Abbildungen der Seite

nature of a strictly representative system, and is beginning to be felt in the English House of Commons to a formidable extent.

All laws,' says M. de Tocqueville, which tend to make the representative more dependent on the elector, not only affect the conduct of the legislature, but also their language. They exercise a simultaneous influence on affairs themselves, and on the manner in which affairs are discussed. There is hardly a member of Congress who can make up his mind to go home without having despatched at least one speech to his constituents, nor who will endure any interruption until he has introduced into his harangue whatever useful suggestions may be made touching the four-and-twenty states of which the Union is composed, and especially the district which he represents.'

When an orator has got his audience bound hand and foot, it is not in human nature to be merciful, and it is consequently no matter of astonishment to find the best speakers almost as unsparing as the worst. After dining for the first time in company with one of their greatest men when visiting London, the reflection suggested to an acute observer by his mode of delivering his opinions was, that time must be of comparatively little value in America. To test the justice of the remark, apply the criterion which Mr. Rogers has applied to so many distinguished authors with such success.

This most elegant and correct of writers, with a taste matured by the constant study of the classics of our tongue, has amused his leisure hours by trying into how small a compass wit, wisdom, and eloquence may be packed. The notes to the last edition of his poems are not merely treasure-houses of anecdote and illustration, but admirable studies in composition for those who will be at the pains of ascertaining the precise language in which the same thoughts or incidents have been expressed or related by others. A good instance is afforded by his version of a now familiar incident, as compared with that of Mr. Wordsworth or (what can induce this young and really able writer to challenge such comparisons ?) Mr. Milnes :

"“ You admire that picture,” said an old Dominican to me at Padua, as I stood contemplating a Last Supper in the refectory of his convent, the figures as large as the life," I have sat at my meals before it for seven-and-forty years; and such are the changes that have taken place amongst us--so many have come and gone in the time—that, when I look upon the company there-upon those who are sitting at that table, silent as they are—I am sometimes inclined to think that we, and not they, are the shadows." —Rogers's Poems, p. 312.

* Democracy in America, Part the Second, vol. iii. p. 189. English Translation.


Mr. Wordsworth gives twenty-three lines of blank verse to this story, and Mr. Milnes seven stanzas of four lines each:

'Stranger! I have received my daily mea

In this good company now three score years,
And thou, whoe'er thou art, canst hardly feel

How time these lifeless images endears,' &c. &c. Mr. Rogers has also compressed the famous passage from Burke (quoted ante p. 41) into less than half of its original dimensions. This, however, is a doubtful experiment. Burke was a rich and full but not a wordy speaker; and almost every epithet has an individual aim, and serves to point, amplify, or modify the thought. Moreover, essences are rather hard of digestion; and, considering how modern popular assemblies are composed, it would seldom be safe to calculate on that intuitive quickness of perception which takes in a fine image at a hint, or bolts a long train of reasoning in a syllogism. Does the bare WOTEP veços of Demosthenes fill the mind like the one black cloud,' which hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains,'—or was Lord Erskine wrong in rating amongst Fox's highest merits his mode of passing and repassing the same topics in the most unforeseen and fascinating review'? But after making all fair allowances for audience and occasion, it is not going too far to say that the best American orators might be advantageously reduced a third-many, two-thirds-and some, if nothing were left but what the sense or sentiment required, would shrink down into a resemblance to the little Dutch governor mentioned by Knickerbocker, who pined away so rapidly, that, when he died, there was nothing of him left to bury.

The constant straining after effect is another of their obvious failings: they have no notion of repose or simplicity: they never stand at ease: they live, and move, and have their being upon stilts. Action, action, action, says the Greek: Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor, cries the American. Get money,' says the old-world adage, honestly if you can--at all events get money, -quocunque modo rem. · Be eloquent,' says the American,

naturally if you can—at all events be eloquent.' The German professor (we suspect, Dr. von Raumer) was found jumping over the chairs and tables to make himself lively, and the Transatlantic orator may be seen slapping his forehead, beating his breast, puffing, blowing, and perspiring, to make himself sublime. There cannot be a stronger proof of their weakness in this particular than the fact of the Irish looking tame, chaste, and abstemious alongside of them. It will readily be admitted that the natives of the Green Isle are fond of flowers, and not over-nice in their selection, but they do not insist upon passing off faded or artificial E 2


ones as fresh bouquets of their own gathering. They invoke the genius of their country too often, and lay too many chaplets on her shrine, but they are not eternally dancing round her (like the philanthropists in the Anti-jacobin) with sunflowers and hollyhocks in their hands.

