Page images

Art. XVI. P arliamentary Portraits, or Sketches of the Public Character of some of the distinguished Members of the House

of Commons, .# printed in the Examiner. 8vo. 235 pp. Baldwin and Co. 1815.

IN former days the coffee-house was the arena upon which all the minor politicians of the day descended to discuss the affairs of the nation. In the revolution, however, of fashion, these

scenes of noisy debate having become the temples of taciturnity,

some other vent was found necessary for the ill-humours of the extremities of the body politic. The coffee-houses have been succeeded by the Sunday Papers, in which every discontented coxcomb may fire off his seditious vulgarity, without any fear, excepting in a very few instances, for the personal consequences of his virulence and absurdity. In the mean time these wretched scribblers, who but for the aid of a little libel and sedition, would have slept on in a state of utter insignificance, rise into

no small share of self-importance, and become the secretaries

of state affairs for the mob-department. It is almost inconceivable with how much audacity of falsehood they issue forth their strictures upon measures, of which they know neither the

origin nor the end, and their portraits of characters, of which they are from pure ignorance unable to forin the slightest con

ception. It is lamentable also to observe with what avidity

these weekly messes of treason and lies are swallowed by the

deluded multitude, who in many cases are better informed and better principled than their teachers. - * -We neither know, nor are desirous of knowing who may be

the author of the portraits before us; he appears to have a to

lerable school-boy's acquaintance with the Latin and Greek languages, and to have been a constant attendant on the gallery,

of the House of Commons. We are willing to give out author credit, where he appears to deserve it. He has studied the characters of the various speakers, as they appear in the House

with much diligence, and has presented us with no unfaithful

portrait of their respective merits. The peculiar features of

each member are well drawn, and the attention. which the House is inclined to bestow upon their exertions, fairly calculated....The following is the portrait of Lord Castlereagh :

“ It is peculiar also to Lord Castlereagh to be heard with much.

apparent respect, and even fondness, though the style of his harangues is decidedly the dullest in the Lower House. He has no.

imagination, no £nergy either of thought or language, no spirit in his mannér ; and though he is perpetually aiming at uncommon,

words and forms of expression, yet I never remember him to have struck out one happy combination. His involutions of sentences have

t 9

have been much ridiculed as rendering his meaning frequently inaccessible: and his adversaries and rivals have generally ascribed this obscurity to design, and call it a stratagem to escape from any open declaration of his sentiments, which might be in the way of future arrangements. I do not think so : I believe Lord Castlereagh to be sincere in most of his opinions, and more free from uncandid evasions than most of the political aspirants of the day: he has at least as much public integrity, and as strong claims to public confidence, as Mr. Ponsonby, and a vast deal more, I apprehend, than Mr. Canning. The perplexity of his diction I impute to that anxious laboriousness so common to a mind inquiring but not acute, whose ideas being indistinct and half-formed, can of course never produce clear and perfect images, but which, being eager to communicate its notions, endeavours, by every artifice of variety, quantity, and length, to supply the place of simplicity and energy. It is like the variegated patch-work of a beggar's garment, where a thousand diversities of rags, however artfully placed, form but an ill substitute for a firm and uniform texture; or like an unweildy levy-en-masse, instead of a compact, well-organized, and manageable army—A more trifling peculiarity is that affected pronunciation with which he enervates the masculine sounds of our tongue; such for instance as calling “knowledge,” “nullige;” “Commons,” “cummins;” “discussion,” * deskissin,” and several others: this is so curious an exception to the usual plain dull common sense of Lord Castlereagh, that I can only account for it by supposing that Lady C., who is a lady of letters, may have some favourite theory of enunciation, intended to supersede Sheridan's or Walker's, and that she has engaged her noble husband to try its efficacy and power of pleasing in the first assembly of the nation. One puerile affectation may be forgiven him, because it seems to arouse all his energies, and really stirs him into a sort of warmth; a military subject is to him what Galvanism is to a dead frog: he jumps about with symptoms of life, which might deceive a common observer, till, on looking for the

