Obrazy na stronie

As a judge he was the most incorrect speak- of a profession calculated to tax the utmost er that ever delivered an opinion, not from strength of the human intellect. Not in the poverty but from the superfluity of his vacation merely, but in the busiest season of ideas. They came crowding upon him in his practice, he sends to the insatiable printer such numbers, that in his haste he left the sheet after sheet of brilliant writing, and at straggling sentences behind, and pushed on the same time preserves in business-like in pursuit of some bright conception which order and discipline his unruly corps of rehis fertile and brilliant fancy extemporane- viewers. Only once does he appear to have ously struck out. He spoke both for the lost his temper, when gravely rebuked by counsel and the Judge, dislocated the argu- Horner for the spirit of the contributions, ment by interruptions without end, and that did not square with the precise standard was only dissatisfied when there was noth- of that philosophic contributor.“ I have a ing more to say. Except in the single right,” Jeffrey indignantly says, “I hope, case as to the legality of erecting, in a to ask you to write for us; and you have grave-yard in Edinburgh, a monument to a right, no doubt, to excuse yourself and to the political martyrs of 1796, his judicial make your own apologies; but do not, if opinions were always extemporaneously de- you please, announce to me so formally livered; but on that occasion, apparently what you wish to be understood on the afraid that his feelings would hurry him subject of your contributions, nor fancy into warm expressions inconsistent with that I am to take your orders as if I were a the serene atmosphere of the judgment shopman of Constable's." seat, he reduced his opinion to writing, and He appears to have received little assistdelivered a brilliant article in which, while ance from his friends at the bar. Thomson he discussed the legal merits of the ques- was exhausted with two articles—Cockburn tion, it is impossible to discover his opinion did not contribute more than six,and Cranston as to the principles and the memory of the and Moncreiff never found leisure or vocation men who held a warm place in his heart. for any other pursuit than their profession. The versatility of Jeffrey was astonishing : Brougham and Horner alone, except occa-the Editor of a Review, an Advocate in sionally, did not weary; and Sydney, until great practice, and himself the most copious prosperity made him indolent, was always of reviewers. Articles upon all subjects ready to furnish those gay articles of wit and came alike naturally to his fluent pen - wisdom that are read with satisfaction still, treatises upon the French Revolution, upon even when the immediate interest of Poetry, upon Travels, upon Geology, upon their subject has passed away. the Huttonian Theory, upon the Classics, The biography of Jeffrey has done justupon Biography, upon Legal Reform, upon ice neither to him nor to his biographer. Politics, down even to Sir John Sinclair's In many respects it is defective, not from Code of Health and Pamphlets on Vaccina- what it has said, but from what it wants; tion. Of course no human mind was capa- and, delightful as it is as a piece of narrable of giving instruction on every branch tive, it leaves upon the mind a most inadeof human knowledge; but there is nothing quate idea of the Reviewer, Advocate, that ever Jeffrey wrote that does not de. Statesman, and Judge. His life necessarily serve to be read, its chief defect being a brought him in contact with literary men too redundant diction, and the Irish defect and the literary world for thirty years; and of over-facile illustration. In Southey's one would naturally look in his biography Letters, recently published, we see how for a narrative of his intercourse with the keenly he smarted under Jeffrey's biting cloud of literati by whom he was assisted, reviews :-“Of Edinburgh society I think whose contributions he directed and suggestvery little. Jeffrey is amusing for his wit; ed. And yet neither in the Life nor in the in taste he is a mere child; and he affects volume of letters, is there a word said upon to despise learning, because he has none. I what ought to be the most delightful chapcannot feel angry with anything so diminu- ter of his biography. Where are his own tive; he is a mere homunculus, and would letters, for example, to Brougham? Were do for a Major in Gog and Magog's army, they ever asked for, or did that capricious were they twice as little.”—(Vol. i. p. reviewer carry his antipathy to the biogra342.) And he is described as "ēēnunciat- pher so far as to do injustice to Jeffrey, by ing his words as if he had studied ēēlocu- refusing to deliver them up? And where, tion under John Thelwall, of whom indeed in like manner, are the thousand other lethe is an Elzevir edition in better binding." ters to the London, Oxford, and Dublin -(Vol. i. p. 345.)

