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nor the scale of the work very correctly regu- 1 plaud. We suspect, indeed, from various lated as to either; so that we have alternately passages in these volumes, that the Irish too much and too little of both:--that the standard of good conversation is radically difstyle is rather wordy and diffuse, and the ex- ferent from the English; and that a tone of tracts and citations too copious; so that, on the exhibition and effect is still tolerated in that whole, the book, like some others, would be country, which could not be long endured in improved by being reduced to little more than good society in this. A great proportion of half its present size-a circumstance which ihe colloquial anecdotes in this work, confirm makes it only the more necessary that we us in this belief—and nothing more ihan the should endeavour to make a manageable ab- encomium bestowed on Mr. Curran's own con. stract of it, for the use of less patient readers. versation, as abounding in “ those magical
Mr. Curran's parentage and early life are transitions from the most comic turns of now of no great consequence. He was born, thought to the deepest pathos, and for ever however, of respectable parents, and received bringing a tear into the eye before the smile a careful and regular education. He was a was off the lip.” In this more frigid and fas. little wild at college; but left it with the char- tidious country, we really have no idea of a acter of an excellent scholar, and was univer- man talking pathetically'in good company:sally popular among his associates, not less and still less of good company sitting and cry. for his amiable temper than his inexhaustible ing to him. Nay, it is not even very consovivacity. He wrote baddish verses at this nant with our notions, that a gentleman should time, and exercised himself in theological dis- be “most comical.” courses: for his first destination was for the As to the taste and character of Mr. Cur. Church; and he afterwards took to the Law, ran's oratory, we may have occasion 10 say a very much to his mother's disappointment and word or two hereafter. -At present, it is only mortification—who was never reconciled to necessary to remark, that besides ihe public the change--and used, even in the meridian exercitations now alluded to, he appears to of his fame, to lament what a mighty preacher have gone through the most persevering and had been lost to the world, -and to exclaim, laborious processes of private study, with a that, but for his versatility, she might have view to its improvement—not only accustomdied the mother of a Bishop! It was better ing himself to debate imaginary cases alone, as it was. Unquestionably he might have with the most anxious attention, but “reciting been a very great preacher; but we doubt perpetually before a mirror," to acquire a whether he would have been a good parish graceful gesticulation! and studiously imitapriest, or even an exemplary bishop.
ting the tone and manner of the most celeIrish lawyers are obliged to keep their brated speakers. The authors from whom he terms in London; and, for the poorer part of chiefly borrowed the matter of these solitary them, it seems to be but a dull and melan- declamations were Junius and Lord Bolung. cholý noviciate. Some of his early letters, broke-and the poet he most passionately with which we are here presented, give rather admired was Thomson. He also used to an amiable and interesting picture of young declaim occasionally from Milton—but, in his Curran's feelings in this situation-separated maturer age, came to think less highly of that at once from all his youthful friends and ad- great poet. One of his favourite esercises mirers, and left without money or recommend was the funeral oration of Antony over the ation in the busy crowds of a colder and more body of Cæsar, as it is given by Shakespeare; venal people. During the three years he the frequent recitation of which he used to passed in the metropolis, he seems to have recommend to his young friends at the Bar, to entered into no society, and never to have the latest period of his life. come in contact with a single distinguished He was called to the Bar in 1775, in his individual. He saw Garrick on the stage, and twenty-fifth year-having rather imprudently Lord Mansfield on the bench; and this ex- married two years before--and very soon ai. hausts his list of illustrious men in London. tained to independence and distinction. There His only associates seem to have been a few is a very clever little disquisition introduced of his countrymen, as poor and forlorn as him- here by the author, on the very different, ad self. Yet the life they lived seems to have almost opposite taste in eloquence which has been virtuous and honourable. They con- prevailed at the Bar of England and Ireland tracted no debts, and committed no excesses. respectively ;--the one being in general cold
Curran himself rose early; and read dili- and correct, unimpassioned and technical: the gently till dinner; and, in the evening, he other discursive, rhetorical, and embellisheil usually went, as much for improvement as or encumbered, with flights of fancy and aprelaxation, to a sixpenny debating club. For peals to the passions. These peculiarities the a long time, however, he was too nervous and author impuies chiefly to the difference in the timid to act any other part than that of an pu- national character and general temperament ditor, and did not find even the germ of that of the two races, and to the unsubdued and singular talent which was afterwards improved unrectified prevalence of all that is characterto such a height, till it was struck out as it istic of their country in those classes out of were by an accidental collision in this obscure which the Juries of Ireland are usually searena. There is a long account of this in the lected. He ascribes them also, in part, to the book before us, as it is said to have been re- circumstance of almost all the barristers of peatedly given by Mr. C. himself—but in a distinction having been introduced, very early style which we cannot conscientiously ap-l in life, to the fierce and tumultuary arena of the Irish House of Commons—the Government countries have consequently given way to that being naturally desirous of recruiting their universal love of long-speaking, which, we ranks with as many efficient combatants as verily believe, never can be repressed by any possible from persons residing in the metropo- thing but the absolute impossibility of indulg. lis—and Opposition looking, of course, to the ing it :-while their prolixity has taken a difsame great seminary for the antagonists with ferent character, not so much from the temwhom these were to be confronted.
