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of an exception. If in point of capability and of uprightness of intention, the distinction is due to any individual, we should incline to pass over the pretensions of more popular declaimers, to attest the justness of the encomium passed by our Author on the eloquence of Mr. Wilberforce as implying that exception. We find him strangely enough associated with Mr. W. Smith, who is characterized as having had the courage to • touch the awful ark of the pure English Constitution, and • it is his praise, and no slight praise, that he has not utterly 6 sunk in the attempt.'
• To go from the calm good sense of Mr. W. Smith to the enthusiastic declamation of Mr. Wilberforce, may seem to some a very rapid transition: but those who have watched the conduct of these gentlemen must, I think, see that their object is the same, and that therefore they ought to be associated. He whose wish is to emancipate opinion from penalty, will rejoice to have for his companion the man who has, though late indeed, so eloquently pleaded the Catholic Cause, and who for years stood forth the irrepressible Champion of the Rights of the Negro. Indeed, when I consider the ardent and persevering struggle which Mr. Wilberforce so long maintained against the united strength of power and prejudice, and contemplate his final success in that, noble work, I feel it to be a humiliation to descend to scan petty defects, and the mere errors of our common humanity. Who that looks upon an abundant harvest, ripened by the rays of a summer sun, will sit down to calculate how often that sun has been overclouded? Or, to come more to men and things, who would estimate Locke by his prolixity, or Shakespeare by his puns? Yet such is the rage for analyzing faults;—the common mind is so much more fitted to seize a flaw than to comprehend an excellence, that a writer would be thought most blind and partial who would suffer even a saint to pass by unreprehended. What then can be alleged against Mr. Wilberforce? Want of decision, arising, some think from timidity, others say from want of high mindedness, seems to be his principal foible. Often will he support a position in a strain of eloquence to which the House is but little accustomed, and end (Oh lame conclusion!) in persuading almost every mind but his own. He has at length however broke the chain of his scruples, and last Session, with a warmth of language and manner quite his own, unequivocally recommended the abolition of penal statutes, in matters of religion. The speeches indeed of Mr. Wilberforce are among the very few good things now remaining in the British Parliament: his diction is elegant, rich, and spirited; his tones (excuse some party-whine) are so distinct and so melodious, that the most hostile ear hangs on them delighted. Then his address is so insinuating that, if he talked nonsense, you would feel yourself obliged to hear him. I recollect that last Session, when the House had been tired night after night with discussing the endless questions relating to Indian policy, when the commerce and finances and resources of our Oriental Enpire had exhausted
the lungs of all the speakers, and the patience of all the auditors at that period Mr. Wilberforce, with a just confidence in his powers, ventured to broach the hacknied subject of Hindoo conversion. He spoke three hours, but nobody seemed fatigued; all indeed were pleased, some with the ingenious artifices of his manner, but most with the glowing language of his heart. Much as I differed from him in opinion, it was impossible not to be delighted with his eloquence and though I wish most heartily that the Hindoos might be left to their own Trinity, yet I felt disposed to agree with him, that some good must arise to the human mind by being engaged in a controversy which will exercise most of its faculties. Mr. Wilberforce is now verging towards age, and speaks but seldom: he, however, never speaks without exciting a wish that he would say more: he maintains like Mr. Grattan, though not with quite the same consistency, a considerable respectability of character by disdaining to mix in the daily paltry squabbles of party: he is no hunter after place, though he is a little too much haunted with a passion for which he may quote the authority of St. Paul, of pleasing all men and of being all to all. sorry when, no longer able to retain the dignity of representing the greatest County in the Kingdom, he condescended to sit as Member for a petty Borough. But something must be forgiven to an old man whose habits are formed. Parliament has been to him the scene of all his active exertions, of his pleasures and his glory: 'We can pardon the old dramatist who goes every night to take his unviolated seat in the pit: we sympathize with the old soldier who would hobble a whole day's march to see a review : ar.d shall less indulgence be given to the man who shows a rather extravagant fondness to cling to the place ennobled by the memory of great men, now no more, and endeared by the recollections of his own triumphs ? I confess I always look with equal respect and pleasure on this eloquent veteran, lingering among his bustling but far inferior posterity; and well has he a right to linger on the spot where he achieved one of the greenest laurels that ever brightened in the wreath of fame: a laurel better than that of the hero, as it is not stained with blood or tears: better even than that of the statesman who improves the civilization of his country, inasmuch as to create is more glorious than to improve. And the man whose labours abolished the Slave-trade, at one blow struck
away. the barbarism of a hundred nations, and elevated myriads of human beings, degraded to the brute, into all the dignified capacities of civilized man. To have done this is the most noble, as it is the most useful work which any individual could accomplish: and in the contemplation of this great achievement, Mr. Wilberforce and his friends may find full consolation for all the minor weaknesses and failings of his character.' pp.70—74.
