« ZurückWeiter »
Friar Bacon, Wycliffe, Chaucer, Cranmer, Cecil, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Taylor, Marlborough, Newton and Berkeley. This curious selection is canonized in two pages. Marlborough is most praised
'Alike in all virtues accomplish'd,
Public or private, he, the perfect soldier and statesman; 'and here is all that is said of Shakespeare
'And Shakespeare, who in our hearts for himself hath erected an empire
Not to be shaken by Time, nor e'er by another divided.' p. 34. No sixpenny biography for the use of preparatory schools, indeed, could be more flat or meagre than the whole of this puerile phantasmagoria. We get on next to The Worthies of the Georgian Age:'-that is, Wolfe, Cook, Handel, Reynolds, Hogarth, Wesley, Lord Mansfield, Burke, Hastings, Cowper and Nelson. They have about three lines a piecein this taste and spirit
'And Burke I beheld there, Eloquent statesman and sage, who, tho' late, broke loose from his trammels,
Giving then to mankind what party too long had diverted.' p. 37. Last of the celestial party come The Young Spirits,' scarcely any of whom are named-although the poet elegantly declares-
'Yet some I beheld there,
Whom should I pretermit, my heart might rightly upbraid me.'
p. 39. And then he specifies Chatterton, Bruce, Russell, Bampfylde and Kirke; and, a propos of Chatterton, breaks out into this beautiful apostrophe to the city of Bristol.
Bristol! my birth-place dear. What though I have chosen a dwelling
Far away, and my grave shall not be found by the stranger
Still am I bound to thee, and by many a deep recollection!
City of elder days, I know how largely I owe thee.' p. 42. The weary strain closes at last with The Meeting. The venerable monarch rejoins the souls of his family, and they all enter the heavenly portals. The poet wishes to follow them. As the happy company enter'd
Thro' the everlasting Gates; I, too, press'd forward to enter:. But the weight of the body withheld me.' p. 45.
He then stoops to taste of the immortal fountain, but falls back as he touches it-and suddenly awakes among the Westmoreland mountains; where, instead of heavenly music, he hears nothing but the bell from the tower toll, toll!' We are too happy to be done with him, to think of adding a word
ART. X. 1. Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt. By GEORGE TOMLINE, D. D. F. R. S. Lord Bishop of Winchester, Prelate of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Second Edition. 3 vols. 8vo. pp. 1631. London, Murray. 1821.
2. Two Letters from Mr Adair to the Bishop of Winchester, in Answer to the Charge of a High Treasonable Misdemeanour brought by his Lordship against Mr Fox and Himself. pp. 87. London, Longman. 1821.
3. A Reply to the Charges of R. Adair Esq., against the Bishop of Winchester. pp. 55. London, Rivington, 1821.
WE E are not sufficiently removed by time from the extraordinary person whose life forms the subject of this work, to attempt an estimate of his merits with any great confidence in its impartiality. The scenes in which he acted so conspicuous a part are indeed fast vanishing from the view,-thrown by others into the shade, rather than obscured by distance: But many still remain who profess to be his successors, and who were, in some respects, his associates, though in very humble characters. Their claims to notice, they are well aware, rest entirely on their connexion with him; and they have accordingly used his name as a rallying point to collect men who have no principles in common, nor any bond of union-except inherent similarity of pursuit, and the accidental circumstance of having once served together under him. It becomes difficult, therefore, to speak of Mr Pitt without a reference to the policy and the politicians of the present day; and, even if we shall succeed in estimating his claims to the gratitude of the country with perfect freedom from any bias, it is very certain that no party will give us credit for such impartiality. The circumstances which make it so hard for the writer to be unprejudiced, render it quite impossible that he should find a generation of candid readers; and he is far more likely to displease all classes, than to satisfy any. With this deep sense of the difficulties of the task we have undertaken, we should probably have been tempted to abandon it as hopeless, were there not some encouragement in the reflection, that aftertimes may be aided in forming their more calm judgment, even by the conflict of opposite doctrines in the present day; when, if placed too near the subject for correctness of opinions, we are certainly better situated for accurate knowledge of the facts.
In entering upon this most debatable subject, we are naturally anxious to find, if possible, some point from which debate may be excluded-some axiom-or at least some scarcely deniable postu
late on which to build our conclusions: And this, it appears, will be found, if at all, rather in contrasting Mr Pitt's different merits with each other, than in comparing him with his rivals or his predecessors. Thus it is undeniable, we think, that he was far more excellent as a Debater than as a Statesman. Whether or not he had superiors in eloquence among his contemporaries; how far he fell short of the exquisite models of ancient oratory; what portion of his rhetorical fame he owed to the accidental circumstance of Place, or the hardly less trivial merit of voice; in what proportions a careful analysis would lead us to distribute our admiration between the Parliamentary tactician and the Orator; and whether we are entitled to extol his genius or only his abilities in this kind-are questions that may divide men's opinions; as they will also be inclined to dispute upon the skill, the integrity, and the tendency of his measures. But we' believe it may with all safety be affirmed, that, even in the present times, no difference of opinion worth mentioning prevails respecting the vast superiority of the Speaker to the Minister, Hardly any two rational men could be found to dispute what was Mr Pitt's distinguishing excellence-his forte. Upon this, friend and foe will at once join: and point to him in his place as a first-rate Parliamentary leader: And probably, taking all the qualities together that go to form the character-eloquenceaddress-decision-discretion-he was the greatest ever produced in this, the only country where such a character is known. It is indeed marvellous to look back and observe how large a space he fills in the capacity of a debater, and into how narrow a compass his measures have already shrunk. But a little reflection easily explains the diversity. He was hurried into public life prematurely; and, though an orator may be forced, a ruler must grow. A young man of talents, whose studies have been sedulously pursued, may, at a very early age, attain all the accomplishments which enable natural genius to take the direction of eloquence. No great experience is required to mould this into the shape that suits any given assembly. Little more is wanting to carry him thus far, than can be learnt from books; but a very different study, and far longer experience, is necessary to make even the most sagacious person an able councillor in difficult emergencies; and it cannot be doubted, that the discipline requisite for this purpose is materially interrupted by the war of words, the habit which it begets of regarding every thing as a matter of discussion, and the tendency which it encourages to act with a view to the defence of measures, rather than their success.
