Obiter Dicta - Second Series
by Augustine Birrell
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Later on music was dragged into the fray. The Court was all for Handel and the Germans; the Prince of Wales and the Tory nobility affected the Italian opera. The Whigs went to the Haymarket; the Tories to the Opera House in Lincoln's Inn Field. In this latter strife Pope took small part; for, notwithstanding his Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, he hated music with an entire sincerity. He also affected to hate the drama; but some have thought this accounted for by the fact that, early in his career, he was damned for the farce of Three Hours after Marriage, which, after the fashion of our own days, he concocted with another, the co-author in this case being a wit of no less calibre than Gay, the author of The Beggars' Opera. The astonished audience bore it as best they might till the last act, when the two lovers, having first inserted themselves respectively into the skins of a mummy and a crocodile, talk at one another across the boards; then they rose in their rage, and made an end of that farce. Their yells were doubtless still in Pope's ears when, years afterwards, he wrote the fine lines—

'While all its throats the gallery extends And all the thunder of the pit ascends, Loud as the wolves on Orca's stormy steep Howl to the roarings of the northern deep.'

Pope, as we have said, became a partisan, and so had his hands full of ready-made quarrels; but his period was certainly one that demanded a satirist. Perhaps most periods do; but I am content to repeat, his did. Satire like Pope's is essentially modish, and requires a restricted range. Were anyone desirous of satirizing humanity at large I should advise him to check his noble rage, and, at all events, to begin with his next-door neighbour, who is almost certain to resent it, which humanity will not do. This was Pope's method. It was a corrupt set amongst whom he moved. The gambling in the South Sea stock had been prodigious, and high and low, married and single, town and country, Protestant and Catholic, Whig and Tory, took part in it. One could gamble in that stock. The mania began in February 1720, and by the end of May the price of 100 pounds stock was up to 340 pounds. In July and August it was 950 pounds, and even touched, 1,000 pounds. In the middle of September it was down to 590 pounds, and before the end of the year it had dropped to 125 pounds. Pope himself bought stock when it stood so low as 104 pounds, but he had never the courage to sell, and consequently lost, according to his own account, half his worldly possessions. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, also bought stock, but he sold—as did his Most Gracious Majesty the King—at 1,000 pounds. The age was also a scandalous, ill-living age, and Pope, who was a most confirmed gossip and tale-bearer, picked up all that was going. The details of every lawsuit of a personal character were at his finger-ends. Whoever starved a sister, or forged a will, or saved his candle-ends, made a fortune dishonestly, or lost one disgracefully, or was reported to do so, be he citizen or courtier, noble duke or plump alderman, Mr. Pope was sure to know all about it, and as likely as not to put it into his next satire. Living, as the poet did, within easy distance of London, he always turned up in a crisis as regularly as a porpoise in a storm, so at least writes a noble friend. This sort of thing naturally led to quarrels, and the shocking incompleteness of this lecture stands demonstrated by the fact that, though I have almost done, I have as yet said nothing abort Pope's quarrels, which is nearly as bad as writing about St. Paul and leaving out his journeys. Pope's quarrels are celebrated. His quarrel with Mr. Addison, culminating in the celebrated description, almost every line of which is now part and parcel of the English language; his quarrel with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whom he satirized in the most brutal lines ever written by man of woman; his quarrel with Lord Hervey; his quarrel with the celebrated Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, ought not to be dismissed so lightly, but what can I do? From the Duchess of Marlborough Pope is said to have received a sum of money, sometimes stated at 1,000 pounds and sometimes at 3,000 pounds, for consenting to suppress his description of her as Atossa, which, none the less, he published. I do not believe the story; money passed between the parties and went to Miss Martha Blount, but it must have been for some other consideration. Sarah Jennings was no fool, and loved money far too well to give it away without security; and how possibly could she hope by a cash payment to erase from the tablets of a poet's memory lines dictated by his hate, or bind by the law of honour a man capable of extorting blackmail? Then Pope quarrelled most terribly with the elder Miss Blount, who, he said, used to beat her mother; then he quarrelled with the mother because she persisted in living with the daughter and pretending to be fond of her. As for his quarrels with the whole tribe of poor authors, are they not writ large in the four books of the Dunciad? Mr. Swinburne is indeed able to find in some, at all events, of these quarrels a species of holy war, waged, as he says, in language which is at all events strong, 'against all the banded bestialities of all dunces and all dastards, all blackguardly blockheads and all blockheaded blackguards.'

I am sorry to be unable to allow myself to be wound up in Mr. Swinburne's bucket to the height of his argument. There are two kinds of quarrels, the noble and the ignoble. When John Milton, weary and depressed for a moment in the battle he was fighting in the cause of an enlightened liberty and an instructed freedom, exclaims, with the sad prophet Jeremy, 'Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, a man of strife and contention,' we feel the sublimity of the quotation, which would not be quite the case were the words uttered by an Irishman returning home with a broken head from Donnybrook Fair. The Dunciad was quite uncalled- for. Even supposing that we admit that Pope was not the aggressor:

'The noblest answer unto such Is kindly silence when they brawl.'

But it is, to say the least of it, doubtful whether Pope did not begin brawling first. Swift, whose misanthropy was genuine, and who begged Pope whenever he thought of the world to give it another lash on his (the Dean's) account, saw clearly the danger of Pope's method, and wrote to him: 'Take care the bad poets do not out-wit you as they have done the good ones in every age; whom they have provoked to transmit their names to posterity. Maevius is as well known as Virgil, and Gildon will be as well known as you if his name gets into your verses; and as for the difference between good and bad fame, it is a mere trifle.' The advice was far too good to be taken. But what has happened? The petty would-be Popes, but for the real Pope, would have been entirely forgotten. As it is, only their names survive in the index to the Dunciad; their indecencies and dastardly blockheadisms are as dead as Queen Anne; and if the historian or the moralist seeks an illustration of the coarseness and brutality of their style, he finds it only too easily, not in the works of the dead dunces, but in the pages of their persecutor. Pope had none of the grave purpose which makes us, at all events, partially sympathize with Ben Jonson in his quarrels with the poetasters of his day. It is a mere toss-up whose name you may find in the Dunciad—a miserable scribbler's or a resplendent scholar's; a tasteless critic's or an immortal wit's. A satirist who places Richard Bentley and Daniel Defoe amongst the Dunces must be content to abate his pretensions to be regarded as a social purge.

Men and women, we can well believe, went in terror of little Mr. Pope. Well they might, for he made small concealment of their names, and even such as had the luck to escape obvious recognition have been hoisted into infamy by the untiring labours of subsequent commentators. It may, perhaps, be still open to doubt who was the Florid Youth referred to in the Epilogue to the Satires:

'And how did, pray, the Florid Youth offend Whose speech you took and gave it to a friend?'

Bowles said it was Lord Hervey, and that the adjective is due to his lordship's well-known practice of painting himself; but Mr. Croker, who knew everything, and was in the habit of contradicting the Duke of Wellington about the battle of Waterloo, says, 'Certainly not. The Florid Youth was young Henry Fox.'

Sometimes, indeed, in our hours of languor and dejection, when

'The heart is sick, And all the wheels of being slow,'

the question forces itself upon us, What can it matter who the Florid Youth was, and who cares how he offended? But this questioning spirit must be checked. 'The proper study of mankind is man,' and that title cannot be denied even to a florid youth. Still, as I was saying, people did not like it at the time, and the then Duke of Argyll said, in his place in the House of Lords, that if anybody so much as named him in an invective, he would first run him through the body, and then throw himself—not out of the window, as one was charitably hoping—but on a much softer place—the consideration of their Lordship's House. Some persons of quality, of less truculent aspect than McCallum More, thought to enlist the poet's services, and the Duchess of Buckingham got him to write an epitaph on her deceased son—a feeble lad—to which transaction the poet is thought to allude in the pleasing lines,

'But random praise—the task can ne'er be done, Each mother asks it for her booby son.'

Mr. Alderman Barber asked it for himself, and was willing—so at least it was reported—to pay for it at the handsome figure of 4,000 pounds for a single couplet. Pope, however, who was not mercenary, declined to gratify the alderman, who by his will left the poet a legacy of 100 pounds, possibly hoping by this benefaction, if he could not be praised in his lifetime, at all events to escape posthumous abuse. If this were his wish it was gratified, and the alderman sleeps unsung.

Pope greatly enjoyed the fear he excited. With something of exultation he sings:—

'Yes, I am proud: I must be proud to see Men, not afraid of God, afraid of me; Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne, Yet touched and shamed by ridicule alone. O sacred weapon! left for Truth's defence, Sole dread of folly, vice, and insolence! To all but heaven-directed hands denied, The Muse may give thee, but the gods must guide: Reverent I touch thee, but with honest zeal, To rouse the watchmen of the public weal, To Virtue's work provoke the tardy Hall And goad the prelate slumb'ring in his stall. Ye tinsel insects! whom a court maintains, That counts your beauties only by your stains, Spin all your cobwebs o'er the eye of day, The Muse's wing shall brush you all away. All his grace preaches, all his lordship sings, All that makes saints of queens, and gods of kings,— All, all but truth drops dead-born from the press, Like the last gazette, or the last address.'

The poet himself was very far from being invulnerable, and he writhed at every sarcasm. There was one of his contemporaries of whom he stood in mortal dread, but whose name he was too frightened even to mention. It is easy to guess who this was. It was Hogarth, who in one of his caricatures had depicted Pope as a hunchback, whitewashing Burlington House. Pope deemed this the most grievous insult of his life, but he said nothing about it; the spiteful pencil proving more than master of the poisoned pen.

