« AnteriorContinuar »
written was straight at the top! The judge, upon hearing the objection, desired to look at the deed, and taking his scissars from his pocket, he quietly zigzagged it, and returned it to the party by whom the quibble had been started, as a valid instrument. Is there any imaginable reason why such flaws as those which we have instanced, should not in like manner be amended upon the spot, or overlooked, as unworthy even of the expense of time in amending them? Let us also be permitted to hint, as an additional reason for correcting this abuse, how possible it is that such Haws may not always be accidental.
Connected with this subject, there is another point which requires notice. Any person who can invent a new method of defrauding either individuals or the public may, in the present state of things, enjoy the fruits of his ingenuity with perfect safety, till a law be made, declaring the new invention to be criminal. The reader will recollect the case of Mr. Aslett. A more recent one is that of a stationer who prepared paper of extreme thinness in such a manner that when it was stamped, one stamp sufficed for three streets, and the sheets being afterwards separated, the revenue was thus defrauded of two parts in three : when the trick was detected, it could not be punished, because no such fraud had been foreseen. And in the case of that nefarious manufactory of tea which has lately been brought to light, the persons upon whom the wholesale stock of this poisonous preparation was found, were liable to no punishment, because it could not be proved that they traded in the article. Surely such cases might be reached by some general provision. Nice points of casuistry are entrusted to our juries, such as were never contemplated when juries were instituted; cases of fraud are too palpable to be mistaken by them; and all minor degrees of punishment might safely be left to the discretion of the judge.
These indeed are not the reforms by which popularity is to be courted, and which the professors of humanity are ambitious of bringing forward; but they are among the means by which the only real reformation is to be effected; they are among the means by which the laws may be made more effectual, and criminals more sure of conviction and correction. Nor can it be doubted but that real reformation would be facilitated by the preventive measures upon which we have enlarged, and which it is in the power of the magistrates, the clergy, and the parochial officers to execute. From such measures, simple and easy as they are, the greatest good may be expected ;-but more especially from general education, and most of all from careful religious instruction, without which education will be worse than useless. It is our business to sow the seed, and weed the ground well ; we may then look with full assurance for the harvest. Let us do our duty in enacting new laws
where they are needful, and enforcing those which the wisdom of our ancestors has provided : we inay then, to use the happy language of an old chronicler, trust that all things rnay continually amend from evil to good, from good to better, and from butter to the best.'
Art. IV. Letters from the Ilon. Horace Walpole to George
Montagu, Esq. from the year 1736 to 1770. WE have here another volume of Letters, from an author who
may decidedly claim pre-eminence for ease and liveliness of expression, terseness of remark and felicity of narration, above almost all the letter-writers of Britain. The peculiarities and even the foibles of Horace Walpole's character were such as led to excellence in this style of composition; and, although his correspeudence has not always taught us to respect the man, the writer seldom fails tu amuse us.
We know little of Horace Walpole's character but what his works and his letters lead us to inter, and these present extraordinary and strangely blended features. He was in politics, by principle, personal and hereditary, a determined Whig; yet no nian seems to have held the profane vulgar in such sacred and aristocratic horror. In this particular, as in some others, he seems rather to have felt like a French noble than like an Englishman of rank. This contempt for the vulgar would naturally have been associated with the corresponding ambition of a man of family and fashion to distinguish himself at court; and it may be esteemed a contradiction, that Horace Walpole, the son of a prime minister, vain of his rank in society, should have spent the greater part of his life in the lists of opposition. Here, however, his Whig principles thwarted a strong natural propensity to breathe court air; for while he expatiates with ill-concealed complacency on the necessity of attendmg the Princess Amelia, and receiving the Duke of Cumberland or Duke of York, he finds it necessary to veil the glow of satisfied vanity with an affectation of ruffled philosophy and disturbed retirement.
• I will tell you how the calamity befel me, though you will laugh instead of pitying me. Last Friday morning, I was very tranquilly writing my Anecdotes of Painting - I heard the bell at the gate ringI called out, as usual. “ Not at home;" but Harry, who thought it would be treason to tell a lie, when he saw red liveries, owned I was, and came running up, “ Sir, the prince of Wales is at the door, and says, he is come on purpose to make you a visit!" There was I, in the utmost confusion, undressed, in my slippers, and with my hair about my ears; there was no help, insanum vatem aspicict-and down I went to receive him. Him was the duke of York. Behold my breeding of
the the old court; at the foot of the stairs I kneeled down, and kissed his hand. I beg your uncle Algernon Sidney's pardon, but I could not let the second prince of the blood kiss my hand first. He was, as he always is, extremely good humoured; and I, as I am not always, extremely respectful.”—p. 210.
Upon reading these and similar details, we are tempted to doubt the latter part of the author's assertion, that his behaviour at court consisted in mixing extreme politeness with extreme indifference, and that, instead of the manner of the ancient philosophers, who knew not how to be disinterested without being brutal, he piqued himself on founding a new sect, who 'should tell kinys, with excess of attention, that they don't want them, and despise favour with more good breeding than others practise in suing for it. Notwithstanding protestations so earnestly and ostentatiously repeated, it requires but little knowledge of the hunian breast to observe that the royalties,' as he calls his intercourse with those illustrious persons, came much more home to his bosom than he was willing his correspondents should perceive. To this indeed it may be replied, that Walpole's rank, as well as the society in which he lived, made this intercourse with royalty both a natural occupation of his time and a fitting subject of his correspondence. But he was not satisfied to mention these things simply and without affectation, assigning them just the weight and importance which they deserve, but by labouring to persuade his correspondents that he regarded them with contempt, he took the strongest mode of shewing that he set too high a value on them. We think, too, that his principles of liberty would have been as purely illustrated without his perpetual and coldhearted sneers at the death of Charles I. or that of Mary Stuart, for the last of which the warmest apologists have only rested their plea on that foundation of all political crimes, state-necessity.
