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upon it that her roses will be genuine, and that the whisper of your trees will contain neither flattery nor slander.”
“18th December, 1839. “How is it that you continue to go on with so untiring a pen? I hope you will not continue to give up your nights to literary undertakings. Believe me (who have suffered bitterly for this imprudence), that nothing in the world of letters is worth the sacrifice of health, and strength, and animal spirits, which will certainly follow this excess of labor."
JOSEPH JEKYLL, ESQ., F.R.S., L.F.S.A. It is passing strange how little is to be known, a few years after their decease, of persons greatly celebrated for their wit and humor while flourishing in society, and courted and petted by the literary circles and coteries of their time. The reputation of a mere man of wit, without any concomitant claims to distinction, whether as an author, an artist, an orator, in the senate, at the bar, or in the pulpit, is of small value. There is no element of immortality in it. It is more than strange, it is truly surprising, how men of wit, genuine, exuberant, irrepressible, spirituel men, who in society eclipse all other men of letters and remarkable intelligence by the brilliancy of their conversation, the smartness of their repartees, and the extraordinary quickness of their apprehension, once they cease to throw intellectual somersaults for society to divert it, and make fun for its lords and ladies, and other celebrities, their services are forgotten, all interest in their personal concerns are lost; there is no obligation to their memories; the privileged people of fashion and literature à la mode, who thronged round them with admiration in their days of triumph, are missing when they are borne to the tomb, or cease to be funny or prosperous, or in vogue. No man of wit of his time was more talked of and admired than Jekyll. The court that was paid to him, the homage that was yielded to him, were sufficient to lead one to believe that his memory would live long after him; yet a few years had not elapsed after his decease before he was forgotten.
It would seem to be the same with great wits as with eminent vocalists and musicians: while their peculiar talent is being displayed, while the performance in which they play may last, their talent is fully appreciated.; but no sooner is the exhibition over and the performance at an end, than it becomes a matter of the utmost indifference to the public whether the person to whom they owe so much enjoyment has fallen into sickness and infirmity, or is of the living or the dead. No book of Jekyll's has found its way into publicity; no writings of any value have turned up among
papers. During the latter years of his life he was confined to his house by gout, and during that period Lady Blessington was in the habit of visiting him regularly. She enjoyed exceedingly his society and conversation, the brilliancy of which remained unimpaired by his great age and grievous bodily infirmities.
“Mr. Jekyll was the son of a captain in the Navy, and was descended from Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls in the reign of George the First. He was educated in Westminster school, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1777. He was called to the bar in 1778. He practiced in the Western Circuit and in the Court of King's Bench."*
He entered Parliament in 1787, on the popular interest, in opposition to the Lansdowne family. He attached himself to, the Whig party, and voted with Mr. Grey in favor of Reform. So early as 1782, he made himself known to the reading public as the author of a Memoir, and the editor of the letters of “Ignatius Sancho" (in 2 vols. 8vo), the African of intellectual celebrity who corresponded with Johnson, Sterne, and Garrick. Mr. Jekyll became a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries in 1790. But it was not his legal, literary, scientific, or antiquarian attainments which gained a reputation for Mr. Jekyll. His ready wit and talent for repartee, his cleverness for hitting off grotesque resemblances of things naturally dissimilar, of seizing on droll peculiarities, salient outlines, and odd circumstances, and making them the subject of sparkling bon-mots and sprightly epigrams, gained him, not only in society,
* Gentleman's Magazine, 1837, August, p. 208.
but at the bar, the character of a man of brilliant wit. He was not only witty himself, and the legitimate parent of an innumerable offspring of witticisms, but the putative father of every thing really funny and spirituelle which could not be traced to its true origin.
In 1805, Mr. Jekyll’s merits as a humorist became known to the Prince of Wales. He was appointed attorney general to the prince, was made king's counsel, and also a Commissioner of Lunatics.
Mr. Jekyll held the office for many years of Treasurer of the Society of the Temple, and it was under his directions the venerable hall and celebrated church underwent very important and extensive repairs. In 1811 he published a work in 4to, entitled “Facts and Observations relating to the Temple Church, and the Monuments contained in it."