Pope died on May 30th, 1744, bravely and cheerfully enough. His doctor was offering him one day the usual encouragements, telling him his breath was easier, and so on, when a friend entered, to whom the poet exclaimed, 'Here I am, dying of a hundred good symptoms.' In Spence's Anecdotes there is another story, pitched in a higher key: 'Shortly before his death, he said to me, "What's that?" pointing into the air with a very steady regard, and then looked down on me and said, with a smile of great pleasure, and with the greatest softness, "'Twas a vision."' It may have been so. At the very last he consented to allow a priest to be sent for, who attended and administered to the dying man the last sacraments of the Church. The spirit in which he received them cannot be pronounced religious. As Cardinal Newman has observed, Pope was an unsatisfactory Catholic.

Pope died in his enemies' day.

Dr. Arbuthnot, who was acknowledged by all his friends to have been the best man who ever lived, be the second-best who he might, had predeceased the poet; and it should be remembered, before we take upon ourselves the task of judging a man we never saw, that Dr. Arbuthnot, who was as shrewd as he was good, had for Pope that warm personal affection we too rarely notice nowadays between men of mature years. Swift said of Arbuthnot: 'Oh! if the world had but a dozen Arbuthnots in it I would burn my Travels.' This may be doubted without damage to the friendly testimony. The terrible Dean himself, whose azure eyes saw through most pretences, loved Pope; but Swift was now worse than dead—he was mad, dying a-top, like the shivered tree he once gazed upon with horror and gloomy forebodings of impending doom.

Many men must have been glad when they read in their scanty journals that Mr. Pope lay dead at his villa in Twickenham. They breathed the easier for the news. Personal satire may be a legitimate, but it is an ugly weapon. The Muse often gives what the gods do not guide; and though we may be willing that our faults should be scourged, we naturally like to be sure that we owe our sore backs to the blackness of our guilt, and not merely to the fact that we have the proper number of syllables to our names, or because we occasionally dine with an enemy of our scourger.

But living as we do at a convenient distance from Mr. Pope, we may safely wish his days had been prolonged, not necessarily to those of his mother, but to the Psalmist's span, so that he might have witnessed the dawn of a brighter day. 1744 was the nadir of the eighteenth century. With Macbeth the dying Pope might have exclaimed,—

'Renown and grace is dead; The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left in the vault to brag of.'

The feats of arms that have made the first Ministry of the elder Pitt for ever glorious would have appealed to Pope's better nature, and made him forget the scandals of the court and the follies of the town. Who knows but they might have stirred him, for he was not wholly without the true poet's prophetic gift, which dreams of things to come, to foretell, in that animated and animating style of his, which has no rival save glorious John Dryden's, the expansion of England, and how, in far-off summers he should never see, English maidens, living under the Southern Cross, should solace their fluttering hearts before laying themselves down to sleep with some favourite bit from his own Eloisa to Abelard? Whether, in fact, maidens in those latitudes do read Eloisa before blowing out their candles I cannot say; but Pope, I warrant, would have thought they would. And they might do worse—and better.

Both as a poet and a man Pope had many negations.

'Of love, that sways the sun and all the stars,'

he knew absolutely nothing. Even of the lesser light,

'The eternal moon of love, Under whose motions life's dull billows move,'

he knew but little.

His Eloisa, splendid as is its diction, and vigorous though be the portrayal of the miserable creature to whom the poem relates, most certainly lacks 'a gracious somewhat,' whilst no less certainly is it marred by a most unfeeling coarseness. A poem about love it may be—a love-poem it is not. Of the 'wild benefit of nature,'—

'The silence that is in the starry sky, The sleep that is among the lonely hills,'

Pope had small notion, though there is just a whiff of Wordsworth in an observation he once hazarded, that a tree is a more poetical object than a prince in his coronation robes. His taste in landscape gardening was honoured with the approbation of Horace Walpole, and he spent 1,000 pounds upon a grotto, which incurred the ridicule of Johnson. Of that indescribable something, that 'greatness' which causes Dryden to uplift a lofty head from the deep pit of his corruption, neither Pope's character nor his style bears any trace. But still, both as a poet and a man we must give place, and even high place, to Pope. About the poetry there can be no question. A man with his wit, and faculty of expression, and infinite painstaking, is not to be evicted from his ancient homestead in the affections and memories of his people by a rabble of critics, or even a posse of poets. As for the man, he was ever eager and interested in life. Beneath all his faults—for which he had more excuse than a whole congregation of the righteous need ever hope to muster for their own shortcomings—we recognise humanity, and we forgive much to humanity, knowing how much need there is for humanity to forgive us. Indifference, known by its hard heart and its callous temper, is the only unpardonable sin. Pope never committed it. He had much to put up with. We have much to put up with—in him. He has given enormous pleasure to generations of men, and will continue so to do. We can never give him any pleasure. The least we can do is to smile pleasantly as we replace him upon his shelf, and say, as we truthfully may, 'There was a great deal of human nature in Alexander Pope.'


If we should ever take occasion to say of Dr. Johnson's Preface to Shakspeare what he himself said of a similar production of the poet Rowe, 'that it does not discover much profundity or penetration,' we ought in common fairness always to add that nobody else has ever written about Shakspeare one-half so entertainingly. If this statement be questioned, let the doubter, before reviling me, re-read the preface, and if, after he has done so, he still demurs, we shall be content to withdraw the observation, which, indeed, has only been made for the purpose of introducing a quotation from the Preface itself.

In that document, Dr. Johnson, with his unrivalled stateliness, writes as follows:—'The poet of whose works I have undertaken the revision may now begin to assume the dignity of an ancient, and claim the privilege of established fame and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived his century, the term commonly fixed as the test of literary merit.'

The whirligig of time has brought in his revenges. The Doctor himself has been dead his century. He died on the 13th of December, 1784. Come, let us criticise him.

Our qualifications for this high office need not be investigated curiously.

'Criticism,' writes Johnson in the 60th Idler, 'is a study by which men grow important and formidable at a very small expense. The power of invention has been conferred by nature upon few, and the labour of learning those sciences which may by mere labour be obtained, is too great to be willingly endured; but every man can exert such judgment as he has upon the works of others; and he whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant, may yet support his vanity by the name of a critick.'

To proceed with our task by the method of comparison is to pursue a course open to grave objection, yet it is forced upon us when we find, as we lately did, a writer in the Times newspaper, in the course of a not very discriminating review of Mr. Froude's recent volumes, casually remarking, as if it admitted of no more doubt than the day's price of consols, that Carlyle was a greater man than Johnson. It is a good thing to be positive. To be positive in your opinions and selfish in your habits is the best recipe, if not for happiness, at all events for that far more attainable commodity, comfort, with which we are acquainted. 'A noisy man,' sang poor Cowper, who could not bear anything louder than the hissing of a tea-urn, 'a noisy man is always in the right,' and a positive man can seldom be proved wrong. Still, in literature it is very desirable to preserve a moderate measure of independence, and we, therefore, make bold to ask whether it is as plain as the 'old hill of Howth,' that Carlyle was a greater man than Johnson? Is not the precise contrary the truth? No abuse of Carlyle need be looked for here or from me. When a man of genius and of letters happens to have any striking virtues, such as purity, temperance, honesty, the novel task of dwelling on them has such attraction for us, that we are content to leave the elucidation of his faults to his personal friends, and to stern, unbending moralists like Mr. Edmund Yates and the World newspaper. {101} To love Carlyle is, thanks to Mr. Froude's super-human ideal of friendship, a task of much heroism, almost meriting a pension; still, it is quite possible for the candid and truth-loving soul. But a greater than Johnson he most certainly was not.

There is a story in Lockhart's Life of Scott of an ancient beggar-woman, who, whilst asking an alms of Sir Walter, described herself, in a lucky moment for her pocket, as 'an old struggler.' Scott made a note of the phrase in his diary, and thought it deserved to become classical. It certainly clings most tenaciously to the memory—so picturesquely does it body forth the striving attitude of poor battered humanity. Johnson was 'an old struggler.' {102} So too, in all conscience, was Carlyle. The struggles of Johnson have long been historical; those of Carlyle have just become so. We are interested in both. To be indifferent would be inhuman. Both men had great endowments, tempestuous natures, hard lots. They were not amongst Dame Fortune's favourites. They had to fight their way. What they took they took by storm. But—and here is a difference indeed—Johnson came off victorious, Carlyle did not.

Boswell's book is an arch of triumph, through which, as we read, we see his hero passing into eternal fame, to take up his place with those—

'Dead but sceptred sovereigns who still rule Our spirits from their urns.'

Froude's book is a tomb over which the lovers of Carlyle's genius will never cease to shed tender but regretful tears.

We doubt whether there is in English literature a more triumphant book than Boswell's. What materials for tragedy are wanting? Johnson was a man of strong passions, unbending spirit, violent temper, as poor as a church-mouse, and as proud as the proudest of church dignitaries; endowed with the strength of a coal-heaver, the courage of a lion, and the tongue of Dean Swift, he could knock down booksellers and silence bargees; he was melancholy almost to madness, 'radically wretched,' indolent, blinded, diseased. Poverty was long his portion; not that genteel poverty that is sometimes behindhand with its rent, but that hungry poverty that does not know where to look for its dinner. Against all these things had this 'old struggler' to contend; over all these things did this 'old struggler' prevail. Over even the fear of death, the giving up of this 'intellectual being,' which had haunted his gloomy fancy for a lifetime, he seems finally to have prevailed, and to have met his end as a brave man should.

