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sufficient to have supported you with meaner abilities than I think you possess. From the first, you derive a constitutional claim to respect ; from the second, a natural extensive authority ; the last created a partial expectation of hereditary virtues. The use you have made of these uncommon advantages might have been more honourable to yourself, but could not be more instructive to mankind. We may trace it in the veneration of your country, the choice of your friends, and in the accomplishment of every sanguine hope which the public might have conceived from the illustrious name of Russell.
The eminence of your station gave you a commanding prospect of your duty. The road which led to honour was open to your view. You could not lose it by mistake, and you had no temptation to depart from it by design. Compare the natural dignity and importance of the highest peer of England : the noble independence which he might have maintained in parliament; and the real interest and respect which he might have acquired, not only in parliament, but through the whole kingdom; compare these glorious distinctions, with the ambition of holding a share in government, the emoluments of a place, the sale of a borough, or the purchase of a corporation ; and though you may not regret the virtues which create respect, you may see with anguish how much real importance and authority you have lost. Consider the character of an independent virtuous Duke of Bedford ; imagine what he might be in this country; then reflect one moment upon what you are. If it be possible for me to withdraw my attention from the fact, I will tell you in theory what such a man might be.
Conscious of his own weight and importance, his conduct in parliament would be directed by nothing but the constitutional duty of a peer. He would consider himself as a guardian of the laws. Willing to support the just measures of government, but determined to observe the conduct of the minister with suspicion, he would oppose the violence of faction with as much firmness as the encroachments of prerogative. He would be as little capable of bargaining with the minister for places for himself or his dependents, as of descending to mix himself in the intrigues of opposition. Whenever an important question called for his opinion in parliament, he would be heard by the most profligate minister with deference and respect. His authority would either sanctify or disgrace the measures of government. The people would look up to him as to their protector ; and a virtuous prince would have one honest man in his dominions, in whose integrity and judgment he might safely confide. If it should be the will of Providence to afflict1 him with a domestic misfortune, he would submit to the stroke with feeling, but not without dignity. He would consider the people as his children, and receive a generous, heartfelt consolation, in the sympathising tears and blessings of his country.
Your grace may probably discover something more intelligible in the negative part of this illustrious character. The man I have described would never prostitute his dignity in parliament by an indecent violence, either in opposing or defending a minister. He would not at one moment rancorously persecute, at another basely cringe to, the favourite of his sovereign. After outraging the royal dignity with peremptory conditions, little short of menace and hostility, he would never descend to the humility of soliciting an interview with the favourite, and of offering to recover, at any price, the honour of his friendship. Though deceived, perhaps, in his youth, he would not, through the course of a long life, have invariably chosen his friends from among the most profligate of mankind. His own honour would have forbidden him from mixing his private pleasures or conversation with jockeys, gamesters, blasphemers, gladiators, or buffoons. He would then have never felt, much less would he have submitted to, the dishonest necessity of engaging in the interests and intrigues of his dependents; of supplying their vices, or relieving their beggary, at the expense of his country. He would not have betrayed such ignorance, or such contempt, of the constitution, as openly to avow, in a court of justice, the purchase and sale of a borough. He would not have thought it consistent with his rank in the state, or even with his personal importance, to be the little tyrant of a little corporation. He would never have been insulted with virtues which he had laboured to extinguish ; nor suffered the disgrace of a mortifying defeat, which has made him ridiculous and contemptible even to the few by whom he was not detested. I reverence the afflictions of a good man ; his sorrows are sacred. But how can we take part in the distresses of a man whom we can neither love or esteem ; or feel for a calamity of which he himself is insensible? Where was the father's heart, when he could look for, or find, an immediate consolation for the loss of an only son, in consultations and bargains for a place at court, and even in the misery of balloting at the India House ?
1 The duke had lately lost his only son by a fall from his horse.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH: 17 2 8–177 4,
Goldsmith, famous as a poet, was the son of an Irish curate, and was
educated for the medical profession. After struggling for some years with misfortune and poverty, he settled in London as a writer. His chief prose works are his Chinese Letters, afterwards published under the title of The Citizen of the World ; The Vicar of Wakefield, a singularly beautiful and interesting picture of the middle class of English rural society; the comedies of The Good-natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer; his Histories of England, France, and Greece ; and The History of Animated Nature, which he left unfinished.
A VISIT TO THE COURTS OF JUSTICE IN WESTMINSTER HALL
From The Citizen of the World, or Letters from a Chinese Philosopher.
I had some intentions lately of going to visit Bedlam, the place where those who go mad are confined. I went to wait upon the man in black to be my conductor, but I found him preparing to go to Westminster Hall, where the English hold their courts of justice. It gave me some surprise to find my friend engaged in a lawsuit, but more so when he informed me that it had been depending for several years.
