« VorigeDoorgaan »
ousness of gallantry, the gayety of wit, and the timidity of love.' Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with a worse grace. The reader may
cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans, ' I like not when a 'oman has a great peard : I spy a great peard under her muffler.'
We had something more to say. But our article is already too long; and we must close it. We would fain part in good humor from the hero, from the biographer, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has performed his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced us to read Boswell's book again. As we close it, the club-room is before us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live forever on the canvass of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke, and the tall thin form of Langton; the courtly sneer of Beauclerk, and the beaming smile of Garrick ; Gibbon tapping his snuff box, and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in his ear.
In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up, — the gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease; the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the gray wig with a scorched foretop; the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches ; we see the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the • Why, sir !' and the · What then, sir ? ' and the · No, sir !’ and the “ You don't see your way through the question, sir!'
What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be regarded in his own age as a classic, and in ours as a companion, - to receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius have in general received only from posterity, - to be more intimately known
to posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries! That kind of fame which is commonly the most transient, is, in his case, the most durable. The reputation of those writings, which he probably expected to be immortal, is every day fading; while those peculiarities, of manner, and that careless table-talk, the memory of which, he probably thought, would die with him, are likely to be remembered as long as the English language is spoken in any quarter of the globe.
LORD NUGENT'S MEMORIALS OF HAMPDEN.*
[Edinburgh Review, 1831.]
We have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly with that kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped that Lord Nugent would have been able to collect, from family papers and local traditions, much new and interesting information respecting the life and character of the renowned leader of the Long Parliament, the first of those great English commoners whose plain addition of Mister has, to our ears, a more majestic sound than the proudest of the feudal titles. In this hope we have been disappointed : but assuredly not from any want of zeal or diligence on the part of the noble biographer. Even at Hampden, there are, it seems, no important papers relative to the most illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The most valuable memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his friend, Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait which is engraved for this work, together with some very interesting letters. The portrait is undoubtedly an original, and probably the only original now in existence. The intellectual forehead, the mild penetration of the eye, and the inflexible resolution expressed by the lines of the mouth, sufficiently guaranty the likeness. We shall probably make some extracts from the letters. They contain almost all the new information that Lord Nugent has been able to procure, respecting the private pursuits of
* Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his Times. By LORD Nugent. 2 vols. 8vo. London : 1831.
the great man whose memory he worships with an enthusiastic, but not an extravagant, veneration.
The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His history, more particularly from the beginning of the year 1640 to his death, is the history of England. These Memoirs must be considered as Memoirs of the his. tory of England ; and, as such, they well deserve to be attentively perused. They contain some curious facts, which, to us at least, are new, much spirited narrative, many judi. cious remarks, and much eloquent declamation.
We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the private character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as strikingly characteristic as any which the most minute chronicler,- O'Meara, Las Cases, Mrs. Thrale, or Boswell himself, — ever recorded concerning their heroes. The celebrated Puritan leader is an almost solitary instance of a great man who neither sought nor shunned greatness; who found glory only because glory lay in the plain path of duty. During more than forty years, he was known to his country neighbors as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of high principles, of polished address, happy in his family, and active in the discharge of local duties; to political men, as an honest, industrious, and sensible member of Parliament, not eager to display his talents, stanch to his party, and attentive to the interests of his constituents. A great and terrible crisis came. A direct attack was made, by an arbitrary government, on a sacred right of Englishmen, on a right which was the chief security for all their other rights. The nation looked round for a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain Buckinghamshire Esquire placed himself at the head of his countrymen, and right before the face, and across the path, of tyranny. The times grew darker and more troubled. Public service, perilous, ardu. ous, delicate, was required; and to every service, the in
tellect and the courage of this wonderful man were found fully equal. He became a debater of the first order, a most dexterous manager of the House of Commons, a negotiator, a soldier. He governed a fierce and turbulent assembly, abounding in able men, as easily as he had governed his family. He showed himself as competent to direct a campaign as to conduct the business of the petty sessions. We can scarcely express the admiration which we feel for a mind so great, and, at the same time, so healthful and so well proportioned ; so willingly contracting itself to the humblest duties; so easily expanding itself to the highest ; so contented in repose ; so powerful in action. Almost every part of this virtuous and blameless life, which is not hidden from us in modest privacy, is a precious and splendid portion of our national history. Had the private conduct of Hampden afforded the slightest pretence for censure, he would have been assailed by the same blind malevolence which, in defiance of the clearest proofs, still continues to call Sir John Eliot an assassin. Had there been even any weak part in the character of Hampden, had his manners been in any respect open to ridicule, we may be sure that no mercy would have been shown to him by the writers of Charles's faction. Those writers have carefully preserved every little circumstance which could tend to make their opponents odious or contemptible. They have told us that Pym broke down in a speech, that Ireton had his nose pulled by Hollis, that the Earl of Northumberland cudgelled Henry Martin, that St. John's manners were sullen, that Vane had an ugly face, that Cromwell had a red nose. They have made themselves merry with the canting phrases of injudi. cious zealots. But neither the artful Clarendon, nor the scurrilous Denham, could venture to throw the slightest imputation on the morals or the manners of Hampden. What was the opinion entertained respecting him by the best men