FOUR EARLY PAMPHLETS
|By WILLIAM GODWIN 1783|
LONDON: Printed for J. STOCKDALE, opposite Burlington House, Piccadilly. 1783. [Price One Shilling and Sixpence.] Entered at Stationers Hall.
A DEFENCE OF THE ROCKINGHAM PARTY, &c. &c. &c.
* * * * *
The present reign will certainly appear to our posterity full of the noblest materials for history. Many circumstances seem to have pointed it out as a very critical period. The general diffusion of science has, in some degree, enlightened the minds of all men; and has cleared such, as have any influence upon the progress of manners and society, from a thousand unworthy pre-possessions. The dissipation and luxury that reign uncontrouled have spread effiminacy and irresolution every where.—The grand defection of the United States of America from the mother country, is one of the most interesting events, that has engaged the attention of Europe for centuries. And the number of extraordinary geniuses that have distinguished themselves in the political world, gives a dignity to the scene. They pour a lustre over the darkest parts of the story, and bestow a beauty upon the tragedy, that it could not otherwise have possessed.
At a time like this, when the attention of mankind has been kept alive by a series of the most important events, we cease to admire at things which would otherwise appear uncommon, and wonders almost lose their name. Even now, however, when men were almost grown callous to novelty, and the youngest of us had, like Cato in the play, lived long enough to be "surprised at nothing," a matter has occurred which few expected, and to which, for that reason, men of no great strength of mind, of no nerve of political feeling, scarcely know how to reconcile themselves. I refer to the coalition between the friends of the late marquis of Rockingham and the noble commoner in the blue ribbon.
The manner of blaming this action is palpable and easy. The censure is chiefly directed against that wonderful man, whom, at least in their hearts, his countrymen, I believe, have agreed to regard as the person of brightest genius, and most extensive capacity, that now adorns the British senate. Has not this person, we are asked, for years attacked the noble lord in the most unqualified manner? Is there any aspersion, any insinuation, that he has not thrown out upon his character? Has he not represented him as the weakest man, and the worst minister, to whom the direction of affairs was ever committed? Has he not imputed to his prerogative principles, and his palpable misconduct, the whole catalogue of our misfortunes? If such men as these are to unite for the detested purposes of ambition, what security can we have for any thing valuable, that yet remains to us? Is not this the very utmost reach of frontless profligacy? What dependence after this is to be placed in the man, who has thus given the lie to all his professions, and impudently flown in the face of that honest and unsuspecting virtue, which had hitherto given him credit for the rectitude of his intentions?
I do not mean for the present to enter into a direct answer to these several observations. I leave it to others, to rest the weight of their cause upon sounding exclamations and pompous interogatories. For myself, I am firmly persuaded, that the oftner the late conduct of the Rockingham connexion is summoned to the bar of fair reason, the more cooly it is considered, and the less the examiner is led away by the particular prejudices of this side or of that, the more commendable it will appear. We do not fear the light. We do not shun the scrutiny. We are under no apprehensions for the consequences.
I will rest my argument upon the regular proof of these three propositions.
First—That the Rockingham connexion, was the only connexion by which the country could be well served.
Secondly—That they were not by themselves of sufficient strength to support the weight of administration.
Thirdly—That they were not the men whose services were the most likely to be called for by the sovereign, in the present crisis.
First—I am to prove, that the country could not be well served but by the Rockingham connexion.
There are three points principally concerned in the constituting a good administration; liberal principles, respectable abilities, and incorruptible integrity.—Let us examine with a view to these, the other four parties in the British government. The connexion of the earl of Shelburne, that of lord North, the Bedford party, and the Scottish. In reviewing these, it is necessary that I should employ a manly freedom, though, at the same time, I should be much unwilling to do a partial injustice to any of them.
It is true, there is some difference between the language of the same men in office, and out of office. The Bedford connexion, however, have never been conceived to bear an over favourable aspect to the cause of liberty. They are the avowed enemies of innovation and reform.
The Scottish party are pretty much confounded with the set of men that are called, by way of distinction, the king's friends. The design of these men has been to exalt regal power and prerogative upon the ruins of aristocracy, and the neck of the people. Arguments, and those by no means of a frivolous description, have been brought to prove, that a most subtle and deep-laid scheme was formed by them, in the beginning of the reign, to subserve this odious purpose. It has been supposed to have been pursued with the most inflexible constancy, and, like a skiff, when it sails along the meandering course of a river, finally to have turned to account the most untoward gales.
Lord North, whatever we may suppose to have been his intrinsic abilities, stands forward, as, perhaps, the most unfortunate minister, that this country ever produced. Misfortune overtook him in the assertion of the highest monarchical principles. In spite of misfortune, he adherred inflexibly to that assertion. In the most critical situations he remained in a state of hesitation and uncertainty, till the tide, that "taken at the flood, led up to fortune," was lost. His versatility, and the undisguised attachment, that he manifested to emolument and power, were surely unworthy of the stake that was entrusted to him.
In what I have now said, I do not much fear to be contradicted. It was not with a view to such as are attached to any of these parties, that I have taken up the pen. Those who come under this description, are almost universally the advocates of monarchy, and think that they have nothing to regret, but that power and police are not established upon a more uncontrolable footing among us. To such persons I do not address myself. I know of nothing that the friends of lord Rockingham have to offer that can be of any weight with them; and, for my own part, I should blush to say a word, that should tend to conciliate their approbation to a system, in which my heart was interested. The men I wish chiefly to have in view, are those that are personally attached to the earl of Shelburne; such as stand aloof from all parties, and are inclined to have but an indifferent opinion of any; and such as have adhered to the connexion I have undertaken to defend, but whose approbation has been somewhat cooled by their late conduct. The two last in particular, I consider as least under the power of prejudice, and most free to the influence of rational conviction.
The friends of freedom have, I believe, in no instance hesitated, but between the Rockingham connexion, and the earl of Shelburne. It is these two then that it remains for me to examine. Lord Shelburne had the misfortune of coming very early upon the public stage. At that time he connected himself with the earl of Bute, and entered with warmth into the opposition to Mr. secretary Pitt. In this system of conduct, however, he did not long persist; he speedily broke with the favourite, and soon after joined the celebrated hero, that had lately been the object of his attack. By this person he was introduced to a considerable post in administration. In office, he is chiefly remembered by the very decisive stile of authority and censure he employed, in a public letter, relative to the resistance that was made to the act of 1767, for imposing certain duties in America. From his resignation with lord Chatham, he uniformly and strenuously opposed the measures that were adopted for crushing that resistance. He persevered, with much apparent constancy, in one line of conduct for near ten years, and this is certainly the most plausible period of his story. He first called forth the suspicions of generous and liberal men in every rank of society, by his resolute opposition to the American independency in 1778. But it was in the administration, that seemed to have been formed under so favourable auspices in the spring of 1782, that he came most forward to general examination.
The Rockingham connexion, in conformity to what were then supposed to be the wishes of the people, united, though not without some hesitation, with the noble earl and his adherents, in the conduct of public affairs. And how did he reward their confidence? He was careful to retain the question respecting his real sentiments upon the business of America, in as much obscurity as ever. He wrote officially a letter to sir Guy Carleton, which has never seen the light, by which that officer was induced to declare the American independency already irreversibly recognised by the court of London; by which he appears to have deceived all his brother ministers without exception; and by which Mr. Fox in particular, was induced to make the same declaration with general Carleton to foreign courts, and to come forward in the commons peremptorily to affirm, that there was not a second opinion in the cabinet, upon this interesting subject. How must a man of his undisguised and manly character have felt, when, within a week from this time, he found the noble earl declaring that nothing had ever been further from his thoughts, than an unconditional recognition; and successfully exerting himself to bring over a majority in the cabinet to the opposite sentiment? Lord Shelburne's obtaining, or accepting, call it which you will, of the office of first lord of the treasury, upon the demise of lord Rockingham, without the privity of his fellow Ministers, was contrary to every maxim of ingenuous conduct, and every principle upon which an association of parties can be supported. The declaration he made, and which was contradicted both by his own friends in the cabinet, and those of Mr. Fox, that he knew of no reason in God's earth for that gentleman's resignation, but that of his having succeeded to the office of premier, was surely sufficiently singular.
But he is celebrated for being a man of large professions, and by these professions he has induced some persons in different classes in society, to esteem him the friend of liberty and renovation. What he has held out, however, upon these heads, has not been entirely confident. He has appeared the enthusiastical partizan of the aristocracy, a kind of government, which, carried to its height, is perhaps, of all the different species of despotism, the most intolerable. He has talked in a very particular stile of his fears of reducing the regal power to a shadow, of his desire that the extension of prerogative should keep pace with the confirmation of popular rights, and his resolution, that, if it were in his power to prevent it, a king of England should never be brought to a level with a king of Mahrattas. The true sons of freedom will not certainly be very apprehensive upon this score, and will leave it to the numbers that will ever remain the adherents of monarchical power, to guard the barriers of the throne. In opposition, his declarations in favour of parliamentary reform seemed indeed very decisive. In administration, he was particularly careful to explain away these declarations, and to assure the people that he would never employ any influence in support of the measure, but would only countenance it so far as it appeared to be the sense of parliament. In other words, that he would remain neutral, or at most only honour the subject with an eloquent harangue, and interest himself no further respecting it.
But let us proceed from his language to his conduct in office. Almost every salutary measure of administration, from the resignation of lord North downward, was brought about during the union of the noble earl with the Rockingham connexion. What inference are we to draw from this?—That administration, as auspicious as it was transitory, has never been charged with more than one error. They were thought too liberal in the distribution of two or three sinecures and pensions. To whom were they distributed? Uniformly, exclusively, to the friends of lord Shelburne. Lord Shelburne proposed them to his august colleague, and the marquis, whose faults, if he had any, were an excess of mildness, and an unsuspecting simplicity, perhaps too readily complied. But let it be remembered, that not one of his friends accepted, or to not one of his friends were these emoluments extended. But, if the noble marquis were sparing in the distribution of pensions, the deficiency was abundantly supplied by his successor. While the interests of the people were neglected and forgotten, the attention of the premier was in a considerable degree engrossed by the petty arrangements of office. For one man a certain department of business was marked out; the place had been previously filled by another. Here the first person was at all events to be promoted; and the second gratified with a pension. Thus, in the minute detail of employment, in adjusting the indeclinables of a court calendar, to detach a commis from this department, and to fix a clerk in that, burthen after burthen has been heaped upon the shoulders of a callous and lethargic people.—But no man can say, that the earl of Shelburne has been idle. Beside all this, he has restored peace to his country. His merits in this business, have already been sufficiently agitated. To examine them afresh would lead me too far from the scope of my subject. I will not therefore now detain myself either to exculpate or criminate the minister, to whom, whatever they are, they are principally to be ascribed.
From the considerations already suggested, I am afraid thus much may be fairly inferred, that the earl of Shelburne is a man, dark, insidious and inexplicit in his designs; no decided friend of the privileges of the people; and in both respects a person very improper to conduct the affairs of this country. I would hope however, that the celebrated character given of him by the late lord Holland was somewhat too severe. "I have met with many, who by perseverance and labour have made themselves Jesuits; it is peculiar to this man to have been born one."
Such then is the estimate we are compelled to form of a man who in his professions has sometimes gone as far, as the most zealous votaries of liberty. And what is the inference we shall draw from this? Shall we, for the sake of one man so specious and plausible, learn to think the language of all men equally empty and deceitful? Having once been betrayed, shall we avoid all future risk, by treating every pretender to patriotism and public spirit, as a knave and an impostor? This indeed is a conclusion to which the unprincipled and the vicious are ever propense. They judge of their fellows by themselves, and from the depravity of their own hearts are willing to infer, that every honesty has its price. But the very motive that inclines the depraved to such a mode of reasoning, must, upon the very same account, deter the man of virtue from adopting it. Virtue is originally ever simple and unsuspecting. Conscious to its own rectitude, and the integrity of its professions, it naturally expects the same species of conduct from others. By every disappointment of this kind, it is mortified and humbled. Long, very long must it have been baffled, and countless must have been its mortifications, ere it can be induced to adopt a principle of general mistrust. And that such a principle should have so large a spread among persons, whose honesty, candour forbids us to suspect, is surely, of all the paradoxe upon the face of the earth, incomparably the greatest.—The man of virtue then will be willing, before he gives up all our political connexions without distinction, to go along with me to the review of the only one that yet remains to be examined, that of the late marquis of Rockingham.
Too much perhaps cannot be said in their praise. They have nearly engrossed the confidence of every friend of liberty. They are the only men, whose principles were never darkened with the cloud of suspicion. What, let me ask, has been their uniform conduct during the whole course of the reign? They have been ever steady in their opposition, to whatever bore an ill aspect to the cause of freedom, and to the whole train of those political measures, that have terminated in calamity and ruin. They have been twice in administration. Prosperity and power are usually circumstances that prove the severest virtue. While in power how then did this party conduct themselves?
Of their first administration the principal measure was the stamp act. A law that restored tranquility to a distracted empire. A law, to which, if succeeding administrations had universally adhered, we had been at this moment, the exclusive allies and patrons of the whole continent of North America. A law, that they carried in opposition to the all-dreaded Mr. Pitt, on the one hand, and on the other, against the inclination of those secret directors, from whose hands they receive their delegated power. They repealed the excise upon cyder. They abolished general warrants. And after having been the authors of these and a thousand other benefits in the midst of storms and danger; they quitted their places with a disinterestedness, that no other set of men have imitated. They secured neither place, pension, nor reversion to themselves, or any of their adherents.
Their second administration was indeed very short. But it was crowded with the most salutary measures. The granting a full relief to Ireland. The passing several most important bills of oeconomy and reformation. The passing the contractors bill. The carrying into effect that most valuable measure, the abolishing the vote of custom-house officers in the election of members of parliament. And lastly, the attempt to atchieve, that most important of all objects, the establishment of an equal representation. What might not have been expected from their longer continuance in office?
But I will not confine myself to the consideration of their conduct as a body. The characters of the individuals of which they are composed, will still further illustrate their true principles, and furnish a strong additional recommendation of them, to every friend of virtue and of liberty. That I may not overcharge this part of my subject, I will only mention two or three of their most distinguished leaders.
The character of the present chancellor of the exchequer is entirely an unique. Though mixing in all the busy scenes of life, though occupying for many years a principal place in the political affairs of this country, he has kept himself unspotted from the world.—The word of the elder Cato was esteemed so sacred with the Romans, that it became a proverb among them respecting things, so improbable, that their truth could not be established even by the highest authority, "I would not believe it, though it were told me by Cato." And in an age much more dissipated than that of Cato, the integrity and honour of the noble lord I have mentioned, has become equally proverbial. Not bonds, nor deeds, nor all the shackles of law, are half so much to be depended upon as is his lightest word. He is deaf to all the prejudices of blood or private friendship, and has no feelings but for his country.
Of the duke of Portland, I can say the less, as not having had an opportunity of knowing much respecting him. His candour and his honour have never been questioned. And I remember, in the debate upon the celebrated secession of the Rockingham party, upon the death of their leader, to have heard his abilities particularly vouched in very strong terms, by Mr. chancellor Pitt, and the present lord Sidney. The latter in particular, though one of my lord Shelburne's secretaries of state, fairly avowed in so many words, that he should have been better satisfied with the appointment of his grace, to the office he now holds, than he was, with the noble lord, under whom he acted.
The character of lord Keppel, with persons not attached to any party, has usually been that of a man of much honesty and simplicity, without any remarkable abilities. It is a little extraordinary however, that, though forced by a combination of unfavourable circumstances into a public speaker, he is yet, even in that line, very far from contempt. His speeches are manly, regular, and to the purpose. His defence upon his trial at Portsmouth, in which he must naturally be supposed to have had at least a principal share, has, in my opinion, much beauty of composition. The adversaries of this party, though unwilling to admit that the navy was so much improved under his auspices as was asserted, have yet, I believe, universally acknowledged his particular activity and diligence.
But I come to the great beast of his own party, and the principal object of attack to their enemies, the celebrated Mr. Fox. Men of formality and sanctity have complained of him as dissipated. They do not pretend however to aggravate their accusation, by laying to his charge any of the greater vices. His contempt of money, and his unbounded generosity, are universally confessed. Let such then know, that dissipation, so qualified, is a very slight accusation against a public man, if indeed it deserves a serious consideration. In all expansive minds, in minds formed for an extensive stage, to embrace the welfare and the interest of nations, there is a certain incessant activity, a principle that must be employed. Debar them from their proper field, and it will most inevitably run out into excesses, which perhaps had better have been avoided. But do these excrescences, which only proceed from the richness and fertility of the soil, disqualify a man for public business? Far, very far from it. Where ever was there a man, who pushed dissipation and debauchery to a greater length, than my lord Bolingbroke? And yet it is perhaps difficult to say, whether there ever existed a more industrious, or an abler minister. The peace of Utrecht, concluded amidst a thousand difficulties, from our allies abroad, and our parties, that were never so much exasperated against each other at home; must ever remain the monument of his glory. His opposition to sir Robert Walpole seems evidently to have been founded upon the most generous principles. And though the warmth and ebullition of his passions evermore broke in upon his happiest attempts, yet were his exertions in both instances attended with the most salutary consequences. But Mr. Fox appears to me to possess all the excellencies, without any of the defects of lord Bolingbroke. His passions have, I believe, never been suspected of having embroiled the affairs of his party, and he has uniformly retained the confidence of them all. His friendships have been solid and unshaken. His conduct cool and intrepid. The littleness of jealousy never discoloured a conception of his heart. In office he was more constant and indefatigable, than lord Bolingbroke himself. All his lesser pursuits seemed annihilated, and he was swallowed up in the direction of public affairs.
He has been accused of ambition. Ambition is a very ambiguous term. In its lowest sense, it sinks the meanest, and degrades the dirtiest of our race. In its highest, I cannot agree with those who stile it the defect of noble minds. I esteem it worthy of the loudest commendation, and the most assiduous culture. Mr. Fox's is certainly not an ambition of emolument. Nobody dreams it. It is not an ambition, that can be gratified by the distribution of places and pensions. This is a passion, that can only dwell in the weakest and most imbecil minds. Its necessary concomitants, are official inattention and oscitancy. No. The ambition of this hero is a generous thirst of fame, and a desire of possessing the opportunity of conferring the most lasting benefits upon his country. It is an instinct, that carries a man forward into the field of fitness, and of God.
The vulgar, incapable of comprehending these exalted passions, are apt upon the slightest occasions to suspect, that this heroical language is only held out to them for a lure, and that the most illustrious characters among us are really governed by passions, equally incident to the meanest of mankind. Let such examine the features and the manners of Mr. Fox. Was that man made for a Jesuit? Is he capable of the dirty, laborious, insidious tricks of a hypocrite? Is there not a certain manliness about him, that disdains to mislead? Are not candour and sincerity, bluntness of manner, and an unstudied air, conspicuous in all he does?—I know not how far the argument may go with others, with me, I confess, it has much weight. I believe a man of sterling genius, incapable of the littlenesses and meannesses, incident to the vulgar courtier. What are the principal characteristics of genius? Are they not large views, infinite conceptions, a certain manliness and intrepidity of thinking? But all real and serious vice originates in selfish views, narrow conceptions, and intellectual cowardice. A man of genius may possibly be thoughtless, dissipated and unstudied; but he cannot avoid being constant, generous, and sincere. The union of first rate abilities with malignity, avarice, and envy, seems to me very nearly as incredible a phenomenon, as a mermaid, a unicorn, or a phoenix.
I cannot overcome the propensity I feel to add Mr. Burke to this illustrious catalogue, though the name of this gentleman leads me out of the circle of the cabinet. Mr. Burke raised himself from an obscure situation, by the greatness of his abilities, and his unrivalled genius. Never was distinction more nobly earned. Of every species of literary composition he is equally a master. He excels alike in the most abstruse metaphysical disquisition, and in the warmest and most spirited painting. His rhetoric is at once ornamented and sublime. His satire is polished and severe. His wit is truly Attic. Luxuriant in the extreme, his allusions are always striking, and always happy. But to enumerate his talents, is to tell but half his praise. The application he has made of them is infinitely more to his honour. He has devoted himself for his country. The driest and most laborious investigations have not deterred him. Among a thousand other articles, that might be mentioned, his system of oeconomical reform must for ever stand forth, alike the monument of his abilities, and his patriotism. His personal character is of the most amiable kind. Humanity and benevolence are strongly painted in his countenance. His transactions with lord Rockingham were in the highest degree honourable to him. And the more they are investigated, and the better they are understood, the more disinterestedness of virtue, and generous singularity of thinking, will be found to have been exhibited on both sides.
It is necessary perhaps, that I should say a word respecting the aristocratical principles of this gentleman, by which he is distinguished from the rest of his party. To these principles I profess myself an enemy. I am sorry they should be entertained by a person, for whom, in every other respect, I feel the highest veneration. But the views of that man must be truly narrow, who will give up the character of another, the moment he differs from him in any of his principles. I am sure Mr. Burke is perfectly sincere in his persuasion. And I hope I have long since learned not to question the integrity of any man, upon account of his tenets, whether in religion or politics, be they what they may. I rejoice however, that this gentleman has connected himself with a set of men, by the rectitude of whose views, I trust, the ill tendency of any such involuntary error will be effectually counteracted. In the mean time this deviation of Mr. Burke from the general principles of his connexion, has given occasion to some to impute aristocratical views to the whole party. The best answer to this, is, that the parliamentary reform was expressly stipulated by lord Rockingham, in his coalition with the earl of Shelburne, as one of the principles, upon which the Administration of March, 1782, was formed.
From what has been said, I consider my first proposition as completely established, that the Rockingham party was the only connexion of men, by which the country could be well served.
I would however just observe one thing by the way. I forsee that my first proposition lies open to a superficial and childish kind of ridicule. But in order to its operation, it is not necessary to say, that the friends of lord Rockingham were persuaded, that the country could not be well served, but by themselves. In reality, this is the proper and philosophical state of it: that each individual of that connexion was persuaded, that the country could not be well served but by his friends. And I trust, it has now appeared, that this was a just and rational persuasion.
The next argument adduced in conformation of my thesis, is, that they were not by themselves of sufficient strength, to support the weight of administration. It is certainly a melancholy consideration, that there should not be virtue enough left in a people to support an administration of honest views and uniform principles, against all the cabals of faction. This however, is incontrovertibly the case with Britain. The bulk of her inhabitants are become, in a very high degree, inattentive, and indifferent to the conduct of her political affairs. This has been, at one time, ascribed to their despair of the commonwealth, and their mortification in perceiving a certain course of mal-administration persisted in, in defiance of the known sense of the country. At another time, it has been imputed to their experience of the hollowness of all our public pretenders to patriotism. I am afraid, the cause is to be sought in something, more uniform in it's operation, and less honourable to the lower ranks of society, than either of these. In a word, luxury and dissipation have every where loosened the bands of political union. The interest of the public has been forgotten by all men; and we have been taught to laugh at the principles, by which the patriots of former ages were induced, to sacrifice their fortunes and their lives for the welfare of their citizens. Provided the cup of enjoyment be not dashed from our own lips, and the pillow of sloth torn away from our own heads, we do not ask, what shall be the fate of our liberties, our posterity, and our country. Disinterested affection seems to have taken up her last refuge in a few choice spirits, and elevated minds, who appear among us, like the inhabitants of another world. In the mean time, while the lower people have been careful for none of these things, they have been almost constantly decided in the senate, not by a view to their intrinsic merits, but in conformity to the jarring interests, and the inexplicable cabals of faction. In such a situation, alas! what can unprotected virtue do? Destitute of all that comeliness that allures; stripped of that influence that gives weight and consideration; and unskilled in the acts of intrigue?
In conformity to these ideas, when the choice of an administration was once again thrown back upon the people, in March, 1782, we perceive, that no one party found themselves sufficiently strong for the support of government; and a coalition became necessary between the Rockingham connexion, and a person they never cordially approved, the earl of Shelburne. Even thus supported, and called to the helm, with perhaps as much popularity, as any administration ever enjoyed, they did not carry their measure in parliament without difficulty. The inconsiderate and interested did even think proper to ridicule their imbecility; particularly in the house of lords. The most unsuspected of all our patriots, Mr. Burke, was reduced to the necessity of so far contracting his system of reform upon this account, as to have afforded a handle to superficial raillery and abuse.
