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before us, téstifies this to have been the progress of Mr C. himself—and it is still more strikingly illustrated by the history of his models and imitators. Mr Burke had much less of this extravagance than Mr Grattan-Mr Grattan much less than Mr Curran—and Mr Curran much less than Mr Phillips. It is really of some importance that the climax should be closed somewhere.
There is a concluding chapter, in which Mr C.'s skill in cross-examination, and his conversational brilliancy, are commemorated; as well as the general simplicity and affability of his manners, and his personal habits and peculiarities. He was not a profound lawyer, nor much of a general scholar, though reasonably well acquainted with all the branches of polite literature, and an eager reader of novels-being often caught sobbing over the pathos of Richardson, or laughing at the humour of Cervantes, with an unrestrained vehemence which reminds us of that of Voltaire. He spoke very slow, both in public and private, and was remarkably scrupulous in his choice of words: He slept very little, and, like Johnson, was always averse to retire at night-lingering long after he arose to depart—and, in his own house, often following one of his guests to his chamber,, and renewing the conversation for an hour. He was habitually abstinent and temperate; and, from his youth up, in spite of all his vivacity, the victim of a constitutional melancholy. His wit is said to have been ready and brilliant, and altogether without gall. But the credit of this testimony is somewhat weakened by a little selection of his bons mots, with which we are furnished in a note. The greater part, we own, appear to us to be rather vulgar and ordinary; as, when a man of the name of Halfa penny was desired by the Judge to sit down, Mr C. said, • I i thank your Lordship for having at last nailed that rap to the I counter ;'or, when observing upon the singular pace of a Judge who was lame, he said, ' Don't you see that one leg goes
before like a tipstaff, to make room for the other?'-or, when vindicating his countrymen from the charge of being naturally vicious, he said, 'He had never yet heard of an Irishman being ċ born drunk.'' The following, however, is good—- I can't tell ' you, Curran,' observed an Irish nobleman, who had voted for the Union, how frightful our old House of Commons ap. pears to me.
Ah! my lord,' replied the other, it is only natural for Murderers to be afraid of Ghosts; '-and this is at least grotesque.
Being asked what an Irish gentleman, just. I arrived in Englatıd, could mean by perpetually putting out
his tongue?. Answer—" I suppose he's trying to catch the f English accent." In his last illness, his physician obserying in
the morning that he seemed to cough with more difficulty, he answered, that is rather surprising, as I have been practising all night.'
But these things are of little consequence. Mr Curran was something much better than a sayer of smart sayings. He was a lover of his country-and its fearless, its devoted, and inde. fatigable servant. To his energy and talents she was perhaps indebted for some mitigation of her sufferings in the days of her extremity—and to these, at all events, the public has been indebted, in a great degree, for the knowledge they now have of her wrongs, and for the feeling which that knowledge has excited, of the necessity of granting them redress. It is in this charac ter that he must have most wished to be remembered, and in which he has most deserved it. As to any flaws or lapses in his private life, we agree, with the excellent author before us, that his death should consign them to oblivion; and that, as his claims to distinction were altogether of a public nature, nothing should be allowed to detract from them that is not of the same description: At the same time, that our readers may know all that we know, and that their uncharitable surmises may not go beyond the truth, we cannot do better than conclude with the following passage from this most exemplary biography, in which, as in all the rest, the author has observed the tenderness which was due to the relationship in which he stood to his subject, without violating, in the least degree, that manly fairness and sincerity, without which he would have been unworthy of pube lic confidence.
• But the question will be asked, has this been a faithful picture ? Have no shades been designedly omitted ?-Has delicacy or flattery concealed no defects, without which the resemblance cannot be
To such inquiries it is answered, that the estimable qualities which have formed the preceding description, have not been invented or exaggerated ; and if the person, who has assumed the duty of collecting them, has abstained from a rigorous detail of any infirmities of temper or conduct, it is because a feeling more sacred and more justifiable than delicacy or flattery has taught him, and should teach others, to regard them with tenderness and regret. In thus abstaining from a cruel and unprofitable analysis of failings, to which the most gifted are often the most prone, no deception is intended. It is due to that public to whom Mr Curran's merits have been here submitted as deserving their approbation, to admit with candour, that some particulars have been withheld which they would not have approved : But it is also due to his memory to declare, that in balancing the conflicting elements of his character, what was virtuous and amiable will be found to have largely preponderated. He was not perfect; but his imperfections have a peculiar claim upon our forbear. ance, when we reflect that they sprung from the same source as his. genius, aod may be considered as almost the inevitable condition upon which that order of genius can be held. Their source was in his imagination. The same ardour and sensibility which rendered him so eloquent an advocate of others, impelled him to take too impassioned and irritating views of questions that personally related to himself. The mistakes of conduct into which this impetuosity of temperament betrayed him cannot be defended by this or by any other explanation of their origin ; yet it is much to be able to say that they were almost exclusively confined to a single relation, and that those who in consequence suffered most, but who, from their intimate connexion with him, knew him best, saw so many redeeming qualities in his nature, that they uniformly considered any exclusion from his regard, not so much in the light of an injustice, as of a per. sonal misfortune.
