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though a courtier, and evidently versed in tales of chivalry and feats of knighthood, always seems to descend with pleasure to the plain, unaffected homeliness of low life : and the fidelity of his pictures shews that he must have been intimately and personally acquainted with the manners of that class. He seems at home the moment his Muse gets into such company; and though the poet of Palamon and Arcite cannot be said to be out of his element in the description of tournament, and pomp, and ceremony, yet does he seem to breathe with fresher life in humbler scenes. He had sympathies for all ranks, and with true English feeling he has drawn the connexion between the high and the low. This forms the great beauty of his “ Griselda:"-the tale of Chaucer strikes me as fraught with a hidden and a noble moral, which certainly it has not in the pages of Boccacio. The demand of the peasants—their lord's answer-his choice--the demeanour and pathetic obedience of Griselda—and the kind intent of her lord, veiled under the harsh exercise of his authority-all these speak more to me than is set down. “ It is not in the bond,” but yet I feel it: and hence hath that tale a charm for me, beyond all the other writings of the poet.
Donnington Castle, and Woodstock, share with London the memory of Chaucer ; as does the Borough, where the Tabard Inn is not to be forgotten, whence the Canterbury pilgrims set out on their journey. The meaning of tabard (an old cloak) having become obsolete, the name of the inn has been for these many years changed to that of the Talbot. But it still exists, and an inscription about Geoffrey used to be seen in the inn-yard. The greater part of his life, there can be no doubt, was spent in London, “ the place of his kindly engendrure.” And were we inclined to be gay, many comical proofs of the poet's being a cockney, might be brought from his orthography; The olive of
and eke, the dronken vine; The victor palme; the laurer, too divine," which can be no mistake of the print, for even Tyrwhitt adopts it. There are a hundred other instances of the same kind, that have escaped my memory. Now this, in my mind, is a compliment; but should any think otherwise, let them call to mind all the great men of Elizabeth's age, and of Anne's—the haunters of tap-rooms and taverns, of the coffee-house and the cockpit -- the Johnsons, the Shakspeares, the Addisons, the Steeles—all arrant cits and metropolitans, as their writings avouch.
But London, it must be allowed, is no longer what she was--the focus of literature and taste. Like Rome, that in the increase of her grandeur was compelled to admit all Italy to the honours of citizenship, her press has spread the stock of literary riches all over the sur
Chaucer, and the author of Piers Plowman, have highly extolled this useful body of men, while the French Minstrels of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, universally seem to approve the supercilious contempt with which the nobles affected to treat them.” Nevertheless, many of the productions of Elizabeth's reign are terribly aristocratic, especially Sackville's “ Gorboduc,"
“ The Gods do hear, and well allow in Kings,
The things that they abhor in rascal routs.' “ Rascal Routs" is a favourite expression of Sackville's.
face of the land. And in every petty village is now to be found the pert, pretending critic, that was, of old, confined to the metropolitan pit. The mounds and banks of the intellectual pond have been broken up--the streams have gone forth, and circulate through a thousand channels. It is painful for us to observe, that some who liave been thus enriched, do pride themselves much upon the acquisition, and pretend to look with most undutiful contempt on the source and origin whence they derived it. They are better theatrical judges in Dublin than in London,” say some. “ The purest English is spoken in Edinburgh," say others. Various excellencies are pleaded in favour of America. From all these opinions I beg to differ--with none of them am I angry. Let each man, like Diogenes, roll his tub. But truly indignant am I with some, who most pusillanimously, and for reasons I cannot guess, are afraid to own themselves natives and citizens of the spot which produced a Chaucer, a Hampden, and a Milton.
SKETCHES OF THE IRISH BAR.