But turn we to the administration that succeeded them; who still retained some pretensions to public spirit; and among whom there remained several individuals, whose claim to political integrity was indisputably. Weaker than the ministry of lord Rockingham, to what shifts were they not reduced to preserve their precarious power? These are the men, who have been loudest in their censures of the late coalition. And yet did not they form coalitions, equally extraordinary with that which is now under consideration? To omit the noble lord who presided at the treasury board, and to confine myself to those instances, which Mr. Fox had occasion to mention in treating my subject. Was there not the late chancellor of the exchequer, who has been severest in his censures of lord North, and the lord advocate of Scotland, who was his principal supporter, and was for pushing the American measures, even to greater lengths, than the noble patron himself? Was there not the master general of the ordnance, who has ever gone farthest in his view of political reform, and declaimed most warmly against secret influence; and the lord chancellor, the most determined enemy of reform, and who has been supposed the principal vehicle of that influence? Lastly, was there not, in the same manner, the secretary of state for the home department, who was most unwearied in his invectives against lord Bute; and the right honourable Mr. Jenkinson, who has been considered by the believers in the invisible power of that nobleman, as the chief instrument of his designs.
With these examples of the necessity of powerful support and extensive combination, what mode of conduct was it, that it was most natural, most virtuous, and most wise, for the Rockingham connexion to adopt? I confess, I can perceive none more obvious, or more just, than that which they actually adopted, a junction with the noble commoner in the blue ribbon. At least, from what has been said, I trust, thus much is evident beyond control, that they had just reason to consider themselves abstractedly, as too weak for the support of government.
Still further to strengthen my argument, I affirm, in the third place, that they were not the men, whose services were likely to be called for by the Sovereign. I believe, that this proposition will not be thought to stand in need of any very abstruse train of reasoning to support it. The late events respecting it have been, instead of a thousand arguments. From an apprehension, probably, of the uncourtierliness of their temper, and their inflexible attachment to a system; it seems to appear by those events, that the sovereign had contracted a sort of backwardness to admit them into his councils, which it is to be hoped, was only temporary. It was however such, as, without any other apparent cause to cooperate with it, alone sufficed to delay the forming an administration for six weeks, in a most delicate and critical juncture. Even the union of that noble person, who had been considered as his majesty's favourite minister, did not appear to be enough to subdue the averseness. However then we may hope, that untainted virtue and superior abilities, when more intimately known, may be found calculated to surmount prejudices and conciliate affection; it seems but too evident, that in the critical moment, those men, by whom alone we have endeavoured to prove, that the country could be well served, would not voluntarily have been thought on.
But it does not seem to have been enough considered, at what time the coalition was made. The Rockingham connexion, along with thousands of their fellow citizens, who were unconnected with any party, were induced, from the purest views, to disapprove of the late treaty of peace. The voting with the friends of lord North upon that question, was a matter purely incidental. By that vote however, in which a majority of the commons house of parliament was included, the administration of lord Shelburne was dissolved. It was not till after the dissolution was really effected, that the coalition took place. In this situation something was necessary to be done. The nation was actually without a ministry. It was a crisis that did not admit of hesitation and delay. The country must, if a system of delay had been adopted, have immediately been thrown back into the hands of those men, from whom it had been so laboriously forced scarce twelve months before; or it must have been committed to the conduct of persons even less propitious to the cause of liberty, and the privileges of the people. A situation, like this, called for a firm and manly conduct. It was no longer a time to stoop to the yoke of prejudice. It was a time, to burst forth into untrodden paths; to lose sight of the hesitating and timid; and generously to adventure upon a step, that should rather have in view substantial service, than momentary applause; and should appeal from the short-sighted decision of systematic prudence, to the tribunal of facts, and the judgment of posterity.
But why did I talk of the tribunal of facts? Events are not within the disposition of human power. "'Tis not in mortals to command success." And the characters of wisdom and virtue, are therefore very properly considered by all men, who pretend to sober reflection, as independent of it. If then, as I firmly believe, the coalition was founded in the wisest and most generous views, the man, that values himself upon his rational nature, will not wait for the event. He will immediately and peremptorily decide in its favour. Though it should be annihilated to-morrow; though it had been originally frustrated in its views, respecting the continuation of a ministry; he would not hesitate to pronounce, that it was formed in the most expansive and long-sighted policy, in the noblest and most prudent daring, in the warmest generosity, and the truest patriotism.
But it will be said, a coalition of parties may indeed be allowed to be in many cases proper and wise; but a coalition between parties who have long treated each other with the extremest rancour, appears a species of conduct, abhorrent to the unadulterated judgment, and all the native prepossessions of mankind. It plucks away the very root of unsuspecting confidence, and can be productive of nothing, but anarchy and confusion.
In answer to this argument, I will not cite the happy effects of the coalition between parties just as opposite, by which Mr. Pitt was introduced into office in the close of a former reign. Still less will I cite the coalition of the earl of Shelburne, with several leaders of the Bedford connexion, and others, whose principles were at least as inimical to the popular cause, and the parliamentary reform, as those of Lord North; and the known readiness of him and his friends to have formed a junction with the whole of that connexion. I need not even hint at the probability there exists, that the noble lord then in administration, would have been happy to have formed the very coalition himself, which he is willing we should so much reprobate in another. I need not mention the suspicions, that naturally suggested themselves upon the invincible silence of his party, respecting the mal-administration of lord North, for so long a time; and their bringing forward the singular charge of fifty unaccounted millions at the very moment that the coalition was completed. I should be sorry to have it supposed, that the connexion I am defending, ever took an example from the late premier, for one article of their conduct. And I think the mode of vindicating them, not from temporary examples, but from eternal reason, as it is in itself most striking and most honourable, so is it not a whit less easy and obvious.
Let it be remembered then, in the first place, that there was no other connexion, sufficiently unquestionable in their sincerity, and of sufficient weight in the senate, with which to form a coalition. The Bedford party, had they even been willing to have taken this step in conjunction with the friends of lord Rockingham, were already stripped of some of their principal and ablest members, by the arts of lord Shelburne. Whether these ought to be considered in sound reason, as more or less obnoxious than lord North, I will not take upon me to determine. Certain I am, that the Scottish connexion were, of all others, the most suspicious in themselves, and the most odious to the people. The only choice then that remained, was that which was made. The only subject for deliberation, was, whether this choice were more or less laudable than, on the other hand, the deserting entirely the interests of their country, and leaving the vessel of the state to the mercy of the winds.
Secondly, I would observe that the principal ground of dispute between lord North and his present colleagues in administration, was done away by the termination of the American war. An impeachment of the noble lord for his past errors was perfectly out of the question. No one was mad enough to expect it. A vein of public spirit, diffusing itself among all ranks of society, is the indispensible concomitant of impeachments and attainder. And such a temper, I apprehend, will not be suspected to be characteristic of the age in which we live. But were it otherwise, the Rockingham connexion certainly never stood in the way of an impeachment, had it been meditated. And, exclusive of this question, I know of no objection, that applies particular to the noble lord, in contradistinction to any of the other parties into which we are divided.
But, in the third place, the terms upon which the coalition was made, form a most important article of consideration in estimating its merits. They are generally understood to have been these two; that the Rockingham connexion should at all times have a majority in the cabinet; and that lord North should be removed to that "hospital of incurables," as lord Chesterfield has stiled it, the house of lords. Surely these articles are the happiest that could have been conceived for preserving the power of administration, as much as may be, with the friends of the people. Places, merely of emolument and magnificence, must be bestowed somewhere. Where then can they be more properly lodged, than in the hands of those who are best able to support a liberal and virtuous administration?
I beg leave to add once more, in the fourth place, that, whatever the demerits of lord North as a minister may be supposed to have been, he is perhaps, in a thousand other respects, the fittest man in the world to occupy the second place in a junction of this sort. The union of the Rockingham connexion with the earl of Shelburne last year, was, I will admit, less calculated to excite popular astonishment, and popular disapprobation, than the present. In the eye of cool reason and sober foresight, I am apt to believe, it was much less wise and commendable. Lord Shelburne, though he has been able to win over the good opinion of several, under the notion of his being a friend of liberty, is really, in many respects, stiffly aristocratical, or highly monarchical. Lord Shelburne is a man of insatiable ambition, and who pursues the ends of that ambition by ways the most complex and insidious. The creed of lord North, whatever it may be, upon general political questions, is consistent and intelligible. For my own part, I do not believe him to be ambitious. It is not possible, with his indolent and easy temper, that he should be very susceptible to so restless a passion. In the heroical sense of that word, he sits loose to fame. He is undoubtedly desirous, by all the methods that appear to him honourable and just, to enrich and elevate his family. He wishes to have it in his power to oblige and to serve his friends. But I am exceedingly mistaken, if he entered into the present alliance from views of authority and power. Upon the conditions I have mentioned, it was a scheme, congenial only to a man of a dark and plotting temper. But the temper of lord North is in the highest degree candid, open and undisguised. Easy at home upon every occasion, there is not a circle in the world to which his presence would not be an addition. It is calculated to inspire unconstraint and confidence into every breast. Simple and amiable is the just description of his character in every domestic relation; constant and unreserved in his connexions of friendship. The very versatility and pliableness, so loudly condemned in his former situation, is now an additional recommendation. Is this the man, for whose intrigues and conspiracies we are bid to tremble?
Another charge that has been urged against the coalition, is, that it was a step that dictated to the sovereign, and excluded all, but one particular set of men, from the national councils. The first part of this charge is somewhat delicate in its nature. I shall only say respecting it, that, if, as we have endeavoured to prove, there were but one connexion, by which the business of administration could be happily discharged, the friend of liberty, rejoicing in the auspicious event, will not be very inquisitive in respect to the etiquette, with which they were introduced into the government. In the mean time, far from intending an exclusion, they declared publicly, that they would be happy to receive into their body any man of known integrity and abilities, from whatever party he came. The declaration has never been contradicted.—Strangers to the remotest idea of proscription, they erected a fortress, where every virtue, and every excellence might find a place.
The only remaining objection to the coalition that I know of, that it shocks established opinions, is not, I think, in itself, calculated to have much weight, and has, perhaps, been sufficiently animadverted upon, as we went along, in what has been already said. The proper question is, was it a necessary step? Was there any other way, by which the country could be redeemed? If a satisfactory answer has been furnished to these enquiries, the inevitable conclusion in my opinion is, that the more it mocked established opinions, and the more intellectual nerve it demanded, the more merit did it possess, and the louder applause is its due.
I am not inclined to believe, that a majority of my countrymen, upon reflection, have disapproved this measure. I am happy to perceive, that so much of that good sense and manly thinking in public questions, that has for ages been considered as the characteristic quality of Englishmen, is still left among us. There can be nothing more honourable than this.—By it our commonalty, though unable indeed to forestal the hero and the man of genius in his schemes, do yet, if I may be allowed the expression, tread upon his heels, and are prepared to follow him in all his views, and to glow with all his sentiments.
Sensible however, that in the first blush of such a scheme, its enemies must necessarily find their advantage in entrenching themselves behind those prejudices, that could not be eradicated in a moment, I was willing to wait for the hour of calmness and deliberation. I resolved cooly to let the first gush of prepossession blow over, and the spring tide of censure exhaust itself. I believed, that such a cause demanded only a fair and candid hearing. I have endeavoured to discharge my part in obtaining for it such a hearing. And I must leave the rest to my readers.
Among these there probably will be some, who, struck with the force of the arguments I have adduced on the one hand, and entangled in their favourite prejudices on the other, will remain in a kind of suspence; ashamed to retract their former opinions, but too honest to deny all weight and consideration to those I have defended. To these I have one word to say, and with that one word I will conclude. I will suppose you to confess, that appearances, exclusive of the controverted step, are in a thousand instances favourable to the new ministers. They have made the strongest professions, and the largest promises of attachment to the general cause. To professions and promises I do not wish you to trust. I should blush to revive the odious and exploded maxim, not men, but measures. If you cannot place some confidence in the present administration, I advise you, as honest men, to do every thing in your power to drive them from the helm. But you will hardly deny, that all their former conduct has afforded reasons for confidence. You are ready to admit, that, in no instance, but one, have they committed their characters. In that one instance, they have much to say for themselves, and it appears, at least, very possible, that they may have been acted in it, by virtuous and generous principles, even though we should suppose them mistaken. Remember then, that popularity and fame are the very nutriment of virtue. A thirst for fame is not a weakness. It is "the noble mind's distinguishing perfection." If then you would bind administration by tenfold ties to the cause of liberty, do not withdraw from them your approbation till they have forfeited it, by betraying, in one plain and palpable instance, the principles upon which they have formerly acted. I believe they need no new bonds, but are unchangeably fixed in the generous system, with which they commenced. But thus much is certain. If any thing can detach them from this glorious cause; if any thing can cool their ardour for the common weal, there is nothing that has half so great a tendency to effect this, as unmerited obloquy and disgrace.
* * * * *
Printed for J. STOCKDALE, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly.
STOCKDALE's NEW COMPANION to the LONDON KALENDAR, and COURT and CITY REGISTER, for the Year 1783; being a List of all the CHANGES in ADMINISTRATION, from the Accession of the present King, in October 1760, to the present Time. To which is perfixed, a List of the late and present HOUSE of COMMONS, shewing the Changes made in the Members of Parliament by the General Election in September 1780, with the Names of the Candidates where the Elections were contested, the Numbers polled, and the Decisions since made by the Select Committees. Also the Dates when each City and Borough first sent Representatives to Parliament, the Right of Election in each Place, and the supposed Number of Voters. To which is added, a complete INDEX of NAMES. Price 1s.
The LONDON KALENDAR, or COURT and CITY REGISTER, for 1783; including all the new Peers lately created; new Members; Alterations in all the different Departments under Government, in Great-Britain, Ireland, and America; with a complete List of the Sovereigns of Europe; the Presidents of the Congress, from 1774; Presidents and Governors of the American States; and a number of other new lists not to be found in any other Publication. Containing complete Lists of British and Irish Houses of Parliament; Establishments of England, Scotland, Ireland, America, &c. correct Lists of the Peeresses, Baronets, Universities, Seminaries, Hospitals, Charities, Governors, Public-offices; Army, Navy, Collectors at the different Ports, &c.
This London Kalendar is upon a Plan much more extensive and useful than any other Book of the Kind yet published. Price 2s.
==>Be careful to ask for The London Kalendar, printed for J. Stockdale, &c. which may be had bound in the three following different Ways.
I. With the New Companion to the London Kalendar.
II. With the Arms of all the Peers of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
III. With Rider's Sheet Almanack or Book Almanack.
A DIALOGUE on the ACTUAL STATE of PARLIAMENT. Price 1s.
The Propriety of Retaining GIBRALTAR impartially considered. Price 1s.
An ATTEMPT to balance the INCOME and EXPENDITURE of the STATE: With some Reflections on the Nature and Tendency of the late Political Struggles for Power. By JOHN EARL of STAIR. Second Edition. Price 1s.
THOUGHTS on a REFORM in the Representation of the People in the Commons House of Parliament. Addressed to the Hon. WILLIAM PITT. Price 1s. 6d.
Inscribed to the SOCIETY for promoting CONSTITUTIONAL INFORMATION.
The NATURE and EXTENT of SUPREME POWER, in a Letter to the Rev. DAVID WILLIAMS, (Author of Letters on Political Liberty) shewing the ultimate end of Human Power, and a free Government, under God; and in which Mr. Locke's Theory of Government is examined and explained, contrary to the general construction of that great Writer's particular sentiments on the Supremacy of the People. By M. DAWES, Esq. Price 1s.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE EARL TEMPLE.
The following papers fell into my hands by one of those unaccountable accidents, so frequent in human life, but which in the relation appear almost incredible. I will not however trouble your lordship with the story. If they be worthy of the press, it is of no great consequence to the public how they found their way thither. If they afford your lordship a moment's amusement, amidst the weightier cares incident to your rank and fortune, I have obtained my end.
I have endeavoured in vain to investigate who was their author, and to whom they were addressed. It should seem, from the internal evidence of the composition, that they were written by a person, who was originally of a low rank or a menial station, but who was distinguished by his lord for those abilities and talents, he imagined he discovered in him. I have learned, by a kind of vague tradition, upon which I can place little dependence, that the noble pupil was the owner of a magnificent château not a hundred miles from your lordship's admired seat in the county of Buckingham. It is said that this nobleman, amidst a thousand curiosities with which his gardens abounded, had the unaccountable whim of placing a kind of artificial hermit in one of its wildest and most solitary recesses. This hermit it seems was celebrated through the whole neighbourhood, for his ingenuity in the carving of tobacco-stoppers, and a variety of other accomplishments. Some of the peasants even mistook him for a conjuror. If I might be allowed in the conjectural licence of an editor, I should be inclined to ascribe the following composition to this celebrated and ingenious solitaire.
Since however this valuable tract remains without an owner, I thought it could not be so properly addressed to any man as your lordship. I would not however be misunderstood. I do not imagine that the claim this performance has upon the public attention, consists in the value and excellence of it's precepts. On the contrary, I consider it as the darkest and most tremendous scheme for the establishment of despotism that ever was contrived. If the public enter into my sentiments upon the subject, they will consider it as effectually superseding Machiavel's celebrated treatise of The Prince, and exhibiting a more deep-laid and desperate system of tyranny. For my part, I esteem these great and destructive vices of so odious a nature, that they need only be exposed to the general view in order to the being scouted by all. And if, which indeed I cannot possibly believe, there has been any noble lord in this kingdom mean enough to have studied under such a preceptor, I would willingly shame him out of his principles, and hold up to him a glass, which shall convince him how worthy he is of universal contempt and abhorrence.
The true reason, my lord, for which I have presumed to prefix your name to these sheets is, that the contrast between the precepts they contain, and the ingenuous and manly character that is universally attributed to your lordship, may place them more strongly in the light they deserve. And yet I doubt not there will be some readers perverse enough to imagine that you are the true object of the composition. They will find out some of those ingenious coincidences, by which The Rape of the Lock, was converted into a political poem, and the Telemaque of the amiable Fenelon into a satire against the government under which he lived. I might easily appeal, against these treacherous commentators, to the knowledge of all men reflecting every corner of your lordship's gardens at Stowe. I might boldly defy any man to say, that they now contain, or ever did contain, one of these artificial hermits. But I will take up your lordship's defence upon a broader footing. I will demonstrate how contrary the character of your ancestors and your own have always been to the spirit and temper here inculcated. If this runs me a little into the beaten style of dedication, even the modesty of your lordship will excuse me, when I have so valuable a reason for adopting it.
I shall confine myself, my lord, in the few thoughts I mean to suggest upon this head, to your two more immediate ancestors, men distinguished above the common rate, by their virtues or their abilities. Richard earl Temple, your lordship's immediate predecessor, as the representative of your illustrious house, will be long remembered by posterity under the very respectable title of the friend of the earl of Chatham. But though his friend, my lord, we well know that he did not implicitly follow the sentiments of a man, who was assuredly the first star in the political hemisphere, and whose talents would have excused, if any thing could have excused, an unsuspecting credulity. The character of lord Chatham was never, but in one instance, tarnished. He did not sufficiently dread the omnipotence of the favourite. He fondly imagined that before a character so brilliant, and success so imposing as his had been, no little system of favouritism could keep its ground. Twice, my lord, he was upon the brink of the precipice, and once he fell. When he trembled on the verge, who was it that held him back? It was Richard earl Temple. Twice he came, like his guardian angel, and snatched him from his fate. Lord Chatham indeed was formed to champ the bit, and spurn indignant at every restraint. He knew the superiority of his abilities, he recollected that he had twice submitted to the honest counsels of his friend, and he disdained to listen any longer to a coolness, that assimilated but ill to the adventurousness of his spirit; and to a hesitation, that wore in his apprehension the guise of timidity. What then did Richard earl Temple do? There he fixed his standard, and there he pitched his tent. Not a step farther would he follow a leader, whom to follow had been the boast of his life. He erected a fortress that might one day prove the safeguard of his misguided and unsuspecting friend.
And yet, my lord, the character of Richard earl Temple, was not that of causeless suspicion. He proved himself, in a thousand instances, honest, trusting, and sincere. He was not, like some men, that you and I know, dark, dispassionate, and impenetrable. On the contrary, no man mistook him, no man ever charged him with a double conduct or a wrinkled heart. His countenance was open, and his spirit was clear. He was a man of passions, my lord. He acted in every momentous concern, more from the dictates of his heart, than his head. But this is the key to his conduct; He kept a watchful eye upon that bane of every patriot minister, secret influence. If there were one feature in his political history more conspicuous than the rest, if I were called to point out the line of discrimination between his character and that of his contemporaries upon the public stage, it would be the hatred of secret influence.
Such, my lord, was one of your immediate ancestors, whose name, to this day, every honest Briton repeats with veneration. I will turn to another person, still more nearly related to you, and who will make an equal figure in the history of the age in which he lived, Mr. George Grenville. His character has been represented to us by a writer of no mean discernment, as that of "shrewd and inflexible." He was a man of indefatigable industry and application. He possessed a sound understanding, and he trusted it. This is a respectable description. Integrity and independency, however mistaken, are entitled to praise. What was it, my lord, that he considered as the ruin of his reputation? What was it, that defeated all the views of an honest ambition, and deprived his country of the services, which his abilities, under proper direction, were qualified to render it? My lord, it was secret influence. It was in vain for ministers to be able to construct their plans with the highest wisdom, and the most unwearied diligence; it was in vain that they came forward like men, and risqued their places, their characters, their all, upon measures, however arduous, that they thought necessary for the salvation of their country. They were defeated, by what, my lord? By abilities greater than their own? By a penetration that discovered blots in their wisest measures? By an opposition bold and adventurous as themselves? No: but, by the lords of the bedchamber; by a "band of Janissaries who surrounded the person of the prince, and were ready to strangle the minister upon the nod of a moment."
With these illustrious examples ever rushing upon your memory, no man can doubt that your lordship has inherited that detestation of influence by which your ancestors were so honourably distinguished. My lord, having considered the high expectations, which the virtues of your immediate progenitors had taught us to form upon the heir of them both, we will recollect for a moment the promises that your first outset in life had made to your country.
One of your lordship's first actions upon record, consists in the high professions you made at the county meeting of Buckingham, in that ever-venerable aera of oeconomy and reform, the spring of 1780. My lord, there are certain offices of sinecure, not dependent upon the caprice of a minister, which this country has reserved to reward those illustrious statesmen, who have spent their lives, and worn out their constitutions in her service. No man will wonder, when he recollects from whom your lordship has the honour to be descended, that one of these offices is in your possession. This, my lord, was the subject of your generous and disinterested professions. You told your countrymen, that with this office you were ready to part. If a reformation so extensive were thought necessary, you were determined, not merely to be no obstacle to the design, but to be a volunteer in the service. You came forward in the eye of the world, with your patent in your hand. You were ready to sacrifice that parchment, the precious instrument of personal wealth and private benevolence, at the shrine of patriotism.
Here then, my lord, you stood pledged to your country. What were we not to expect from the first patriot of modern story? Your lordship will readily imagine that our expectations were boundless and indefinite. "Glorious and immortal man!" we cried, "go on in this untrodden path. We will no longer look with drooping and cheerless anxiety upon the misfortunes of Britain, we have a resource for them all. The patriot of Stowe is capable of every thing. He does not resemble the vulgar herd of mortals, he does not form his conduct upon precedent, nor defend it by example. Virtue of the first impression was never yet separated from genius. We will trust then in the expedients of his inexhaustible mind. We will look up to him as our assured deliverer.—We are well acquainted with the wealth of the proprietor of Stowe. Thanks, eternal thanks to heaven, who has bestowed it with so liberal a hand! We consider it as a deposit for the public good. We count his acres, and we calculate his income, for we know that it is, in the best sense of the word, our own."
My lord, these are the prejudices, which Englishmen have formed in your favour. They cannot refuse to trust a man, descended from so illustrious progenitors. They cannot suspect any thing dark and dishonourable in the generous donor of 2700l. a year. Let then the commentators against whom I am providing, abjure the name of Briton, or let them pay the veneration that is due to a character, in every view of the subject, so exalted as that of your lordship.
I have the honour to be,
with the most unfeigned respect,
most devoted servant.
