Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

debater. In so many details (which he himself goes through with unwearied and unshrinking resolution) the spirit of the question is lost to others who have not the same voluntary power of attention or the same interest in hearing that he has in speaking; the original impulse that urged him forward is forgotten in so wide a field, in so interminable a career. If he can, others cannot carry all he knows in their heads at the same time; a rope of circumstantial evidence does not hold well together, nor drag the unwilling mind along with it (the willing mind hurries on before it, and grows impatient and absent)-he moves in an unmanageable procession of facts and proofs, instead of coming to the point at once-and his premises (so anxious is he to proceed on sure and ample grounds) overlay and block up his conclusion, so that you cannot arrive at it, or not till the first fury and shock of the onset is over. The ball, from the too great width of the calibre from which it is sent, and from striking against such a number of hard, projecting points, is almost spent before it reaches its destination. He keeps a ledger or a debtor-and-creditor account between the Government and the Country, posts so much actual crime, corruption, and injustice against so much contingent advantage or sluggish prejudice, and at the bottom of the page brings in the balance of indignation and contempt, where it is due. But people are not to be calculated into contempt or indignation on abstract grounds; for however they may submit to this process where their own interests are concerned, in what regards the public good we believe they must see and feel instinctively, or not at all. There is (it is to be lamented) a good deal of froth as well as strength in the popular spirit, which will not admit of being decanted or served out in formal driblets; nor will spleen (the soul of Opposition) bear to be corked up in square patent bottles, and kept for future use! In a word, Mr. Brougham's is ticketed and labelled eloquence, registered and in numeros (like the successive parts of a Scotch Encyclopedia)—it is clever, knowing, imposing, masterly, an extraordinary display of clearness of head, of quickness and energy of thought, of application and industry; but it is not the eloquence of the imagination or the heart, and will never save a nation or an individual from perdition.

Mr. Brougham has one considerable advantage in debate : he is overcome by no false modesty, no deference to others. But then, by a natural consequence or parity of reason ing, he has little sympathy with other people, and is liable to be mistaken in the effect his arguments will have upon them. He relies too much, among other things, on the patience of his hearers, and on his ability to turn every thing to his own advantage. He accordingly goes to the full length of his tether (in vulgar phrase) and often overshoots the mark. C'est dommage. He has no reserve of discretion, no retentiveness of mind or check upon himself. He needs, with so much wit, ..

“ As much again to govern it." He cannot keep a good thing or a shrewd piece of information in his possession, though the letting it out should mar a cause. It is not that he thinks too much of himself, too little of his cause : but he is absorbed in the pursuit of truth as an abstract inquiry, he is led away by the headstrong and over-mastering activity of his own mind. He is borne along, almost involuntarily, and not impossibly against his better judgment, by the throng and restlessness of his ideas as by a crowd of people in motion. His perceptions are literal, tenacious, epileptichis understanding voracious of facts, and equally communicative of them, and he proceeds to

" Pour out all as plain .

As downright Shippen or as old Montaigne”- , without either the virulence of the one or the bonhommie of the other. The repeated, smart, unforeseen discharges of the truth jar those that are next him. He does not dislike this state of irritation and collision, indulges his curiosity or his triumph, till by calling for more facts or hazarding some extreme inference, he urges · a' question to the verge of a precipice, his adversaries urge it over, and he himself shrinks back from the consequence

i “Scared at the sound himself has made !" Mr. Brougham has great fearlessness, but not equal firmness; and after going too far on the forlorn hope, turns short round without due warning to others or respect for himself. He is adventurous, but easily panic-struck; and sacrifices the vanity of self-opinion to the necessity of self-preservation. He is too improvident for a leader, too petulant for a partisan; and does not sufficiently consult those with whom he is supposed to act in concert. He sometimes leaves them in the lurch, and is sometimes left in the lurch by them. He wants the principle of co-operation. He frequently, in a fit of thoughtless levity, gives an unexpected turn to the political machine, which alarms older and more experienced heads: if he was not himself the first to get out of harm's way and escape from the danger, it would be well! We hold, indeed, as a general rule, that no man born or bred in Scotland can be a great orator, unless he is a mere quack; or a great statesman unless he turns plain knave. The national gravity is against the first: the national caution is against the last. To a Scotchman if a thing is, it is; there is an end of the question with his opinion about it. He is positive and abrupt, and is not in the habit of conciliating the feelings or soothing the follies of others. His only way therefore to produce a popular effect is to sail with the stream of prejudice, and to vent common dogmas, “ the total grist, unsifted, husks and all,” from some evangelical pulpit. This may answer, and it has answered. On the other hand, if a Scotchman, born or bred, comes to think at all of the feelings of others, it is not as they regard them, but as their opinion reacts on his own interest and safety. He is therefore either pragmatical and offensive, or if he tries to please, he becomes cowardly and fawning. His public spirit wants pliancy ; his selfish compliances go all lengths. He is as impracticable as a popular partisan, as he is mischievous as a tool of Government.' We

« НазадПродовжити »