perament of the speakers, as from the difference We cannot say that either of these solutions of the audiences they have generally had to is to us very satisfactory. There was heat address. In Ireland, the greater part of their enough certainly, and to spare, in the Irish tediousness is bestowed on Juries—and their Parliament; but the barristers who came there vein consequently has been more popular. had generally kindled with their own fire, with us in Scotland the advocate has to speak before repairing to that fountain. They had chiefly to the Judges--and naturally endeavformed their manner, in short, and distin- ours, therefore, to make that impression by guished themselves by their ardour, before subtlety, or compass of reasoning, which he they were invited to display it in that assem- would in vain attempt, either by pathos, pobly;-and it would be quite as plausible to etry, or jocularity.—Professional speakers, in refer the intemperate warmth of the Parlia- short, we are persuaded, will always speak mentary debates to the infusion of hot-headed as long as they can be listened 10.-The
quangladiators from the Bar, as to ascribe the gen- tity of their eloquence, therefore, will depend eral over-zeal of the profession to the fever on the time that can be afforded for its display some of them might have caught in the -and its quality, on the nature of the audience Senate. In England, we believe, this effect to which it is addressed. has never been observed—and in Ireland it But though we cannot admit that the causes has outlived its supposed causes-the Bar of assigned by this author are the main or funthat country being still (we understand) as rhe- damental causes of the peculiarity of Irish torical and impassioned as ever, though its leg- oratory, we are far from denying that there is islature has long ceased to have an existence. much in it of a national character, and indi
As to the effects of temperament and cating something extraordinary either in the national character, we confess we are still temper of the people, or in the state of society more sceptical—at least when considered as among them. There is, in particular, a much the main causes of the phenomenon in ques- greater Irascibility; with its usual concomition. Professional peculiarities, in short
, we tants of coarseness and personality, -and a are persuaded, are to be referred much more much more Theatrical tone, or a taste for to the circumstances of the profession, than forced and exaggerated sentiments, than would to the national character of those who exer- be tolerated on this side of the Channel. Of cise it; and the more redundant eloquence of the former attribute, the continual, and, we the Irish bar, is better explained, probably, by must say, most indecent altercations that are the smaller quantity of business in their courts, recorded in these volumes between the Bench than by the greater vivacity of their fancy, or and the Bar, are certainly the most flagrant the warmth of their hearts. We in Scotland and offensive examples. In some cases the have also a forensic eloquence of our own- Judges were perhaps the aggressors—but the more speculative, discursive, and ambitious violence and indecorum is almost wholly on than that of England—but less poetical and the side of the Counsel; and the excess and passionate than that of Ireland ; and the pe- intemperance of their replies generally goes culiarity might be plausibly ascribed, here far beyond any thing for which an apology also, to the imputed character of the nation, can be found in the provocation that had been as distinguished for logical acuteness and in- given. A very striking instance occurs in an trepid questioning of authority, rather than for early part of Mr. Curran's history, where he richness of imagination, or promptitude of is said to have observed, upon an opinion defeeling.
