rather than that of astonishing the reader by the accu. mulation of imaginary horrors, or the singular combinations of marvellous and perilous adventures. Accordingly, we think we can perceive marks of greater care than Mr Maturin has taken the trouble to bestow upon his former works of fiction; and that which is a favourite with the author himself, is certainly most likely to become so with the public and with the critic. Upon his former works, the author has, in his preface, passed the following severe sentence. ,

None of my former prose works have been popular. The strong. est proof of which is, none of them arrived at a second edition ; nor could I dispose of the copyright of any but of the “ Milesian," which was sold to Mr Colburn for 801. in the year 1811. . ouMontorio” (misnomed by the bookseller “ The Fatal Revenge,” a very book-selling appellation) had some share of popularity, but it was only the popularity of circulating libraries : it deserved no better; the date of that style of writing was out when I was a boy, and I had not powers to revive it. When I look over those books now, I am not at all surprised at their failure ; for, independent of their want of external interest, (the strongest interest that books can have, even in this reading age), they seem to me to want reality, vraisemblance; the characters, situations, and language, are drawn merely from imagination ; my limited acquaintance with life denied me any other resource. In the Tale which I now offer to the public, perhaps there may be recognised some characters which experience will not disown. Some resemblance to common life may be traced in them. On this I rest for the most part the interest of the narrative. The paucity of characters and incidents (the absence of all that constitutes the interest of fictitious biography in general) excludes the hope of this work possessing any other interest.' - The preface concludes with an assurance, that the author will never trespass again in this kind;-a promise or threat which is as often made and as often broken as lovers' vows, and which the reader has no reason to desire should in the present case be more scrupulously adhered to, than by other authors of ancient and modern celebrity. Let us only see, what the work really deserves, a favourable reception from the public; and we trust Mr Maturin may be moved once more to resume a species of composition so easy to a writer of rich fancy and ready powers, so delightful to the numerous class of readers, who have Gray's authority for supposing it no bad emblem of paradise to lie all day on a couch and read new novels.

In analyzing · Women,' we are tempted to hesitate which end of the tale we should begin with. It is the business of the author to wrap up his narrative in mystery during its progress,

« AnteriorContinuar »