Jekyll, like Dr. Johnson, gloried in London life. He said, “If he were compelled to live in the country, he would have the approach to his house paved like the streets of London, and would have a hackney-coach to drive up and down all day long.” Doctor Johnson's great dogma, “Sir, the man who is tired of London is tired of his existence,” was ever held by him; and in the exuberance of his metropolitanism, he had a sort of reverential feeling even for the stones of London, which would have made the name even of M‘Adam odious to him, had he lived a few years later. He agreed with his friend James Smith in most things, but in one thing he entirely concurred with him in opinion, namely, that “ London is the best place in summer, and the only place in winter.”'
In short, he never went out of town, that, like Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, he did not “miss the roar of London."
Mr. Jekyll married, about 1803, the daughter of Colonel Hans Sloane, M.P. for Lostwithiel, and with that lady obtained a very considerable fortune.
He died the 8th of March, 1837, aged eighty-five years, at his residence in New Street, Spring Gardens.
Jekyll's wit in conversation must have been more effective than that of Sydney Smith, and Curran's more marvelously suc
cessful than that of either. Byron, no bad judge of merit of this kind, awarded the palm of excellence to the wit of Curran in conversation over that of all the men of humor and repartee he had ever met. But in composition Sydney Smith surpassed the whole of them in genuine humor and felicitous irony. He had a higher purpose, moreover, to serve in his writings than any of his contemporary facetious friends in their conversation, with one exception, that of Charles Lamb. The excellencies of Sydney Smith have been well observed in the following observations :
" What Channing is to the democracy of America, with his sober, sustained, and clear dialectic, Sydney Smith is to the tribes of Noodledom, with his irony, his jeering, and his felicitous illustrations. It is his, pre-eminently, to abash those who are case-hardened against grave argument, and to wring the withers of the very numerous and respectable class who,
"Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne,
Are touched and shamed by ridicule alone.'
There are thousands upon thousands whose intelligence is not to be awakened to the perception of wrong by the force of an elenchus, unless, like a wasp, it carries a sting in its tail-who perceive nothing false that is not at the same time obviously absurd. To all such Sydney Smith is an apostle ; be they as bigoted and as obtuse as they may, he breaks through the barriers of their inapprehensiveness, presents them with a vivid and well-defined idea, and leaves them without a'word to throw to a dog. Could the people of these realms (that singularly disintegrated aggregate of discordant sects, factions, castes, corporations, and interests, by courtesy called a nation) be redeemed from their prejudices, their hypocrisies, and their sophisms, from their plausibilities, and their downright nonsense, and brought back into the sphere of a manly common sense, Sydney Smith is just the man to have helped them to the change. His wit, like the spear of Ithuriel, has started many a concealed misleader of the people; and the false and the fraudulent, who in their panopoly of speeches and pamphlets thought themselves
syllogism-proof, have been pierced through and through by the lightest of his well-pointed jokes."
The excellencies of Charles Lamb have been elegantly and generally eulogized by W. S. Landor, in a letter to Lady Blessington, from which the following extract is taken:
“I do not think that you ever knew Charles Lamb, who is lately dead. Robinson took me to see him.
“Once, and once only, have I seen thy face,
I first would spring to at the gate of Heaven. I say tripping tongue, for Charles Lamb stammered and spoke hurriedly. He did not think it worth while to put on a fine new coat to come down and see me in, as poor Coleridge did, but met me as if I had been a friend of twenty years' standing ; indeed, he told me I had been so, and showed me some things I had written much longer ago and had utterly forgotten. The world will never see again two such delightful volumes as “The Essays of Elia ;' no man living is capable of writing the worst twenty pages of them. The Continent has Zadig and Gil Blas, we have Elia and Sir Roger de Coverley."
LETTERS FROM JOSEPH JEKYLL, ESQ., TO LADY BLESSINGTON.
" Spring Gardens, July 12th, 1822. “Rogers tells me of Magic Lanterns and Sketches.' You are as false as fair, and send me no copy, though perhaps you think I died last spring, and had plenty of noble authors in the other world. Your ladyship's, while alive, most truly,
“ Spring Gardens, July 22d, 1822. “ A thousand thanks for the delightful little books ; I return one, and cherish the other.
“Fortune is a lavish jade. She might have contented herself in bestowing beauty ; but she grew extravagant, and threw talents and taste into the bargain.
“Spring Gardens, January 16th. “Never did any Amphitryon of ancient or modern times furnish so delicious a plate.