livered by Judge Robinson, that he had We do not mean, however, altogether to never met with the law as laid down by his deny the existence or the operation of these Lordship in any book in his library;" and, causes—but we think the effect is produced upon his Lorship rejoining, somewhat scornchiefly by others of a more vulgar description. fülly, " that he suspected his library was very The small number of Courts and Judges in small," the offended barrister, in allusion to England-compared to its great wealth, popu- the known fact of the Judge having recentlation, and business—has made brevity and ly published some anonymous pamphlets, despatch not only important but indispensable thought fit to reply, that "his library might qualifications in an advocate in great practice, be small, but he thanked Heaven that, among —since it would be physically impossible his books, there were none of the wretched either for him or for the Courts to get through productions of the frantic pamphleteers of the their business without them. All mere orna- day. I find it more instructive, my lord, to mental speaking, therefore, is not only severely study good works than to compose bad ones! discountenanced, but absolutely debarred; My books may be few, but the title-pages and the most technical, direct, and authorita- give me the writers' namesmy shelf is not tive views of the case alone can be listened to disgraced by any of such rank absurdity that But judicial time, to use the language of Ben- their very authors are ashamed to own them.” tham is not of the same high value, either in (p. 122.) On another occasion, when he was Ireland or in Scotland; and the pleaders of those proceeding in an argument with his characteristic impetuosity, the presiding Judge hav- , influence with the priest to obtain a remission ing called to the Sheriff to be ready to take His Lordship went accordingly to the cabin into custody any one who should disturb the of the aged pastor, who came bareheaded to decorum of the Court, the sensitive counsellor the door with his missal in his hand; and af. at once applying the notice to himself, is re- ter hearing the application, respectfully an. ported to have broken out into the following swered, that the sentence having been imposed incredible apostrophe—“ Do, Mr. Sherifi," re- by the Bishop, could only be relaxed by the plied Mr. Curran, “ go and get ready my dun- same authority—and that he had no right or geon! Prepare a bed of straw for me; and power to interfere with it. The noble mediupon that bed I shall to-night repose with more ator, on this struck the old man! and drove tranquillity than I should enjoy were I sitting him with repeated blows from his presence. upon that bench, with a consciousness that I The priest then brought his action of damages disgraced it!!:Even his reply to Lord Clare, -but for a long time could find no advocate when interrupted by him in an argument be- hardy enough to undertake his cause!-ard fore the Privy Council, seems to us much more when young Curran at last made offer of his petulant than severe. His Lordship, it seems, services, he was blamed and pitied by all his had admonished him that he was wandering prudent friends for his romantic and Quixotic from the question; and Mr. C. after some rashness. general observations, replied, “I am aware, These facts speak volumes as to the utter my lords, that truth is to be sought only by perversion of moral feeling that is produced slow and painful progress: I know also that by unjust laws, and the habits to which they error is in its nature flippant and compendious; give rise. No nation is so brave or so generous it hops with airy and fastidious levity over as the Irish,-and yet an Irish nobleman could proofs and arguments, and perches upon as- be guilty of the brutality of striking an aged sertion, which it calls conclusion.”—To Lord Ecclesiastic without derogating from his digClare, however
, Mr. C. had every possible nity or honour.—No body of men could be temptation to be intractable and impertinent. more intrepid and gallant than the leaders of But even to his best friends, when placed on the Irish bar; and yet it was thought too the seat of judgment, he could not always daring and presumptuous for any of them to forbear a similar petulance. Lord Avonmore assist the sufferer in obtaining redress for an was always most kind and indulgent to him, outrage like this. In England, those things but he too was sometimes in the habit, it are inconceivable: But the readers of Irish seems, of checking his wanderings, and some history are aware, that where the question times of too impatiently anticipating his con- was between Peer and Peasant-and still more clusions. Upon one of these occasions, and when it was between Protestant and Catholic in the middle of a solemn argument, we are the barristers had cause for apprehension. called on to admire the following piece of It was but about forty years before, that upon vulgar and farcical stupidity, as a specimen a Catholic bringing an action for the recovery of Mr. C's most judicious pleasantry :- of his confiscated estates, the Irish House of •• Perhaps, my lord, I am straying; but you all barristers, solicitors, attorneys, and proctors
Commons publicly voted a resolution, - that must impute it to the extreme agitation of my mind. who should be concerned for him, should be I have just witnessed so dreadful a circumstance, that my imagination has not yet recovered from the considered as public enemies !” This was in shock.'—His lordship was now all attention.-- On 1735. In 1780, however, Mr. C. found the my way to court, my lord, as I passed by one of service not quite so dangerous; and by great the markets, I observed a burcier proceeding to eloquence and exertion extorted a reluctant lovely linle child approached him unperceived, and, verdict, and thirty guineas of damages, from terrible to relate
-I still see the life blood gushing a Protestant Jury. The sequel of the atrair out-the poor child's bosom was under his hand, was not less characteristic. In the first place, when he plunged his knife into--inio'- Into the it involved the advocate in a duel with a witbosom of the child !' crid out the judge, with much ness whom he had rather outrageously abused emotion into the neck of the calf;, my lord; but -and, in the next place, it was thought suffiyour lordship sometimes anticipates!'
