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judged themselves, and were sometimes deemed by others, his equals, or his superiors. For the same reason, there are thrown into the appendix a few indifferent verses to the poet's memory; which, while they show how much his loss was felt, point out, at the same time, the impossibility of supplying it.' (Advert. Vol. I. p. vi.)
It is hardly, however, good logic, to infer the superiority of Dryden above all the poets of his day, from his excelling some of the worst. If Shadwell was preferred to him, it was not for his rhymes, but his comedies; and perhaps the public were not wrong. The preference of Settle, indeed, so far as it existed, may be ascribed to bad taste, as well as envy. But there is a surer way of ascertaining Dryden's preeminence. We judge of the height of a giant, by comparing him with the tallest grenadiers, not with middle-sized mortals. To form a relative estimate of Dryden, we must look at the poets of his own time, Roscommon, Dorset, and Mulgrave, in the reign of Charles; Duke, Stepney, and Halifax, in that of William. These had credit enough, in their own times, to carry down their names to posterity, and pass in all our collections under the title of poets. Weigh one or all these against Dryden; what a preponderance in his scale ! Few poets, in a cultivated age, have been so decidedly unrivalled by their contemporaries.
It will be replied, perhaps, that if all which we deem superfluous in this edition, does no good, at least it will do no harm; that there are many tastes, and every one may pass over what does not interest him. This is the common plea of the bookmakers. But it is a grievous thing to see literature become daily more inaccessible; and books swelled in bulk as well as costliness, till few are able to purchase, and still fewer to peruse them. The trade, indeed, act as traders very reasonably will, for their own interest; it is a matter of speculation only to them, whether books circulate among none but wealthy amateurs, or the whole class of readers. But a man of letters, we think, who undertakes a new edition, or a new work, has a duty imposed upon him, to regard the commonweal of literature, and withstand that prodigal multiplication of printed paper, which is the vice of our age. In this edition of Dryden, we would have curtailed the life, in which, we think, after all, there is little new, to a short, and chiefly critical, memoir; omitted many of the notes, the original fables from Chaucer and Boccace, the reply of Stillingfleet to Dryden's controversy, and perhaps the translation of Xavier's life. But no alteration could have fitted the work to increase the renown of Mr Scott, or add one sprig to the wreath which he wears, as the author of those poems,
• Of which all Britain rings from side to side.'
ART. IX. Speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Mafter of the Rolls in Ireland, on the late very interefting State Trials, &c. Second Edition, with additions. 8vo. pp. 475. Dublin. 1808.
THERE is fomething very peculiar, and very well worth attending to, in the character of Irish eloquence. More vehement, and figured and poetical than any that is now attempted in this country, it aims almost always at dazzling the imagination, or enflaming the paffions at leaft, as much as at enlightening the underftanding. On almost every subject, it afpires at being pathetic or magnificent; and, while it adorns what is grand, or kindles what is interefting with the rays of its genius, is apt to involve in the redundant veil of its imagery, what is either too low or too fimple to become fuch a drapery. Being the natural language of fearless genius and impaffioned feeling, it will not always be found. to exprefs judicious fentiments or correct reafoning; but will generally lead to lofty principles, and glimpfes of great theory. is fometimes coarfe, and frequently noify and redundant; but it has ufually ftrength in its coarsenefs; and, for the most part, fancy if not reafon in its extravagance, Though the defign and the drawing may frequently be faulty, the colouring is always brilliant, and the expreffion, for the most part, original and powerful.
We have ventured to give this as the character of Irish eloquence;-both because fome portion of it seems to belong of right to every inhabitant of that country, and because we really do not know any remarkable inftance of it that has not been produced by that people. The wits of Queen Anne's time practised a sort of polite writing, characterifed by purity, fmoothnefs, and a kind of fimple and temperate elegance. Their reafoning was correct and luminous, and their raillery terfe and refined; but they never fo much as aimed at touching the greater paffions, or rifing to the loftier graces of compofition. Their fublimity was little more than a gentle and graceful folemnity; their invective went no further than polished farcafm, and their vehemence than pretty vivacity. Even the older writers who dealt in larger views and stronger language, the Hookers and Taylors, and Barrows and Miltons, although they poffeffed, beyond all doubt, an original and commanding eloquence, had little of nature or rapid movement of paffion about them. Their diction, though powerful, is loaded and laborious; and their imagination, though rich and copious, is neither playful nor popular. Even the celebrated orators of England have been deficient in fome of these characteristics. The rhetoric of Fox was his logic;-the eloquence of Pitt confifted mainly in his talent for farcafm and for founding amplification. Neither of them had much pathos,-and but little play of fancy.
Yet the style of which we are speaking is now familiar to the English public. But it was introduced by an Irishman; and may be clearly traced to the genius of Burke. There was no such composition known in England before his day. Bolingbroke, whom he is sometimes said to have copied, had none of it. He is infinitely more careless, he is infinitely less impassioned. He has no such variety of imagery,-no such flights of poetry, no such touches of tenderness,-no such visions of philosophy. The style has been defiled since, indeed, by base imitations and disgusting parodies; and, in its more imitable parts, has been naturalized and transfused into the recent literature of our country; but it was of Irish origin, and still attains to its highest honours only in its native soil. For this we appeal to the whole speaking and writing of that nation,-to the speeches of Mr Grattan, and even to the volume before us. With less of deep thought than the corrected compositions of Burke, and less of point and polish than the magical effusions of Grattan, it still bears the impression of that inflamed fancy which characterizes the eloquence of both, and is distinctly assimilated to them by those traits of national resemblance.