When I first visited Dublin (it was about three years ago), I was a frequent attendant at the Courts of Justice, or, as they are more familiarly styled, the “ Four Courts.” The printed speeches of Curran had just fallen into my hands; and, notwithstanding their numerous and manifest defects, whether of the reporter or the speaker, the general effect of the perusal was to impress me with a very favourable opinion of Irish forensic eloquence. Although, as an Englishman, I might not participate in the political fervour which forms one of their chief recommendations to his admirers in Ireland, or, in my severer judgment, approve of a general style that differed so essentially from the models of British taste, still there was a freshness and vitality pervading the whole-glowing imagery-a bounding phraseology-trains of argument and illustration at once vigorous and ori nal—and incessant home pushes at the human heart, of which the attractions were entirely independent of local or party associations. Under these impressions, and the opportunity being now afforded me, I made it a kind of literary object to ascertain how far the peculiarities that struck me belonged to the man or the country. With this view I resorted almost daily for the space of two terms to the Four Courts, where I studied with some industry the manner and intellectual character of some of the most eminent pleaders. The result was a little collection of forensic sketches, accurate enough, it struck me, as far as they went; but on the whole so incomplete, that I had no design of offering them to the public :- they remained alınost forgotten in my commonplace book, until his Majesty's late visit to Ireland, when I was persuaded by a friend to follow in the royal train. All that I saw and thought upon that occasion is beside my present purpose. I return to my sketches :-My friend and I remained in Ireland till the month of December. We made an excursion to the Lakes of Killarney and to the Giants' Causeway; and, during our tour, the Circuits being fortunately out, I was thus furnished with the means of correcting or confirming many observations upon some of the most prominent subjects of my sketches. The same opportunity was afforded me on my return to Dublin, where the Courts were sitting during the last month of our stay. I now, for the first time, and principally from deference to my companion's opinion that the subject would be interesting, resolved at a leisure hour to arrange my scattered memoranda into a form that might meet the public eye. I may not be enabled to execute my plan to its entire extent: for the present I offer the following remarks upon one of the leading members of the Irish bar. In the event of my fulfilling my purpose, I must premise, that I do not profess to include every member of that body who has risen to eminence in his profession :
propose to speak only of those whom I heard sufficiently often to catch the peculiarities of their mind and manner; and, with regard to these, I beg to disclaim all pretensions to adjust their comparative merits and professional importance. With the single exception of Mr. Plunket--for he unquestionably stands the first, the order in which they may appear in my list is not to be taken as the measure of their VOL. V. NO, XX.
general estimation. Were it possible, I should introduce their names in the form of a Round Robin, where none could be said to enjoy precedence.
Mr. Plunket.-Mr. Plunket's father was a Presbyterian clergyman in the North of Ireland. He died during the infancy of his children, leaving them and his widow without any provision : but learning has always been cheap in Ireland, and Mrs. Plunket contrived to procure for her sons a classical education. The subject of the present notice was, at an early age, befriended by the late Lord Avonmore. I have conversed with one or two persons who recollect to have seen him a constant inmate at his Lordship's house, and their report of him is, " that he was a clever, hard-headed boy, very attentive to his studies, and very negligent of his person." He passed in due course through Trinity College, Dublin ; and was called to the Irish bar in 1787: his professional advancement was rapid and steady. The first public notice that I can find of his name is upon the trial of the Sheareses, in 1798: he was associated with Curran and Ponsonby in the defence of the unfortunate brothers, and, like them, vainly urged every topic that legal ingenuity could devise to avert their doom. I am not aware that Mr. Plunket appeared as counsel for the prisoners in any subsequent state-trial. He became a member of the Irish Parliament in 1797. On the question of the Union, he took the side of his country: his speeches on that occasion contain many fine specimens of reasoning, invective, and deliberate enthusiasm. A single sentence will convey an idea of their general spirit:-“ For me, I do not hesitate to declare, that if the madness of the Revolutionist should tell me ' you must sacrifice British connexion,' I would adhere to that connexion in preference to the independence of my country; but I have as little hesitation in saying, that, if the wanton ambition of a minister should assault the freedom of Ireland and compel me to the alternative, I would fling the connexion to the winds, and I would clasp the independence of my country to my heart.” But in those days, as was remarked, “ the voice of the patriot in the senate was answered by no echo from without.” The nation was panic-struck; gold and promises were profusely scattered ; the majority of the “Honourable House” were impatient to be sold, though the wages of their sin was death. The people had nothing to offer but gratitude and fame—the minister had titles, offices, and pensions, and the Irish Parliament was knocked down to the highest bidder.