cient to justify a public notification to him, on But this is not quite fair.-There is no more the part of the noble defendant, that his ausuch nonsense in the book-nor any other dacity should be punished by excluding him Iricism so discreditable to the taste either of from all professional employment wherever its hero or its author. There are plenty of his influence could extend. The insolence traits, however, that make one blush for the of such a communication might well have degradation, and shudder at the government warranted a warlike reply: But Mr. C. ex of that magnificent country.—One of the most pressed his contempt in a gayer, and not lese striking is supplied by an event in the early effectual manner. Pretending to misunderpart of Mr. C's professional history, and one stand the tenor of the message, he answered to which he is here said to have been indebted aloud, in the hearing of his friends, "My good for his first celebrity. A vobleman of great sir, you may tell his lordship, that it is in vain weight and influence in the country-we for him to be proposing terms of accommodagladly suppress his name, though it is given tion; for after what has happened, I protest I in the book -had a mistress, whose brother think, while I live, I never can hold a brief being a Catholic, had, for some offence, been for him or one of his family. The threat, sentenced to ecclesiastical penance—and the indeed, proved as impotent as it was pitiful; young woman solicited her keeper to use his for the spirit and talent which the young counsellor had displayed through the whole self for the vulgar calumnies of an infuriated scene, not only brought him into unbounded faction, in the friendship and society of such popularity with the lower orders, but instantly men as Lords Moira, Charlemont, and Kilwarraised him to a distinguished place in the den-Grattan, Ponsonby, and Flood. ranks of his profession.*
The incorporating union of 1800 is said to We turn gladly, and at once, from this have filled Mr. C. with incurable despondency dreadful catastrophe. Never certainly was as to the fate of his country. We have great short-lived tranquillity 7-or rather permanent indulgence for this feeling—but we cannot danger so dearly bought. The vengeance of sympathise with it. The Irish parliament the lair followed the havoc of the sword- was a nuisance that deserved to be abatedand here again we meet Mr. C. in his strength and the British legislature, with all its partiand his glory. But we pass gladly over these alities, and its still more blamable neglects, melancholy trials; in which we are far from may be presumed, we think, to be more acinsinuating, that there was any reprehensible cessible to reason, to justice, and to shame, severity on the part of the Government. When than the body which it superseded. Mr. C. matters had come that length, they had but was not in Parliament when that great meaone duty before them-and they seem to have sure was adopted. But, in the course of that discharged it (if we except one or two pos- year, he delivered a very able argument in thumous attainders) with mercy as well as the case of Napper Tandy, of which the only fairness: for after a certain number of victims published report is to be found in the volumes had been selected, an arrangement was made before us. In 1802, he made his famous with the rest of the state prisoners, under speech in Hevey's case, against Nir. Sirr, the which they were allowed to expatriate them-town-major of Dublin; which affords a strong selves for life. It would be improper, how- picture of the revolting and atrocious barbariever, to leave the subject, without offering ties which are necessarily perpetrated, when our tribute of respect and admiration to the the solemn tribunals are silenced, and inferior singular courage, fidelity, and humanity, with agents intrusted with arbitrary power. The which Mr. C. persisted, throughout these ago- speech, in this view of it, is one of the most nising scenes, in doing his duty to the unfor- striking and instructive in the published votunate prisoners, and watching over the ad. lume, which we noticed in our ihirteenth voministration of that law, from the spectacle of lume. During the peace of Amiens, Mr. C. whose vengeance there was so many tempta- made a short excursion to France, and was by tions to withdraw. This painful and heroic no means delighted with what he saw there. task he undertook-and never blenched from In a letter to his son from Paris, in October its fulfilment, in spite of the toil and disgust, 1802, he says, and the obloquy and personal hazard. to which
“I am glad I have come here. I entertained it continually exposed him. In that inflamed
many ideas of it, which I have entirely given up, or state of the public mind, it is easy to under- very much indeed altered. Never was there a scene stand that the advocate was frequently con- that could furnish more to the weeping or the grin. founded with the client; and that, besides the ning philosopher; they well might agree that hu. murderous vengeance of the profligate inform- man affuirs were a sad joke, I see it every where, ers he had so often to denounce, he had to round; only changed some spokes and a few fel.
