« VorigeDoorgaan »
a portion of their legislative power, and allow | tion in former days used to be the envy of the it to incapacitate without their consent. This, world; it was the pattern for politicians; the indeed, Mr. Burke clearly perceived. “When theme of the eloquent; the meditation of the the House of Commons," says he,“ in an en- philosopher in every part of the world. As to deavour to obtain new advantages at the ex- Englishmen, it was their pride, their consola pense of the other orders of the state, for the tion. By it they lived, and for it they were benefit of the commons at large, have pursued ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, were strong measures, if it were not just, it was at partly covered by partiality, and partly borne least natural, that the constituents should con- by prudence. Now all its excellencies are nive at all their proceedings; because we our forgot, its faults are forcibly dragged into day, selves were ultimately to profit. But when this exaggerated by every artifice of misrepresenta. submission is urged to us in a contest between tion. It is despised and rejected of men; and the representatives and ourselves, and where no- every device and invention of ingenuity or thing can be put into their scale which is not idleness is set up in opposition, or in prefertaken from ours, they fancy us to be children ence to it." We neither adopt nor condemn when they tell us that they are our representa- the language of reprobation which the great tives, our own flesh and blood, and that all the orator here employs. _We call him only as siripes they give us are for our gool.” These witness to the faci. That the revolution of sentences contain, in fact, the whole explana- public feeling which he described was then in tion of the mystery. The conflict of the seven-progress is indisputable; and it is equally in. leenth century was maintained by the Parlia- disputable, we think, that it is in progress still ment against the crown. The conflict which To investigate and classify the cause of so commenced in the middle of the eighteenth great a change, would require far more thought, century, which still remains undecided, and in and far more space, than we at present have to which our children and grandchildren will bestow. But some of them are obvious. Dur. probably be called to act or suffer, is between ing the contest which the Parliament carried a large portion of the people on the one side, on against the Stuarts, it had only to check and and the crown and the Parliament united on complain. It has since had to govern. As an the other.
attacking body, it could select its points of atThe privileges of the House of Commons, tack, and it naturally chose those on which it those privileges which, in 1642, all London was likely to receive public support. As a rose in arms to defend, which the people con- ruling body, it has neither the same liberty of sidered as synonymous with their own liberties, choice, nor the same interest to gratify the and in comparison with which they took no people. With the power of an executive goaccount of the most precious and sacred prin- vernment, it has drawn to itself some of the ciples of English jurisprudence, have now be vices and all the unpopularity of an executive come nearly as odious as the rigours of mar government. On the House of Commons, tial law. That power of committing, which above all, possessed as it is of the public purse, the people anciently loved to see the House of and consequently of the public sword, the na. Commons exercise, is now, at least, when em-tion throws all the blame of an ill-conducted ployed against libellers, the most unpopular war, of a blundering negotiation, of a disgracepower in the constitution. If the Commons ful treaty,of an embarrassing commercialcrisis. were to suffer the Lords to amend money-bills, The delays of the Court of Chancery, the miswe do not believe that the people would care conduct of a judge at Van Diemen's land, any one straw about the matter. If they were to thing, in short, which in any part of the admi suffer the Lords even to originate money-bills, nistration any person feels as a grievance, is ve doubt whether such a surrender of their attributed to the tyranny, or at least to the constitutional rights would excite half so negligence, of that all-powerful body. Private much dissatisfaction as the exclusion of individuals pester it with their wrongs and strangers from a single important discussion. claims. A merchant appcals to'it from the couris The gallery in which the reporters sit has be- of Rio Janeiro or St. Petersburg. A painter, come a fourth estate of the realm. The pub- who can find nobody to buy the acre of spoiled lication of the debates, a practice which canvass, which he calls an historical picture, seemed to the most liberal statesmen of the old pours into its sympathizing ear the whole story school full of danger to the great safeguards of his debts and his jealousies. Anciently the of public liberty, is now regarded by many Parliament resembled a member of opposition, persons as a safeguard, tantamount, and more from whom no places are expected, who is not than tantamount, to all the rest together. required to confer favours and propose mea.