INSTRUCTIONS TO A STATESMAN. MY LORD,
I have long considered as the greatest happiness of my life, the having so promising a pupil as your lordship. Though your abilities are certainly of the very first impression, they are not however of that vague and indefinite species, which we often meet with in persons, who, if providence had so pleased, would have figured with equal adroitness in the character of a shoe-black or a link-boy, as they now flatter themselves they can do in that of a minister of state. You, my lord, were born with that accomplishment of secrecy and retentiveness, which the archbishop of Cambray represents Telemachus as having possessed in so high a degree in consequence of the mode of his education. You were always distinguished by that art, never to be sufficiently valued, of talking much and saying nothing. I cannot recollect, and yet my memory is as great, as my opportunity for observation has been considerable, that your lordship, when a boy, ever betrayed a single fact that chanced to fall within your notice, unless indeed it had some tendency to procure a school-fellow a whipping. I have often remarked your lordship with admiration, talking big and blustering loud, so as to frighten urchins who were about half your lordship's size, when you had no precise meaning in any thing you said. And I shall never forget, the longest day I have to live, when I hugged you in my arms in a kind of prophetic transport, in consequence of your whispering me, in the midst of a room-full of company, in so sly a manner that nobody could observe you, that you had just seen John the coachman bestow upon Betty the cook-maid, a most devout and cordial embrace. From your rawest infancy you were as much distinguished, as Milton represents the goddess Hebe to have been, by "nods and becks and wreathed smiles;" with this difference, that in her they were marks of gaiety, and in you of demureness; that in her they were unrestrained and general, and in you intended only for a single confidant. My lord, reflecting upon all these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that I treated your lordship even in clouts with the reverence due to an infant Jove, and always considered myself as superintending the institution of the first statesman that ever existed.
But, my lord, it has ever been my opinion, that let nature do as much as she will, it is in the power of education to do still more. The many statesmanlike qualities that you brought into the world with you, sufficiently prove, that no man was ever more deeply indebted to the bounty of nature than your lordship. And yet of all those qualities she has bestowed upon you, there is not one that I hold in half so much esteem, as that docility, which has ever induced you to receive my instructions with implicit veneration. It is true, my coat is fustian, and my whole accoutrement plebeian. My shoes are clouted, and it is long since the wig that defends this penetrating brain, could boast a crooked hair. But you, my lord, have been able to discover the fruit through the thick and uncomely coat by which it was concealed; you have cracked the nut and have a right to the kernel.
My lord, I thought it necessary to premise these observations, before I entered upon those important matters of disquisition, which will form the object of my present epistle. It is unnecessary for me to inform a person of so much discernment as your lordship, that education is, by its very nature, a thing of temporary duration. Your lordship's education has been long, and there have been cogent reasons why it should be so. God grant, that when left to walk the world alone, you be not betrayed into any of those unlucky blunders, from the very verge of which my provident hand has often redeemed your lordship! Do not mistake me, my lord, when I talk of the greatness of your talents. It is now too late to flatter: This is no time for disguise. Pardon me therefore, my dear and ever-honoured pupil, if I may seem to offend against those minuter laws of etiquette, which were made only for common cases. At so important a crisis it is necessary to be plain.
Your lordship is very cunning, but I never imagined that you were remarkably wise. The talents you received at your birth, if we were to speak with mathematical strictness, should rather be denominated knacks, than abilities. They consist rather in a lucky dexterity of face, and a happy conformation of limb, than in any very elevated capacities of the intellect. Upon that score, my lord,—you know I am fond of comparisons, and I think I have hit upon one in this case, that must be acknowledged remarkably apposite. I have sometimes seen a ditch, the water of which, though really shallow, has appeared to careless observers to be very deep, for no other reason but because it was muddy. Believe me, my lord, experienced and penetrating observers are not so to be taken in.
But, as I was saying, education is a temporary thing, and your lordship's, however lasting and laborious, is at length brought to a period. My lord, if it so pleases the sovereign disposer of all things, I would be very well satisfied to remain in this sublunary state for some years longer, if it were only that I might live to rejoice in the exemplification of my precepts in the conduct of my pupil. But, if this boon be granted to my merits and my prayers, at any rate I shall from this moment retire from the world. From henceforth my secret influence is brought to its close. I will no longer be the unseen original of the grand movements of the figures that fill the political stage. I will stand aloof from the giddy herd. I will not stray from my little vortex. I will look down upon the transactions of courts and ministers, like an etherial being from a superior element. There I shall hope to see your lordship outstrip your contemporaries, and tower above the pigmies of the day. To repeat an idea before delivered, might be unbecoming in a fine writer, but it is characteristic and beautiful under the personage of a preceptor. The fitnesses which nature bestowed upon your frame would not have done alone. But joined with the lessons I have taught you, they cannot fail, unless I grossly flatter myself, to make the part which your lordship shall act sufficiently conspicuous.
Receive then, my lord, with that docility and veneration, which have at all times made the remembrance of you pleasant and reviving to my heart, the last communications of the instructor of your choice. Yes, my lord, from henceforth you shall see me, you shall hear from me no more. From this consideration I infer one reason why you should deeply reflect upon the precepts I have now to offer. Remembering that these little sheets are all the legacy my affection can bestow upon you, I shall concenter in them the very quintessence and epitome of all my wisdom. I shall provide in them a particular antidote to those defects to which nature has made you most propense.
But I have yet another reason to inforce your attention to what I am about to write. I was, as I have said, the instructor of your choice. When I had yet remained neglected in the world, when my honours were withered by the hand of poverty, when my blossoms appeared in the eyes of those who saw me of the most brown and wintery complexion, and, if your lordship will allow me to finish the metaphor, when I stank in their noses, it was then that your lordship remarked and distinguished me. Your bounty it was that first revived my native pride. It is true that it ran in a little dribbling rivulet, but still it was much to me. Even before you were able to afford me any real assistance, you were always ready to offer me a corner of your gingerbread, or a marble from your hoard. Your lordship had at all times a taste for sumptuousness and magnificence, but you knew how to limit your natural propensity in consideration of the calls of affinity, and to give your farthings to your friends.
Do not then, my dear lord, belie the first and earliest sentiments of your heart. As you have ever heard me, let your attention be tripled now. Read my letter once and again. Preserve it as a sacred deposit. Lay it under your pillow. Meditate upon it fasting. Commit it to memory, and repeat the scattered parcels of it, as Caesar is said to have done the Greek alphabet, to cool your rising choler. Be this the amulet to preserve you from danger! Be this the chart by which to steer the little skiff of your political system safe into the port of historic immortality!
My lord, you and I have read Machiavel together. It is true I am but a bungler in Italian, and your lordship was generally obliged to interpret for me. Your translation I dare say was always scientifical, but I was seldom so happy as to see either grammar or sense in it. So far however as I can guess at the drift of this celebrated author, he seems to have written as the professor of only one science. He has treated of the art of government, and has enquired what was wise, and what was political. He has left the moralists to take care of themselves.
In the present essay, my lord, I shall follow the example of Machiavel. I profess the same science, and I pretend only to have carried to much greater heights an art to which he has given a considerable degree of perfection. Your lordship has had a great number of masters. Your excellent father, who himself had some dabbling in politics, spared no expence upon your education, though I believe he had by no means so high an opinion of your genius and abilities as I entertained. Your lordship therefore is to be presumed competently versed in the rudiments of ethics. You have read Grotius, Puffendorf, and Cumberland. For my part I never opened a volume of any one of them. I am self-taught. My science originates entirely in my unbounded penetration, and a sort of divine and supernatural afflatus. With all this your lordship knows I am a modest man. I have never presumed to entrench upon the province of others. Let the professors of ethics talk their nonsense. I will not interrupt them. I will not endeavour to set your lordship against them. It is necessary for me to take politics upon an unlimited scale, and to suppose that a statesman has no character to preserve but that of speciousness and plausibility. But it is your lordship's business to enquire whether this be really the case.
I need not tell you, that I shall not, like the political writers with which you are acquainted, talk in the air. My instructions will be of a practical nature, and my rules adapted to the present condition of the English government. That government is at present considerably, though imperfectly, a system of liberty. To such a system the most essential maxim is, that the governors shall be accountable and amenable to the governed. This principle has sometimes been denominated responsibility. Responsibility in a republican government is carried as high as possible. In a limited monarchy it stops at the first ministers, the immediate servants of the crown. Now to this system nothing can be more fatal, than for the public measures not really to originate with administration, but with secret advisers who cannot be traced. This is to cut all the nerves of government, to loosen all the springs of liberty, to make the constitution totter to its lowest foundations.
I say this, my lord, not to terrify your lordship. The students and the imitators of Machiavel must not be frightened with bugbears. Beside, were cowardice as congenial to the feelings of your lordship as I confess it has sometimes been to mine, cowardice itself is not so apt to be terrified with threats hung up in terrorem, and menaces of a vague and general nature. It trembles only at a danger definite and impending. It is the dagger at the throat, it is the pistol at the breast, that shakes her nerves. Prudence is alarmed at a distance, and calls up all her exertion. But cowardice is short-sighted, and was never productive of any salutary effort. I say not this therefore to intimidate, but to excite you. I would teach you, that this is a most important step indeed, is the grand desideratum in order to exalt the English monarchy to a par with the glorious one of France, or any other absolute monarchy in Christendom.
In order, my lord, to annihilate responsibility, nothing more is necessary than that every individual should be as free, and as much in the habit of advising the king upon the measures of government, as his ministers. Let every discarded, and let every would-be statesman, sow dissension in the royal councils, and pour the poison of his discontent into the royal ear. Let the cabinet ring with a thousand jarring sentiments; and let the subtlest courtier, let him that is the most perfect master of wheedling arts and pathetic tones, carry it from every rival. This, my lord, will probably create some confusion at first. The system of government will appear, not a regular and proportioned beauty, like the pheasant of India, but a gaudy and glaring system of unconnected parts, like Esop's daw with borrowed feathers. Anarchy and darkness will be the original appearance. But light shall spring out of the noon of night; harmony and order shall succeed the chaos. The present patchwork of three different forms of government shall be changed into one simple and godlike system of despotism. Thus, when London was burned, a more commodious and healthful city sprung as it were out of her ashes.
But neither Rome nor London was built in a day. The glorious work I am recommending to you must be a work of time. At first it will be necessary for the person who would subvert the silly system of English government, to enter upon his undertaking with infinite timidity and precaution. He must stalk along in silence like Tarquin to the rape of Lucretia. His horses, like those of Lear, must be shoed with felt. He must shroud himself in the thickest shade. Let him comfort himself with this reflexion:
"It is but for a time. It will soon be over. No work of mortal hands can long stand against concussions so violent. Ulysses, who entered Troy, shut up in the cincture of the wooden horse, shall soon burst the enclosure, shall terrify those from whose observation he lately shrunk, and carry devastation and ruin on whatever side he turns."
My lord, I have considered the subject of politics with as much acuteness as any man. I have revolved a thousand schemes, which to recommend to the pursuit of the statesman of my own creation. But there is no plan of action that appears to me half so grand and comprehensive, as this of secret influence. It is true the scheme is not entirely new. It has been a subject of discussion ever since the English nation could boast any thing like a regular system of liberty. It was complained of under king William. It was boasted of, even to ostentation, by the Tory ministers of queen Anne. The Pelhams cried out upon it in lord Carteret. It has been the business of half the history of the present reign to fix the charge upon my lord Bute.
And yet in spite of these appearances, in spite of all the deductions that modesty can authorise, I may boldly affirm that my scheme has something in it that is truly original. My lord, I would not have you proceed by leaps and starts, like these half-fledged statesmen. I would have you proceed from step to step in a finished and faultless plan. I have too an improvement without which the first step is of no value, which yet has seldom been added, which at first sight has a very daring appearance, but which I pretend to teach your lordship to practice with perfect safety. But it is necessary for me, before I come to this grand arcanum of my system, to premise a few observations for the more accurately managing the influence itself.
My lord, there are a variety of things necessary to absolute secrecy. There is nothing more inconvenient to a political character than that gross and unmanageable quantity of flesh and blood that fortune has decreed that every mortal should carry about with him. The man who is properly initiated in the arcana of a closet, ought to be able to squeeze himself through a key hole, and, whenever any impertinent Marplot appears to blast him, to change this unwieldy frame into the substance of the viewless winds. How often must a theoretical statesman like myself, have regretted that incomparable invention, the ring of Gyges! How often must he have wished to be possessed of one of those diabolical forms, described by Milton, which now were taller than the pole, and anon could shrink into the compass of an atom!
But I forget the characteristic of my profession. It is not ours, my lord, to live in air-built castles, and to deal in imaginary hypotheses. On the contrary, we are continually talking of the weakness and the frailty of humanity. Does any man impeach one of our body of bribery and corruption? We confess that these practices may seem to run counter with the fine-spun systems of morality; but this is our constant apology, human affairs can be no otherwise managed. Does any man suggest the most beautiful scheme of oeconomy, or present us with the most perfect model of liberty? We turn away with a sneer, and tell him that all this is plausible and pretty; but that we do not concern ourselves with any thing but what is practicable.
In conformity to these ideas, I beg leave, my lord, to recal the fantastic wishes that have just escaped me. To be corporeal is our irrevocable fate, and we will not waste our time in fruitlessly accusing it. My lord, I have one or two little expedients to offer to you, which, though they do not amount to a perfect remedy in this case, will yet, I hope, prove a tolerable substitute for those diabolical forms of which I was talking.
I need not put your lordship in mind how friendly to such practices as ours, is the cover of darkness, and how convenient those little machines commonly called back-stairs. I dare say even your lordship, however inconsequently you may often conduct yourself, would scarcely think of mid-day as the most proper season of concealment, or the passing through a crowded levee, the most natural method of entering the royal closet unobserved.
But, my lord, you will please to recollect, that there are certain attendants upon the person of the sovereign whom I find classed in that epitome of political wisdom, the Red Book, under the name of pages. Most wise is the institution, (and your lordship will observe that I am not now deviating into the regions of fable) which is common to all the Eastern courts, of having these offices filled by persons, who, upon peril of their life, may not, in any circumstances whatsoever, utter a word. But unfortunately in the western climates in which we reside, the thing is otherwise. The institution of mutes is unknown to us. The lips of our pages have never been inured to the wholesome discipline of the padlock. They are as loquacious, and blab as much as other men. You know, my lord, that I am fond of illustrating the principles I lay down by the recital of facts. The last, and indeed the only time that I ever entered the metropolis, I remember, as my barber was removing the hair from my nether lip:—My barber had all that impertinent communicativeness that is incident to the gentlemen of his profession; he assured me, that he had seen that morning one of the pages of the back-stairs, who declared to him, upon the word of a man of honour, that he had that moment admitted a certain nobleman by a private door to the presence of his master; that the face of the noble lord was perfectly familiar to him, and that he had let him in some fifty times in the course of the past six months.
"How silly is all this!" added the page; "and how glad should I be", licking his lips, "that it were but an opera girl or a countess! And yet my mistress is the very best mistress that ever I see!" Oh this was poor, and showed a pitiful ambition in the man that did it! I will swear, my lord, that the nobleman who could thus have been betrayed, must have been a thick-headed fellow, and fit for no one public office, not even for that of turnspit of his majesty's kitchen!A
A: Vide Burke's Speech upon Oeconomy.
My lord, if you would escape that rock, upon which this statesman terminated his political career, ever while you live make use of bribery. Let the pages finger your cash, let them drink your health in a glass of honest claret, and let them chuckle over the effects of your lordship's munificence. I know that you will pour forth many a pathetic complaint over the money that is drawn off by this copious receiver, but believe the wisest man that now exists, when he assures you, that it is well bestowed. Your lordship's bounty to myself has sometimes amounted to near ten pounds in the course of a twelvemonth. That drain, my lord, is stopped. I shall receive from you no more. Let then the expence, which you once incurred for my sake, be henceforth diverted to this valuable purpose.
I believe, my lord, that this is all the improvement that can be made upon the head of pages. I think we can scarcely venture upon the expedient that would otherwise be admirable, of these interviews being carried on without the intervention of any such impertinent fellows, from whom one is ever in danger, without the smallest notice, of having it published at St. James's-Market, and proclaimed from the statue at Charing-Cross. If however you should think this expedient adviseable, I would recommend it to you not to mention it to your gracious master. Courts are so incumbered and hedged in with ceremony, that the members of them are always prone to imagine that the form is more essential and indispensable, than the substance. Suppose then, my lord, you were, by one of those sly opportunities, which you know so well how to command, to take off the key in wax, and get a picklock key made exactly upon the model of it. The end, my lord, take my word for it, would abundantly sanctify the apparent sordidness of the means. In this situation I cannot help picturing to myself the surprise and the joy, that would be in a moment lighted up in the countenance of your friend. Your rencounter would be as unexpected and fortunate as that of Lady Randolph and her son, when she fears every moment to have him murdered by Glenalvon. You would fly into each others arms, and almost smother one another in your mutual embrace.
But another thing that is abundantly worthy of your lordship's attention, is the subject of disguises and dark lanthorns. Harley, afterwards earl of Oxford, was in the practice, if I remember right, for it is some time since I read Dr. Swift's political pamphlets, of crossing the park in a horseman's coat. But this is too shallow and thin a disguise. A mask, on the other hand, might perhaps be too particular. Though indeed at midnight, which is the only time that I would recommend to your lordship in which to approach within a hundred yards of the palace, it might probably pass without much observation. A slouched hat, and a bob wig, your lordship may at any time venture upon. But there is nothing that is of so much importance in this affair as variety. I would sometimes put on the turban of a Turk, and sometimes the half breeches of a Highlander. I would sometimes wear the lawn sleeves of a bishop, and sometimes the tye-wig of a barrister. A leathern apron and a trowel might upon occasion be of sovereign efficacy. The long beard and neglected dress of a Shylock should be admitted into the list. I would also occasionally lay aside the small clothes, and assume the dress of a woman. I would often trip it along with the appearance and gesture of a spruce milliner; and I would often stalk with the solemn air and sweeping train of a duchess. But of all the infinite shapes of human dress, I must confess that, my favourite is the kind of doublet that prince Harry wore when he assaulted Falstaff. The nearer it approaches to the guise of a common carman the better, and his long whip ought to be inseparable. If you could add to it the sooty appearance of a coal-heaver, or a chimney-sweep, it would sit, upon this more precious than velvet garb, like spangles and lace. I need not add, that to a mind of elegance and sensibility, the emblematical allusion which this dress would carry to the secrecy and impenetrableness of the person that wears it, must be the source of a delightful and exquisite sensation.
And now, my lord, for the last head, which it is necessary to mention under this division of my subject, I mean that of lanthorns. Twenty people, I doubt not, whom your lordship might consult upon this occasion, would advise you to go without any lanthorn at all. Beware of this, my lord. It is a rash and a thoughtless advice. It may possibly be a false and insidious one. Your lordship will never think of going always in the same broad and frequented path. Many a causeway you will have to cross, many a dark and winding alley to tread. Suppose, my lord, the pavement were to be torn up, and your lordship were to break your shin! Suppose a drain were to have been opened in the preceding day, without your knowing any thing of the matter, and your lordship were to break your neck! Suppose, which is more terrible than all the rest, you were to set your foot upon that which I dare not name, and by offending the olfactory nerves of majesty, you were to forfeit his affections for ever!
So much, my lord, by way of declamation against the abolition of lanthorns. Your lordship however does not imagine I shall say any thing upon affairs so common as the glass lanthorn, the horn lanthorn, and the perforated tin lanthorn. This last indeed is most to my purpose, but it will not do, my lord, it will not do. There is a kind of lanthorns, your lordship has seen them, that have one side dark, and the other light. I remember to have observed your lordship for half a day together, poring over the picture of Guy Faux, in the Book of Martyrs. This was one of the early intimations which my wisdom enabled me to remark of the destination which nature had given you. You know, my lord, that the possessor of this lanthorn can turn it this way and that, as he pleases. He can contrive accurately to discern the countenance of every other person, without being visible himself. I need not enlarge to your lordship upon the admirable uses of this machine. I will only add, that my very dear and ever-lamented friend Mr. Pinchbeck, effected before he died an improvement upon it so valuable, that it cannot but preserve his name from that oblivious power, by which common names are devoured. In his lanthorn, the shade, which used to be inseparable, may be taken away at the possessor's pleasure, like the head of a whisky, and it may appear to all intents and purposes one of the common vehicles of the kind. He had also a contrivance, never to be sufficiently commended, that when the snuff of the candle had attained a certain length, it moved a kind of automatic pair of snuffers that hung within side, and amputated itself. He left me two of these lanthorns as a legacy. Such is my value for your lordship, that I have wrought myself up to a resolution of parting with one of them in your lordship's favour. You will receive it in four days from the date of this by Gines's waggon, that puts up in Holborn.
But, my lord, there is a second object of consideration still more important than this. It is in vain for your lordship, or any other person, to persuade the sovereign against any of the measures of his government, unless you can add to this the discovery of those new sentiments you have instilled, to all such as it may concern. It is the business of every Machiavelian minister, such as your lordship, both from nature and choice, is inclined to be, to prop the cause of despotism. In order to this, the dignity of the sovereign is not to be committed, but exalted. To bring forward the royal person to put a negative upon any bill in parliament, is a most inartificial mode of proceeding. It marks too accurately the strides of power, and awakens too pointedly the attention of the multitude. Your lordship has heard that the house of lords is the barrier between the king and the people. There is a sense of this phrase, of which I am wonderfully fond. The dissemination of the royal opinion will at any time create a majority in that house, to divert the odium from the person of the monarch. Twenty-two bishops, thirteen lords of the bed-chamber, and all the rabble of household troops, will at any time compose an army. They may not indeed cover an acre of ground, nor would I advise your lordship to distribute them into a great number of regiments. Their countenances are not the most terrific that were ever beheld, and it might be proper to officer them with persons of more sagacity than themselves. But under all this meekness of appearance, and innocence of understanding, believe me, my lord, they are capable of keeping at bay the commons and the people of England united in one cause, for a considerable time. They have been too long at the beck of a minister, not to be somewhat callous in their feelings. And they are too numerous, not to have shoulders capacious enough to bear all the obloquy, with which their conduct may be attended.
But then, my lord, as I would not recommend it to you to bring into practice the royal negative, so neither perhaps would it be advisable for the sovereign, to instruct those lords immediately attendant upon him, in person. Kings, you are not to be informed, are to be managed and humoured by those that would win their confidence. If your lordship could invent a sort of down, more soft and yielding than has yet been employed, it might be something. But to point out to your master, that he must say this, and write that, that he must send for one man, and break with another, is an unpleasant and ungrateful office. It must be your business to take the burden from his shoulders. You must smooth the road you would have him take, and strew with flowers the path of ruin. If he favour your schemes with a smile of approbation, if he bestow upon your proceedings the sanction of a nod, it is enough. It is godlike fortitude, and heroic exertion.
But secrecy is the very essence of deep and insidious conduct. I would advise your lordship to bring even your own name into question, as little as possible. My lord Chesterfield compares a statesman, who has been celebrated for influence during the greatest part of the present reign, to the ostrich. The brain of an ostrich, your lordship will please to observe, though he be the largest of birds, may very easily be included in the compass of a nut-shell. When pursued by the hunters, he is said to bury his head in the sand, and having done this, to imagine that he cannot be discovered by the keenest search. Do not you, my lord, imitate the manners of the ostrich. Believe me, they are ungraceful; and, if maturely considered, will perhaps appear to be a little silly.
There is a contrivance that has occurred to me, which, if it were not accompanied with a circumstance somewhat out of date, appears to me in the highest degree admirable. Suppose you were to treat the lords of the bedchamber with a sight of St. Paul's cathedral? There is a certain part of it of a circular form, commonly called the whispering gallery. You have probably heard, that by the uncommon echo of this place, the weakest sound that can possibly be articulated, is increased by that time it has gone half round, into a sound, audible and strong. Your lordship, with your flock of geese about you, would probably be frolic and gamesome. You may easily contrive to scatter them through the whole circumference of this apartment. Of a sudden, you will please to turn your face to the wall, and utter in a solemn tone the royal opinion. Every body will be at a loss from whence the mandate proceeds. Some of your companions, more goose-like than the rest, will probably imagine it a voice from heaven. The sentence must be two or three times repeated at proper intervals, before you can contrive to have each of the lords in turn at the required distance. This will demand a considerable degree of alertness and agility. But alertness and agility are qualities by which your lordship is so eminently distinguished, that I should have very few apprehensions about your success. Meanwhile it will be proper to have a select number of footmen stationed at the door of the gallery, armed with smelling-bottles. Some of your friends, I suspect, would be so much alarmed at this celestial and ghost-like phenomenon, as to render this part of the plan of singular service.