A country that has given birth to a Milton, a Newton, and a Locke, might surely be supposed to contain materials from which there might have been framed a Demosthenes ? Whence arises, then, the alleged inferiority of modern eloquence? We
think it is in part accounted for, by the circumstance on which we remarked in a former article, that the state of society at an advanced period of civilization, renders men less passive subjects of the impressions made by poetry and eloquence, and multiplies at once the requisites and the difficulties of the Orator. What our Author assigns as the characteristic difference of the English and of the Irish nations,—that the latter “feel till they
think, while their neighbour nation thinks till it feels',-will illustrate still more forcibly the difference between ancient and modern society. In proportion as wealth and knowledge become more generally diffused, and the interests of all classes of the community become interwoven with each other, the stronger feelings are less easily excited, and calculation supersedes the operation of impulse. Were Demosthenes himself to arise from the dust, indued with the power of breathing into the English language all the sonorous majesty and vehement expression of his native Greek, he would find himself in far other circumstances than those in which he assailed the power of Philip; and he would have in his audience, far less pliant and impressible materials to work upon. When the pride of the understanding must first be beguiled, before access can be obtained to the feelings, when an audience must be charmed into the fatigue of sustained thought, and the attention be held captive till thought generates feeling, the task of the orator becomes in. definitely more arduous. He must condescend to be greatly indebted to superior knowledge, and to the power of imparting with lucid clearness his own perceptions, for the effect of his eloquence. The range of his acquisitions must be proportionally extended. The learning of a Cicero would be inadequate without some acquaintance with legal and financial details, and all the complicated subjects of political economy. The habits favourable to these acquisitions would by no means form part of the training of the orator for the public application of them. We have specimens of written eloquence that may bear comparison with the noblest relics of antiquity, but they differ from forensic oratory, or they would obviously be inferior to it. With all these acquisitions a man may still fall short of attaining eloquence, which though comprehending in itself so high and so numerous attainments, is not necessarily the result of the sum of all. He must have the
of utterance; he must have invulnerable seif-possession ; and yet, though seemingly opposed to this, he must have enthusiasm, for unless he at least appear to speak from the vehemence of feeling, the glow of honest enthusiasm, his most elegant orations will, be unimpressive. This enthusiasm can be justified only by sufficient occasion : and in fact it is occasion which both excites and develops the powers of genuine eloquence. Orators, like
generals, inust be formed in the field : they attain greatness only under the influence of that necessity which stimulates the faculties to their highest pitch of exertion. Unfortunately, the House of Commons is too well calculated to awaken common and degrading associations in connexion with all that is elevated or affecting in occasion, and to lower down the noblest enthusiasm to apathy. Lastly, to retain ascendency over the minds of an enlightened audience, to give reiterated impressions the effect of permanency, to make the thoughts no less than the feelings obey the force of sympathy, and to impart to the art of suasion the power of authority;--this one more essential is Wanting,--the eloquence of character. We do not mean to say that eloquence is never adapted to succeed irrespectively of character: there have been instances in which by dint of mere inteilectual energy, a strong and biassing impression has been made on the feelings of an audience. Sincerity and consistency with regard to the particular subjects of debate, will sometimes stand instead of the influence of general character. But as to the greater part of those topics which come within the range of animated discussion, there is no doubt that within the House of Commons, but especially out of the House, a