writers, whose papers fill the fifty volumes All Jeffrey's literary work was done at a that he edited? Instead of these, we are time when he was engaged in the practice furnished with a collection of epistles to

women and children, which remind one of consistent with the Christian sentiment of the baby-talk of nurses rather than the the community were adopted. In 1808, writings of one of the departed great, who Smith warned him against the infidelity that tracked the deep mysteries of knowledge he then had allowed to creep into the Review, by the light himself had kindled. And the (Smith's Life, vol. ii. pp. 41, 42); and ten hiatus is not supplied by anything told us years afterwards he still complains in lanin the “Life” itself, which contains a most guage like this :-“I must beg the favour of imperfect appreciation of a long series of you to be explicit on one point. Do you literary labours, which gave dignity and mean to take care that the Review shall not polish to the eulogy of a party, and added profess or encourage infidel principles ? Unpungency to satire. The biographer dis- less this is the case, I must absolutely give poses of labours during several years in up all thoughts of connecting myself with three lines, after this fashion : “ Neverthe- it.” Sydney's motives for this rebuke are less, besides the three articles just mention- not of the loftiest. “Besides the general ed, he wrote during this period about thirty- regret I feel from errors of this nature, I six more, chiefly on literature, biography, cannot help feeling that they press harder and general history;" and so the matter is upon me than upon anybody belonging to dismissed, and our craving curiosity is left the Review, which makes it perilous to a unsatisfied. Nor have we much greater clergyman in particular to be concerned in satisfaction in the history of his great for- it."--(Smith, vol. ii. p. 145.) When Jeffrey ensic displays,—his parliamentary, or his gave for publication letters which called judicial career. All this required reading prominent attention to a subject so importon the part of Cockburn, and a knowledge ant to his character, he surely trusted that of literature which he did not possess. He an explanation would be given that would wrote his history in his old age, without remove the painful impression they were collecting his materials,--a pleasant piece of calculated to leave. In Cockburn's hands biography it is, but it is not the biography the materials of explanation were placed, of his illustrious friend. Had Empson writ- which he had no right to keep back. His ten the literary portion, and left what was duty as a biographer required above all purely personal and social to Cockburn, a things a frank explanation upon this. It work worthy of the subject and the writers would not have sunk Jeffrey in the estimamight have been produced; but as it is, it tion of mankind, that he was found to have can only be looked upon as an imperfect abjured the hasty opinions of his youth ; and sketch, and the biography of Jeffrey re- that he gave nights of study to a religion mains to be written.

which, if he was late of believing, he earnestBut there is a graver defect still. There ly believed at last. is nothing in the Life that would indicate There was another Edinburgh Reviewer that Jeffrey had any other hopes than those deserving of special notice, -one whose name which bounded a pure and lofty human am- is almost unknown even to reading men of bition. IIis life may have been that of a this generation, --who died at the early age heathen philosopher, who looked with grim of thirty-eight,—who has a monument in satisfaction to the midnight crossing of the Westminster Abbey, and was mourned for Styx; or who ended existence in the still alike by opponents and friends. We allude sadder gloom which oppressed the heart of to Horner. He had no ancestral greatness Cicero with the hopes of an immortality that to give him place, nor popular eloquence, he could imagine, but which his reason dis- nor the genius that supplies the want of it. claimed. And this, too, while his biographer His power consisted in “a character that knew how deep and sincere, as life drew to made him almost the representative of virits close, were the religious convictions of tue itself;" or, as Sydney better expresses Jeffrey, --convictions deepened and im- it, he had the ten commandments written in pressed upon his mind by many anxious his face, and he might with impunity have conversations with Chalmers. It is all the committed any crime he liked, as no jury more necessary that Jeffrey's character upon with that face would convict him. Cockthis point should be set right with the world, burn says, that at the time he died, he was because he himself delivered up for publica- possessed of a greater public influence than tion several letters written to him by Syd- any other private man." Yet now not mereney Smith, in which even he, who proved in ly the influence of his acts or words has dishis Essay upon missions that the extension appeared, but his history, except for his adof Christianity in India would give the death- mirable biography, would have been forblow to the British dominion there, charged gotten. The cause of this is found not in Jeffrey with infidelity, and threatened to Horner, but in the temporary character of secede from the Review unless a tone more the subjects on which he wasted himself;

and he had in consequence his reward—from so little speculative, so much a matter of his contemporaries.