But after all, I am apprehensive that many of the noble lords to whom I allude, would be disgusted at the very mention of any thing so old-fashioned and city-like, as a visit to this famous cathedral. And even if that were not the case, it is proper to be provided with more than one scheme for the execution of so necessary a purpose. The question is of no contemptible magnitude, between instructions viva voce, and a circular letter. In favour of the first it may be said, that a letter is the worst and most definite evidence to a man's disadvantage that can be conceived. It may easily be traced. It can scarcely be denied. The sense of it cannot readily be explained away.—It must be confessed there is something in this; and yet, my lord, I am by all means for a letter. A voice may often be overheard. I remember my poor old goody used to say, (heaven rest her soul!) That walls had ears. There are some lords, my dear friend, that can never think of being alone. Bugbears are ever starting up in their prolific imagination, and they cannot be for a moment in the dark, without expecting the devil to fly away with them. They have some useful pimp, some favourite toad-eater, that is always at their elbow. Ever remember, so long as you live, that toad-eaters are treacherous friends. Beside, it would be a little suspicious, to see your lordship's carriage making a regular tour from door to door among the lords of the bed-chamber. And I would by no means have Pinchbeck's dark-lanthorn brought into common use. Consider, my lord, when that is worn out, you will not know where to get such another.
A letter may be disguised in various ways. You would certainly never think of signing your name. You might have it transcribed by your secretary. But then this would be to commit your safety and your fame to the keeping of another. No, my lord, there are schemes worth a hundred of this. Consider the various hands in which a letter may be written. There is the round hand, and the Italian hand, the text hand, and the running hand. You may form your letters upon the Roman or the Italic model. Your billet may he engrossed. You may employ the German text or the old primero. If I am not mistaken, your lordship studied all these when you were a boy for this very purpose. Yes, my lord, I may be in the wrong, but I am confidently of opinion, that this is absolutely the first, most important, and most indispensible accomplishment of a statesman. I would forgive him, if he did not know a cornet from an ensign, I would forgive him, if he thought Italy a province of Asia Minor. But not to write primero! the nincompoop! the numbscul!
If it were not that the persons with whom your lordship has to correspond, can some of them barely spell their native tongue, I would recommend to your lordship the use of cyphers. But no, you might as well write the language of Mantcheux Tartars. For consider, your letters may be intercepted. It is true, they have not many perils to undergo. They are not handed from post-house to post-house. There are no impertinent office-keepers to inspect them by land. There are no privateers to capture them by sea. But, my lord, they have perils to encounter, the very recollection of which makes me tremble to the inmost fibre of my frame. They are ale-houses, my lord. Think for a moment of the clattering of porter-pots, and the scream of my goodly hostess. Imagine that the blazing fire smiles through the impenetrable window, and that the kitchen shakes with the peals of laughter. These are temptations, my lord, that no mortal porter can withstand. When the unvaried countenance of his gracious sovereign smiles invitation upon him from the weather beaten sign-post, what loyal heart but must be melted into compliance.
From all these considerations, my lord, I would advise you to write with invisible ink. Milk I believe will serve the purpose, though I am afraid, that the milk that is hawked about the streets of London, has rather too much water in it. The juice of lemon is a sovereign recipe. There are a variety of other preparations that will answer the purpose. But these may be learned from the most vulgar and accessible sources of information. And you will please to observe, that I suffer nothing to creep into this political testament, more valuable than those of Richelieu, Mazarine, and Alberoni, that is not entirely original matter. My lord, I defy you to learn a single particular of the refinements here communicated from the greatest statesman that lives. They talk of Fox! He would give his right hand for an atom of them!
I will now suppose you, my lord, by all these artifices, arrived at the very threshold of power. I will suppose that you have just defeated the grandest and the wisest measure of your political antagonists. I think there is nothing more natural, though the rule will admit of many exceptions, than for people who act uniformly in opposition to each other, upon public grounds, to be of opposite characters and dispositions. I will therefore imagine, that, shocked with the boundless extortions and the relentless cruelties that have been practised in some distant part of the empire, they came forward with a measure full of generous oblivion for the part, providing with circumspect and collected humanity for the future. I will suppose, that they were desirous of taking an impotent government out of the hands of Jews and pedlars, old women and minors, and to render it a part of the great system. I will suppose, that they were desirous of transferring political power from a company of rapacious and interested merchants, into the hands of statesmen, men distinguished among a thousand parties for clear integrity, disinterested virtue, and spotless fame. This, my lord, would be a field worthy of your lordship's prowess. Could you but gain the interested, could you eternize rapacity, and preserve inviolate the blot of the English name, what laurels would not your lordship deserve?
I will therefore suppose, that your gracious master meets you with a carte blanche, that he is disposed to listen to all your advices, and to adopt all your counsels. Your lordship is aware that the road of secret influence, and that of popular favour, are not exactly the same. No ministry can long preserve their seats unless they possess the confidence of a majority of the house of commons. The ministry therefore against which your lordship acts, we will take it for granted are in this predicament. In this situation then an important question naturally arises. Either a majority in the house of commons must be purchased at any rate, or the government must be conducted in defiance of that house, or thirdly, the parliament must be dissolved. Exclusive of these three, I can conceive of no alternative. We will therefore examine each in its turn.
Shall a majority in the house of commons be created? Much may be said on both sides. A very ingenious friend of mine, for whose counsels I have an uncommon deference, assured me, that nothing would be so easy as this. Observing with a shrewdness that astonished me, that ministry, upon a late most important question, mustered no more than 250 votes, and that there were 558 members, he inferred, that you had nothing more to do than to send for those that were absent out of the country, and you might have upwards of 300 to pit against the 250. It is with infinite regret that I ever suffer myself to dissent from the opinion of this gentleman. But suppose, my lord, which is at least possible, that one half of the absentees should be friends to the cause of the people; what would become of us then? There remains indeed the obvious method of purchasing votes, and it might be supposed that your lordship's talent of insinuation might do you knight's service in this business. But no, my lord, many of these country gentlemen are at bottom no better than boors. A mechlin cravat and a smirking countenance, upon which your lordship builds so much, would be absolutely unnoticed by them. I am afraid of risquing my credit with your lordship, but I can assure you, that I have heard that one of these fellows has been known to fly from a nobleman covered with lace, and powdered, and perfumed to the very tip of the mode, to follow the standard of a commoner whose coat has been stained with claret, and who has not had a ruffle to his shirt. My lord, if common fame may be trusted, these puppies are literally tasteless enough to admire wit, though the man who utters it be ever so corpulent, and to discover eloquence in the mouth of one, who can suffer himself to spit in an honourable assembly. I am a plain man, my lord; but I really think that among marquisses and dukes, right honourables and right reverends, these things are intolerable.
I would therefore have your lordship give up at once, and with a grace, the very idea of bringing over to your side the partisans of these huge slovenly fellows. The scheme of governing the country without taking the house of commons along with you, is much more feasible than this. This might be done by passing an act of parliament by the authority of two estates of the realm, to declare the house of commons useless. For my part, I am far from thinking this so bold a step as by some it may be imagined. Was not Rome a free state, though it had no house of commons? Has not the British house of commons been incessantly exclaimed upon, as corrupt and nugatory? Has not a reform respecting them been called for from all quarters of the kingdom? I am much of opinion in the present case, that that is the most effectual reform, which goes to the root. Rome had her hereditary nobility, which composed her senate. She had her consuls, an ill-imagined substitute for monarchical power. In these, my lord, was comprehended, in a manner, the whole of her government. I shall be told indeed that they had occasionally their comitia, or assemblies of the citizens of the metropolis. But this is so far from an objection to my reasoning, that it furnishes me with a very valuable hint for the improvement of the English constitution.
Let the present house of commons be cashiered, and let the common council of the city of London be placed at St. Stephen's chapel in their room. These your lordship will find a much more worthy and manageable set of people, than the representatives of the nation at large. And can any sensible man doubt for a moment, which are the most respectable body of men? Examine their persons. Among their predecessors I see many poor, lank, shrivelled, half-starved things, some bald, some with a few straggling hairs, and some with an enormous bag, pendant from no hair at all. Turn, my lord, to the other side. There you will see a good, comely, creditable race of people. They look like brothers. As their size and figure are the same, so by the fire in their eyes, and the expression in their countenances, you could scarcely know one of them from another. Their very gowns are enough to strike terror into the most inattentive. Each of them covers his cranium with a venerable periwig, whose flowing curls and voluminous frizure bespeak wealth and contentment. Their faces are buxom, and their cheeks are florid.
You will also, my lord, find them much more easy and tractable, than the squeamish, fretful, discontented wretches, with which other ministers have had to do. There is but one expence that will be requisite. It is uniform, and capable of an easy calculation. In any great and trying question, I was going to say debate, but debates, I am apt to think, would not be very frequent, or very animated,—your lordship has nothing to do, but to clear the table of the rolls and parchments, with which it is generally covered, and spreading a table cloth, place upon it half a score immense turtles, smoking hot, and larded with green fat. My lord, I will forfeit my head, if with this perfume regaling their nostrils, a single man has resolution enough to divide the house, or to declare his discontent with any of the measures of government, by going out into the lobby.
So much, my lord, for this scheme. It is too considerable to be adopted without deliberation; it is too important, and too plausible, to be rejected without examination. The only remaining hypothesis is that of a dissolution. Much, I know, may be said against this measure; but, for my own part, next to the new and original system I have had the honour of opening to your lordship, it is with me a considerable favourite. Those, whose interests it is to raise an outcry against it, will exclaim, "What, for the petty and sinister purposes of ambition, shall the whole nation be thrown into uproar and confusion? Who is it that complains of the present house of parliament? Is the voice of the people raised against it? Do petitions come up from every quarter of the kingdom, as they did, to no purpose, a few years ago, for its dissolution? But it is the prerogative of the king to dissolve his parliament. And because it is his prerogative, because he has a power of this kind reserved for singular emergencies, does it follow, that this power is to be exercised at caprice, and without weighty and comprehensive reasons? It may happen, that the parliament is in the midst of its session, that the very existence of revenue may be unprovided for, and the urgent claims of humanity unfulfilled. It is of little consequence," they will perhaps pretend, "who is in, and who is out, so the national interests are honestly pursued, and the men who superintend them be not defective in abilities. That then must be a most lawless and undisguised spirit of selfishness, that can for these baubles risk the happiness of millions, and the preservation of the constitution."
All these observations, my lord, may sound well enough in the harangue of a demagogue; but is it for such a man, to object to a repetition of that appeal to the people in general, in the frequency and universality of which the very existence of liberty consists? Till lately, I think it has been allowed, that one of those reforms most favourable to democracy, was an abridgment of the duration of parliaments. But if a general abridgment be so desirable, must not every particular abridgment have its value too? Shall the one be acknowledged of a salutary, and yet the other be declared of a pernicious tendency? Is it possible that the nature of a part, and of the whole, can be not only dissimilar, but opposite? But I will quit these general and accurate reasonings. It is not in them that our strength lies.
They tell us, that the measure of a dissolution is an unpopular one. My lord, it is not so, that you and I are to be taken in. Picture to yourself the very kennels flowing with rivers of beer. Imagine the door of every hospitable ale-house throughout the kingdom, thrown open for the reception of the ragged and pennyless burgess. Imagine the whole country filled with the shouts of drunkenness, and the air rent with mingled huzzas. Represent the broken heads, and the bleeding noses, the tattered raiment, and staggering bodies of a million of loyal voters. My lord, will they pretend, that the measure that gives birth to this glorious scene, is unpopular? We must be very ill versed in the science of human nature, if we could believe them.
But a more important consideration arises. A general election would be of little value, if by means of it a majority of representatives were not to be gained to the aristocratical party. If I were to disadvise a dissolution, it would be from the fear of a sinister event. It is true, your lordship has a thousand soft blandishments. You can smile and bow in the newest and most approved manner. But, my lord, in the midst of a parcel of Billingsgate fishwomen, in the midst of a circle of butchers with marrow-bones and cleavers, I am afraid these accomplishments would be of little avail. It is he, most noble patron, who can swallow the greatest quantity of porter, who can roar the best catch, and who is the compleatest bruiser, that will finally carry the day. He must kiss the frost-bitten lips of the green-grocers. He must smooth the frowzy cheeks of chandlers-shop women. He must stroke down the infinite belly of a Wapping landlady. I see your lordship tremble at the very catalogue. Could you divide yourself into a thousand parts, and every part be ten times more gigantic than the whole, you would shrink into non-entity at the disgustful scene.
In this emergency I can invent only one expedient. Your lordship I remember had six different services of plate when you were in Ireland, and the duke of P—— could boast only of three. You had also five footmen and a scullion boy more than his grace. By all this magnificence I have been told that you dazzled and enchanted a certain class of the good people of that kingdom. My lord, you must now improve the popularity you gained. Import by the very first hoy a competent number of chairmen. You are not to be told that they are accustomed to put on a gold-lace coat as soon as they arrive upon our shore, and dub themselves fortune-hunters. It will be easy therefore to pass them here for gentlemen, whose low familiarity shall be construed into the most ravishing condescension. No men, my lord, can drink better than they. There is no constitution, but that of an Irish chairman, that can dispense with the bouncing whisky. They are both brawny and courageous, and must therefore make excellent bruisers. Their chief talent lies in the art of courtship, and they are by no means nice and squeamish in their stomach for a mistress. They can also occasionally put off the assumed character of good breeding, and if it be necessary to act over again the celebrated scenes of Balfe and M'Quirk, they would not be found at a loss. My lord, they seem to have been created for this very purpose, and if you have any hope from a general election, you must derive every benefit from their distinguished merit. I own however, I am apprehensive for the experiment, and after all would advise your lordship to recur to the very excellent scheme of the common-council men.
There is only one point more which it remains for me to discuss. I have already taken it for granted, that you are offered your choice of every post that exists in the government of this country. Here again, if you were to consult friends less knowing than myself, you would be presented with nothing but jarring and discordant opinions. Some would say, George, take it, and some, George, let it alone. For my part, my lord, I would advise you to do neither the one nor the other. Fickleness and instability, your lordship will please to observe, are of the very essence of a real statesman. Who were the greatest statesmen this country ever had to boast? They were, my lord, the two Villiers's, dukes of Buckingham. Did not the first of these take his young master to the kingdom of Spain, in order to marry the infanta, and then break off the match for no cause at all? Did he not afterwards involve the nation in a quarrel with the king of France, only because her most christian majesty would not let him go to bed to her? What was the character of the second duke? This nobleman,
My lord, I do not flatter you so far as to suppose that your abilities are as great, or that you will ever make so distinguished a figure as either of these noblemen. But I would have you imitate them in your humbler circle, and venture greatly, though the honour you should derive from it, should be only, that you greatly fell. Accept therefore, my lord, of one of the principal responsible offices without thought and without hesitation. Through terror or manly spirit, or whatever you choose to call it, resign again the next day. As soon as you have done this, make interest for another place, and if you can obtain it, throw it up as soon again. This, my lord, is not, as an ignorant and coxcomical writer has represented it, "the vibration of a pendulum," but a conduct, wise, manly, judicious, and heroic. Who does not know, that the twinkling stars are of a more excellent nature, than those which shine upon us with unremitted lustre? Who does not know that the comet, which appears for a short time, and vanishes again for revolving years, is more gazed upon than either? But I am afraid the comet is too sublime an idea for your lordship's comprehension. I would therefore recommend to you, to make the cracker the model of your conduct. You should snap and bounce at regular intervals; at one moment you should seem a blazing star, and the next be lost in trackless darkness.
My lord, there is nothing, which at all times I have taken more pains to subdue, than that overweening pride, and immeasurable conceit, which are the principal features of your lordship's character. Nature, indeed, has furnished you with one corrective to them, or they must infallibly have damned you. It is timidity. Other people may laugh at this quality. For my part I esteem it worthy the loudest praise and most assiduous cultivation. When the balance hangs in doubt between the adventurousness of vanity and the frigidity of fear, ever incline to the latter side. I had rather your lordship should be a coward, than a coxcomb. If however you could attain to that reasonable and chastised opinion of yourself, which should steer a proper mean between these extremes, should make you feel your strength, when menaced by the most terrible adversaries, and your weakness, when soothed by the most fawning parasites, this, my lord, would be the highest perfection to which you could possibly attain. I will therefore close my epistle with the discussion of a case, which your lordship may think parallel to the species of behaviour I have recommended to your cultivation. I mean that of the celebrated and incomparable earl Granville, in the year 1746. I will show you what this nobleman did, and in how many particulars you must for ever hope in vain to resemble him.
I remember, my lord, that you and I once studied together the History of England, in Question and Answer. If your lordship recollects, the year 1746 began in the very height of the celebrated rebellion. The ministers of the sovereign at this time, were, that mixed and plausible character, Mr. Pelham, and that immortalized booby, the duke of Newcastle. These gentlemen possessed their full proportion of that passion, so universally incident to the human frame, the love of power. They had formed such a connection with the monied interest of the kingdom, that no administration could go on without them. Conscious to this circumstance, they had no toleration for a rival, they could "bear no brother near the throne." From this sentiment, they had driven that most able minister I have mentioned, from the cabinet of his sovereign, in no very justifiable manner, about twelve months before. The same jealousy kept alive their suspicions: they knew the partiality of their master: they imagined their antagonist still lurked behind the curtain. The distresses of the kingdom were to them the ladder of ambition. This was the language they held to their sovereign: "The enemy is already advanced into the heart of your majesty's dominions. We know that you cannot do without us. You must therefore listen with patience to what we shall dictate. Drive from your presence for ever the wisest and the ablest of all your counsellors. This is the only condition, upon which we will continue to serve you in this perilous moment." Majesty, as it was but natural, was disgusted with this language. The Pelhams resigned. Lord Granville accepted the seals. And he held them I believe for something more than a fortnight.
My lord, I will tell you, what were the Pelhams, and what was the true character of lord Granville. Whatever may be said, and much I think may justly be said, in favour of the former, they were not men of genius. Capable of conducting, and willing upon the whole to conduct with loyalty and propriety the affairs of their country, while they kept within the beaten channel, they were not born to grapple with arduous situations. They had not that commanding spirit of adventure, which leads a man into the path of supererogation and voluntary service: they had not that firm and collected fortitude which induces a man to look danger in the face, to encounter it in all its force, and to drive it from all its retrenchments. They were particularly attached to the patronage, which is usually annexed to their high situations. They did not come into power by the voice of the people. They were not summoned to assume the administration by a vote of the house of commons. They were introduced into the cabinet by an inglorious and guilty compromise of sir Robert Walpole; a compromise, that shunned the light; a compromise, that reflected indelible disgrace upon every individual concerned in it. We will suppose them ever so much in the right in the instance before us. For certainly, the same responsibility, that ought to remove a minister from the helm, when he is become obnoxious to his countrymen, equally makes it improper, that he should be originally appointed by the fancy or capricious partiality of the sovereign. But were they over so much in the right, it will yet remain true, that they took a poor and ungenerous advantage of the personal distresses of their master, which men of a large heart, and of sterling genius, could never have persuaded themselves to take.
Such were the ministers, whom it appears that king George the second would have had no objection to strip of their employments. I will tell you who it was, that he was willing to have substituted in their place. It was a man of infinite genius. His taste was a standard to those, who were most attached to the fine arts, and most uninterruptedly conversant with them. His eloquence was splendid, animated, and engaging. Of all the statesmen then existing in Europe, he was perhaps the individual, who best understood the interests and the politics of all her courts. But your lordship may probably find it somewhat more intelligible, if I take the other side of the picture, and tell you what he was not. He was not a man of fawning and servility. He did not rest his ambitious pretensions upon any habitual adroitness, upon the arts of wheedling, and the tones of insinuation. He rested them upon the most solid talents, and the most brilliant accomplishments. He did not creep into the closet of his sovereign uncalled, and endeavour to make himself of consequence by assiduities and officiousness. He pleaded for years, in a manly and ingenuous manner, the cause of the people in parliament. It was by a popularity, great, and almost without exception, that he was introduced into power. When defeated by the undermining and contemptible art of his rivals; when convinced that it was impossible for him, to employ his abilities with success in the service of his country, he retired. And it was only by the personal intreaties of his sovereign, and to assist him in that arduous and difficult situation, in which those who ought to have served, deserted him, that he once again accepted of office. He accepted it, for the temporary benefit of his country, and till those persons, who only could come into administration with efficiency and advantage, should again resume their places. He made way for them without a struggle. He did not pretend to set practical impotence, though accompanied with abilities incomparably the superior, against that influence and connexion by which they were supported. Of consequence, my lord, his memory will always be respected and cherished by the bulk of mankind.
I do not mean to propose him to your lordship for a model. I never imagined that your talents qualified you for the most distant resemblance of him; and I wished to convince you how inferior they were. Beside, my lord, he did not act upon the Machiavelian plan. His system was that of integrity, frankness, and confidence. He desired to meet his enemies; and the more extensive the ground upon which he could meet them, the better. I was never idle enough to think of such a line of conduct for your lordship. Go on then in those crooked paths, and that invisible direction, for which nature has so eminently fitted you. Intrench yourself behind the letter of the law. Avoid, carefully avoid, the possibility of any sinister evidence. And having uniformly taken these precautions, defy all the malice of your enemies. They may threaten, but they shall never hurt you. They may make you tremble and shrink with fancied terrors, but they shall never be able to man so much as a straw against you. Immortality, my lord, is suspended over your head. Do not shudder at the sound. It shall not be an immortality of infamy. It shall only be an immortality of contempt.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE SEMINARY, &c.
The two principal objects of human power are government and education. They have accordingly engrossed a very large share in the disquisitions of the speculative in all ages. The subject of the former indeed is man, already endowed with his greatest force of body, and arrived at the exercise of his intellectual powers: the subject of the latter is man, as yet shut up in the feebleness of childhood, and the imbecility of inexperience. Civil society is great and unlimited in its extent; the time has been, when the whole known world was in a manner united in one community: but the sphere of education has always been limited. It is for nations to produce the events, that enchant the imagination, and ennoble the page of history: infancy must always pass away in the unimportance of mirth, and the privacy of retreat. That government however is a theme so much superior to education, is not perhaps so evident, as we may at first imagine.
It is indeed wider in its extent, but it is infinitely less absolute in its power. The state of society is incontestibly artificial; the power of one man over another must be always derived from convention, or from conquest; by nature we are equal. The necessary consequence is, that government must always depend upon the opinion of the governed. Let the most oppressed people under heaven once change their mode of thinking, and they are free. But the inequality of parents and children is the law of our nature, eternal and uncontrolable.—Government is very limited in its power of making men either virtuous or happy; it is only in the infancy of society that it can do any thing considerable; in its maturity it can only direct a few of our outward actions. But our moral dispositions and character depend very much, perhaps entirely, upon education.—Children indeed are weak and imbecil; but it is the imbecility of spring, and not that of autumn; the imbecility that verges towards power, and not that is already exhausted with performance. To behold heroism in its infancy, and immortality in the bud, must be a most attractive object. To mould those pliant dispositions, upon which the happiness of multitudes may one day depend, must be infinitely important.
Proportionable to what we have stated to be the importance of the subject, is the attention that has been afforded it in the republic of letters. The brightest wits, and the profoundest philosophers have emulated each other in their endeavours to elucidate so valuable a theme. In vain have pedants urged the stamp of antiquity, and the approbation of custom; there is scarcely the scheme so visionary, the execution of which has not at some time or other been attempted. Of the writers upon this interesting subject, he perhaps that has produced the most valuable treatise is Rousseau. If men of equal abilities have explored this ample field, I know of none, however, who have so thoroughly investigated the first principles of the science, or who have treated it so much at large. If he have indulged to a thousand agreeable visions, and wandered in the pursuit of many a specious paradox, he has however richly repaid us for this defect, by the profoundest researches, and the most solid discoveries.
I have borrowed so many of my ideas from this admirable writer, that I thought it necessary to make this acknowledgement in the outset. The learned reader will readily perceive, that if I have not scrupled to profit from his discoveries, at least I have freely and largely dissented from him, where he appeared to me to wander from the path of truth. For my own part, I am persuaded that it can only be by striking off something of inflexibility from his system, and something of pedantry from the common one, that we can expect to furnish a medium, equally congenial to the elegance of civilization, and the manliness of virtue.
