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Quæso ne ista superstitione te alliges. Ut bene currere non potest qui pedem ponere studet in alienis tantum vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui tanquam Je præscripto non audet egredi.” “Posthac," exclaims Erasmus," non licebit episcopos appellare patres reverendos, nec in calce literarum scribere annum a Christo nato, quod id nusquam faciat Cicero. Quid autem ineptius quam, toto seculo novato, religione, imperiis, magistratibus, locorum vocabulis, ædificiis, cultu, moribus, non aliter audere loqui quam locutus est Cicero ? Si revivisceret ipse Cicero, rideret hoc Ciceronianorum genus.'
While Mr. Fox winnowed and sifted his phraseology with a care which seems hardly consistent with the simplicity and elevation of his mind, and of which the effect really was to debase and enfeeble his style, he was little on his guard against those more serious improprieties of manner into which a great orator who undertakes to write history is in danger of falling. There is about the whole book a vehement, contentious, replying manner. Almost
Almost every argument is put in the form of an interrogation, an ejaculation, or a sarcasm. The writer seems to be addressing himself to some imaginary audience, to be tearing in pieces a defence of the Stuarts which has just been pronounced by an imaginary Tory. Take,' for example, his answer to Hume's re marks on the execution of Sydney; and substitute " the honourable gentleman ” or “the noble Lord” for the name of Hume. The whole passage sounds like a powrful reply, thundered at three in the morning from the Opposition Bench. While we read it, we can almost fancy that we see and hear tl:e great English delater such as he has been described to us by the few who can still remember the Westminster scrutiny and the
Oczakow Negotiations, in the ful paroxysm of inspi ration, foaming, screaming, choked by the rushing multitude of his words.
It is true that the passage to which we have referred, and several other passages which we could point out, are admirable when considered merely as exhibitions of mental power. We at once recognise in then that consummate master of the whole art of intellectual gladiatorship, whose speeches, imperfectly as they have been transmitted to us, should be studied day and night by every man who wishes to learn the science of logical defence. We find in several parts of the History of James the Second fine specimens of that which we conceive to have been the great characteristic of Demos thenes among the Greeks, and of Fox among the orators of England, reason penetrated, and, if we inay venture on the expression, inade red-hot by passion. But this is not the kind of excellence proper to history; and it is hardly too much to say that whatever is strikingly good in Mr. Fox's Fragment is out of place.
With Sir James Mackintosh the case was reversed. His proper place was his library, a circle of men of letters, or a chair of moral and political philosophy. He distinguished himself highly in Parliament. But nevertheless Parliament was not exactly the sphere for him. The effect of his most successful speeches was small when compared with the quantity of ability and learning which was expended on them. We could easily name men who, not possessing a tenth part of his intellectual powers, hardly ever address the House of Commons without producing a greater impression than was produced by his most splendid and elaborate orations. His luminous and philosophical disquisition, on the Reform Bill was spoken to empty benches.
Those, indeed, who had the wit to keep their seatu, picked up hints which, skilfully used, made the fortune of more than one speech. But “it was caviare to the gencral.” And even those who listened to Sir James with pleasure and admiration could not but acknowlcilge that he rather lectured than debated. An artist who should waste on a panorama, or a scene, or on a transparency, the exquisite finishing which we admire in some of the small Dutch interiors, would not squander his powers more than this eminent man too often clid. His audience resembled the boy in the Heart of Mid-Lothian, who pushes away the lady's guineas with contempt, and insists on having the white money. They preferred the silver with which they were familiar, and which they were constantly passing about from hand to hand, to the gold which they had never before seen, and with the value of which they were unac quainted.
It is much to be regretted, we think, that Sir James Mackintosh did not wholly devote his later years to philosophy and literature. His talents were not those which enable a speaker to produce with rapidity a series of striking but transitory impressions, and to excite the minds of five hundred gentlemen at midnight, without saying any thing that any one of them will be able to remember in the morning. His arguments were of a very different texture from those which are produced in Parliament at a moment's notice, which puzzle a plain ' man who, if he had them before him in writing, would soon detect their fallacy, and which the great debater who employs them forgets within half an hour, and never thinks of again. Whatever was valuable in the compositions of Sir James Mackintosh was the ripe fruit of study and of
mcditation. It was the same with his conversation In luis most familiar talk there was no wildness, no inconsistency, no amusing nonsense, no exaggeration for the sake of momentary effect.
His mind was a Vaist magazine, admirably arranged. Every thing was there; and every thing was in its place. His judg. ments on men, on sects, on books, had been often and carefully tested and weighed, and had then been committed, each to his proper receptacle, in the most capacious and accurately constructed memory that any human being ever possessed.
It would have been strange indeed if you had asked for any thing that was not to be found in that immense storehouse. The article which you required was not only there. It was ready. It was in its own proper compartinent. In a moment it was brought down, unpacked, and displayed. If those who enjoyed the privilege — for a privilege indeed it was — of listening to Sir James Mackintosh, had been disposed to find some fault in his conversation, they might perhaps have observed that he yielded too little to the impulse of the moment. He seemed to be recollecting, not creating. He never appeared to catch a sudden glimpse of a subject in a new light. You never saw his opinions in the making, still rude, still inconsistent, and requiring to be fashionod by thought and discussion. They came forth, like the pillars of that temple in which no sound of axes or hammers was heard, finished, rounded, and exactly suited to their places. What Mr. Charles Lamb has said with so much humour and some truth, of the conversation of Scotchmen in general, was certainly truc of this eminent Scotchman. He did not find, but bring. You could not cry halves to any thing that turned up while you were in his company.
The intellectual and moral qualities which are most miportant in a historian, he possessed in a very higt degree. He was singularly mild, calm, and impartia in his judgments of men, and of parties. Almost all the distinguished writers who have treated of English history aro advocates. Mr. Hallam and Sir James Mackintosh alone are entitled to be called julges. But the extreme austerity of Mr. Hallam takes away something from the pleasure of reading his learned, eloquent, and judicious writings. He is a judge, but a hanging judge, the Page or Buller of the High Cour of Literary Justice. His black cap is in constant re quisition. In the long calendar of those whom he has tried, there is hardly one who has not, in spite of evidence to character and recommendations to mercy, been sentenced and left for execution.
Sir James, perhaps, erred a little on the other side. He liked a maiden assize, and came away with white gloves, afte. sitting in judgment on batches of the most notorious offenders. He had a quick eye for the redeeming parts of a character, and a large toleration for the infirmities of men 'exposed to strong temptations. But this lenity did not arise from ignorance or neglect of moral distinctions. Though' he allowed perhaps too much weight to every extenuating circumstance that could he urged in favour of the transgressor, he never -lisputed the authority of the law, or showed his ingeoaity by refining away its enactments.
On every oc casion ha showed himself firm where principles were in question, but full of charity towards individuals.
Wo have no hesitation in pronouncing this FragRuent decidedly the best history now extant of the reign of James the Second. It contains much new and curious information, of which excellent use has