Зображення сторінки
PDF
[merged small][ocr errors]

The above mentioned advantages are peculiar to the English government. To attempt to imitate them, or transfer them to other countries, with that degree of extent to which they are carried in England, without at the same time transferring the whole order and conjunction of circumstances in the English government, would prove unsuccessful attempts. Several articles of English liberty already appear impracticable to be preserved in the new American commonwealths. The Irish nation have of late succeeded in imitating several very important regulations in the English government, and are very desirous to render the assimilation complete; yet, it is possible, they will find many inconveniences arise from their endeavours, which do not take place in England, notwithstanding the very great general similarity of circumstances in the two kingdoms in many respects; and even, also, we might add, notwithstanding the respectable power and weight the Crown derives from its British dominions, both for defending its prerogative in Ireland, and preventing anarchy: I say, the similarity in many respects between the two kingdoms; for this resemblance may perhaps fail in regard to some important points: however, this is a subject about which I shall not attempt to say anything, not having the necessary information. ,

The last chapter in the work, concerning the nature of the divisions that take place in this country, I have left in every English edition as I wrote it at first in French. With respect to the exact manner of the debates in parliament, mentioned in that chapter J I cannot well say more at present than I did at that time, as I never had an opportunity to hear the debates in either house. In regard to the divisions in general to which the spirit of party gives rise, I did perhaps the bulk of the people somewhat more honour than they really deserve, when I represented them as being free from any violent dispositions in that respect: I have since found, that, like the bulk of mankind in all countries, they suffer themselves to be influenced by vehement prepossessions for this or that side of public questions, commonly in proportion as their knowledge of the subject is imperfect. It is, however, a fact that political prepossessions and party spirit are not productive, in this country, of those dangerous consequences which might be feared from the warmth with which they

are sometimes manifested. But this subject, or in general the subjects of the political quarrels and divisions in this country, is not an article one may venture to meddle with in a single chapter; I have therefore let this subsist, without touching it.

I shall however observe, before I conclude, that an accidental circumstance in the English government prevents the party spirit by which the public are usually influenced, from producing those lasting and rancorous divisions in the community which have, pestered so many other free states, making of the same nation, as it were, two distinct people, in a kind of constant warfare with each other. The circumstance I mean is, the frequent reconciliations (commonly to quarrel again afterward) that take place between the leaders of parties, by which the most violent and ignorant class of their partisans are bewildered, and made to lose the scent. By the frequent coalitions between whig and tory leaders, even that party distinction, the most famous in the English history, has now become useless: the meaning of the words has thereby been rendered so perplexed that nobody can any longer give a tolerable definition of them; and those persons who now and them aim at gaining popularity by claiming the merit of belonging to either party, are scarcely understood. The late coalition between two certain leaders has done away, and prevented from settling, that violent party spirit to which the administration of Lord Bute had given rise, and which the American disputes had carried still farther. Though this coalition has met with much obloquy, I take the liberty to rank myself in the number of its advocates, so far as the circumstance here mentioned.

May 1784.

LIFE

OP

JOHN LOUIS DE LOLME.

John Lottis De Lolme was born at Geneva in the year 1740. He was educated for the bar, and became an advocate; but in consequence of a work which he published, intituled Examen de Trots Points de Droit, he was, in the disordered condition of the canton at that time, either expelled from, or he found it necessary to quit, Switzerland. He arrived in England, according to his own account, at the age of 27 years. The very brief account of him given in the Biographie Universelle states "that he led an irregular life, and was soon reduced to indigence; that sometimes he wrote in the journals,—then haunted the most common taverns, and gave himself up to gambling and all sorts of dissipation;" but that he still persevered in acquiring a knowledge of the language, laws, history, and political institutions of England.

