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When Meanness taught her helots to be proud,
Because the breaker of their bonds was gone; Didst thou, too, join, magnanimous and loud,
The yell of millions o'er the prostrate one ?
What cat out-mew'd the Cat of Helicon ?
When stunn'd I lay beneath Destruction's wing,
Yes, when a world combined with fate to fling
A cruel sunshine on each vulgar King; When fall'n, deserted, blasted, and alone, Silent he press'd his bed of burning stone,
What caitiff aim'd at greatness in despair,
Th’immortal shaft that pierc'd Prometheus there? Cat, and not vulture ! couldst not thou refrain,
The laureate vile of viler things to be? When • Timour's Captive's' cage was rock and main,
What was ‘proud Austria's mournful flower to thee,
Thou soulless torturer of Captivity ?
The sleepless pang that stung him till he died ?
Chain'd through the soul, the throneless homicide,
Mantled his agony in stoic pride. While souls guilt-clotted watch’d, with other's eyes,
And from afar, with other's feet, repair’d To count, and weigh, and quaff his agonies-
Like Phidian marble he endur'd, and dared
The Universe to shake what Fate had spared. How fare the lands he lov’d, and fought to save ?
Oh, Hun and Goth! your new-born hope is gone! Thou, Italy, art glory's spacious grave,
Through which the stream of my renown flows on,
Like thine Euphrates, ruin'd Babylon !
Laws, prais'd in hell--not Draco's laws, but worse; A mournful page, which history writes in gall;
A table without food-an empty purse:
A name, become a byword and a curse, O’er every sea, to warn all nations, borne !"
Was it the brightening gleam of heavenly morn,
Beneath the shadow of his godlike brow ? Or, did a tear of grief, and rage, and scorn,
Down his sad cheek of pride and trouble, flow?
He felt upon his cheek th' indignant glow, But shed no tear, not ev'n a burning tear.
The fire of sorrow in his bosom pent, He gaz'd on Milton, with an eye severe,
On tranquil Pymm a look of sternness bent,
Then, smiling on the humbled stranger, went To laugh with Cæsar tasking Hannibal.
REMINISCENCES OF WINDHAM. BY AN OLD MEMBER
OF PARLIAMENT.* Things passing strange are every day happening in our world of letters. Among these, can any thing be more unaccountable than the preposterous selection of persons deemed worthy of biographical commemoration ? You have life-writers by dozens plying their obscure labours to force into a few weeks importance names as obscure as their own, in spite of the wise destinations that had ordained them to ripen and to rot unheeded—the natural euthanasia to which they were hastening in the course of things, but for the stercoraceous culture of the biographer. East India Generals or Colonels, and individuals who have groped their way to some humble nook of science, zoologists, botanists, men who passed their days in stuffing their museums with butterflies and plants, have had their lives written, and their private letters to their wives and daughters dragged from their sanctuaries—to prove what? Why that they were wise in their generation, fond husbands and good parents; that is, that they followed the ordinary instincts of their nature, and had sense enough to find out that the practice of those modest virtues made their homes comfortable and their fire-sides cheerful. Is this to be called biography ? The preservation of such names and characters from utter decomposition is not worth a single ounce of the gums and unguents expended in the process.
Yet amidst so many works of biographical supererogation, Windham to this day remains uncommemorated. Passing by the slender notices of Malone and Amyot, the one a mere memento for an obituary, the other of some merit considered with reference to its professed purpose, that of being an introduction to a collection of his speeches, but sadly disfigured by a long and dull ode from the pen of Mr. Courtenay, and a whining jeremiade by a certain Mrs. Browne of Norfolk, there is not a moral portraiture of the man, that is worth a farthing. And yet in Windham were concentrated more than the chivalry of his own or of any age the courage and the courtesy, the eldest-born of courage, that ennobled a Bayard—every unbought grace of mind that belongs to the finished gentleman--the lofty unbending integrity that never stooped to a job, nor even listened to the suggestion of one, and dur, ing the whole of its shining and uncontaminated career, stood proudly aloof from the vulgar chase after the wealth, or honours, or titles, for which common men barter away the immediate jewel of their souls. Add to this (nor is it a mean praise) he was a hater of cant in a canting age, of such cant especially as is now dominant
a cant not venting itself in harmless bursts of verbal hypocrisy, but an embodied living nuisance, pursuing with unslumbering zeal its sworn purpose, the extinction of the amusements and exercises of the poor, filching away their humble recreations, and for ever growling at their ale-house enjoyments, or their village festivities. Indeed, of all kinds
* In personal sketches of this sort, great latitude must be allowed to the generous admiration of the writer. And we content ourselves with warning our readers, that in all such sketches, they should consider the author rather as a friend who narrates, than as a judge who determines.-E..
