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Reuben shook his head, and informed Blanche of a resolution he had made not to dine out again for the remainder of the session.
He went down for a day or two to Chichester before the House re-assembled, and was fêted by his constituents. It was in his speech upon that occasion (after his health had been drunk with all the honours) that he made use of Sir Edward Coke's curious zoological illustration, in his Institutes, of the talents and virtues indispensable to a member of Parliament.
"I agree, sir," he said, addressing Mr. Cox, who was in the chair, I
with that illustrious lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, (with whose works my forensic studies necessarily made me intimately acquainted), that every member of the House of Commons ought to have certain properties of that noble animal, the elephant. As the elephant, in the first place, has no gall, so should the representative of the people divest himself of all personal animosities, of malice, and envy, and all uncharitableness. Secondly, he should resemble the elephant in the quality of inflexibility, upon which you will all remember what Shakspeare says, speaking of the same generous quadruped, that he has joints, but not for courtesy ; his legs are legs for necessity, not for flexure. Sir, I trust that mine will never deserve any other character. I shall use them to stand upon in the House, not for bowing at the levee, or cringing at the Treasury ; it would ill become me, sir, to commend my own legs, but I may
permitted to say this much of them, that they are legs for necessity, not for flexure. I wish I could arrogate to myself with equal truth the third elephantine attribute noticed by the great authority I am quoting, that of a ripe and perfect memory, so necessary in the public councils, to prevent dangers to come by the remembrances of the perils that are past. He tells us, further, that the elephant is gregarious and sociable, going in companies and parties. I trust you will always find me an elephant in this respect also; only I trust I shall be oftener found, gentlemen, at such tables as this, meeting my constituents in the spirit of independent and constitutional conviviality, than a banqueter at ministerial white-bait dinners, or a guest at the royal table. But, sir, I have not yet done; or, rather, sir, Edward Coke is not yet done; he reserves to the last (and I shall imitate him) that particular virtue of this noble and exemplary quadruped, which distinguishes him from all the brute creation, and exalts him to a level with man himself. Sir, the elephant is the philanthropist of the animal kingdom. Homini erranti viam ostendit. This property, concludes Coke, and I think you will conclude with him, every Parliament man ought to have. Sir, I beg to propose the health of the elephants in the House of Commons, and I wish they were a larger party than I fear they are.”
This elephant speech made a great noise, as will be easily credited, and increased the speaker's notoriety vastly. Unfortunately it was not equally effective in disposing the House to receive him with increased respect or gravity. Never did such mountains of promise bring forth such mice of performance. Never did a man more industriously prepare the way for his own ridicule, discomfiture, and downfall.
It seems hard to complain of a legislator for legislating, but law-making may be overdone like everything else, from the cooking of a mutton-chop upwards; and it was surely the height of imprudence in Mr. Medlicott, on the strength of his one speech (which was not, after all, of the best parliamentary promise), to move for leave to bring in seven bills at one sitting, as he did upon the first meeting of the House. There was a speech, too, upon each bill; seven bills and seven speeches. When the Speaker called on him a third time, there was a laugh; and the laugh grew louder and louder in consequence of his unhappily making repeated use of the phrase, “ while he was on his legs;" for this put everybody in mind of his speech at Chichester, which had appeared that morning in the London papers.
“ His legs seem inflexible, indeed,” said one of the secretaries to his neighbour on the Treasury bench, “I think he will never sit down."
The laughing and coughing increased every moment, and made Mr. Medlicott so indignant, that instead of immediately condensing his observations, in wise submission to the manifest feeling of the House, he actually expanded them in order to punish the men who interrupted him. The consequence was, that when he rose for the seventh time, there was a general outcry ; a number of members rushed out into the lobby, while those who remained, with their united clamours, effectually drowned the voice of the speaker, and compelled him to do at last what a man of common sense would have done an hour before.
The next day two caricatures of the member for Chichester appeared in all the print-shops. In one he was represented as an elephant, with a castle on his back containing the seven bills. In the other he was portrayed as Thor with his tremendous
sledge, thumping the table of the House, and scaring the Treasury benches from their propriety.
It would be absurd to suppose that these things did not seriously annoy him. They increased his notoriety, however, and that was always a source of comfort to Mr. Medlicott. His friends certainly felt more acutely than he did, not only now, but upon many similar occasions afterwards, the “distressful strokes which his public character suffered at this period from the journalists, caricaturists, and epigrammatists of the day. But there was another explanation of the calmness with which he bore himself through the laugh of the House and the ridicule that followed it out of doors. He had the platform always to fall back on, to retrieve himself in his own esteem ; there he was certain to wield his hammer with success, there he never failed to be received and admired not only as an elephant, but as a lion of the first magnitude. Accordingly, every repulse he experienced in St. Stephen's chapel involved him still deeper with tho various agitators and enthusiasts he was leagued with; and as he naturally availed himself of his benign audiences to revenge himself upon those that were unpropitious, by imputing the treatment he met with to personal motives, he always returned to the House with diminished chances of being heard with attention.
