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their invento persone, though ituld take their do the readers, all
ease. Nothing more than a pair of scissors is necessary. Let him carefully cut out every puff which he has wasted on Amelia, and Helen, and Laura, and Rachel; let him leave them, as all the characters in a novel ought to be left, to the reader's unbiassed judgment, and they would take their proper rank among his dramatis persone, though it may differ from that to which their inventor thinks them entitled.
So much for Mr. Thackeray's faults. As to his merits, it is admitted that he is unrivalled by any living writer as an inventor and a describer of character; that he has penetrated into the lowest cells of pride, vanity, and selfishness, and laid open some of the secrets of the human prison-house which never were revealed before. Every reader admires the ease and vigour of his dialogue, its sparkling wit and its humour, sometimes broad, sometimes delicate, but always effective.
The few extracts which we have made from the serious portions of his works are sufficient to show that he has great tragic powers. Nothing can be more exquisitely imagined or described than the parting of George Osborne and Amelia. His natural tendency, however, is towards comedy, or rather towards satire. He
‘Shines in exposing knaves and painting fools. But his favourite amusement is the unmasking hypocrisy. He delights to show the selfishness of kindness, the pride of humility, the consciousness of simplicity. If any of Mr. Thackeray's characters had been copied from real life, and the originals could recognise themselves in his imitations, they never would tremble more than when some apparently good act was ascribed to them. They would expect to see in the next page the virtue turn into a vice or a weakness.
Mr. Thackeray, in his English Humourists, resembles little Mr. Thackeray as a satirist. He is as indulgent to his real as he is severe towards his imaginary characters. He treats, indeed, Congreve with superciliousness, and Sterne with contempt almost amounting to disgust, and trembles before the awful phantom of Swift, but embraces all the other spirits that he calls up— Addison, Steele, Prior, Gay, Pope, Hogarth, Smollett, Fielding, and Goldsmith — with the cordiality of a brother in the craft.
When we read the names which Mr. Thackeray has strung together in his list of humourists, we felt some doubt as to his principle of classification, as to the common quality which grouped together writers so different as Pope and Sterne. In
VOL. XCIX, NO. CCI.
his first lecture Mr. Thackeray professes to point out this common quality :
• The humorous writer,' he says, “besides appealing to your sense of ridicule, professes to awaken and direct your love, your pity, your kindness—your scorn for untruth, pretension, imposture-your tenderness for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, the unbappy. To the best of his means and ability he comments on all the ordinary actions and passions of life almost. He takes upon himself to be the week-day preacher, so to speak.'
Now, it is difficult to say what moral writer does not come within so capacious a definition as this. At the head of the humourists of the eighteenth century we should have to put Johnson, Horace Walpole, and Cowper; for never were men who commented more diligently on all the ordinary actions and passions of life, and their comments were deeply tinged with the wisdom resembling absurdity, and the absurdity resembling wisdom, to which we give the name of Humour.
We will not, however, carp any more at Mr. Thackeray's nomenclature. He has given us a set of amusing lectures on interesting persons, and we need not inquire further into his reasons for selecting them. Little new was to be said about Swift after Johnson and Scott, or about Addison after Johnson and Macaulay; but we were glad to see a whole lecture given to Steele, to whose biography less attention has been paid than his amusing chequered character and the great share which he occupies in our earlier English literature deserve.
There occurs, however, in this lecture a passage which leads us to suspect that Mr. Thackeray had not studied, with the attention that his great office requires, all the works of the authors whom he is criticising. He treats the dinner, in the Polite Conversation, as a specimen of the habits of the times. • Fancy,' he says, 'the moral condition of that society in which • a lady of fashion provided a great shoulder of veal, a sirloin, a
goose, hare, rabbit, chickens, partridges, black puddings, and a ham for a dinner for eight Christians. What — what could have been the condition of that polite world in which people openly ate goose after almond pudding, and took their soup in * the middle of dinner?' (p. 155.) Now, the great Simon Wagstaff, in the preface to his immortal work, has answered all this by anticipation.
Some,' he says, 'will perhaps object that when I bring my company to dinner I mention too great a variety of dishes, not consistent with the art of cookery, or proper for the season of the year; and part of the first course is mingled with the second; besides a failure in politeness by introducing a black
Polito's whom he great office may had not essage,
Papieren het proclickerit Christiolife woud took the same
pudding to a lord's table, and at a great entertainment. But • if I had omitted the black pudding, what would have become of that exquisite reason given by Miss Notable for not eating it? The world perhaps might have lost it for ever, and I should have been justly answerable. I cannot but hope that such hypercritical readers will please to consider that my business was to make so full and complete a body of refined
sayings as compact as I could: only taking care to produce "them in the most natural and probable manner, in order to - allure my readers into the very substance and marrow of this - most admirable and necessary art.'
It is remarkable that, in his notice of Pope, Mr. Thackeray omits the works in which Pope was strictly a humourist, and notices only those in which he was strictly a poet. Now, we sympathise with his admiration of the satire on Addison, and of the conclusion of the Dunciad, though we should hesitate before we admitted that in the latter · Pope shows himself the equal of
all poets of all times. But if we had had to point out the work in which the peculiar powers of Pope, and especially his powers as a humourist, shine the brightest, we should have selected not the Satires, or the Dunciad, but the Rape of the Lock.