Here, also, M. de Tocqueville has his theory ready; as for what anomaly has he not? In this instance, however, he has clearly been led astray by his love of generalising :

* In democratic communities each citizen is habitually engaged in the contemplation of a very puny object, namely, himself. If he ever raises his looks higher, he then perceives nothing but the universal form of society at large, or the still more imposing aspect of mankind. His ideas are all either extremely minute and clear, or extremely general and vague: what lies between is an open void. When he has been drawn out of his own sphere, therefore, he always expects the same amazing object will be offered to his attention; and it is on these terms alone that he consents to tear himself for an instant from the paltry, complicated cares which form the charm and excitement of his life.'*

With all due deference to M. de Tocqueville, we should say that the attention of such a citizen would be more likely to be attracted by simple domestic pictures and practical good sense than by sublime flights or large general views; that he would prefer Crabbe to Wordsworth, and Tierney to Burke. As to his perceiving nothing but society or mankind in the abstract, he cannot raise his eyes without seeing ships, shops, and crops—the outward and visible signs of commerce, manufactures, and agriculture ; public works and public men; the wonders of art and nature; General Jackson and the falls of Niagara. In fact, the mixture of jealousy and self-complacency with which the citizens of the United States are wont to contemplate such things, affords a much more plausible solution of the mystery. The English are a proud nation; the Americans a vain one. The English care little what foreigners think or say of them; the Americans care a great deal. The English bide their time, or repose upon their laurels; the Americans fret, sume, and play the frog in the fable, in the vain hope of arriving, per saltum, at the same height of intellectual and political superiority. In our opinion, their commemorative discourses are alone sufficient to vitiate both their feelings and their style. On the anniversaries of the landing at Plymouth, the declaration of independence, the battle of Bunker's Hill, and many other interesting events of the same kind, all the orators of the country, bad, good and indifferent, are regularly set to work to abuse England, and glorify their own great, good, wise, free and unpretending democracy.

See the chapter entitled- of the inflated style of American orators and writers.


The ordinary images and topics being long ago exhausted, exaggeration is the order of the day; and the more inflated the language the better, when national vanity is to be pampered and commonplaces are to be attractively dished up. At the same time there is surely no necessity for going into any refined or recondite train of speculation to show why, speaking generally, our Transatlantic friends (if they will allow us to call them so) want taste, which is the sum and substance of the charge.


Art. II.-Report from the Select Committee on Medical Educa

tion, with the Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix. Part I. Royal College of Physicians, London. Part II. Royal College of Surgeons, London. Part III. Society of Apothecaries, London. Printed by order of the House of Commons, 1834. N the year 1834 a Committee of the House of Commons was

appointed to inquire into the laws, regulations, and usages regarding the education and practice of the various parts of the medical profession in the United Kingdom.' A gentleman, who had rendered a great service to the public by introducing what is usually called the Anatomy Act into parliament, having been named chairman, the Committee proceeded to their inquiry, which seems to have been of a very extended nature, as the printed evidence, which relates only to the state of the medical profession in England, occupies not fewer than eight hundred folio pages. The evidence as to Scotland and Ireland has never been printed at all; and it is generally understood that it was destroyed by the fire which consumed the Houses of Parliament a year or two afterwards.

The Committee were satisfied with having performed their duties so far, and, notwithstanding the title which is prefixed to the printed papers, never made a report. We are not surprised at this. To analyse and arrange the discordant materials of which this evidence consists would be an almost endless undertaking; and, even if it were accomplished, it would be found to throw but a scanty gleam of light on the only questions in which the public and the great mass of the profession are really interested. The disputes which so long subsisted between the fellows and licentiates of ihe College of Physicians, and which, in one way or another, occupy between three and four hundred out of the whole eight hundred pages, have never excited much interest, except among the disputants themselves; nor are there many, even within the pale of the profession, and certainly there are none out of it, who take it much to heart whether the councillors of the College of


Surgeons are elected in one way or in another. As to the best mode of conducting medical education, so as to ensure a supply of well-informed and honourable practitioners, who, while they fulfil their duties to society in the best possible manner, maintain for themselves a respectable station in it-but little useful information can be obtained from the most careful perusal of the whole of what the Committee have published. This, however, is the problem which the House of Commons must have intended (if they intended anything) really to have had solved; and believing, as we do, that the subject is one of the highest importance, not only to the public at large, but to every individual among us, we do not hesitate to draw the attention of our readers to it.

But here a preliminary question presents itself. Are we to admit it as a general principle, that it is wise and expedient for the state to interfere in any way with the regulation of the medical profession? There is no such interference with the majority of other professions. No course of study is prescribed as a necessary qualification for civil engineers, architects, surveyors, sculptors, or painters; nor are there any colleges whose business it is to examine those who have completed their studies, as to their knowledge and attainments, and give them licences to practise :--Yet there is no want of talent, information, and skill among those who are engaged in these pursuits. Even in the inns of court, the being called to the bar proves little as to the qualification of the candidate, except that there is nothing disreputable in his general character. It may be further observed—and it will not be denied by those who are acquainted with these matters —that no degree of discipline, nor any kind of examination, can ensure the public against having a certain number of persons who are very indifferently qualified included in the list of wellqualified practitioners. Young men may be compelled to have opportunities of study, but they cannot be compelled to learn; and it is notorious that of those who have wasted their time for two years and nine months there are many who contrive, by means of labour and a good memory, to learn their lesson so well by rote in the remaining three months, that the most careful and experienced examiner will find it no easy matter to detect their insufficiency. It is, indeed, impossible, under the very best system of examination, to prevent a certain quantity of base metal receiving the stamp which ought to be impressed only on the good; and if to this we add the following consideration, that such an examination as all are required to pass neither can, nor ought, to prove more than that the individual examined has the minimum of knowledge which a practitioner should possess, we cannot well be astonished that there should be reasonable persons who doubt the


« ZurückWeiter »