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FROM 1804 TO 1809.
Conversations at Wimbledon.-The Author publishes a new Volume of his Work on Language. An Anecdote.
IT has been already mentioned, that I had become acquainted with Mr. Tooke some time before this period; but it was not until now that I visited occasionally at his house. Whoever has frequented Wimbledon, and been accustomed to meet Mr. Tooke frequently in company, will readily allow, that no man in the present times, ever exhibited greater colloquial powers. Prepared for either field, he appeared equally able to break a lance amidst the war of political argument, or to give a critical disquisition on the powers and extent of the human intellect. In addition to this, he possessed a certain degree of wit and vivacity difficult to be communicated through the medium
of language; and which, when attempted to be committed to paper, seems to evaporate in the very act of transfusion.
I am not ridiculous enough to think, that I can satisfy either his friends or his enemies in respect to these partieulars, and shall, therefore, content myself with an endeavour occasionally to convey a feeble idea of his sentiments, opinions, and remarks. I am well aware, that in abler hands a subject of this kind might have proved still more interesting than the "table talk" of Selden, or even the "symphosiacs" of the philosopher of Cherona. On looking over my papers, I find that I first began to take minutes of what occurred, during my interviews with Mr. Tooke, about eight years ago. I also perfectly recollect my mentioning this circumstance to himself, which, with his usual good sense and politeness, he considered to be a compliment to his understanding. The notes are here transcribed and inserted, with little or no alteration, either as to the facts or language, from the original docu
I visited Wimbledon, on Saturday May 11, 1804, when our host exhibited many proofs of bis usual shrewdness. After animadverting on
"the present scramble for place and power *," he sarcastically added, "that it was equally execrable and absurd in a ruined nation."
The conversation then turned on the situation of America. He had seen, knew, and respected Mr. Jefferson, who was a great man. His countrymen in general were of a very inferior cast; a prodigious number of pigmies, and but few giants among them. Extraordinary talents had neither occurred, nor were to be expected, perhaps, in that quarter of the globe: a man who knew but little, thought himself an extraordinary character there, and was actually so, when compared with the common herd.
Mr. who had held a high situation both in that and in this country, was a poor and mean creature; he knew him perfectly. Mr. Barlow had been in England for some time, and yet had not called upon him! Mr. Tooke was rather surprised, for he had consented to the address from the Constitutional Society, merely for the purpose of getting him accredited to France, he having privately assured Mr. Tooke, that he was exceedingly anxious to repair thither.
He added, that he had seen the abbé Gregoire,
* Mr. Addington, now lord Sidmouth, was then preparing to retire, and was soon after succeeded by Mr. Pitt.
(bishop of Blois,) during the short peace, that clergyman having called on and dined with him at Wimbledon. The conversation now turned on other subjects.
In 1805, appeared Part II, of EПEA ПITEPOENTA, or the Diversions of Purley, in one volume, 4to. It is dedicated to his jury and counsel; and sir Francis Burdett and himself are the only two persons introduced in the dialogue.
Chap. i. treats of the "Rights of Man." Instead of this expression being "preparatory to some desolating doctrine," it is here maintained, "that a claim of rights by their people, so far from being treason or sedition, is the strongest avowal they can make of their subjection; and that nothing can more evidently show the natural disposition of mankind to rational obedience, than their invariable use of this word RIGHT, and their perpetual application of it to all which they desire, and to every thing which they deem excellent."
We are soon after informed, that RIGHT is no other than RECT-um, (regitum,) the past participle of the Latin verb regere: whence, in Italian, comes RITTO; and from dirigere, DIRITTO,
DRITTO; and hence the French have their ancient DROICT, and their modern DROIT.
JUST, we are told, is the past participle of the verb jubere; DECREE, EDICT, STATUTE, INSTITUTE, MANDATE, PRECEPT, are all past participles. LAW, in our ancient books, written langh, lagh, lage, and ley, is merely the past tense, and past participle of a Gothic and Anglo Saxon verb, and means something laid down-as a rule of conduct. Thus, when a man demands his RIGHT, he asks only that which it is ordered he shall have.
It is deemed highly improper to say, that God has a RIGHT; as it is also to say, that God is JUST. These expressions are inapplicable to the Deity; "they are applicable only to men, who are by nature the subjects of orders and commands, and whose chief merit is obedience."
The author also maintains, "that a thing may be at the same time both RIGHT and WRONG, as well as RIGHT and LEFT. It may be commanded to be done, and commanded not to be done. The law, i. e. that which is laid down, may be different by different authorities. I have been always most obedient when most taxed with disobedience: but my RIGHT HAND is not the RIGHT HAND of Melinda. The RIGHT I revere, is not the RIGHT adored by sycophants; the jus