網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

that, perhaps, you sometimes may have relied rather too much on the quickness of your talents, and too little on diligent study. Pardon me for owning this, and attribute my frankness to my regard. It is unfortunate when a man's intellectual and his moral character are not suited to each other. The horses in a carriage should go the same pace and draw in the same direction, or the motion will be neither pleasant nor safe.

Buonaparte has remarked of one of his marshals, “ that he had a military genius, but had not intrepidity enough in the field to execute his own plans;” and of another he said, “He is as brave as his sword, but he wants judgment and resources : neither,” he added, " is to be trusted with a great command.” This want of harmony between the talents and the temperament is often found in private life; and wherever found, it is the fruitful source of faults and sufferings. Perhaps there are few less happy than those who are ambitious without industry; who pant for the prize, but will not run the race. Now, this defect, whether arising from indolence or from timidity, is far from being incurable. It may, at least in part, he remedied by frequently reflecting on the endless encouragements to exertion held out by our own experience and by example.

“C'est des difficultés que naissent les miracles." It is not every calamity that is a curse, and early adversity especially is often a blessing. Perhaps Madame de Maintenon would never have mounted a throne had not her cradle been rocked in a prison. Surmounted obstacles not only teach, but hearten us in our future struggles; for virtue must be learnt, though unfortunately some of the vices come, as it were, by inspiration. The austerities of our northern climate are thought to be the cause of our abundant comforts; as our wintry nights and our stormy seas have given us a race of seamen, perhaps unequalled, and certainly not surpassed, by any in the world.

Mother,” said a Spartan lad going to battle, “ my sword is too short.” Add a step to it," she replied: but it must be owned that this was advice to be given only to a Spartan boy. They should not be thrown into the water who cannot swim: I know your buoyancy, and I have no fears of your being drowned.'-pp. 24-27.

Again he writes to the same favoured person :

• There are few difficulties that hold out against real attacks; they fly, like the visible horizon, before those who advance. A passionate desire and an unwearied will can perform impossibilities, or what seem to be such to the cold and the feeble. If we do but go on, some unseen path will open among the hills. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent disproportion between the result of single efforts and the magnitude of the obstacles to be encountered. Nothing good nor great is to be obtained without courage and industry ; but courage and industry must have sunk in despair, and the world must have remained unornamented and unimproved, if men had nicely compared the effect of a single stroke of the chisel with

the the pyramid to be raised, or of a single impression of the spade with : the mountain to be levelled. All exertion, too, is in itself delightful, and active amusements seldom tire us. Helvetius owns that he could hardly listen to a concert for two hours, though he could play on an instrument all day long. The chase, we know, has always been the favourite amusement of kings and nobles. Not only fame and fortune, but pleasure is to be earned. Efforts, it must not be forgotten, are as indispensable as desires. The globe is not to be circumnavigated by one wind. We should never do nothing. " It is better to wear out than to rust out,” says Bishop Cumberland. There will be time enough for repose in the grave,” said Nicole to Pascal.

• As a young man, you should be mindful of the unspeakable importance of early industry, since in youth habits are easily formed, and there is time to recover from defeats. An Italian sonnet justly, as well as elegantly, compares procrastination to the folly of a traveller who pursues a brook till it widens into a river and is lost in the sea. The toils as well as risks of an active life are commonly overrated, so much may be done by the diligent use of ordinary opportunities; but they must not always be waited for. We must not only strike the iron while it is hot, but strike it till " it is made hot.” Herschel, the great astronomer, declares that ninety or one hundred hours, clear enough for observations, cannot be called an unproductive year.

The lazy, the dissipated, and the fearful should patiently see the active and the bold pass them in the course. They must bring down their pretensions to the level of their talents. Those who have not energy to work must learn to be humble, and should not vainly hope to unite the incompatible enjoyments of indolence and enterprise, of ambition and self-indulgence. I trust that my young friend will never attempt to reconcile them.'-pp. 28-30.