The best of the lectures is, we think, that on Fielding; and we are delighted to read Mr. Thackeray's bold and cordial and discriminating praise of this great, but, we fear, somewhat neglected artist ; a moralist, from whom the generation that is now passing away imbibed a heartier contempt for meanness and duplicity, and a heartier sympathy with courage, frankness, and manliness, than we fear are to be acquired from the more decorous narratives which form the mental food of their suca cessors.
Art. VII.-1. Report from the Select Committee on the Office
of Speaker ; together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, &c. Ordered by the House of Commons
to be printed, 12th May, 1853. 2. Returns of the Sittings of the House of Commons, 1852–53:
of the Divisions of the House ; Public Bills ; Private Bills; Public Committees; and Election Petitions. Ordered by the
House of Commons to be printed, 16th August, 1853. 3. A practical Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and
Usage of Parliament. By THOMAS ERSKINE MAY, Esq. Second Edition. London: 1851.
4. The Rules of Proceeding and Debate in Deliberative Assem
blies. By LUTHER S. CUSHING. Boston: 1853. W HILE Cabinet Councils, the Press, and the Public are
discussing improvements in our representative system, we will venture to solicit attention to another question of public policy- of less political importance, it is true, yet scarcely less concerned in the good government of this country, we mean the machinery of legislation. The first political object to be desired in a free country, is the best practicable constitution of the legislature; the second, is its successful operation, as shown by good laws, wise councils, fruitful inquiries, and practical efficiency. It is not sufficient to provide for the election of the fittest representatives of the people: but, having been brought together, they must be set to work so as to become efficient instruments of legislation. Organisation is not less essential in a senate than in a factory; and in both alike, however skilful may be the hands,' their several parts must be nicely adjusted, in order to realise the full results of their combined exertions.
Under a well-ordered system much may be done, even with bad materials. If, according to Horne Tooke's cynical suggestion, a rope were drawn round the market-place for representatives of the people, political drilling would not be without its benents. The roughest recruits become in time good soldiers; and Hullah's pupils, though no musicians, elicited the highest praise of the great Duke, who had never seen such discipline in
his life.' What, then, may not be expected from the organised and well-directed energies of the chosen men of our Senateenlightened, capable, and ambitious ?
And truly there is enough for them to do! Never were so many important functions combined in a deliberative assembly, as in the British Parliament. Our legislation has become the most difficult and complicated of human labours; and the utmost facilities which experience can suggest, will merely afford a slight alleviation of its pressure. Happy were our German ancestors in their simple assemblies! A few of their leaders made short speeches, to which their audience responded in a manner very significant, but, according to our notions, somewhat disorderly. “Si displicuit sententia, fremitu adspernantur:
sin placuit, frameas concutiunt.' Weary debates, from night till morning, under the glare of Bude lights, are amongst the discoveries as well as penalties of modern civilisation.
So many circumstances have contributed to enlarge the powers and increase the activity of Parliament, that of late years it has been continually working at high pressure.' A vast arrear of legislation had long been accumulating upon us. After a century of inaction, and three and twenty years of war, the statesmen of our own time have had to do the work of many generations — to unmake as well as to make laws— to detect and expose abuses — to break down monopolies—to bear up against corrupt interests — to resist prejudices which had long been sanctioned by our laws, and to adopt higher principles and a wiser policy. But much as they have had to accomplish — and however speedily and well it has sometimes been done – the necessities of our age and country have still been in advance of their utmost endeavours. A new life has grown up in the British Empire and people. In population, wealth, enterprise, and commerce, in science and the arts, in political enlightenment, in moral and social advancement, our progress has been without a parallel in
advancing society have demanded the aids of sound legislation, our popular institutions and a free press have caused an extra
on the whole, has Parliament met the increasing demands upon its energies. The history of England since the Peace, not written by Alison, or any pseudo-philosopher of his school, is creditable to the sagacity of our statesmen, and the enlightened wisdom of the Legislature. Generally keeping pace with the spirit of the times - sometimes being even in advance of it, as in the repeal of the Catholic disabilities-- they have, at the same time, resisted changes, however strongly urged, which were not consistent with the general policy of our institutions.
Satisfactory as we must pronounce the general results of our legislation to have been *; yet, when we observe, from day to day, the process by which they are practically wrought out, we cannot help wondering that they should ever have been accomplished. The political difficulties of legislation in a popular assembly are sufficiently great; but when to these are added a defective organisation, an insufficient division of labour, and indefinite facilities for obstructive debate, they can only be overcome by such struggles and sacrifices as ought not to be exacted of those who devote themselves to the public service. The process of legislation has not kept pace with its increasing requirements. We have outgrown our forms,' said Sir John Pakington, in the last Session; and we trust that Parliament will subscribe to his opinion.
The antiquity of our Parliamentary forms, and the almost
* For a summary of the Recent Progress of Legislation see the Edinburgh Review, No. cxciii. Art. 3.