In 1803, Mr. Plunket appeared as one of the counsel for the prosecution on the trial of Mr. Robert Emmet. One particular of his conduct on that occasion exposed him to great, and, as it appears to me, most unmerited reproach. The unfortunate prisoner made no defence—in truth, he had none to make: he produced no evidence, and his counsel announced that they would state no case to the jury. On this ground, they contended that the counsel for the Crown should not be allowed to address the jury a second time. Mr. Plunket insisted upon his right: the Court decided the question in his favour, and he proceeded to comment at length upon the conduct of the prisoner, and upon the wildness and guilt of the conspiracy of which he had been the projector. Emmet's youth and talents, and his deportment on his
trial, excited universal sympathy: almost all, even those who would not consent to spare him, pitied him as a victim-many admired and deplored him as a martyr. The latter exclaimed against Mr. Plunket's exercise of his privilege to speak to the evidence, as an act of gratuitous inhumanity. I confess I see the matter in quite another light: Mr. Plunket was a public man, whose opinions had great weight with the community; and I conceive it to have been both natural and laudable, that he should have seized the opportunity of reprobating, in the most emphatic terms, the visionary projects of revolution that
still prevailed. Curran, from a similar impulse of public duty, had done the same thing a few days before on the defence of Owen Kirwan, where we find him digressing from the immediate case before the jury, into an elaborate and glowing exposition of the guilt and hopelessness of attempting to better the condition of Ireland by force. But the enemies of Mr. Plunket were not satisfied with a general assertion, that his conduct had been unnecessarily harsh. To affix a deep stigma upon his character, it was industriously circulated that he had been a constant guest of Emmet's father, at whose table he had inculcated political principles upon the son which now brought him to the grave; and, to give credit to the calumny, a passage was interpolated in the report of Emmet’s address to the Court, in which the dying enthusiast was made to pronounce a bitter invective against " the viper that his father had nurtured in his bosom." Mr. Plunket was compelled to resort to a public vindication of his character. He instituted legal proceedings against a London Journal in which the libel was inserted, and obtained a verdict: he also published an affidavit, positively denying every material fact in the accusation. He might have gone farther, and have truly sworn that the accusation was never made until after the supposed accuser was in his grave. I have conversed with several who were present at the trial, one or two of them friends and admirers of Emmet: they all solemnly assured me, that not a syllable escaped his lips bearing the remotest allusion to the charge; and the omission in Mr. Plunket's affidavit of this conclusive circumstance, was pointed out to me as a singular absence of sagacity in a man so notoriously sharp-sighted where the concerns of others are confided to his care. I should not have dwelt thus long upon this transaction, were it not that “Mr. Plunket's conduct to Robert Emmet” is, to this day, frequently adverted to, by persons unacquainted with the particulars, as an indelible blemish
his reputation. Mr. Plunket was made solicitor-general in 1803, and attorneygeneral and a privy councillor in 1805. He retained his place when the Whigs came into office, in 1806. I believe that this was the commencement of his connexion with Lord Grenville, to whose party he has since adhered. After the death of Mr. Fox, it was intimated to him, that the new administration had no intention of superseding him, but he preferred to follow the fortunes of Lord Grenville, and resigned. Since 1812, he has sat in the Imperial Parliament, as a member for the University of Dublin.
Mr. Plunket has for some years past confined himself to the Court of Chancery, where he holds the same pre-eminence that our Romilly did in this country. Of all the eminent lawyers I have heard, he seemed to me to be the most admirably qualified for the department