Burke, in a speech on parliamentary reform, sures, but merely to watch and censure; and which is the more remarkable because it was who may, therefore, unless he is grossly injudelivered long before the French Revolution, dicious, be popular with the great body of the has described, in striking language, the change community. The Parliament now resembles in public feeling of which we speak. “It sug- the same person put into office, surrounded by gests melancholy reflections,” says he, “in petitioners, whom twenty times his patronage consequence of the strange course we have would not satisfy, stunned with complaints, long held, that we are now no longer quarrel- buried in memorials, compelled by the duties ing about the character, or about the conduct of his station to bring forward measures simi: of men, or the lenour of measures; but we lar to those which he was formerly accustoined are grown out of humour with the English to observe and to check, and perpatuaily err constitution itself; this is become the object of countered by objections similar to those which the animosity of Englishmen. This constitu- \ it was formerly his business to raise. VIL. J.-13
Perhaps it may be laid down as a general on the subject is loud and vehement. But it rule, thai a legislative assembly, not constituted seems to us that, during the remissions, the on democratic principles, cannot be popular feeling gathers strength, and that every suclong after it ceases to be weak. Its zeal for cessive burst is more violent than that which what the people, rightly or wrongly, conceive preceded it. The public attention may be for to be their interest, its sympathy with their a time diverted to the Catholic claims or the mutable and violent passions, are merely the mercantile code; but it is probable that at no effects of the particular circunstances in which very distant period, perhaps in the lifetime of it is placed. As long as it depends for exist the present generation, all other questions will ence on the public favour, il will employ all merge in that which is, in a certain degree, the means in its power to conciliate that favour. connected with them all. While this is the case, defects in its constitu. Already we seem to ourselves to perceive tion are of little consequence. But as the close the signs of unquiet times, the vague presenti. union of such a body with the nation is the ment of something great and strange which effect of an identity of interest, not essential, pervades the community; the restless and tur. but accidental, it is in some measure dissolved bid hopes of those who have every thing 'o from the time at which the danger which pro- gain, the dimly-hinted forebodings of those wh) duced it ceases to exist.
have every thing to lose. Many indications Hence, before the Revolution, the question might be mentioned, in themselves indeed as of parliamentary reform was of very little im- insignificant as straws; but even the direction portance. The friends of liberty had no very of a straw, to borrow the illustration of Bacon, ardent wish for it. The strongest Tories saw will show from what quarter the hurricane is no objections to it. It is remarkable that Cla setting in. rendon loudly applauds the changes which A great statesman might, by judicious and Cromwell introduced, changes far stronger timely reformations, by reconciling the two than the Whigs of the present day would in great branches of the natural aristocracy, the general approve. There is no reason to think, capitalists and the landowners, by so widening however, that the reform effected by Cromwell the base of the government as lo interest in its made any great difference in the conduct of defence the whole of the middling class, that the Parliament. Indeed, if the House of Com- brave, honest, and sound-hearted class, which mons had, during the reign of Charles the 8e is as anxious for the maintenance of order and cond, been elected by universal suffrage, or if the security of property as it is hostile to corall the seats had been put up to sale, as in the ruption and oppression, succeed in averting a French Parliaments, it would, we suspect, have struggle to which no rational friend of liberty acted very much as it did. We know how or of law can look forward without great apstrongly the Parliament of Paris exerted itself prehensions. There are those who will be in favour of the people on many important contented with nothing but demolition; and occasions; and the reason is evident. Though there are those who shrink from all repair. it did not emanate from the people, its whole There are innovators who long for a President consequence depended on the support of the and a National Convention; and there are people. From the time of the Revolution the bigots who, while cities larger and richer than House of Commons was gradually becoming the capitals of many great kingdoms are callwhat it now is—a great council of state, con ing out for representatives to watch over their taining many members chosen freely by the interests, select some hackneyed jobber in bopeople, and many others anxious to acquire roughs, some peer of the narrowest and smallthe favour of the people; but, on the whole, est mind, as the fittest depositary of a forfeited aristocratical in its temper and interest. It is franchise. Between these extremes there lies very far from being an illiberal and stupid oli. a more excellent way. Time is bringing around garchy; but it is equally far