網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

explanation and to convert, what might otherwise appear to be mere selfish ostentation, into an act of kindness and propriety.

The style of this work has been much criticised, we believe, and has been generally thought too figurative, brilliant, and poetical, for the sobriety of historical writing. It might have had worse faults :—and we cannot deal very severely with those that have their origin in an exuberance of talent and ingenuity, and which are always most complained of by those least capable of committing them. Mr Moore is an Irishman, and a man of genius, -and his works will bewray him. Why should not the Dorians speak Doric? He cannot but do after his kind. But we think the objection has been put much too strongly. The style, in general, we think excellent-and all the better for the metaphors and images.

Whatever enables an author to rouse the attention, or stamp himself on the memory of his readers, enables him to write with greater effect, and to accomplish more completely whatever may be the purpose of his writing. Now, metaphors and figures, provided they are in unison with the strain and dignity of the object, plainly serve this purpose, in history as well as in any other sort of composition. They increase the interest, and heighten the delight of the study, without interfering in the least with its utility. In the hands of a master, they render the meaning clearer, as well as more emphatic-and make it possible to convey both a deeper and a finer sense, with a force and a brevity absolutely unattainable without their assistance: while they incontestably exalt the effect of its moral sentences, and give warmth and interest to the lessons it endeavours to teach. We profess not quite to understand what is meant by the sober style of history. If the substance be conceived in the spirit of candour, calmness, and impartiality, we cannot but think that the more engaging and fascinating the manner can be made, the better-and really cannot comprehend that a history can be too delightful, too entertaining, or too brilliant, any more than too clear, too concise, or too true. To give it all these characters, all the resources of genius and eloquence may, we think, be lawfully and laudably employed-and figures and images among the rest—and above all the rest indeed, where they can be so managed as to give at once clearness, force, and vivacity to the meaning. Nor can we imagine any reason why they should not be required in a perfect history, as well as in a perfect poem, except that this would add too much to the difficulties, already sufficiently great, of the Historian's task--and that the talents most indispensable for its successful execution are not generally those by which such resources could be commanded. Where all are united, however, it is clear there will be the highest excellence. We require nothing more in a Judge than wisdom, learning and integrity. But it is certainly an advantage that he should also be graceful and eloquent.

We do not mean, however, to assert, that Mr Moore has fulfilled at all points the conditions under which we think the frecst use of figurative language may be allowed with advantage in History. In most of the passages we have cited, we think he has not greatly transgressed them. But it cannot be de. nied that he has occasionally indulged too much in this luxury of the imagination. His figures are sometimes merely ornamental, and embellish the meaning without enforcing it :and sometimes, though more rarely, they even perplex and encumber it. Sometimes they startle too much, with the unexpectedness of mere wit—and are sometimes attached to the subject by a tie so slender as scarcely to be perceptible.

The image in the following passage, for example, seems to us a mere wantonness of ingenuity, which neither elucidates nor adorns the idea it is employed to introduce. • It is the opinion

of a learned Jesuit, that it was by aqua Regia the golden calf of ! the Israelites was dissolved and the cause of Kings was the • Royal solvent in which the wealth of Great Britain now • melted irrecoverably away.' In the following allusion to the zeal with which the Irish Parliament tendered an unlimited regency to the Prince in 1789, the images are still farther fetched, and are connected with the subject only by the slight and accidental circumstance of the Harp being the heraldic cognizance of Ireland. The ready and ardent burst of devotion with which · Ireland at this moment, like the Pythagoreans at their morning ! Worship, turned to welcome with their Harp, the Rising Sun, was • long remembered by the object of her homage with pride and

gratitude.' And the following, which is meant to shadow forth Sheridan's unsuspected progress in the affections of Miss Linley, seems to us still more obscure and unfortunate. Like that

Saint, (Cecilia), by whose name she was always called, she had long welcomed to her soul a secret visitant, whose gifts were

of a higher and more radiant kind than the more wealthy and • lordly of this world can proffer!! Mr Moore himself seems indeed to have felt that there was not much to be made of this, by the unlearned-and accordingly is obliged to explain his illustration, by a note, in which we are informed, that in the authentic legend of St Cecilia, a youth is said to have come secretly to her from Paradise, with wreaths of lilies and roses.

We do think therefore, that there is some room for cautioning Mr Moore to be on his guard against the seductions of his own too fertile imagination : -and for exhorting him, while he fosters the flowers which either shelter or bring on the fruit, to strip away relentlessly those barren blossoms that merely encumber ile stem.

Art. II. Report from, and Minutes of Evalence taken before, the

Select Committee of the House of Commons, on Emigration from the United Kingdom. Printed by order of the House of Com

mons, 26th May 1826. We shall not enter at present into any disquisition as to the

causes which have produced the pauperism now universal in Ireland. To whatever it may be ascribed-whether to the long continued misgovernment and helotism of the mass of the people-to their ignorance-to their universal dependence on the potato for food—or to the custom of subdividing and subletting farms, and the consequent facility with which they obtain cottages and slips of land-it is certain that their numbers have increased in a far greater proportion than the capital of the country, and that they are habitually involved in the most squalid and abject poverty. The number of persons soliciting employment, compared with the demand for iheir labour, and with the means of remunerating it, is so great, that very many are altogether unemployed; and that wages are reduced to the lowest sum that can purchase the smallest supply of the coarsest and cheapest species of food by which mere animal existence 'may be sustained.

