Obrázky stránek


tation, the monômánias of idiosyncrasy, he has had no parallel since Smollett and Foote; and he perhaps leaves even them behind him in the magical felicity of phrase with which he brings out the ludicrous picturesque.

Like all other first-rate humourists, he betrays everywhere the substratum of solid sagacity; and like them all, except Swift, he is genial. He comprehends human nature, and no one makes better sport with it; but it is never doubtful that he loved his kind, and contemplated the follies of others with a consciousness of his own frailty. That with such an education, and such an external course of life, he should have left so little to be complained of in the morality of his fictitious narratives, seemed to us one of the least intelligible things in the history of literature, until these careless diaries—for we never saw any that could be less supposed to have been written with any view to inspection-withdrew in part the veil under which the natural shyness of genius and the jealousy of conscience had concealed very much of the man from many who thought they understood him.

We have already expressed our opinion, however, that Theodore Hook's ability in conversation was above what he ever exemplified in his writings. We have seen him in company


very many the most eminent men of his time; and we never, until he was near his end, carried home with us the impression that he had been surpassed. He was as entirely, as any parent of bon-mots that we have known, above the suspicion of having premeditated his point; and he excelled in a greater variety of ways than any of them. No definition either of wit or humour could have been framed that must not have included him; and he often conveyed what was at once felt to be the truest wit in forms, as we believe, entirely new. He could run riot in conundrums—but what seemed at first mere jingle, was often perceived, a moment after, to contain some allusion or insinuation that elevated the vehicle. Memory and knack may suffice to furnish out an amusing narrator; but the teller of good stories seldom amuses long if he cannot also say good things. Hook shone equally in both. In fact he could not tell any story without making it his own by the evervarying, inexhaustible invention of the details and the aspects, and above all, by the tact that never failed to connect it with the persons, the incidents, the topics of the evening. Nothing was with him a patch-all was made to assert somehow its coherence with what had gone before, or was passing. His play of feature, the compass and music of his voice, his large and brilliant eye, capable of every expression from the gravest to the most grotesquely comical, the quiet aptness of every attitude and gesture, his power of mimicry, unrivalled but by Mathews--when to


[ocr errors]

all this we add the constant effect of his innate, imperturbable good humour—the utter absence of spleen-and ever and anon some flash of strong sterling sense, bursting through such an atmosphere of fun and drollery-we still feel how inadequately we attempt to describe the indescribable. The charm was that it was all Nature, spontaneous as water from the rock. No wonder that he should have been courted as he was: but the most honourable part is, that he was far from assentation. There was sad weakness in allowing himself to be hunted out for the amusement of others, at such a heavy sacrifice of time and health and ultimate peace of mind : but once in society, of whatever class, he showed no shabby weakness of any sort.

He had undoubtedly a degree of respect for mere rank and worldly splendour, which savoured of his humble origin and early associations; but his abstinence from all the arts of meanness was the more remarkable nd creditable, for being shown in the midst of a superstition that otherwise brought much damage to him. Well says The Rambler— It is dangerous for mean minds to venture themselves within the sphere of greatness. Few can be assiduous without servility, and none can be servile without corruption.' He was never servile. Those who did not know with what pertinacity he was sought, might speak of him as a tuft-hunter-but neither ignorance nor envy ever presumed to class him with toad-eaters.

We have not endeavoured to conceal or even palliate his errors. To do so, even in the slightest biographical sketch, seems to us most culpable. We believe we have by our-however rapidretrospect both afforded evidence of good feelings and good principles, preserved and cherished where they had been commonly supposed to be obliterated, and recalled many forgotten circumstances which must be considered as likely to operate powerfully and permanently on the development of any character, however originally amiable and upright. The example of such talents, exerted so much to the delight of others, so little to their possessor's profit—of a career so chequered by indiscretion, and so darkly closed at a period so untimely—ought not, at all events, to be destitute of instructiveness. May it have its effect with those who knew Theodore Hook only afar off. We are not afraid that

any of his real friends will suspect us of regarding his memory without tenderness, because we have discharged our duty by telling what we believed to be the truth.*

