Page images
PDF
EPUB

312

CONQUEST AND CONSTIPATION.

save the king, you say, warms your heart like the sound of a trumpet. I cannot make use of so violent a metaphor; but I am delighted to hear it, when it is the cry of genuine affection ; I am delighted to hear it, when they hail not only the individual man, but the outward and living sign of all English blessings. These are noble feelings, and the heart of every good man must go with them ; but God save the king, in these times, too often means God save my pension and my place, God give my sisters an allowance out of the privy purse— make me clerk of the irons, let me survey the meltings, let me live upon the fruits of other men's industry, and fatten upon the plunder of the public.

MEDICAL STATESMANSHIP.

What is it possible to say to such a man as the gentleman of Hampstead, who really believes it feasible to convert the four million Irish Catholics to the Protestant religion, and considers this as the best remedy for the disturbed state of Ireland ? It is not possible to answer such a man with arguments; we must come out against him with beads, and a cowl, and push him into a hermitage. It is really such trash, that it is an abuse of the privilege of reasoning to reply to it. Such a project is well worthy the statesman who would bring the French to reason by keeping them without rhubarb, and exhibit to mankind the awful spectacle of a nation deprived of neutral salts. This is not the dream of a wild apothecary indulging in his own opium ; this is not the distempered fancy of a pounder of drugs, delirious from smallness of profits; but it is the sober, deliberate, and systematic scheme of a man to whom the public safety is intrusted, and whose appointment is considered by many as a masterpiece of political sagacity. What a sublime thought, that no purge can now be taken between the Weser and the Garonne; that the bustling pestle is still, the canorous mortar mute, and the bowels of mankind

for fourteen degrees of latitude! When, I should be curious to know, were all the powers of crudity and flatulence fully explained to his majesty's ministers? At what period was this great plan of conquest and constipation fully developed ? In whose mind was the idea of destroying the pride and the plasters of France first engendered? Without castor oil they might, for

locked up

BOURBON AND BOLUS.

313

some months, to be sure, have carried on a lingering war; but can they do without bark? Will the people live under a government where antimonial powders cannot be procured? Will they bear the loss of mercury?

“ There's the rub.” Depend upon it, the absence of the materia medica will soon bring them to their senses, and the cry of Bourbon and bolus burst forth from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.*

* Napier, in his History of the War in the Peninsula (book xiv.) says of Perceval's administration : “Narrow, harsh, factious, and illiberal, in everything relating to public matters, this man's career was one of unmixed evil. His bigotry taught him to oppress Ireland, but his religion did not deter him from passing a law to prevent the introduction of medicines into France during a pestilence.” A further discussion of Perceval's “Jesuit's Bark Bill,” with citations of contemporary orators and writers -strengthening Smith's attack — will be found among Napier's appendices.

14

814

AN APOLOGUE

REFORM SPEECHES.

A COUNTRY PROSPEROUS IN SPITE OF POLITICAL EVILS.

They tell you, gentlemen, that you have grown rich and powerful with these rotten boroughs, and that it would be madness to part with them, or to alter a constitution which had produced such happy effects. There happens, gentlemen, to live near my parsonage, a labouring man of very superior character and understanding to his fellow-labourers ; and who has made such good use of that superiority, that he has saved what is (for his station in life) a very considerable sum of money, and if his existence is extended to the common period, he will die rich. It happens, however, that he is (and long has been) troubled with violent stomachic pains, for which he has hitherto obtained no relief, and which really are the bane and torment of his life. Now, if my excellent labourer were to send for a physician, and to consult him respecting this malady, would it not be very singular language if our doctor were to say to him, “My good friend, you surely will not be so rash as to attempt to get rid of these pains in your stomach. Have you not grown rich with these pains in your stomach? have not you risen under them from poverty to prosperity ? has not your situation, since you were first attacked, been improving every year? You surely will not be so foolish and so indiscreet as to part with the pains in your stomach ?”—Why, what would be the answer of the rustic to this nonsensical monition? “Monster of rhubarb!” he would say, “I am not rich in consequence of the pains in my stomach, but in spite of the pains in my stomach ; and I should have been ten times richer, and fifty times happier, if I had never had any pains in my

* From a speech on the Reform Bill, at Taunton.