Carlyle, writing to his wife, says, and truthfully enough, 'The more the devil worries me the more I wring him by the nose;' but then if the devil's was the only nose that was wrung in the transaction, why need Carlyle cry out so loud? After buffeting one's way through the storm- tossed pages of Froude's Carlyle—in which the universe is stretched upon the rack because food disagrees with man and cocks crow—with what thankfulness and reverence do we read once again the letter in which Johnson tells Mrs. Thrale how he has been called to endure, not dyspepsia or sleeplessness, but paralysis itself:

'On Monday I sat for my picture, and walked a considerable way with little inconvenience. In the afternoon and evening I felt myself light and easy, and began to plan schemes of life. Thus I went to bed, and, in a short time, waked and sat up, as has long been my custom; when I felt a confusion in my head which lasted, I suppose, about half a minute; I was alarmed, and prayed God that however much He might afflict my body He would spare my understanding. . . . Soon after I perceived that I had suffered a paralytic stroke, and that my speech was taken from me. I had no pain, and so little dejection, in this dreadful state, that I wondered at my own apathy, and considered that perhaps death itself, when it should come, would excite less horror than seems now to attend it. In order to rouse the vocal organs I took two drams. . . . I then went to bed, and, strange as it may seem, I think, slept. When I saw light it was time I should contrive what I should do. Though God stopped my speech He left me my hand. I enjoyed a mercy which was not granted to my dear friend Lawrence, who now perhaps overlooks me, as I am writing, and rejoices that I have what he wanted. My first note was necessarily to my servant, who came in talking, and could not immediately comprehend why he should read what I put into his hands. . . . How this will be received by you I know not. I hope you will sympathize with me; but perhaps—

'"My mistress, gracious, mild, and good, Cries—Is he dumb? 'Tis time he shou'd."

'I suppose you may wish to know how my disease is treated by the physicians. They put a blister upon my back, and two from my ear to my throat, one on a side. The blister on the back has done little, and those on the throat have not risen. I bullied and bounced (it sticks to our last sand), and compelled the apothecary to make his salve according to the Edinburgh dispensatory, that it might adhere better. I have now two on my own prescription. They likewise give me salt of hartshorn, which I take with no great confidence; but I am satisfied that what can be done is done for me. I am almost ashamed of this querulous letter, but now it is written let it go.'

This is indeed tonic and bark for the mind.

If, irritated by a comparison that ought never to have been thrust upon us, we ask why it is that the reader of Boswell finds it as hard to help loving Johnson as the reader of Froude finds its hard to avoid disliking Carlyle, the answer must be that whilst the elder man of letters was full to overflowing with the milk of human kindness, the younger one was full to overflowing with something not nearly so nice; and that whilst Johnson was pre-eminently a reasonable man, reasonable in all his demands and expectations, Carlyle was the most unreasonable mortal that ever exhausted the patience of nurse, mother, or wife.

Of Dr. Johnson's affectionate nature nobody has written with nobler appreciation than Carlyle himself. 'Perhaps it is this Divine feeling of affection, throughout manifested, that principally attracts us to Johnson. A true brother of men is he, and filial lover of the earth.'

The day will come when it will be recognised that Carlyle, as a critic, is to be judged by what he himself corrected for the press, and not by splenetic entries in diaries, or whimsical extravagances in private conversation.

Of Johnson's reasonableness nothing need be said, except that it is patent everywhere. His wife's judgment was a sound one: 'He is the most sensible man I ever met.'

As for his brutality, of which at one time we used to hear a great deal, we cannot say of it what Hookham Frere said of Landor's immorality, that it was:

'Mere imaginary classicality Wholly devoid of criminal reality.'

It was nothing of the sort. Dialectically the great Doctor was a great brute. The fact is, he had so accustomed himself to wordy warfare, that he lost all sense of moral responsibility, and cared as little for men's feelings as a Napoleon did for their lives. When the battle was over, the Doctor frequently did what no soldier ever did that I have heard tell of, apologized to his victims and drank wine or lemonade with them. It must also be remembered that for the most part his victims sought him out. They came to be tossed and gored. And after all, are they so much to be pitied? They have our sympathy, and the Doctor has our applause. I am not prepared to say, with the simpering fellow with weak legs whom David Copperfield met at Mr. Waterbrook's dinner-table, that I would sooner be knocked down by a man with blood than picked up by a man without any; but, argumentatively speaking, I think it would be better for a man's reputation to be knocked down by Dr. Johnson than picked up by Mr. Froude.

Johnson's claim to be the best of our talkers cannot, on our present materials, be contested. For the most part we have only talk about other talkers. Johnson's is matter of record. Carlyle no doubt was a great talker—no man talked against talk or broke silence to praise it more eloquently than he, but unfortunately none of it is in evidence. All that is given us is a sort of Commination Service writ large. We soon weary of it. Man does not live by curses alone.

An unhappier prediction of a boy's future was surely never made than that of Johnson's by his cousin, Mr. Cornelius Ford, who said to the infant Samuel, 'You will make your way the more easily in the world as you are content to dispute no man's claim to conversation excellence, and they will, therefore, more willingly allow your pretensions as a writer.' Unfortunate Mr. Ford! The man never breathed whose claim to conversation excellence Dr. Johnson did not dispute on every possible occasion, whilst, just because he was admittedly so good a talker, his pretensions as a writer have been occasionally slighted.

Johnson's personal character has generally been allowed to stand high. It, however, has not been submitted to recent tests. To be the first to 'smell a fault' is the pride of the modern biographer. Boswell's artless pages afford useful hints not lightly to be disregarded. During some portion of Johnson's married life he had lodgings, first at Greenwich, afterwards at Hampstead. But he did not always go home o' nights; sometimes preferring to roam the streets with that vulgar ruffian Savage, who was certainly no fit company for him. He once actually quarrelled with 'Tetty,' who, despite her ridiculous name, was a very sensible woman with a very sharp tongue, and for a season, like stars, they dwelt apart. Of the real merits of this dispute we must resign ourselves to ignorance. The materials for its discussion do not exist; even Croker could not find them. Neither was our great moralist as sound as one would have liked to see him in the matter of the payment of small debts. When he came to die, he remembered several of these outstanding accounts; but what assurance have we that he remembered them all? One sum of 10 pounds he sent across to the honest fellow from whom he had borrowed it, with an apology for his delay; which, since it had extended over a period of twenty years, was not superfluous. I wonder whether he ever repaid Mr. Dilly the guinea he once borrowed of him to give to a very small boy who had just been apprenticed to a printer. If he did not, it was a great shame. That he was indebted to Sir Joshua in a small loan is apparent from the fact that it was one of his three dying requests to that great man that he should release him from it, as, of course, the most amiable of painters did. The other two requests, it will be remembered, were to read his Bible, and not to use his brush on Sundays. The good Sir Joshua gave the desired promises with a full heart, for these two great men loved one another; but subsequently discovered the Sabbatical restriction not a little irksome, and after a while resumed his former practice, arguing with himself that the Doctor really had no business to extract any such promise. The point is a nice one, and perhaps ere this the two friends have met and discussed it in the Elysian fields. If so, I hope the Doctor, grown 'angelical,' kept his temper with the mild shade of Reynolds better than on the historical occasion when he discussed with him the question of 'strong drinks.'

Against Garrick, Johnson undoubtedly cherished a smouldering grudge, which, however, he never allowed anyone but himself to fan into flame. His pique was natural. Garrick had been his pupil at Edial, near Lichfield; they had come up to town together with an easy united fortune of fourpence—'current coin o' the realm.' Garrick soon had the world at his feet and garnered golden grain. Johnson became famous too, but remained poor and dingy. Garrick surrounded himself with what only money can buy, good pictures and rare books. Johnson cared nothing for pictures—how should he? he could not see them; but he did care a great deal about books, and the pernickety little player was chary about lending his splendidly bound rarities to his quondam preceptor. Our sympathies in this matter are entirely with Garrick; Johnson was one of the best men that ever lived, but not to lend books to. Like Lady Slattern, he had a 'most observant thumb.' But Garrick had no real cause for complaint. Johnson may have soiled his folios and sneered at his trade, but in life Johnson loved Garrick, and in death embalmed his memory in a sentence which can only die with the English language: 'I am disappointed by that stroke of death which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.'

Will it be believed that puny critics have been found to quarrel with this colossal compliment on the poor pretext of its falsehood? Garrick's death, urge these dullards, could not possibly have eclipsed the gaiety of nations, since he had retired from the stage months previous to his demise. When will mankind learn that literature is one thing, and sworn testimony another?

Johnson's relations with Burke were of a more crucial character. The author of Rasselas and The English Dictionary can never have been really jealous of Garrick, or in the very least desirous of 'bringing down the house;' but Burke had done nobler things than that. He had made politics philosophical, and had at least tried to cleanse them from the dust and cobwebs of party. Johnson, though he had never sat in the House of Commons, had yet, in his capacity of an unauthorized reporter, put into the mouths of honourable members much better speeches than ever came out of them, and it is no secret that he would have liked to make a speech or two on his own account. Burke had made many. Harder still to bear, there were not wanting good judges to say that, in their opinion, Burke was a better talker than the great Samuel himself. To cap it all, was not Burke a 'vile Whig'? The ordeal was an unusually trying one. Johnson emerges triumphant.

Though by no means disposed to hear men made much of, he always listened to praise of Burke with a boyish delight. He never wearied of it. When any new proof of Burke's intellectual prowess was brought to his notice, he would exclaim exultingly, 'Did we not always say he was a great man?' And yet how admirably did this 'poor scholar' preserve his independence and equanimity of mind! It was not easy to dazzle the Doctor. What a satisfactory story that is of Burke showing Johnson over his fine estate at Beaconsfield, and expatiating in his exuberant style on its 'liberties, privileges, easements, rights, and advantages,' and of the old Doctor, the tenant of 'a two-pair back' somewhere off Fleet Street, peering cautiously about, criticising everything, and observing with much coolness—

'Non equidem invideo, miror magis.'