from being an another crisis analogous to that which occurred express irr.age of the general feeling. It is in the seventeenth century. We stand in a influenced by the opinion of the people, and situation similar to that in which our ancestors influenced powerfully, but slowly and circuit- stood under the reign of James the First. It ously. Instead of ouirunning the public mind, will soon again be necessary to reform, that as before the Revolution it frequently did, it we may preserve; to save the fundamental now follows with slow steps and at a wide principles of the constitution, by alteratiuns in distance. It is therefore necessarily unpopu. The subordinate parts. It will then be possible, lar; and the more so, hecause the good which as it was possible two hundred years ago, to it produces is much less evident to common protect vested rights, to secure every useful perception than the evil which it inflicts. It institution-every institution endeared by anTears the blame of all the mischief which is tiquity and noble associations; and, at the done, or supposed to be done, by its authority same time, to introduce into the system im. or by its connivance. It does not get the provements harmonizing with th. sriginal credit, on the other hand, of having pre- plan. It remains to be seen whether two hun. venteil those innumerable abuses which do dred years have made us wiser. not exist solely because the House of Com- We know of no great revolution which might mons exists.
not have been prevented by compromise early A large part of the nation is certainly de- and graciously made. Firmness is a grea sirous of a reform in the representative system. virtue in public affairs, but it has its proper How large that part may be, and how strong sphere. Conspiracies and insurrections in ils desires on the subject may be, it is difficult which mall minorities are engaged, the out. 10 say. It is only at intervals that the clamour I breakings of popular violence unconnected
with any extensive project or any durable prin contents which have agitated the country dur ciple, are best repressed by vigour and decision. ing the late and the present reign, and which, To shrink from them is to make them formida- though not always noisy, are never wholly ble. But no wise ruler will confound the per- dormant, will again break forth with aggravated vading taint with the slight local irritation. symptoms, is almost as certain as that the tides No wise ruler will treat the deeply-seated dis- and seasons will follow their appointed course.
cor tents of a great party as he treats the con- But in all movements of the human mind • duct of a mob which destroys mills and power which tend to great revolutions, there is a cri.
looms. The neglect of this distinction has sis at which moderate concession may amend, been fatal even to governments strong in the conciliate, and preserve. Happy will it be for power of the sword. The present time is in England if, at that crisis, her interests be con. deed a time of peace and order. But it is at fided to men for whom history has not recorded such a time that fools are most thoughtless, the long series of human crimes and follies in and wise men most thoughtful. That the dis- I vain.
SOUTHEY'S COLLOQUIES ON SOCIETY.*
(EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1830.j
It would be scarcely possible for a man of Part of this description might, perhaps, Mr. Southey's talents and acquirements to write apply to a much greater man, Mr. Burke. But two volumes so large as those before us, which Mr. Burke, assuredly possessed an understand. should be wholly destitute of information and ing admirably fitted for the investigation of amusement Yet we do not remember to have truth-an understanding stronger than that of read with so little satisfaction any equal quan- any statesman, active or speculative, of the wty of matter, written by any man of real abili- eighteenth century-stronger than every thing, ties. We have, for some time past, observed except his own fierce and ungovernable sensi. with great regret the strange infatuation which bility. Hence, he generally chose his side like .eads the Poet-laureate to abandon those de-a fanatic, and defended it like a philosopher. partments of literature in which he might ex. His conduct, in the most important events of cel, and to lecture the public on sciences of his life, at the time of the impeachment of which he has still the very alphabet to learn. Hastings, for example, and at the time of the He has now, we think, done his worst. The sub- French Revolution, seems to have been promptject, which he has at last undertaken to treat, is ed by those feelings and motives which Mr. one which demands all the highest intellectual Coleridge has so happily described : and moral qualities of a philosophical states
“ Stormy pity, and the cherish'd lure man-an understanding at once comprehen
of pomp, and proud precipitance of soul." sive and acute-a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two
Hindostan, with its vast cities, its gorgeous faculties which were never, we believe, vouch- pagodas, its infinite swarms of dusky popula. safed in measure so copious to any human be- tion, its long-descended dynasties, its stately ing; the faculty of believing without a reason, imaginative, and so susceptible, the most in
etiquette, excited in a mind so capacious, so and the faculty of hating without a provoca- tense interest. The peculiarities of the costume, tion.