‘How is it possible,' cried I, ‘for a man who knows the world to go to law? I am well acquainted with the courts of justice in China; they resemble rat-traps, every one of them, nothing more easy to get in, but get out again is attended with some difficulty, and more cunning than rats are generally found to possess !'
*Faith,' replied my friend, “I should not have gone to law but that I was assured of success before I began ; things were presented to me in so alluring a light that I thought by barely declaring myself a candidate for the prize, I had nothing more to do but to enjoy the fruits of the victory. Thus have I been upon
the eve of an imaginary triumph every term these ten years, have travelled forward with victory ever in my view, but ever out of reach. However, at present I fancy we have hampered our antagonist in such a manner that, without some unforeseen demur, we shall this very day lay him fairly on his back.'
'If things be so situated,' said I, “I don't care if I attend you to the courts, and partake in the pleasure of your success. But, prithee,' continued I, as we set forward, 'what reasons have you
to think an affair at last concluded which has given you so many former disappointments ?'
My lawyer tells me,' returned he, that I have Salkeld and Ventris strong in my favour, and that there are no less than fifteen cases in point.'
'I understand,' said I, 'those are two of your judges who have already declared their opinion.'
"Pardon me,' replied my friend, 'Salkeld and Ventris are lawyers who, some hundred years ago, gave their opinion on cases similar to mine ; these opinions which make for me my lawyer is to cite, and those opinions which look another way are cited by the lawyer employed by my antagonist. As I observed, I have Salkeld and Ventris for me, he has Coke and Hales for him, and he that has most opinions is most likely to carry his cause.?
*But where is the necessity,' cried I, of prolonging a suit by citing the opinions and reports of others, since the same good sense which determined lawyers in former ages may serve to guide your judges at this day. They, at that time, gave their opinions only from the light of reason; your judges have the same light at present to direct them, let me even add greater, as in former ages there were many prejudices from which the present is happily free. If arguing from authorities be exploded from every other branch of learning, why should it be particularly adhered to in this? I plainly foresee how such a method of investigation must embarrass every suit, and even perplex the student; ceremonies will be multiplied, formalities must increase, and more time will thus be spent in learning the arts of litigation than in the discovery of right.
'I see,' cries my friend, that you are for a speedy administration of justice;
but all the world will grant that the more time that is taken up in considering any subject the better it will be understood. Besides, it is the boast of an Englishman that his property is secure, and all the world will grant that a deliberate administration of justice is the best way to secure his property. Why have we so many lawyers but to secure our property ? why so
? many formalities but to secure our property? Not less than one hundred thousand families live in opulence, elegance, and ease, merely by securing our property.'
To embarrass justice, returned I, by a multiplicity of laws, or to hazard it by a confidence in our judges, are, I grant, the opposite rocks on which legislative wisdom has ever split. In one
case, the client resembles that emperor who is said to have been suffocated with the bed-clothes, which were only designed to keep him warm ; in the other, to that town which let the enemy take possession of its walls in order to shew the world how little they depended upon aught but courage for safety.—But bless me, what numbers do I see here—all in black-how is it possible that half this multitude find employment ?'
Nothing so easily conceived,' returned my companion ; 'they live by watching each other. . For instance, the catchpole watches the man in debt, the attorney watches the catchpole, the counsellor watches the attorney, the solicitor the counsellor, and all find sufficient employment.'
'I conceive you,' interrupted I; "they watch each other, but it is the client that pays them all for watching. It puts me in mind of a Chinese fable, which is entitled Five Animals at a Meal: “A grasshopper, filled with dew, was merrily singing under a shade. A whangam that eats grasshoppers had marked it for its prey, and was just stretching forth to devour it; a serpent that had for a long time fed only on whangams, was coiled up to fasten on the whangam ; a yellow bird was just upon the wing to dart upon the serpent; a hawk had just stooped from above to seize the yellow bird ; all were intent on their prey and unmindful of their danger. So the whangam ate the grasshopper, the serpent ate the whangam, the yellow bird the serpent, and the hawk the yellow bird ; when, sousing from on high, a vulture gobbled up the hawk, grasshopper, whangam, and all in a moment.”'
I had scarce finished my fable, when the lawyer came to inform my friend that his cause was put off till another term, that money was wanting to retain, and that all the world was of opinion that the very next hearing would bring him off victorious. *If so, then,' cries my friend, 'I believe it will be my wisest way to continue the cause for another term ; and in the meantime, my friend here and I will go and see Bedlam. Adieu.'
THE VICAR'S RURAL RETREAT. From The Vicar of Wakefield.
Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a prattling river before ; on one side a meadow, on the other a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, having given a