A friendship like this could be disturbed but by death, and accordingly we read:

'Mr. Langton one day during Johnson's last illness found Mr. Burke and four or five more friends sitting with Johnson. Mr. Burke said to him, "I am afraid, sir, such a number of us may be oppressive to you." "No, sir," said Johnson, "it is not so; and I must be in a wretched state indeed when your company would not be a delight to me." Mr. Burke, in a tremulous voice, expressive of being very tenderly affected, replied: "My dear sir, you have always been too good to me." Immediately afterwards he went away. This was the last circumstance in the acquaintance of these two eminent men.'

But this is a well-worn theme, though, like some other well-worn themes, still profitable for edification or rebuke. A hundred years can make no difference to a character like Johnson's, or to a biography like Boswell's. We are not to be robbed of our conviction that this man, at all events, was both great and good.

Johnson the author is not always fairly treated. Phrases are convenient things to hand about, and it is as little the custom to inquire into their truth as it is to read the letterpress on banknotes. We are content to count banknotes, and to repeat phrases. One of these phrases is, that whilst everybody reads Boswell, nobody reads Johnson. The facts are otherwise. Everybody does not read Boswell, and a great many people do read Johnson. If it be asked, What do the general public know of Johnson's nine volumes octavo? I reply, Beshrew the general public! What in the name of the Bodleian has the general public got to do with literature? The general public subscribes to Mudie, and has its intellectual, like its lacteal sustenance, sent round to it in carts. On Saturdays these carts, laden with 'recent works in circulation,' traverse the Uxbridge Road; on Wednesdays they toil up Highgate Hill, and if we may believe the reports of travellers, are occasionally seen rushing through the wilds of Camberwell and bumping over Blackheath. It is not a question of the general public, but of the lover of letters. Do Mr. Browning, Mr. Arnold, Mr. Lowell, Mr. Trevelyan, Mr. Stephen, Mr. Morley, know their Johnson? 'To doubt would be disloyalty.' And what these big men know in their big way hundreds of little men know in their little way. We have no writer with a more genuine literary flavour about him than the great Cham of literature. No man of letters loved letters better than he. He knew literature in all its branches—he had read books, he had written books, he had sold books, he had bought books, and he had borrowed them. Sluggish and inert in all other directions, he pranced through libraries. He loved a catalogue; he delighted in an index. He was, to employ a happy phrase of Dr. Holmes, at home amongst books, as a stable-boy is amongst horses. He cared intensely about the future of literature and the fate of literary men. 'I respect Millar,' he once exclaimed; 'he has raised the price of literature.' Now Millar was a Scotchman. Even Horne Tooke was not to stand in the pillory: 'No, no, the dog has too much literature for that.' The only time the author of Rasselas met the author of the Wealth of Nations witnessed a painful scene. The English moralist gave the Scotch one the lie direct, and the Scotch moralist applied to the English one a phrase which would have done discredit to the lips of a costermonger; {117} but this notwithstanding, when Boswell reported that Adam Smith preferred rhyme to blank verse, Johnson hailed the news as enthusiastically as did Cedric the Saxon the English origin of the bravest knights in the retinue of the Norman king. 'Did Adam say that?' he shouted: 'I love him for it. I could hug him!' Johnson no doubt honestly believed he held George III. in reverence, but really he did not care a pin's fee for all the crowned heads of Europe. All his reverence was reserved for 'poor scholars.' When a small boy in a wherry, on whom had devolved the arduous task of rowing Johnson and his biographer across the Thames, said he would give all he had to know about the Argonauts, the Doctor was much pleased, and gave him, or got Boswell to give him, a double fare. He was ever an advocate of the spread of knowledge amongst all classes and both sexes. His devotion to letters has received its fitting reward, the love and respect of all 'lettered hearts.'

Considering him a little more in detail, we find it plain that he was a poet of no mean order. His resonant lines, informed as they often are with the force of their author's character—his strong sense, his fortitude, his gloom—take possession of the memory, and suffuse themselves through one's entire system of thought. A poet spouting his own verses is usually a figure to be avoided; but one could be content to be a hundred and thirty next birthday to have heard Johnson recite, in his full sonorous voice, and with his stately elocution, The Vanity of Human Wishes. When he came to the following lines, he usually broke down, and who can wonder?—

'Proceed, illustrious youth, And virtue guard thee to the throne of truth! Yet should thy soul indulge the gen'rous heat Till captive science yields her last retreat; Should reason guide thee with her brightest ray, And pour on misty doubt resistless day; Should no false kindness lure to loose delight, Nor praise relax, nor difficulty fright; Should tempting novelty thy cell refrain, And sloth effuse her opiate fumes in vain; Should beauty blunt on fops her fatal dart, Nor claim the triumph of a lettered heart; Should no disease thy torpid veins invade, Nor melancholy's phantoms haunt thy shade; Yet hope not life from grief or danger free, Nor think the doom of man revers'd for thee. Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes, And pause a while from letters to be wise; There mark what ills the scholar's life assail, Toil, envy, want, the patron and the gaol. See nations, slowly wise and meanly just, To buried merit raise the tardy bust. If dreams yet flatter, once again attend, Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end.'

If this be not poetry, may the name perish!

In another style, the stanzas on the young heir's majority have such great merit as to tempt one to say that the author of The Jolly Beggars, Robert Burns himself, might have written them. Here are four of them:

'Loosen'd from the minor's tether, Free to mortgage or to sell; Wild as wind and light as feather, Bid the sons of thrift farewell.

'Call the Betseys, Kates, and Jennies, All the names that banish care, Lavish of your grandsire's guineas, Show the spirit of an heir.

'Wealth, my lad, was made to wander, Let it wander as it will; Call the jockey, call the pander, Bid them come and take their fill.

'When the bonny blade carouses, Pockets full and spirits high— What are acres? what are houses? Only dirt—or wet or dry.'

Johnson's prologues, and his lines on the death of Robert Levet, are well known. Indeed, it is only fair to say that our respected friend, the General Public, frequently has Johnsonian tags on its tongue:

'Slow rises worth by poverty depressed.'

'The unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.'

'He left the name at which the world grew pale To point a moral or adorn a tale.'

'Death, kind nature's signal of retreat.'

'Panting Time toiled after him in vain.'

All these are Johnson's, who, though he is not, like Gray, whom he hated so, all quotations, is yet oftener in men's mouths than they perhaps wot of.

Johnson's tragedy, Irene, need not detain us. It is unreadable, and to quote his own sensible words, 'It is useless to criticise what nobody reads.' It was indeed the expressed opinion of a contemporary called Pot that Irene was the finest tragedy of modern times; but on this judgment of Pot's being made known to Johnson, he was only heard to mutter, 'If Pot says so, Pot lies,' as no doubt he did.

Johnson's Latin Verses have not escaped the condemnation of scholars. Whose have? The true mode of critical approach to copies of Latin verse is by the question—How bad are they? Croker took the opinion of the Marquess Wellesley as to the degree of badness of Johnson's Latin Exercises. Lord Wellesley, as became so distinguished an Etonian, felt the solemnity of the occasion, and, after bargaining for secrecy, gave it as his opinion that they were all very bad, but that some perhaps were worse than others. To this judgment I have nothing to add.

As a writer of English prose, Johnson has always enjoyed a great, albeit a somewhat awful reputation. In childish memories he is constrained to be associated with dust and dictionaries, and those provoking obstacles to a boy's reading—'long words.' It would be easy to select from Johnson's writings numerous passages written in that essentially vicious style to which the name Johnsonese has been cruelly given; but the searcher could not fail to find many passages guiltless of this charge. The characteristics of Johnson's prose style are colossal good sense, though with a strong sceptical bias, good humour, vigorous language, and movement from point to point, which can only be compared to the measured tread of a well-drilled company of soldiers. Here is a passage from the preface to Shakspeare:

'Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakspeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on, through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness and read the commentators.'

Where are we to find better sense, or much better English?

In the pleasant art of chaffing an author Johnson has hardly an equal. De Quincey too often overdoes it. Macaulay seldom fails to excite sympathy with his victim. In playfulness Mr. Arnold perhaps surpasses the Doctor, but then the latter's playfulness is always leonine, whilst Mr. Arnold's is surely, sometimes, just a trifle kittenish. An example, no doubt a very good one, of Johnson's humour must be allowed me. Soame Jenyns, in his book on the Origin of Evil, had imagined that, as we have not only animals for food, but choose some for our diversion, the same privilege may be allowed to beings above us, 'who may deceive, torment, or destroy us for the ends only of their own pleasure.'

On this hint writes our merry Doctor as follows:

'I cannot resist the temptation of contemplating this analogy, which I think he might have carried farther, very much to the advantage of his argument. He might have shown that these "hunters, whose game is man," have many sports analogous to our own. As we drown whelps or kittens, they amuse themselves now and then with sinking a ship, and stand round the fields of Blenheim, or the walls of Prague, as we encircle a cockpit. As we shoot a bird flying, they take a man in the midst of his business or pleasure, and knock him down with an apoplexy. Some of them perhaps are virtuosi, and delight in the operations of an asthma, as a human philosopher in the effects of the air-pump. Many a merry bout have these frolick beings at the vicissitudes of an ague, and good sport it is to see a man tumble with an epilepsy, and revive and tumble again, and all this he knows not why. The paroxysms of the gout and stone must undoubtedly make high mirth, especially if the play be a little diversified with the blunders and puzzles of the blind and deaf. . . . One sport the merry malice of these beings has found means of enjoying, to which we have nothing equal or similar. They now and then catch a mortal, proud of his parts, and flattered either by the submission of those who court his kindness, or the notice of those who suffer him to court theirs. A head thus prepared for the reception of false opinions, and the projection of vain designs, they easily fill with idle notions till, in time, they make their plaything an author; their first diversion commonly begins with an ode or an epistle, then rises perhaps to a political irony, and is at last brought to its height by a treatise of philosophy. Then begins the poor animal to entangle himself in sophisms and to flounder in absurdity.'