* Among Mr. Hook's papers his executors found a packet, inscribed • Letters sent to me as the author of The Doctor.' They were in number about a score, from eminent literary persons and a few others of political or fashionable celebrity, each acknowledging the receipt of the first two volumes of the book, ex dono auctoris, with the favoured name printed in red letters at the beginning. It is easy to see that most of the writers had a very strong suspicion that they were addressing Mr, Southey; and we


ourselves were so much of that opinion, that nothing could have shaken it but a communication from the Laureate himself, which seemed to us, coming as it did quite without hint of provocation, to deny most explicitly the least concern in the anonymous production. "It is probable that, if we could lay our hands on it at this moment, a loophole would be detected; but in our notice of “The Doctor,' (Quart. Rev., vol. li.) we assumed that cur original conjecture had been unfounded. Shortly afterwards Mr. Coleridge told us that, wnatever the Laureate might say, “ The Doctor' was certainly bis work. The main story, he said, was an invention of his (Coleridge's) own, which he had recited to Southey when visiting him in his youth at Oxford ; and Mr. Coleridge proceeded to tell the story—a most absurd one-to its conclusion—which is not done in the published volumes of "The Doctor.' But, as he might have narrated all the adventures of Dr. Dove and his horse Dobbs to other early friends, this did not convince us in the teeth of the Laureate's voluntary disclaimer. There is now no doubt whatever that “The Doctor' was entirely Mr. Southey's work. The affectionate depository of his secret divulged it during the melancholy period of his last hopeless illness. It is probable that some more chapters may by and by see the light; but of this we do not speak with certainty.

Mr. Hook knew no more about the authorship of the book than we ourselves : he died in complete ignorance on the subject. But it bad struck Mr. Southey as a fit climax for the trickeries with which he had chosen to amuse himself, to make his publishers forward to Fulham all letters addressed to the Author of The Doctor;' and the packet included the following curiosity of literature:

• Keswick, 24th Jan., 1834, Sir, I have to thank you for a copy of " The Doctor, &c.," bearing my name imprinted in rubrick letters on the reverse of the title-page. That I should be gratified by this flattering and unusual distinction, you have rightly supposed; and that the book itself would amuse me by its wit, tickle me by its humours, and afford me gratification of a higher kind in its serious parts, is what you cannot have doubted.

“Whether my thanks for this curiosity in literature will go to the veteran, who of all living men is most versed both in curious and fine letters; whether they will cross the Alps to an old Incognito who has the stores of Italian poetry at command; whether they will find the author in London, surrounded with treasures of ancient and modern art, in an abode as elegant as his own volumesmor wheresoever the roving shaft, which is sure to reach its mark, may light—the personage, be he friend, acquaintance, or stranger, to whose hands it comes, is assured that his volumes have been perused with great pleasure by

His obliged and obedient servant, Robert SOUTHEY.' The persons alluded to in this pleasantry were, of course, Mr. D’Israeli, Mr. Matthias, and Mr. Rogers.

ART. IV.-Memoirs and Correspondence of Francis Horner,

M.P. Edited by his brother, Leonard Horner, Esq., F.R.S.

2 vols. London, 1843. THE early death of Francis Horner awed the angry passions

of party feeling to a mournful and respectful silence. His memory should be as sacred as his tomb. Our younger readers, who have a dim remembrance of that event, or those to whom it is but a faint tradition, cannot but open,


eager interest, a book promising authentic information as to the peculiar character, the demeanour, the attainments, the conduct, the opinions of a statesman whose loss was deplored with such rare unanimity by both parties in the House of Commons. The proceedings on that