and in every thing. The wheel has run a complete encounter the passions and prejudices of all lows,' very little for the betier, but the axle cer, those who chose to look on ihe defender of tainly has not rusted ; nor do I see any likelihood traitors as their associate. Instead of being of its rusting. At present all is quiet, except the cheered, therefore, as formerly, by the ap- tongue, -thanks to Those invaluable proteciors of plauses of his auditors, he was often obliged to peace, the army!!”—Vol. ii. pp. 206, 207. submit 10 their angry interruptions; and was The public life of Mr. C. was now drawing actually menanced more than once, in the to a close. He distinguished himself in 1804 open court, by the clashing arms and indig- in the Marquis of Headfort's case, and in that nant menaces of the military spectators. He of Judge Johnson in 1805: But, on the acceshad excessive numbers of soldiers, too, billet- sion of the Whigs to office in 1806, he was ted on him, and was in many other ways ex- appointed to the situation of Master of the posed to loss and vexation : But he bore it all, Rolls, and never afterwards made any public with the courage of his country, and the dig- appearance. He was not satisfied with this nity due to his profession-and consoled him- appointment; and took no pains to conceal his
dissatisfaction. His temper, perhaps, was by * The greater part of what follows in the original this time somewhat soured by ill health ; and paper is now omitted ; as touching on points in the his notion of his own importance exaggerated modern history of Ireland which has been sufficient. by the flattery of which he had long been the ly discussed under preceding titles, I retain only daily object. Perhaps, 100, the sudden withwhat relates to Mr. Curran personally, or to those drawing of those tasks and excitements, to his country than to the individual: though, for the which he had been so long accustomed, cosake chiefly of connection, I have made one allusion operating with the languor of declining age, 10 the sad and most touching Judicial Tragedy may have affected his views of his own situawhich followed up the deplorable Field scenes of tion: But it certainly appears that he was the rebellion of 1798. + The extinction of the rebellion-by the slangh
never very gay or good-humoured after his ter of fifty thousand of the insurgents, and upwards promotion--and passed but a dull and peevish of twenty thousand of the soldiery and their adhe. time of it during the remainder of his life. In
1810, he went, for the first time, to Scotland; and we cannot deny our nationality the plea- In France, nowever, he was not much bry. sure of his honest testimony. He writes thus ter off--and returned, complaining of a conto a friend soon after his arrival on our shore:stitutional dejection, 'for which he could find
“ I am greatly delighted with this country. You no remedy in water or in wine.” He rejoices see no trace here of ihe devil working against the in the downfall of Bonaparte ; and is of opinion wisdom and beneficence of God, and torturing and that the Revolution had thrown that country degrading his creatures. It may seem the romanc. a century back. in spring 1817, he began to ing of travelling ; but I am satisfied of the fact, that sink rapidly; and had a slight paralytic attack the poorest man here has his children taught to read in one of his hands. He proposed to try and write, and that in every house is found a Bible, another visit to France; and still complained and in almost every house a clock: And the fruits of this are manifest in the intelligence and manners of the depression of his spirits :- he had a of all ranks. In Scotland, what a work have the mountain of lead (he said) on his heart." four-and-twenty letters 10 show for themselves !- Early in October, he had a very severe shock the natural enemies of vice, and folly, and slavery ; of apoplexy, and lingered till the 14th, when the great sowers, but the still greater weeders.of he expired in his 68th year. the human soil. Nowhere can you see here the cringing hypocrisy of dissembled detestation, so in.