The author of the philosophical treatise, A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil, did not at all enjoy this 'merry bout' of the 'frolick' Johnson.

The concluding paragraphs of Johnson's Preface to his Dictionary are historical prose, and if we are anxious to find passages fit to compare with them in the melancholy roll of their cadences and in their grave sincerity and manly emotion, we must, I think, take a flying jump from Dr. Johnson to Dr. Newman.

For sensible men the world offers no better reading than the Lives of the Poets. They afford an admirable example of the manner of man Johnson was. The subject was suggested to him by the booksellers, whom as a body he never abused. Himself the son of a bookseller, he respected their calling. If they treated him with civility, he responded suitably. If they were rude to him he knocked them down. These worthies chose their own poets. Johnson remained indifferent. He knew everybody's poetry, and was always ready to write anybody's Life. If he knew the facts of a poet's life—and his knowledge was enormous on such subjects—he found room for them; if he did not, he supplied their place with his own shrewd reflections and sombre philosophy of life. It thus comes about that Johnson is every bit as interesting when he is writing about Sprat, or Smith, or Fenton, as he is when he has got Milton or Gray in hand. He is also much less provoking. My own favourite Life is that of Sir Richard Blackmore.

The poorer the poet the kindlier is the treatment he receives. Johnson kept all his rough words for Shakspeare, Milton, and Gray.

In this trait, surely an amiable one, he was much resembled by that eminent man the late Sir George Jessel, whose civility to a barrister was always in inverse ratio to the barrister's practice; and whose friendly zeal in helping young and nervous practitioners over the stiles of legal difficulty was only equalled by the fiery enthusiasm with which he thrust back the Attorney and Solicitor General and people of that sort.

As a political thinker Johnson has not had justice. He has been lightly dismissed as the last of the old-world Tories. He was nothing of the sort. His cast of political thought is shared by thousands to this day. He represents that vast army of electors whom neither canvasser nor caucus has ever yet cajoled or bullied into a polling-booth. Newspapers may scold, platforms may shake; whatever circulars can do may be done, all that placards can tell may be told; but the fact remains that one- third of every constituency in the realm shares Dr. Johnson's 'narcotic indifference,' and stays away.

It is, of course, impossible to reconcile all Johnson's recorded utterances with any one view of anything. When crossed in conversation or goaded by folly he was capable of anything. But his dominant tone about politics was something of this sort. Provided a man lived in a State which guaranteed him private liberty and secured him public order, he was very much of a knave or altogether a fool if he troubled himself further. To go to bed when you wish, to get up when you like, to eat and drink and read what you choose, to say across your port or your tea whatever occurs to you at the moment, and to earn your living as best you may—this is what Dr. Johnson meant by private liberty. Fleet Street open day and night—this is what he meant by public order. Give a sensible man these, and take all the rest the world goes round. Tyranny was a bugbear. Either the tyranny was bearable, or it was not. If it was bearable, it did not matter; and as soon as it became unbearable the mob cut off the tyrant's head, and wise men went home to their dinner. To views of this sort he gave emphatic utterance on the well-known occasion when he gave Sir Adam Ferguson a bit of his mind. Sir Adam had innocently enough observed that the Crown had too much power. Thereupon Johnson:

'Sir, I perceive you are a vile Whig. Why all this childish jealousy of the power of the Crown? The Crown has not power enough. When I say that all governments are alike, I consider that in no government power can be abused long; mankind will not bear it. If a sovereign oppresses his people, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny that will keep us safe under every form of government.'

This is not, and never was, the language of Toryism. It is a much more intellectual 'ism.' It is indifferentism. So, too, in his able pamphlet, The False Alarm, which had reference to Wilkes and the Middlesex election, though he no doubt attempts to deal with the constitutional aspect of the question, the real strength of his case is to be found in passages like the following:

'The grievance which has produced all this tempest of outrage, the oppression in which all other oppressions are included, the invasion which has left us no property, the alarm that suffers no patriot to sleep in quiet, is comprised in a vote of the House of Commons, by which the freeholders of Middlesex are deprived of a Briton's birthright—representation in Parliament. They have, indeed, received the usual writ of election; but that writ, alas! was malicious mockery; they were insulted with the form, but denied the reality, for there was one man excepted from their choice. The character of the man, thus fatally excepted, I have no purpose to delineate. Lampoon itself would disdain to speak ill of him of whom no man speaks well. Every lover of liberty stands doubtful of the fate of posterity, because the chief county in England cannot take its representative from a gaol.'

Temperament was of course at the bottom of this indifference. Johnson was of melancholy humour and profoundly sceptical. Cynical he was not—he loved his fellow-men; his days were full of

'Little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love.'

But he was as difficult to rouse to enthusiasm about humanity as is Mr. Justice Stephen. He pitied the poor devils, but he did not believe in them. They were neither happy nor wise, and he saw no reason to believe they would ever become either. 'Leave me alone,' he cried to the sultry mob, bawling 'Wilkes and Liberty.' 'I at least am not ashamed to own that I care for neither the one nor the other.'

No man, however, resented more fiercely than Johnson any unnecessary interference with men who were simply going their own way. The Highlanders only knew Gaelic, yet political wiseacres were to be found objecting to their having the Bible in their own tongue. Johnson flew to arms: he wrote one of his monumental letters; the opposition was quelled, and the Gael got his Bible. So too the wicked interference with Irish enterprise, so much in vogue during the last century, infuriated him. 'Sir,' he said to Sir Thomas Robinson, 'you talk the language of a savage. What, sir! would you prevent any people from feeding themselves, if by any honest means they can do so?'

Were Johnson to come to life again, total abstainer as he often was, he would, I expect, denounce the principle involved in 'Local Option.' I am not at all sure he would not borrow a guinea from a bystander and become a subscriber to the 'Property Defence League;' and though it is notorious that he never read any book all through, and never could be got to believe that anybody else ever did, he would, I think, read a larger fraction of Mr. Spencer's pamphlet, 'Man versus the State,' than of any other 'recent work in circulation.' The state of the Strand, when two vestries are at work upon it, would, I am sure, drive him into open rebellion.

As a letter-writer Johnson has great merits. Let no man despise the epistolary art. It is said to be extinct. I doubt it. Good letters were always scarce. It does not follow that, because our grandmothers wrote long letters, they all wrote good ones, or that nobody nowadays writes good letters because most people write bad ones. Johnson wrote letters in two styles. One was monumental—more suggestive of the chisel than the pen. In the other there are traces of the same style, but, like the old Gothic architecture, it has grown domesticated, and become the fit vehicle of plain tidings of joy and sorrow—of affection, wit, and fancy. The letter to Lord Chesterfield is the most celebrated example of the monumental style. From the letters to Mrs. Thrale many good examples of the domesticated style might be selected One must suffice:

'Queeney has been a good girl, and wrote me a letter. If Burney said she would write, she told you a fib. She writes nothing to me. She can write home fast enough. I have a good mind not to tell her that Dr. Bernard, to whom I had recommended her novel, speaks of it with great commendation, and that the copy which she lent me has been read by Dr. Lawrence three times over. And yet what a gipsy it is. She no more minds me than if I were a Branghton. Pray, speak to Queeney to write again. . . . Now you think yourself the first writer in the world for a letter about nothing. Can you write such a letter as this? So miscellaneous, with such noble disdain of regularity, like Shakspeare's works; such graceful negligence of transition, like the ancient enthusiasts. The pure voice of Nature and of Friendship. Now, of whom shall I proceed to speak? of whom but Mrs. Montague? Having mentioned Shakspeare and Nature, does not the name of Montague force itself upon me? Such were the transitions of the ancients, which now seem abrupt, because the intermediate idea is lost to modern understandings.'

But the extract had better end, for there are, (I fear) 'modern understandings who will not perceive the intermediate idea' between Shakspeare and Mrs. Montague, and to whom even the name of Branghton will suggest no meaning.

Johnson's literary fame is, in our judgment, as secure as his character. Like the stone which he placed over his father's grave at Lichfield, and which, it is shameful to think, has been removed, it is 'too massy and strong' to be ever much affected by the wind and weather of our literary atmosphere. 'Never,' so he wrote to Mrs. Thrale, 'let criticisms operate upon your face or your mind; it is very rarely that an author is hurt by his critics. The blaze of reputation cannot be blown out; but it often dies in the socket. From the author of Fitzosborne's Letters I cannot think myself in much danger. I met him only once, about thirty years ago, and in some small dispute soon reduced him to whistle.' Dr. Johnson is in no danger from anybody. None but Gargantua could blow him out, and he still burns brightly in his socket.

How long this may continue who can say? It is a far cry to 1985. Science may by that time have squeezed out literature, and the author of the Lives of the Poets may be dimly remembered as an odd fellow who lived in the Dark Ages, and had a very creditable fancy for making chemical experiments. On the other hand, the Spiritualists may be in possession, in which case the Cock Lane Ghost will occupy more of public attention than Boswell's hero, who will, perhaps, be reprobated as the profane utterer of these idle words: 'Suppose I know a man to be so lame that he is absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find him in a different room from that in which I left him, shall I puzzle myself with idle conjectures, that perhaps his nerves have by some unknown change all at once become effective? No, sir, it is clear how he got into a different room—he was carried.'

We here part company with Johnson, bidding him a most affectionate farewell, and leaving him in undisturbed possession of both place and power. His character will bear investigation, and some of his books perusal. The latter, indeed, may be submitted to his own test, and there is no truer one. A book, he wrote, should help us either to enjoy life or to endure it. His frequently do both.


A Lecture delivered before the Edinburgh Philosophical Society.

