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excite a hope of a more praise-worthy attempt at a future period. At present, we can only say that from the view this poem has afforded us of Indian taste and of Indian manners, we feel more than ever anxious that those who go at an early age into that country, should have their minds previously strengthened by religion and enlarged by science.
Art. V. Speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, on the late very interesting State Trials. Fourth Edition. 8vo. pp. 486. Price 12s. Longman and Co. 1815
we looked into this collection at its first appearance, we were willing to indulge some degree of hope that it might prove to be the precursor, and perhaps in some way or other the cause of a larger assemblage and exhibition of the effusions of this most brilliant of advocates. We wished it miir'il not be too much even to hope thai, like several great oral Its, ancient and modern, who have been their own editors, he in'' ghl be induced to lend some assistance himself towards the recovery and permanence of the master-performances of his forensic life. But no such consequence or sequel has gratified the public taste. Even as to the specimens secured iu this solit ,iy volume, the Editor has to acknowledge with very just regret that iu the first and each succeeding edition they have appeared without the advantage of the slightest intervention of their Author, an advantage which he apprehended there was so much cause to despair of obtaining for them, that he did not venture to solicit. They are given therefore merely on the very unsatisfactory authority of the reporters in the contemporary journals or pamphlets, reporters not, probably, the most dexterous of their profession, and often, when the orator 'drove furiously,' left toiling far behind, like Time panting in pursuit of Shakspeare.
The Editor, having been, it seems, long in the habit of hearing Mr. Currau's speeches, would be much more sensible of the defects of these reports than the generality of their readers; but he has nevertheless felt himself bound to forbear any attempt at rectifying even what he deemed the most palpable defects, judging that such corrections ought to come solely from Mr. C. himself, and wishing that these faults and irupcrfcctions might provoke him to come forward to do justice to the splendid character of his eloquence by an authenticated publication. \Vehave now but little hope of such a consequence, but earnestly wish it could be obtained. Mr. Curran is one of that small class of persons, whose failing to leave in the literature of their country performances fully illustrative, and perpetually monumental, of their talents, may without affectation be adjudged a wrong done to the community. Not to notice that all very remarkable phenomena, as well in the intellectual as in the physical world, are due to history,—it may surely be asserted, that a nation has a just claim to be put in lasting possession of whatever will furnish the most true and vivid representation of a mind which has had a material influence on its fortunes, a mind which has been profusely honoured with its applause, its gratitude, its caresses, and its admiration, a mind which that nation has taken, with a few other powerful minds, as a kind of ground and justification of a high estimate of the mental capabilities of its people. Besides, there are at all times so many influences of mediocrity acting upon a people, from the little mental elevation and capacity of the vast majority of the persons holding, by office or rank, the ascendency over them, that it is very important to perpetuate, in the best possible form, the agency of those stronger spirits that have the most powerfully stimulated the national faculties. May we not add, that in the passible aud lamentable case that one of these strong spirits has combined with its more beneficial energy certain moral habits, the example of which must have been injurious to contemporaries, it is the more desirable to perpetuate the influences by which he will solely or mainly do good ?—It is a grievous thing to be under the necessity of making this kind of allusion, in order to avoid the appearance of being beguiled by noble intellectual powers, most worthily in many respects exerted, into an indifferent estimate of any of the cardinal points of morality.— Why should not our unrivalled advocate have been as bright on • .-..•.-/ side as on that of his talent and courageous and consistent patriotism?
On a re-inspection of parts of this small collection, we still more and more regret, that the effusions, we might say the explosions, of such a mind should have been almost all destined to flame and vanish without any one's being near that could reflect them complete in a lasting memorial; that there was no person to perform with adequate skill, the service analogous to that of the painter Fabris, who so admirably delineated Vesuvius while on fire; and that, if we may prolong the figure, the exhibition in the present volume has so considerable a portion of what reminds us of scoriae and cinders. The intellectual fire comes out here and there with surprising force and beauty. It is quite enchanting to see what a power of mind can be thrown out in a single sentence. Sometimes there is a train of such sentences, keen in intelligence, glowing with passion, generally indignant passion, and brilliant in fancy. All these qualities meet sometimes in one sentence. And as most commonly, such a sentence was levelled at some scoundrel or other, the reader exults to think how it must have smitten on his head. In some parts there is a considerable length of plain but vigorous and acute discussion, in application of law, or appreciation of evidence, the orator being too strong for argument to be often disposed to escape through either the dazzling or the shades of his imagination; while, nevertheless, if he had been in peril in the contest, this resource was as certainly at hand, and almost as certain to be effectual, as the interposition of the gods in the Iliad to carry oft' their favourites involved in a cloud.