of cant, whether in man or woman, Windham was the unsparing adversary. He felt the decent horror of a genuine Englishman, when he saw the bench of Quarter Sessions blackened by clerical magistrates, and thwarted as much as he could their gossiping interference with the lowly pleasures of the peasant. He was the last who lifted up a protesting voice against the encroachments of inclosure acts, which robbed the poor man of his village green, and blotted out from his native landscape those beautiful patches of verdure over which his goose and her noisy brood had once the unmolested privilege of wandering.
For his admiration of pugilism he shall be his own apologist. In 1809 I find his opinions on this subject developed in a logical or rather a philosophical form; and they are certainly characteristic of a mind disciplined to large views, and surveying man and his nature in a wide horizon. They occur in a letter written in that year to his friend Mr. Hudson of Norwich. “ A smart contest this between Richmond and Madox! Why are we to boast so much of the native valour of our troops, as shown at Talavera, Maida, and Vimeira, whilst we discourage every practice and habit that tends to keep alive its sentiment and feeling? The emotions that filled the minds of the three thousand spectators who attended the two pugilists, were precisely the same in kind as those which inspired the higher combatants on those occasions.
He that the world subdued, had been
But the best wrestler on the green. There is no sense in asking, are no men brave but boxers ? Bravery is found in all habits, classes, circumstances, and conditions. But have habits and institutions of one sort no tendency to form it more than another? Longevity is found in persons of habits the most opposite ; but are not certain habits more favourable to it than others ? The courage does not arise from mere boxing, from beating or being beat, but by the sentiments excited in the contemplation and culture of such practices. Will it make no difference in the mass of a people, whether their amusements are all of a pacific, pleasurable, and effeminate kind, or whether they are of a sort that calls forth continued admiration of hardihood and prowess? But when I get on these topics I never know when to have done—so I will send my compliments to Mrs. H. and have done.”
Is it not an odd problem that there should be no biography of such a man, one of the most complete scholars and one of the most eloquent statesmen of his day—the friend of Johnson, Reynolds, and Garrick—the cherished disciple of Burke, and the beloved associate of Fox-a distinguished member too of the club, the only club that ever deserved the name of literary? Yet there is hardly an instance of a man, public or private, who was so much deplored. It seems almost the other day, though nearly twenty-two years ago, when crowds of anxious inquirers assembled at his door in Pall Mall to hear the report of his physicians, so soon as they had learned he had undergone an operation that placed his life in jeopardy. No en quirers were more assiduous than George the Third, who had thu strongest personal regard for him. The day before his death, I remained for some hours at Strongitharm's shop opposite to his resi
dence, expecting that some casual message might bring Moreton or some other domestic into the street; and when Moreton appeared and answered my interrogation whether all was right, by sighing heavily and shaking his head, a chill dampness siezed me, and
the hopes that the immediate effects of the operation which was deemed a successful one, had diffused over London but a day or two before, fled instantly from the countenances of those who were pacing the street to satisfy the same gloomy curiosity. Nor shall I soon forget seeing William Elliot, Windham's dearest friend, (who had passed the last three days and nights in his sick chamber) leaving the house soon after. That wan though intelligent face, which had procured him the appellation of the Castle Spectre, when he was Irish Secretary, was on this occasion sicklied o'er with a paleness more livid than ever, a pretty intelligible index of the prophetic feeling that he had seen Windham for the last time. And there is no rhetorical exaggeration in saying that the death of this man threw a gloom over the social circles of the town ;-those circles, I mean, that could appreciate the loss sustained by the nation in the extinction of one of its last remaining ornaments. Not that fashionable pleasure was suspended, or that balls and dinners did not go on as before; but there was a manifest eclipse of gaiety, and in every party you saw a group involuntarily gathering together, and talking about it as a calamity by which every other topic was superseded. Even those who thought too much of themselves to cast a thought on Windham or anybody else, deemed it good taste and decency to assume the tone and sentiment prevalent on that occasion.
