« PreviousContinue »
ART. XVI. Parliamentary Portraits, or Sketches of the Public
Character of some of the distinguished Members of the House of Commons, originally 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 ulter insignificance, rise into no small share of self-importance, and become the secretaries of state affairs for the mob-department. It is almost incon ceivable 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 form the slightest conception. 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 our 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." I'he peculiar features of each member are well drawn, and the attention which the House is inclined to bestow upon their exertions, fairly caleuJated....I he 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, po energy either of thought or language, no spirit in his manner; 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 been much ridiculed as rendering his meaning frequently in. accessible: 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 Castle. reagh 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 accidental. 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 graceful 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 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 al} 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 to 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 eagernese, 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 House with the utmost indifference." P.123.
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, notwithstanding the vain attempt of concealing his ignorance under the froth of impertinent remark and idle dechainatiun. 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 at
on. is TE
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. 125. 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 authon 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 description 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. Vines are not cultivated in the immediate vicinity of Salamanca, 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, whick 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 very high, with great regularity, and supplied with balconies and large green virandas to the windows, which add much to the liveliness 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 promeAading 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. The 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 principal residences have either absolutely left the country altogether, and followed the fortunes of Joseph Buonaparte, or have rea moved to other towns of greater safety, such as Valladolid &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 converse, 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 appearance of the colleges (the walls of which are still standing,) equal in any point of view what this once flourishing town exhibited 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 literatúre, 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 departments of the state, who have now become naturalized, and constitute perhaps the best informed part of the community.” P. 141.
ART. XVIII. The Epicure's Almanack, or a Calendar of Good
Living. 18mo. 331 pp. Longman & Co. 1815.