" There was a time when such considerations would have failed to appease his numerous accusers, who, under the 'vulgar pretext of moral indignation, were relentlessly taking vengeance on his public virtues by assiduous and exaggerated statements of private errors, which, had he been one of the enemies of his country, they would have been the first to screen or justify. But it is hoped, that he was not deceiving himself when he anticipated that the term of their hos tility would expire as soon as he should be removed beyond its reach. “ The charity of the survivors (to use his own expressions) looks at the failings of the dead through an inverted glass; and slander calls off the pack from a chase in which, when there can be no pain, there can be no sport ; nor will memory weigh their merits with a niggard steadiness of hand.” But even should this have been a delusive expectation-should the grave which now covers him prove an unrespected barrier against the assaults of political hatred, there will not be wanting many of more generous minds, who loved and admired him, to rally round his memory, from the grateful conviction that his titles to his country's esteem stand in defiance of every imperfection of which his most implacable revilers can accuse him. As long as Ireland retains any sensibility to public worth, it will not be forgotten, that (whatever waywardness he may have shown towards some, and those a very few) she had, in every vicissitude, the unpurchased and most unmeasured benefit of his affections and his virtues. This is his claim and his protection that having by his talents raised himself from an humble condition to a station of high trust and innumerable temptations, he held himself erect in servile times, and has left'an example of Political Honour, upon which the most scrutinizing malice çannot detect a stain.' II. pp. 475-479.
Art. II. Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and
Men. Collected from the Conversation of Mr Pope, and other ; eminent Persons of his time ; By the Rev. JOSEPH SPENCE.
Now first published from the Original Pupers, with Notes, and a Life of the Author ; By Samuel WellER SINGER. Carpenter, London. Constable & Co., Edinburgh. 1820.
that which presents us with personal anecdotes of eminent men: And if its chief charm be in the gratification of our curiosity, it is a curiosity at least that has its origin in enthusiasm. We are anxious to know all that is possible to be learnt of those who have at any rate so honoured a place in our remembrance. It is not, merely, that every circumstance derivès value from the person to whom it relates: but an apparently insignificant anecdote often throws an entirely new light on the history of the most admired works, or the most brilliant actions. Intellectual discoveries, or heroic deeds, though they shed a broad and lasting lustre round the memory of those that have achieved them, yet occupy but a small part of the life of any individual : And we are not unwilling to penetrate the dazzling glory, and to see how the remaining intervals are filled up; to look into the minute details, to detect incidental foibles, and to be satisfied what qualities they have in common with ourselves, as well as distinct from us, entitled to our pity, or raised above our imitation. The heads of great inen, in short, are not all that we want to get a sight of: we wish to add the limbs, the drapery, the background. What would we not give to any modern Cornelius who would enable us to catch a glimpse of Pope through a glass door, leaning thoughtful on his hard, while composing the Rape of the Lock, or the Epistle of Eloisa; or riding by in a chariot with Lord Bolingbroke, or whispering to Patty Blount, or doing the honours of his grotto to Lady Wortley Montague ! How much, then, are we not bound to the writer who gives us a portrait of him, with any thing like tolerable fidelity and exactness, in all these circumstances !-- We like to visit the birthplace or the burial-place of famous men, to mark down their bifth-day, or the day on which they died. Cicero's villa, the tomb of Virgil, the house in which Shakespeare was brought up, are objects of romantic interest, and of refined curiosity to the lovers of genius; and a poet's lock of hair, a fac-simile of his handwriting, an ink-stand, or a fragment of an old chair belonging to him, are treasured up as relics, of literary devoLion. These things are thus valued, only because they bring
us into a sort of personal contact with such characters; vouch, as it were, for their reality, and convince us that they were living men, as well as mighty minds. Sir Joshua Reynolds relates, that when he was very young, he went to a sale of pictures, and that, shortly after, there was a cry of Mr Pope, Mr Pope !' in the room; when the company made way for him to pass, every one offering his hand in salutation; and that he himself contrived, from where he stood behind, to touch the skirt of his garment. Who, in reading this account, does not extend his hand in involuntary sympathy, and rejoice at this unequivocal testimony and cheerful tribute of applause to living merit,--at this flattering foretaste which the elegant poet received of immortality ?
It has been made an objection to the biography of literary men, that the principal events of their lives are their works; and that there is little else to be known of them, either interesting to others, or perhaps creditable to themselves. We do not feel the full force of this objection. It is the very absence of grave transactions or striking vicissitudes that turns our attention more immediately upon themselves, and leaves us at leisure to explore their domestic habits, and descry their little peculiarities of temper. In the intimacy of retirement, we enjoy with them calm contemplation and poetic ease.' We see the careless smile play upon their expressive features: we hear the dictates of unstudied wisdom, or the sallies of sportive wit, fall without disguise from their lips. We draw down genius from its airbuilt citadel in books and libraries; and make it our play-mate, and our companion. We see how poets and philosophers live, converse, and behave,' like other men.
We reduce theory to practice; we translate words into things, and books into men. It is, in short, the ideal and abstracted existence of authors that renders their personal character and private history a subject of so much interest. The difficulty of forming almost any inference at all from what men write to what they are, constitutes the chief value of the problem which the literary biographer undertakes to solve. In passing from the public to the private life of kings, of statesmen and warriors, we have, for the most part, the same qualities and personal character brought into action, and displayed on a larger or a smaller scale,--and can, at all events, make a pretty tolerable guess from one to the other. But we have no means to discover whether the moral Addison was the same scrupulous character in his writings and in his daily habits, but in the anecdotes recorded of him. Sir Isaac Newton's Principia do not imply his verses to his dog Tray: there is