Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

The next letter appears to have been written when the earl was setting out on some foreign mission.

" Dear Home, As I may probably continue the next winter abroad, I send this by George Johnstone to be delivered into your own hand.

“I assure you I am sorry to go without you, and yet, for the reason I mentioned in my last, you will see the necessity of it.

Besides, if you are here, I know your warm heart so well, that I am certain

you
will not suffer me to be calumniated or abused in

my

absence, without taking proper methods of answering those infamous wretches where it is necessary and expedient: and I shall also expect to know the state of things from you with more freedom than from others. In short, if you are here I know I have a warm and zealous friend in this Pandemonium, who will not leave me in ignorance of any thing material that comes to his knowledge. Adieu, dear Home, and depend upon it, if I live to return, you will have restored to you in my person, a very cordial and affectionate friend.

< Bure.”

The following note of a conversation betwixt Home and Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, is interesting as attesting that illustrious individual's respect for and appreciation of the value of classical learning.

“ Mr. Pitt used to ask Mr. Home to his house very often. Mr. Pitt, having purchased a commission in the army when a very young man, had not read a great deal; and, in conversation with Mr. Home, used to ask him various questions concerning the Latin classics.

“ At one time he told Mr. Home that some of his friends who were excellent scholars, had told him that they preferred the verses of Lucretius to the verses of Virgil.

“Mr. Home said that he also preferred the verses of Lucretius. Mr. Pitt desired to have an example of that superiority which might explain the cause of it.

“ Mr. Home said, that in his opinion Lucretius had a finer ear than Virgil, which enabled him to write most beautiful verses without having recourse to epithets, as Virgil often had, which did not add to the force but diminished the harmony of his verses. For instance, Lucretius describing the early state of manners when the brave and the handsome were the most prized, says,

“ Nam facies multum valuit, viresque vigebant,
Posterius res inventa est, aurumque repertum

Quod facile et valides et pulchris diminuit honorem." “Mr. Home, after producing this example, said, that he thought Virgil could not have expressed the same sentiments in such beautiful verses, and perhaps not in the same number of verses.”

About the year 1759 he produced bis third tragedy, the “Siege of Acquilleia,” and in that year published a collected edition of his three plays, and dedicated it to George, then Prince of Wales.

The dedication, which I here subjoin, is a genuine specimen of his own mind, exhibiting noble trophies of his learning, with all those heroic sentiments so much the characteristics of the poet.

“To his Royal Highness,

George, Prince of Wales.

[ocr errors]

“In dedications, especially those which poets write, mankind expect to find little sentiment and less truth. A grateful imagination adorns its benefactor with every virtue, and even flatters with sincerity.

“ Hence the portrait of each patron of the 'muses is drawn with the same outline, and finished as a model of perfection.

“ Instructed by the errors of others, I presume not to make the panegyric of the Prince of Wales, nor to extol the patronage of literature as the most shining quality of a Prince.

“ Your royal highness will permit me to mention one sort of patronage which can never be praised too much; that, I mean, which extending its influence to the whole society, forms and excites the genius of individuals by exalting the spirit of the state.

“Institutions that revive in a great and highly-civilized people, those virtues of courage, manhood, and love of their country, which are most apt in the progress of refinement to decay, produce at the same time that pleasing and ornamental genius which cannot subsist in a mind that does not partake of those qualities which it describes. This is an observation which has escaped the notice of the greater part of writers who have inquired into the cause of the growth and decay of poetry and eloquence; but it has not escaped the penetration of Longinus, who, writing in the decline of the Roman empire, and lamenting that the true sublime was not to be found in the works of his time, boldly imputes that defect to the change of policy, and enumerates with indignation the vices of avarice, effeminacy, and pusillanimity, which, arising from the loss of liberty, had so inthralled and debased the minds of men that they could not look up, as he calls it, to any thing elevated and sublime : and here, as in other questions, the great critic quotes the authority of his master Homer. *The day of slavery bereaves a man of half his virtue.' The experience of succeeding times has shown that genius is affected by changes less violent than the loss of liberty. That it even flourishes in times of vigour and enterprise, and languishes amidst the sure corruption of an inactive age.