There is a very able and eloquent chapter separable from oppression: and as little do you on the character of Mr. Curran's eloquencemeet the hard, and dull, and right-lined angles of encomiastic of course, but written with great the southern visage ; , you find the notion exact and temper, talent, and discrimination. Its charm the phrase direct, with the natural tone of the Scot- and its defects, the learned author refers to rish muse. ** The first night, at Ballintray, the landlord at.
the state of genuine passion and vehement tended us at supper; he would do so, though we emotion in which all his best performances hegged him not. We talked to him of the cultiva. were delivered; and speaks of its effects on tion of potatoes. I said, I wondered at his taking his auditors of all descriptions, in terms which them in place of his native food, oatmeal, so much can leave no doubt of its substantial excelmore substantial. His answer struck me as very lence. We cannot now enter into these rhetoricharacteristic of the genius of Scotland-frugal, cal disquisitions—though they are full of intender, and picturesque. 'Sir,' said he, we are not so much i' the wrong as you think; the tilth is terest and instruction to the lovers of oratory. easy, they are swift i' the cooking, they take little It is more within our province to notice, that fuel: and then it is pleasant to see the gude wile he is here said to have spoken extempore at wi' a' her bairns aboot the pot, and each wi' a po. his first coming to the Bar; but when his rising tatoe in its hand.'"-Vol. ii. pp. 254-256.
reputation made him more chary of his fame, There are various other interesting letters he tried for some time to write down, and comin these volumes, and in particular a long one mit to memory, the more important parts of to the Duke of Sussex, in favour of Catholic his pleadings. The result, however, was not at Emancipation ; but we can no longer afford all encouraging: and he soon laid aside his pen room for extracts, and must indeed hurry so entirely, as scarcely even to make any notes through our abstract of what remains to be in preparation. He meditated his subjects, noticed of his life. He canvassed the burgh however, when strolling in his garden, or more of Newry unsuccessfully in 1812. His health frequently while idling over his violin; and failed very much in 1813; and the year after, often prepared, in this way, those splendid he resigned his situation, and came over tó passages and groups of images with which he London in his way to France. He seems at was afterwards to dazzle and enchant his adno time to have had much relish for English mirers. The only notes he made were often society. In one of his early letters, he com- of the metaphors he proposed to employ-and plains of “the proud awkward sulk” of Lon- these of the utmost brevity. For the grand don company, and now he characterises it peroration, for example, in H. Rowan's case, with still greater severity :
his notes were as follows:-"Character of
Mr. R. - Furnace - Rebellion — smothered " I question if it is much better in Paris. Here Sialks-Redeeming Spirit.” From such slight the parade gross, and cold, and vulgar; there it is, no doubt, more flippant, and the arritude more hints he spoke fearlessly—and without cause graceful; but in either place is not Society equally for fear. With the help of such a scanty a tyrant and a slave? The judgment despises ii. chart, he plunged boldly into the unbuoyed and the heart renounces it. We seek it because channel of his cause; and trusted himself to we are idle; we are idle because we are silly; and the torrent of his own eloqnence, with no the natural remedy is some social intercourse; of better guidance than such landmarks as these. which a few drops would restore ; but we swallow the whole vial, and are sicker of the remedy than It almost invariably happened, however, that we were of the disease.''-Vol. ii. pp. 337, 339. the experiment succeeded; "thai his ow! And again, a little after,
expectations were far exceeded; and that,
when his mind came to be more intensely " England is not a place for society. It is 100 heated by his subject, and by that inspiring cold, ton vain. --without pride enough to be hum; confidence which a public audience seldom ble, drowned in dull fantastical formaliiy. vulgarized by rank without talent, and talent foolishly recom. fails to infuse into all who are sufficiently mending itself by weight rather than by fashion gifted to receive it, a multitude of new ideas a perpetual war between the disappointed pieten. adding vigour or ornament, were given oft sion of talent and the stupid overweening of affect and it also happened, that, in the same pro ed patronage ; means without enjoyment, pursuits lific moments, and as their almost inevitable without an object, and society without conversation or intercourse: Perhaps they manage this better in consequence, some crude and fantastic notions Francea few days, I think, will enable me to escaped; which, if they impeach their audecide."-Vol. ii. pp. 345, 346.
thor's taste, at least leave him the merit of a