Mr. John Morley, who amongst other things has written two admirable books about Edmund Burke, is to be found in the Preface to the second of them apologizing for having introduced into the body of the work extracts from his former volume—conduct which he seeks to justify by quoting from the Greek (always a desirable thing to do when in difficulty), to prove that, though you may say what you have to say well once, you cannot so say it twice.

A difficulty somewhat of the same kind cannot fail to be felt by everyone who takes upon himself to write on Burke; for however innocent a man's own past life may be of any public references to the subject, the very many good things other men have said about it must seriously interfere with true liberty of treatment.

Hardly any man, and certainly no politician, has been so bepraised as Burke, whose very name, suggesting, as it does, splendour of diction, has tempted those who would praise him to do so in a highly decorated style, and it would have been easy work to have brought together a sufficient number of animated passages from the works of well-known writers all dedicated to the greater glory of Edmund Burke, and then to have tagged on half-a-dozen specimens of his own resplendent rhetoric, and so to have come to an apparently natural and long-desired conclusion without exciting any more than the usual post-lectorial grumble.

This course, however, not recommending itself, some other method had to be discovered. Happily, it is out of the question within present limits to give any proper summary of Burke's public life. This great man was not like some modern politicians, a specialist, confining his activities within the prospectus of an association; nor was he, like some others, a thing of shreds and patches, busily employed to-day picking up the facts with which he will overwhelm his opponents on the morrow; but was one ever ready to engage with all comers on all subjects from out the stores of his accumulated knowledge. Even were we to confine ourselves to those questions only which engaged Burke's most powerful attention, enlisted his most active sympathy, elicited his most bewitching rhetoric, we should still find ourselves called upon to grapple with problems as vast and varied as Economic Reform, the Status of our Colonies, our Empire in India, our relations with Ireland both in respect to her trade and her prevalent religion; and then, blurring the picture, as some may think—certainly rendering it Titanesque and gloomy—we have the spectacle of Burke in his old age, like another Laocoon, writhing and wrestling with the French Revolution; and it may serve to give us some dim notion of how great a man Burke was, of how affluent a mind, of how potent an imagination, of how resistless an energy, that even when his sole unassisted name is pitted against the outcome of centuries, and we say Burke and the French Revolution, we are not overwhelmed by any sense of obvious absurdity or incongruity.

What I propose to do is merely to consider a little Burke's life prior to his obtaining a seat in Parliament, and then to refer to any circumstances which may help us to account for the fact that this truly extraordinary man, whose intellectual resources beggar the imagination, and who devoted himself to politics with all the forces of his nature, never so much as attained to a seat in the Cabinet—a feat one has known to be accomplished by persons of no proved intellectual agility. Having done this, I shall then, bearing in mind the aphorism of Lord Beaconsfield, that it is always better to be impudent than servile, essay an analysis of the essential elements of Burke's character.

The first great fact to remember is that the Edmund Burke we are all agreed in regarding as one of the proudest memories of the House of Commons was an Irishman. When we are in our next fit of political depression about that island, and are about piously to wish, as the poet Spenser tells us men were wishing even in his time, that it were not adjacent, let us do a little national stocktaking, and calculate profits as well as losses. Burke was not only an Irishman, but a typical one—of the very kind many Englishmen, and even possibly some Scotchmen, make a point of disliking. I do not say he was an aboriginal Irishman, but his ancestors are said to have settled in the county of Galway, under Strongbow, in King Henry the Second's time, when Ireland was first conquered and our troubles began. This, at all events, is a better Irish pedigree than Mr. Parnell's.

Skipping six centuries, we find Burke's father an attorney in Dublin—which somehow sounds a very Irish thing to be—who in 1725 married a Miss Nagle, and had fifteen children. The marriage of Burke's parents was of the kind called mixed—a term which doubtless admits of wide application, but when employed technically signifies that the religious faith of the spouses was different; one, the father, being a Protestant, and the lady an adherent to what used to be pleasantly called the 'old religion.' The severer spirit now dominating Catholic councils has condemned these marriages, on the score of their bad theology and their lax morality; but the practical politician, who is not usually much of a theologian—though Lord Melbourne and Mr. Gladstone are distinguished exceptions—and whose moral conscience is apt to be robust (and here I believe there are no exceptions), cannot but regret that so good an opportunity of lubricating religious differences with the sweet oil of the domestic affections should be lost to us in these days of bitterness and dissension. Burke was brought up in the Protestant faith of his father, and was never in any real danger of deviating from it; but I cannot doubt that his regard for his Catholic fellow-subjects, his fierce repudiation of the infamies of the Penal Code—the horrors of which he did something to mitigate—his respect for antiquity, and his historic sense, were all quickened by the fact that a tenderly loved and loving mother belonged through life and in death to an ancient and an outraged faith.

The great majority of Burke's brothers and sisters, like those of Laurence Sterne, were 'not made to live;' and out of the fifteen but three, beside himself, attained maturity. These were his eldest brother Garrett, on whose death Edmund succeeded to the patrimonial Irish estate, which he sold; his younger brother, Richard, a highly speculative gentleman, who always lost; and his sister, Juliana, who married a Mr. French, and was, as became her mother's daughter, a rigid Roman Catholic—who, so we read, was accustomed every Christmas Day to invite to the Hall the maimed, the aged, and distressed of her vicinity to a plentiful repast, during which she waited upon them as a servant. A sister like this never did any man any serious harm.

Edmund Burke was born in 1729, in Dublin, and was taught his rudiments in the country—first by a Mr. O'Halloran, and afterwards by a Mr. FitzGerald, village pedagogues both, who at all events succeeded in giving their charge a brogue which death alone could silence. Burke passed from their hands to an academy at Ballitore, kept by a Quaker, whence he proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin. He was thus not only Irish born, but Irish bred. His intellectual habit of mind exhibited itself early. He belonged to the happy family of omnivorous readers, and, in the language of his latest schoolmaster, he went to college with a larger miscellaneous stock of reading than was usual with one of his years; which, being interpreted out of pedagogic into plain English, means that 'our good Edmund' was an enormous devourer of poetry and novels, and so he remained to the end of his days. That he always preferred Fielding to Richardson is satisfactory, since it pairs him off nicely with Dr. Johnson, whose preference was the other way, and so helps to keep an interesting question wide open. His passion for the poetry of Virgil is significant. His early devotion to Edward Young, the grandiose author of the Night Thoughts, is not to be wondered at; though the inspiration of the youthful Burke, either as poet or critic, may be questioned, when we find him rapturously scribbling in the margin of his copy:

'Jove claimed the verse old Homer sung, But God Himself inspired Dr. Young.'

But a boy's enthusiasm for a favourite poet is a thing to rejoice over. The years that bring the philosophic mind will not bring—they must find—enthusiasm.

In 1750 Burke (being then twenty-one) came for the first time to London, to do what so many of his lively young countrymen are still doing—though they are beginning to make a grievance even of that—eat his dinners at the Middle Temple, and so qualify himself for the Bar. Certainly that student was in luck who found himself in the same mess with Burke; and yet so stupid are men—so prone to rest with their full weight on the immaterial and slide over the essential—that had that good fortune been ours we should probably have been more taken up with Burke's brogue than with his brains. Burke came to London with a cultivated curiosity, and in no spirit of desperate determination to make his fortune. That the study of the law interested him cannot be doubted, for everything interested him, particularly the stage. Like the sensible Irishman he was, he lost his heart to Peg Woffington on the first opportunity. He was fond of roaming about the country during, it is to be hoped, vacation- time only, and is to be found writing the most cheerful letters to his friends in Ireland (all of whom are persuaded that he is going some day to be somebody, though sorely puzzled to surmise what thing or when, so pleasantly does he take life), from all sorts of out-of-the-way country places, where he lodges with quaint old landladies who wonder maternally why he never gets drunk, and generally mistake him for an author until he pays his bill. When in town he frequented debating societies in Fleet Street and Covent Garden, and made his first speeches; for which purpose he would, unlike some debaters, devote studious hours to getting up the subjects to be discussed. There is good reason to believe that it was in this manner his attention was first directed to India. He was at all times a great talker, and, Dr. Johnson's dictum notwithstanding, a good listener. He was endlessly interested in everything—in the state of the crops, in the last play, in the details of all trades, the rhythm of all poems, the plots of all novels, and indeed in the course of every manufacture. And so for six years he went up and down, to and fro, gathering information, imparting knowledge, and preparing himself, though he knew not for what.