Your royal highness, as heir apparent to the British empire, hath in view the noblest field that ever a laudable ambition entered.

“ The envied state of this nation cannot remain precisely as it is ; the tide must flow or ebb faster than it has ever flowed.

“A prince destined in such a period to reign, begins a memorable era of perfection or degeneracy. The serious cares and princely studies of your youth, the visible tenour of your generous and constant mind, have filled the breasts of all good men with hopes of you equal to their wishes.

That these hopes may be fulfilled in their utmost extent, is the sincere and ardent prayer of

“ Your Royal Highness's, &c."

The “ Siege of Acquilleia" is the least interesting of all his plays. Yet Garrick admired this tragedy much, probably finding in the character of the Roman Consul, which he himself enacted, metal suited to his own powerful style and lofty conceptions.

In the year 1760 George III. ascended the throne, and amongst the first acts of his munificence he settled a pension of 3001. on the poet; and, in two or three years afterwards, appointed him “conservator" of the Scots privileges in Campvere, in Holland, a sort of consulship, as he himself called it, which produced him about 3001. more.

As lord conservator, so he was styled, he had a right to sit in the general assembly of the church of Scotland, and in aftertimes he occasionally attended their sittings in that capacity.

At the commencement of the reign of George III. the animosity and violence of political parties rose to an alarming height, and for several years the popularity of the king, and Lord Bute his minister, was at a low ebb from various causes. Wilkes, Junius, and Chatham, each in their degree assailed both king and minister. The mob, too, caught the phrensy, and led by the spirit of anarchy, threatened king, nobles, and the public peace.

At the time of these disturbances, or disturbances equally alarming, the conduct of George III., then a young prince, gained him the greatest admiration. His speech in the privy-council, on the subject of the riots, drew tears from several of the councillors.

“I cannot but disapprove of the conduct of the magistrates; but I shall answer for one,” said the king, laying his hand upon his heart“ one will do his duty.”

At such a time, it may be supposed unlikely that the spirit of John Home, loyalty itself, would remain idle. I have met with a great mass of writings amongst his papers which I at one time contemplated making a prominent part of these notices, but maturer consideration has impressed me with the inexpediency of disturbing their repose.

These writings are endorsed “ Letters Political published in the Newspapers," and appear to have been addressed to the different periodicals of the day.

6. The North Briton."
" The Briton."
• The London Chronicle."
6. The Monitor.”

“ The Public Advertiser.And from some memoranda I observe, that he occasionally addressed these periodicals under the following designations :

“ A Friend to the Constitution.”
“ A Retired Officer of the Army.”

" A Foreigner." These papers are as various in their style as in their subjects, but they are chiefly distinguished by the author's bold and strenuous vindication of the character of the young king, with the occasional interposition of a sbield to defend Lord Bute.

I have reason to believe that the celebrated Junius was at times the antagonist of John Home in his political writings; though scarcely did Sir William Draper require any foreign aid in his able defence against that powerful writer.

As a specimen of Home's style of writing on such subjects, I shall give one or two quotations from these “ Letters Political.”

" To the Monitor, “ As I am no great reader of weekly papers or political dissertations of any sort, I never read a 'Monitor' till Saturday last; and was engaged to read the Monitor of that day by my curiosity to know what it was that made several gentlemen of my acquaintance express so much resentment and indignation at that paper. The perusal of it had not the same effect on me. What I felt was contempt rather than indignation; and I am persuaded that the long annals of party-writing contain no example of such audacious and yet impotent abuse.

“ It would be folly, Master Monitor, presumption and insolence only less than yours, to attempt a vindication of that amiable and august chater which you have endeavoured so grossly to defame. If faction did not interpret, if the voice of party did not give a name to a portrait without resemblance, your monstrous parallel would have passed unheeded. Without examination it shall remain : and let the public judge whether or no tyranny, profusion, and the love of pleasure are the true features of a prince who has hitherto been regarded as the friend of liberty, and the patron of wise economy and temperance."

