Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

With ribs and skulls I will not sleep,

In clammy beds of cold blue clay,
Through which the ringed earthworms creep,

And on the shrouded bosom prey.
I will not have the bell proclaim

When those sad marriage rites begin,
And boys, without regard or shame,

Press the vile mouldering masses in.
Say not, it is beneath my care-

I cannot these cold truths allow;
These thoughts may not afflict me there,

But oh! they vex and tease me now!
Raise not a turf, nor set a stone,

That man a maiden's grave may trace,
But thou, my Lucy, come alone,

And let affection find the place!

HIS LETTER TO EDMUND BURKE.1

SIR-I am sensible that I need even your talents to apologize for the freedom I now take; but I have a plea which, however, simply urged, will, with a mind like yours, sir, procure me pardon: I am one of those outcasts on the world who are without a friend, without employment, and without bread.

Pardon me a short preface. I had a partial father, who gave me a better education than his broken fortune would have allowed; and a better than was necessary, as he could give me that only. I was designed for the profession of physic; but, not having wherewithal to complete the requisite studies, the design but served to convince me of a parent's affection, and the error it had occasioned. In April last, I came to London, with three pounds, and flattered myself this would be sufficient to supply me with the common necessaries of life till my abilities should procure me more; of these I had the highest opinion, and a poetical vanity contributed to my delusion. I knew little of the world, and had read books only.

""Mr. Crabbe's journal of his London life, extending over a period of three months, is one of the most affecting documents which ever lent an interest to biography: Arriving in the metropolis in the beginning of 1800, without money, friends, or introductions, he rapidly sank into penury and suffering. His landlord threatened him, and hunger and a jail already stared him in the face. In this emergency, he ventured to solicit ihe notice of three individuals, eminent for station and influence. He applied to Lord North, Lord Shelburne, and Lord Thurlow, but without success. In a happy moment the name of Burke entered bis mind, and he appealed to his sympathy in the following letter. The result is well known. In Burke the happy poet found not only a patron and a friend, but a sagacious adviser and an accomplished critic."

Willmoit.

[ocr errors]

I wrote, and fancied perfection in my compositions; when I wanted bread, they promised me afluence, and soothed me with dreams of reputation, whilst my appearance subjected me to contempt. Time, reflection, and want have shown me my mistake. I see my trifles in that which I think the true light; and, whilst I deem them such, have yet the opinion that holds them superior to the common run of poetical publications.

I had some knowledge of the late Mr. Nassau, the brother of Lord Rochford; in consequence of which, I asked his lordship's permission to inscribe my little work to him. Knowing it to be free from all political allusions and personal abuse, it was no very material point to me to whom it was dedicated. His lordship thought it none to him, and obligingly consented to my request.

I was told that a subscription would be the more profitable method for me, and therefore endeavored to circulate copies of the inclosed proposals.

I am afraid, sir, I disgust you with this very dull narration, but believe me punished in the misery that occasions it. You will conclude that, during this time, I must have been at more expense than I could afford; indeed, the most parsimonious could not have avoided it. The printer deceived me, and my little business has had every delay. The people with whom I live perceive my situation, and find me to be indigent and without friends. About ten days since, I was compelled to give a note for seven pounds, to avoid an arrest for about double that sum which I owe. I wrote to every friend I had, but my friends are poor likewise; the time of payment approached, and I ventured to represent my case to Lord Rochford. I begged to be credited for this sum till I received it of my subscribers, which I believe will be within one month; but to this letter I had no reply, and I have probably offended by my importunity. Having used every honest means in vain, I yesterday confessed my inability, and obtained, with much entreaty, and as the greatest favor, a week's forbearance, when I am positively told that I must pay the money, or prepare for a prison. You will

guess

the

purpose of so long an introduction. I appeal to you, sir, as a good, and, let me add, a great man. I have no other pretensions to your favor than that I am an unbappy one. It is not easy to support the thoughts of confinement; and I am coward enough to dread such an end to my suspense.

Can you, sir, in any degree, aid me with propriety? Will you ask any demonstrations of my veracity? I have imposed upon myself, but I have been guilty of no other imposition. Let me, if possible, interest your compassion. I know those of rank and fortune are teased with frequent petitions, and are compelled to

[ocr errors]

generous heart.

refuse the requests even of those whom they know to be in distress : it is, therefore, with a distant hope I venture to solicit such favor; but you will forgive me, sir, if you do not think proper to relieve. It is impossible that sentiments like yours can proceed from any but a humane and

I will call upon you, sir, to-morrow, and if I have not the happiness to obtain credit with you, I must submit to my fate. My existence is pain to myself, and every one near and dear to me are distressed in my distresses. My connections, once the source of happiness, now embitter the reverse of my fortune; and I have only to hope a speedy end to a life so unpromisingly begun: in which (though it ought not to be boasted of), I can reap some consolation from looking to the end of it. I am, sir, with the greatest respect, your obedient and most humble servant,

GEORGE CRABBE.

JAMES MACKINTOSH, 1765–1832.

James MACKINTOSH,' one of the most distinguished men of his time, and who attained eminence in literature, philosophy, history, and politics, was born in Aldourie, on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland, on the 24th of October, 1765. At a very early age, he exhibited a remarkable fondness for abstruse speculations, and read such books as fell in his way; among which were the works of Pope and Swift. In 1780, he went to the College of Aberdeen, where he was recognized, by common consent, as the first scholar there ; whilst his courteous demeanor, refined manners, playful fancy, and easy flow of elocution, rendered him a general favorite among his companions. His chief associate was the Rev. Robert Hall, whom the exclusive system of the English universities had forced to seek, in this northern seminary, that academical education which was denied to him, as a “Dissenter," in his own country. The society and conversation of Hall had great influence on Mackintosh's mind, and their intellectual com. bats were almost unceasing.