animating soul, you find that all these exertions were merely ac

cidental. Whence this military propensity proceeds, I cannot tell: his father was a Colonel of Volunteers, and himself commands a regiment of Militia; but this is the case with a score or two other Members of the House. It can hardly arise from his looking well in the military dress, though he is fond of appearing in it; for he must know. that he looks the accomplished gentleman in any garb. Indeed this is the favourable side of Lord Castlereagh : his handsome person, his intelligent and well-defined countenance, his conciliatory tone, his gracesul manners, his mildness, urbanity, and invincible courtesy, ensure him popularity and even fondness from the House of Commons, in spite of his dulness and in spite of his political errors. Personal and even political animosity loses daily some of its rancour, from the influence of that gentleness which never irritates, and is as slow to be irritated; whose polish makes

- the

the sharpest arrow, which anger can shoot, glide from him harmless, and whose softness neutralizes the most acrid venom. Thus, though he is utterly deficient in the marks of the real English character, and is as little like his native Irish,_though he has no ho- . nest indiscretions, no bursts of feeling, no fearless unhesitating avowals, at once imprudent, and noble, yet he is perhaps the greatest favourite, since the time of Lord North, in an assembly consisting four-fifths of Englishmen. Mr. Perceval was liked, and deservedly, as an amiable gentleman, but then he fancied himself a wit, and he really had some power of sarcasm. With this dangerous talent often has he roused the sleeping Whigs into all the rancour of party-rage at the end of a long debate, which had been for hours conducted with the prevailing apathy of the day. Thus he had almost as many political enemies as Mr. Pitt, though he was as gentle as the other was haughty and unaccommodating. Lord Castlereagh has no wit, nor power of satire; and he is too prudent or too good-natured to show the wish to strike without the energy sufficient to make the blow effectual.” P. 15.

The following account of the sparring exhibitions between Sir J. Newport and Mr. Wellesley Pole, is not devoid of merit:

“It is sometimes amusing to witness the intellectual spars between the two Ex-Chancellors of Ireland, Mr. Pole, and Sir J. Newport. The Baronet, though highly respectable for his independence, integrity, and general amenity of manners, is, however, more testy than beseems a wise, Statesman, especially when any reference is made to his administration :-and anger, as has been already observed, seems the element essential to the vitality of the other Legislator, who also piques himself in no small degree on the wisdom of his government. With such feelings it is not matter of surprise that the disputes of these opponents should sometimes be pushed even to exasperation; while each of them, with his own peculiar eagerness, is insisting on his own infallibility, and the other's absurdity. The spectacle is the more entertaining, because ...the matter in debate is generally some local Irish law, which, however important, is yet almost always regarded by the Hôuse with

the utmost indifference.” P. 123. * * , , o Our author appears but ill calculated to proceed a single inch beyond his immediate task. He unites the principles of a Sunday paper, with the slang of the British Forum. His portraits indeed themselves are occasionally spoiled by a pert vulgarity, engendered by the habits of dictating to the folly of his readers. Upon all constitutional subjects he is lamentably at a loss, notwithstonding the vain attempt of concealing his ignorance under the froth of impertinent remark and idle declamation. If he had contented himself with merely sketching the lineaments of the parliamentary characters as they appear in the house, he would generally have succeeded; but when he attempts

tempts to follow them beyond, either into the rectitude of the views which they entertain, or the wisdom of the principles which they profess, he discovers only the presumption of unprincipled conceit, and the pertness of half-instructed ignorance.

ART. XVII. Letters from Portugal, Spain, and France, during the Campaigns of 1812, 1913, and 1814. By S. D. Broughton. 8vo. pp. 412. 12s. Longman. 1815.