In short, during the three sessions that Mr. Medlicott represented his native town in Parliament, he literally did nothing but present monster petitions, move for masses of papers (destined to be printed, but never read), and delay the business of legislation by repeated abortive attempts to speak. His obstinacy was extraordinary; he might often have been listened to, if he had not been studiously prolix, or if he had been contented to rise between seven and ten o'clock, when many a speech is received with patience, that nobody would brook at a later and busier hour; but Mr. Medlicott disdained to subject his genius to any law or restraint whatsoever, and soon began to incline his ear to the melodious flatterers who told him that he failed in Parliament as he had failed in divinity, and failed at the bar, expressly because his talents were too various and too splendid.
According to these judges, the world did not contain an arena sufficiently spacious, or a stage sufficiently conspicuous, for the exercise and display of Mr. Medlicott's powers.
His parliamentary break-down was the more remarkable in the eyes of his friends, when they contrasted it with the comparative success of the member for Blarney. Doctor Pigwidgeon showed more wit in the senate than he had ever shown out of it, for, finding that he could amuse the house for twenty minutes with a species of buffoonery he possessed, he aimed at nothing further, and made it a rule to sit down on the first hint that he had said enough. Besides, he soon discovered that much as his constituents loved eloquence, they loved places more, and having also fixed his own eye on a good appointment abroad, he was much more anxious on all occasions to be present at the division than to shine in the debate.
MR. MEDLICOTT VISITS THE NEW WORLD.
Towards the close of the third year of Mr. Medlicott's parlia mentary life, still confident in himself, and enjoying the undiminished idolatry of his mother and his aunt, his admirers in Chichester, and his Quaker followers in London, after making an oratorical tour of England (during which the House of Commons and the newspapers were abused most unsparingly) he suddenly announced his intention to visit the United States (an old design of his), and left it to his constituents to decide whether they would or would not require the surrender of his seat. There was a stormy discussion at Chichester on the subject, resulting in the adoption, by a considerable majority of electors, of an address, highly complimentary in its language, but ending in an unambiguous expression of opinion in favour of his resignation. In fact, he had satisfied neither his honest friends nor his interested supporters : the former he had displeased by showing too little parliamentary talent; the latter offended by displaying too much parliamentary virtue. At the same time, that gentleness of manners and amiableness of disposition, which distinguished him through life, inclined those who took the sternest view of the case to deal as tenderly with him as possible ; and, to soften the rigour of the sentence, they voted him a superb piece of plate, and begged to have his bust, in marble or bronze, to adorn the town-hall.
His parents, particularly his mother, were deeply afflicted at his resolution to expatriate himself, even for a season ; and they prevailed on the Bishop to exert whatever influence he possessed over him to detain him at home, and induce him either to return to the bar, or strike out some other path to fame and fortune. The Bishop, growing still mellower as his years multiplied, undertook this task, though his heart was not much in it; but to no purpose: Reuben persisted in his intention to cross the ocean, and make what he called a general survey of transatlantic civilization. His Quaker friends were probably the secret instigators of this step, reckoning with the utmost assurance upon his popularity and success in the United States, and the probability of his returning to England with such an accession of reputation and self-reliance as would bear down all envy and overwhelm all opposition.
It was a serious question whether he should, or should not, take his wife and children with him upon this wild-goose chase after fame in America ; but after mature deliberation it was decided to leave them behind ; and Matthew Cox gave them his snug country-house for a residence, the cottage occupied by old Hannah Hopkins being now much too small for a family so large as Reuben's. By this arrangement, also, the brood of little Medlicotts would be within a convenient distance of their grandmother, the Vicar's wife, who would be sure to keep poor Mary's vulgar common-sense in proper subjection, and look with becoming anxiety to the awakening of their faculties and development
We shall not accompany Mr. Medlicott upon this romantic expedition, but will tell the reader who the squires of his body
Monsieur Beauvoisin attended him in the capacity of private secretary; and his godson, Reuben Gosling, having paid attention to his arithmetic and education generally, was selected to fill another office about his person, something between a clerk and a valet. Mr. Medlicott was now in about his eight-andthirtieth
year, but looked younger, owing to the colour of his hair, the freshness of his complexion, and the elasticity and erectness of his carriage, from which you could not have inferred that he had miscarried so lamentably in one of the most conspicuous positions in life. There is the less reason for giving an account of his wanderings in the New World, as he published two ponderous octavo volumes (substantially blue-books) about them on his return; which, if the work is not out of print, the reader may consult if he pleases. It is quite enough to relate here, that he not only talked prodigiously in all the private houses to which
of their organs.