Imatges de pÓgina


Parliamentary Portraits.

Parliamentary Portraits; or, Sketches of
the Public Character of some of the
most distinguished Speakers of the
House of Commons. 8vo. pp. 235.
Ss. Baldwin and Co. London. 1815.

A public man in a free nation must expect to see his public actions canvassed and scrutinized, closely, very closely;-from different causes. He cannot be a public man without having deprived some opponent of the honour conferred on himself He has disappointed the ambition, or has controuled the efforts of a rival, whose partizans ill brook the mortification, and stand ready to take their revenge on the first favourable opportunity. This spirit may be conqueréd, but it is not subdued; it may be silenced, but it is not converted. Honest men may honestly differ in judgment on many propositions; but honest men are seldom violent, or overbearing.

Again, this spirit of opposition is in some places successful, and sends its representatives to the Commons House of Parliament; and here, amidst a mixed assembly, commences the career of a British Statesman. What is he sent up to the Grand Council of the Nation to do?-To watch over its concerns: give his advice, when necessary. But, to if he does not perceive any occasion for giving his advice, in the form of speaking his opinion, why should he obtrude it? A question debated in Parliament is something like a point of law, argued in Westminster Hall; the party most interested in it speaks by his counsel, not by himself. Perhaps the bystanders are interested also, especially if it be a point of public concern; but none of them adduces arguments; they form their opinion from what they hear; and the matter may be amply discussed without their interference, as speakers.

In point of fact, those Parliamentary debates, in which the greatest number of speakers have engaged, have seldom added much to the arguments, on either side. The later speeches evinced the convictions of the speakers, but usually on similar grounds, and not on additional reasons, essentially differing from those already urged. The House forms its VOL. II. New Series. Lit. Pan.

[594 distinct from speaking. To regret that judgment, and decides; but decision is oratorical powers are not abundant in the House of Commons, is unnecessary: good sound judgment, clear unbiassed understanding, integrity and intellect, position of this writer, that opinions are are far superior qualifications. The sup to discussion, is true only to a certain made up, and votes engaged previous point. There is, always, a respectable body of independent men in Parliament, the minister propose any thing very who follow their party only so far. Let much amiss, they will soon let him know who governs the kingdom. they be dragged at the chariot wheels of Neither will opposition; they care for their country: not for A. or B,

of judging on public men from public The office assumed by an individual appearances, is somewhat invidious; it is little recommended by modesty; it may be warped by party; it may be. may be executed with integrity; or it skilful, or it may be coarse. It implies a superiority not easily to be allowed; and it demands qualifications not ordinarily attained. These must be assumed, by writers for newspapers; who must affect to lead, in order to be popular; and judges would hesitate. The general chamust pronounce decisively, where real racter of a newspaper, also, influences the writer; he must study to satisfy the proprietor as well as to please his read ers. with spirit; that they are accurate likeThe present portraits are sketched nesses will not be granted by all: but, ent painters draw different likenesses; we who are old artists know, that differand that the disposition of lights and shades renders the same countenance not the same. We submit two extracts: the first describes the scene of action; the second one of the principal actors-t present.

tion and proceedings of a great popular as-
In turning our thoughts to the composi
sembly, all whose transactions appear at
least to be conducted through the medium
of speech, it is impossible not to be struck
in the management of the chief instrument
with the dearth of dexterity and excellence
of its operations. The spirit of our consti-
tution directs, and its ostensible practice
complies with that direction, that all public


measures shall be proposed and canvassed in the representative council of the people, and shall be approved or rejected on their demonstrated merits or defects. Subjects of almost incalculable interest are to be discussed peace and war, laws, morals, manufactures, commerce, all that concerus the wealth, the happiness, the glory of nations. Can the imagination conceive a finer field for oratorical emulation; more powerful incentives to awaken the mind to develope all its energies and all its graces through its noble organ, the tongue? What is the fact? About half a dozen speakers, who have acquired a certain fluent mediocrity, are allowed to settle the disputed proposition with little knowledge and less spirit, whilst the rest remain idle and almost unconcerned hearers, sometimes yawning, sometimes sleeping, and sometimes, to evince perhaps their claims to sit in a speaking assembly, shouting in a style to be envied only by a Stentor or a whipper-in. It is indeed matter of humiliating reflection that, in a country like Eng: land, whose philosophers, and poets, and artists, may go side by side with the proudest names of antiquity-whose wealth and power make Greece dwindle into insignificauce, and might dispute the precedence even with the gigantic despotisin of Imperial Rome; in a country too, blest with a popular congress, where the voices of the chiefs of the nation may be heard, that scarcely one man has arisen who deserves the title of erator; scarcely one, who like Cicero, by the mere power of words, has darted the public indignation against a state delinquent, or like Demosthenes has electrified a whole people with one universal impulse of patriotism. Certainly it is not easy to read unmoved the glowing invective, the terrific denunciations which the late Lord Chatham poured out against the supporters of a weak and pernicious system, and I have no doubt that, when accompanied with his mighty voice and eye of fire, they appalled and almost annihilated his unequal and puny antagonists. But to an impartial observer of the present day, do they contain any specimen of that energetic reasoning and vehement passion, that stupendous intellect chastised by the correctest taste, those inimitable graces and sublimities of manner and language -in short, that combination of the mightiest means wielded by the mightiest power, which astonish and overwhelm us in the rival of Eschines and adversary of Philip? Are they characterised by that union of profound erudition, of extensive and philosophical observation of men and manners, as well as of those most exquisite artifices of elaborate rhetoric, which mark the first name in Roman history-him wo at once improved the taste, enlarged the hinking, and saved

the liberties of his country-the more than Bacon of his day in various learning and comprehensive intellect, the more than Sidney in his fearless and powerful assertion of national independence against the encroachment of a profligate tyrant?* Compare (as one instance) the best speech of Lord Chatham on the American war with the famous viudication which the Athenian has left against his enemies: then say if the half-educated, halfinformed understanding, and even tasteless puerilities of the Englishman are to be pat in competition with the sublime harmony of thought and diction which distinguish the Greek.

