Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

and new, did not affect the main body of the question. The coldness and pettiness of his manner did not warm the hearts.or expand the understandings of his hearers. Instead of encouraging, he checked the ardour of his friends; and teazed, instead of overpowering his antagonists. The only.palpable hit he ever made, while he remained there, was the comparing his own situation in being rejected by the House, on account of the supposed purity of his clerical character, to the story of the girl at the Magdalen, who was told "she must turn out and qualify.”* This, męt, with laughter and loud applause. It was a home thrust, and the House (to do them justiçe) are obliged to any one who, by a smart blow, relieves them of the ,!oad of grave responsibility, which sits heavy on their shoulders.-At the hustings, or as an election-candidate, Mr. Tooke did better. There was no great question to move or carry --it was an affair of political sparring between himself and the other candidates. He took it in a very cool and leisurely manner -watched his , competitors with a wary, sạrcastic eye; picked up the mistakes or absurdities that fell from them, and retorted them on their heads ; told a story to the mob; and smiled and took snuff with a gentlemanly and becoming air, as if he was already seated in the House. But a Court of Law was the place where Mr. Tooke made the best figure in public. He might assuredly be said to be “native and endued unto that element.” He had here to stand merely on the defensive—not to advance himself, but to block up the way—not to impress others, but to be himself impenetrable. All he wanted was negative success; and to this no one was better qualified to aspire. Cross purposes, moot-points, pleas, demurrers, flaws in the indictment, double meanings, cases, inconsequentialities, these were the play-things, the darlings of Mr. Tooke's mind; and with these he baffled the Judge, dumb-founded the Counsel, and outwitted the Jury. The report of his trial before Lord Kenyon is a master-piece of acuteness, dexterity, modest assurance, and legal effect. It is much like his examination before the Commissioners of the Income-Taxnothing could be got out of him in either case !

* ". They receive him like a virgin at the Magdalen-Go thou and do likewise.”_JÚNIUS.

· Mr. Tooke, as a political leader, belonged to the class of trimmers; or at most, it was his delight to make mischief and spoil sport. He would rather be against himself than for any

body else. He was neither a bold nor a safe leader. He enticed others into scrapes, and kept out of them himself. Provided he could say a clever or a spiteful thing, he did not care whether it served or injured the cause. Spleen or the exercise of intellectual power was the motive of his patriotism, rather than principle. He would talk treason with a saving clause; and instil sedition into the public mind, through the medium of a third (who was to be the responsible) party. He made Sir Francis Burdett his spokesman in the House and to the country, often venting his chagrin or singularity of sentiment at the expense of his friend; but what in the first was trick or reckless vanity, was in the last plain downright English honesty and singleness of heart. In the case of the State Trials, in 1794, Mr. Tooke rather compromised his friends to screen himself. He kept repeating that “others might have gone on to Windsor, but he had stopped at Hounslow," as if to go farther might have been dangerous and unwarrantable. It was not the question how far he or others had actually gone, but how far they had a right to go, according to the law. His conduct was not the limit of the law, nor did treasonable excess begin where prudence or principle taught him to stop short, though this was the oblique inference liable to bé drawn from his line of defencé. Mr. Tooke was uneasy and apprehensive for the issue of the Government-prosecution ühile in confinément, and said, in speaking of it to a friend, with a morbid feeling and an emphasis quite unusual with him—“ They want our blood -blood-blood !” It was somewhat ridiculous to implicate Mr. Tooke in a charge of High Treatson (and indeed the whole charge was built on the mistaken purport of an intercepted letter relating to an engagement for a private dinnerparty)—his politics were not at all revolutionary. In this respect he was a mere péttifogger, full of chicane, and captious objections, and unmeaning discontent; but he had none of the grand whirling movements of the French Revolution, nor of the tumultuous glow of rebel. lion in his head or ini his ħeart. His politics werë cast in a different mould, or confined to the party distinctions and court-intrigues and pittances of popular right, that made a noise in the time of Junius and Wilkes--and even if his underštanding had gone along with more modern and unqualified principles, his cautious temper would have prevented his risking them in practice. Horne Tooke (though not of the same side in politics) had much of the tone of mind and

more of the spirit of moral feeling of the celebrated philosopher of Malmesbury. The narrow scale and fine-drawn distinctions of his political creed made his conversation on such subjects infinitely amusing, particularly when contrasted with that of persons who dealt in the sounding common-places and sweeping clauses of abstract politics. He knew all the cabals and jealousies and heart-burnings in the beginning of the late reign, the changes of administration and the springs of secret influence, the characters of the leading men, Wilkes, Barrè, Dunning, Chatham, Burke, the Marquis of Rockingham, North, Shelburne, Fox, Pitt, and all the vacillating events of the American war :—these formed a curious back-ground to the more prominent figures that occupied the present time, and Mr. Tooke worked out the minute details and touched in the evanescent traits with the pencil of a master. His conversation resembled a political camera obscuraas quaint as it was magical.. To some pompous pretenders he might seem to narrate fabellas aniles (old wives' fables)--but not to those who study human nature, and wish to know the materials of which it is composed. Mr. Tooke's faculties might appear to have ripened and acquired a finer flavour with age. In a former period of

« НазадПродовжити »