Were he opposed to these two persons in any assembly of the people, he would infallibly prove himself the victor. A balcony outside a high window, and a large mob beneath him, is the very spot for O'Connell. There he would be best seen, and his powers and person best observed; but were he in the House of Commons, I do not think I am incorrect when I say that he would make little impression on the House, supposing he were heard with every prepossession in his favor.* His action wants grace and suavity-qualities so eminently fascinating in an elegant and classical speaker, but which perhaps are overlooked in an "orator of the people." The motions of his body are often sharp and angular. His arms swing about ungracefully; and at times the right hand plays slovenly with his watch-chain.

Though I shall not, perhaps, find many to agree with me, yet I am free to confess that he does not appear to me to possess that very rare gift-genuine satire. He wants the cultivated grace of language which his compeer, Sheil, possesses, and the brilliancy of metaphor. None is there else, however, peer or commoner, who can compete with him in the Catholic Association. His language is often coarse, and seldom elegant. Strong, fierce, and perhaps bold, it often is; but vituperation and personality make up too much of the materiel. His voice is sometimes harsh and dissonant; and I could wish more of that round, full, mellow tone, which is essential to a good delivery, and which so captivates the ear. The voice is the key which unlocks the heart," says Madam Roland. I believe it. Let the reader listen to the fine round voice of Lord Chief Justice Bushe, and then let him hear the sometimes grating tones of O'Connell, and he will soon perceive the difference. The voice of the latter much reminds me of the harsh thinness of Mr. J. D. Latouche's † (whose conversational tone, by-the-by,


* This was a "foregone conclusion", to which facts gave a strong negative. O'Connell became one of the best speakers in the House of Commons, and his speech, in 1831, on the Reform Bill, was the ablest on the subject. As "Member for all Ireland," with forty votes at his command, his power in the House was great.-M.

+ Mr. Latouche was an eminent banker in Dublin, who sometimes tried to take a leading part in politics.-M.


95 4 is far beyond his oratorical one); and yet the coolness and the astuteness which the latter gentleman possesses in an argument, would be no bad substitute for the headlong impetuosity and violent sarcasm in which O'Connell sometimes indulges.

As he can not clothe his language in the same elegance as Sheil, he consequently can not give the same insinuation to his discourses. In this respect, his contemporary has greatly the advantage. Sheil gives us the poetry of eloquenceO'Connell gives us the prose. The attempts of the latter at wit are clumsy, while the former can bring both that and metaphor to his aid, and he often uses them with much effect. O'Connell, however, can attempt humor with effect, and he has a peculiar tact in suiting this humor to the Irish people. I have not often seen a good exordium from O'Connell- an integral portion of a discourse which it is extremely difficult to make; and I think his perorations want grace, point, and force, and that which the Italians would denominate "espressivo."

I shall follow him still farther.

[ocr errors]

The next place at which I heard the arch-leader of Catholicism, was at the council-chamber in Dublin castle, where he was employed to argue a case before the then Viceroy, Marquis Wellesley.* His speech, voice, action, eye (for nothing in oratory escapes me), are as clearly before me at present as they were on that day; and if this should catch his eye, I would call it to his memory by saying it was one of the best speeches he ever made. Mr. Goulburn, who sat at the

* Richard Colley Wellesley, eldest son of the earl of Mornington (composer of the well-known glee, "Here in cool grot"), and brother of Arthur, duke of Wellington, was created Marquis Wellesley for his services in India, as Governor-General, and was twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He died in 1842, in the eighty-third year of his age.-M.

+ Henry Goulburn, now M. P. for Cambridge University, was born in 1784, and, besides initiatory offices, held the Colonial Seals from 1812 till 1821: was Secretary for Ireland (and very unpopular) from December, 1821 till 1828: Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1828 till 1830: Secretary for the Home Department from December, 1834 to April, 1835 (Peel's brief administration), and again Chancellor of the Exchequer, under Peel, from 1841 to 1846. Though a Conservative, he voted for Reform and Free Trade. An ultra-Anti