It is, indeed, most extraordinary that a mind of the manners, and of the laws, the very myslike Mr. Southey's, a mind richly endowed in tery which hung over the language and origin many respects by nature and highly cultivated of the people seized his imagination. To plead by study, a mind which has exercised con
in Westminster Hall, in the name of the English siderable influence on the most enlightened ! people, at the bar of the English nobles, for generation of the most enlightened people that great nations and kings separated from him by ever existed, should be utterly destitute of the half the world, seemed to him the height of hu. power of discerning truth from falsehood. Yet man glory. Again, it is not difficult to perceive, such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey cipally arose from the vexation which he felt
that his hostility to the French Revolution prin. one of the fine arts. He judges of a theory or a public measure, of'a religion, a political
at having all his old political associations dis. party, a peace or a war, as men judge of a pic- marks of states obliterated, and the names and
turbed, at seeing the well-known boundary. tare or a statue, by the effect produced on his distinctions with which the history of Europe imagination. A chain of associations is to him had been filled for ages, swept away. He felt what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and what he calls his opinions, are in fact like an antiquary whose shield had been merely his tastes.
scoured, or a connoisseur who found his Ti
tian retouched. But however he came by an • Sir Thomas More; or Colloquies on lhe Progress and
opinion, he had no sooner got it than he did his
bes Prospects of Society. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, E19., LL.D.
to make out a legitimate title to it. Hi: Poet Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1829.
reason, like a spirit in the service of an edo
chanter, though spell-bound, was still mighty. therefore an advantage to him to be furnished I did whatever work his passions and his with an outline of characters and events, and imagination might impose. But it did that to have no other task to perform than that of work, however arduous, with marvellous dex. touching the cold sketch into life. No writer, ierity and vigour. His course was not de- perhaps, ever lived, whose talents so precisely .ermined by argument; but he could defend qualified him to write the history of the great the wildest course by arguments more plansi- naval warrior. There were no fine riddles of ble than those by which common men support the human heart to read, no theories to found, opinions which they have adopted, after the no hidden causes to develope, no remote confullest deliberation. Reason has scarcely ever sequences to predict. The character of the displayed, even in those well-constituted minds hero lay on the surface. The exploits were of which she occupies the throne, so much brilliant and picturesque. The necessity of power and energy as in the lowest offices of adhering to the real course of events saved Mr. that imperial servitude.
Southey from those faults which deform the Now, in the mind of Mr. Southey, reason has original plan of almost every one of his poems, no place at all, as either leader or follower, as and which even his innumerable beauties of either sovereign or slave. He does not seem detail scarcely redeem. The subject did not re. to know what an argument is. He never uses quire the exercise of those reasoning powers arguments himself. He never troubles himself the want of which is the blemish of his prose. to answer the arguments of his opponents. It It would not be easy to find, in all literary his. has never occurred to him, that a man ought tory, an instance of a more exact hit between to be able to give some better account of the wind and water. John Wesley, and the Peninway in which he has arrived at his opinions, sular War, were subjects of a very different than merely that it is his will and pleasure to kind, subjects which required all the qualities hold them, that there is a difference between of a philosophic historian. In Mr. Southey's assertion and demonstration, that a rumour works on these subjects, he has, on the whole, does not always prove a fact, that a fact does failed. Yet there are charming specimens of not always prove a theory, that two contradic- the art of narration in both of them. The Life tory propositions cannot be undeniable iruths, of Wesley will probably live. Defective as it that to beg the question is not the way to set is, it contains the only popular account of a tle it, or that when an objection is raised, it most remarkable moral revolution, and of a man ought to met with something more convincing whose eloquence and logical acuteness might than “scoundrel” and “blockhead."