The attorney in Dublin grew anxious, and searched for precedents of a son behaving like his, and rising to eminence. Had his son got the legal mind?—which, according to a keen observer, chiefly displays itself by illustrating the obvious, explaining the evident, and expatiating on the commonplace. Edmund's powers of illustration, explanation, and expatiation could not indeed be questioned; but then the subjects selected for the exhibition of those powers were very far indeed from being obvious, evident, or commonplace, and the attorney's heart grew heavy within him. The paternal displeasure was signified in the usual manner—the supplies were cut off. Edmund Burke, however, was no ordinary prodigal, and his reply to his father's expostulations took the unexpected and unprecedented shape of a copy of a second and enlarged edition of his treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful, which he had published in 1756 at the price of three shillings. Burke's father promptly sent the author a bank-bill for 100 pounds—conduct on his part which, considering he had sent his son to London and maintained him there for six years to study law, was, in my judgment, both sublime and beautiful. In the same year Burke published another pamphlet—a one-and- sixpenny affair—written ironically in the style of Lord Bolingbroke, and called A Vindication of Natural Society; or, A View of the Miseries and Evils arising to Mankind from Every Species of Civil Society. Irony is a dangerous weapon for a public man to have ever employed, and in after-life Burke had frequently to explain that he was not serious. On these two pamphlets' airy pinions Burke floated into the harbour of literary fame. No less a man than the great David Hume referred to him, in a letter to the hardly less great Adam Smith, as an Irish gentleman who had written a 'very pretty treatise on the Sublime.' After these efforts Burke, as became an established wit, went to Bath to recruit, and there, fitly enough, fell in love. The lady was Miss Jane Mary Nugent, the daughter of a celebrated Bath physician, and it is pleasant to be able to say of the marriage that was shortly solemnized between the young couple, that it was a happy one, and then to go on our way, leaving them—where man and wife ought to be left—alone. Oddly enough, Burke's wife was also the offspring of a 'mixed marriage'—only in her case it was the father who was the Catholic; consequently both Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Burke were of the same way of thinking, but each had a parent of the other way. Although getting married is no part of the curriculum of a law student, Burke's father seems to have come to the conclusion that after all it was a greater distinction for an attorney in Dublin to have a son living amongst the wits in London, and discoursing familiarly on the 'Sublime and Beautiful,' than one prosecuting some poor countryman, with a brogue as rich as his own, for stealing a pair of breeches; for we find him generously allowing the young couple 200 pounds a year, which no doubt went some way towards maintaining them. Burke, who was now in his twenty-eighth year, seems to have given up all notion of the law. In 1758 he wrote for Dodsley the first volume of the Annual Register, a melancholy series which continues to this day. For doing this he got 100 pounds. Burke was by this time a well-known figure in London literary society, and was busy making for himself a huge private reputation. The Christmas Day of 1758 witnessed a singular scene at the dinner table of David Garrick. Dr. Johnson, then in full vigour of his mind, and with the all-dreaded weapons of his dialectics kept burnished by daily use, was flatly contradicted by a fellow-guest some twenty years his junior, and, what is more, submitted to it without a murmur. One of the diners, Arthur Murphy, was so struck by this occurrence, unique in his long experience of the Doctor, that on returning home he recorded the fact in his journal, but ventured no explanation of it. It can only be accounted for—so at least I venture to think—by the combined effect of four wholly independent circumstances: First, the day was Christmas Day, a day of peace and goodwill, and our beloved Doctor was amongst the sincerest, though most argumentative, of Christians, and a great observer of days. Second, the house was David Garrick's, and consequently we may be certain that the dinner had been a superlatively good one; and has not Boswell placed on record Johnson's opinion of the man who professed to be indifferent about his dinner? Third, the subject under discussion was India, about which Johnson knew he knew next to nothing. And fourth, the offender was Edmund Burke, whom Johnson loved from the first day he set eyes upon him to their last sad parting by the waters of death.

In 1761 that shrewd old gossip, Horace Walpole, met Burke for the first time at dinner, and remarks of him in a letter to George Montague:

'I dined at Hamilton's yesterday; there were Garrick, and young Mr. Burke, who wrote a book in the style of Lord Bolingbroke, that was much admired. He is a sensible man, but has not worn off his authorism yet, and thinks there is nothing so charming as writers, and to be one. He will know better one of these days.'

But great as were Burke's literary powers, and passionate as was his fondness for letters and for literary society, he never seems to have felt that the main burden of his life lay in that direction. He looked to the public service, and this though he always believed that the pen of a great writer was a more powerful and glorious weapon than any to be found in the armoury of politics. This faith of his comes out sometimes queerly enough. For example, when Dr. Robertson in 1777 sent Burke his cheerful History of America, in quarto volumes, Burke, in the most perfect good faith, closes a long letter of thanks thus:—

'You will smile when I send you a trifling temporary production made for the occasion of the day, and to perish with it, in return for your immortal work.'

I have no desire, least of all in Edinburgh, to say anything disrespectful of Principal Robertson; but still, when we remember that the temporary production he got in exchange for his History of America was Burke's immortal letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol on the American War, we must, I think, be forced to admit that, as so often happens when a Scotchman and an Irishman do business together, the former got the better of the bargain.

Burke's first public employment was of a humble character, and might well have been passed over in a sentence, had it not terminated in a most delightful quarrel, in which Burke conducted himself like an Irishman of genius. Some time in 1759 he became acquainted with William Gerard Hamilton, commonly called 'Single-speech Hamilton,' on account of the celebrity he gained from his first speech in Parliament, and the steady way in which his oratorical reputation went on waning ever after. In 1761 this gentleman went over to Ireland as Chief Secretary, and Burke accompanied him as the Secretary's secretary, or, in the unlicensed speech of Dublin, as Hamilton's jackal. This arrangement was eminently satisfactory to Hamilton, who found, as generations of men have found after him, Burke's brains very useful, and he determined to borrow them for the period of their joint lives. Animated by this desire, in itself praiseworthy, he busied himself in procuring for Burke a pension of 300 pounds a year on the Irish establishment, and then the simple 'Single- speech' thought the transaction closed. He had bought his poor man of genius, and paid for him on the nail with other people's money. Nothing remained but for Burke to draw his pension and devote the rest of his life to maintaining Hamilton's reputation. There is nothing at all unusual in this, and I have no doubt Burke would have stuck to his bargain, had not Hamilton conceived the fatal idea that Burke's brains were exclusively his (Hamilton's). Then the situation became one of risk and apparent danger.

Burke's imagination began playing round the subject: he saw himself a slave, blotted out of existence—mere fuel for Hamilton's flame. In a week he was in a towering passion. Few men can afford to be angry. It is a run upon their intellectual resources they cannot meet. But Burke's treasury could well afford the luxury; and his letters to Hamilton make delightful reading to those who, like myself, dearly love a dispute when conducted according to the rules of the game by men of great intellectual wealth. Hamilton demolished and reduced to stony silence, Burke sat down again and wrote long letters to all his friends, telling them the whole story from beginning to end. I must be allowed a quotation from one of these letters, for this really is not so frivolous a matter as I am afraid I have made it appear—a quotation of which this much may be said, that nothing more delightfully Burkean is to be found anywhere:—


'I am hardly able to tell you how much satisfaction I had in your letter. Your approbation of my conduct makes me believe much the better of you and myself; and I assure you that that approbation came to me very seasonably. Such proofs of a warm, sincere, and disinterested friendship were not wholly unnecessary to my support at a time when I experienced such bitter effects of the perfidy and ingratitude of much longer and much closer connections. The way in which you take up my affairs binds me to you in a manner I cannot express; for, to tell you the truth, I never can (knowing as I do the principles upon which I always endeavour to act) submit to any sort of compromise of my character; and I shall never, therefore, look upon those who, after hearing the whole story, do not think me perfectly in the right, and do not consider Hamilton an infamous scoundrel, to be in the smallest degree my friends, or even to be persons for whom I am bound to have the slightest esteem, as fair and just estimators of the characters and conduct of men. Situated as I am, and feeling as I do, I should be just as well pleased that they totally condemned me as that they should say there were faults on both sides, or that it was a disputable case, as I hear is (I cannot forbear saying) the affected language of some persons. . . . You cannot avoid remarking, my dear Mason, and I hope not without some indignation, the unparalleled singularity of my situation. Was ever a man before me expected to enter into formal, direct, and undisguised slavery? Did ever man before him confess an attempt to decoy a man into such an alleged contract, not to say anything of the impudence of regularly pleading it? If such an attempt be wicked and unlawful (and I am sure no one ever doubted it), I have only to confess his charge, and to admit myself his dupe, to make him pass, on his own showing, for the most consummate villain that ever lived. The only difference between us is, not whether he is not a rogue—for he not only admits but pleads the facts that demonstrate him to be so; but only whether I was such a fool as to sell myself absolutely for a consideration which, so far from being adequate, if any such could be adequate, is not even so much as certain. Not to value myself as a gentleman, a free man, a man of education, and one pretending to literature; is there any situation in life so low, or even so criminal, that can subject a man to the possibility of such an engagement? Would you dare attempt to bind your footman to such terms? Will the law suffer a felon sent to the plantations to bind himself for his life, and to renounce all possibility either of elevation or quiet? And am I to defend myself for not doing what no man is suffered to do, and what it would be criminal in any man to submit to? You will excuse me for this heat.'

I not only excuse Burke for his heat, but love him for letting me warm my hands at it after a lapse of a hundred and twenty years.

Burke was more fortunate in his second master, for in 1765 being then thirty-six years of age, he became private secretary to the new Prime Minister, the Marquis of Rockingham; was by the interest of Lord Verney returned to Parliament for Wendover, in Bucks; and on January 27th, 1766, his voice was first heard in the House of Commons.

The Rockingham Ministry deserves well of the historian, and on the whole has received its deserts. Lord Rockingham, the Duke of Richmond, Lord John Cavendish, Mr. Dowdeswell, and the rest of them, were good men and true, judged by an ordinary standard; and when contrasted with most of their political competitors, they almost approach the ranks of saints and angels. However, after a year and twenty days, his Majesty King George the Third managed to get rid of them, and to keep them at bay for fifteen years. But their first term of office, though short, lasted long enough to establish a friendship of no ordinary powers of endurance between the chief members of the party and the Prime Minister's private secretary, who was at first, so ran the report, supposed to be a wild Irishman, whose real name was O'Bourke, and whose brogue seemed to require the allegation that its owner was a popish emissary. It is satisfactory to notice how from the very first Burke's intellectual pre-eminence, character, and aims were clearly admitted and most cheerfully recognised by his political and social superiors; and in the long correspondence in which he engaged with most of them there is not a trace to be found, on one side or the other, of anything approaching to either patronage or servility. Burke advises them, exhorts them, expostulates with them, condemns their aristocratic languor, fans their feeble flames, drafts their motions, dictates their protests, visits their houses, and generally supplies them with facts, figures, poetry, and romance. To all this they submit with much humility. The Duke of Richmond once indeed ventured to hint to Burke, with exceeding delicacy, that he (the Duke) had a small private estate to attend to as well as public affairs; but the validity of the excuse was not admitted. The part Burke played for the next fifteen years with relation to the Rockingham party reminds me of the functions I have observed performed in lazy families by a soberly clad and eminently respectable person who pays them domiciliary visits, and, having admission everywhere, goes about mysteriously from room to room, winding up all the clocks. This is what Burke did for the Rockingham party—he kept it going.

