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preference." Yet, with all these extraordinary qualities, his influence in the house of commons was very trifling; in part, because they could not appreciate him; in part, because he overlooked many of those minor acquisitions, as they really are, though of importance, where common minds are to be addressed and common feelings to be influenced. But much of this want of influence was owing to a want of discretion. He does not appear to have understood the management of himself; and, of course, was unable to acquire a control over others. His exhibitions of ill temper and irritable feeling were, at times, almost disgusting, and they took from him at last the moral weight which belonged to him from the greatness of his talents and excellence of his character, and which, in itself, forms a powerful instrument in creating authority and attracting attention. To one who is not favoured with a good temper, or who has not a bad one under control, all contradiction or opposition is a source of agitation. To one who, with this defect, possesses, at the same time, commanding abilities, and who, from the nature of his mind, is led to regard little things with contempt, the small opposition of small minds, with their various modes of irritating and thwarting, becomes something more than an inconvenience. Insignificant as they may be, when brought to their true measure, they still can fling their venomed weapons with effect, and it is a mistake, not unfrequently made by these great capacities, to lay themselves open to these petty attacks by the neglect of parts, degrees, and elements of a matter with which they may be occupied, and to presume, because they have perfectly mastered it, that inferior minds will be equally ready and equally able. It was in little things, if in any thing, that Burke exposed himself to the ridicule of the silly and ignorant. In all that constituted true greatness, in all that showed strength and extent of capacity, he was beyond the jealousy or detraction of any one. His eminence could not be denied in these points; and it was from this elevation that he was made to overlook those details in affairs and individual differences in character, that the practical statesman and man of the world. observe and employ, and which are with them all or nearly all they know or conceive to be important. His mind was not of the nature that would have made him a useful minister. He took too large a view, and generalized too much, to have that ready adaptation of means to ends, that quick insight into motives, and the rapid glance and keen penetration into times and occasions, which form almost the sole value of one who directs the details of government. He perhaps judged too well of mankind, or despised them too much, to be ever watching conduct, and prying into feeling, or trying to gratify their desires. He could not, which is all important in one who undertakes the
government of men, appreciate or make use of those minor exigencies and small opportunities in affairs which constantly occur; nor, perhaps, was it possible for him to turn to his advantage those foibles in character by which men are controlled far more easily than through uncommon virtues or great vices. There is no necessity for drawing a comparison between the three men to whom we have alluded as examples in oratory. Burke was, beyond a doubt, the first mind of his day, and the first orator of his nation at any time. We can thus easily fix his position as respects his intellectual character, but where does he rank as an orator? He was not a popular orator, as that term is generally understood. He could not have addressed a mob from the hustings with effect-certainly not with half the effect of Fox. He could not have commanded their feelings, or carried them with him through a long oration. He could not have met in any way the ignorance and stupidity of the mass; but, like Cæsar, he would have swooned, not from the stinking atmosphere, but with indignation at their dulness or indifference. He was not, in this low meaning of the word, a popular orator, nor was he such if we carry him to the house of commons, where, in the best sense, a man may be considered a popular orator-where the majesty of the people of Great Britain is addressed-where their power is expressed and their will given forth. Yet here, except to very few, who listened to the overflowings of his genius, who sought information, and who knew that they had before them, in one sense, the wisest and greatest man of the times, it does not appear that he commanded the minds or feelings of the house. He did not arouse the dull, stir the lazy, or attract the indifferent; but, on the contrary, he fatigued his audience by not meeting the tone of their minds: all his splendid eloquence was wasted; they could not rise to the height where he soared; there was no sympathy between them-the one moving on a barren level, and interested only in commonplace; the other assuming a wide range, and circling a vast sphere of thought. There could of course be no communion between natures so different.
"Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
These lines contain the sources of Burke's deficiencies as a public man, and the real cause of his failure in political life. The being too deep for his hearers, the refining, the trying to convince while they thought of dining, were, in a body like the house of commons, insuperable difficulties in the path of success. A popular assembly is not the place such a man
should have chosen for creating or retaining power. It is too gross in its sentiments, and too fierce in its passions, and too variable in their degree, to be congenial with elevated or refined feeling. In a free country it is the arena of rival factions, not the council board of the nation. Men go there with their minds already made up, and not open to conviction, or within the reach of reason. Ambition enters there upon its struggles, and all are too strongly excited by their own selfish objects, to be reached by the broader views but less alluring demonstrations of philosophical thought. With the aspiring, the great aim is to touch the chords of national feeling, to respond to its vibrations, to discover and make use of the excitements of the moment, and to be ever in front of the desires and ever ready to express the tendencies of the popular will. Philosophy has no seat assigned to her. She does not meet the fickle feeling of the hour, or endeavour to show a false sympathy with the whims and fancies which rise and sink with the passions and fashions of the moment. To represent her then, as Mr. Burke did, and not the passions or interests of men, and never to be directed by personal ambition, was to remove himself from the means of gaining political authority; and thence all the exhibitions of his genius, put forward with an eloquence altogether unequalled, were regarded with astonishment, but fell on the ears of a cold audience, and echoed from the walls of the house of commons, as the voice rolls through the forsaken chambers of a ruin. If we endeavour to find a cause for this, the only one which seems satisfactory is that he was beyond his audience. It was not that he did not go into detail, that he did not display clearly all the parts and bearings of a subject; for he did this with as much fidelity or ability as any of his contemporaries, but that his sentiments were too refined, his eloquence too elevated, his thoughts too philosophical, to be attained by the grosser perceptions and lower habits of thought that entered into the intellectual formation of his listeners. As a body, the house of commons possesses but little variety of talent. There are generally a few men of great ability, who take the lead, and do all the business; but, beyond these, the undulations of mind seldom vary from mediocrity. There are few badly educated, and few highly cultivated; and, in such a number, the beauties or the grandeur of eloquence could not for an instant be appreciated. The entrance to the heart, or the power which could awaken the souls of such men, must take the direction of self-interest. The noblest evidences of reason, the grandest bursts of passion, the most polished and most dignified declamation, would not awaken an echo of applause; and the appeals of Chatham, Burke, and Fox, before the American war, the ghastly horrors that were pictured of the slave
trade, and all the transactions of barbarity committed in the East Indies through the connivance and under the authority of Englishmen, set before them with a pathos such as no nation ever before witnessed, drew no expression of indignation, nor altered a single vote of a single court minion or hireling of ministerial corruption. How could Burke or any one act on such materials, which no heart could stir, no soul of fire quicken into passion, no appeal, no eloquence, move from the listlessness of their leaden sensibility? It never will be the case that a popular body is the best position for the development of the finest powers of the finest minds. Too much is lost by being carried away by the prevailing interest of the moment; too much by being compelled, for the sake of influence, to adapt themselves to the shifting scenes and incidents that grow from the circumstances of the times, and from the various hopes and designs of men. We mean that a popular body is not the best field for the efforts of extraordinary talent, where the individual is seduced by his ambition to look no farther than that, and to rest upon it all his hopes of fame. Where this is the case, temporary reputation is all that can be looked for. It is, perhaps, to the fact of Burke not gaining or seeking office, and always standing to his principles, and entering into no ambitious struggle for power, that he owes his present eminence, and will owe his future glory. Each day shows the gradually receding fame of his contemporaries, while to his is added greater brilliancy. No one now turns to a speech of Pitt or Fox for specimens of splendid diction, profound reflection, or original thought. They were intended for the day, and are embodied in its history.
With Burke it was far otherwise. He stands forward, beyond all others, not only as the most perfect orator, but as the first mind of his age. His speeches, though produced by the mo ment, and now no longer interesting, except as great intellectual efforts, and as parts of the history of the man, are remarkable for every thing that can make such efforts efficient or enduring. In extent of information, in knowledge of mankind and the affairs of life, in beauty of language and depth of thought, and in all which can fit man's labours for a lasting fame, they are unrivalled. They will be turned to as models in the same way that we open a page of Cicero, and would have been sufficient to establish and perpetuate his reputation, even if there were no collateral sources of glory. But it is by his literary productions that the world knows him best, and it is these which confer on him the highest title to admiration, as it is in them we see more thoroughly the completeness of his intellect, and the astonishing vigour with which he grasped every subject.
We must here close our remarks, though it was our intention
to bring the subject home to ourselves, and attempt to show what chances we have of being distinguished for oratory, and whether our institutions are favourable or not for that object. We may recur to this on a future occasion.
ART. III.-Lettres sur l'Amérique du Nord, par MICHEL CHEVALIER, avec une carte des Etats-Unis d'Amérique.
Letters upon North America, by MICHAEL CHEVALIER, with a map of the United States.
It is worthy of remark that the work of De Tocqueville on the United States has been translated into several languages, and circulated through various nations of Europe, whilst in the country of which it speaks it has not been republished, though the admirable version made in England is ready at hand. What is the inference to be drawn from this? Is it that the work is unworthy of our notice as feeble or erroneous? No; for it is undeniably the ablest, most philosophical, and most correct, that has been written upon the subject? Is it that we are heedless as to what is said about us by foreigners? Let this be answered by the editions of your Halls, your Hamiltons, your Trollopes, your Kembles, multiplied ad infinitum and ad nauseam, and penetrating to every corner of the land. Is it that our reading public is too small to authorize publishers to issue many works? Any one whose pursuits bring him into contact with the press, will be perfectly sure that such is not the case, when, before he has read the title-page of one book, his attention is called to another. What then is the cause of the singular circumstance alluded to? It is unfortunately obvious enough to one who considers the character of the productions which alone find favour with the community. The book is literally too good. "He's not too wicked but too just to live." It is too instructive, too well fitted to make the reader think and learn. Were it only calculated to amuse a leisure hour; were it well spiced with slander and misrepresentation, or sugared all over with blarney; did it not contain a single idea by which a really just and profound appreciation of our institutions was evinced, and a beneficial feeling of pride or regret might be awakened, there is scarce a bookseller's window in the land that would not have its advertisement displayed with VOL. XXI. NO. 42. 41