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I take up
THE malignant prejudices of a northern critic, so self-sufficiently pronounced against the Irish school of eloquence, determined me upon collecting such materials as might give the impartial an opportunity of judging for themselves. In doing this I am solely inAuenced by a paramount affection for that country which has been thus exposed to the most unmitigated defamation. with pleasure the gauntlet which has been flung down, and in asserting the oratorical equality of Ireland with either England or Scotland, taken individually, I refer to the present Volume as my proof, and boldly challenge the production of another which can bear the comparison. A ridicule of the Irish character—an exposure of its faults, and an exaggeration of its foibles, became of late years a kind of national coxcombry which was at once too conceited to learn, too igno
but his own,
rant to argue, and so hopelessly prejudiced as to defy correction. Whatever might have been their differences upon other points, whenever Ireland became the topic, all
parties, like the ancient Romans on the approach of an enemy, agreed upon a temporary coalition. Our northern neighbours, contrary to their usual rule, joined in the spoliation which afforded no gain, and honest John Bull, supercilious towards every country but his in such a cause forgot his nature and at obvious hazards shook hands with the Scotchman. Ireland became the Boeotia of the empireher Pindaric beam blazed in vain upon the blindness of prejudice, and her modest virtues, her hospitality as ardent as her chastity was austere, could find no source except in “ an imperfect civilization.” If such had really been the character of a people so calumniously misrepresented—if their minds had been so uneducated, and their hearts so depraved, perhaps it might not be without its moral to enquire whether they formed an anomaly in the scheme of Providence, or whether their errors sprung from the fatuity of misgovernment-perhaps, after all, the audacious impiety of the accusation might
resolve itself into the culpable impolicy of the accuser. But we need not stoop to the humiliation of such an enquiry. Amid the din of this ungrateful jargon, we need only ask, to whom at this moment owes the senate, its eloquence; the army, its leader; the council, its representative; or the stage its most natural personification of the passions? If the comparison be thus forced on us, in the appropriation of the national character, we shall substantiate our claims to far more than our territorial apportionment.
The recent political connection of the countries rendered the peculiarities of each an object of more than usual interest to the other, and, of course, whatever struck most by its novelty or its boldness was naturally subjected to a proportionate criticism. The transfer of the Irish parliament brought more immediately under the English eye, the eloquence which had so characterized that assembly and convinced England that the style which had enchanted her in BURKE and in SHERIDAN was not so much an individual deviation in them as in some sort an appendage to their nativity-a kind of mental complexion distinguishing their origin and derived at once from their country and their ancestors.
The harmony of the Irish system had been disturbed, and as its affrighted orbs shot one by one through the political firmament, their brilliant aberrations were the alternate theme of amazement or condemnation. In the latter class the most plaintive and the most pitiable were the seers of Scotland- it was no wonder —their northern lights were dimmed by the excessive splendour, and every little purblind sans culotte philosopher who could not see through the cloud of his mountain prejudices announced an eclipse or foretold a conftagration! The alarm was raised and the national taste was more than endangered, forsooth, by the barbarous corruption of the Irish style. That this style is peculiar there is no doubt, and so is every style in the fine arts which has distinguished any individual nationthus we speak of the German drama-the Italian music—the Flemish painting-and, in short, of each combination of national characteristics, which, in their respective branches, forms what we technically called a school.
But is this individuality a reason for condemning the pretensions of genius?