In pursuance of these principles it shall be my first business to enquire, whether or not the languages ought to make any part of a perfect system of education; and if they ought, at what time they should be commenced. The study of them does indeed still retain its ground in our public schools and universities. But it has received a rude shock from some writers of the present age; nor has any attack been more formidable, than that of the author of Emile. Let us endeavour to examine the question, neither with the cold prejudice of antiquity on the one hand; nor on the other, with the too eager thirst of novelty, and unbounded admiration of the geniuses, by whom it has been attacked.
When we look back to the venerable ancients, we behold a class of writers, if not of a much higher rank, at least of a very different character, from the moderns. One natural advantage they indisputably possessed. The field of nature was all their own. It had not yet been blasted by any vulgar breath, or touched with a sacrilegious hand. Its fairest flowers had not been culled, and its choicest sweets rifled before them. As they were not encumbered and hedged in with the multitude of their predecessors, they did not servilely borrow their knowledge from books; they read it in the page of the universe. They studied nature in all her romantic scenes, and all her secret haunts. They studied men in the various ranks of society, and in different nations of the world. I might add to this several other advantages. Of these the noble freedom of mind that was characteristic of the republicans of Greece and Rome, and that has scarcely any parallel among ourselves, would not be the least.
Agreeably to these advantages, they almost every where, particularly among the Greeks, bear upon them the stamp of originality. All copies are feeble and unmarked. They sacrifice the plainness of nature to the gaudiness of ornament, and the tinsel of wit. But the ancients are full of a noble and affecting simplicity. By one touch of nature and observation they paint a scene more truly, than their successors are able to do in whole wire-drawn pages. In description they are unequalled. Their eloquence is fervent, manly and sonorous. Their thoughts are just, natural, independent and profound. The pathos of Virgil, and the sublimity of Homer, have never been surpassed. And as their knowledge was not acquired in learned indolence, they knew how to join the severest application with the brightest genius. Accordingly in their style they have united simplicity, eloquence and harmony, in a manner of which the moderns have seldom had even an idea. The correctness of a Caesar, and the sonorous period of a Cicero; the majesty of a Virgil, and the politeness of a Horace, are such as no living language can express.
It is the remark of a certain old-fashioned writer, "The form of the world passeth away." A century or two ago the greatest wits were known to have pathetically lamented, that the writers, of whose merits I have been speaking, were handed down to us in so mutilated a condition. Now it seems very probable, that, if their works were totally annihilated, it would scarcely call forth a sigh from the refined geniuses of the present age. It is certainly very possible to carry the passion for antiquity to a ridiculous extreme. No man can reasonably deny, that it is by us only that the true system of the universe has been ascertained, and that we have made very valuable improvements upon many of the arts. No man can question that some of our English poets have equalled the ancients in sublimity, and that, to say the least, our neighbours, the French, have emulated the elegance of their composition in a manner, that is very far indeed from contempt. From these concessions however we are by no means authorised to infer their inutility.
But I shall be told that in the first revival of letters the study of the ancient languages might indeed be very proper; but since that time we have had so many excellent truncations of every thing they contain, that to waste the time, and exhaust the activity of our youth in the learning of Latin and Greek, is to very little purpose indeed. Translation! what a strange word! To me I confess it appears the most unaccountable invention, that ever entered into the mind of man. To distil the glowing conceptions, and to travesty the beautiful language of the ancients, through the medium of a language estranged to all its peculiarities and all its elegancies. The best thoughts and expressions of an author, those that distinguish one writer from another, are precisely those that are least capable of being translated. And who are the men we are to employ in this promising business? Original genius disdains the unmeaning drudgery. A mind that has one feature resembling the ancients, will scarcely stoop to be their translator. The persons then, to whom the performance must be committed, are persons of cool elegance. Endowed with a little barren taste, they must be inanimate enough to tread with laborious imbecility in the footsteps of another. They must be eternally incapable of imbibing the spirit, and glowing with the fire of their original. But we shall seldom come off so well as this. The generality of translators are either on the one hand mere pedants and dealers in words, who, understanding the grammatical construction of a period, never gave themselves the trouble to enquire, whether it conveyed either sentiment or instruction; or on the other hand mere writers for hire, the retainers of a bookseller, men who translate Homer from the French, and Horace out of Creech.
Let it not be said that I am now talking at random. Let us descend to examples. We need not be afraid of instancing in the most favourable. I believe it is generally allowed that Mr. Pope's Iliad is the very best version that was ever made out of one language into another. It must be confessed to exhibit very many poetical beauties. As a trial of skill, as an instance of what can be effected upon so forlorn a hope, it must ever be admired. But were I to search for a true idea of the style and composition of Homer, I think I should rather recur to the verbal translation in the margin of the original, than to the version of Pope. Homer is the simplest and most unaffected of poets. Of all the writers of elegance and taste that ever existed, his translator is the most ornamented. We acknowledge Homer by his loose and flowing robe, that does not constrain a muscle of his frame. But Pope presents himself in the close and ungraceful habit of modern times;
No, let us for once conduct ourselves with honesty and generosity. If we will not study the ancients in their own nervous and manly page, let us close their volumes for ever. I had rather, says the amiable philosopher of Chaeronea, it should be said of me, that there never was such a man as Plutarch, than that Plutarch was ill-natured, arbitrary, and tyrannical. And were I the bard of Venusia, sure I am, I had rather be entirely forgotten, than not be known for the polite, the spirited, and the elegant writer I really was.
To converse with the accomplished, is the obvious method by which to become accomplished ourselves. This general observation is equally applicable to the study of polite writers of our own and of other countries. But there are some reasons, upon account of which we may expect to derive a more perceptible advantage from the ancients. They carried the art of composition to greater heights than any of the moderns. Their writers were almost universally of a higher rank in society, than ours. There did not then exist the temptation of gain to spur men on to the profession of an author. An industrious modern will produce twenty volumes, in the time that Socrates employed to polish one oration.
Another argument flows from the simple circumstance of their writing in a different language. Of all the requisites to the attainment either of a style of our own, or a discernment in that of others, the first is grammar. Without this, our ideas must be always vague and desultory. Respecting the delicacies of composition, we may guess, but we can never decide and demonstrate. Now, of the minutiae of grammar, scarcely any man ever attained a just knowledge, who was acquainted with only one language. And if the study of others be the surest, I will venture also to pronounce it the easiest method for acquiring a mastery in philology.
From what has been said, I shall consider this conclusion as sufficiently established, that the languages ought at some time to be learned by him who would form to himself a perfect character. I proceed to my second enquiry, at what time the study of them should be commenced? And here I think this to be the best general answer: at the age of ten years.
In favour of so early a period one reason may be derived from what I have just been mentioning. The knowledge of more languages than one, is almost an indispensible prerequisite to the just understanding either of the subject of grammar in particular, or of that of style in general. Now if the cultivation of elegance and propriety be at all important, it cannot be entered upon too soon, provided the ideas are already competent to the capacity of the pupil. The Roman Cornelia, who never suffered a provincial accent, or a grammatical barbarism in the hearing of her children, has always been cited with commendation; and the subsequent rhetorical excellence of the Gracchi has been in a great degree ascribed to it. Fluency, purity and ease are to be acquired by insensible degrees: and against habits of this kind I apprehend there can be no objection.
Another argument of still greater importance is, that the knowledge of languages has scarcely ever been mastered, but by those, the commencement of whose acquaintance with them was early. To be acquainted with any science slightly and superficially, can in my opinion be productive of little advantage. But such an acquaintance with languages must be very useless indeed. What benefit can it be expected that we should derive from an author, whom we cannot peruse with facility and pleasure? The study of such an author will demand a particular strength of resolution, and aptitude of humour. He can scarcely become the favourite companion of our retirement, and the never-failing solace of our cares. Something of slow and saturnine must be the necessary accompaniment of that disposition, that can conquer the difficulties of such a pursuit. And accordingly we find that the classics and the school are generally quitted together, even by persons of taste, who have not acquired a competent mastery of them in their course of education. Very few indeed have been those, who, estranged to the languages till the age of manhood, have after that period obtained such a familiarity with them, as could ever be productive of any considerable advantage.
Brutes and savages are totally unacquainted with lassitude and spleen, the lust of variety, and the impatience of curiosity. In a state of society our ideas habitually succeed in a certain proportion, and an employment that retards their progress, speedily becomes disagreeable and tedious. But children, not having yet felt this effect of civilization, are not susceptible to this cause of disgust. They are endowed with a pliableness and versatility of mind, that with a little attention and management may easily be turned to any pursuit. Their understandings not yet preoccupied, they have a singular facility of apprehending, and strength of retention. It is certain this pliableness and facility are very liable to abuse. It is not easy to believe, that they were given to learn words without meaning; terms of art, not understood by the pupil; the systems of theologians, and the jargon of metaphysics. But then neither were they given without a capacity of being turned to advantage. And it should seem that it could not be a very fallacious antidote to abuse, to confine our instructions to such kinds of knowledge, as are of the highest importance, and are seldom learned with success, and even scarcely attainable, at any other period.
Let it be observed that I have not fixed upon the age of ten years at random. It is the observation of Rousseau; Both children and men are essentially feeble. Children, because however few be their wants, they are unable to supply them. Men, in a state of society, because whatever be their absolute strength, the play of the imagination renders their desires yet greater. There is an intermediate period, in which our powers having made some progress, and the artificial and imaginary wants being unknown, we are relatively strong. And this he represents as the principal period of instruction. This remark is indeed still more striking, when applied to a pupil, the progress of whose imagination is sedulously retarded. But it is not destitute either of truth or utility in the most general application we can possibly give it. Let it be observed, that Rousseau fixes the commencement of this period at twelve years. I would choose to take it at ten.
However we may find it convenient to distribute the productions of nature into classes, and her operations into epochas, yet let it be remembered, that her progress is silent and imperceptible. Between a perfect animal and vegetable, the distinction is of the highest order. Between distant periods we may remark the most important differences. But the gradations of nature are uninterrupted. Of her chain every link is compleat. As therefore I shall find in commencing at ten years, that my time will be barely sufficient for the purposes to which I would appropriate it, I consider this circumstance as sufficient to determine my election. A youth of ten years is omnipotent, if we contrast him with a youth of eight.
But if the languages constitute so valuable a part of a just system of education, the next question is, in what manner they are to be taught. Indeed, I believe, if the persons employed in the business of education had taken half the pains to smooth the access to this department of literature, that they have employed to plant it round with briars and thorns, its utility and propriety, in the view we are now considering it, would scarcely have been questioned.
There is something necessarily disgusting in the forms of grammar. Grammar therefore is made in our public schools the business of a twelvemonth. Rules are heaped upon rules with laborious stupidity. To render them the more formidable, they are presented to our youth in the very language, the first principles of which they are designed to teach. For my own part, I am persuaded the whole business of grammar may be dispatched in a fortnight. I would only teach the declensions of nouns, and the inflexions of verbs. For the rest, nothing is so easily demonstrated, as that the auxiliary sciences are best communicated in connection with their principals. Chronology, geography, are never so thoroughly understood, as by him that treats them literally as the handmaids of history. He, who is instructed in Latin with clearness and accuracy, will never be at a loss for the rules of grammar.
But to complete the disgust we seem so careful to inspire, the learned languages are ever surrounded with the severity verity of discipline; and it would probably be thought little short of sacrilege to discompose their features with a smile. Such a mode of proceeding can never be sufficiently execrated.
Indeed, I shall be told, "this is the time to correct the native vices of the mind. In childhood the influence of pain and mortification is comparatively trifling. What then can be more judicious than to accumulate upon this period, what must otherwise fall with tenfold mischief upon the age of maturity?" In answer to this reasoning, let it be first considered, how many there are, who by the sentence of nature are called out of existence, before they can live to reap these boasted advantages. Which of you is there, that has not at some time regretted that age, in which a smile is ever upon the countenance, and peace and serenity at the bottom of the heart? How is it you can consent to deprive these little innocents of an enjoyment, that slides so fast away? How is it you can find in your heart to pall these fleeting years with bitterness and slavery? The undesigning gaiety of youth has the strongest claim upon your humanity. There is not in the world a truer object of pity, than a child terrified at every glance, and watching, with anxious uncertainty, the caprices of a pedagogue. If he survive, the liberty of manhood is dearly bought by so many heart aches. And if he die, happy to escape your cruelty, the only advantage he derives from the sufferings you have inflicted, is that of not regretting a life, of which he knew nothing but the torments.
But who is it that has told you, that the certain, or even the probable consequences of this severity are beneficial? Nothing is so easily proved, as that the human mind is pure and spotless, as it came from the hands of God, and that the vices of which you complain, have their real source in those shallow and contemptible precautions, that you pretend to employ against them. Of all the conditions to which we are incident, there is none so unpropitious to whatever is ingenuous and honourable, as that of a slave. It plucks away by the root all sense of dignity, and all manly confidence. In those nations of antiquity, most celebrated for fortitude and heroism, their youth had never their haughty and unsubmitting neck bowed to the inglorious yoke of a pedagogue. To borrow the idea of that gallant assertor of humanity, sir Richard Steele: I will not say that our public schools have not produced many great and illustrious characters; but I will assert, there was not one of those characters, that would not have been more manly and venerable, if they had never been subjected to this vile and sordid condition.
Having thus set aside the principal corruptions of modern education, the devising methods for facilitating the acquisition of languages will not be difficult. The first books put into the hands of a pupil should be simple, interesting, and agreeable. By their means, he will perceive a reasonableness and a beauty in the pursuit. If he be endowed by nature with a clear understanding, and the smallest propensity to literature, he will need very little to stimulate him either from hope or fear.
Attentive to the native gaiety of youth, the periods, in which his attention is required, though frequent in their returns, should in their duration be short and inoppressive. The pupil should do nothing merely because he is seen or heard by his preceptor. If he have companions, still nothing more is requisite, than that degree of silence and order, which shall hinder the attention of any from being involuntarily diverted. The pupil has nothing to conceal, and no need of falsehood. The approbation of the preceptor respects only what comes directly under his cognizance, and cannot be disguised. Even here, remembering the volatility and sprightliness, inseparable from the age, humanity will induce him not to animadvert with warmth upon the appearances of a casual distraction, but he will rather solicit the return of attention by gentleness, than severity.
But of all rules, the most important is that of preserving an uniform, even tenour of conduct. Into the government of youth passion and caprice should never enter. The gentle yoke of the preceptor should be confounded as much as possible, with the eternal laws of nature and necessity. The celebrated maxim of republican government should be adopted here. The laws should speak, and the magistrate be silent. The constitution should be for ever unchangeable and independent of the character of him that administers it.
Nothing can certainly be more absurd than the attempt to educate children by reason. We may be sure they will treat every determination as capricious, that shocks their inclination. The chef d'oeuvre of a good education is to form a reasonable human being; and yet they pretend to govern a child by argument and ratiocination. This is to enter upon the work at the wrong end, and to endeavour to convert the fabric itself into one of the tools by which it is constructed. The laws of the preceptor ought to be as final and inflexible, as they are mild and humane.
There is yet another method for facilitating the acquisition of languages, so just in itself, and so universally practicable, that I cannot forbear mentioning it. It is that of commencing with the modern languages, French for instance in this country. These in the education of our youth, are universally postponed to what are stiled the learned languages. I shall perhaps be told that modern tongues being in a great measure derived from the Latin, the latter is very properly to be considered as introductory to the former. But why then do we not adopt the same conduct in every instance? Why to the Latin do we not premise the Greek, and to the Greek the Coptic and Oriental tongues? Or how long since is it, that the synthetic has been proved so much superior to the analytic mode of instruction? In female education, the modern languages are taught without all this preparation; nor do I find that our fair rivals are at all inferior to the generality of our sex in their proficiency. With the youth of sense and spirit of both sexes, the learning of French is usually considered, rather as a pleasure, than a burden. Were the Latin communicated in the same mild and accommodating manner, I think I may venture to pronounce, that thus taken in the second place, there will be no great difficulty in rendering it equally attractive.
I would just observe that there is an obvious propriety in the French language being learned under the same direction, as the Latin and Greek. The pursuit of this elegant accomplishment ought at no time to be entirely omitted. But the attention of youth is distracted between the method of different masters, and their amiable confidence, in the direction under which they are placed, entirely ruined by mutability and inconstance. The same observation may also be applied here, as in the learned languages. The attention of the pupil should be confined as much as possible to the most classical writers; and the French would furnish a most useful subsidiary in a course of history. Let me add, that though I have prescribed the age of ten years, as the most eligible for the commencement of classical education, I conceive there would be no impropriety in taking up the modern language so early as nine.
Such then is the kind of subjection, that the learning of languages demands. The question that recurs upon us is; How far this subjection may fairly be considered as exceptionable, and whether its beneficial consequences do not infinitely outweigh the trifling inconveniences that may still be ascribed to it?
But there is another subject that demands our consideration. Modern education not only corrupts the heart of our youth, by the rigid slavery to which it condemns them, it also undermines their reason, by the unintelligible jargon with which they are overwhelmed in the first instance, and the little attention, that is given to the accommodating their pursuits to their capacities in the second.
Nothing can have a greater tendency to clog and destroy the native activity of the mind, than the profuseness with which the memory of children is loaded, by nurses, by mothers, by masters. What can more corrupt the judgment, than the communicating, without measure, and without end, words entirely devoid of meaning? What can have a more ridiculous influence upon our taste, than for the first verses to which our attention is demanded, to consist of such strange and uncouth jargon? To complete the absurdity, and that we may derive all that elegance and refinement from the study of languages, that it is calculated to afford, our first ideas of Latin are to be collected from such authors, as Corderius, Erasmus, Eutropius, and the Selectae. To begin indeed with the classical writers, is not the way to smooth the path of literature. I am of opinion however, that one of the above-mentioned authors will be abundantly sufficient. Let it be remembered, that the passage from the introductory studies to those authors, that form the very essence of the language, will be much facilitated by the previous acquisition of the French.
Having spoken of the article of memory, let me be permitted to mention the practice, that has of late gained so great a vogue; the instructing children in the art of spouting and acting plays. Of all the qualities incident to human nature, the most universally attractive is simplicity, the most disgusting is affectation. Now what idea has a child of the passions of a hero, and the distresses of royalty? But he is taught the most vehement utterance, and a thousand constrained cadences, without its being possible that he should see in them, either reasonableness or propriety.
I would not have a child required to commit any thing to memory more than is absolutely necessary. If, however, he be a youth of spirit, he will probably learn some things in this manner, and the sooner because it is not expected of him. It will be of use for him to repeat these with a grave and distinct voice, accommodated to those cadences, which the commas, the periods, and the notes of interrogation, marked in his author, may require, but without the smallest instruction to humour the gay, or to sadden the plaintive.
Another article, that makes a conspicuous figure in the education of our youth, is composition. Before they are acquainted with the true difference between verse and prose, before they are prepared to decide upon the poetical merit of Lily and Virgil, they are called upon to write Latin verse themselves. In the same manner some of their first prose compositions are in a dead language. An uniform, petty, ridiculous scheme is laid down, and within that scheme all their thoughts are to be circumscribed.
Composition is certainly a desirable art, and I think can scarcely be entered upon too soon. It should be one end after which I would endeavour, and the mode of effecting it will be farther illustrated in the sequel, to solicit a pupil to familiarity, and to induce him to disclose his thoughts upon such subjects as were competent to his capacity, in an honest and simple manner. After having thus warmed him by degrees, it might be proper to direct him to write down his thoughts, without any prescribed method, in the natural and spontaneous manner, in which they flowed from his mind. Thus the talk of throwing his reflections upon paper would be facilitated to him, and his style gradually formed, without teaching him any kind of restraint and affectation. To the reader who enters at all into my ideas upon the subject, it were needless to subjoin, that I should never think of putting a youth upon the composition of verse.
From all I have said it will be sufficiently evident, that it would be a constant object with me to model my instructions to the capacity of my pupil. They are books, that beyond all things teach us to talk without thinking, and use words without meaning. To this evil there can be no complete remedy. But shall we abolish literature, because it is not unaccompanied with inconveniencies? Shall we return to a state of savage ignorance, because all the advantages of civilization have their attendant disadvantages?
The only remedy that can be applied, is to accustom ourselves to clear and accurate investigation. To prefer, whereever we can have recourse to it, the book of nature to any human composition. To begin with the latter as late as may be consistent with the most important purposes of education. And when we do begin, so to arrange our studies, as that we may commence with the simplest and easiest sciences, and proportion our progress to the understanding of the pupil. With respect to grammar in particular, the declensions of nouns, and the inflexions of verbs, we may observe, that to learn words to which absolutely no ideas are affixed, is not to learn to think loosely, and to believe without being convinced. These certainly can never corrupt the mind. And I suppose no one will pretend, that to learn grammar, is to be led to entertain inaccurate notions of the subjects, about which it is particularly conversant. On the contrary, the ideas of grammar are exceedingly clear and accurate. It has, in my opinion, all those advantages, by which the study of geometry is usually recommended, without any of its disadvantages. It tends much to purge the understanding, to render it close in its investigations, and sure in its decisions. It introduces more easily and intelligibly than mathematical science, that most difficult of all the mental operations, abstraction. It imperceptibly enlarges our conceptions, and generalises our ideas.
But if to read its authors, be the most valuable purpose of learning a language, the grammar will not be sufficient. Other books will be necessary. And how shall these be chosen, so as not to leave behind us the understanding of our pupil? Shall we introduce him first to the sublime flights of Virgil, the philosophical investigations of a Cicero, or the refined elegance and gay satire of Horace? Alas! if thus introduced unprepared to the noblest heights of science, how can it be expected that his understanding should escape the shipwreck, and every atom of common sense not be dashed and scattered ten thousand ways?
The study then I would here introduce, should be that of history. And that this study is not improper to the age with which I connect it, is the second point I would endeavour to demonstrate.
But is history, I shall be asked, the study so proper for uninstructed minds? History, that may in some measure be considered as concentring in itself the elements of all other sciences? History, by which we are informed of the rise and progress of every art, and by whose testimony the comparative excellence of every art is ascertained? History, the very testimony of which is not to be admitted, without the previous trial of metaphysical scrutiny, and philosophic investigation? Lastly, History, that is to be considered as a continual illustration of the arts of fortification and tactics; but above all of politics, with its various appendages, commerce, manufacture, finances?
To all this, I calmly answer, No: it is not history in any of these forms, that constitutes the science to which I would direct the attention of my pupil. Of the utility of the history of arts and sciences, at least, as a general study, I have no very high opinion. But were my opinion ever so exalted, I should certainly chuse to postpone this study for the present. I should have as little to do with tactics and fortification. I would avoid as much as possible the very subject of war. Politics, commerce, finances, might easily be deferred. I would keep far aloof from the niceties of chronology, and the dispute of facts. I would not enter upon the study of history through the medium of epitome. I would even postpone the general history of nations, to the character and actions of particular men.
Many of the articles I have mentioned, serve to compose the pedantry of history. Than history, no science has been more abused. It has been studied from ostentation; it has been studied with the narrow views of little minds; it has been warped to serve a temporary purpose. Ingenious art has hung it round with a thousand subtleties, and a thousand disputes. The time has at length arrived, when it requires an erect understanding, and a penetrating view, above the common rate, to discover the noble purposes, which this science is most immediately calculated to subserve.
In a word, the fate of history has been like that of travelling. The institution has been preserved, but its original use is lost. One man travels from fashion, and another from pride. One man travels to measure buildings, another to examine pictures, and a third perhaps to learn to dance. Scarcely any remember that its true application is to study men and manners. Perhaps a juster idea cannot be given of the science we are considering, than that which we may deduce from a reflection of Rousseau. "The ancient historians," says he, "are crowded with those views of things, from which we may derive the utmost utility, even though the facts that suggest them, should be mistaken. But we are unskilled to derive any real advantage from history. The critique of erudition absorbs every thing; as if it imported us much whether the relation were true, provided we could extract from it any useful induction. Men of sense ought to regard history as a tissue of fables, whose moral is perfectly adapted to the human heart."