His Essay on the English Constitution was first written in French, and published in Holland in the year 1770. It would appear that in the following year he attempted to publish an English translation, but without success. The work did not appear in an English form until the year 1775, and did not prove successful in a pecuniary point of view, although published by subscription. Dr. Busby says, "his fate, it has been remarked, was not happier than that of too many whose labours delighted and illumined mankind: he was exalted and neglected—lauded with commendations, and consigned to poverty."

B

Some of the editors of the more recent editions contend that De Lolme himself translated his work, and that it is his translation which has ever since been before the public; and they also contend that his having contributed to the newspapers, and having written several works afterwards in the English language, constitute sufficient proof of his ability to write pure idiomatic and attractive English. But the truth is, that had the sheets been printed as he had translated them, the work would scarcely have been understood by the English people; and we have reason to believe the excellent language and style of the first English edition is due to the generosity of that eminent and great man, the late Baron Masseres. In a work written by the learned baron, intituled the "Canadian Freeholder," now little known, as the circumstances which occasioned its publication have passed away, the style is remarkably similar to that of the "Essay on the English Constitution;" and Baron Masseres was at the same time an elegant and accomplished French as well as English scholar. Mr. De Lolme had been introduced to that distinguished gentleman; and on submitting some sheets of his translation, the Baron, with his usual kindness, offered to correct the Gallicisms, which would have rendered the essay unintelligible to ordinary readers, and transformed the style into that pure and unaffected English phraseology which pervades with a few exceptions the present edition.* During several months De Lolme visited Baron Masseres each morning at his chambers in the Temple, and we have no doubt that it was under his superintendence and friendship that the work appeared in a readable and popular form. The author had become acquainted with Lord Abingdon at Geneva, and dedicated his essay in the first instance to his lordship; but De Lolme was not only capricious but frequently ungrateful, and he changed the dedication before the book was published. In a subsequent edition, in which he enlarged the work, and from not having the assistance of Baron Masseres, he introduced several Gallicisms and incongruities

* The exceptions are insertions made by De Lolme in subsequent editions. It is probable that the late Mr. Fellowes, who was an elegant writer, and the friend of Baron Masseres, who bequeathed him his fortune, also assisted in correcting De Lolme's style.

[merged small][ocr errors]

which, in a few paragraphs, contrast unfavourably with the generally chaste style of the essay. That De Lolme was a man of genius and learning cannot be doubted; but during his sojourn in England he appears to have experienced great pecuniary difficulties. He was so improvident and extravagant that he would have squandered the largest fortune. He was occasionally successful in speculating in the funds; and it is asserted that when he by such chances or by play gained money, he disappeared altogether from society, resorted to secret places, and only re-appeared in a state of utter poverty. Generally his residence was unknown. His personal appearance varied with his changes of fortune. Occasionally, when possessed of money, he appeared in the fashionable attire of the day, with a sword and bag-wig. When in distress he exhibited the miserable and degraded appearance of a tattered and slovenly vagabond. More than once he was reduced to perform menial services for a subsistence. He used to hire lodgings under a feigned name, and on Dr. Wolcott asking him one day where he lived, he replied, "Why, my dear doctor, between Westminster Bridge and Hyde Park Corner." He sometimes owed his means of living to the Literary Fund; and the only places of residence in which he was known to have lived were in Back Lane, Hatton Garden, Green Street, Leicester Square, and in some hiding-places in Pimlico and Mary-le-bone. In 1775, he attempted a periodical publication entitled the "News Examiner" the object of which was to expose the inconsistency of the London journals by republishing their leading articles. But the enterprise became a victim to the Stamp Office, which declared that the periodical was liable to duty, and which De Lolme was unable to pay.

His genius and talents led to his being introduced to Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, Colonel Barre, Lords North, Abingdon, and Lyttleton; and as long as his eccentricities and irregularities allowed him to be decent and bearable, a cover was daily laid for him at the hospitable table of Lord George Sackville.

As to the copyright of his " Essay on the Constitution of England," the editor of an edition published in 1821 says

« НазадПродовжити »