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veries to make; if he had, his vanity would have insured the production of them in the thirty years that elapsed between the publication of his letter to Mr. Dunning, (which contained the germ of his subsequent philological writings,) and the close of his literary career. But he was unable to deny himself the petty gratification of raising an exaggerated opinion of his talents among the ill informed part of his readers, by pretensions which he could never realize; and was content to sink in the esteem of posterity for the sake of exciting a little more admiration in the common herd of his contemporaries. He liked the bustle of teal life-pulverem atque aciem-a great deal better than quiet and mere literary pursuits. Those who have read the · Letter to Mr. Dunning will recollect the perverse ingenuity with which he contrived to graft his great philological inquiry upon a legal squabble. He comes hot from the court of King's Bench to discuss the nature of particles, of which, it seems, a shameful ignorance, on the part of the judges, had just been manifested in a verdict against him. His head is never clear from the politics of the day long enough to write five pages together without alluding to them; and he continually rouses his readers from calm meditation upon the origin of but and to and from, by smart epigrams upon the natural objects of his hostility, the prime minister and the chief justice for the time being. The society in which he lived of course correspond to the prevalent disposition of his mind, and was rather political than literary. He probably was not in the habit of meeting persons who were capable of discussing with him, upon a footing of equality, the subjects of the skin a tiqotytu, but dictated • ex cathedra' to those who were unable to distinguish what was discovery from what was only paradox, and who gave him as much credit for what he had only promised as for what he had actually performed. If he had kept company in which topics of that nature were more frequently and more ably discussed, if (as it were) he had breathed a more philosophic air, a beneficial effect would, we think, have been felt upon his writings. He would have been less haughty and less positive, more clear and precise in the statement of his views, more moderate in estimating the value of his own labours, more accurate in ascertaining their real tendency, and above all he would have seen how absurd it is, at this time of day, to expect any permanent or valuable increase of reputation from the affectation of mysterious hints and imperfect disclosures.
Mr. Tooke was possessed of considerable learning, as indeed his writings sufficiently show. To other more casual acquirements he united a very extensive acquaintance with the Gothic dialects, of which he has so copiously and so judiciously availed himself
in his etymological researches; and it seems probable that the leading ideas of his philosophical work first presented themselves to his mind whilst he was pursuing this comparatively unfrequented track of literature. He was extremely well versed in the law; a science which, both in theory and practice, was particularly congenial to his mind, and which he had once studied with professional accuracy in the hope of being called to the bar. We are unable to state with precision what was the amount of his attainments in classical learning, but we apprehend he by no means possessed that accurate acquaintance with the literature of ancient Greece and Rome which is necessary to constitute a great scholar, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. He was familiar with all our best writers, most so with those of an early date. His knowledge of modern languages was considerable, and he was particularly well read in Italian authors. On the whole, exclusively of philosophy and politics, he would have passed for a very accomplished man.
One of the taxes which men pay for being eminent is to have their private as well as their public conduct made the subject of criticism: we shall therefore offer no apology for adding a few such remarks as our information enables us to supply upon that of Mr. Tooke. In the essential particulars of truth, honour, and justice, in all that, in a popular sense, forms the morality of a gentleman, he stood, we believe, unimpeached; at least no charge against him for the violation of it was ever substantiated, although he lived for half a century exposed to the public eye, and beset by the vigilant hostility of active and powerful enemies. His great fault, as a private man, was a libertinism in his habits and discourse which ill became his character, his profession, and, latterly, his age. It may seem an uncharitable suspicion, but we are really afraid that the tendency of which we complain, was rather increased than checked by the profession to which, however unwillingly, he belonged. He had a sort of spite at all its restraints. Many of them he never could throw off; but he was anxious to show that in licentiousness at least he could be a layman.
In the ordinary intercourse of life he was kind, friendly, and hospitable. We doubt whether his temper was naturally good; but if it was not, he had a merit the more; for he had so com. pletely subdued it by care and self-control as never to betray, under any provocation, the slightest mark of that irritability which often accompanies talent, and which gains so rapidly upon those who know not how to guard against its approaches. Indeed the aspect under which he appeared in private was by no means such as the stern cynicism and ferocious turbulence of his public conduct would have led one to expect; and those, whose
opinion of him has been formed exclusively upon his political character and his writings, will have some difficulty in believing that the curate of Brentford was one of the best bred gentlemen of the age. In this respect he was a sort of phenomenon. He was born in a low station: at no period did he appear to have possessed any remarkable advantages for the study of good breeding; on the contrary, the greater part of his life was spent in constant intercourse with coarse, vulgar, and uneducated men. Yet his natural taste was so good, and he had profited so judiciously by whatever opportunities he enjoyed, that courts and high stations have seldom produced a better example of polite and elegant behaviour than was exhibited by the associate of Messrs. Hardy and Thelwall. Indeed his manner had almost every excellence that manner can display_grace, vivacity, frankness, dignity. Perhaps, indeed, in its outward forms and in that which is purely conventional, his courtesy wore the air of the vieille cour,' and was rather more elab
ate than is consistent with the practice of this lounging unceremonious age: but it was never forced or constrained, and it sat not ungracefully upon an old man.
