« ПредишнаНапред »
his violin; and often prepared, in this way, those splendid passages and groups of images with which he was afterwards to dazzle and enchant his admirers. The only notes he made were often of the metaphors he proposed to employ—and these of the utmost brevity. For the grand peroration, for example, in H. Rowan's case, his notes were as follows-Character of Mr. R.-Furnace--Rebellion smothered—Stalks—Redeeming Spirit.' From such slight hints he spoke fearlessly—and without cause for fear. With the belp of such a scanty chart, he plunged boldly into the unbuoyed channel of his cause, and trusted himself to the torrent of his own eloquence, with no better guidance than such landmarks as these. It almost invariably happened, however, that the experiment succeeded;
that his own expectations were far exceeded; and that when his • mind came to be more intensely heated by his subject, and by that inspiring confidence which a public audieuce seldom fails to infuse into all who are sufficiently gifted to receive it, a multitude of new ideas, adding vigour or ornament, were given off ; and it also happened, that, in the same prolific moments, and as almost their inevitable consequence, some crude and fantastic notions
escaped ; which, if they impeach their author's taste, at least • leave him the merit of a splendid fault, which none but men of 'genius can commit.' (pp. 403–4.)
The learned author closes this very able and eloquent dissertation with some remarks upon what he says is now denominated the Irish school of eloquence; and seems inclined to deny that its profusion of imagery implies any deficiency, or even neglect of argument. As we had some share, we believe in imposing this denomination, we may be pardoned for feeling some little anxiety that it should be rightly understood; and beg leave therefore to say, that we are as far as possible from holding that the greatest richness of imagery necessarily excludes close or accurate reasoning; on the contrary, it is frequently its appropriate vehicle and natural exponent-as in Lord 'Bacon, Lord Chatham, and Jeremy Taylor. But the eloquence we wished to characterize, is that where the figures and ornaments of speech do interfere with its substantial object--where fancy is not ministrant but predominant -where the inagination is not merely awakened, but intoxicated -and either overlays and obscures the sense, or frolics and gambols around it, to the disturbance of its march, and the weakening of its array for the onset :-And of this kind, we still humbly think, was the eloquence of Mr. C.-The author says, indeed, that it is a mistake to call it Irish, because Swift and Goldsmith had none of it—and Milton and Bacon and Chatham bad ;-and moreover, that Burke and Grattan and Curran had cach a distinctive style of eloquence, and ought not to be classed together. How old the style may be in Ireland, we cannot undertake to say
though we think there are traces of it in Ossian. We would observe too, that, though born in Ireland, neither Swift nor Goldsmith were trained in the Irish school, or worked for the Irish market; and we have already said, that it is totally to mistake our conception of the style in question, to ascribe any tincture of it to such writers as Milton, Bacon, or Taylor. There is fancy and figure enough certainly in their compositions ; but there is no intoxication of the fancy, and no rioting and revelling among figures --no ungoverned and ungovernable impulse--no fond dalliance with metaphors--no mad and headlong pursuit of brilliant images and passionate expressions--no lingering among tropes and melodies-no giddy bandying of antitheses and allusions—no craving, in short, for perpetual glitter, and panting after effect, till both speaker and hearer are lost in the splendid confusion, and the argument evaporates in the heat which was meant to enforce it. This is perhaps too strongly put; but there are large portions of Mr. C.'s Speeches to which we think the substance of the description will apply.
(Here a passage is quoted from his argument in Judge Johnson's case.]
In his happier moments, and more vehement adjurations, Mr. C. is often beyond all question a great and commanding orator ; and we have no doubt was, to those who had the happiness of bearing him, a much greater orator than the mere readers of his speeches have any means of conceiving :-But we really cannot help repeating our protest against a style of composition which could betray its great master, and that very frequently, into such passages as those we have extracted. The mischief is not to the master-whose genius could efface all such stains, and whose splendid successes would sink his failures in oblivion—but to the pupils, and to the public, whose taste that very genius is thus instrumental in corrupting..... It is not difficult to imitate the defects of such a style—and of all defects they are the most nauseous in imitation. Even in the hands of men of genius, the risk is, that the longer such a style is cultivated, the more extravagant it will grow,-just as those who deal in other means of intoxication, are tempted to strengthen the mixture as they proceed. The learned and candid author before us, testifies this to have been the progress of Mr. C. himself--and it is still more strikingly illustrated by the history of his models and imitators. Mr. Burke had much less of this extravagance than Mr. Grattan-Mr. Grattan much less than Mr. Curran-and Mr. Curran much less than Mr. Phillips. It is really of some importance that the climax should be closed somewhere.
There is a concluding chapter, in which Mr. C.'s skill in crossexamination, and his conversational brilliancy, are commemorated; as well as the general simplicity and aflability of his manners, and
his personal habits and peculiarities. He was not a profound lawyer, nor much of a general scholar, though reasonably well acquainted with all the branches of polite literature, and an eager reader of novels-being often caught sobbing over the pathos of Richardson, or laughing at the humour of Cervantes, with an unrestrained vehemence which reminds us of that of Voltaire. He spoke very slow, both in public and private, and was remarkably scrupulous in his choice of words : He slept very little, and, like Johnson, was always averse to retire at night-lingering long after he rose to depart—and, in his own house, often following one of his guests to his chamber, and renewing the conversation for an hour. He was habitually abstinent and temperate ; and, from his youth up, in spite of all his vivacity, the victim of a constitutional melancholy. His wit is said to have been ready and brilliant, and altogether without gall. But the credit of this testimony is somewhat weakened by a little selection of his bons mots, with which we are furnished in a note. The greater part, we own, appear to us to be rather vulgar and ordinary; as, when a man of the name of Halfpenny was desired by the judge to sit down, Mr. C. said, I thank
your Lordship for having at last nailed that rap to the counter ;'or, when observing upon the singular pace of a Judge who was lame, he said, Don't you see that one leg goes before like a tipstaff, to
make room for the other?'—or, when vindicating his countrymen from the charge of being naturally vicious, he said, “ He had never ' yet beard of an Irishinan being born drunk.'