memory, and so little calculated to stimulate

the higher powers. After he had been “Now," says Cockburn, “let every young man above two years at the bar, he mourns over ask, how was this attained ? By rank? He was the infirmity of his nature that he was incathe son of an Edinburgh merchant. By wealth? pable, like Hale, of studying eleven hours a superfluous sixpence. By office ? He held but day, adding, with characteristic modesty, “I one, and only for a few years, of no influence, and am conscious that from plodding and judiciwith very little pay. By talents ? His were not ous diligence, I have the only chance of mersplendid, and he had no genius. Cautious and iting excellence in any line. Had this dilslow, his only ambition was to be right. By elo- igence been directed to the study of jurisquence? He spoke in calm, good taste, without prudence with that acute intellect and high any of the oratory that either terrifies or seduces. sense of duty, what a great judge he would By any fascination of manner? His was only have been, and what a fame he would have correct and agreeable. By what then was it? left! But “ the composition of Session paMerely by sense, industry, good principles, and a good heart,-qualities which no well-constituted pers for the Outer-House sickens me to naugood mind need ever despair of attaining. It sea;” and this judgment upon those pleaswas the force of his character that raised him; ant compositions now no more, and which and this character, not impressed upon him by in a short time will be looked upon with as nature, but formed out of no peculiarly fine ele- much curiosity as the fossil remains of the ments by himself

. There were many in the House pre-Adamite ages, is repeated in letters and of Commons of far greater ability and eloquence; diaries without end. but no one surpassed him in the combination of

After he had been four an adequate portion of these with moral worth. years at the bar, he confesses that, “ I can Horner was born to shew what moderate powers, scarcely say that I have ever given a month's unaided by anything whatever except culture and study to Scotch law, or to any law;" and goodness, may achieve, even when these powers the reason for that was one which is not in are displayed amidst the competition and jeal- accordance with the predominant good sense ousy of public life.”—Memorials, p. 312.

of IIorner, who had alone his profession to

depend upon. It might be a more pleasant His Life, which has reached a second edi occupation to spend the hours in the study tion, has been written by his brother. It is of the works of the great master spirits who composed chiefly of the diaries and letters have guided human thought, than in the of Horner himself

, joined together by a few weary drudgery of a pursuit always technical sentences of narrative, where that seemed and not often relieved by gleams of sunshine. necessary to complete the statement. It is But if the pursuit of the law be a necessity, a life the perusal of which is apt to sink the it becomes a duty; and if the mind must most buoyant enthusiasm, joined with the be brought down from soaring in the empy. utmost powers of persevering industry, into rean, it is difficult to follow the logic of a despair. Almost from the time he left his boast like this :-" I may flatter myself with nurse's arms, down to a few hours before the reflection of making an effort, at least, to his death in sunny Italy,—in the country, or preserve my mind untainted by the illiberin the town,-oppressed with business, or ality of professional character, if not to comparatively idle,-abroad or at home,- mould my habitual reflections upon those he was never happy unless he kept turning extensive and enlightened views of human round for ever and ever, the weary mill at affairs by which I may be qualified to reform which he attempted to grind his own and the irregularities of municipal institutions, human perfection. Powers of intellect ori- and to extend the boundaries of legislative ginally admirable, were wasted in that fool science.” In one of Sydney Smith's letters ish dream which has lost to the world so to Jeffrey, this kind of thing is thus hit:many admirable statesmen, scholars, poets, " Playfair has suppered with me. Of Horlawyers, and divines,--a dream as foolish as ner, business has prevented me from seeing that of universal conquest,—that of attempt- much; he lives very high up in Gordon ing to master all sciences, all languages, all Court, and thinks a good deal about mankind. knowledge. The result, of course, often is, I have a great veneration and affection for superficiality, presumption, and dogmatism him, and depend upon him for a good deal of opinion, and no acquaintance with any of my society - Yours kindly, Sydney single science or pursuit, accurate enough to Smith.” enable the party to earn thereby his daily