It has been remarked of some very eminent men, that either from bashfulness, or pride, or indifference, or want of a ready command of their faculties, their conversation frequently disappointed the expectations which their character had raised, Mr. Tooke was not of that class. He never appeared to greater advantage than in conversation. He was naturally of a social and convivial tuộn. His animal spirits were strong, the promptitude of his understanding was equal to its vigour, and he was by no means too proud to receive with satisfaction the small but immediate reward of approbation and good will which is always cheerfully paid to the display of agreeable qualities in society. A long, attentive, and acute observation of the world, had fur. nished him with a vast store of information and remark, which he was always ready to communicate, but never desirous to obtrude upon his hearers. The events of his political life had brought him into personal intercourse with many of the most considerable men of his time, and he was minutely acquainted with the history of them all. It is true, indeed, as we have already had occasion to observe, that few of the number had the good fortune to be the objects of his regard or approbation; and as candour was not a virtue he much affected, it was therefore necessary to receive his account of their actions and character with all imaginable caution and allowance. But if he was not a faithful portrait painter, he was at least an admirable caricaturist; which, for the purposes of mere entertainment, did quite as well: and it must be owned that his representations, though
harsh and unfavourable, always bore a striking and amusing resemblance to the originals. Viewed alone, they would have conveyed a very erroneous idea; but they were by no means without their use in correcting the impressions which had been made by more friendly, but equally unfaithful artists. He possessed an inexhaustable fund of anecdotes, which he introduced with great skill, and related with neatness, grace, rapidity and pleasantry. He had a quick sense of the ridiculous, and was a great master of the whole art of raillery, a dangerous talent, though the exercise of it in his hands was always tempered by politeQess and good humour. No man, we believe, ever provoked him by hostile attack, without having reason to repent of his rashness. He was possessed of all the means that could make retort terrible;-ready poignant wit, perfect composure and selfcommand, boldness confirmed by the habit of victory in that species of combat, and a heartfelt bitterness, which when he was once emancipated, by the indiscretion of his adversary, from those restraints which good-breeding imposed, poured itself forth in a torrent of keen, unsparing, irresistible invective. But these severe chastisements were but rarely inflicted, never, we believe, except when provoked by some signal instance of folly or impertinence in his opponent.
His fault as a companion was that love of paradox which we have already mentioned, and a tendency to disputation which led him continually to argue for the mere sake of victory, and in evident contradiction to his own real opinion-a practice quite insufferable when adopted, as it often is, by persons of ordinary understanding, and who only flatter themselves that they possess the acuteness with which Mr. Tooke was really endowed, and to which we must own, that even his liveliness, native ingenuity, and felicity of illustration, could never wholly reconcile us.
He possessed a rich vein of humour, sometimes coarse, but always striking, comic, and original. His speeches afforded some good specimens of it to the public, and he indulged in it still more freely in private. Perhaps, indeed, it may be fairly objected to him, that his conversation was hardly ever quite serious; and that what with paradox, and what with irony, it was not easy to get at his true meaning. The truth seems to be, that he comforted himself for not having a larger share in the business of the world, by laughing at every body and every thing it contained. His sceptical disposition probably kept his mind unsettled upon many important facts as to which the generality of men entertain more fixed opinions, and he was therefore ready to espouse either side with equal zeal and equal insincerity, just as accident or caprice inclined him at the moment. There were other subjects on which he was accustomed to speak more posi
tively, but on which we are apt to suspect that his esoteric doctrines were very different from those which he taught to alder, men, shoemakers, and other patriotic persons. On such occasions, he could not have been in earnest. He must have seen through the designs of those with whom he was acting--he must have loathed their vulgarity-he must have despised their folly. We are aware how severe a censure upon his honesty this opinion implies, but we really think that a fair estimate of the strength of his understanding can lead to no other conclusion.
He was endowed with every species of courage, active and passive, personal aod political. Even his adversaries allowed him this merit. We recollect, that in the year 1794, at the time of the State Trials, when it was falsely reported, that upon be. ing committed to the Tower his spirit had failed, and he had burst into tears, Wilkes expressed great surprise, and said, I knew he was a knave, but I never thought him a coward.' It is only to be regretted that he found no better opportunities for the display of so valuable a quality, than in election riots, and trials for sedition and treason.
In spite of labour and dissipation his life was protracted to a period which indicated an originally sound and vigorous frame. For the last twenty years, however, he was subject to several severe, distressing and incurable infirmities. These he bore with a patience and firmness which it was impossible not to admire:
very last he never suffered himself to be beat down by them, nor ever for one moment indulged in complaint, or gave way to despondency. In the intervals of pain, nay, even when actually suffering under it, he preserved a self-command, which enabled him to converse, not only with spirit and vigour, but with all his accustomed cheerfulness and pleasantry, never make ing any demand upon the sympathy of his friends, or mentioning his own situation at all, except when occasionally, and by a very pardonable exercise of his sophistry, he amused himself in exalting its comforts, and explaining away its disadvantages displaying in this respect a manly spirit and a practical philosophy which, if they had been brought to bear upon his moral, as well as upon his physical condition, if they had been employed with as much effect in reconciling him to his political exclusion as to his bodily sufferings, might have produced, not the very imperfect character we have been attempting to delineate, in which the unfavourable traits bear so large a proportion to those of a nobler and more benign cast, but the venerable portrait of a truly wise and virtuous man.