The readers of the volume will be struck, as Mr. Curran's auditors have always been, with the prodigious versatdity of his oratorical talents, a versatility which we should hesitate to attribute in an equal degree to any other of the renowned public speakers: Burke, who had almost all talents, did not, we think, possess a faculty of humour so flexible and comic. It may be very doubtful praise to say, that Curran could descend to absolute drollery and buffoonery, and on that ground as on others, could ' hit away' his competitors. It is recollected that once in the performance of his official duty in court, he suddenly fell into the character of a drunkard, with the appropriate hiccupings, and staggerings, and broken sentences, all acted in a manner so ludicrously representative of some person whom he wished to expose to contempt, as to gain in aid of his cause all the coarse re-inforcement of the risible and gamesome feelings of those on whose decision it depended. But even from such a low revel of his energies his mind would easily have risen, at the slightest prompting of occasion, within the same hour, into the region of intellectual meteors or stars, would have bounded among splendours and sublimities, and darted away with a track of light towards the remotest regions of thought. His whole mental action has an appearance of facility and spontaneousness of which even the readers of this volume can form but a very imperfect idea. If this sometimes betrays him into a freakish wantonness of fancy and humour, it does not prevent, when the interest is important or complicated, a most pertinacious prosecution of the object, with all the sublimity of distinction and closeness of argument. If he seems sometimes in a whirl of fancy to be carried from his subject, he never loses sight of it. It is admirable and delightful to observe that neverwinking perspicacity on which no sports of his own mercurial spirit, no circumstances of interruption, confusion, opposition, or provocation, no scattered extent and diversity of topics, can ever pass a delusion. The whole subject stands constantly revealed in his view, and whatever any part or particle of it contains that is available for his purpose, he is certain to elicit. His clients must sometimes have been surprised to observe the relevancy of topics and the force of arguments, in his hands, which had never even occurred to their own busy and inquisitive thoughts. The sensible and patriotic Editor of the volume informs us, that Mr. Curran, while at the bar, surpassed all his fraternity in the sagacity of cross-examination.
'The editor, who has often observed him in the different branches of professional exertion, cannot omit that in the crossexamination of a witness he is unequalled. The most intricate web that fraud, malice, or corruption ever wove, against the life, fortune, or character of an individual, he can unravel. Let truth and falsehood be ever so ingeniously dove-tailed into each other, he separates them with facility. He instantly seizes the first inconsistency of testimony, pursues his advantage with dexterity and caution, till at last he completely involves perjury in the confusion of its contradictions. And while the bribed and suborned witness is writhing in the mental agony of detected falsehood, he wrings from him the truth, and snatches the devoted victim ffom the altar. It is when in a case of this kind he speaks to a jury that he appears as if designed by Providence to be the refuge of the unfortuiiate, and the protector of the oppressed.'
No part of the process of the trials is given but his speeches, with those occasional sentences of interruption which came from the court; but the manner in which he sometimes comments on wicked evidence, may give some idea of the torture he must have inflicted on the suborned and perjured wretches, while he had them under the question, and of the little less enviable sensations of more important personages, when they had an interest in the success of the villany. The galling missiles of this terrible sagittary would not seldom strike those more important persons themselves, sometimes by a direct but sudden aim, and sometimes by a matchless dexterity of slanting flight. Of this latter there is an admirable example in the first of the speeches, a very long one, before the Lord Lieutenant and Council, on a question of the right of election of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a very important subject then and there, though now, and to English readers especially, of the most diminutive interest: but the speech, even thus imperfectly reported, contains some fine specimens of acute argument, unexpected resource, daring and presence of mind, and happy and powerful satire; and then, there is the indirect and most vengeful piece of inflictive justice to which we alluded. The chief object of it was the Lord Chancellor Clare. In making some historical references, strictly connected with his subject, Curran took occasion to introduce the character of an Irish chancellor in the time of queen Anne, Sir Constantine Phipps, who had actually committed some such violations of the municipal rights of the city of Dublin as
the splendid court to which the Advocate was addressing himself, had given ground for suspicion of being disposed to repeat. My Lord Chancellor Clare seemed afraid there might, in such hands, be mischief in the subject, and interrupted Mr. Curran with an observation that it was altogether foreign to the present cause. In a few calm sentences the advocate shewed how it had a very evident relation to it; and then, probably from the mere impulse of the moment, for the passage comes in with all the ease of casual thought, went off in the following strain, and very probably, though it is not mentioned, fixing the well known intrepid keenness of his dark eyes on the proper object.
• In this very chamber did the Chancellor and Judges sit, with all the gravity ana affected attention to arguments in favour of that liberty and those rights which they had conspired to destroy. But to what end, my lords, offer argument to such men? A little and a peevish mind may be exasperated, but how shall it be corrected, by refutation- How fruitless would it have been to represent to that wretched Chancellor, that he was destroying those rights which he was sworn to maintain, that he was involving a government in disgrace, and a kingdom in panic and consternation; that he was •violating every sacred duty, and every solemn engagement, that bound him to himself, his country, his Sovereign, and his God. Alas! my Lords, by what argument could any man hope to reclaim or dissuade a mean, illiberal, and unprincipled minion of authority, induced by his profligacy to undertake, and bound by his avarice and vanity to persevere? He would probably have replied to the most unanswerable arguments, by some curt, contumelious, and unmeaning apophthegm, delivered with the fretful smile of irritated self-sufficiency and disconcerted arrogance; or even, if he could be dragged by his fears to a consideration of the question, by what miracle could the pigmy capacity of a stunted pedant be enlarged to a reception of the subject? The endeavour to approach it would have only removed him to a greater distance than he was before: as a little hand that strives to grasp a mighty globe is thrown back by the re-action of its own effort to comprehend. It may be given to a Hale or a Hardwicke to discover and retract a mistake; the errors of such men are only specks that arise for a moment upon the surface of a splendid luminary; consumed by its heat, or irradiated by its light, they soon purge and disappear; but the perverseness of a mean and narrow intellect is like the excrescences that grow upon a body naturally cold and dark: no fire to waste them and no ray to enlighten, they assimilate and coalesce with those qualities so congenial to their nature, and acquire an incorrigible permanence in the union with kindred frost and opacity. Nor indeed, my Lords, except where the interest of millions can be affected by the vice or the folly of an individual, need it be much regretted, that, to things not worthy of being made better, it hath not pleased Providence to afford the privilege of in>provement?'