No man of sober intellect will, of course, bread. Horner's journal is filled with entries give up study till the last hour of his existof his successive attempts to master the ence; but when one is about to enter upon Scotch law, and how he had at each time a career in Parliament, it is generally suprisen with disrelish from a task that seemed posed that his school-learning, at least, has

been all accomplished. Yet, even at that|or so as to display those powers of observatime, Horner is occupied with severe reflection which he possesses in an eminent detions upon himself at supposed dilatoriness gree.” And even in London, at a dinner in study, and at the insignificant result in party which consisted of Mackintosh, Romilpoint of quantity of the acquisitions he had ly, Whishaw, Abercromby, Conversationmade; and through life this spirit of anxious Sharp, and Scarlett, he finds great defects in improvement, which had the highest patri- the dinner-talk ; and why ? “ There was otic resolves for its stimulus, continued un- too little of present activity ; the memory abated. At the age of thirty-four when at alone was put to work. No efforts of orithe sea-side at Torquay, enjoying the repose ginal production, either by imagination or of that delightful climate, he resolves to go by reasoning powers—all discussion of opin. through the Iliad; Macchiavel's Discourses ions was studiously avoided.” And so the on Livy; Montesquieu; Hume's Essays, youthful statesman rises from his claret, and Burke's Tracts on the French Revolu- dissatisfied because there was no sober distion, together with Playfair's Illustrations, cussion upon “first principles," and he reand Paley's Natural Theology! Amid the tires to his own home to record his dissatisbustle of a Circuit he occupies himself with faction and disappointment, which, he says, reading Rulhieré's History of the Troubles arose from an erroneous fashion or taste in Poland. At Turin, on his last journey, in conversation.” (having read through no less than five vol. Yet all men loved this man,—without umes of Sismondi's Republics,) his insatiable humour, and so filled with gravity. He appetite was unappeased, and therefore, seems like an old Roman rebuking à frivo“ being arrived in the capital of a great State, lous generation, but so that they love his I sent round to the booksellers' shops for virtues while they do not follow them. A new publications, but the universal answer warm and affectionate heart, and an attachwas—there were none." He even begged ment that never changed, endeared him to of a bookseller to tell him “if there were no men who honoured his talents. His life pamphlets, no dissertations upon their trade constitutes delightful reading, even though or their manufactures, or their agriculture, it leaves upon the mind the deplorable feel. or their new laws, or their old laws revised." ing that, hard as any one may toil, and FIorner was willing to take anything; but study, and read, it is after all nothing. At the bookseller “ crossed himself, and said it the very best we have scarcely lost sight of was forbidden. They had none of these the shore; there yet lies an ocean to cross, things. There had not been a new publica- -the opposite shores of which are lost in tion in Turin he did not know the time. Yet the far horizon. this is the country of Alfieri and Lagrange.” There is nothing so remarkable in Lord

O curas hominum ! O quantum est in Cockburn's volume, as the history of the rebus inane! And thus he goes on to Pisa change of manners among the Scottish peoto die; and six days before his death he ple. It is true that his remarks are more writes a paper called “ Designs at Pisa, 20 particularly confined to Edinburgh society ; February 1817;” in which the unwearied but they are applicable in a large measure student marks out for himself a course of to every quarter of the country. In Edinstudy in philosophy, jurisprudence, history, burgh Lord Cockburn saw the retiring feaand politics, sufficient to occupy the undivid. tures of one age, whose manners were ed time of the longest life; and there, too, different from those of the society of his are lists of books without end, looking very youth, and which again were essentially like the pages of a catalogue raisonnée of different from that of his old age. Much universal knowledge.

of this is due no doubt to the march of that He died at Pisa, a few days after this civilisation in which the whole empire has magnificent scheme had been sketched; and participated; but Edinburgh had causes so terminated his ambition! He does not peculiar to itself. Its learned class may be appear to have had in his composition one said to have stood foremost over others of particle of humour; and he is displeased the same character in the other Scottish when he happens to spend an hour in which cities. They were generally among the men and women, with rational faculties and first to participate in, and to feel the advanimmortal souls, can speak otherwise than tages of intercourse with London; and then with gravity and like philosophers. The the strange phenomenon occurred of a miEdinburgh Society he considers “irration- gration from an old city of medieval times al;" and is not satisfied that Dugald Stew- to a modern capital, called at once into exart was in the right path, because his con- istence with all the improvements of moversation in society was of a rambling, light dern civilisation. The people seized the literary kind, and not " original or profound, true spirit and import of this new conjunc

tion of circumstances, and acted up to the with existence. If their country has lost her occasion.