The mere external actions of men are not worth the studying: Who would have ever thought of going through a course of history, if the science were comprised in a set of chronological tables? No: it is the hearts of men we should study. It is to their actions, as expressive of disposition and character, we should attend. But by what is it that we can be advanced thus far, but by specious conjecture, and plausible inference? The philosophy of a Sallust, and the sagacity of a Tacitus, can only advance us to the regions of probability. But whatever be the most perfect mode of historical composition, it is to the simplest writers that our youth should be first introduced, writers equally distant from the dry detail of Du Fresnoy, and the unrivalled eloquence of a Livy. The translation of Plutarch would, in my opinion, form the best introduction. As he is not a writer of particular elegance, he suffers less from a version, than many others. The Roman revolutions of Vertot might very properly fill the second place. Each of these writers has this further recommendation, that, at least, in the former part of their works, they treat of that simplicity and rectitude of manners of the first Greeks and Romans, that furnish the happiest subject that can be devised for the initiating youth in the study of history.
Under the restrictions I have laid down, history is of all sciences the most simple. It has been ever considered by philosophers, as the porch of knowledge. It has ever been treated by men of literature, as the relaxation of their feverer pursuits. It leads directly to the most important of all attainments, the knowledge of the heart. It introduces us, without expence, and without danger, to an acquaintance with manners and society. By the most natural advances it points us forward to all the depths of science. With the most attractive blandishments it forms us by degrees to an inextinguishable thirst of literature.
But there is still an objection remaining, and that the most important of all. Let history be stripped as much as you will of every extraneous circumstance, let it be narrowed to the utmost simplicity, there is still one science previously necessary. It is that of morals. If you see nothing in human conduct, but purely the exterior and physical movements, what is it that history teaches? Absolutely nothing; and the science devoid of interest, becomes incapable of affording either pleasure or instruction. We may add, that the more perfectly it is made a science of character and biography, the more indispensible is ethical examination. But to such an examination it has been doubted whether the understandings of children be competent. Upon this question I will beg leave to say a few words, and I have done.
It is scarcely necessary to observe, that I do not speak here of ethics as an abstract science, but simply as it relates to practice, and the oeconomy of human life. Our enquiry therefore is respecting the time at which that intuitive faculty is generally awakened, by which we decide upon the differences of virtue and vice, and are impelled to applaud the one, and condemn the other.
The moment in which the faculty of memory begins to unfold itself, the man begins to exist as a moral being. Not long posterior to this, is the commencement of prescience and foresight. Rousseau has told us, in his animated language, that if a child could escape a whipping, or obtain a paper of sweetmeats, by promising to throw himself out at window tomorrow, the promise would instantly be made. Nothing is more contrary to experience than this. It is true, death, or any such evils, of which he has no clear conception, do not strongly affect him in prospect. But by the view of that which is palpable and striking, he is as much influenced as any man, however extensive his knowledge, however large his experience. It is only by seizing upon the activity and earnestness incident to youthful pursuits, and totally banishing the idea of what is future, that we can destroy its influence. Their minds, like a sheet of white paper, are susceptible to every impression. Their brain, uncrouded with a thousand confused traces, is a cause, that every impression they receive is strong and durable.
The aera of foresight is the aera of imagination, and imagination is the grand instrument of virtue. The mind is the seat of pleasure and pain. It is not by what we see, but by what we infer and suppose, that we are taught, that any being is the object of commiseration. It is by the constant return of the mind to the unfortunate object, that we are strongly impressed with sympathy. Hence it is that the too frequent recurrence of objects of distress, at the same time that it blunts the imagination, renders the heart callous and obdurate.
The sentiment that the persons about us have life and feeling as well as ourselves, cannot be of very late introduction. It may be forwarded by cultivation, but it can scarcely at any rate be very much retarded. For this sentiment to become perfectly clear and striking, and to be applied in every case that may come before us, must undoubtedly be an affair gradual in its progress. From thence to the feelings of right and wrong, of compassion and generosity, there is but one step.
It has, I think, been fully demonstrated by that very elegant philosopher Mr. Hutcheson, that self-love is not the source of all our passions, but that disinterested benevolence has its seat in the human heart. At present it is necessary for me to take this for granted. The discussion would lead me too far from my subject. What I would infer from it is, that benevolent affections are capable of a very early commencement. They do not wait to be grafted upon the selfish. They have the larger scope in youthful minds, as such have not yet learned those refinements of interest, that are incident to persons of longer experience.
Accordingly no observation is more common, than that mankind are more generous in the earlier periods of their life, and that their affections become gradually contracted the farther they advance in the vale of years. Confidence, kindness, benevolence, constitute the entire temper of youth. And unless these amiable dispositions be blasted in the bud by the baneful infusions of ambition, vanity and pride, there is nothing with which they would not part, to cherish adversity, and remunerate favour.
Hence we may infer, that the general ideas of merit and character are perfectly competent to the understanding of children of ten years. False glory is the farthest in the world from insinuating its witchcraft into the undepraved heart, where the vain and malignant passions have not yet erected their standard. It is true, the peculiar sublimities of heroism cannot be supposed perfectly within his comprehension. But something of this sort, as we have already said, is incident to every step in the scale of literature.
But the more perfectly to familiarise to my pupil the understanding and digesting whatever he read, I would consider it as an indispensible part of my business, to talk over with him familiarly the subjects, that might necessarily demand our attention. I would lead him by degrees to relate with clearness and precision the story of his author. I would induce him to deliver his fair and genuine sentiments upon every action, and character that came before us. I would frequently call upon him for a plain and simple reason for his opinion. This should always be done privately, without ostentation, and without rivalship. Thus, separate from the danger of fomenting those passions of envy and pride, that prepare at a distance for our youth so many mortifications, and at the expence of which too frequently this accomplishment is attained, I would train him to deliver his opinion upon every subject with freedom, perspicuity and fluency. Without at any time dictating to him the sentiments it became him to entertain, I might, with a little honed artifice, mould his judgment into the form it was most desirable it should take, at the same time that I discovered his genius, and ascertained the original propensities of his mind.
It is unnecessary for me to say any thing respecting morals in the other sense of the word, I mean as they are connected with the conduct, the habits of which we should endeavour to cultivate in a pupil; as that subject has been already exhausted. The vices of youth spring not from nature, who is equally the kind and blameless mother of all her children; they derive from the defects of education. We have already endeavoured to shut up all the inlets of vice. We have precluded servility and cowardice. We have taken away the motives to concealment and falshood. By the liberal indulgence we have prescribed, we have laid the foundation of manly spirit, and generous dignity. A continual attention to history, accompanied with the cultivation of moral discernment, and animated with the examples of heroic virtue, could not fail to form the heart of the pupil, to all that is excellent. At the same time, by assiduous care, the shoots of vanity and envy might be crushed in the bud. Emulation is a dangerous and mistaken principle of constancy. Instead of it I would wish to see the connection of pupils, consisting only of pleasure and generosity. They should learn to love, but not to hate each other. Benevolent actions should not directly be preached to them, they should strictly begin in the heart of the performer. But when actually done, they should receive the most distinguished applause.
Let me be permitted in this place to observe, that the association of a small number of pupils seems the most perfect mode of education. There is surely something unsuitable to the present state of mankind, in the wishing to educate our youth in perfect solitude. Society calls forth a thousand powers both of mind and body, that must otherwise rust in inactivity. And nothing is more clear from experience, than that there is a certain tendency to moral depravation in very large bodies of this kind, to which there has not yet been discovered a sufficient remedy.
If, by the pursuit of principles like these, the powers of the understanding and the heart might be developed in concert; if the pupils were trained at once to knowledge and virtue; if they were enabled to look back upon the period of their education, without regretting one instance of anxious terror, or capricious severity; if they recollected their tutor with gratitude, and thought of their companions, as of those generous friends whom they would wish for the associates of their life,—in that case, the pains of the preceptor would not be thrown away.
[PRICE TWO SHILLINGS.]
THE HERALD OF LITERATURE; OR, A REVIEW OF THE MOST CONSIDERABLE PUBLICATIONS THAT WILL BE MADE IN THE COURSE OF THE ENSUING WINTER: WITH EXTRACTS.
* * * * *
LONDON: PRINTED FOR J. MURRAY, NO. 32, FLEET-STREET.
M DCC LXXXIV.
TO THE AUTHORS OF THE MONTHLY AND CRITICAL REVIEWS.
In presenting the following sheets to the public, I hope I shall not be considered as encroaching upon that province, which long possession has probably taught you to consider as your exclusive right. The labour it has cost me, and the many perils I have encountered to bring it to perfection, will, I trust, effectually plead my pardon with persons of your notorious candour and humanity. Represent to yourselves, Gentlemen, I entreat you, the many false keys, bribes to the lacqueys of authors that can keep them, and collusions with the booksellers of authors that cannot, which were required in the prosecution of this arduous undertaking. Imagine to yourselves how often I have shuddered upon the verge of petty larceny, and how repeatedly my slumbers have been disturbed with visions of the King's-Bench Prison and Clerkenwell Bridewell. You, gentlemen, sit in your easy chair, and with the majesty of a Minos or an Aeacus, summon the trembling culprits to your bar. But though you never knew what fear was, recollect, other men have snuffed a candle with their fingers.
But I would not be misunderstood. Heroical as I trust my undertaking proves me, I fear no man's censure, and court no man's applause. But I look up to you as a respectable body of men, who have long united your efforts to reduce the disproportioned members of an ancient republic to an happy equality, to give wings to the little emmet of Grub-street, and to hew away the excrescences of lawless genius with a hatchet. In this character I honour you. That you have assumed it uncompelled and self-elected, that you have exercised it undazzled by the ignis fatuus of genius, is your unfading glory.
Having thus cleared myself from the suspicion of any sinister view, I cannot here refrain from presenting you with a peace-offering. Had it been in my power to procure gums more costly, or incense more fragrant, I would have rendered it more worthy your acceptance.
It has been a subject upon which I have often reflected with mortification, that the world is too apt to lay aside your lucubrations with the occasions that gave birth to them, and that if they are ever opened after, it is only with old magazines by staid matrons over their winter fire. Such persons are totally incapable of comparing your sentences with the maturer verdict of the public; a comparison that would redound so much to your honour. What I design at present, is in some measure to remedy an evil, that can never perhaps be entirely removed. As the field which is thus opened to me is almost unbounded, I will confine myself to two of the most striking examples, in Tristram Shandy, and the Rosciad of Churchill.
In the Monthly Review, vol. 24, p, 103, I find these words:
"But your indiscretion, good Mr. Tristram, is not all we complain of in the volumes before us. We must tax you with what you will dread above the most terrible of all insinuations—nothing less than DULLNESS. Yes, indeed, Mr. Tristram, you are dull, very dull. Your jaded fancy seems to have been exhausted by two pigmy octavos, which scarce contained the substance of a twelve-penny pamphlet, and we now find nothing new to entertain us."
The following epithets are selected at random. "We are sick—we are quite tired—we can no longer bear corporal Trim's insipidity—thread-bare—stupid and unaffecting—absolutely dull—misapplication of talents—he will unavoidably sink into contempt."
The Critical Review, vol II, p. 212, has the following account of the Rosciad:
"It is natural for young authors to conceive themselves the cleverest fellows in the world, and withal, that there is not the least degree of merit subsisting but in their own works: It is natural likewise for them to imagine, that they may conceal themselves by appearing in different shapes, and that they are not to be found out by their stile; but little do these Connoisseurs in writing conceive, how easily they are discovered by a veteran in the service. In the title-page to this performance we are told (by way of quaint conceit), that it was written by the author; what if it should prove that the Author and the ActorA are the same! Certain it is that we meet with the same vein of peculiar humour, the same turn of thought, the same autophilism (there's a new word for you to bring into the next poem) which we meet with in the other; insomuch that we are ready to make the conclusion in the author's own words:
A: The Actor, a Poem, by Robert Lloyd, Esq.
"We will not pretend however absolutely to assert that Mr. L—— wrote this poem; but we may venture to affirm, that it is the production, jointly or separately, of the new triumvirate of wits, who never let an opportunity slip of singing their own praises. Caw me, caw thee, as Sawney says, and so to it they go, and scratch one another like so many Scotch pedlars."
In page 339, I find a passage referred to in the Index, under the head of "a notable instance of their candour," retracting their insinuations against Lloyd and Colman, and ascribing the poem in a particular vein of pleasantry to Mr. Flexney, the bookseller, and Mr. Griffin, the printer. Candour certainly did not require that they should acknowledge Mr. Churchill, whose name was now inserted in the title-page, as the author, or if author of any, at least not of a considerable part of the poem. That this was their sense of the matter, appears from their account of the apology for the Rosciad, p. 409.
"This is another Brutum Fulinen launched at the Critical Review by one Churchill, who it seems is a clergyman, and it must be owned has a knack at versification; a bard, who upon the strength of having written a few good lines in a thing called The Rosciad, swaggers about as if he were game-keeper of Parnassus."
P. 410. "This apologist has very little reason to throw out behind against the Critical Reviewers, who in mentioning The Rosciad, of which he calls himself author, commended it in the lump, without specifying the bald lines, the false thoughts, and tinsel frippery from which it is not entirely free." They conclude with contrasting him with Smollet, in comparison of whom he is "a puny antagonist, who must write many more poems as good as the Rosciad, before he will be considered as a respectable enemy."
Upon these extracts I will beg leave to make two observations.
1. Abstracted from all consideration of the profundity of criticism that is displayed, no man can avoid being struck with the humour and pleasantry in which they are conceived, or the elegant and gentlemanlike language in which they are couched. What can be more natural or more ingenuous than to suppose that the persons principally commended in a work, were themselves the writers of it? And for that allusion of the Scotch pedlars, for my part, I hold it to be inimitable.
2. But what is most admirable is the independent spirit, with which they stemmed the torrent of fashion, and forestalled the second thoughts of their countrymen. There was a time when Tristram Shandy was applauded, and Churchill thought another Dryden. But who reads Tristram now? There prevails indeed a certain quaintness, and something "like an affectation of being immoderately witty, throughout the whole work." But for real humour not a grain. So said the Monthly Reviewers, (v. 21. p. 568.) and so says the immortal Knox. Both indeed grant him a slight knack at the pathetic; but, if I may venture a prediction, his pretensions to the latter will one day appear no better founded, than his pretentions to the former.
And then poor Churchill! His satire now appears to be dull and pointless. Through his tedious page no modern student can labour. We look back, and wonder how the rage of party ever swelled this thing into a poet. Even the great constellation, from whose tribunal no prudent man ever appealed, has excluded him from a kingdom, where Watts and Blackmore reign. But Johnson and Knox can by no means compare with the Reviewers. These attacked the mountebanks in the very midst of their short-lived empire. Those have only brought up the rear of public opinion, and damned authors already forgotten. They fought the battles a second time, and "again they slew the slain."
It would have been easy to add twenty articles to this list. I might have selected instances from the later volumes of your entertaining works, in which your deviations from the dictates of imaginary taste are still more numerous. But I could not have confronted them with the decisive verdict of time. The rage of fashion has not yet ceased, and the ebullition of blind wonder is not over. I shall therefore leave a plentiful crop for such as come after me, who admire you as much as I do, and will be contented to labour in the same field.
I have the honour to be,
With all veneration,
Your indefatigable reader,
And the humblest of your panegyrists.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq. Vols. iv, v, vi, vii. 4to.
The History of America. By William Robertson, D.D. &c. Vols. iii, and iv. 4to.
Secret History of Theodore Albert Maximilian, Prince of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. 12mo.
Louisa, or Memoirs of a Lady of Quality. By the Author of Evelina and Cecilia. Three vols. 12mo.
The Peasant of Bilidelgerid, a Tale. Two vols. Shandean.
An Essay on Novel, in Three Epistles, inscribed to the Right Honourable Lady Craven. By William Hayley, Esq. 4to.
Inkle and Yarico, a Poem. By James Beattie, L.L.D. 4to.
The Alchymist, a Comedy, altered from Ben Jonson, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq.
Reflexions upon the present State of the United States of America. By Thomas Paine, M.A. &c. 8vo.
Speech of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, on a Motion for an Address of Thanks to his Majesty (on the 28th of November, 1783) for his gracious Communication of a Treaty of Commerce concluded between George the Third, King, &c. and the United States of America.
THE HERALD OF LITERATURE, &c.
* * * * *
We are happy to have it in our power thus early to congratulate the public upon the final accomplishment of a work, that must constitute one of the greatest ornaments of the present age. We have now before us, in one view, and described by the uniform pencil of one historian, the stupendous and instructive object of the gradual decline of the greatest empire; circumscribed by degrees within the narrow walls of a single city; and at length, after the various revolutions of thirteen centuries, totally swallowed up in the empire of the Turks. Of this term, the events of more than nine hundred years are described in that part of our author that now lies before us. It cannot therefore be expected, that in the narrow limits we have prescribed to ourselves, we should enter into a regular synopsis of the performance, chapter by chapter, after the laudable example of our more laborious brother reviewers. We will pay our readers the compliment, however unauthorised by the venerable seal of custom, of supposing them already informed, that Anastasius succeeded Zeno, and Justin Anastasius; that Justinian published the celebrated code that is called by his name; and that his generals, Belisarius and Narses, were almost constantly victorious over the Barbarians, and restored, for a moment, the expiring lustre of the empire. We shall confine ourselves to two extracts, relating to subjects of the greatest importance, and which we presume calculated, at once to gratify and excite the curiosity of the public.
The reign of the emperor Heraclius is perhaps more crowded with events of the highest consequence, than that of any other prince in the series. It has therefore a proportionable scope allotted it in the plan of Mr. Gibbon; who seems to understand better than almost any historian, what periods to sketch with a light and active pen, and upon what to dwell with minuteness, and dilate his various powers. While we pursue the various adventures of Cosroes II., beginning his reign in a flight from his capital city; suing for the protection and support of the Greek emperor; soon after declaring war against the empire; successively conquering Mesopotamia, Armenia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and the greater part of Natolia; then beaten; a fugitive; and at last murdered by his own son; we are unable to conceive of a story more interesting, or more worthy of our attention. But in contemplating the rife of the Saracen khalifate, and the religion of Mahomet, which immediately succeeded these events, we are compelled to acknowledge a more astonishing object.
The following is the character of the impostor, as sketched by the accurate and judicious pencil of our historian. We will leave it to the judgment of our readers, only observing, that Mr. Gibbon has very unnecessarily brought Christianity into the comparison; and has perhaps touched the errors of the false prophet with a lighter hand, that the disparity might be the less apparent.
"But Heraclius had a much more formidable enemy to encounter in the latter part of his reign, than the effeminate and divided Persian. This was the new empire of the Saracens. Ingenious and eloquent, temperate and brave, as had been invariably their national character, they had their exertions concentred, and their courage animated by a legislator, whose institutions may vie, in the importance of their consequences, with those of Solon, Lycurgus, or Numa. Though an impostor, he propagated a religion, which, like the elevated and divine principles of Christianity, was confined to no one nation or country; but even embraced a larger portion of the human race than Christianity itself.
"Mahomet, the son of Abdallah, was born on the 9th of April, 571, in the city of Mecca. Having been early left an orphan by both parents, he received an hardy and robust education, not tempered by the elegancies of literature, nor much allayed by the indulgencies of natural affection. He was no sooner able to walk, than he was sent naked, with the infant peasantry, to attend the cattle of the village; and was obliged to seek the refreshment of sleep, as well as pursue the occupations of the day, in the open airA. He even pretended to be a stranger to the art of writing and reading. But though neglected by those who had the care of his infancy, the youth of this extraordinary personage did not pass away without some of those incidents, which might afford a glimpse of the sublimity of his genius; and some of those prodigies, with which superstition is prompt to adorn the story of the founders of nations, and the conquerors of empires. In the mean time, his understanding was enlarged by travel. It is not to be supposed that he frequented the neighbouring countries, without making some of those profound observations upon the decline of the two great empires of the East and of Persia, which were calculated to expand his views, and to mature his projects. The energies of his mind led him to despise the fopperies of idolatry; and he found the Christians, in the most unfavourable situation, torn into innumerable parties, by the sectaries of Athanasius, Arius, Eutyches, Nestorius. In this situation, he extracted that from every system that bordered most nearly upon the dictates of reason, and framed to himself a sublime doctrine, of which the unity of God, the innocence of moderate enjoyment, the obligation of temperance and munificence, were the leading principles. But it would have contributed little to his purpose, if he had stopped here. Enthusiastically devoted to his extensive designs, and guided by the most consummate art, he pretended to divine communications, related a thousand ridiculous and incredible adventures; and though he constantly refused a prodigy to the importunities of his countrymen, laid claim to several frivolous miracles, and a few thinly scattered prophecies. One of his most artful devices was the delivering the system of his religion, not in one entire code, but in detached essays. This enabled him more than once to new mould the very genius of his religion, without glaringly subjecting himself to the charge of inconsistency. From these fragments, soon after his death, was compiled the celebrated Alcoran. The style of this volume is generally turgid, heavy, monotonous. It is disfigured with childish tales and impossible adventures. But it is frequently figurative, frequently poetical, sometimes sublime. And amidst all its defects, it will remain the greatest of all monuments of uncultivated and illiterate genius.
A: "Abuleda, Chron. p. 27. Boulainvilliers, Vie de Mahomet, b. ii. p. 175. This latter writer exhibits the singular phenomenon of the native of a Christian country, unreasonably prejudiced in favour of the Arabian impostor. That he did not live, however, to finish his curious performance, is the misfortune of the republic of letters."
"The plan was carefully reserved by Mahomet for the mature age of forty years. Thus digested however, and communicated with the nicest art and the most fervid eloquence, he had the mortification to find his converts, at the end of three years, amount to no more than forty persons. But the ardour of this hero was invincible, and his success was finally adequate to his wishes. Previous to the famous aera of his flight from Mecca, he had taught his followers, that they had no defence against the persecution of their enemies, but invincible patience. But the opposition he encountered obliged him to change his maxims. He now inculcated the duty of extirpating the enemies of God, and held forth the powerful allurements of conquest and plunder. With these he united the theological dogma of predestination, and the infallible promise of paradise to such as met their fate in the field of war. By these methods he trained an intrepid and continually increasing army, inflamed with enthusiasm, and greedy of death. He prepared them for the most arduous undertakings, by continual attacks upon travelling caravans and scattered villages: a pursuit, which, though perfectly consonant with the institutions of his ancestors, painted him to the civilized nations of Europe in the obnoxious character of a robber. By degrees however, he proceeded to the greatest enterprizes; and compelled the whole peninsula of Arabia to confess his authority as a prince, and his mission as a prophet. He died, like the Grecian Philip, in the moment, when having brought his native country to co-operate in one undertaking, he meditated the invasion of distant climates, and the destruction of empires.
"The character of Mahomet however was exceeding different from that of Philip, and far more worthy of the attention of a philosopher. Philip was a mere politician, who employed the cunning of a statesman, and the revenues of a prince, in the corruption of a number of fallen and effeminate republics. But Mahomet, without riches, without rank, without education, by the mere ascendancy of his abilities, subjected by persuasion and force a simple and generous nation that had never been conquered; and laid the foundation of an empire, that extended over half the globe; and a religion, capable of surviving the fate of empires. His schemes were always laid with the truest wisdom. He lived among a people celebrated for subtlety and genius: he never laid himself open to detection. His eloquence was specious, dignified, and persuasive. And he blended with it a lofty enthusiasm, that awed those, whom familiarity might have emboldened, and silenced his enemies. He was simple of demeanour, and ostentatious of munificence. And under these plausible virtues he screened the indulgence of his constitutional propensities. The number of his concubines and his wives has been ambitiously celebrated by Christian writers. He sometimes acquired them by violence and injustice; and he frequently dismissed them without ceremony. His temper does not seem to have been naturally cruel. But we may trace in his conduct the features of a barbarian; and a part of his severity may reasonably be ascribed to the plan of religious conquest that he adopted, and that can never be reconciled with the rights of humanity."
After the victories of Omar, and the other successors of Mahomet had in a manner stripped the court of Constantinople of all its provinces, the Byzantine history dwindles into an object petty and minute. In order to vary the scene, and enhance the dignity of his subject, the author occasionally takes a prospect of the state of Rome and Italy, under the contending powers of the papacy and the new empire of the West. When the singular and unparalleled object of the Crusades presents itself, the historian embraces the illustrious scene with apparent eagerness, and bestows upon it a greater enlargement than might perhaps have been expected from the nature of his subject; but not greater, we confidently believe, than is calculated to increase the pleasure, that a reader of philosophy and taste may derive from the perusal. As the immortal Saladin is one of the most distinguished personages in this story, we have selected his character, as a specimen of this part of the work.
