Imatges de pÓgina

fur though when compelled by circumstances, he can be soft and soothing, as I have above described him, yet on other occasions, where it can be done with safety, he does not hesitate to apprise a jury, whose purity he suspects, of his real opinion of their merits, and indeed, not unfrequently, in the roundest terms defies them to balance for an instant between their malignant prejudices and the clear and resistless justice of the case.

There is one, the most difficult, it is said, and certainly the most anxious and responsible part of an advocate's duties, in which O'Connell is without a rival at the Irish Bar-I allude to his skill in conducting defences in the Crown Court. His ability in this branch of his profession illustrates one of those inconsistencies in his character to which I have already adverted. Though habitually so bold and sanguine, he is here a model of forethought and undeviating caution. In his most rapid cross-examinations, he never puts a dangerous question. He

presses a witness upon collateral facts, and beats him down by argument and jokes and vociferation ; but wisely presuming his client to be guilty until he has the good luck to escape conviction, he never affords the witness an opportunity of repeating his original narrative, and perhaps, by supplying an omitted item, of sealing the doom of the accused.

O'Connell's ordinary style is vigorous and copious, but incorrect. The want of compactness in his periods, however, I attribute chiefly to inattention. He has phrase in abundance at command, and his ear is sensible of melody. Every now and then he throws off sentences not only free from all defect, but extremely felicitous specimens of diction. As to his general powers of eloquence, he rarely fails, in a case admitting of emotion, to make a deep impression upon a jury; and in a popular assembly he is supreme. Still there is much more of eloquence in his manner and topics than in his conceptions. He unquestionably proves, by occasional bursts, that the elements of oratory, and perhaps of the highest order, are about him ; but he has had too many pressing demands of another kind to distract him from the cultivation of this the rarest of all attainments, and accordingly I am not aware that

any of his efforts, however able and successful, have deserved, as examples of public speaking, to survive the occasion. His manner, though far from graceful, is earnest and impressive. It has a steady and natural warmth, without any of that snappish animation in which gentlemen of the long robe are prone to indulge. His voice is powerful, and the intonations full and graduated. I understand that when first he appeared at the Bar, his accent at once betrayed his foreign education. To this day there is a remaining dash of Foigardism in his pronunciation of particular words; but, on the whole, he has brought himself, as far as delivery is concerned, to talk pretty much like a British subject.

It was my original intention to have dwelt in some detail upon O'Connell, as a popular leader, but I have no longer space, and I could scarcely effect my purpose without plunging into that “sea of troubles,” the present politics of Ireland : yet a word or two upon the subject before I have done. Indeed, in common fairness, I feel bound to correct any depreciating inferences that may be drawn from the tone of levity in which I may have glanced at some traits of his public

[ocr errors]

deportment, and which I should have hesitated to indulge in, if I had not given him credit for the full measure of good-humour and good sense, that can discriminate at once (should these pages meet his eye) between an inoffensive sally and a hostile sneer.

O'Connell has been now for three and twenty years a busy actor upon an agitated scene. During that period no public character has been more zealously extolled, or more cordially reviled. Has the praise or blame been excessive, or has either been undeserved ? Has he been a patriot, or an incendiary? for, such are the extreme points of view in which the question of his merits has been discussed by persons, too impassioned and too interested in the result to pronounce a sound opinion upon it. To one, however, who has never been provoked to admire or hate him to excess, the solution may not be difficult. After reviewing the whole of O'Connell's career as a politician, an impartial observer will be disposed to say of him, that he was a man of a strong understanding and of stronger feelings, occupied incessantly, and almost always without due preparation, upon questions where it would have perplexed the wisest to discern the exact medium between disgraceful submission and factious importunity that by necessity a partisan, he has been steady to his cause, and consistent in his ultimate object, though many times inconsistent in the adoption of the means to obtain it; and that now in the long run, after all the charges of violence and indiscretion that have been heaped upon him, it is questioned by some of the clearest understandings in England, whether, in the present state of political morals, a more courtly policy than O'Connell's either is, or was ever, calculated to advance the interests of his body. But leaving his political incentives aside, and referring solely to the personal provocations to which he is daily exposed, I should say, that it would be utterly unnatural in such a man to be other than violent. To O'Connell, as a barrister, his disqualification is a grievous injustice. It is not in theory alone that it operates. It visits him in the practical details of his professional life, and in forms the most likely to gall a man of conscious powers and an ambitious temperament. He has the mortification of being incessantly reminded, that for years past his fortunes have been absolutely at a dead stop, while he was constantly condemned to see men who started with him and after him, none of them his superiors, many of them far beneath him, partially thrust before him, and lifted into stations of honour and emolument to which he is forbidden to aspire. The stoutest adversary of Papal encroachments must admit, that there is something irritating in this ; for my part, instead of judging harshly of the spirit in which he retaliates, I rather honour the man for the energy with which he wrestles to the last with the system that would keep him down; and if now and then his resistance assumes such a form as to be in itself an evil, I am not sorry, for the sake of freedom and humanity, to see it proved that intolerant laws cannot be enforced without inconvenience. But in general (to speak the truth) O'Connell's vengeance is not of a very deadly description. He is, after all, a man of a kindly and forgiving nature; and where the general interests of his country are not concerned, is disposed to resent his personal wrongs with great command of temper.