We owe Mr Curran an apology, perhaps, for saying anything. of this volume. It is published without his consent or avowal, and even without any pretension, on the part of the editor, to its being a correct, or tolerably correct, report of the speeches he delivered. From the extreme inequality of the matter, indeed, it is easy to see that some of them are execrably reported; and we are willing to believe, that even the best are very far below the merit of the original. Some of them, however, are so good and so striking, and the tone and manner of the whole is so characteristic and peculiar, that we cannot avoid taking some notice of them. We review the book, of course, as an unauthorised publication, which may serve to give strangers a general notion of the eloquence of the Irish bar,-by no means either as a work of Mr Curran, or a faithful abstract of his orations.
The very title of this book is inaccurate. Not more than one half of the speeches which it contains have any reference to the State Trials; and we think it the worst half. The subject, however it be considered, is too full of pain and of pity to be willingly brought back to remembrance; and though such retrospections come to be duties, when we are providing against the possible recurrence of the events, it is not from the pleading of a retained advocate that we can safely derive our impressions with regard to them. These speeches, too, and the two in particu lar which the editor points out to us as having been looked upon at the time as the most brilliant of all Mr Curran's appearances, are by far the most absurdly reported. One of them,
indeed, as it stands here, is little better than nonsense; and both are disgraced by the basest and most noisy vulgarity. We rather chuse to begin our extracts from the notes of Mr Curran's parliamentary speeches; though they, too, are distinguished, in this report, by a degree of keenness and personality which would scarcely be tolerated, we think, in the legislative assemblies of this country. In a very animated speech on Catholic emancipation delivered in 1798, we have the following personification of Protestant ascendancy.
But if you mean by ascendancy the power of persecution, I detest and abhor it. An ascendancy of that form raises to my mind a little greasy emblem of stall-fed theology, imported from some foreign land, with the graces of a lady's maid, the dignity of a sidetable, the temperance of a larder,—its sobriety the dregs of a patron's bottle, and its wisdom the dregs of a patron's understanding, brought hither to devour, to degrade, and to defame.'
P. 118. He then proceeds to adjure them to unanimity, as the only means to prevent the more tremendous evil of an union with Great Britain, which he describes as synonymous with the emigration of every man of consequence, and the surrender of Ireland to the oppression of a few tax-gatherers, and fifteen or twenty couple of Irish members, who might be found every session sleeping in their collars under the manger of the British minister. His description of Dr Duigenan's eloquence, though not uncontaminated by the coarseness of the reporter, seems also to be worth transcribing.
Half choked by his rage in refuting those who had spoke, he had relieved himself by attacking those who had not spoke; he had abused the Catholics; he had abused their ancestors; he had abused the merchants of Ireland; he had abused Mr Burke; he had abused those who voted for the order of the day. I do not know, said Mr Curran, but I ought to be obliged to the learned Doctor, for honouring me with a place in the invective. He has called me the bottle-holder of my Right Honourable friend. Sure I am, said he, that if I had been the bottle-holder of both, the learned Doctor would have less reason to complain of me than my Right Honourable friend; for him I should have left perfectly sober, whilst it would very clearly appear, that, with respect to the learned Doctor, the bottle had not only been managed fairly, but generously; and that if, in furnishing him with liquor, I had not furnished him with argument, I had, at least, furnished him with a good excuse for wanting it; with the best excuse for that confusion of history, and divinity, and civil law, and canon law,—that rollocking mixture of politics, and theology, and antiquity, with which he has overwhelmed the debate ;-for the havock and carnage he has made of the population of the last age, and the fury with which he seemed determined to exterminate, and even to devour the population of this; and which urged him, after tearing and gnawing the characters of the
Catholics, to spend the last efforts of his rage with the most unrelenting ferocity, in actually gnawing their names, [alluding to Dr Duigenan's pronunciation of the name of Mr Keogh, which, Mr Curran said, was a kind of pronuntiatory defamation.] I should not, however, said he, be disposed to precipitate the access of his fit, if by a most unlucky felicity of indiscretion, he had not dropped some doctrines which the silent approbation of the minister seemed to have adopted.' p. 122, 123.
In a speech for Mr Hamilton Rowan, accused of the publication of a seditious libel, he thus defends him for having professed that his object was to procure Universal Emancipation.'
I speak in the spirit of the British law, which makes liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, British soil; which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of universal emancipation. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced ;no matter what complexion, incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him ;-no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down ;-no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation. p. 169, 170.
In the same speech, there is the following striking view of the advantages of a free press, even where there is evidently a disposition to abuse it to purposes of sedition.
And what calamities are the people saved from by having public communication left open to them? I will tell you, gentlemen, what they are saved from, and what the government is saved from I will tell you also to what both are exposed by shutting up that communication. In one case, sedition speaks aloud, and walks abroad; the demagogue goes forth; the public eye is upon him; he frets his busy hour upon the stage; but soon, either weariness, or bribe, or punishment, or disappointment, bear him down, or drive him off, and he appears no more. In the other case, how does the work of sedition go forward? Night after night the muffled rebel steals forth in the dark, and casts another and another brand upon the pile, to which, when the hour of fatal maturity shall arrive, he will apply the flame.' p. 182, 183.
In another speech, in a case of libel, there are some curious specimens of popular eloquence. A person of the name of Orr had been found guilty of high treason, chiefly upon the evidence of some spies of government. After the verdict was recorded, a part of the jury made affidavit that they had been intimidated,