« 上一页继续 »
and intricate windings of the law of equity. He delights to balance a straw, to see a feather turn the scale, or make it even again; and divides and subdivides a scruple to the smallest fraction. He unravels the web of argument, and pieces it together again; folds it up and lays it aside, that he may examine it more at his leisure. He hugs indecision to his breast, and takes home a nice doubt or a moot-point to solace himself with it in protracted, luxurious dalliance. Delay seems in his mind to be of the very essence of justice. He no more hurries through a question than if no one was waiting for the result, and he was merely a dilettanti, fanciful judge, who played at my Lord Chancellor and busied himself with quibbles and punctilios as an idle hobby and harmless humour. The phlegm of the Chancellor's disposition gives one almost a surfeit of impartiality and candour: we are sick of the eternal poise of wilful dilatoriness ; and would wish law and justice to be decided at once by a cast of the dice (as they were in Rabelais) rather than to be kept in frivolous and tormenting suspense.
But there is a limit even to this extreme refinement and scrupulousness of the Chancellor's. The understanding acts only in the absence of the passions. At the approach of the loadstone the needle trembles, and points to it. The air of a political question has a wonderful tendency to brace and quicken the learned Lord's faculties. The breath of a court speedily oversets a thousand scruples, and scatters the cobwebs of his brain. The secret wish of power is a thumping make-weight, where all is so nicely balanced beforehand. In the case of a celebrated beauty and heiress, and the brother of a noble lord, the Chancellor hesitated long, and went through the forms, as usual : but who ever doubted where all this indecision would end ? No man in his senses, for a single instant! We shall not press this point, which is rather a delicate one. Some persons thought that, from entertaining a fellow-feeling on the subject, the Chancellor would have been ready to favour the poetlaureate's application to the Court of Chancery for an injunction against Wat Tyler. His Lordship's sentiments on such points are not so variable; he has too much at stake. He recollected the year 1794, though Mr. Southey had forgot it!
The personal always prevails over the intellectual, where the latter is not backed by strong feeling and principle. Where remote and speculative objects do not excite an interest and passion in the mind, gross and immediate ones are sure to carry the day, even in ingenuous and well-disposed minds. The will yields necessarily to some motive or other; and where the public good, or distant consequences, excite no sympathy in the breast, either from apathy or an easiness of temperament, that shrinks from any violent effort or painful emotion, self-interest, indolence, the opinion of others, a desire to please, the sense of personal obligation, come in and fill up the void of public spirit, patriotism, and humanity. The best men in the world, in their own natural dispositions, or in private life, for this reason often become the most dangerous as public characters, from their pliancy to the headstrong passions of others, and from their having no set-off in strong moral stamina to the temptations that are held out to them, if, as is frequently the case, they are men of versatile talent or patient industry. Lord Eldon has one of the best-natured faces in the world ; it is pleasant to
meet him in the street, plodding along with an umbrella under his arm, without one particle of pride, of spleen or discontent in his whole composition, void of offence, with almost rustic simplicity and honesty of appearance; a man that makes friends at first sight, and could hardly make enemies, if he would ; and whose only fault is that he cannot say nay to power, or subject himself to an unkind word or look from any he may deem higher than himself. He is a thorough-bred Tory. Others boggle or are at fault in their career, or give back at a pinch; they split into different factions, have other objects to distract them; their private friendships or antipathies stand in their way: but he has never finched, never gone back, never missed his way; he is an outand-outer in this respect; his allegiance has been without flaw, like “one entire and perfect chrysolite;" his implicit understanding is a kind of taffeta-lining to the Crown, his servility has assumed an air of the most determined independence, and he has “read his history in the Prince's eyes!” There has been no stretch of power attempted in his time that he has not seconded : no existing abuse, so absurd, of which he has not opposed the removal. He has gone the whole-length of the most unpopular designs of every