lowermost end of the table, on the right of the Lord-Lieutenant, was busily employed in taking notes. The person who sat next the Chief-Secretary, was Lord (then Mr.) Plunket; but he merely kept his eyes fixed on the broad green cloth which spread amply before him, and, with his arms folded, scarcely moved from that position the entire time. Lord Wellesley was at the top of the table, dressed in his orders; and, as he was of the same opinion in politics with the person who was speaking, he seemed to listen to him with much pleasure. His words, tone of voice, and action, seemed more strictly attended to than when I heard him at Wicklow; and even his step in the ante-rooms, on passing to the chamber, was also guarded. Into that chamber he could not come in the same hurried careless manner, in which I have sometimes seen him fling himself into court. One day, while lounging in the latter place, I saw him rapidly fling aside the green curtain at the doorway; and as he dashed down the benches to the front of the bar methought he would have almost strode over the thick files of lawyers, attorneys, clerks, witnesses, &c., who chanced to be in his way.

[ocr errors]

In walking through the streets, he pushes along in the same careless, democratic manner; and his stout, tall figure, enables him to shoulder aside the crowds that might oppose his hurried march. He seems not to recollect that the slow pace is the pace of the gentleman; on he goes, business and emancipation borne mightily on his broad shoulders; and stops not, nor stays, till he gets to the Four Courts; from the Four Courts he is then off to the Association rooms from the Association to the Four Courts back again—from the Courts to attend some popular assembly, or keep an appointment-from the assembly to his house to dine-then a hearty dinner and a temperate glass-business, parchments, briefs, attorneys' clerks, and "unfledged lawyers" afterward-retir ing early to bed-and then, next day, behold him going through the same endless, important, and weighty routine of business again.

Catholic for many years, he voted for Catholic Emancipation, in 1820 at the bidding of his master, the Duke of Wellington.-M.

[blocks in formation]

The setting-up for Clare was the most daring, and the boldest step which this man ever took, or ever will take. Were he to live a century, he could do nothing which would show so much of daring and intrepid talent. He has been blamed for it; but the power, and the ambition, and the boldness, which it has evinced, makes me admire where I am otherwise obliged to condemn. It was one of those steps that (to use the words of Voltaire)" vulgar men would term rash, but great men would call bold." Let me distinguish it from his mission to England.* This last was a foolish step, but the first was an intrepid one, Men of talent forsook him in the last, but they supported and abided by him in the first. In short, the whole of Ireland was thrown into astonishment.

The last time I saw O'Connell was in St. James's park. He had a long scroll under his arm-mayhap that which has since caused such controversy, "the wings." The next time I see him will perhaps be in that, to me, most interesting spot in London, or in all England-St. Stephen's.

* The visit of the Catholic Deputation to England in 1825, of which a full account is in these sketches.-M.

VOL. I.-5


MR. PLUNKET's father was å Presbyterian clergyman in the . north of Ireland.* He died during the infancy of his children leaving them and his widow without any provision: but learning has always been cheap in Ireland, and Mrs. Plunket contrived to procure for her sons a classical education. The subject of the present notice was, at an early age, befriended by the late Lord Avonmore. I have conversed with one or two persons who recollect to have seen him a constant inmate at his Lordship's house, and their report of him is, that “he was a clever, hard-headed boy, very attentive to his studies, and very negligent of his person." He passed in due course through Trinity College, Dublin; and was called to the Irish bar in 1787. His professional advancement was rapid and steady. The first public notice that I can find of his name is upon the trial of the Sheareses, in 1798 :† he was associated with Cur


* He eventually settled in Dublin, where he became stated minister of a congregation. He was fond of polemical discussion, but when it was becoming fierce, as too often is the case, would say, "Well, let us leave it to Bridget," who was a simple-minded lass from Wales. Her reply commonly was, Well, sir, if you will have my judgment, I do think that love to God and love to man are not fuel for hell-fire." There is philosophy, as well as truth and humanity, in this plain declaration.-M.

John and Henry Sheares were natives of Cork. They were well educated and well connected. John, the younger, who was a republican, joined the United Irishmen in 1796. Henry, a man of amiable disposition and easily influenced, followed the example. Both had been to France, at the taking of the Bastille; and John was seen, on his return, to flourish, with exultation, a handkerchief stained with the blood of Louis XVI. John Sheares was very active in the preparations for the outbreak in 1798, writing the greater part of the various addresses issued by the Directory. The Sheares's accession to the popular

« VorigeDoorgaan »