occasion, which Mr. Leonard Horner, the biographer of his brother, has very properly subjoined, unusual as they were, and not without danger as a precedent, are marked with a quiet simplicity singularly in unison with the character of the man and of the British Parliament. No single speech aims at effect : there is throughout a grave unlaboured sadness which seems secure of the sympathies of the assembly, and disregards all indirect and artificial means of exciting them. We can imagine the dramatic artifice which in a neighbouring country would render such a scene so much more imposing, and so much less impressive: the splendid display of that panegyric oratory, which has been assiduously cultivated—in the Pulpit, in the Academy, as well as in the Senate -as one of the highest branches of eloquence; the lavish praise, or, at best, the artful modesty of friends, for the manifest purpose of heightening the effect; and the ostentatious generosity of political opponents, which, however ingeniously or gracefully veiled, would still intercept and direct towards its own lofty abnegation of party some share of the popular applause. We are superior, we trust, to blind and narrow national partiality, yet we cannot but express our conviction that there was something in Mr. Horner's character thoroughly English, and that it was this peculiarity which commended it so strongly to the general esteem. We do not mean to dispute that his Northern birth may have had its influence in producing the calmness and moderation which were such important elements in his mental constitution: we will use the word Briton, if it seems less objectionable. The unaffected good sense; the probity; the steadiness; the disdain of all the more rapid perhaps, but sidelong and slippery ways to eminence; the solid and substantial goodness; the practical bearing of his mind, whether investigating the abstract questions of political economy, or even sounding the depths of metaphysical inquiry :—these were the title-deeds to public confidence produced by Mr. Horner, and recognised by his country. Though he held strong and even extreme views on some points, the thorough conviction of his conscientiousness, the total absence of guile, of bitterness, or of personality, the grave argumentative tone with which he urged his doctrines, enforced the respect, and, as we have seen, more than the respect, of those who differed most widely from his opinions.

If any man was the author of his own character, and, through his character, of his fame, we can scarcely say his fortune-of his well-grounded hopes of the highest distinction which his country could bestow, it was Francis Horner. It is this which makes his biography so peculiarly valuable. There is so much which may be exemplary to rising and honourably ambitious youth; so


strong a commendation of straightforward assiduity, honesty, and moderation, over trickery, precocious self-estimation, and restless avidity of premature distinction, that we scarcely know any work which, soberly read, may be more instructive. Mr. Horner was not a man of brilliant and creative imagination, so as to awaken, in his early years, hopes of a dazzling career either in letters or in politics. Even his eloquence owed its weight to the extraordinary care which he had taken to form a good and correct style of speaking; to the distinctness of his views, acquired by patient study; to the full command which he possessed of every subject on which he addressed the House. He had no wit, and showed his wisdom by knowing that he had none; but it is extraordinary how he could enliven, by mere earnestness of purpose, and by perspicuous and forcible language, such dry subjects as those of coin, currency, and statistics, of which the state of the times indeed required the discussion, but on which few speakers, however brilliant, could have had much chance to obtain an attentive hearing.

Though of respectable family, Mr. Horner had no hereditary claims to distinction: he had no connection by kindred with the aristocracy. The friendships which he formed in youth with some of the most distinguished persons of our time he owed chiefly to his own talents and engaging manners—in part, no doubt, to the fortunate accident which had assembled so many excellent instructors, and so many men who have realized the bright promise of their youth, by legal, by political, or by literary distinction, in his native city of Edinburgh. The higher connections added at a later period of his life arose entirely out of the reputation which he had early established in that remarkable circle, and the well-appreciated value of his support to those whose political views coincided with his own. Nor was he summoned, as it were, into political being by any of those fortunate exigencies which suddenly strike the slumbering fire out of some powerful intellect, unconscious perhaps of its own powers: he was content to ascend by the slow and regular highway; his was a continued but a gradual advance; he took his place in his party with natural dignity, without the slightest servility to his superiors in rank or wealth, without jealousy of his equals, with candour and frankness to all; he waited quietly till fame came to him; he took no undue means of quickening or condensing its lustre about himself.

Nature, indeed, had endowed Mr. Horner richly with the seeds of great and good qualities, which he was left to develope. He had a countenance singularly expressive of gentleness and benevolence, amiable dispositions, and warm affections, with talents of

« PředchozíPokračovat »