We are afraid a great many of Mr. Sharp's young friends'have, to his sorrow, and the curse of their country, made the attempt he here denounces. Posterity will note with admiration the audacious and successful ambition of our shallow and voluptuous states-boys and states-dandies. What insects have been allowed to eat away the heart of oak!

To a' law-student,' smitten with a premature ambition for a seat in parliament, Mr. Sharp writes as follows, in 1817:

• The House of Commons is so different a body in its construction and in its purposes from any, either ancient or modern, that its idioms, both of thought and of language, must be caught before a man can talk in such a manner as to be liked, or even understood. It is a place of serious business ; and all ostentation, if perceptible, is ridiculous. Perhaps one or two individuals may be tolerated, and allowed to amuse, merely by ornament or by wit and humour; but an attempt to succeed in this way is ruinous to a new member. It is unfortunately necessary to have something to say, and facts or striking arguments the House will always listen to, though delivered in

any

any terms, howeyer homely, or with any accent, however provincial. Speeches also for constituents are heard with indulgence, if not too frequent nor too long; but debate, real debate, is the characteristical eloquence of the House; and be assured, that the India-house, a vestry, a committee, and other meetings of business, are far better preparatory schools for parliament than debating societies are. In these latter, self-possession and fluency may be learnt; but vicious habits of declamation, and of hunting for applause, are too often formed. I remember being told, that in the first meetings of a society at a public school, two or three evenings were consumed in debating whether the floor should be covered with a sail-cloth or a carpet; and I have no doubt that better practice was gained in these important discussions than in those that soon followed on liberty, sļavery, passive obedience, and tyrannicide. It has been truly said, that nothing is so unlike a battle as a review.

· As an illustration of this spirit of serious business, I must mention a quality which, presupposing great talents and great knowledge, must always be uncommon, but which makes an irresistible impression on a public assembly of educated men-I mean the merit of stating the question in debate fairly; and I mean it as an oratorical, and not merely as a moral, superiority. Any audience, but especially an educated and impatient audience, listens with a totally different kind and degree of attention to a speaker of this character, and to one who, tempted by the dangerous facility of a feebler prąctice, either alters, or weakens, or exaggerates the language and sentiments of his adversary.

Mr. Fox was an illustrious example of this honestest, best, and bravest manner : pay, sometimes he stated the arguments of his opponents so advantageously, that his friends have been alarmed lest he should fail to answer them. His great rival formerly, and another accomplished orator now living, have seldom ventured on this hazardous candour. In truth, the last-mentioned possesses too many talents; for, betrayed by his singular powers of declamation and of sarcasm, he often produces more admiration than conviction, and rarely delivers an important speech without making an enemy for life. Had he been a less man, he would be a greater speaker and a better leader in a popular assembly.'-pp. 43-46.

Mr. Sharp's criticism on the late Mr. Canning was as just, at that period of his career, as it is tersely expressed. Mr. Canning, at a subsequent stage, the happiest one of his political life, had overcome in great measure the propensity here alluded to; but it returned on him, with more than even juvenile violence, during the two or three seasons of jealousy, suspicion, and, on his part, we fear, of unworthy intrigues, that preceded the breaking up of Lord Liverpool's cabinet—and would have, of itself, been enough to turn into gall and wormwood the few tempestuous months of Mr. Canning's own premiership. Mr. Pitt is reported to have said of Mr. Canning, at a very early period of their acquaintance, · That young man might do anything, if he would but go straight to his mark;' and this was not less true of him as an orator than as a politician. He was a man of rare genius—and he possessed many amiable and even noble feelings; but there was, we are sorry to say, one great and incurable defect in his mind : he had not that high instinctive integrity without which no talents however brilliant, no impulses however generous, can win entire respect. It was said of him, with bitter spleen, but not without something like truth, by one who lived to stick his knees in his back,'• Canning can never be a gentleman for more than three hours at a time.' " From Mr. Sharp's opinion as to that infinitely greater man, Pitt himself, we must dissent. We venture to say, that every real argument that ever was advanced by the anti-national party during his government may be found fairly, and honestly stated, as well as completely answered and refuted, in his parliamentary speeches, even as we now have them. But to return to our text:

• It is not without some misgiving that I perceive with how much more interest you talk of parliament than of chancery. It is very usual and very natural to prefer the former. Let me entreat you to consider well. I have heard one of the ablest and most efficient men in this country (actually at the time the chosen leader of the opposition, enjoying the fame of such a station, and looking forwards, doubtless, to high office) own, more than once, with much emotion, that he had made a fatal mistake in preferring parliament to the bar. At the bar he well knew that he must have risen to opulence and to rank, and he bitterly regretted having forsaken his lawful wife, the profession, for that fascinating but impoverishing harlot, politics.

• If you should abandon your Penelope and your home for Calypso, remember that I told you of the advice given, in my hearing, at different times to a young lawyer, by Mr. Windham, and by Mr. Horne Tooke-not to look for a seat till he had pretensions to be made solicitor-general.'--pp. 46, 47.

The last rule must now be modified. The aspiring lawyer must henceforth be admonished not to look for the solicitor-generalship until he has more than pretensions to a seat.

From another letter to the same law-student' we transcribe some paragraphs :

Satirical writers and talkers are not half so clever as they think themselves, nor as they are thought to be. They do winnow the corn, 'tis true, but 'tis to feed upon the chaff. I am sorry to add, that they who are always speaking ill of others, are also very apt to be doing ill to them. It requires some talent and some generosity to find out talent and generosity in others; though nothing but selfconceit and malice are needed to discover or to imagine faults.-It is much easier for an ill-natured than for a good-natured man to be smart and witty

“S'il n'eut mal parlé de personne,

On n'eut jamais parlé de lui.” • The most gifted men that I have known have been the least addicted to depreciate either friends or foes.-Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Fox were always more inclined to overrate them. Your shrewd, sly, evil-speaking fellow is generally a shallow personage, and frequently he is as venomous and as false when he flatters, as when he reviles—he seldom praises John but to vex Thomas.

• Do not, pray do not! “ sit in the seat of the scorner," whose nature it is to sneer at everything but impudent vice and successful crime. By these he is generally awed and silenced. Are these poor heartless creatures to be envied? Can you think that the Duc de Richelieu was a happier man than Fenelon ?-or Dean Swift than Bishop Berkeley ?'-pp. 53-55.

These are wise words-most of them. There is, we believe, no human being of real capacity whose opinions of his fellowcreatures, both of their moral qualities and their intellectual powers, do not grow more and more favourable as he advances in life. But we cannot think Mr. Sharp was entitled to speak of Swift as he here does. The dean was not certainly a man' to be envied '- he had in him from his birth the seeds of the insanity in which, as he himself foresaw and foretold, he was to end ; but a · heartless creature' he was not. He was a morbid genius; and he resented injuries, and lashed quackery, with a demoniacal zeal ; but he was a warm and stedfast friend, a most kind and generous master, and in his native character as pure and dignified as either Fenelon or Berkeley—whose talents put together and doubled would not have made the tithe of his. Rioting in his own wit, in such pieces as Gulliver, he appears to have no sympathy with mankind-but consider the facts of his life, or read his inimitable letters, the best in our language, and you will do justice to the inborn manliness and steady benevolence of Swift. That terrible epitaph of his on himself is flanked in St. Patrick's by a most touching one to the memory of an old servant! They who spend their lives in trying to make themselves appear worse, must at least be preferred to those who are always passing themselves off for better, than they are. Mr. Sharp well says, at p. 61–

• Oh! it is very easy to cherish, like Sterne, the sensibilities that lead to no sacrifices and to no inconvenience. Most of those that are so vain of their fine feelings are persons loving themselves very dearly, and having a violent regard for their fellow-creatures in general, though caring little or nothing for the individuals about them. Of sighs and tears they are profuse, but niggardly of their money, and their time. Montaigne speaks of a man as extraordinary “Qui

« 上一頁繼續 »