His forbearance in this respect is really creditable to him, and the more so as it meets with no return.


The admirers of King William have no mercy for a man, who, in his seditious moods, is so provoking as to tell the world that their idol was “ a Dutch adventurer.” Then his intolerable success in a profession where many a stanch Protestant is condemned to starve, and his fashionable house in Merrion-square, and a greater eye-sore still, his dashing revolutionary equipage, green carriage, green liveries, and turbulent Popish steeds, prancing over a Protestant pavement to the terror of Protestant passengers-a nuisance that in the good old times would have been put down by Act of Parliament—these and other provocations of equal publicity, have exposed this learned culprit to the deep and irrevocable detestation of a numerous class of his Majesty's hating subjects in Ireland. And the feeling is duly communicated to the public. The loyal press of Dublin teems with the most astounding imputations upon his character and motives. As a dish for the periodical libellers of the day, O'Connell is quite a cut-and-come-again, from the crazy Churchman, foaming over the apprehended fall of tithes, down to the political striplings of the College, who, instead of trying their youthful genius upon the cardinal virtues, or "the lawfulness of killing Cæsar,” devote their hours of classic leisure to the more laudable task of demonstrating, for the comfort of the Orange lodges, that “ Counsellor O'Connell carries on a treasonable correspondence with Captain Rock.” But the Counsellor, who happens to know a little more of the law of high treason than his accusers, has the good sense to laugh at them and their threats of the hangman. Now that all practical attempts upon life have been abandoned *, he bears the rest with true Christian patience and contempt; and whenever any of his defamers recant“ in extremis” and die good Catholics, as the most bigoted among them are said to do, if the faci be duly certified by his friend Mr. Denis Scully t, who has quite an instinct for collecting materials touching this portion of secret history, O'Connell, I am assured, not only forgives them all their libels, but contributes liberally towards setting on foot a few expiatory masses for their souls.

* I allude to what was really a shocking occurrence.-A Corporation has been defined to be “a thing having neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned.” With this definition before him, Mr. O'Connell did not imagine that he exceeded the limits of public debate in calling the Dublin Corporation a “ beggarly Corporation." One of its most needy members, however, either volunteered or was incited to think otherwise, and called upon the speaker to apologize or fight. To Mr. O'Connell, a life of vital importance to a numerous family, and of great importance to the best part of the Irish public, the alternative was dreadful. He saw the ferocity of the transaction in its full light, but he committed his conduct to the decision of his friends, and a duel ensued. The aggressor was killed. Had the result been different, his claims would probably not have been overlooked by the patrons of the time (1815); at least such is understood to have been the expectation under which he provoked his fate.

+ The Catholic barrister, a gentleman quite clever and important enough to be treated of apart. For the present, I shall merely record of him that one of his favourite theories is, that no rank Orangeman ever “ dies game." He can tell you the exact moment when Doctor Duigenan began to roar out for a priest. He has a large stock of mortuary anecdotes illustrating his general doctrine, and he relates them with true Sardonic vivacity.