[blocks in formation]

stomach at all.” Gentlemen, these rotten boroughs are your pains in the stomach - -and you would have been a much richer and greater people if you had never had them at all. Your wealth and your power have been owing, not to the debased and corrupted parts of the House of Commons, but to the many independent and honourable members whom it has always contained within its walls. If there had been a few more of these very valuable members for close boroughs, we should, I verily believe, have been by this time about as free as Denmark, Sweden, or the Germanized states of Italy.

SPEECH AT TAUNTON.*

MR. BAILIFF, I have spoken so often on this subject, that I am sure both you and the gentlemen here present will be obliged to me for saying but little, and that favour I am as willing to confer as you can be to receive it. I feel most deeply the event which has taken place, because, by putting the two houses of Parliament in collision with each other, it will impede the public business, and diminish the public prosperity. I feel it as a churchman, because I cannot but blush to see so many dignitaries of the church arrayed against the wishes and happiness of the people. I feel it more than all, because I believe it will sow the seeds of deadly hatred between the aristocracy and the great mass of the people. The loss of the bill I do not feel, and for the best of all possible reasons - because I have not the slightest idea that it is lost. I have no more doubt, before the expiration of the winter, that this bill will pass, than I have that the annual tax bills will pass, and greater certainty than this no man can have, for Franklin tells us there are but two things certain in this world — death and taxes. As for the possibility of the House of Lords preventing, ere long, a reform of Parliament, I hold it to be the most absurd notion that ever entered into human imagination. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but the attempt of the lords to stop the progress of reform, reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs. Partington on that occasion. In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town— the tide rose to an incredible height — the waves rushed in

* Reported in the Taunton Courier, Oct. 12, 1831.

[blocks in formation]

upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction, In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house, with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea-water, and vigourously pushing away the Atlantic ocean. The Atlantic was roused. Mrs. Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was excellent at a slop, or a puddle, but she should not have meddled with a tempest. Gentlemen, be at your ease— be quiet and steady. You will beat Mrs. Partington.*

They tell you, gentlemen, in the debates by which we have been lately occupied, that the bill is not justified by experience. I du not think this true, but if it were true, nations are sometimes compelled to act without experience for their guide, and to trust to their own sagacity for the anticipation of consequences. The instances where this country has been compelled thus to act have been so eminently successful, that I see no cause for fear, even if we were acting in the manner imputed to us by our enemies. What precedents and what experience were there at the Reformation, when the country, with one unanimous effort, pushed out the Pope, and his grasping and ambitious clergy?- What experience, when, at the Revolution, we drove away our ancient race of kings, and

* Did Sydney Smith invent Mrs. Partington? A communication in Notes and Queries (Nov. 16, 1850), may seem to establish Mrs. Partington as a real personage, but the evidence is not conclusive. The writer says, the original Mrs. P. was a respectable old lady, living at Sidmouth, in Devonshire, and lier encounter with the ocean, when mop and broom failed, and she was driven to take refuge in the second story of her cottage on the beach, occurred, to the best of his recollection, during an awful storm in November, 1824, when some fifty or sixty ships were lost at Plymouth. He well recollects, he adds, reading in the Devonshire newspapers of the time, an account of Mrs. Partington; but he may have read only Smith's speech, which he wrongly ascribes to Lord Brougham.

Mrs. Partington has acquired additional celebrity by the pleasant sayings in the vein of Mrs. Malaprop, which have been widely scattered over the world, in the newspapers. This peculiar pleasantry, a humourous dislocation of the English language, with grotesque associations of ideas, has had various imitators; but the original American Mrs. Partington owes her graces to Mr. B. P. Shillaber, for several years associated with the Boston Post, in which the genuine sayings are recorded. They were collected into a volume in 1854, with the title, “ The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington, and others of the Family."

« PreviousContinue »