There is something similar to this inconsistency in the affected contempt in which Walpole pretended to hold authors and men of learning, while he himself panted to share the honours they aspired to, and was perpetually on the stretch to obtain them. In this struggle he made great exertions, and evinced respectable talents. But the same affectation of contempt for what he really valued, which we have already noticed in another part of his character, prevented him from giving them fair play. He appears to have longed to step on the stage like Nero, clothed in purple, and holding a harp wrought with gold and ivory, and to have desired to arrogate the prize as due to the condescension which induced un honime tel que lui to give himself the trouble of making an effort to obtain it. Vanity, when it unfortunately gets possession of a wise man's head, is as keenly sensible of ridicule, as it is
impassible to its shafts when more appropriately lodged with a fool. Of the sensitiveness arising out of this foible Walpole seems to have had a great deal, and it certainly dietated those hardhearted reproofs that repelled the warm effusions of friendship with which poor Madame du Deffand (now old and blind) addressed him, and of which he complained with the utmost indignation, merely because, if her letters were opened by a clerk at the post-office, such expressions of kindness might expose him to the ridicule of which he had such undue terror.
The same sensitive vanity dictated his conduct as a literary character. He affected to whistle his fugitive pieces down the wind to take their fortune, while in fact he watched their fate with all the jealous feelings of authorship. His correspondence with David Hume, on the subject of his Historic Doubts,' as he modestly entitled his curious remarks on the History of Richard III., is a remarkable example of this duplicity. He commences by inviting strictures and commentaries with an air of the most insidious modesty and gentlemanlike indifference for literary character; but when his hypothesis is impugned, he defends it not only with vigour but with obstinacy, and manifests considerable irritation at the opposition of the historian. In short, his predominant foible seems to have been vanity-a vanity which unfortunately required to be gratified more ways than one, and the appetite of which for popular applause was checked by a contrary feeling, similar to that ridiculed by Prince Hal, when he asks Poins whether it doth not shew vilely in a prince like him, to thirst after the poor creature small beer? It was perhaps in order to indulge both his love of rank and literature, without derogating, (as Cloten has it,) that he wrote his · Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors,' a work which might have diminished one article of his vanity, for to no equal number of writers, selected upon any other given principle, can there be ascribed such abundance of platitude and inanity.
Vanity is generally selfish, and we cannot altogether acquit Horace Walpole of this additional foible. As he loved learning, with a contempt, real or affected, for those who make it their pursuit, so he admired art without any wish to befriend or encourage living genius. The present work, as well as the former volumes, present too many instances of narrowness on this subject. In the following passage there appears a whimsical struggle betwist the desire to possess a copy of a picture in enamel of the Duchesse de Grammont and the wish to screw it out of an artist of eminence at as low a rate as possible :
I am disposed to prefer the younger picture of Madame Grammont by Lely, but I stumbled at the price; twelve guineas for a copy in enamel is very dear. Mrs. Vezey tells me his originals cost sixteen, and are not so good as his copies. I will certainly have none of his originals. His—what is his name? I would fain resist this copy; I would more fain excuse myself for having it; I say to myself, “ it would be rude not to have it now Lady Kingsland and Mr. Montagu have had so much trouble.”--Well, I think I must have it, as my Lady Wishfort says, why does not the fellow take me? Do try if he will not take ten.'-p. 282.
This wretched haggling did not, we believe, arise from general avariciousness of disposition. Horace Walpole seems to have been far from penurious; and when called upon to make some sacrifices to the necessities of the country at the expense of his patent offices, he met the investigation with a liberal and independent spirit. In his correspondence with General Conway, in which his character is seen to greater advantage than in any other series of his letters, he evinces himself to be capable of the most generous exertions, and repeatedly insists upon his friend's accepting a portion of an income certainly not more than sufficient for a person of his rank and habits. The paltry spirit which he frequently suffers to appear, when about to purchase the productions of modern art, the harshness and unkindness which he sometimes shows to Bentley, whose pencil and genius had rendered him so many services, place him almost in the anomalous situation of a man who, liberal to all others, was only penurious towards a beautiful and beloved mistress.
It is natural to suppose that the habits natural to celibacy and solitude may have increased this disposition towards the conclusion of his life. But in truth it was less the parting with the money than the jealousy and dislike which he entertained towards the actual professors of those arts of which he himself was an amateur practitioner, which closed, on this occasion, his hand, his house, and his heart. Upon his quarrel with Muntz, a painter of merit, whose talents he had engrossed at a butler's wages (1001. a year), and whose sole offence seems to have been discovering that he could do better for himself, he observes,
Poets and painters imagine they confer the honour when they are protected, and they set down impertinence to the article of their own virtue, when you dare to begin to think that an ode or a picture is not a palent for all manner of insolence.'--p. 183.
If we are tempted to inquire why sharp-judging Adriel, himself a muse,' did not complete the character as given by Dryden, and be “the muse's friend,' we may find the reason in the fantastic aristocracy of Mr. Walpole's character. He would willingly have rendered genius and learning as dependent upon fortune and rank as in his day they existed in France; characters for whom the notice of the great and of the fashionable was sufficient reward