But fortunately for us, Burke was not content with private adjuration, or even public speech. His literary instincts, his dominating desire to persuade everybody that he, Edmund Burke, was absolutely in the right, and every one of his opponents hopelessly wrong, made him turn to the pamphlet as a propaganda, and in his hands

'The thing became a trumpet, whence he blew Soul-animating strains.'

So accustomed are we to regard Burke's pamphlets as specimens of our noblest literature, and to see them printed in comfortable volumes, that we are apt to forget that in their origin they were but the children of the pavement, the publications of the hour. If, however, you ever visit any old public library, and grope about a little, you are likely enough to find a shelf holding some twenty-five or thirty musty, ugly little books, usually lettered 'Burke,' and on opening any of them you will come across one of Burke's pamphlets as originally issued, bound up with the replies and counter-pamphlets it occasioned. I have frequently tried, but always in vain, to read these replies, which are pretentious enough—usually the works of deans, members of Parliament, and other dignitaries of the class Carlyle used compendiously to describe as 'shovel-hatted'—and each of whom was as much entitled to publish pamphlets as Burke himself. There are some things it is very easy to do, and to write a pamphlet is one of them; but to write such a pamphlet as future generations will read with delight is perhaps the most difficult feat in literature. Milton, Swift, Burke, and Sydney Smith are, I think, our only great pamphleteers.

I have now rather more than kept my word so far as Burke's pre-parliamentary life is concerned, and will proceed to mention some of the circumstances that may serve to account for the fact that, when the Rockingham party came into power for the second time in 1782, Burke, who was their life and soul, was only rewarded with a minor office. First, then, it must be recorded sorrowfully of Burke that he was always desperately in debt, and in this country no politician under the rank of a baronet can ever safely be in debt. Burke's finances are, and always have been, marvels and mysteries; but one thing must be said of them—that the malignity of his enemies, both Tory enemies and Radical enemies, has never succeeded in formulating any charge of dishonesty against him that has not been at once completely pulverized, and shown on the facts to be impossible. {159} Burke's purchase of the estate at Beaconsfield in 1768, only two years after he entered Parliament, consisting as it did of a good house and 1,600 acres of land, has puzzled a great many good men—much more than it ever did Edmund Burke. But how did he get the money? After an Irish fashion—by not getting it at all. Two-thirds of the purchase-money remained on mortgage, and the balance he borrowed; or, as he puts it, 'With all I could collect of my own, and by the aid of my friends, I have established a root in the country.' That is how Burke bought Beaconsfield, where he lived till his end came; whither he always hastened when his sensitive mind was tortured by the thought of how badly men governed the world; where he entertained all sorts and conditions of men—Quakers, Brahmins (for whose ancient rites he provided suitable accommodation in a greenhouse), nobles and abbes flying from revolutionary France, poets, painters, and peers; no one of whom ever long remained a stranger to his charm. Burke flung himself into farming with all the enthusiasm of his nature. His letters to Arthur Young on the subject of carrots still tremble with emotion. You all know Burke's Thoughts on the Present Discontents. You remember—it is hard to forget—his speech on Conciliation with America, particularly the magnificent passage beginning, 'Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together.' You have echoed back the words in which, in his letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol on the hateful American War, he protests that it was not instantly he could be brought to rejoice when he heard of the slaughter and captivity of long lists of those whose names had been familiar in his ears from his infancy, and you would all join with me in subscribing to a fund which should have for its object the printing and hanging up over every editor's desk in town and country a subsequent passage from the same letter:

'A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood. He would feel some apprehension at being called to a tremendous account for engaging in so deep a play without any knowledge of the game. It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance that it is directed by insolent passion. The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression, is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man. But I cannot conceive any existence under heaven (which in the depths of its wisdom tolerates all sorts of things) that is more truly odious and disgusting than an impotent, helpless creature, without civil wisdom or military skill, bloated with pride and arrogance, calling for battles which he is not to fight, and contending for a violent dominion which he can never exercise. . . .

'If you and I find our talents not of the great and ruling kind, our conduct at least is conformable to our faculties. No man's life pays the forfeit of our rashness. No desolate widow weeps tears of blood over our ignorance. Scrupulous and sober in a well-grounded distrust of ourselves, we would keep in the port of peace and security; and perhaps in recommending to others something of the same diffidence, we should show ourselves more charitable to their welfare than injurious to their abilities.'

You have laughed over Burke's account of how all Lord Talbot's schemes for the reform of the king's household were dashed to pieces, because the turnspit of the king's kitchen was a Member of Parliament. You have often pondered over that miraculous passage in his speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts, describing the devastation of the Carnatic by Hyder Ali—a passage which Mr. John Morley says fills the young orator with the same emotions of enthusiasm, emulation, and despair that (according to the same authority) invariably torment the artist who first gazes on 'The Madonna' at Dresden, or the figures of 'Night' and 'Dawn' at Florence. All these things you know, else are you mighty self-denying of your pleasures. But it is just possible you may have forgotten the following extract from one of Burke's farming letters to Arthur Young:

'One of the grand points in controversy (a controversy indeed chiefly carried on between practice and speculation) is that of deep ploughing. In your last volume you seem, on the whole, rather against that practice, and have given several reasons for your judgment which deserve to be very well considered. In order to know how we ought to plough, we ought to know what end it is we propose to ourselves in that operation. The first and instrumental end is to divide the soil; the last and ultimate end, so far as regards the plants, is to facilitate the pushing of the blade upwards, and the shooting of the roots in all the inferior directions. There is further proposed a more ready admission of external influences—the rain, the sun, the air, charged with all those heterogeneous contents, some, possibly all, of which are necessary for the nourishment of the plants. By ploughing deep you answer these ends in a greater mass of the soil. This would seem in favour of deep ploughing as nothing else than accomplishing, in a more perfect manner, those very ends for which you are induced to plough at all. But doubts here arise, only to be solved by experiment. First, is it quite certain that it is good for the ear and grain of farinaceous plants that their roots should spread and descend into the ground to the greatest possible distances and depths? Is there not some limit in this? We know that in timber, what makes one part flourish does not equally conduce to the benefit of all; and that which may be beneficial to the wood, does not equally contribute to the quantity and goodness of the fruit; and, vice versa, that what increases the fruit largely is often far from serviceable to the tree. Secondly, is that looseness to great depths, supposing it is useful to one of the species of plants, equally useful to all? Thirdly, though the external influences—the rain, the sun, the air—act undoubtedly a part, and a large part, in vegetation, does it follow that they are equally salutary in any quantities, at any depths? Or that, though it may be useful to diffuse one of these agents as extensively as may be in the earth, that therefore it will be equally useful to render the earth in the same degree pervious to all? It is a dangerous way of reasoning in physics, as well as morals, to conclude, because a given proportion of anything is advantageous, that the double will be quite as good, or that it will be good at all. Neither in the one nor the other is it always true that two and two make four.'

This is magnificent, but it is not farming, and you will easily believe that Burke's attempts to till the soil were more costly than productive. Farming, if it is to pay, is a pursuit of small economies; and Burke was far too Asiatic, tropical, and splendid to have anything to do with small economies. His expenditure, like his rhetoric, was in the 'grand style.' He belongs to Charles Lamb's great race, 'the men who borrow.' But indeed it was not so much that Burke borrowed as that men lent. Right- feeling men did not wait to be asked. Dr. Brocklesby, that good physician, whose name breathes like a benediction through the pages of the biographies of the best men of his time, who soothed Dr. Johnson's last melancholy hours, and for whose supposed heterodoxy the dying man displayed so tender a solicitude, wrote to Burke, in the strain of a timid suitor proposing for the hand of a proud heiress, to know whether Burke would be so good as to accept 1,000 pounds at once, instead of waiting for the writer's death. Burke felt no hesitation in obliging so old a friend. Garrick, who, though fond of money, was as generous-hearted a fellow as ever brought down a house, lent Burke 1,000 pounds. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who has been reckoned stingy, by his will left Burke 2,000 pounds, and forgave him another 2,000 pounds which he had lent him. The Marquis of Rockingham by his will directed all Burke's bonds held by him to be cancelled. They amounted to 30,000 pounds. Burke's patrimonial estate was sold by him for 4,000 pounds; and I have seen it stated that he had received altogether from family sources as much as 20,000 pounds. And yet he was always poor, and was glad at the last to accept pensions from the Crown in order that he might not leave his wife a beggar. This good lady survived her illustrious husband twelve years, and seemed as his widow to have had some success in paying his bills, for at her death all remaining demands were found to be discharged. For receiving this pension Burke was assailed by the Duke of Bedford, a most pleasing act of ducal fatuity, since it enabled the pensioner, not bankrupt of his wit, to write a pamphlet, now of course a cherished classic, and introduce into it a few paragraphs about the House of Russell and the cognate subject of grants from the Crown. But enough of Burke's debts and difficulties, which I only mention because all through his life they were cast up against him. Had Burke been a moralist of the calibre of Charles James Fox, he might have amassed a fortune large enough to keep up half a dozen Beaconsfields, by simply doing what all his predecessors in the office he held, including Fox's own father, the truly infamous first Lord Holland, had done—namely, by retaining for his own use the interest on all balances of the public money from time to time in his hands as Paymaster of the Forces. But Burke carried his passion for good government into actual practice, and, cutting down the emoluments of his office to a salary (a high one, no doubt), effected a saving to the country of some 25,000 pounds a year, every farthing of which might have gone without remark into his own pocket.

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