minister. When the heavy artillery of interest, power, and prejudice is brought into the field, the paper-pellets of the brain go for nothing. His labyrinth of nice, lady-like doubts explodes like a mine of gunpowder. The Chancellor may weigh and falter-the courtier is decided, the politician is firm, and riveted to his place in the cabinet. On all the great questions that have divided the cabinet or public opinion, or agitated the public mind, the Chancellor has been found uniformly and without a single exception on the side of prerogative and power, and against every proposal for the advancement of freedom. He was a strenuous supporter of the wars and coalitions against the principles of liberty abroad; he has been equally zealous in urging or defending every act and infringement of the Constitution for abridging it at home : he at the same time opposes every amelioration of the penal laws, on the alleged ground of his abhorrence of even the shadow of innovation : he has studiously set himself against Catholic emancipation ; he laboured hard in his vocation to prevent the abolition of the Slave-trade ; he was Attorneygeneral in the trials for High Treason in 1794 ; and the other day, in giving his opinion on the Queen's trial, shed tears and protested his innocence before God! This was natural and to be expected; but on all occasions he is to be found at his post, true to the side of prejudice, to power, to the will of others, and to his own interest. In the whole of his public career, and with all his goodness of disposition, he has not shewn “
so small a drop of pity as a wren's eye." He seems to be on his guard against every thing liberal, as his weak side. Others relax in their obsequiousness, either from satiety or disgust, or a hankering after popularity, or a wish to be thought above narrow prejudices. But the Chancellor alone is fixed and immoveable. Is it want of understanding or of principle ?. No; it is want of imagination, a phlegmatic habit, an excess of false complaisance and good-nature. Humanity and justice are no better than vague terms to him : he acts upon his immediate feelings and least irksome impulses. The King's hand is velvet to the touch : the Woolsack is a seat of honour and profit. That is all he knows about the matter. As to abstract metaphysical calculations, the ox that stands staring at the corner of the street troubles his head as much about them as he does ; yet this last is a very good kind of animal, with no harm or spite in him, unless he is goaded on to mischief, and then it is necessary to keep out of his way, or warn others against him !
While the leaves yet are lying
As if sweetest in dying,
Whom in absence we cherish,
Like those roses that perislı,
For those we adore so,
And cease to deplore so;
CANZONE ITA, FROM THE ITALIAN.
Thy spirit frail and light,
Can know, like mine, no blight.
Of slaves thine eyes have made,
Nor be thyself betray'd.
The vain and fickle share ;
Spreads for each fool a snare.
I ask one pure and faithful sigh;
SPECIMENS OF A TIMBUCTOO ANTHOLOGY.
“ Nor ought a Genius less than his that writ
Attempt translation ; for transplanted wit
And colder brains like colder climates are."-DenhaM. At the very moment when repeated and painful failures seemed to have extinguished the last hope of ever penetrating to Timbuctoo, when the staunchest friends of African civilization and the extension of British commerce feel themselves bound to discourage the temerity of the fresh victims who are willing to sacrifice themselves in an enterprise of so hopeless and desperate a nature, accident has made us acquainted with an individual who has passed several months in the capital of this hitherto unexplored country, upon whose authority we mean to gratify the curiosity of our readers with a very brief and hasty notice of its manners and literature. In order that they may duly appreciate the authenticity of our narrative, we think it right to state the name of our informant, Capt. Jonathan Washington Muggs, a citizen of Georgia in the United States, whose vessel, the Black-eyed Lass, as some of our readers may perhaps recollect, was surrounded and nearly crushed a few years ago by the terrible sea-serpent, until several shot from a twelvepounder, judiciously directed into the monster's left eye, induced him to uncoil himself and dart through the waters in search of a Collyrium. Mr. Muggs, it seems, is the son of a Timbuctoo slave by an American residing on the banks of the Turtle River in Georgia; and as his father was almost constantly at sea, his mother instructed bim in her native tongue, a fortunate circumstance to which himself and the British public are equally indebted, the former for the preservation of his life, the latter for the invaluable information we are now about to communicate.