reliance on the integrity, a confidence in the motives and designs of the speaker, are indispensably requisite to ensure the success of the most brilliant eloquence. How many circumstances, then, conspire to prevent the rise of a modern Demosthenes! In vain on either bench of party, among the plausible advocates for predetermined measures, or the hostile assailants of all proposed measures, shall we expect to see a truly great orator arise. The littleness of party forbids it, and the circumscribed views of those who are merely political men are equally fatal to the expansion of the faculties to the height of moral grandeur. What might not an individual achieve who should realize in his own person the splendid combination of the fearless independence, the unwearied energy, and the commanding plain sense of Whitbread, with all that is conciliatory of deference and veneration in the character of Wilberforce. Let us imagine for a moment such an individual persevering in a course of undeviating consistency and in violate virtue,--attached to no party, the firm assertor of principles to which his own life should exhibit a practical subjection, the inflexible assailant of corruptions of which his own character would furnish the strongest ground for confidence that himself was incapable ;-the people of England would bave in such a man a champion of their rights and liberties which should still make the most corrupt or daring intriguer tremble.
We think the present publication is on the whole likely to do good. It will tend to promote a more discriminating ap
preciation of public men and to moderate the bigotry of party estimates. The Author writes like a man accustomed to think soundly and to speak freely. There prevails, we must confess, a tone somewhat too dogmatic-an assumption of superiority which too nearly borders upon flippancy; and the language, though for the most part forcible and idiomatic, is not free from that affectation of careless originality which marks the writings of Mr. Leigh Hunt. The portraits are however drawn in a style far above the level of ordinary newspaper criticism ; and without venturing to pronounce upon their uniform fidelity, we should imagine that in no instance is the Author charge able with palpable injustice. He gives Lord Castlereagh credit for sincerity in most of his opinions, and for being
more free from uncandid evasions than most of the political aspirants of the day.' Mr. Canning is less respectfully characterized as a gentleman whom Fortune, in a joke, has 'pushed above his natural elevation, to be pointed at as the
quintessence of wit and statesmanship,' but who would altogether have made an excellent first master of Eton.' Mr. Grattan is classed, though not as an equal compeer, with Burke and Sheridan-poor Sheridan! whose moral character contrasted with his superlative genius, furnishes another striking illustration of the truth, that with the talents of an
angel, a man may be a fool. There is, we must however remark, offensive personality in the attack upon Mr. Croker. Mr. Tierney's political conduct is satirized with much more justness of severity. A very high panegyric is passed on Sir William Scott, as well as on Sir Samuel Romilly. The Author speaks also in terms of warm applause of Lord Morpeth, as possessing equal claims with Lord Milton, to our regard on the score of virtue, and being very superior in point of talent, in fact as being obscured only by his own diffidence. The Author loses no opportunity of testifying his dislike to the
Whig-phalanx.' His lordship is accordingly characterized as 'the least haughty and repulsive of tbat very disagreeable body • of men'. In another place he wishes to distinguish the principles of Whiggism from its professors; a distinction most just and salutary, could it be impressed on the public mind, which is always too prone to judge of the principles exclusively by the men. Speaking of Mr. Fox, he exclaims,
Let not this illustrious name be confounded with those dull and pompous Aristocrats, who, assuming a popular title for private pur. poses, despise equally popular feelings and popular sentiments; who bolstered up with heaps of wealth, and stiffened into one compact mass by family alliance, with cold selfishness turn their backs at once on the Monarch and the nation, and never think or speak of the people, except perhaps once a Session to point a sentence, or build a