« ZurückWeiter »
izing great alliances and in commanding armies assembled from different countries.
4.-CHARACTER OF MR PITT.
The secretary stood alone. Modern degeneracy had not reached him. Original and unaccommodating', the features
' of his character' had the hardihood of antiquity'. His august mind' overawed majesty itself". No state chicanery', no narrow system of vicious politics', no idle contest for ministerial victories', sunk him to the vulgar level of the great'; but overbearing, persuasive, and impracticable', his object' was England', his ambition' was fame. Without dividing', he destroyed' party; without corrupting', he made a venal age unanimous'. France sunk' beneath him. With one' hand he smote the house of Bourbon', and wielded in the other the democracy of England. The sight of his mind' was infinite'; and his schemes were to affect, not England', not the present age only, but Europe and posterity. Wonderful were the means' by which these schemes were accomplished'; always seasonable, always adequate', the suggestions of an understanding animated by ardour', and enlightened by prophecy.
The ordinary feelings which make life amiable and indolenť were unknown' to him. No domestic difficulties', no domestic weakness' reached him; but aloof from the sordid occurrences of life, and unsullied by its intercourse', he came occasionally into our system, to counsel and to decide'.
A character'so exalted', so strenuous', so various', so authoritative', astonished' a corrupt age, and the treasury trembled at the name of Pitt through all her classes of venality'. Corruption imagined', indeed, that she had found defects in this statesman, and talked much of the inconsistency of his glory, and much of the ruin of his victories'; but the history of his country, and the calamities of the enemy', answered and refuted' her.
Nor were his political abilities his only talents. His eloquence' was an era' in the senate, peculiar' and spontaneous, familiarly expressing gigantic sentiments and instinctive wis
domo; not like the torrent of Demosthenes, or the splendid conflagration of Tully'; it resembled sometimes the thunder', and sometimes the music of the spheres. He did not conduct the understanding through the painful subtilty of argumentation’; nor was he for ever on the rack of exertion’; but rather lightened upon the subject, and reached the point by the flashings of the mind', which', like those of his eye, were felt, but could not be followed'.
Upon the whole', there was in this man something that could create', subvert', or reform"; an understanding, a spirit', and an eloquence', to summon mankind to society', or to break the bonds of slavery asunder, and to rule the wildness of free' minds with unbounded authority'; something that could establish' or overwhelmempire, and strike a blow' in the world that should resound through the universe'.
5.-CHARACTER OF LORD CLIVE. LORD CLIVE committed great faults, and we have not attempted to disguise them. But his faults, when weighed against his merits, and viewed in connexion with his temptations, do not appear to us to deprive bim of his right to an honourable place in the estimation of posterity.
From his first visit to India dates the renown of the English arms in the east. Till he appeared his countrymen were despised as mere pedlars, while the French were revered as a people formed for victory and command. His courage and capacity dissolved the charm. With the defence of Arcot commences that long series of Oriental triumphs which closes with the fall of Ghizni. Nor must we forget that he was only twenty-five years old when he approved himself ripe for military command. This is a rare if not a singular distinction. It is true that Alexander, Condé, and Charles the Twelfth, won great battles at a still earlier age; but those princes were surrounded by veteran generals of distinguished skill, to whose suggestions must be attributed the victories of the Granicus, of Rocroi, and of Narva. Clive, an inexperienced youth, had
yet more experience than any of those who served under him. He had to form himself, to form his officers, and to form his army. The only man, as far as we recollect, who at an equally early age ever gave equal proof of talents for war, was Napoleon Bonaparte.
From Clive's second visit to India dates the political ascendency of the English in that country. His dexterity and resolution realized, in the course of a few months, more than all the gorgeous visions which had floated before the imagination of Dupleix. Such an extent of cultivated territory, such an amount of revenue, such a multitude of subjects, was never added to the dominion of Rome by the most successful proconsul. Nor were such wealthy spoils ever borne under arches of triumph, down the Sacred Way, and through the crowded Forum, to the threshold of Tarpeian Jove. The fame of those who subdued Antiochus and Tigranes grows dim when compared with the splendour of the exploits which the young English adventurer achieved at the head of an army not equal in numbers to one-half of a Roman legion.
From Clive's third visit to India dates the purity of the administration of our eastern empire. When he landed in Calcutta in 1765, Bengal was regarded as a place to which Englishmen were sent only to get rich by any means in the shortest possible time.
He first made dauntless and unsparing war on that gigantic system of oppression, extortion, and corruption. In that war he manfully put to hazard his ease, his fame, and his splendid fortune. The same sense of justice which forbids us to conceal or extenuate the faults of his earlier days, compels us to admit that those faults were nobly repaired. If the reproach of the Company and of its servants has been taken away, if in India the yoke of foreign masters, elsewhere the heaviest of all yokes, has been found lighter than that of any native dynasty, if to that gang of public robbers, which formerly spread terror through the whole plain of Bengal, has succeeded a body of functionaries not more highly distinguished by ability and diligence than by integrity, disinterestedness, and public spirit, if we now see such men as Munro, Elphinstone, and Metcalfe, after leadiug victorious armies, after making and deposing kings, return, proud of their honourable poverty, from a land which once held out to every greedy factor the hope of boundless wealth, the praise is in no small measure due to Clive. His name stands high in the roll of conquerors. But it is found in a better list, in the list of those who have done and suffered much for the happiness of mankind. To the warrior, history will assign a place in the same rank with Lucullus and Trajan. Nor will she deny to the reformer a share of that veneration with which France cherishes the memory of Turgot, and with which the latest generation of Hindoos will contemplate the statue of Lord William Bentinck.
6.-CHARACTER OF ADDISON.
As a describer of life and manners he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the
grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never “outsteps the modesty of nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination. As a teacher of wisdom he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy and all the cogency of argument are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision; sometimes appears halfveiled in allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing. His prose
is the model of the middle style; on grave sub
jects not formal, on light occasions not groveling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch
grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour. It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connexions, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation; yet if his language had been less idiomatical it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity ; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
7.-CHARACTER OF JAMES WATT. Watt has been called the great Improver of the steam-engine, but in truth, as to all that is admirable in its structure or vast in its utility, he should rather be described as its Inventor. It was by his inventions that its action was so regulated as to make it capable of being applied to the finest and most delicate manufactures, and its power so increased as to set weight and solidity at defiance. By his admirable contrivance, it has become a thing stupendous alike for its force and its flexibilityfor the prodigious power which it can exert, and the ease, and
, precision, and ductility, with which that power can be varied, distributed, and applied. The trunk of an elephant, that can pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to it. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses of obdurate metal before it, draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, and lift a ship of war like a bauble in the air. It can embroider muslin and