sceptre, they have not lost the sense of their Much of the history of Scotland is filled nationality. The feeling may perhaps degewith a detail of sacrifices, originating in nerate into a contracted provincialism; but sentiment, with which the colder imagina- it has stamped its impress strongly on the tions of posterity have only an imperfect national character, and has generated a sympathy. It is true that the battle of sense of national and personal independence Bannockburn was fought for the reality of that has placed a people inhabiting a barren national independence, and the struggles of territory among the most conspicuous of the Reformation, and the long persecution nations. Accommodating themselves to of the last Stuarts borne for religious free- their fate, after the extinction of their native

But after independence was achieved, Parliament, and the mimic pageantry of a the history of the two countries was a his- native Court, they turned the energy which tory of interminable wars, which had their had wasted in the barbarities of feudal times, origin not in the common motives of ambi- to that career of progressive improvement tion or lust of conquest, but in the senti- which has extracted from the fields of the ment of a national rivalry which provoked Lothians, and the bleak moors of the north, the sad day of Flodden, and gave to the riches more copious than the Spaniards ever chronicles of chivalry the stirring fight of took from the gold mines of Potosi or Peru. Otterbourne. Another sentiment, more Her sons started with the English in the personal in its scope, long struggled against race of commercial enterprise, and won from the tide, for the fallen fortunes of the Stu- Englishmen the prizes which England had arts. That chapter of our history presents proposed to the ambition of the united counus with much that is daring and romantic. tries. A jumble of struggling authorities If the sentiment of Stuart loyalty produced was transformed into the regenerated emno genius with the higher qualities of intel- pire of a contented people. Wherever the lect that mark an age or a generation, nor imperial dominion extended, a Scotsman any possessed of the moral heroism that as-was at hand to receive the reward of successtonished mankind with unselfish devotion ful ability. In the long list of generals that to deserted principle, it furnished many ex- have raised up the glory and renown of amples of the lower virtues of fidelity and England, are found the names of many constancy even to rulers whose irritable Scotsmen ; and among her ablest judges feebleness inspired them with the most will be found an Erskine, a Wedderbourne, ignoble meanness in the moment of popular a Murray, a Campbell, and a Brougham. collision, and the most cruel vindictiveness Out of humble villages have sprung the in the moment of reactionary conquest. great ports and manufacturing towns of It ended as a source of physical hostility Glasgow, Greenock, and Dundee, outstripwhen the Highland army was scattered on ping the metropolis itself in the energetic the gory field of Culloden; but it existed spirit, which is the life-blood of commercial still more purely as a sentiment, in the success. Within a half-century-within the Jacobite literature of the half century which time when Cockburn's memorials begin and followed, until, meeting the shock of the end, Scotland has achieved greater triumphs, fierce passions and too real events which obtained more real power and greater began with the execution of Louis XVI., wealth than she had acquired during the six and ended with Waterloo, it passed away previous centuries of distracting wars, merto the last receptacles of obloquy and obli- ciless persecutions, and polemic strife. vion.

Little of this was effected by, but in spite of, It is in vain to despise sentiment, when it imperial legislation. The squalor and deproduces results that are not exhausted'in gradation which our modern rhetorical histhe course even of many generations. It torian has described as the normal condition would be as philosophical to shut the under- of a half-savage people, were only the fruits standing to the laws which control the of that repressive and tyrannical governstorms of the physical world, as to creations ment, of which the country had a taste durof the mind not less rigid, stern, and over. ing Braxfield's reign of terror. With secuwhelming. Dr. Johnson put the case rity and freedom the people became indusstrongly, when he said, that that Scots- trious and happy. Younger sons acquirman must be a sturdy moralist who would ed the wholesome lesson that a gentleman not prefer his country to truth. They seem might stand behind a counter, and that there to love their country with a devotion which were nobler pursuits in life than that of an neither time nor change of scene ever les- idle profligacy, and other means of living sens; and turn in imagination to her rugged than the sacrifice of independence for govlandscapes with a fondness that only ceases ernment places. The restless energies

« PoprzedniaDalej »