I have lived to see the great luminaries of our state and senate disappear one after the other, and having been a good deal about town at the period I speak of, I set myself up for a tolerable judge of the various degrees of regret felt at their deaths, considering them as no mean criteria of the respective degrees of their living estimation. Pitt was missed more than regretted, and Fox, "a man made to be loved,” was honoured with the purest tears of friendship and affection. Burke indeed had arrived at the extreme boundaries of life, and the infirmities of age accelerated by his almost morbid sort
sorrows for the death of his son, had long withdrawn him from the public eye. And by the way, (if I may be permitted the digression,) Windham himself told me that Burke bewailed the loss of his son Richard with such an “emphasis of grief” as nearly to deprive him of reason: “I had often thought,” said Windham, “ that the sorrow Lucan puts into the mouth of Cornelia for the death of Pompey
• Turpe mori post te solo non posse dolore,' was a mere idle rapture and wholly out of nature. But I can assure you that it is precisely the sorrow experienced by Mr. Burke, and that he feels as if it were an unbecoming thing to survive his son, a species of disgrace that his grief is not sufficiently acute to terminate his own existence." But Windham, the manly, the chivalrous Windham, the unstained mirror in which the highest graces of the human character were reflected, “pure in the last recesses of the mind,” fearlessly expressing what he thought and felt, and instinctively loathing and shrinking from the contagion of all that is mean, little, or shuffling-Windham, perhaps in some degree from the stricter justice that men are disposed to show each other after death, was still more acutely deplored, and that too by many whom the uncompromising fearlessness of his character had unintentionally wounded. I met Lord Erskine a day or two after Windham's death. . A man more exquisitely aliye to ridicule than Erskine never lived ; and it was only a few weeks before that Windham had, by the mingled force of ridicule and argument, driven his “Cruelty to Animals' Bill" out of the House of Commons; and Erskine was not one easily to forgive the overthrow of a piece of legislation which he fondly imagined would remain an imperishable monument to his fame. Yet no person shared more fully in the regret of that occasion. « To tell you the truth,” said Erskine, “ I was a good deal hurt that the bill was not allowed fair play; but I feel now, however wounded vanity might have nettled me against poor Windham, that I love and admire him as much as I loved and admired him before he seceded from the Whigs, and when we used to pass so many delightful evenings together at our friend Weddel's."*
Windham incurred before and after his death considerable obloquy by opposing that Bill, and stood a similar fire when he opposed Sir William Dolben's Bill to prevent bull-baiting, for all the Saints were in full cry against him except Wilberforce, who had too fine a tact not to perceive and render homage to the enlarged principles by which he was influenced. Even now, when Windham's name has been occasionally mentioned, it has been my fate to hear him censured, nay his memory insulted by some of the minor talkers and thinkers, who affect the fashionable sensibilities of the day, as if he had been the cold-blooded apologist for cruelty towards the inferior creation. Yet never was there a man who abhorred more the sufferings inflicted on those to whom by placing them under man's dominion Providence had given an indefeasible claim to his protection, and he did what most men would demur to undertake--he personally interfered when he saw an animal injuriously treated; he did, moreover, what few could have done better, inflicted a severe chastisement on the brutal offender. The truth is, he was adverse to needless acts of legislation, that great opprobrium of modern times, which has rendered nearly half our statute book a morbid excrescence of useless or inefficient enactments, and he thought that legislation was worse than thrown away when it interfered unnecessarily with an evil which opinion and manners could alone effectually correct.
Every body," Windham used to say in his peculiar way, “ every body now-a-days runs to the House of Commons as to the parish pump." Or as he once observed to me, “the table of the House reminds one of the mountain of miseries in the Spectator, to which every one, who has got any thing to complain of, comes, and adds it to the heap."
In the House of Commons, where his clear but somewhat shrill
* Mr. Weddel, the friend of Lord Rockingham, Mr. Burke, Lord Fitzwilliam, and Dunning, was a staunch supporter of the old Whig party. At his hospitable table the members of that party were frequently and elegantly entertained. Mr. W. died suddenly whilst taking a hot-bath.