"No sooner however was the virtuous Noureddin removed by death, than the Christians of the East had their attention still more forcibly alarmed by the progress of the invincible Saladin. He had possessed himself of the government of Egypt; first, under the modest appellation of vizier, and then, with the more august title of soldan. He abolished the dynasty of the Fatemite khalifs. Though Noureddin had been the patron of his family, and the father of his fortunes, yet was that hero no sooner expired, than he invaded the territories of his young and unwarlike successor. He conquered the fertile and populous province of Syria. He compelled the saheb of Mawsel to do him homage. The princes of the Franks already trembled for their possessions, and prepared a new and more solemn embassy, to demand the necessary succours of their European brethren.
"The qualities of Saladin were gilded with the lustre of conquest; and it has been the singular fortune of this Moslem hero, to be painted in fairer colours by the discordant and astonished Christians, than by those of his own courtiers and countrymen, who may reasonably be supposed to have known him best. He has been compared with Alexander; and tho' he be usually stiled, and with some justice, a barbarian, it does not appear that his character would suffer in the comparison. His conquests were equally splendid; nor did he lead the forces of a brave and generous people, against a nation depressed by slavery, and relaxed with effeminacy. Under his banner Saracen encountered Saracen in equal strife; or the forces of the East were engaged with the firmer and more disciplined armies of the West. Like Alexander, he was liberal to profusion; and while all he possessed seemed the property of his friends, the monarch himself often wanted that, which with unstinted hand he had heaped upon his favourites and dependents. His sentiments were elevated, his manners polite and insinuating, and the affability of his temper was never subdued.
"But the parallel is exceedingly far from entire. He possessed not the romantic gallantry of the conqueror of Darius; he had none of those ardent and ungovernable passions, through whose medium the victories of Arbela and Issus had transformed the generous hero into the lawless tyrant. It was a maxim to which he uniformly adhered, to accomplish his lofty designs by policy and intrigue, and to leave as little as possible to the unknown caprice of fortune. In his mature age he was temperate, gentle, patient. The passions of his soul, and the necessities of nature were subordinate to the equanimity of his characterA. His deportment was grave and thoughtful; his religion sincere and enthusiastic. He was ignorant of letters, and despised all learning, that was not theological. The cultivation, that had obtained under the khalifs, had not entirely civilized the genius of Saladin. His maxims of war were indeed the maxims of the age, and ought not to be adopted as a particular imputation. But the action of his striking off with his own hand the head of a Christian prince, who had attacked the defenceless caravan of the pilgrims of Mecca, exhibits to our view all the features of a fierce and untutored barbarianB ."
A: Bohaoddin, p. 71. He was an eye witness, and had a considerable share in many of the transactions of Saladin. He is generally accurate, and tolerably impartial.
B: Ebn Shohnah, Heg. 589. Abulfarai, Renaudot, p. 243. D'Herbelot, biblioth. orient. art. Togrul, &c.
As the whole of this excellent work is now before us, it may not be impertinent, before we finally take our leave of it, to attempt an idea of its celebrated author. We are happy in this place to declare our opinion, that no author ever better obeyed the precept of Horace and Boileau, in choosing a subject nicely correspondent to the talents he possessed. The character of this writer, patient yet elegant, accurate in enquiry, acute in reflexion, was peculiarly calculated to trace the flow and imperceptible decline of empire, and to throw light upon a period, darkened by the barbarism of its heroes, and the confused and narrow genius of its authors. In a word, we need not fear to class the performance with those that shall do lasting, perhaps immortal, honour, to the country by which they have been produced.
But like many other works of this elevated description, the time shall certainly come, when the history before us shall no longer be found, but in the libraries of the learned, and the cabinets of the curious. At present it is equally sought by old and young, the learned and unlearned, the macaroni, the peer, and the fine lady, as well as the student and scholar. But this is to be ascribed to the rage of fashion. The performance is not naturally calculated for general acceptance. It is, by the very tenor of the subject, interspersed with a thousand minute and elaborate investigations, which, in spite of perspicuous method, and classical allusion, will deter the idle, and affright the gay.
Nor can we avoid ascribing the undistinguishing and extravagant applause, that has been bestowed upon the style, to the same source of fashion, the rank, the fortune, the connexions of the writer. It is indeed loaded with epithets, and crowded with allusions. But though the style be often raised, the thoughts are always calm, equal, and rigidly classic. The language is full of art, but perfectly exempt from fire. Learning, penetration, accuracy, polish; any thing is rather the characteristic of the historian, than the flow of eloquence, and the flame of genius. Far therefore from classing him in this respect with such writers as the immortal Hume, who have perhaps carried the English language to the highest perfection it is capable of reaching; we are inclined to rank him below Dr. Johnson, though we are by no means insensible to the splendid faults of that admirable writer.
One word perhaps ought to be said respecting Mr. Gibbon's treatment of Christianity. His wit is indeed by no means uniformly happy; as where for instance, he tells us, that the name of Le Boeuf is remarkably apposite to the character of that antiquarian; or where, speaking of the indefatigable diligence of Tillemont, he informs us, that "the patient and sure-footed mule of the Alps may be trusted in the most slippery paths." But allowing every thing for the happiness of his irony, and setting aside our private sentiments respecting the justice of its application, we cannot help thinking it absolutely incompatible, with the laws of history. For our own part, we honestly confess, that we have met with more than one passage, that has puzzled us whether it ought to be understood in jest or earnest. The irony of a single word he must be a churl who would condemn; but the continuance of this figure in serious composition, throws truth and falsehood, right and wrong into inextricable perplexity.
The expectation of almost all ranks has been as much excited by the present performance, as perhaps by almost any publication in the records of literature. The press has scarcely been able to keep pace with the eagerness of the public, and the third edition is already announced, before we have been able to gratify our readers with an account of this interesting work. For a great historian to adventure an established name upon so recent and arduous a subject, is an instance that has scarcely occurred. Reports were sometime ago industriously propagated that Dr. Robertson had turned his attention to a very different subject, and even when it was generally known that the present work was upon the eve of publication, it was still questioned by many, whether a writer, so celebrated for prudence, had not declined the more recent part of the North American history. The motives of his conduct upon this head as they are stated in the preface, we shall here lay before our readers.
"But neither the history of Portuguese America, nor the early history of our own settlements, have constituted the most arduous part of the present publication. The revolution, which, unfortunately for this country, hath recently taken place in the British colonies, hath excited the most general attention, at the same time that it hath rendered the gratification of public curiosity a matter of as much delicacy as necessity. Could this event have been foreseen by me, I should perhaps have been more cautious of entering into engagements with the public. To embark upon a subject, respecting which the sentiments of my countrymen have been so much divided, and the hand of time hath not yet collected the verdicts of mankind; while the persons, to whose lot it hath fallen to act the principal parts upon the scene, are almost all living; is a task that prudence might perhaps refuse, and modesty decline. But circumstanced as I was, I have chosen rather to consider these peculiarities as pleas for the candour of my readers, than as motives to withdraw myself from so important an undertaking. I should ill deserve the indulgence I have experienced from the public, were I capable of withdrawing from a task by which their curiosity might be gratified, from any private inducements of inconvenience or difficulty."
We have already said, and the reader will have frequent occasion to recollect it, that we by no means generally intend an analysis of the several works that may come before us. In the present instance, we do not apprehend that we shall lay ourselves open to much blame, by passing over in silence the discoveries of Vespusius, and the conquests of Baretto; and laying before our readers some extracts from the history of the late war. It is impossible not to remark that the subject is treated with much caution, and that, though the sentiments of a royalist be every where conspicuous, they are those of a royalist, moderated by misfortune and defeat.
The following is Dr. Robertson's account of the declaration of independence.
"It is by this time sufficiently visible, that the men, who took upon themselves to be most active in directing the American counsels, were men of deep design and extensive ambition, who by no means confined their views to the redress of those grievances of which they complained, and which served them for instruments in the pursuit of objects less popular and specious. By degrees they sought to undermine the allegiance, and dissolve the ties, which connected the colonies with the parent country of Britain. Every step that was taken by her ministry to restore tranquility to the empire, was artfully misrepresented by the zealots of faction. Every unguarded expression, or unfortunate measure of irritation was exaggerated by leaders, who considered their own honour and dignity as inseparable from further advances, and predicted treachery and insult as the consequences of retreating. They now imagined they had met with a favourable opportunity for proceeding to extremities. Their influence was greatest in the general congress, and by their means a circular manifesto was issued by that assembly intended to ascertain the disposition of the several colonies respecting a declaration of independence.
"They called their countrymen to witness how real had been their grievances, and how moderate their claims. They said, it was impossible to have proceeded with more temper or greater deliberation, but that their complaints had been constantly superseded, their petitions to the throne rejected. The administration of Great Britain had not hesitated to attempt to starve them into surrender, and having miscarried in this, they were ready to employ the whole force of their country, with all the foreign auxiliaries they could obtain, in prosecution of their unjust and tyrannical purposes. They were precipitated, it was said, by Britain into a state of hostility, and there no longer remained for them a liberty of choice. They must either throw down their arms, and expect the clemency of men who had acted as the enemies of their rights; or they must consider themselves as in a state of warfare, and abide by the consequences of that state. Warfare involved independency. Without this their efforts must be irregular, feeble, and without all prospect of success; they could possess no power to suppress mutinies, or to punish conspiracies; nor could they expect countenance and support from any of the states of Europe, however they might be inclined to favour them, while they acknowledged themselves to be subjects, and it was uncertain how soon they might sacrifice their friends and allies to the hopes of a reunion. To look back, they were told, to the king of England, after all the insults they had experienced, and the hostilities that were begun, would be the height of pusillanimity and weakness. They were bid to think a little for their posterity, who by the irreversible laws of nature and situation, could have no alternative left them but to be slaves or independent. Finally, many subtle reasonings were alledged, to evince the advantages they must derive from intrinsic legislation, and general commerce.
"On the other hand, the middle and temperate party, represented this step as unnecessary, uncertain in its benefits, and irretrievable in its consequences. They expatiated on the advantages that had long been experienced by the colonists from the fostering care of Great Britain, the generosity of the efforts she had made to protect them, and the happiness they had known under her auspicious patronage. They represented their doubt of the ability of the colonies to defend themselves without her alliance. They stated the necessity of a common superior to balance the separate and discordant interests of the different provinces. They dwelt upon the miseries of an internal and doubtful struggle. Determined never to depart from the assertion of what they considered as their indefeasible right, they would incessantly besiege the throne with their humble remonstrances. They would seek the clemency of England, rather than the alliance of those powers, whom they conceived to be the real enemies of both; nor would they ever be accessory to the shutting up the door of reconciliation.
"But the voice of moderation is seldom heard amidst the turbulence of civil dissention. Violent counsels prevailed. The decisive and irrevocable step was made on the 4th of July 1776. It remains with posterity to decide upon its merits. Since that time it has indeed received the sanction of military success; but whatever consequences it may produce to America, the fatal day must ever be regretted by every sincere friend to the British empire."
The other extract we shall select is from the story of Lord Cornwallis's surrender in Virginia, and the consequent termination of the American war.
"The loss of these redoubts may be considered as deciding the fate of the British troops. The post was indeed originally so weak and insufficient to resist the force that attacked it, that nothing but the assured expectation of relief from the garrison of New York, could have induced the commander to undertake its defence, and calmly to wait the approaches of the enemy. An officer of so unquestionable gallantry would, rather have hazarded an encounter in the field, and trusted his adventure to the decision of fortune, than by cooping his army in so inadequate a fortress, to have prepared for them inevitable misfortune and disgrace. But with the expectations he had been induced to form, he did not think himself justified in having recourse to desperate expedients.
"These hopes were now at an end. The enemy had already silenced his batteries. Nothing remained to hinder them from completing their second parallel, three hundred yards nearer to the besieged than the first. His lordship had received no intelligence of the approach of succours, and a probability did not remain that he could defend his station till such time as he could expect their arrival. Thus circumstanced, with the magnanimity peculiar to him, he wrote to Sir Henry Clinton, to acquaint him with the posture of his affairs, and to recommend to the fleet and the army that they should not make any great risk in endeavouring to extricate them.
"But although he regarded his situation as hopeless, he did not neglect any effort becoming a general, to lengthen the siege, and procrastinate the necessity of a surrender, if it was impossible finally to prevent it. The number of his troops seemed scarcely sufficient to countenance a considerable sally, but the emergency was so critical, that he ordered about three hundred and fifty men, on the morning of the 16th, to attack the batteries that appeared to be in the greatest forwardness, and to spike their guns. The assault was impetuous and successful. But either from their having executed the business upon which they were sent in a hasty and imperfect manner, or from the activity and industry of the enemy, the damage was repaired, and the batteries completed before evening.
"One choice only remained. To carry the troops across to Gloucester Point, and make one last effort to escape. Boats were accordingly prepared, and at ten o'clock at night the army began to embark. The first embarkation arrived in safety. The greater part of the troops were already landed. At this critical moment of hope and apprehension, of expectation and danger, the weather, which had hitherto been moderate and calm, suddenly changed; the sky was clouded, the wind rose and a violent storm ensued. The boats with the remaining troops were borne down the stream. To complete the anxiety and danger, the batteries of the enemy were opened, the day dawned, and their efforts were directed against the northern shore of the river. Nothing could be hoped, but the escape of the boats, and the safety of the troops. They were brought back without much loss, and every thing was replaced in its former situation.
"Every thing now verged to the dreaded crisis. The fire of the besiegers was heavy and unintermitted. The British could not return a gun, and the shells, their last resource, were nearly exhausted. They were themselves worn down with sickness and continual watching. A few hours it appeared must infallibly decide their fate. And if any thing were still wanting, the French ships which had entered the mouth of the river, seemed prepared to second the general assault on their side. In this situation, lord Cornwallis, not less calm and humane, than he was intrepid, chose not to sacrifice the lives of so many brave men to a point of honour, but the same day proposed to general Washington a cessation of twenty four hours, in order mutually to adjust the terms of capitulation.
"The troops which surrendered in the posts of York and Gloucester amounted to between five and six thousand men, but there were not above three thousand eight hundred of these in a capacity for actual service. They were all obliged to become prisoners of war. Fifteen hundred seamen were included in the capitulation. The commander, unable to obtain terms for the loyal Americans, was obliged to have recourse to a sloop, appointed to carry his dispatches, and which he stipulated should pass unsearched, to convey them to New York. The British fleet and army arrived off the Chesapeak five days after the surrender. Having learned the melancholy fate of their countrymen, they were obliged to return, without effecting any thing, to their former station.
"Such was the catastrophe of an army, that in intrepidity of exertion, and the patient endurance of the most mortifying reverses, are scarcely to be equalled by any thing that is to be met with in history. The applause they have received undiminished by their subsequent misfortunes, should teach us to exclaim less upon the precariousness of fame, and animate us with the assurance that heroism and constancy can never be wholly disappointed of their reward."
The publication before us is written with that laudable industry, which ought ever to distinguish a great historian. The author appears to have had access to some of the best sources of information; and has frequently thrown that light upon a recent story, which is seldom to be expected, but from the developements of time, and the researches of progressive generations.
We cannot bestow equal praise upon his impartiality. Conscious however and reserved upon general questions, the historian has restricted himself almost entirely to the narrative form, and has seldom indulged us with, what we esteem the principal ornament of elegant history, reflexion and character. The situation of Dr. Robertson may suggest to us an obvious, though incompetent, motive in the present instance. Writing for his contemporaries and countrymen, he could not treat the resistance of America, as the respectable struggle of an emerging nation. Writing for posterity, he could not denominate treason and rebellion, that which success, at least, had stamped with the signatures of gallantry and applause. But such could not have been the motives of the writer in that part of the history of America, which was given to the world some years ago. Perhaps Dr. Robertson was willing to try, how far his abilities could render the most naked story agreeable and interesting. We will allow him to have succeeded. But we could well have spared the experiment.
The style of this performance is sweet and eloquent. We hope however that we shall not expose ourselves to the charge of fastidiousness, when we complain that it is rather too uniformly so. The narrative is indeed occasionally enlivened, and the language picturesque. But in general we search in vain for some roughness to relieve the eye, and some sharpness to provoke the palate. One full and sweeping period succeeds another, and though pleased and gratified at first, the attention gradually becomes languid.
It would not perhaps be an unentertaining employment to compare the style of Dr. Robertson's present work with that of his first publication, the admired History of Scotland. The language of that performance is indeed interspersed with provincial and inelegant modes of expression, and the periods are often unskilfully divided. But it has a vigour and spirit, to which such faults are easily pardoned. We can say of it, what we can scarcely say of any of the author's later publications, that he has thrown his whole strength into it.
In that instance however he entered the lists with almost the only historian, with whom Dr. Robertson must appear to disadvantage, the incomparable Hume. In the comparison, we cannot but acknowledge that the eloquence of the former speaks the professor, not the man of the world. He reasons indeed, but it is with the reasons of logic; and not with the acuteness of philosophy, and the intuition of genius. Let not the living historian be offended. To be second to Hume, in our opinion might satisfy the ambition of a Livy or a Tacitus.
This agreeable tale appears to be the production of the noble author of the Modern Anecdote. It is told with the same humour and careless vivacity. The design is to ridicule the cold pedantry that judges of youth, without making any allowance for the warmth of inexperience, and the charms of beauty. Such readers as take up a book merely for entertainment, and do not quarrel with an author that does not scrupulously confine himself within the limits of moral instruction, will infallibly find their account in it.
The following specimen will give some idea of the manner in which the story is told.
"The learned Bertram was much scandalized at the dissipation that prevailed in the court of Hohenzollern. He was credibly informed that the lord treasurer of the principality, who had no less than a revenue of 109l. 7s. 10-3/4d. committed to his management, sometimes forgot the cares of an exchequer in the arms of a mistress. Nay, fame had even whispered in his ear, that the reverend confessor himself had an intrigue with a certain cook-maid. But that which beyond all things, afflicted him was the amour of Theodore with the beautiful Wilhelmina. What, cried he, when he ruminated upon the subject, can it be excusable in the learned Bertram, whose reputation has filled a fourth part of the circle of Swabia, who twice bore away the prize in the university of Otweiler, to pass these crying sins in silence? It shall not be said. Thus animated, he strided away to the antichamber of Theodore. Theodore, who was all graciousness, venerated the reputation of Bertram, and ordered him to be instantly admitted. The eyes of the philosopher flashed with anger. Most noble prince, cried he, I am come to inform you, that you must immediately break with the beautiful Wilhelmina. Theodore stared, but made no answer. The vices of your highness, said Bertram, awake my indignation. While you toy away your hours in the lap of a w——e, the vast principality of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen hastens to its fall. Reflect, my lord; three villages, seven hamlets, and near eleven grange houses and cottages, depend upon you for their political prosperity. Alas, thought Theodore, what are grange houses and cottages compared with the charms of Wilhelmina? Shall the lewd tricks of a wanton make you forget the jealous projects of the prince of Hohenzollern Hechingen, the elder branch of your illustrious house? Theodore pulled out his watch, that he might not outstay his appointment. My lord, continued Bertram, ruin impends over you. Two peasants of the district of Etwingen have already been seduced from their loyalty, a nail that supported the chart of your principality has fallen upon the ground, and your father confessor is in bed with a cook-maid. Theodore held forth his hand for Bertram to kiss, and flew upon the wings of desire to the habitation of Wilhelmina."
There scarcely seems to exist a more original genius in the present age than this celebrated writer. In the performances with which she has already entertained the public, we cannot so much as trace a feature of her illustrious predecessors; the fable, the characters, the incidents are all her own. In the mean time they are not less happy, than they are new. A Belfield, a Monckton, a Morrice, and several other personages of the admired Cecilia, will scarcely yield to the most finished draughts of the greatest writers. In comedy, in tragedy, Miss Burney alike excels. And the union of them both in the Vauxhall scene of the death of Harrel ranks among the first efforts of human genius. Of consequence we may safely pronounce that the reputation of this lady is by no means dependent upon fashion or caprice, but will last as long as there is understanding to discern, and taste to relish the beauties of fiction.
It must be acknowledged that her defects are scarcely less conspicuous than her excellencies. In her underplots she generally miscarries. We can trace nothing of Miss Burney in the stories of Macartney, Albany, and the Hills. Her comedy sometimes deviates into farce. The character of Briggs in particular, though it very successfully excites our laughter, certainly deforms a work, which in its principal constituents ranks in the very highest species of composition. Her style is often affected, and in the serious is sometimes so laboured and figurative, as to cost the reader a very strict attention to discover the meaning, without perfectly repaying his trouble. These faults are most conspicuous in Cecilia, which upon the whole we esteem by much her greatest performance. In Evelina she wrote more from inartificial nature. And we are happy to observe in the present publication, that the masculine sense, by which Miss Burney is distinguished, has raised her almost wholly above these little errors. The style of Louisa is more polished than that of Evelina, and more consonant to true taste than that of Cecilia.
The principal story of Louisa, like that of Cecilia, is very simple, but adorned with a thousand beautiful episodes. As the great action of the latter is Cecilia's sacrifice of fortune to a virtuous and laudable attachment, so that of the former is the sacrifice of rank, in the marriage of the heroine to a young man of the most distinguished merit, but neither conspicuous by birth, nor favoured by fortune. The event, romantic and inconsistent with the manners of polished society as it may appear, is introduced by such a train of incidents, that it is impossible not to commend and admire the conduct of the heroine.
Her character is that of inflexible vivacity and wit, accompanied with a spice of coquetry and affectation. And though this line of portrait seemed exhausted by Congreve and Richardson, we will venture to pronounce Louisa a perfect original. It is impossible to describe such a character in the abstract without recollecting Millamant and Lady G. But in reading this most agreeable novel, you scarcely think of either. As there is no imitation, so there are not two expressions in the work, that can lead from one to the other. Louisa is more amiable than the former, and more delicate and feminine than the latter.
Mr. Burchel, the happy lover, is an author, a young man of infinite genius, of romantic honour, of unbounded generosity. Lord Raymond, the brother of Louisa, becomes acquainted with him in his travels, by an incident in which Mr. Burchel does him the most essential service. Being afterwards introduced to his sister, and being deeply smitten with her beauty and accomplishments, he quits the house of lord Raymond abruptly, with a determination entirely to drop his connexion. Sometime after, in a casual and unexpected meeting, he saves the life of his mistress. In the conclusion, his unparalleled merit, and his repeated services surmount every obstacle to an union.
Besides these two there are many other characters happily imagined. Louisa is involved in considerable distress previous to the final catastrophe. The manner in which her gay and sportive character is supported in these scenes is beyond all commendation. But the extract we shall give, as most singular in its nature, relates to another considerable female personage, Olivia. As the humour of Louisa is lively and fashionable, that of Olivia is serious and romantic. Educated in perfect solitude, she is completely ignorant of modern manners, and entertains the most sovereign contempt for them. Full of sentiment and sensibility, she is strongly susceptible to every impression, and her conduct is wholly governed by her feelings. Trembling at every leaf, and agonized at the smallest accident, she is yet capable, from singularity of thinking, of enterprises the most bold and unaccountable. Conformably to this temper, struck with the character of Burchel, and ravished with his address and behaviour, she plans the most extraordinary attempt upon his person. By her orders he is surprised in a solitary excursion, after some resistance actually seized, and conducted blindfold to the house of his fair admirer. Olivia now appears, professes her attachment, and lays her fortune, which is very considerable, at his feet. Unwilling however to take him by surprise, she allows him a day for deliberation, and insists upon his delivering at the expiration of it, an honest and impartial answer. His entertainment is sumptuous.
In the mean time, a peasant, who at a distance was witness to the violence committed upon Burchel, and had traced him to the house of Olivia, carries the account of what he had seen to Raymond Place. The company, which, in the absence of lord Raymond, consisted of Louisa, Mr. Bromley, an uncle, Sir Charles Somerville, a suitor, and Mr. Townshend, a sarcastic wit, determine to set off the next morning for the house of the ravisher. This is the scene which follows.
"Alarmed at the bustle upon the stairs, Olivia, more dead than alive, pressed the hand of Burchel with a look of inexpressible astonishment and mortification, and withdrew to the adjoining apartment.
"The door instantly flew open. Burchel advanced irresolutely a few steps towards the company, bowed, and was silent.