• In 1803, he received the “honor (?) of knighthood," and was then “the Right Honorable Sir James Mackintosh."

“ Behold the child, by nature's kindly law
Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw;
Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite :
Scarfs, garters, gold amuse his riper stage,

And beads and prayer-books are the toys of age.
* Alluding to the superstitious devotees of the Papal Church.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In 1784, having taken his degree, he set out for Edinburgh to commence the study of physic, which he had made choice of as a profession. Here a new world was opened to him, and he was introduced into the first literary society of that renowned metropolis. But metaphysical, and political and scientific speculation, rather than the study of his profession, engrossed his attention, and, after three years spent in irregular application, he became a candidate for a degree. Having obtained his diploma, he quitted Edinburgh in September, 1787, with a large stock of miscellaneous information, but without having concentrated his powers upon any one pursuit, or given to professional subjects that systematic attention which is indispensable to the attainment of professional eminence.

Early in 1788, he set out for London, and arrived at that great theatre of action at one of the most critical periods of the world's history. An ardent enthusiast for political amelioration, he came in contact with society when it was already heaving with the first throes of that great convulsion which was soon to overturn all the institutions of a neighboring country, and to shake those of every other to their lowest foundations." In the discussions which were then going on, he was eager to take a part, and his failure to receive a medical appointment, which he had expected, led him to think seriously of abandoning the profession he had chosen. Early in 1789, he was married to Miss Catharine Stuart, a young lady of a respectable Scotch family, and, at the age of twenty-four, he found himself with no prospect of any immediate professional settlement, his little fortune left him by his father rapidly diminishing, and a wife 10 provide for.

An opportunity now presented itself which was to give to Mackintosh that prominence in the world of politics which he had so long desired. In 1790, appeared Burke's celebrated" Reflections on the French Revolution," than which no work, probably, ever excited so immediate, intense, and universal an interest in Great Britain. By some it was regarded as the most marvellous union of wisdom and genius that had ever appeared, while to othersthose who sympathized more with the efforts of the peo. ple of France to rid themselves of monarchy-it seemed inconsistent with the former life and opinions of the author, and to contain much that was exceptionable. Numerous replies immediately appeared, but none, excepting the “Rights of Man" of Thomas Paine, were deemed of any remarkable power until, in April, 1791, appeared “ Vindiciæ Gallicæ, or a Defence of the French Revolution and its English Admirers against the Accusations of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke." This work had been finished in a great hurry, but, with all its defects and imperfections, it at once placed the author in the very front rank of those who upheld the cause of France, caused him to be courted and caressed on all sides, and made him, as he says, “ the lion of London.”

In 1795, Mr. Mackintosh was called to the bar, at which he rose with rapid and sure steps. In 1799, he delivered a course of lectures, at Lincoln's Inn, upon the Law of Nature and of Nations, which gained him much credit. He was induced to publish the introductory lecture, which was no sooner from the press than commendations poured in upon him from

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

17

every quarter. In 1803, an event occurred in his life which gave him the highest fame as an advocate. On the 21st of February of that year took place the celebrated trial of M. Peltier, an emigrant French royalist, for a libel on the First Consul of France-Bonaparte. Mr. Mackintosh was counsel for the accused, and his address delivered on that occasion has been said to be “one of the most splendid displays of eloquence ever exhibited in a court of justice-a monument of genius, learning, and eloquence,"

In 1804, he was appointed by the government to the office of Recorder of Bombay, and, after having received the customary honor of knighthood, sailed with his family for India. By this step he was in hopes of improving his pecuniary resources, and laid out great plans in the walks of literature ; but he returned home, in 1812,“ with broken health and spirits, uncertain prospects, and vast materials for works which were never to be completed. He soon after entered Parliament, and continued in it to the end of his days—always true to liberal principles. He contributed articles of great value to the 'Edinburgh Review,' and in a preliminary discourse to the 'Encyclopædia,' furnished by far the best history of ethical philosophy that has ever been given to the world. He also published, in three volumes, a popular and abridged History of England' for 'Lardner's Cabi. net Cyclopædia,' which has been highly praised for its enlarged and liberal views; and he was engaged in a ‘History of the Revolution of 1688, 4 when he was suddenly called away, on the 30th of May, 1832, regretted with more sincerity, and admired with less envy, than any other man of his age."

The intellectual character of Sir James Mackintosh cannot be unknown to any one acquainted with his works, or who has ever read many pages of his 'Memoirs ;' and it is needless, therefore, to speak here of his great knowledge, the singular union of ingenuity and soundness in his speculations, his perfect candor and temper in discussion, the pure and lofty morality to which he strove to elevate the minds of others, and in his own conduct to conform. These merits, we believe, will no longer be denied by any who have heard of his name or looked at his writ. ings. But there were other traits of his intellect which could only be known to those who were of his acquaintance, and which it is still desir. able that the readers of the 'Memoirs' should bear in mind. One of these was that ready and prodigious memory by which all that he learned seemed to be at once engraved on the proper compartment of his mind, and to present itself the moment it was required; another, still more remarkable, was the singular maturity and completeness of all his views and opinions, even upon the most abstruse and complicated questions, though raised without design or preparation, in the casual course of conversation. The vast extent of his information, and the natural gayety of his temper, joined to the inherent kindness of his disposition, made his conversation at once the most instructive and the most generally pleasing that could be imagined."2

*

[ocr errors]

• Read a masterly account of this fragment in the sixty-second volume of the “ Edinburgh Review;" also, " Memoirs of his Life,'' by his son Robert.

» Read a very interesting and able notice of his " Memoirs" in the “Edinburgh Review," vol, lxii. p. 205.

« AnteriorContinuar »