The sun had set on a fearful day,
When the banner'd hosts of Assyria lay
On the battle-field stretch'd in the soldier's sleep,
In number the sands on the shore of the deep,

And fierce in security.
They had vaunted their strength in their chariots' might,
They had boasted to level on Lebanon's height
The tall cedar-trees at their conquests wide
Over nations laid waste in the march of their pride,

Israel had blench'd with affright.
From her city towers she had look'd o’er the plain,
Where the swarm of her foes heaved like waves on the main ;
She had seen in the sunbeams an harvest of spears,
And the tramp of the horsemen had burst on her ears

To combat or fly was vain.
“ My arm,” said the Lord,“ shall the foemen engage,
I will bridle his mouth and his ire assuage-
I will send him a remnant in number away,
And the king of Assyria shall fly froin his prey,

And the spoiler forget his rage."
'Twas night, and no moon had lit up the sky,
The hosts, wrapp'd in dreams, thought no danger nigh,
The sentinel only his bright arms wore,
While the darkness wax'd greater more and more

As the noon of night pass’d by.
The silence is fear-struck as night's noon comes by!
And a sound like the wing of an eagle on high,
That shook 'mid the stillness his pennons strong,
With a rush like an autumn-blast sweeping along,

Smote the hearers-fearfully.
The Angel of Death o'er the arm'd hosts is flying,
The Simoom from his wing their hearts-blood is drying,
From the slumber of life into death they have past,
And his is the march like a rustling blast,

Their prowess and strength defying.
Swifter far than the flash 'mid the tempest's roar,
He deliver'd the terrible message he bore;
And myriads lay breathless and routing ere day
Lit the stranger to mark the Assyrian array

Like grass upon Galilee's shore.
There is silence of horror all over the plain
There are few that arise from that couch of the slain ;
And they wander in fear ’mid the festering dead,
And they shout, but no comrade lifts his head

They shout, and they shout in vain.
There the steed and his rider, the chief of the sword,
Are melted away by the breath of the Lord ;
And the purple Sennacherib is wailing his power,
For whose bosom of pride in prosperity's hour

The wine-cup of wrath is pour'd.
There are none that the burial-rites prepare
For the thousands that cover the green earth there;
The living have fled to their far country,
The unsepulchred dead are the vultures' prey,

And wolves the carnival share.


“ Ætherias, lascive, cupis volitare per auras,
I, fuge ; sed poteras tutior esse domi.”

MARTIAL. To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine. SIR,- I have always been of opinion that a large part of the labours of man are lost, both to the individual and to society, from their not having been directed to some certain and well-defined scope. For this reason, from the moment I first entered College (now, alas ! fiveand-thirty years ago), I determined to look about me, and fix upon some useful object, suited to my feelings and capacities, upon which I might concentrate all my powers, and produce something that might at once prove serviceable to my species, and procure me a name that may shine conspicuous when the art of the brass-founder shall be forgotten, and a medal or a bronze no longer remain in existence.

I am a man, Sir, of much patient industry, of some shrewdness of remark, of profoundly retentive memory, and of extensive reading,, qualities of which I the less hesitate to boast, because they are pledges of my fitness for the task I have undertaken, and because it is in strict compliance with the received custom among the learned of the last age—the “ mighty dead "—to announce themselves with a becoming confidence. If Horace and Ovid, indeed, were justified in singing of themselves, “ Exegi monumentumand “ Jamque opus,&c. on account of their poetry, how much more may a Gesner, a Baxter, or a Heinsius boast, whose labours have prevented these (so called) immortal works from perishing ; who have restored these dilapidated "monuments," have explained their inscriptions, and rendered them intelligible to schoolboys and undergraduates : and here I may be permitted to remark, that this present age, which has added to the stores of English literature three first-rate poets, (Southey, Wordsworth, and the anonymous author of a MS. volume of Latin poetry penès me), to say nothing of the minora sidera, Byron, Campbell, Moore, &c. &c. it has, in its immense fertility, brought to light not one Commentator.

Influenced by this reflection, and by the natural bent of my own genius, I no sooner knew myself, (e cælo descendit, &c. &c.), than I determined to embark my hopes and my fortunes in the composition of a great literary work suited to my peculiar talents. My parents, indeed, were anxious that I should have entered upon some of the active professions, and figured in the busy haunts of men, a lawyer, a divine, or a physician. But what, Sir, are theologians or physicians ? Men who confine themselves to one limited study, who survey nature in one only of its numerous aspects, and who, binding themselves to a single end, scarcely ever are found even to accomplish that. The lawyers are still worse : their reading lies wholly in a circle whieh nobody thinks of entering but themselves ; and " scire tuum nihil est;" the knowledge which you cannot display to others is only so much ignorance. A lawyer, Sir, ranks with a conjuror; more feared than estimated; worshipped only by the ignorant and the credulous, and carefully avoided by all who have the slightest regard for their quiet or their purse. My multifarious reading, which has extended over the whole range of literature, qualified me for nobler pursuits, and my

« AnteriorContinua »