THE portfolio of a military man is ever interesting; and even if he confines himself simply to the events which fall under his own immediate knowledge, he cannot fail to be a most amusing companion. The letters of Mr. Broughton were originally intended, as he informs us, for the use of a domestic circle; we are happy however that he has been induced to present them to the world. They are written without any affectation, and present a very faithful portrait of the manners and habits of the countries through which their author, passed. As a light entertaining volume, we hope that it will meet with the encouragement which it deserves. Our readers will judge for

themselves from the following extract, containing a descrip

tion of Salamanca.

“The situation of Salamanca for so large and populous a city, commands many advantages, and in whatever point of view it is taken, it wears the appearance of an handsome and flourishing town. The Tormes, which is a clear and wide river, but in many places very shallow, winds round two-thirds of the town, while the elevation of the western part of the city from its banks renders it an airy and very healthy place. An excellent light red wine called “vino de Tormes' is made on the banks of this river. Wines are not cultivated in the immediate vicinity of Salamancă, the land being chiefly dedicated in these parts to corn. The natural position of Salamanca is strong, and some pains have been taken to secure it by a substantial wall built around it, which in its most exposed situation is flanked by a strong bastion. The streets for the most part are narrow, but the houses are very lofty and generally pretty good. Some of the former are well paved, and kept tolerably clean. From the abundance of shops of all descriptions a great retail trade is apparently carrying on. The city contains also a very well supplied market, which is held in an open space where the municipal house is erected. The principal square forms one of the handsomest I have seen in Spain, the houses being constructed of white stone, built yery high, with great regularity, and supplied with balconies and large green virandas to the windows, which add much to the io of their appearance. Piazzas are erected over the




broad pavement round the square, forming the great resort of
fashionable society, when the weather will not permit prome-
nading round the ‘Prado del Toro,” situated without the eastern
walls of the town. Varieties of shops, excellent coffee-houses
billiard-rooms &c. are to be met with under these piazzas, which
may be considered as forming the Bond-street of Salamanca.
Thé general appearance of the city, and the number of large
and handsome houses which are seen in different parts, might
lead to the supposition of its being very rich and well peopled.
But this is far from being the case, for on closer inspection it is
found to be extremely deficient, and indeed scarcely amounts
to a third of its former wealth and population. The inhabitants
have become greatly impoverished, and the owners of the prin-
cipal residences have either absolutely left the country altogether,
and followed the fortunes of Joseph Buonaparte, or have re-
moved to other towns of greater safety, such as Walladolid &c.
so that few people of the higher ranks of society are now resident
in the place. -
“The towns-people are in general hospitable and communicative.
They have their ‘tertulias, or evening assemblies, when they con-
verse, play cards, dance or sing; and they also pretty constantly
frequent the theatre, which is a light and elegant building, and
fitted up somewhat in the style of the Opera-house in London,
though very inferior with respect to size, while the actors and
performances are below mediocrity. The present appearance of
the town excites many melancholy reflections, when contrasted
with the accounts which we have been accustomed to receive of
its former magnificence, and high reputation as a seat of learning.
Neither Oxford, nor Cambridge, I am convinced, from the ap-
pearance of the colleges (the walls of which are still standing,)
equal in any point of view what this once flourishing town ex-
hibited in better days. Perhaps you will not think me guilty
of exaggeration, when I tell you that there are still the remains
of nineteen splendid colleges, built of an handsome white stone,
most elaborately and classically ornamented, forming once one
of the chief repositories of ancient literature, which subsequently
enlightened modern Europe. Several of these colleges were
dedicated entirely to Irish students, numbers of whom are to
be met with in the church, the army, and various other depart-
ments of the state, who have now become naturalized, and con-
stitute perhaps the best informed part of the community.” P. 141.

Aar. XVIII. The Epicure's Almanack, or a Calendar of Good

Living. 18mo. 331 pp. Longman & Co. 1815.

. As this little volume has been honoured by a notice in the

House of Commons, our readers will be curious to be acquaint

... * * * * * * * - ed

« PreviousContinue »