The following, however, is good—I can't tell you, Cursan,' observed an Irish nobleman, who had voted for the Union, how frightful our old • House of Commons appears to me.' "Ah! my lord,' replied the other, “it is only natural for Murderers to be afraid of Ghosts ;'-and this is at least grotesque. Being asked what an Irish gentleman, just arrived in England, could mean by perpetually putting out his tongue? Answer—" I suppose he's trying to catch the English . accent.” In his last illness, his physician observing in the morning that he seemed to cough with more difficulty, he answered, that is rather surprising, as I have been practising all night.'
But these things are of little consequence. Mr. Curran was something much better than a sayer of smart sayings. He was a lover of his country-avd its fearless, its devotell, and indefatigable ser
To his energy and talents she was perhaps indebted for some mitigation of her sufferings in the days of her extremity-and to these, at all events, the public has been indebted, in a great degree, for the knowledge they now have of her wrongs, and for the feeling which that knowledge bas excited, of the necessity of granting them redress. It is in this character that he must have most wished to be remembered, and in which he has most deserved it. As to any tlaws or lapses in his private lite, we agree, with the ex
cellent author before us, that his death should consign them to oblivion; and that, as his claims to distinction were altogether of a public nature, nothing should be allowed to detract from them that is not of the same description : At the same time, that our readers may know all that we know, and that their uncharitable surmises may not go beyond the truth, we cannot do better than conclude with the following passage from this most exemplary biography, in which, as in all the rest, the author has observed the tenderness which was due to the relationship in which he stood to his subject, without violating, in the least degree, that manly fairness and sincerity, without which he would have been unworthy of public confidence.
• But the question will be asked, has this been a faithful picture ? '-Have no shades been designedly omitted ?-Has delicacy or 'flattery concealed no defects, without which the resemblance can
not be true? To such inquiries it is answered, that the estimable • qualities which have formed the preceding description, have not 'been invented or exaggerated ; and if the person, who has assumed the duty of collecting them, has abstained from a rigorous detail of any infirmities of temper or conduct, it is because a feeling more sacred and more justifiable than delicacy or flattery bas taught him, and should teach others, to regard them with tenderness and regret. In thus abstaining from a cruel and unprofita·ble analysis of failings, to which the most gifted are often the most prone, no deception is intended. It is due to that public to whom Mr. Curran's merits have been here submitted as deserving their approbation, to admit with candour, that some particulars have been withheld which they would not have approved : But it is also due to his memory to declare, that in balancing the conflicting elements of his character, what was virtuous and amiable will · be found to have largely preponderated. He was not perfect; * but his imperfections have a peculiar claim upon our forbearance, when we reflect that they sprung from the same source as his genius, and may be considered as almost the inevitable con• dition upon which that order of genius can be held. Their source was in his imagination. The same ardour and sensibility which
rendered him so eloquent an advocate of others, impelled him to • take too impassioned and irritating views of questions that person• ally related to himself. The mistakes of conduct into which this impetuosity of temperament betrayed him cannot be defended by this or by any other explanation of their origin; yet it is much to be able to say that they were almost exclusively confined to a • single relation, and that those who in consequence suffered most, • but who, from their intimate connexion with him, knew him best, saw so many redeeming qualities in his nature, that they uniform
ly considered any exclusion from his regard, not so much in the • light of an injustice, as of a personal misfortune.
There was a time when such considerations would have failed to appease his numerous accusers, who, under the vulgar pretext of moral indignation, were relentlessly taking vengeance on his public virtues by assiduous and exaggerated statements of private errors, which, had he been'one of the enemies of his country, they would have been the first to screen or justify. But it is hoped, that he was not deceiving himself when he anticipated that the term of their hostility would expire as soon as he should be re. moved beyond its reach. “The charity of the survivors (to use * his own expression) looks at the failings of the dead through an
inverted glass; and slander calls off the pack from the chase in • which, when there can be no pain, there can be no sport; nor will memory weigh their merils with a niggard steadiness of • hand.” But even should this have been a delusive expectation• should the grave which now covers him prove an unrespected « barrier against the assaults of political hatred, there will not be * wanting many of more generous niinds, who loved and admired • him, to rally round his memory, from the grateful conviction that
his titles to his country's esteem stand in defiance of every imper• fection of which his most implacable revilers can accuse him. As * long as Ireland retains any sensibility to public worth, it will not
be forgotten, that (whatever waywardness he may have shown towards some, and those a very few) she had, in every vicissitude, the unpurchased and most unmeasured benefit of his affections and his virtues. This is his claim and his protection--that having by his talents raised himself from an humble condition to a station of high trust and innumerable temptations, he held him‘self erect in servile times, and has left an example of Political • Honour, upon which the most scrutinizing malice cannot detect 'a stain.' II. pp. 475-479.
Art. XIII. Mr. Sampson's Preface.
[To the Life of Curran, Counsellor Sampson of this city has furnished, in answer to the request of the American publisher, an interesting and well written Preface;-and as it contains a witty, courteous and spirited retort upon the preceding article from the Edinburgh Review, we avail ourselves of a portion of it.
He introduces his subject with this striking and beautiful compliment to the biographer,]" It rejoices me to find the genius of Curran surviving in a Son, who in vindicating his father's fame Vol. II.