All the witnesses examined by the late Committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons on the State of Ireland, concur in representing the population as excessive, and the condition of the poor as wretched in the extreme. That every rood of • ground maintains its man,' is no longer a poetical fiction, but a dry statistical fact, which may be truly affirmed of a very large proportion of Ireland. Above six millions of peasantry are hutted over the face of the country. Their cabins are not superior, perhaps not equal, to the wigwams of the American Indians; they are destitute of chimnies and of any thing that can be called furniture; many families are without either beds or bed clothes; the children, generally in rags, are often absolutely naked; and whenever the potatoe crop becomes even in a slight degree deficient, which is found to be the case once every five or six years, the scourge of famine and disease is felt in every corner of the country! Mr Maurice Fitzgerald, M. P. informed the Committee on the Employment of the Irish Poor, that he had known the peasantry • of Kerry quit their houses in search of employment, offering

to work for the merest subsistence that could be obtained, • for twopence a day, in short for any thing that would pur• chase food enough to keep them alive for the next twenty-four • hours.' Mr Tighe mentions, that the number of persons in

VOL. XLV. NO. 89,

D

6

[ocr errors]

* Ireland supported by charity is quite inconceivable; they must be

supported either by charity, or by pillage and plunder ; to the want of employment I attribute every thing that afflicts and disgraces the country.' (Report, pp. 158. 108).

• In the part of the country (Cork) with which I am best acquainted,' says Mr O'Drischoll, the condition of the people is the very worst that can possibly be ; nothing can be worse than the condition

of the lower classes of labourers, and the farmers are not much

better. The land is overpeopled and exhausted.' (Report on the State of Ireland, p. 380). Dr Rogan, a physician of eminence, employed by Government to report on the state of disease in the North of Ireland, states, in his valuable work on the Fever in Ulster, that throughout the extensive counties of Tyrone, Do

negall, and Derry, the population is only limited by the difiiculty of procuring food. Owing to the universal adoption of the cottier system, and to the custom of dividing farms, among sons at the death of the father, the labouring classes are infinitely more numerous than are required for the purposes of industry. Under these circumstances, they are engaged in a constant struggle for the bare necessaries of life, and never enjoy

its comforts,' (p. 8). Ard, not unnecessarily to multiply references, we shall only further subjoin the following extract from the evidence of Dr Doyle, the Catholic Bishop of Leighlin. · The population is immediately increased, as every one must

perceive, by improvident marriages; but those marriages them. selves, in my opinion, result in a great measure from the extreme poverty of the people ; for that poverty has paralyzed

their energies; it has prevented them taking such an interest ' in creating a respectable situation for themselves in life, as

men possessed of some property always feel; for those wretch• ed people say their state cannot be worse when married than

before, and hence they go together. Their depression throu's "them together, like savages in a wood. It is a frightful state of

society; and when it is considered, it fills me with so much

pain and horror, that I have frequently prayed to God, if it -6 were his will, rather to take me out of life than to leave me to " witness such evils.' (Report, p. 208).

A thousand statements to the same effect might be produced ; but unfortunately they are not necessary. The redundant numbers, poverty, and wretchedness of the Irish people, are too glaring and obvious to be called in question. They are broadly and distinctly laid down at the very outset of the Report now before us; and are admitted by every one who has ever been in Ireland, or conversed with an Irish gentleman, or read a book having any reference to that country.

6

[ocr errors]

Here then is Pauperism on the most gigantic scale-pauperism which has already had, and which, if not effectually counteracted, must necessarily continue to have, the most debasing influence, not on the fate of Ireland only, but on that of the whole empire. For ourselves, we have not the slightest doubt that, though much of the crime, outrage, and bloodshed with which Ireland has been so long disgraced and deluged, is to be ascribed to the exasperation occasioned by the civil and religious disabilities under which the Catholic population labour, and the violent proceedings of the Orange faction, much also has been owing to the recklessness and despair produced by extreme poverty. Whatever may be said to the contrary, famine, and the virtues of patience and resignation, are not on the most companionable terms. Nothing indeed can be more visionary than to suppose that security and tranquillity should ever exist in any considerable degree, in countries where the bulk of the people are poor and miserable. Those who have no property of their own to protect, and no means of amassing any, will never entertain any respect for that of others: Nor can any country be so ripe for revolution, as that where ninetenths of the people may gain, but can lose nothing, by subverting the existing institutions. The terror of military execution may indeed compel the most refractory subjects to yield an unwilling and reluctant obedience. But what advantage has ever been reaped from dominion held by such means? Real power and prosperity cannot spring from the sword. If we would render the connexion with Ireland, what it has never hitherto been, of advantage to this country, a change of system is indispensable. Besides admitting all classes to participate in the privileges of the constitution, we must make a great and vigorous effort, by removing a portion of the surplus population of the country, and preventing its place from being again filled up, to improve the circumstances of the mass of the people. If we do this — if we treat the peasantry fairly and impartiallyif we give them a stake in the hedge, and make them feel that they have a direct interest in maintaining the security of property and the tranquillity of the country, the whole face of things will be speedily changed. But, until something efficient of this sort has been done-until all classes of people have been placed on the same footing with respect to privileges, and the pressure of poverty has been alleviated, the foundations of peace and prosperity can never be laid. That the improvidence of the Irish, and the pernicious customs that obtain amongst them, have been most injurious to their interests, cannot be doubted; But no people has ever held

« 上一頁繼續 »