Again he says,

“ But the king, without adviser, counsellor, or friend—for he on whom those titles have been bestowed was far distant,--the king, in this cruel moment, exerted the spirit of a man, and showed himself worthy of his crown. He refused to strike, he disdained to submit himself and his kingdom to an imperious faction, and called for the support of every good subject, of every faithful servant, of every unbiassed member of his parliament.

• Another minister was found, and from that hour, from that moment, the language of opposition changed, the current of abuse left its former channels, and the whole torrent poured itself on the king.

“ The detestable Junius too, that spider, who, in his dark chamber, spins from his bowels webs of poison and torture, has endeavoured to twist every thread round the soul of his sovereign; and the king himself is now the butt of every shaft, held up as the object of detestation for acting in a manner that ought to endear him to his people. What ought the people of this country to wish for in a prince, but a princely and independent mind? who so fit to cherish liberty as he who is te. nacious of his own ?

In one of these letters John Home touches on Reform, and says,

“ It is perhaps the rare and singular gift of Heaven to cause arise in this country a spirit of jealousy towards the ruling powers. It is now so blended with the constitution that no great excess can be committed, nor can the iron hand of oppression ever be stretched out. Happy is it for the lieges that each can enjoy his civil and religious liberty unmolested. May it continue so for ages to come! But let not the rich and beautiful garment which for such a length of time hath covered these nations be rent to pieces because perhaps some coarse threads have been mixed in the contexture.”

(To be continued.)

GOING OUT OF TOWN.

“Ob! lady fair, where art thou roaming ?"-Noore.
“ The world was all before them where to choose."--Milton.

English life has its full share of bores and petty vexations; we do not shine in the savoir-vivre, but take pains to make ourselves uneasy, when fortune would willingly break the new act of parliament, and heap our measure of happiness till it run over. Of this we have a brave instance in the circumscription of the London season, and the arbitrary severity with which its observation is enforced, to the disturbance and displacement of the least locomotive of the queen's lieges. Of all civil arrangements, it is the most incomprehensible; being neither an animal result--for men are not swallows, -nor of social origin—for all its purposes are antisocial. Political it certainly is not, though to some it may so appear; in as much as the commencement and duration of a London visit (we cannot with propriety call it residence) is deemed by the uninitiated, to be contingent upon the legislative necessities of the nation. Experience, however, has long satisfied us that this is an error of the kind technically called hysteron proteron, or, in the vernacular, putting the cart before the horse. For, if we be not egregiously mistaken (an hypothesis utterly untenable), it is the season which regulates the session of parliament, and not the session the season : et sic argumentamur.

If there is a class in society for which a minister, be he whig or tory, professes unmeasured respect, it is the country-gentlemen ; and accordingly, he regulates the assembling of parliament exclusively to suit their convenience. But country-gentlemen, like all other gentlemen (and simple men into the bargain), make their wife's convenience their own; and the ladies never find it convenient to come to town, save when the Opera House is open, and the town full: the parliament, therefore, is not called together“ for the despatch of business," until those inducements subsist. Then, again, no matter what may be the state of affairs, the Bank parlour may be at its wits' end, all the irons of Birmingham may be in the fire, the Canadas may have deserted and turned republican, Mehemet Ali may be at Constantinople, and the Emperor of Russia at Pekin, and (yet would the Easter recess be as religiously observed, as the Ramadan is in Turkey, or quarter-day by a seedy landlord.

Is it then not clear that parliament adjourns because fashion decrees that her votaries should go to their villas, and for no other reason ?

It cannot be that the recess is adopted for the purposes of needful fresh air and relaxation, because the members are then scarcely warm in their places. Besides, of all times of the year, Easter is the least agreeable to pass in the country; and authority alone could induce a single human being to submit to the inconvenience. At Easter, the east wind (from which the festival itself, in all likelihood, derives its name), blows incessantly—enough, as the old ladies are wont to say, to cut you in two; the atmosphere is as full of dust as that of the desart in a simoom; the sun smiles a sardonic grin in your face, while the sleet and snow take the skin off your cheeks, and the frost writes lasciate speranza on the shrivelled blossoms of the peach-trees and

Nov.-VOL. LVII. NO. CCXXVII.

X

« PředchozíPokračovat »