bave rendered him eminent in literature, whose It would be absurd to read the works of such genius for government was not inferior to that a writer for political instruction. The utmost of Richelieu, and who, whatever his errors may that can be expected from any system promul have been, devoted all his powers, in defiance gated by him is, that it may be splendid and of obloquy and derision, to what he sincerely affecting, that it may suggest sublime and considered as the highest good of his species. pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is The History of the Peninsular War is already a mere daydream, a poetical creation, like the dead : indeed the second volume was deadDomdaniel caverns, the Swerga, or Padalon; born. The glory of producing an imperishable and, indeed, it bears no inconsiderable resem- record of that great conflici seems to be reblance to those gorgeous visions. Like them served for Colonel Napier. it has something of invention, grandeur, and The Book of the Church contains some stobrilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and ries very prettily told. The rest is mere rubextravagant, and perpetually violates that con- bish. The adventure was manifestly one ventional probability which is essential to the which could be achieved orly by a profound effect even of works of art.
thinker, and in which even a profound thinker The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will might have failed, unless his passions had scarcely, we think, deny that his success has been kept under strict control. "In all those almost always borne an inverse proportion to works in which Mr. Southey has completely the degree in which his undertakings have re- abandoned narration, and undertaken to argue quired a logical head. His poems, taken in moral and political questions, his failure has the mass, stand far higher than his prose been complete and iguominious. On such works. The Laureate Odes, indeed, among occasions his writings are rescued from utter which the Vision of Judgment must be classed, contempt and derision, solely by the beauty are, for the most part, worse than Pye's and as and purity of the English. We find, we conbad as Cibber's; nor do we think him generally fess, so great a charm in Mr. Southey's style, happy in short pieces. But his longer poems, that, even when he writes nonsense, we gethough full of faults, are nevertheless very ex- nerally read it with pleasure, except indeed iraordinary productions. We doubt greatly when he tries to be droll. A more insufferawhether they will be read fifty years hence; ble jester never existed. He very often atbut that if they are read, they will be admired, tempts to be humorous, and yet we do not we have no doubt whatever.
remember a single occasion on which he has Bu: though in general we prefer Mr. Sou succeeded farther than to be quaintly and flipthey's poetry to his prose, we must make one pantly dull. In one of his works, he tells us raception. The Life of Nelson is, beyond all that Bishop Sprat was very properly so called, doubt, the most perfect and the most delightful inasmuch as he was a very small poet. And of his works. The fact is, as his poems most in the book now before us, he cannot quote abundantly prove, that he is by no means so Francis Bugg without a remark on his unsaskilful in designing as filling up. It was vory name. A man might talk folly like this
Ig his own fireside; but that any human being, Jew, delivered over to the secular arm after a after having made such a joke, should write it relapse. down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the We have always heard, and fully believe printer, and correct the proof-sheets, and send that Mr. Southey is a very amiable and huit lurth into the world, is enough to make us mane man; nor do we intend to apply to him ashamed of our species.