It is probable, that a much greater variety of opinion will be formed upon the character of his eloquence, than upon the su
periority of his talents as a Parliamentary leader. Upon his own greater excellency in that than in any other capacity, there can exist little doubt. But it does not follow, either that he was the first orator of his age, or that oratory, properly so called, was his own highest merit. His eloquence was of a kind peculiarly adapted to the situation which he filled so long: He was stately and dignified in manner; clear and distinct in unravelling the details of the most complicated subject; declamatory at once and argumentative, so as to furnish the best pretexts to those who wished to follow him, while he cheered and encouraged those who might be in dread of his adversaries; but, above all, he excelled in the use of both topics and language with a view to produce the effect he desired, and never commit himself; he could balance his expressions so nicely-conceal or bring forward parts of his subject so artistly-approach, and yet shun dangerous points so dexterously-often seeming to say so much while he told so little, and almost always filling the ear more than the mind, and frequently leaving it doubtful upon reflexion, what had in substance been carried away-that a celebrated contemporary was scarcely chargeable with exaggeration * in saying, that he verily believed Mr Pitt could speak a King's Speech off hand.'
To these qualities, so eminently fitting him for a Ministerial orator, he added others of a higher description. His fluency of language was almost preternatural, and yet it never grew tiresome; for though it seldom rose to any great beauty, yet it was generally characteristic and appropriate; and from time to time it did contain expressions of more than ordinary felicity, if, at its common level, it too much resembled the diction of a Statepaper. He was rather loud and vehement than impassioned; and appeared to declaim more from the head than the heart: But then he reasoned closely, and arranged both quickly and accurately; or at least he seemed to be always arguing and distinguishing, and to address the understanding rather than the passions, over which he hardly had any other control than that which subjects the nerves of an audience to a sonorous and most powerful voice, itself under strict discipline. In one part of eloquence, and only in one, could he be deemed an orator of the highest genius: His sarcasm was at once keen and splendid; it was brilliant, and it was concise. In the rest of his speaking he resembled the Italian prose writers. In this he came nearer Dante; and could dispose of an adversary by a sentence or a single phrase; or, without stepping aside, get rid of him in a parenthesis, and then go forward to his object,-thus increasing
* Mr Windham.
the contemptuousness of the expression by its brevity and indif ference, as if his victim had been too insignificant to give any trouble.
In viewing the opposite side of the picture, we must distinguish between defects and faults. That he had very little fancy, and no pathos; that his language was not pointed or epigrammatic; that his wit was never playful, and seldom aided his argument, being pointed towards his antagonist, and not his subject, is undeniable. But nearly the same deficiencies are to be found (except the last) in the greatest orator of ancient times, and are reckoned rather peculiarities which characterize, than imperfections which detract from, his prodigious merit. But Mr Pitt's diction was not of the highest or the purest kind; it was neither learned nor natural; and his style was extremely wordy. He could not arrive by a short and simple path at his point; he did not go by the straight line; he did not say the thing at once, but spoke about it and about it, and rounded off sentences which sometimes touched it, but at others only came near it. In throwing out finished periods, he had indeed a wonderful facility; and the listener could hardly conceive how any one should produce such composition at the call of the moment. But much of the merit consisted in this feat; and the same sentences, if written, would have excited no admiration as mere composition. It is a fault of more importance, that he rarely took an original or commanding, or even an ingenious view of a subject. But for a classical quotation, or an allusion to some part of English history, which now and then occurred, he might never have read any thing beyond the Parliamentary debates and papers upon the table; nor did it seem as if the train of his thoughts ever led him beyond those subjects of contemplation. Though singularly distinct in the exposition of facts, and equally clear and extremely skilful in stating the terms of a question, his powers of reasoning at close quarters were by no means distinguished; and though he always charmed the hearer, he seldom overpowered him with that resistless torrent which makes the speaker and the speech be forgotten in the subject.
Mr Fox's great superiority lay in the fulness of his matter; the large and original views which he took; the ingenuity of his illustrations; the flow of playful wit which always made a part, and often the most effectual part of his argument; the admirable closeness of his reasoning, and the vehemence with which he poured forth his whole feelings, as well as his thoughts; and this abundance of matter it was that overcame all defects of voice and manner, and made his habitual carelessness, and hesitation of speech in some passages, only give the