"The person that first entered was Mr. Bromley. He instantly seized hold of Burchel, and shook him very heartily by the hand.
"Ha, my boy, said he, have we found you? Well, and how? safe and sound? Eh? clapping him upon the shoulder.
"At your service, sir, answered Burchel, with an air of embarrassment and hesitation.
"It was not altogether the right thing, methinks, to leave us all without saying why, or wherefore, and stay out all night. Why we thought you had been murdered. My niece here has been in hysterics.
"'Pon honour, cried sir Charles, you are very facetious. But we heard, Mr. Burchel, you were ran away with. It must have been very alarming. I vow, I should have been quite fluttered. Pray, sir, how was it?
"Why, indeed, interposed Mr. Townshend, the very relation seemed to disturb sir Charles. For my part, I was more alarmed for him than for Miss Bromley.
"Well, but, returned Bromley, impatiently, it is a queer affair. I hope as the lady went so far, you were not shy. You have not spoiled all, and affronted her.
"Oh, surely not, exclaimed Townshend, you do not suspect him of being such a boor. Doubtless every thing is settled by this time. The lady has a fine fortune, Burchel; poets do not meet with such every day; Miss Bromley, you look pale.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! you do me infinite honour, cried Louisa, making him a droll curtesy; what think you, sir Charles?
"'Pon my soul, I never saw you look so bewitchingly.
"Well, but my lad, cried Bromley, you say nothing, don't answer a single question. What, mum's the word, eh?
"Indeed, sir, I do not know,—I do not understand—the affair is entirely a mystery to myself—it is in the power of no one but Miss Seymour to explain it.
"Well, and where is she? where is she?
"O I will go and look her, cried Louisa; will you come, Sir Charles; and immediately tripped out of the room. Sir Charles followed.
"Olivia had remained in too much confusion to withdraw farther than the next room; and upon this new intrusion, she threw herself upon a sopha, and covered her face with her hands.
"O here is the stray bird, exclaimed Louisa, fluttering in the meshes.
"Mr. Bromley immediately entered; Mr. Townshend followed; Burchel brought up the rear.
"My dearest creature, cried Louisa, do not be alarmed. We are come to wish you joy; and seized one of her hands.
"Well, but where's the parson? exclaimed Bromley—What, has grace been said, the collation served, and the cloth removed? Upon my word, you have been very expeditious, Miss.
"My God, Bromley, said Townshend, do not reflect so much upon the ladies modesty. I will stake my life they were not to have been married these three days.
"Olivia now rose from the sopha in unspeakable agitation, and endeavoured to defend herself. Gentlemen, assure yourselves,—give me leave to protest to you,—indeed you will be sorry—you are mistaken———Oh Miss Bromley, added she, in a piercing voice, and threw her arms eagerly about the neck of Louisa.
"Mind them not, my dear, said Louisa; you know, gentlemen, Miss Seymour is studious; it was a point in philosophy she wished to settle; that's all, Olivia; and kissed her cheek.
"Or perhaps, added Townshend,—the lady is young and inexperienced—she wanted a comment upon the bower scene in Cleopatra.
"Olivia suddenly raised her head and came forward, still leaning one arm upon Louisa. Hear me, cried she; I will be heard. What have I done that would expose me to the lash of each unlicenced tongue? What has there been in any hour of my life, upon which for calumny to fix her stain? Of what loose word, of what act of levity and dissipation can I be convicted? Have I not lived in the solitude of a recluse? Oh, fortune, hard and unexampled!
"Deuce take me, cried sir Charles, whispering Townshend, if I ever saw any thing so handsome.
"Olivia stood in a posture firm and collected, her bosom heaving with resentment; but her face was covered with blushes, and her eyes were languishing and sorrowful.
"For the present unfortunate affair I will acknowledge the truth. Mr. Burchel to me appeared endowed with every esteemable accomplishment, brave, generous, learned, imaginative, and tender. By what nobler qualities could a female heart be won? Fashion, I am told, requires that we should not make the advances. I reck not fashion, and have never been her slave. Fortune has thrown him at a distance from me. It should have been my boast to trample upon her imaginary distinctions. I would never have forced an unwilling hand. But if constancy, simplicity and regard could have won a heart, his heart had been mine. I know that the succession of external objects would have made the artless virtues of Olivia pass unheeded. It was for that I formed my little plan. I will not blush for a scheme that no bad passion prompted. But it is over, and I will return to my beloved solitude with what unconcern I may. God bless you, Mr. Burchel; I never meant you any harm: and in saying this, she advanced two steps forward, and laid her hand on his.
"Burchel, without knowing what he did, fell on one knee and kissed it.
"This action revived the confusion of Olivia; she retreated, and Louisa took hold of her arm. Will you retire, said Louisa? You are a sweet good creature. Olivia assented, advanced a few steps forward, and then with her head half averted, took a parting glance at Burchel, and hurried away.
"A strange girl this, said Bromley! Devil take me, if I know what to make of her.
"I vow, cried sir Charles, I am acquainted with all the coteries in town, and never met with any thing like her.
"Why, she is as coming, rejoined the squire, as a milk-maid, and yet I do not know how she has something that dashes one too.
"Ah, cried sir Charles, shaking his head, she has nothing of the manners of the grand monde.
"That I can say nothing to, said Bromley, but, in my mind, her behaviour is gracious and agreeable enough, if her conduct were not so out of the way.
"What think you, Burchel, said Townshend, she is handsome, innocent, good tempered and rich; excellent qualities, let me tell you, for a wife.
"I think her, said Burchel, more than you say. Her disposition is amiable, and her character exquisitely sweet and feminine. She is capable of every thing generous and admirable. A false education, and visionary sentiments, to which she will probably one day be superior, have rendered her for the present an object of pity. But, though I loved her, I should despise my own heart, if it were capable of taking advantage of her inexperience, to seduce her to a match so unequal.
"At this instant Louisa re-entered, and making the excuses of Olivia, the company returned to the carriage, sir Charles mounted on horseback as he came, and they carried off the hero in triumph."
2 VOLS. SHANDEAN.
This is the only instance in which we shall take the liberty to announce to the public an author hitherto unknown. Thus situated, we shall not presume to prejudice our readers either ways concerning him, but shall simply relate the general plan of the work.
It attempts a combination, which has so happily succeeded with the preceding writer, of the comic and the pathetic. The latter however is the principal object. The hero is intended for a personage in the highest degree lovely and interesting, who in his earliest bloom of youth is subjected to the most grievous calamities, and terminates them not but by an untimely death. The writer seems to have apprehended that a dash of humour was requisite to render his story in the highest degree interesting. And he has spared no exertion of any kind of which he was capable, for accomplishing this purpose.
The scene is laid in Egypt and the adjacent countries. The peasant is the son of the celebrated Saladin. The author has exercised his imagination in painting the manners of the times and climates of which he writes.
The public has been for some time agreed that Mr. Hayley is the first of English poets. Envy herself scarcely dares utter a dissentient murmur, and even generous emulation turns pale at the mention of his name. His productions, allowing for the very recent period in which he commenced author, are rather numerous. A saturnine critic might be apt to suspect that they were also hasty, were not the loftiness of their conceptions, the majesty of their style, the richness of their imagination, and above all, the energy both of their thoughts and language so conspicuous, that we may defy any man of taste to rise from the perusal, and say, that all the study and consideration in the world could possibly have made them better. After a course however of unremitted industry, Mr. Hayley seemed to have relaxed, and to the eternal mortification of the literary world, last winter could not boast a single production of the prince of song. The muses have now paid us another visit. We are very sensible of our incapacity to speak, or even think of this writer with prosaic phlegm; we cannot however avoid pronouncing, that, in our humble opinion, Mr. Hayley has now outdone all his former outdoings, and greatly repaid us for the absence we so dearly mourned.
We are sensible that it is unbecoming the character of a critic to lay himself out in general and vague declamation. It is also within the laws of possibility, that an incurious or unpoetical humour in some of our readers, and (ah me, the luckless day!) penury in others, may have occasioned their turning over the drowsy pages of the review, before they have perused the original work. Some account of the plan, and a specimen of the execution may therefore be expected.
The first may be dispatched in two words. The design is almost exactly analogous to that of the Essay on History, which has been so much celebrated. The author triumphs in the novelty of his subject, and pays a very elegant compliment to modern times, as having been in a manner the sole inventors of this admirable species of composition, of which he has undertaken to deliver the precepts. He deduces the pedigree of novel through several generations from Homer and Calliope. He then undertakes to characterise the most considerable writers in this line. He discusses with much learning, and all the logical subtlety so proper to the didactic muse, the pretensions of the Cyropedia of Xenophon; but at length rejects it as containing nothing but what was literally true, and therefore belonging to the class of history. He is very eloquent upon the Shepherd of Hermas, Theagenes and Chariclea, and the Ethiopics of Heliodorus. Turpin, Scudery, Cotterel, Sidney, the countess D'Anois, and "all such writers as were never read," next pass in review. Boccace and Cervantes occupy a very principal place. The modern French writers of fictitious history from Fenelon to Voltaire, close the first epistle. The second is devoted to English authors. The third to the laws of novel writing.
We shall present our readers, as a specimen, with the character of that accomplished writer, John Bunyan, whom the poet has generously rescued from that contempt which fashionable manners, and fashionable licentiousness had cast upon him.
Amidst the spirited beauties of this passage, it is impossible not to consider some as particularly conspicuous. How strong and nervous the second and fourth lines! How happily expressive the two Alexandrines! What a luminous idea does the epithet "murky" present to us! How original and picturesque that of the "clotted tear!" If the same expression be found in the Ode to Howard, let it however be considered, that the exact propriety of that image to wash it from the face (for how else, candid reader, could a tear already clotted be removed) is a clear improvement, and certainly entitles the author to a repetition. Lastly, how consistent the assemblage, how admirable the climax in the last six lines! Incomparable they might appear, but we recollect a passage nearly equal in the Essay on History,
How elevated the turn of this passage! To be at once luxuriant and feeble, and to lose one's way till we get into a passion, (with our guide, I suppose) is peculiar to a poetic subject. It is impossible to mistake this for prose. Then how pathetic the conclusion! What hard heart can refuse its compassion to personages abused by a dream, and that dream the dream of a History!
Oh, wonderful poet, thou shalt be immortal, if my eulogiums can make thee so! To thee thine own rhyme shall never be applied, (Dii, avertite omen).
This author cannot certainly be compared with Mr. Hayley.
We know not by what fatality Dr. Beattie has acquired the highest reputation as a philosopher, while his poetry, though acknowledged to be pleasing, is comparatively little thought on. It must always be with regret and diffidence, that we dissent from the general verdict. We should however be somewhat apprehensive of sacrificing the character we have assumed, did we fail to confess that his philosophy has always appeared to us at once superficial and confused, feeble and presumptuous. We do not know any thing it has to recommend it, but the good intention, and we wish we could add the candid spirit, with which it is written.
Of his poetry however we think very differently. Though deficient in nerve, it is at once sweet and flowing, simple and amiable. We are happy to find the author returning to a line in which he appears so truly respectable. The present performance is by no means capable to detract from his character as a poet. This well known tale is related in a manner highly pathetic and interesting. As we are not at all desirous of palling the curiosity of the reader for the poem itself, we shall make our extract at random. The following stanzas, as they are taken from a part perfectly cool and introductory, are by no means the best in this agreeable piece. They are prefaced by some general reflexions on the mischiefs occasioned by the sacra fames auri. The reader will perceive that Dr. Beattie, according to the precept of Horace, has rushed into the midst of things, and not taken up the narrative in chronological order.
There are few characters, that have risen into higher favour with the English nation, than Mr. Sheridan. He was known and admired, as a man of successful gallantry, both with the fair sex and his own, before he appeared, emphatically speaking, upon the public stage. Since that time, his performances, of the Duenna, and the School for Scandal, have been distinguished with the public favour beyond any dramatical productions in the language. His compositions, in gaiety of humour and spriteliness of wit, are without an equal.
Satiated, it should seem, with the applauses of the theatre, he turned his attention to public and parliamentary speaking. The vulgar prejudice, that genius cannot expect to succeed in two different walks, for some time operated against him. But he possessed merit, and he compelled applause. He now ranks, by universal consent, as an orator and a statesman, with the very first names of an age, that will not perhaps be accounted unproductive in genius and abilities.
It was now generally supposed that he had done with the theatre. For our own part, we must confess; we entertain all possible veneration for parliamentary and ministerial abilities; we should be mortified to rank second to any man in our enthusiasm for the official talents of Mr. Sheridan: But as the guardians of literature, we regretted the loss of his comic powers. We wished to preserve the poet, without losing the statesman. Greatly as we admired the opera and the comedy, we conceived his unbounded talents capable of something higher still. To say all in a word, we looked at his hands for the MISANTHROPE of the British muse.
It is unnecessary to say then, that we congratulate the public upon the present essay. It is meaned only as a jeu d'esprit. But we consider it as the earnest of that perseverance, which we wished to prove, and feared to lose. The scene we have extracted, and which, with another, that may be considered as a kind of praxis upon the rules, constitutes the chief part of the alteration, is apparently personal. How far personal satire is commendable in general, and how far it is just in the present instance, are problems that we shall leave with our readers.—As much as belongs to Jonson we have put in italics.
Enter Captain Face, disguised as Lungs, and Kastril.
- Who would you speak with?
- Where is the captain?
- Gone, sir, about some business.
- He will return immediately. But master doctor, his lieutenant is here.
- Say, I would speak with him.
- Come near, sir.—I know you well.—You are my terrae fili—that is—my boy of land—same three thousand pounds a year.
- How know you that, old boy?
- I know the subject of your visit, and I'll satisfy you. Let us see now what notion you have of the matter. It is a nice point to broach a quarrel right.
- You lie.
- How now?—give me the lie?—for what, my boy?
- Nay look you to that.—I am beforehand—that's my business.
- Oh, this is not the art of quarrelling—'tis poor and pitiful!—What, sir, would you restrict the noble science of debate to the mere lie?—Phaw, that's a paltry trick, that every fool could hit.—A mere Vandal could throw his gantlet, and an Iroquois knock his antagonist down.—No, sir, the art of quarrel is vast and complicated.—Months may worthily be employed in the attainment,—and the exercise affords range for the largest abilities.—To quarrel after the newest and most approved method, is the first of sciences,—the surest test of genius, and the last perfection of civil society.
- You amaze me. I thought to dash the lie in another's face was the most respectable kind of anger.
- O lud, sir, you are very ignorant. A man that can only give the lie is not worth the name of quarrelsome—quite tame and spiritless!—No, sir, the angry boy must understand, beside the QUARREL DIRECT—in which I own you have some proficiency—a variety of other modes of attack;—such as, the QUARREL PREVENTIVE—the QUARREL OBSTREPEROUS—the QUARREL SENSITIVE—the QUARREL OBLIQUE—and the QUARREL PERSONAL.
- O Mr. doctor, that I did but understand half so much of the art of brangling as you do!—What would I give!—Harkee—I'll settle an hundred a year upon you.—But come, go on, go on—
- O sir! you quite overpower me—why, if you use me thus, you will draw all my secrets from me at once.—I shall almost kick you down stairs the first lecture.
- How!—Kick me down stairs?—Ware that—Blood and oons, sir!
- Well, well,—be patient—be patient—Consider, it is impossible to communicate the last touches of the art of petulance, but by fist and toe,—by sword and pistol.
- Sir, I don't understand you!
- Enough. We'll talk of that another time.—What I have now to explain is the cool and quiet art of debate—fit to be introduced into the most elegant societies—or the most august assemblies.—You, my angry boy, are in parliament?
- No, doctor.—I had indeed some thoughts of it.—But imagining that the accomplishments of petulance and choler would be of no use there—I gave it up.
- Good heavens!—Of no use?—Why, sir, they can be no where so properly.—Only conceive how august a little petulance—and what a graceful variety snarling and snapping would introduce!—True, they are rather new in that connexion.—Believe me, sir, there is nothing for which I have so ardently longed as to meet them there.—I should die contented.—And you, sir,—if you would introduce them—Eh?
- Doctor, you shall be satisfied—I'll be in parliament in a month—I'll be prime minister—LORD HIGH TREASURER of ENGLAND—or, CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER!
- Oh, by all means CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER! You are somewhat young indeed—but that's no objection.—Damn me, if the office can ever be so respectably filled as by an angry boy.
- True, true.—But, doctor, we forget your instructions all this time.—Let me see—Ay—first was the QUARREL PREVENTIVE.
- Well thought of!—Why, sir, in your new office you will be liable to all sorts of attacks—Ministers always are, and an angry boy cannot hope to escape.—Now nothing, you know, is so much to the purpose as to have the first blow—Blunders are very natural.—Your friends tell one story in the upper house, and you another in the lower—You shall give up a territory to the enemy that you ought to have kept, and when charged with it, shall unluckily drop that you and your colleagues were ignorant of the geography of the country—You foresee an attack—you immediately open—Plans so extensively beneficial—accounts so perfectly consistent—measures so judicious and accurate—no man can question—no man can object to—but a rascal and a knave.—Let him come forward!
- Very good! very good!—For the QUARREL OPSTREPEROUS, that I easily conceive.—An antagonist objects shrewdly—I cannot invent an answer.—In that case, there is nothing to be done but to drown his reasons in noise—nonsense—and vociferation.
- Come to my arms, my dear Kastril! O thou art an apt scholar—thou wilt be nonpareil in the art of brawling!—But for the QUARREL SENSITIVE—
- Ay, that I confess I don't understand.
- Why, it is thus, my dear boy—A minister is apt to be sore.—Every man cannot have the phlegm of Burleigh.—And an angry boy is sorest of all.—In that case—an objection is made that would dumbfound any other man—he parries it with—my honour—and my integrity—and the rectitude of my intentions—my spotless fame—my unvaried truth—and the greatness of my abilities—And so gives no answer at all.
- Excellent! excellent!
- The QUARREL OBLIQUE is easy enough.—It is only to talk in general terms of places and pensions—the loaves and the fishes—a struggle for power—a struggle for power—And it will do excellent well, if at a critical moment—you can throw in a hint of some forty or fifty millions unaccounted for by some people's grandfathers and uncles dead fifty years ago.
- Ha! ha! ha!
- Lastly, for the QUARREL PERSONAL—It may be infinitely diversified.—I have other instances in my eye,—but I will mention only one.—Minds capable of the widest comprehension, when held back from their proper field, may turn to lesser employments, that fools may wonder at, and canting hypocrites accuse—A CATO might indulge to the pleasures of the bottle, and a CAESAR might play—Unfortunately you may have a CAESAR to oppose you—Let him discuss a matter of finance—that subject is always open—there you have an easy answer. In the former case you parried, here you thrust.—You must admire at his presumption—tell him roundly he is not capable of the subject—and dam his strongest reasons by calling them the reasons of a gambler.
- Admirable!—Oh doctor!—I will thank you for ever.—I will do any thing for you!
[Face enters at the corner of the stage, winks at Subtle, and exit.]
- "Come, Sir, the captain will come to us presently—I will have you to my chamber of demonstrations, and show my instrument for quarrelling, with all the points of the compass marked upon it. It will make you able to quarrel to a straw's breadth at moonlight.
The revolution of America is the most important event of the present century. Other revolutions have originated in immediate personal feeling, have pointed only at a few partial grievances, or, preserving the tyranny entire, have consisted only in a struggle about the persons in whom it should be vested. This only has commenced in an accurate and extensive view of things, and at a time when the subject of government was perfectly understood. The persons, who have had the principal share in conducting it, exhibit a combination of wisdom, spirit and genius, that can never be sufficiently admired.
In this honourable list, the name of Mr. Paine by no means occupies the lowest place. He is the best of all their political writers. His celebrated pamphlet of Common Sense appeared at a most critical period, and certainly did important service to the cause of independency. His style is exactly that of popular oratory. Rough, negligent and perspicuous, it presents us occasionally with the boldest figures and the most animated language. It is perfectly intelligible to persons of all ranks, and it speaks with energy to the sturdy feelings of uncultivated nature. The sentiments of the writer are stern, and we think even rancorous to the mother country. They may be the sentiments of a patriot, they are not certainly those of a philosopher.
Mr. Paine has thought fit to offer some advice to his countrymen in the present juncture, in which, according to some, they stand in considerable need of it. The performance is not unworthy of the other productions of this author. It has the same virtues and the same defects. We have extracted the following passage, as one of the most singular and interesting.
"America has but one enemy, and that is England. Of the English it behoves us always to be jealous. We ought to cultivate harmony and good understanding with every other power upon earth. The necessity of this caution will be easily shewn. For
1. The united states of America were subject to the government of England. True, they have acknowledged our independence. But pride first struggled as much as she could, and sullenness held off as long as she dare. They have withdrawn their claim upon our obedience, but do you think they have forgot it? To this hour their very news-papers talk daily of dissentions between colony and colony, and the disaffection of this and of that to the continental interest. They hold up one another in absurdity, and look with affirmative impatience, when we shall fall together by the ears, that they may run away with the prize we have so dearly won. It is not in man to submit to a defalcation of empire without reluctance. But in England, where every cobler, slave as he is, hath been taught to think himself a king, never.
2. The resemblance, of language, customs, will give them the most ready access to us. The king of England will have emissaries in every corner. They will try to light up discord among us. They will give intelligence of all our weaknesses. Though we have struggled bravely, and conquered like men, we are not without imperfection. Ambition and hope will be for ever burning in the breast of our former tyrant. Dogmatical confidence is the worst enemy America can have. We need not fear the Punic sword. But let us be upon our guard against the arts of Carthage.
3. England is the only European state that still possesses an important province upon our continent. The Indian tribes are all that stand between us. We know with what art they lately sought their detested alliance. What they did then was the work of a day. Hereafter if they act against us, the steps they will proceed with will be slower and surer. Canada will be their place of arms. From Canada they will pour down their Indians. A dispute about the boundaries will always be an easy quarrel. And if their cunning can inveigle us into a false security, twenty or thirty years hence we may have neither generals nor soldiers to stop them."
We were very apprehensive upon Mr. Burke's coming into administration, that this circumstance might have proved a bar to any further additions to the valuable collection of his speeches already in the hands of the public. If we imagined that our verdict could make any addition to the very great and deserved reputation in which they are held, we should not scruple to say that were Cicero our contemporary, and Mr. Burke the ancient, we are persuaded that there would not be a second opinion upon the comparative merits of their orations. In the same degree as the principles of the latter are unquestionably more unsullied, and his spirit more independent; do we esteem him to excel in originality of genius, and sublimity of conception.
We will give two extracts; one animadverting upon the preliminaries of peace concluded by the earl of Shelburne; the other a character of David Hartley, Esq.
"I know that it has been given out, that by the ability and industry of their predecessors we found peace and order established to our hands; and that the present ministers had nothing to inherit, but emolument and indolence, otium cum dignitate. Sir, I will inform you what kind of peace and leisure the late ministers had provided. They were indeed assiduous in their devotion; they erected a temple to the goddess of peace. But it was so hasty and incorrect a structure, the foundation was so imperfect, the materials so gross and unwrought, and the parts so disjointed, that it would have been much easier to have raised an entire edifice from the ground, than to have reduced the injudicious sketch that was made to any regularity of form. Where you looked for a shrine, you found only a vestibule; instead of the chapel of the goddess, there was a wide and dreary lobby; and neither altar nor treasury were to be found. There was neither greatness of design, nor accuracy of finishing. The walls were full of gaps and flaws, the winds whistled through the spacious halls, and the whole building tottered over our heads.
Mr. Hartley, sir, is a character, that must do honour to his country and to human nature. With a strong and independent judgment, with a capacious and unbounded benevolence, he devoted himself from earliest youth for his brethren and fellow creatures. He has united a character highly simple and inartificial, with the wisdom of a true politician. Not by the mean subterfuges of a professed negociator; not by the dark, fathomless cunning of a mere statesman; but by an extensive knowledge of the interest and character of nations; by an undisguised constancy in what is fit and reasonable; by a clear and vigorous spirit that disdains imposition. He has met the accommodating ingenuity of France; he has met the haughty inflexibility of Spain upon their own ground, and has completely routed them. He loosened them from all their holdings and reserves; he left them not a hole, nor a corner to shelter themselves. He has taught the world a lesson we had long wanted, that simple and unaided virtue is more than a match for the unbending armour of pride, and the exhaustless evolutions of political artifice."