Capt. Muggs was bound from Charleston to Liverpool with a cargo of cotton, when in a violent storm from the South-west, which continued for several days, his vessel was driven ashore and wrecked on the coast of Africa, not far from the Island of Goree, and the whole of the crew were instantly made prisoners by the savage Mandingoes. Such as were able-bodied and capable of working were sold as slaves; two sick sailors, and an old American author, who happened to be on board as a passenger, being deemed inapplicable to any useful purpose, were confined and treated with the utmost politeness until the feast of the great idol Mumbo-Jumbo, when a hope was expressed, that in return for such hospitality, they would comply with the immemorial usages of the country, and suffer themselves to be quietly killed and eaten. The author stoutly pleaded his privilege of being cut up by none but reviewers, but they knocked down him and his argument by one blow, and his remains afforded a higher treat to the public of Mandingo, and appeared better adapted to the taste of the people, than those of any literary individual upon record. As to Capt. Muggs, who swore by the magician Obi, that he was born at Timbuctoo, had been made a prisoner in his youth, and degraded into his present mulatto colour by a long residence abroad—averments which he substantiated by a woolly head and a song in the language of the country,--they gave him a sort of passport, and left him at liberty to explore his way to the
asserted place of his birth in the best manner he could. His adven. tures in this perilous enterprise are preparing for the press in four volumes quarto, all written by himself on the leaf of the chickachoo tree, and we can only gratify public curiosity by anticipating a very few of the more remarkable facts.
Every one who has read Herodotus is aware that an expedition was fitted out by Necho, King of Egypt, of whom mention is made in the Second Book of Kings. The Phenician mariners employed in this daring enterprise, completely circumnavigated Africa, but were discredited upon their return, because they stated they had seen the setting sun on their right hand; an assertion which our present knowledge of astronomy enables us to confirm. In the Journal of Hanno, the Carthaginian, preserved for so long a time in the Temple of Saturn, mention is made of several marvellous circumstances observed by that enterprising voyager, which have been hitherto considered fabulous, although the researches of Capt. Muggs upon the same coast, establish in every respect the perfect fidelity of his relation. Thus we are told that Hanno caught two women entirely covered with hair, whose skins he carried to Carthage, which has generally been interpreted to mean two specimens of the ouran-outang; but Capt. Muggs, while tracing up to the sources of the Senegal River, encountered a whole tribe of these people, whom he at first took for an immense flock of baboons, until they accosted him very courteously in a language which proved to be a dialect of the Timbuctoo. They are described as a very civilized and cleanly race, regularly using the curry-comb every morning; a fact which strongly tends to support Swift's relation of the Houyhnhnms. When it is recollected what ridicule was first thrown upon this story, as altogether improbable ; and what taunts and doubts were launched at Bruce's narrative of Abyssinia, although every one of his statements has been subsequently verified, we hold it our duty to hurl defiance beforehand at that ignorant scepticism which might feel disposed to cavil at the Journal of Capt. Muggs, merely because it contains facts that may startle the narrow intellects of Europe.
Hanno talks of having discovered a whole country in a state of ignition, with rivers of fire running into the sea ; and Capt. Muggs has no doubt whatever, that at certain seasons of the year, the entire surface of the land may be in the fiery condition described by the Carthaginian, since he himself, in the neighbourhood of Baromaya, came to a deep valley surrounded by mountains of lead ore. Such was the intensity of the heat in this confined spot, that the rays of the sun, by perpetually melting the ore, bad formed a metallic lake of considerable extent in the valley, which was kept in constant fusion by new supplies. When the surface was gently agitated by the wind, an almost blinding brilliancy was cast by the ripple of its waves; but by moonlight its softened radiance is described as inconceivably beautiful and enchanting. Of course it is much resorted to by the boys of the surrounding district for the purpose of supplying themselves with dumps, a game which, to use the school slang, is in all the year round; and as the natives are obliged to keep the heat out of their houses with glass, a number of glaziers are settled upon the spot, that they may obtain a material so indispensable in their trade. The lake is sadly infested with Salamanders, and considerable ingenuity is manifested in the mode of catching