personally any of the remarks which we have The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which made on the spirit of his writings. Such are Mr. Southey manifests towards his opponents the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attri-Toby troubled himself very little about the bute i to the manner in which he forms his opi- French grenadiers who fell on the glacis of nions. Differences of taste, it has often been Namur. And when Mr. Southey takes up his remarked, produce greater exasperation than pen, he changes his nature as much as Capdifferences on points of science. But this is tain Shandy when he girt on his sword. The not all. A peculiar austerity marks almost only opponents to whom he gives quarter are all Mr. Southey's judgments of men and ac- those in whom he finds something of his own tions. We are far from blaming him for fix- character reflected. He seems to have an in. ing on a high standard of morals, and for stinctive antipathy for calm, moderate menapplying that standard to every case. But for men who shin extremes, and who render rigour ought to be accompanied by discern- reasons. He has treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, ment, and of discernment Mr. Southey seems for example, with infinitely more respect than to be utterly destitute. His mode of judging he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Linis monkish; it is exactly what we should ex. gard; and this for no reason than we can dispect from a stern old Benedictine, who had cover except that Mr. Owen is more unrea. been preserved from many ordinary frailties sonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any by the restraints of his situation. No man speculator of our time. out of a cloister ever wrote about love, for ex Mr. Southey's political system is just what ample, so coldly and at the same time so we might expect from a man who regards po grossly. His descriptions of it are just what litics, not as a matter of science, but as a mat we should hear from a recluse, who knew the ter of taste and feeling. All his schemes of passion only from the details of the confes-governinent have been inconsistent with themsional. Almost all his heroes make love selves. In his youth he was a republican; either like seraphim or like cattle. He seems yet, as, he tells us in his preface to these Col. to have no notion of any thing between the loquies, he was even then opposed to the CaPlatonic passion of the Glendoveer, who gazes tholic claims. He is now a violent Ultrawith rapture on his mistress's leprosy, and the Tory. Yet while he maintains, with vehemence crutal appetite of Arvalan and Roderick. In approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. harsher parts of the Ultra-Tory theory of go He is firsi all clay, and then all spirit, he goes vernment, the baser and dirtier part of that forth a Tarquin, and comes back too ethereal theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution, to be married. The only love-scene, as far as severe punishments for libellers and demawe can recollect, in Madoc, consists of the gogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if delicate attentions which a savage, who has necessary, rather than any concession to a drunk too much of the Prince's metheglin, discontented people these are the measures offers to Goervyl. It would be the labour of a which he seems inclined to recommend. A week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr. Sou- severe and gloomy tyranny, crushing opposithey's poetry, a single passage indicating any lion, silencing remonstrance, drilling the minds sympathy with those feelings which have con- of the people into unreasoning obedience, has secrated the shades of Vaucluse and the rocks in it something of grandeur which delights his of Meillerie.
imagination. But there is nothing fine in the Indeed, if we except some very pleasing shabby tricks and jobs of office. And Mr. images of paternal tenderness and filial duty, Southey, accordingly, has no toleration for there is scarcely any thing soft or humane in them. When a democrat, he did not perceive Mr. Southey's poetry. What theologians call that his system led logically, and would have the spiritual sins are his cardinal virtues-led practically, to the removal of religious dishatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of ven- tinctions. He now commits a similar error. geance. These passions he disguises under He renounces the abject and paltry part of the the name of duties; he purifies them from the creed of his party, without perceiving that it is alloy of valgar interests; he ennobles them by also an essential part of that creed. He would uniting them with energy, fortitude, and a have tyranny and purity together; though the severe sanctity of manners, and then holds most superficial observation might have shown them up to the admiration of mankind. This him that there can be no tyranny without coris the spirit of Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Ado- ruption. sinda, of Roderick after his regeneration. It is It is high time, however, that we shou:d pri. the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Sou- ceed to the consideration of the work, which is they appears to effect. “I do well to be angry,” our more immediate subject, and which, inseems to be the predominant feeling of his deed, illustrates in almost every page our mind. Almost the only mark of charity which general remarks on Mr. Southey's writings. he vouchsafes to his opponents is to pray for In the preface, we are informed that the author, their conversion, and this he does in terms not notwithstanding some statements to the con unlike those in which we can imagine a Por- trary, was always opposed to the Catholic Auguese priest interceding with Heaven for a claims. We fully believe this; both becauro