the ministers, and their oponents. The The chief personages introduced are writer is not guilty of respect to place, or persons. Absolute independence of mind he certainly does not possess: perhaps that were too much to expect, though not, in such a critic, to require. The following portrait of an eminent cimen of the author's abilities. senator, may be accepted as a fair spe

Mr. Whitbread. Any person who casts a careful eye over the House of Commons will find that the different portions into which society is divided are tolerably well represented in that Assembly. The landed interest, the mercantile interest, the privi leged orders and the professions, have all their adequate proportion of advocates to assert their claims: what seems to be wanting is a class of persons who, without reference to any partial interests, should speak the sentiments and uphold the rights of the nation at large. The history of Parliament will supply but few names to whom this description would be applicable: Mr. Fox, with all his liberal thinking and benevolent feeling, was too much attached to partyviews and Mr. Windham, who has been absurdly proclaimed as a complete specimen of the English character, was perhaps the most unnatural compound of heterogeneous qualities to which the name of Englishman was ever affixed.

It is to Mr. Whitbread alone that the title of Representative of the English People seems entirely due. I have frequently smiled at an observation of persons whom I have taken with me to hear Mr. Whitbread :they have allowed the energy and acuteness of his understanding, the honest boldness of his sentiments, and the tone of feeling which gives an interest to all that he says; but they think him unpolished, deficient in the graces. Alas! how much they mistake the objects and views of that distinguished Co

* Antony.


moner. He does not take his daily seat in the House of Commons in order to make graceful obeisances and pronounce pretty periods: he leaves such small trifling to the Castlereaghs and the Cannings: he comes there to do the business of the nation, to take care that the common-weal receives no injury, to watch over and protect the Constitution against the intemperance of zeal and the insidiousness of ambition, to animate and assist the labours of the honest, to crush the efforts of the fraudulent and selfish, to vindicate the oppressed, to speak Truth. To object to a man occupied in such exalted pursuits, that his manner is not exquisitely polished, is as silly as it would be to complain that Michael Angelo has not the prettiness of Watteau,-that ilto wants the softness of Sedley,-that Newton is not so entertaining as Goldsmith. I admire, and very sincerely, the courtesy and urbanity of Lord Castlereagh they are the becoming decorations of his situation: he is backed by the powerful influence of Administration, and has leisure to be gentle without any detriment. Not so the man who has to fight frequently, almost unassisted, against the compact energies of Government. A soft answer or a candid smile may turn away wrath, but cannot conquer positive force; and to attempt to overthrow a ministerial measure, by the help of elegant sentences and comely action, would be about as wise as to storm a triple battery with a fan of painted feathers. The manner, therefore, of Mr. Whitbread seems perfectly consonant to his objects: he aims at awakening the attention of the indolent, at rousing the fears of the guilty; and for this purpose it is essential that he should appear in earnest;-a conclusion to which few persons would come, if they saw him more attentive about the form than the matter of his speeches.

It is enough to say further, that these papers first appeared in the Examiner, and that they are dedicated "to Leigh Hunt, Esq."


Circus, Minories, 21 June, 1815. To the Editor of the Literary Panorama.


I request you will contradict in your next publication the assertion of my decease, which is calculated to injure considerably my interests abroad as a merchant (vide your Review of Parke's Travels, page 377). In answer to this unfounded information, which has been propagated in your review of

last month, I have to acquaint you that I
am not only in the land of the living, but in
excellent health, and waiting to hear the
testimony of some stranger or European
traveller (since the Africans are not to be
relied on) who shall establish the fact of the
junction of the Nile of Soudan with that
of Egypt; or at least, the approximation of
these two mighty streams. And notwith-
standing the insidious reflections and cen-
sures passed on the native Africans, from
whom I gathered much of the information
communicated to the public in my account
of Marocco, it must be allowed by all libe-
ral-minded men that a native is more likely
to give an accurate account of his country
than a foreigner; and a residence of sixteen
years in a country may be allowed to give
a man of common observation experience
enough to select judiciously such intelli-
gence as might be relied on; and I have no
hesitation in declaring it to be my unalter-
able opinion, that so soon as a traveller
shall have returned from the interior of
Africa, many of my assertions respecting
those regions will be confirmed, and that
information founded on the testimony of
unprejudiced and disinterested Africans will
be found not so contemptible as some
learned persons have imagined.
I am, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,

We certainly have too much respect for this gentleman to kill him of malice prepense; and we take a sincere pleasure in receiving this proof, under his own hand, of his health and spirits. May he live to enjoy in person the intelligence on which he relies; and to add to the favours he has already conferred on the LITERARY PANORAMA, by communicating the earliest particulars of the discovery which he anticipates.


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